Today’s News & Commentary—September 27, 2019
On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Eugene Scalia to be labor secretary. The vote was 53-44 along party lines. Scalia received support from 13 former career officials with the Labor Department, who wrote in a letter to lawmakers that Scalia was “very supportive of enforcement litigation to vindicate the rights of workers.” Senator Chuck Schumer remained dubious, saying on Thursday that “Mr. Scalia’s nomination is a slap to the face of labor because Mr. Scalia’s life work has been utterly opposed to the mission of the agency to which he’s nominated.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that General Motors Co. and the United Auto Workers have entered the final stages of contract negotiations, focusing on issues of wages, benefits, and the use of temporary workers. GM and the UAW have already resolved issues of workplace rules and safety protocols. Still, the end of the UAW’s strike against GM, already the longest nationwide walkout at GM since 1970, isn’t in sight. Even if both sides manage to come to an agreement, both UAW and GM members will have to vote to approve the deal. Workers at GM’s assembly plant in Detroit will miss their first paycheck on Friday. Striking workers receive $250 per week from the UAW, a fraction of their full wages. Isaiah Dukes, an assembly line worker at the Detroit plant, reported that he could miss one paycheck, but that after that he would struggle to pay October’s car-insurance and utility bills. “I hope we get back to work before then,” said Dukes. “I was from paycheck to paycheck anyway so there wasn’t a lot of breathing room.”
Data from the Census Bureau, released on Thursday, show that income inequality in the United States is at its highest level since the Bureau started tracking it more than five decades ago. The federal minimum wage, which has stood at $7.25 for more than a decade, is one of the biggest drivers of income inequality, according to Brielle Bryan, a sociologist at Rice University. The data show that wealthy Americans have seen far greater income growth than middle- or lower-income earners. Although the nation’s median household income topped $63,000 for the first time, that number, after adjusting for inflation, is the same as it was 20 years ago.
The New York Times reported on Rideshare Drivers United, a labor group that played a pivotal role in securing the passage of AB 5 in California by organizing drivers with the help of an app. The group recruits members online, where interested rideshare drivers can provide information on their location and availability for a short phone call. Organizers then use an app to create lists of new members who are available to receive calls during a certain time period, increasing their chances of connecting. After speaking with rideshare drivers, organizers categorize the drivers on the app by their level of engagement. When the group needs to make unsolicited calls to drivers on short notice—as it did, for instance, while planning a trip to Sacramento to push for AB 5—it uses the app to target those drivers who are most likely to respond positively. The app also allows organizers to survey drivers about their priorities and opinions on proposed legislation. Rideshare Drivers United currently represents over 5,000 drivers in Southern California, and plans to use its technology next to help Lyft drivers opt out of the company’s mandatory arbitration clause.