Today’s News & Commentary — September 24, 2019
As the UAW strike enters its second week, General Motors announced yesterday that more than 1,200 U.S. and Canadian workers in the U.S. and Canada would be furloughed. Meanwhile, the Texas Observer reported on autoworkers from GM’s immensely profitable Arlington plant who have joined the largest strike against a U.S. business since 2007. Although Texas was among the first states to pass so-called “right-to-work” legislation in 1947, the GM plant in Arlington, a “rare unionized Southern auto plant,” opened seven years later and was unionized as part of the UAW’s national contract with the company.
Today, about 90 contract workers in Google’s Pittsburgh office will vote to decide whether to unionize with the United Steelworkers. The Pittsburgh contractors work on Google projects alongside Google employees and at Google’s offices, but are technically employed by an Indian outsourcing firm. They are among the many temps, vendors, and contractors who comprise Google’s “shadow” workforce, outnumbering direct employees but receiving few, if any, of the company’s vaunted benefits. The Guardian reported that if their campaign succeeds, they will become the first group of professional tech workers to unionize, bringing “the city’s industrial past crashing into the 21st century.”
Salon spotlighted the difficulties faced by emergency medical technicians, who are “grossly underpaid for brutal work schedules that put them at risk of both serious physical injury and burnout.” Although EMTs are 14 times more likely to be violently assaulted on the job than firefighters, they make nowhere near the wages of firefighters or police officers, their fellow first responders. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for EMT and paramedics is $34,320.
Cass Sunstein, the fourth most cited law professor of all time, publicly endorsed Eugene Scalia, Trump’s controversial nominee to replace his embattled former labor secretary Alexander Acosta. In a letter published by the Senate HELP Committee, Sunstein, the former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration, wrote, “Whether the issue involves occupational health, overtime pay, racial discrimination, or pensions, there is no question that Scalia would be keenly sympathetic to the rights and interests of working people.” Meanwhile, another former Obama administration official, Heidi Shierholz, who served as the top economist at DOL, said, “Eugene Scalia has spent his career fighting for the interests of financial firms, corporate executives, and shareholders rather than the interests of working people.”