News & Commentary

May 20, 2016

Amidst charges of “union-related extortion” against a senior official in Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration, the Boston Globe featured a story on the decreasing influence of unions in the US economy and politics.  Compared to the 1 in 3 American workers who belonged to unions in the mid-twentieth century, only 1 in 9 workers are unionized today.  Men, African Americans, and public sector workers are more likely to become union members, while New York is the most heavily unionized state, with 1 in 4 workers belonging to a union.  The report debunked the myth that a falling support for unions has contributed to the decrease in union membership: Since 1985, Pew Research Center statistics on public opinion of unions consistently show 40 to 60 percent of those surveyed expressing support for unions.

The Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association are joining forces to promote responsible farm labor practices, according to the Los Angeles Times.  Catalyzed by growing consumer interest in where and how food is grown, as well as last year’s reform pledges by Wal-Mart and the Mexican government following the LA Times investigation of labor abuses at Mexican export farms, the two produce industry giants have established a joint committee to explore ways to raise global labor standards.  The industry-led initiative’s credibility may ultimately depend on its willingness to include certification and labor groups in the process.  Erik Nicholson, the vice president of the United Farm Workers, commended the efforts of the two trade organizations but also acknowledged that the committee had not yet reached out for UFW participation.

Both the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg reported that Deutsche Bank AG is investigating current and former employees for a series of trades that “improperly generated millions of dollars in personal profits, some at the bank’s expense.”  Colin Fan, former co-head of Deutsche’s investment bank, is one who internal auditors suspect has personally profited as much as $9 million from the improper trades.  According to people familiar with the investigation, its results are expected to be delivered to senior management in the coming weeks and will also be referred to appropriate European and US regulators.

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