Today’s News & Commentary — October 6, 2015
The United States and eleven other nations reached an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The New York Times has a helpful primer on the law, including a brief synopsis of the labor movement’s opposition to the deal as a “giveaway to business” at the expense of American workers. Congress must approve the trade deal in the next 90 days for it to become law.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the deal’s specific labor provisions. As part of the agreement, Vietnam will have to allow independent trade unions outside the Communist Party’s control, and Malaysia must take steps to deter human trafficking and ensure that workers operate under contracts. Addressing skepticism that these protections are mere window dressing, U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman said, “This agreement establishes the strongest labor standards of any trade agreement in history. . . . They’re all enforceable in the agreement.” If companies or labor groups complain about violations of the labor protections, member countries can take the complaints to a dispute-resolution panel that can impose sanctions. To date, the United States has only taken Guatemala to such a panel for violations of labor provisions.
The Harvard Business Review published a piece by an executive of PayScale reporting on a survey of 71,000 employees examining the relationship between pay and employee engagement. The survey offered data in support of pay transparency, showing that employees were more likely to stay in a job paying below market rate if employers explained the reasons behind compensation decisions. Relatedly, overcompensation with little communication about pay did not necessarily result in greater employee loyalty.
In other self-interested study news, the Boston Globe reported that 60% of freelancers who left traditional marketplace for at least the past year earned more than they made in the traditional jobs that they left, according to a study commissioned by a freelance talent marketplace and a freelancer advocacy group. It was not clear whether the survey accounted for total compensation packages including fringe benefits or if it just compared take-home pay. Although 83% of respondents seemed optimistic about the freelance market, their main concerns centered on markers of stability associated with traditional employment: healthcare costs, predictable income, predictable workflow, and retirement.