Today’s News & Commentary — September 25, 2015

Published September 25th, 2015 -  - 09.25.15


ThinkProgress announced on Wednesday that it will unionize with the Writers Guild of America.  The New York Times notes that ThinkProgress is one of numerous digital media outlets to unionize in recent months in order to obtain better pay and working conditions.  The websites Gawker, Vice, and Salon have recently organized with the Writers Guild of America as well, and the U.S. wing of The Guardian recently joined with the NewsGuild-CWA.

The NLRB General Counsel has filed a new brief in a case called Miller & Anderson.  According to Politico, the brief asks the NLRB to overrule Oakwood Care Center, a case in which the board ruled that a group of temporary employees could not unionize with their permanent counterparts unless their employer and the relevant staffing agency gave their consent.  In the brief, agency counsel Amy Cocuzza requests that the board return to the standard set in a case called M.B. Sturgis, which Oakwood overruled.  The Sturgis standard allowed permanent and temporary workers to unionize together if their primary employer and the staffing agency were found to be joint employers and if the workers shared a “community of interest.”  Miller & Anderson is a “close cousin” of the recent Browning-Ferris case: because the Browning-Ferris decision relaxed the joint employer standard, a return to the Sturgis standard would have more force now than it did in the past.

Bloomberg reports that U.S. jobless claims rose by 3,000 last week.  The number is lower than predicted, signaling a steady labor market and economic growth.  Claims have remained below 300,000 since early March, which economists say is consistent with an improving job market.  Federal Reserve policy makers also noted that the job market was making progress, but decided to keep interest rates near zero due to an unsteady financial market, low inflation, and international turmoil.

Caterpillar plans to cut up to 10,000 jobs, according to the New York Times.  A downturn in the mining and energy industries, coupled with a slowing Chinese economy, has hit Caterpillar particularly hard.  The company announced that it expects to cut 4,000 to 5,000 positions by the end of 2016, and could eliminate up to 5,000 jobs by the end of 2018.

Workers at the Commercial Vehicle Group, an Alabama trucks part factory, have voted to join the United Automobile Workers (U.A.W.) union.  Workers cited low pay, the increasing use of temporary workers, and escalating health insurance costs as reasons for voting to join the U.A.W.  The New York Times explains that the vote marks “an unusual win in the uphill battle to organize autoworkers in the South,” but it remains unclear whether the vote represents a larger breakthrough for labor and the U.A.W.  Interestingly, Alabama has been more hospitable to unions than any other Southern state and most of the Midwestern states, too.

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