Today’s News & Commentary — May 4, 2015

Published May 4th, 2015 -  - 05.04.158


According to the Chicago Tribune, the Illinois House will hear testimony tomorrow on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal to limit worker’s compensation. This proposal is part of Gov. Rauner’s overall political platform that includes limiting labor’s influence, removing prevailing wage laws, and limiting damages in civil suits. Gov. Rauner wants to limit the reach of worker’s compensation by toughening standards to prove that an injury took place on the job, limit employees’ ability to claim injuries in the course of driving to and from work, and dramatically reducing reimbursements to medical providers.

The Associated Press reports that income inequality is a fact of life for food servers at the U.S. Capitol. Capitol food servers, including bussers, delivery people who serve congressional offices, and cashiers, make less than $11.00 an hour. They generally have no work or pay when Congress is out of session and some report collecting unemployment during this period. The House’s food services were privatized decades ago and Restaurant Associates received the contract for the Senate in 2008.

Yesterday at Tufts University, five students began a hunger strike to stop the layoffs of thirty-five members of the custodial staff. According to the Boston Globe, approximately twenty students are camping with the hunger strikers in green tents on campus. University spokeswoman Kim Thurler stated that the cuts were part of “an institution-wide commitment to improve the operational efficiencies so that Tufts’ resources can be directed t our core educational mission.” The custodians are represented by SEIU.

The Associated Press reports that the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Western States Council is assisting to frame a California ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana use. The union currently represents approximately 1,000 workers in medical cannabis jobs. Union representatives have stated that they want to be involved early in the ballot effort to ensure that the proposal contains strong labor protections.

In international news, German train drivers represented by the Gewerkschaft Deutscher Lokomotivführer (GDL) will go ahead with a five-day strike beginning tomorrow. According to Deutsche Welle, GDL and Deutsche Bahn have been discussing engine drivers’ working and salaries for several months without movement. The key part of the conflict is GDL’s interest in expanding its representation to other train workers, including stewards. GDL is the smaller of Germany’s railroad unions, the other being the Eisenbahn-und Verkehrsgewerkschaft (EVG), which represents over 240,000 members.

Reuters reports that General Motors will release a product blitz in an attempt to grab 5 percent market share in India over the next decade. GM will make India and new manufacturing and export hub, removing some production from South Korea where labor costs have risen. Stefan Jacoby, GM’s chief of international operations noted that the power of labor unions in South Korea is a “huge challenge” for GM.

In the opinion pages, Tim Worstall at Forbes argues for what he calls an “interesting, true and underappreciated reason not to raise the minimum wage.” Pointing to youth summer job programs as a proven method for minimizing the likelihood that youth ages 14 to 24 will become incarcerated, he argues that an increased minimum wage puts youth employment further out of reach.

In the Atlantic, Russel Berman describes the groundswell around increasing the minimum wage at the local and state levels and how such pressure can impact federal legislation. Describing the recent movement for increases in the minimum wage, he attributes successes to a change in perception. Formerly minimum wage jobs were associated with high school and college age students rather than individual adults working full-time and still living in poverty. He argues that state-level successes have pushed congressional Democrats to be bolder in their demands, including announcing a bill for $12 an hour minimum wage by 2020 last Thursday.

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