News & Commentary

September 12, 2014

The Boston Globe reports that the hospitality workers’ union Unite Here Local 26 has started a campaign to reach more African American workers. The union hopes to increase diversity of hotel employees, and the act is “part of a broader movement among local unions to add more people of color to their ranks” to reduce economic disparities in those communities. In 2013, the unemployment rate among African Americans in Massachusetts was 10.6%, compared with just 6.6% for whites and 7% for all workers. The union, which currently holds a four-week training program for participants, is applying for a grant from Boston to expand its services. Although the program is free for participants, the union spends $3,600 to $4,200 per person.

Applications for unemployment benefits rose slightly this week, resulting in the highest number since late June. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that a total of 315,000 applications were filed this week, which reflected a 11,000 increase from last week. Although such applications are often used as a proxy for the number of layoffs, experts say that unemployment benefits data tends to be more volatile during the holidays. Employers added a relatively small number of jobs in August totaling 142,000, the fewest in eight months. In general, however, the economy has added an average of 215,000 jobs per month in 2014, an improvement from 194,000 jobs per month in 2013.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a final rule yesterday to better protect workers in hazardous conditions. The rule mandates that all business report injuries that require hospitalization. Prior to this rule, businesses in most states only had to report to OSHA when incidents caused three or more injuries. Fatalities in the private sector have fallen to an all-time low since 1992, when the U.S. first started collecting this data. However, Latino workers have a higher fatality rate of 3.8 deaths per 100,000 full-time Latino workers compared with the average 3.2 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. Some attribute the higher than average fatality rate to language barriers, fears of speaking up, and working in more dangerous occupations. OSHA anticipates that the new rule will result in about 25,000 reports of workplace injuries per year.

According to The World Street Journal in international news, the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe continues to advocate for “Abenomics,” a policy to promote economic growth with the aim of putting women in 30% of leadership positions by 2020. Japan lags behind other economically advanced countries in placing women in high managerial positions. Approximately one in every 10 manager is a woman in Japan, while 31%, 38%, and 43% of managers are women in Singapore, Germany, and the U.S., respectively. Economists in and outside of Japan have debated the effectiveness of using numerical gender quotas in the workforce.

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