News & Commentary

November 12, 2014

Politico reports that this morning Volkswagen of America announced a new “community organization engagement policy” that allows labor organizations representing a certain percentage of workers to have more say at the company’s plant in Chattanooga, TN. Prof. Sachs has described the plan as “sort of minority unionism,” since it makes different tiers of representation contingent on the amount of support the labor organization has in the workplace. The NY Times and Wall Street Journal write that the new policy could give the UAW a foothold in southern auto manufacturing plants, long-time goals for union organizing campaigns.

The Washington Post reports that postal workers will stage nationwide demonstrations on Friday to protest proposed plant closings and declining service standards imposed by ongoing budget cuts. The postal service is set to close 82 mail processing centers in January 2015, adding to the 300 facilities it has closed since 2006. The changes are also expected to affect service delivery: for example, while the agency currently tries to deliver mail within 12 driving hours in two days, the new cuts would increase that to three days.

The Wall Street Journal published a series of charts that attempts to explain why so many workers are still part-time after the recession. The question is whether the growth in involuntary part-time workers is cyclical, meaning that it will recede over time, or whether the new levels will remain a permanent fixture in the post-recession economy. Ultimately, the article finds mixed results. While the number of workers who are part-time because of slack business conditions has fallen, the number of workers who are part-time because they can’t find full-time work has risen. Some attribute the rise in part-time workers to regulations in the Affordable Care Act that mandate health care coverage for employees working 30 or more hours per week; however, empirical data hasn’t shown this to be the case. Finally, if businesses had a preference for part-time workers, we might expect that preference to be reflected in wages; however, wages have grown faster for full-time than for part-time employees.

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