Today’s News & Commentary — October 3
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito plans to introduce a bill to challenge federal immigration detainers in New York City. Detainers are used by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to transfer inmates from prisons directly into federal immigration custody. When local law enforcement agencies honor detainers, inmates are oftentimes detained for two days longer than they otherwise would be in jail. The new bill, which is set to be introduced next week, would allow the city to ignore ICE detainer requests absent a judicial warrant. The bill would restrict ICE’s authority in those cases to detain only individuals convicted of “violent or serious crime[s].” ICE offices on Rikers Island would also be closed under the bill. According to the New York City Department of Correction, more than 3,000 people were transferred from its custody into federal immigration custody between October 2012 and September 2013.
The World Street Journal reports that job vacancies rose 18% during the first half of the year. A recent Gallup poll also shows a 20% increase in the number of respondents who indicated that their company was hiring new employees. However, while there may be more available jobs, the increase “has not yet translated into equally strong employment or wage growth.” The New York Fed predicts that the surge in job vacancies earlier this year resulted from the expiration of extended unemployment insurance benefits at the end of 2013. The expiration made hiring more feasible and attractive to employers who could also reduce workers’ “reservation wages,” the wages that employers must pay to persuade people to accept the job. Lower labor costs meant that employers could afford to hire more employees.
The New York Times Opinions Page describes an antiunion lawsuit filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Minnesota. The organization specifically targets a new union of 27,000 home care workers but also seeks to broadly undercut union rights. In Minnesota, non-union employees of the home care union do not have to union dues and still enjoy the same benefits of collective bargaining as union members. But the foundation represents non-union employees who claim that exclusive representation violates their constitutional right to free association. The home care industry is one of the nation’s “largest, fastest-growing, least-protected and lowest-paid professions.” Less than one-third of home care workers are unionized.
According to The New York Times, the Metropolitan Opera’s ongoing financial challenges may possibly lead to a downgrade in its credit rating. The Met is currently under review by Moody’s Investors Service after a summer of intense labor negotiations with employee unions. Citing financial straits, the Met persuaded union employees to accept their first pay cuts in decades. The Met reported that its deficit in the fiscal year ending in July 31 would be “significantly larger” than the $2.8 million deficit the year before. The crisis is in part due to lower donor contributions. The company hopes that the new union contracts, which would reduce expenses by roughly $90 million in the next four years, and stronger fundraising campaigns will improve its finances.