Today’s News and Commentary — October 17
The Opinion section of The LA Times posits that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) should be allowed to actively enforce the “hot goods” provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act, even if the DOL oversteps its authority in some cases. That provision allows DOL to prohibit an employer from selling or shipping goods out of state if those goods were made by workers in violation of minimum wage, overtime, or child labor provisions. The article argues that the “hot goods” provision has been prone to “misuse” by DOL but that it would be wrong for “Congress to try to strip that otherwise effective labor rights enforcement tool from [DOL] over this misuse.” Rather, the author points out that the provision is an important tool in bringing unscrupulous employers to justice, “especially in an era of weakened unions.”
The chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, Janet L. Yellen, visited a nonprofit that helps people find work in the predominately Latino city of Chelsea, Massachusetts. The local program, CONNECT, provides employment services and advice to individuals who are actively looking for jobs in the formerly industrial city north of Boston. Since becoming the Federal Reserve’s first woman chair in February 2014, Yellen has made a point to prioritize employment issues and speak with workers and job training organizations across the country.
Unions in a wide variety of sectors have mobilized to address concerns regarding the threat of Ebola exposure. The move comes after National Nurses United, the union that represents nurses at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, criticized the hospital and the Center for Disease Control for not taking adequate precautions. Following in those footsteps, the American Federation of Teachers and the International Association of Firefighters have announced that they will take steps to discuss worker preparedness with their members. The SEIU has also said that some workers do not feel adequately prepared to screen for the Ebola virus at airports.
The New York Times reports that the number of people applying for unemployment benefits last week hit a record low in 14 years. Since the population itself has grown during that time, the proportion of people applying for benefits is even smaller and is a promising sign for the recovering economy. Economists say that the data shows that the U.S. economy and factories are remaining strong despite weak economic growth globally.