News & Commentary

November 7, 2014

According to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department, employers added 214,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate ticked down from 5.9% to 5.8%, the lowest rate since July 2008. But the Washington Post article detailing the jobs report says voters in Tuesday’s election still identified economic anxiety as their top concern, and a strong majority believe the economy is worsening or stagnating. According to the jobs report, while hiring and growth have increased, average hourly pay (adjusted for inflation) has risen just 0.3% over the last year. That meager rise is largely or even entirely driven by income increases for the wealthiest one-tenth of Americans. For the other nine-tenths of Americans, incomes have stagnated or declined.

In a longform article examining the issue in detail, the New York Times reports that the number of companies offering paternity leave has declined since 2010. According to the article, studies indicate that use of paternity leave can have long-term benefits for children and families, but does in fact take a toll on the career prospects of the parent taking the leave. The article recommends government incentives and conscious efforts to change corporate culture to encourage the use of paternity leave.

The Washington Post’s “GovBeat” blog suggests that the minimum wage may not be a partisan issue, citing as evidence the fact that voters in Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Nebraska approved minimum wage increases by huge margins even as they voted overwhelmingly for Republican candidates.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that labor unions did not invest as heavily in terms of money and manpower in Tuesday’s elections in Nevada as they have in the past, and that this pull-back was at least partially responsible for the Republican takeover of both houses of the legislature there as well as the landslide reelection of Republican governor Brian Sandoval and the surprising defeat of up-and-coming Democratic U.S. Congressman Steven Horsford. According to the article, organized labor played a major role in Democratic victories in the state in 2008, 2010, and 2012, but this year stretched-thin resources meant that labor did not participate at the same level, with negative results for Democrats.

And the New York Times has an article profiling the success of unions in organizing hotel employees in Los Angeles and other cities. The article asserts that unionization has had major benefits for low-paid employees, and that the organizing successes are fueled at least in part by new living wage laws that allow employees to waive the minimum wage as part of collective bargaining agreements. These waiver provisions incentivize employers seeking to pay below the statutory wage to bargain collectively with their employees, perhaps trading non-wage benefits for a reduction below the statutory minimum wage.

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