Today's News & Commentary — October 8, 2015

Published October 8th, 2015 -  - 10.08.159


The New York Times reports Fiat Chrysler and the United Auto Workers struck a tentative deal early this morning, shortly after the midnight strike deadline set by the UAW.  As we reported yesterday, a UAW walkout would have been the first strike against an U.S. automaker since 2007.  The deal will be presented to union leaders on Friday morning, at which time details of the deal will be released. It is subject to ratification by workers, who rejected last week’s deal two to one.

If you missed the live feed of yesterday’s White House Summit on Worker Voice, Reuters summarizes President Obama’s main points from the Summit.  Obama praised unions, finding their role especially important in our technology-driven economy.  He also lauded innovative companies like Uber and Lyft, whose models increase flexibility of workers, while also cautioning that such company models could be detrimental to workers. You can read more about Professor Sachs’s priorities as he headed to the Summit to participate in a panel here.

President Obama has also been drawing attention to other problems arising in our technology-driven economy.  In Obama’s initial attempts at boosting support for the just-completed Trans-Pacific Partnership, he emphasized that offshoring may no longer be the enemy of the American worker; now, it might be robots.  According to Lydia DePillis at the Washington Post, the robotics lobby put out a white paper on Monday to combat this theory, arguing that robots are good for American workers.  Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation, urges people to look at job growth and robot growth over the past two decades, and it will show steady growth in both areas over that time.  DePillis pushes back—after all, correlation doesn’t equal causation—and she emphasizes that the rate at which robot shipments is rising is faster than that of job growth, and labor force participation is dropping.

The editorial staff of the Huffington Post is planning to unionize, the New York Times reports.  The organizing committee wrote yesterday, “a union will give us a voice in our newsroom’s future.”  Their list of reasons for organizing includes a push for better pay, clearer job responsibilities, a more efficient hiring process, and more diversity on staff.  Arianna Huffington said in a statement that she supports the unionization.  The staff is the latest in several digital publications that have recently joined the Writers Guild of America, East, including ThinkProgress, Gawker, Vice, and Salon.

According to the Los Angeles Times, California is becoming a battleground in the debate over charter expansion, and United Teachers Los Angeles is leading the opposition.  Los Angeles is currently considering the “Great Public Schools Now” proposal, a $490 million plan that would open 260 new charter schools in the city over the next eight years, a growth that would require about 5,000 instructors.  The plan mentions hiring from an expanded Teach for America program and other groups working with young, inexperienced instructors.  United Teachers Los Angeles warn that these charters hire teachers with no union experience, who might find it harder to raise their voices about curriculum or school conditions.  Additionally, union leaders argue the plan seeks to reduce the union’s political strength by reducing the number of dues-paying members.  The number of teachers in L.A. Unified School District has shrunk from 32,3000 to 25,600 over the last six years.

Monsanto announced yesterday it is planning to cut 2,600 jobs, Reuters reports.  One of the world’s largest seed and agrichemical companies, the job cut will affect about 11% of the company’s regular workforce.  Monsanto’s sales fell more 5% over the past year.  The layoffs are a part of the company’s massive restructuring plan.

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