Today's News & Commentary — November 19, 2015
The vote is neck and neck on the proposed four-year contract between Ford Motor Company and the United Automobile Workers. Slightly more than half of Ford’s union members who voted so far have rejected the deal; if it fails, it would be another blow for UAW leadership (after an initial defeat at Fiat Chrysler last month). Although the deal raises signing bonuses and narrows the gap of the tiered worker system, workers are dissatisfied with the time it will take new employees to achieve parity with the veterans. Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal report that UAW’s lead negotiator warns that rejecting a deal now may ultimately result in a worse outcome for members. The workers at three remaining Ford plants, who begin voting today, will determine whether the agreement passes.
UAW’s presence is set to expand beyond Detroit, all the way to Tennessee. Germany’s largest trade union, IG Metall, plans to open a joint office with the UAW outside of Nashville. The majority of the estimated 100,000 people in the U.S. working for German auto companies are not unionized, unlike their counterparts across the Atlantic. ABC News expects anti-labor Republican leaders to bristle at the union presence, which may hamper recruiting of other foreign auto manufacturers seeking cheaper workforces in the South.
In another potential win for the UAW, Volkswagen’s skilled trade workers will vote on whether to unionize, reports Reuters. After originally supporting the UAW, Volkswagen fought against unionization at its Chattanooga plant in 2014. Despite company objections and concerns about a fragmented workforce, the NLRB scheduled a vote for the skilled trade employees in December.
Obama’s full court press to sell his Trans-Pacific Partnership deal to the public isn’t working on one group: organized labor. Although the administration sees the deal as providing unprecedented protections for workers, unions worry that the TPP includes little to ensure that that American workers stay competitive against workers abroad, reports the Los Angeles Times. An AFL-CIO policy specialist warned that the labor deal—even with its high standards on paper—is built on a foundation that that has previously failed to protect rank-and-file union members.
As provisions of the Affordable Care Act kick in this January, business owners near the 50-employee mark face tough choices about growth, tradeoffs, and how to deal with a mound of paperwork. Businesses with 50 to 99 employees will now be required to offer health insurance to their employees or pay a fine, and all must file new tax forms with the IRS. Many employers in white-collar fields have already been paying insurance, but companies with lower-paid workforces are less like to provide such benefits, reports the New York Times. For some business owners, the threat of having to cover insurance outweighs the instinct to hire more workers.
Coming off a victory against hospitality workers in San Francisco, Airbnb may next use its might in Los Angeles. Airbnb’s recent marketing suggests that the standoff between labor and tech, already pervasive through the Bay Area, may be traveling south. The company’s expansion worries affordable housing advocates, but local organized labor is more optimistic. Rusty Hicks, the head of the LA County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO told the Los Angeles Times that organized workers have shown their power to defeat well-financed campaigns, exhibited by the $15 minimum wage win in May.