News & Commentary

October 11, 2019

Deanna Krokos

Deanna Krokos is a student at Harvard Law School

UAW workers are still striking for better wages, job security, and working conditions at GM. As the 49,000 workers continue their efforts, union leadership met with GM CEO Mary Barra on Wednesday at GM’s Detroit headquarters. While the meeting did not produce an agreement, the union promises a new, comprehensive proposal soon, in response to an offer from the company on Monday. Heading toward the one-month mark, the strike is the longest by GM workers since 1970.

The Wall Street Journal reports another dip in hiring, showing some signs of trouble for the national labor market. While August reports show 7.1 million job openings, that number is down 4.4% from this time last year, following steady declines during the summer months. WSJ’s analysis shows the slowdown creeping beyond the manufacturing sector, which many economists agree has fallen into recession.  The numbers show a hiring decline in the education, healthcare, and finance sectors as well. Writing about the troubling trend in the public education sector, the Economic Policy Institute points to “state austerity” after the most recent recession, and shows that there are still 60,000 fewer public education jobs than before the ’07 recession.

The Wall Street Journal published a piece this week focusing on a new trend for white-collar employers aimed at easing the American retirement crisis for younger workers. Many employers, including Abbot Laboratories and Raytheon, have begun making 401(k) contributions to employee accounts that match the worker’s student loan payment. While the 401(k) structure is easily criticized as doing too little to provide stable and secure retirements for workers, this would counter one of the fears about its insufficiency for new generations. With many students taking at least a decade to pay off educational debt, many find it impossible to make those payments while also contributing to a 401(k) during key early working years. While still exposed to unpredictable market fluctuations, studies show that 401(k) funds deposited early and not withdrawn provide the bedrock for retirement for workers without access to traditional defined-benefit pensions.

I wrote last week about the burgeoning trend of media workers unionizing, with attention to Philadelphia’s public media station WHYY. Since then, WHYY has refused to voluntarily recognize the union, which would have provided a faster and less adversarial method for the workers to organize. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that at least 80% of the workers have indicated their approval of the union. The workers, organizing with SAG-AFTRA, have filed with the NLRB and expect a supervised, formal election in the coming weeks.

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