News & Commentary

November 13, 2014

Harvard Law Professors Ben Sachs and Jacob Gersen have an op-ed in today’s New York Times advocating for greater protections for food workers.  Employees who work in the food industry–from farm workers to servers at restaurants–are a key part of protecting public health and safety by preventing transmission of diseases like norovirus and salmonella.  But neither state law or the Food Safety Modernization Act recognize this.  They argue that “food workers” should be recognized as a distinct category of employee, and food workers should then have special protections to ensure they can do their jobs safely and protect public safety.

In arts news, the Metropolitan Opera is asking solo singers to voluntarily lower their fees, according to the New York Times.  Over the summer, the Metropolitan Opera had a long-running labor dispute with its performers, leading to pay cuts for its workers. This new request asks soloists to accept a comparable 7% paycut.

Low-wage contractors for the federal government continue to advocate for better wages, according to the Washington Post.  Recently President Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour.  (The order included other changes as well, which we covered here).  But many workers continue to struggle to make ends meet despite the new salary.  This week, a group representing contract workers in federal buildings, Good Jobs Nation, released a report asking President Obama to sign another executive order that would require agencies to consider how contractors treat their employees when agencies award contracts.

In immigration news, the Los Angeles Times editorial page called on the Republican-controlled House of Representative to pass comprehensive immigration reform during this upcoming lame-duck session.  The Times encouraged the House to adopt the bipartisan reform bill passed by the Senate last year.  Although most commentators believe immigration reform is unlikely to happen before the next election, and therefore President Obama might take executive action, the Times argues that legislative action is preferable.

The Washington Post editorial page praised Maryland’s Montgomery County council for standing up to the police officer’s union on disability pay reform. The Montgomery county police force routinely let officers retire with disability pay, which are tax-free unlike regular retirement pay, regardless of whether the officer was seriously disabled, prior to the recent reforms. According to the Post, the union has fought the council on all reforms since 2009, but now that the new policy has taken effect, only officers with serious impairments are retiring with disability pay.

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