News & Commentary

May 20, 2015

Los Angeles has become the latest city to implement a $15 per hour minimum wage, according to the New York Times.  In a 14-1 vote, the city council approved a plan to increase the minimum wage from $9 to $15 by 2020.  Los Angeles County, moreover, is considering a plan to similarly increase wages in surrounding areas that are not part of the city of Los Angeles.  According to the Times, “proponents of the wage increase say they expect that several nearby cities, including Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Pasadena, will also approve higher wages.”  The Los Angeles Times has further coverage.

The Washington Post reports that Democrats in Congress are increasingly skeptical about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.  Of particular concern is whether the deal will adequately ensure that participating countries implement higher labor standards for their workers.  Taking Vietnam as an example, Democratic Representative Sander Levin told the Post that “[a]t this point, there are no commitments from Vietnam to take any steps” and said that he had “no confidence that it will be done before we vote.”  That the deal would include “enforceable improvements in the labor standards of participating countries” has been central to the Obama administration’s arguments in favor of the plan.

In her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has thus far remained neutral on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, although she was “a one-time booster of the pact,” according to the Wall Street Journal.  Despite this, she continues to enjoy the strong support of labor unions, who have been staunch opponents of the trade deal but who “don’t appear eager to bloody the Democrats’ front-runner for the nomination.”

In further international news, the Associated Press reports on the lack of labor rights for refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.  Many of these refugees work in Jordan and Lebanon, “usually for far less than what local residents would accept, driving down wages across the board for unskilled labor.”  The humanitarian crisis has been further exacerbated by cuts to U.N. aid programs.

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