News & Commentary

November 17, 2014

According to the Associate Press, IG Metall President and German autoworker head Detlef Wetzel called on Volkswagen to recognize the United Auto Workers as its bargaining partner at its Chattanooga, TN plant once the union has a majority. His statement, issued from Frankfurt, came after Volkswagen established new polices last week, stating that worker groups that could demonstrate minority representation of at least 15 percent of the work force could use the Chattanooga plant’s facilities for regular meetings with management. The policy commits Volkswagen management to participate in the talks, but does not outline any binding outcomes. Prof. Sachs was quoted in the article, stating, “On paper that’s not much of a commitment, you could satisfy that by sitting down, listening to what organizations have to say and then leaving.”

BusinessWeek reports that a new paper written by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland challenges the theory that unemployment insurance leads to higher unemployment. The paper’s authors found that the effect of extending benefits “can, at its highest, account for only one-fourth of the increase in the unemployment rate; an impact that is much lower than other estimates in the literature.”

In international news, chairman Avi Nissenkorn of Israel’s Histadrut labor union announced this weekend that he intends to call a general strike to begin two weeks from tomorrow, Tuesday November 18th, in protest of both the low minimum wage and increasing use of temporary workers throughout Israel. According to the Times of Israel, the largest Israeli teacher’s union has agreed to strike in solidarity with Histadrut.

In the opinion pages, Amy B. Dean, writing for Al Jazeera America, highlights the role organized labor is playing in promoting racial justice across the country. She highlights racial solidarity across unions, including public sector unions, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and UNITE HERE. Dean closes, “By addressing the real harm that police brutality and hyperincarceration cause in African-American communities, unions can go even further in reclaiming the civil rights tradition that is part of their heritage — and in healing our country’s racial wounds.”

Steve Rattner, writing for the New York Times, warns that U.S. income inequality is worsening and expresses concern that the income gap will only widen with a Republican Congress. Rattner points out that income inequality is comparable between the U.S., Britain, and Germany, without taking tax and spending polices into account. However, after evaluating redistributive policies, U.S. income inequality is much greater.

The Wall Street Journal questions whether President Obama has sought written legal justifications from the Office of Legal Counsel in evaluating the use of executive action to protect some undocumented immigrants. The opinion accuses the Obama administration of seeking to “legalize millions of undocumented immigrants” without seeking an opinion from the OLC “because they suspect there’s little chance that even a pliant OLC could find a legal justification.” An extensive rebuttal to this argument can be found at MediaMatters.

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