Today's News & Commentary — October 26, 2015

Published October 26th, 2015 -  - 10.26.1510


The United Automobile Workers Union and General Motors have announced a tentative agreement on a new national contract.  The New York Times reports that the agreement was reached minutes before last night’s 11:59 pm deadline.  Although no details have yet been disclosed, the union suggested that the GM agreement maintained the wage progression formulation of last week’s agreement with Fiat Chrysler, which will gradually bring the wages of entry-level workers into line with veteran workers’ wages.  The Times Editorial Board writes today that the new UAW contracts offer “broader lessons for policy makers” on lifting middle-class wages.

Parents’ membership in labor unions has a significant correlation with their children’s well-being, according to a new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.  Business Insider summarizes the researchers’ findings of three strong correlations: First, the fall in union membership over the last several decades is correlated with a shift of workers from middle to lower class.  Second, children with parents in a union have better educational, income, and health outcomes than otherwise similarly situated children with parents outside a union.  Third, the researchers identified a spillover effect of unions, in that children living in areas with higher rates of unionization, regardless of whether their own parents are unionized, end up better off.  While cautioning that more testing would be needed to draw a conclusion about a causal connection, the researchers hope their work will change the way the American public thinks about unions.  Wrote the researchers, “A strong union movement is not simply sufficient for high levels of intergenerational mobility and middle-class membership, but it could be necessary.”

A lawsuit brought by parents of New York schoolchildren that seeks to have New York’s teacher tenure protections ruled unconstitutional has survived a motion to dismiss, reports the Washington Examiner.  The parents argue that teacher tenure protections deny children their state constitutional right to a basic education by protecting bad teachers.  But attorneys representing the teachers’ unions have retorted that the plaintiffs are seeking to blame teachers for poor school performance and weaken important labor laws.  New York State United Teachers, along with New York state and New York City, had moved to dismiss the case, arguing that legislative changes made in April — which made it easier for school districts to fire teachers and awarded tenure after four years of teaching instead of three — made the suit unnecessary.  But Justice Philip Minardo was not persuaded: “The legislature’s marginal changes affecting, e.g., the term of probation and/or the disciplinary proceedings applicable to teachers, are insufficient to achieve the required result.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that National Labor Relations Board has initiated an investigation into allegations of vote tampering by officials with Teamsters Local 399, the union representing location managers, casting directors, studio drivers, and animal handlers.  A complaint filed on October 15 with the NLRB claimed that the union had “violated the duty of fair representation by conducting a fraudulent membership ratification vote” in July for a new film and TV contract.  Although the ratification was made by a wide margin, 840-208, the complaint asserted that dozens of ballots collected did not have proper identification information to certify their validity.  If the NLRB makes a finding of vote fraud, a new vote on the film and TV contract might be required.
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