News & Commentary

November 24, 2014

Over the weekend, President Obama defended the legal reasoning behind his immigration executive action, arguing that he has been “very restrained” in his use of executive authority.  President Obama’s interview aired Sunday on the ABC News program “This Week,” where he said that both Democratic and Republican presidents had previously taken similar executive actions.  “The fact is that we exercise prosecutorial discretion all the time,” he said, adding that Republicans remained free to pass an immigration law that would overturn his actions.  In response, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) called President Obama’s actions a “stunning and sad display by the president” on Fox News Sunday.

The New York Times reported on the reactions of Silicon Valley technology workers to President Obama’s executive order on immigration.  “The technology industry has been pushing for changes to the nation’s immigration policy for more than a decade to allow more skilled workers into the country,” and though the President’s recent executive action may “fall short,” some immigrants working in technology were “heartened by the president’s actions.”  Responses in teh article ranged from supporting of a streamlined visa process to very skeptical.  “He talked eloquently and in depth about low-wage workers, and I appreciate that,” said Carl Guardino, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, referring to the president’s speech on Thursday. “But from an innovation economy perspective? I wasn’t expecting a lot, and it lived up to my expectations.”

Reuters reports that Israel’s Finance Minister will start negotiations with the country’s main labor union Histadrut in a bid to avert a national strike over demands to sharply raise the minimum wage.  Finance Minister Yair Lapid invited the Histadrut Chairman and the head of Israel’s Manufacturers’ Association for talks on Monday aimed at preventing a strike that would likely shut down Israel’s airport, trains, seaports, and government services.  According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), Israel’s real minimum wage was in the middle of the pack – 12th out of 25 countries in 2013. In dollar terms, it was $14,291 a year in 2013, just behind the United States’ $15,080.

The Wall Street Journal’s “Washington Wire” blog writes that longstanding rift between former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and teachers unions could be “a boon to a potential campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.”  The latest tensions appeared last week at the annual conference of Jeb Bush’s educational think tank, the Foundation for Excellence in Education. In a speech on Thursday, Mr. Bush referred to public school systems as “13,000 government-run, unionized and politicized monopolies who trap good teachers, administrators and struggling students in a system nobody can escape.” In response, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers “posted a blistering response late Friday on the union’s web site.”  “[Bush] says he wants to break up so-called ‘monopolies’ of public education, forgetting that public education is a public good, a moral imperative and a constitutional mandate in many of this country’s states, including Florida,” wrote Ms. Weingarten.

The Wall Street Journal reports that owners of fast-food restaurants and other franchises are mobilizing to counter the spread of union-backed worker strikes and protests seeking higher wages as the holiday season approaches.  Franchise owners are trying to show workers that they work for small businesses, not multinational companies.  “We’re seeing the perception of [us] being bottom dwellers, yet we feel like we’re job creators,” said David Jones, who owns three Subway restaurants in the Seattle area and who said an employee walked out to join a strike early this year.  Franchisers also are feeling pressure from union-backed efforts, as the NLRB is weighing a change that would treat brand companies such as McDonald’s as “joint-employers” of workers at independent franchises.

In the ongoing negotiations between American Airlines and the Allied Pilots Association (APA), the union that represents its 15,000 pilots, labor and management are putting off a plan to reach a deal through arbitration, with a new goal is to resolve the impasse by mid-December.  The parties will continue to negotiate terms of a combined labor agreement.  The APA said its leaders and negotiators concur “that a negotiated agreement is preferable to an arbitrated outcome.” American Airlines said both sides have made progress and will continue to work toward a deal outside of arbitration.  In a possibly related action, American said it “plans to transfer at least 50 of its small regional jets to other vendors from its wholly owned Envoy Air unit because of a pilot shortage at Envoy.”

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