News & Commentary

September 8, 2015

President Obama announced a new executive order that will require federal contractors to provide paid sick leave to employees, according to the Washington Post.  Under the order, employees will earn one day of paid sick leave for every 30 days worked, up to a maximum of seven per year.  The White House noted that the initiative could affect nearly 300,000 workers.  The order will not take effect, however, until after the president leaves office in 2017.

The New York Times reported on the drive to set up workers committees in Santa Fe.  Somos Un Pueblo Unido, an advocacy group for immigrant workers, has helped employees in a variety of workplaces form committees in order to seek better treatment from employers.  Although workers committees are not as strong and effective as traditional unions, they have served as important vehicles for protecting employees who wish to improve their employment conditions.  Taking advantage of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which protects the right of workers to engage in collective action, the committees protect aggrieved employees who might otherwise be dismissed if they acted alone.  Mayté Flores, a member of a workers committee explained, “If I were to do this on my own, they would just fire me and that would have been the end of it. . . . When we [acted] together, we were able to protect ourselves.”

The Atlantic examined the relationship between unions and millennials.  The article noted that although millennials have been difficult to organize, recent successful drives at Gawker, Salon, and NYU have provided hope that young workers’ positive feelings toward unions may be translating into positive action.  Nevertheless, experts did not expect widespread organizing success absent larger and more sustained victories.  Ruth Milkman, a sociologist at CUNY, stressed that the desire to join unions does not necessarily lead into organizing success because employers wanting to stop such drives often have an upper hand.  “It’s not about whether workers want to unionize. It’s really about whether it’s feasible to make that happen,” she said. “In general, if you ask the majority of workers, ‘If you could have a union, would you like that?’ they say yes, but the opportunity to do that is rather limited.”

Wal-Mart is launching a new job-training program for its front-line workers, according to the Wall Street Journal.  The new initiative appears designed to reduce employee turnover, improve customers’ shopping experiences, and provide a public relations boost for the companyy as inequality continues to dominate public discourse.  In addition to improved pay and training, hourly supervisors will gain greater management responsibilities over their teams.  Wal-Mart also hopes that the initiative will ultimately replicate credentialing systems that have traditionally been used in manufacturing and skilled trades to provide employees with achievement markers that signal their value to employers throughout the industry.

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