Today’s News & Commentary — October 28, 2015

Published October 28th, 2015 -  - 10.28.152


The Republican Congress and President Obama reached a tentative budget deal, which includes cuts for Social Security disability benefits. Now eligibility requirements will be consistent state by state, and the changes are expected to save the government $5 billion, reports the New York Times reports. The new budget deal also aims to “smooth out the ‘cash cliff,” by gradually decreasing a person’s SSDI benefits as she earns more income. According to Lydia DePillis at the Washington Post, the relatively minor cuts (compared to the $141 billion annual cost of the program) come as a relief to the Obama administration and for people with disabilities.

A longtime employee of the City of Boston Treasury Department received a jury award of nearly $10.9 million for suffering workplace discrimination. Chantal Charles, who worked for the City since 1986, claims to have been treated differently from her colleagues who were not black or Haitian, including lower pay, fewer benefits, and prevention from using her management title. Charles’ attorney told the Boston Globe, “I hope that this jury verdict will convince the city to take a good hard look at [its] hiring practices.”

McDonald’s Corp asked a federal judge to reject a subpoena from the NLRB for emails and other documents from more than 50 executives and employees. The requested material addresses the question of a potential joint employer relationship between the parent company and franchise owners. Reuters writes that although the company would only owe $50,000 if found liable for the alleged labor violations, the suit could have a crucial outcome that disrupts the basis of the franchise model and forces parent companies to bargain with unions.

More than 50 port drivers for Intermodal Bridge Transport (IBT) petitioned to join the Teamsters members on Tuesday—and went on strike after management rebuffed their demands. The drivers seek employee status and union representation. According to Reuters, the drivers allege IBT misclassified them as contractors and deducted work-related costs from their payments, often resulting in an hourly pay of less than minimum wage. Teamsters organizers anticipate a bigger strike on Wednesday.

Things are looking better up in the air. Pilots reached an agreement with Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings Inc., in which they will receive raises and signing bonuses. The Teamsters, which represents the 2,100 aviators, calls the three-year contract “industry-leading,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Republic hopes to prevent further loss of pilots to other airlines.

But the labor movement’s struggles travel all the way to the southern hemisphere. Greg Jericho of The Guardian analyzed data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, showing that “fewer workers than ever are joining a union.” In the last 25 years, trade union membership dropped from almost 50% to 14.4%. The low participation rates contrast with the overall public perception that workers would be better off with a strong union movement in Australia.

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