News & Commentary

September 9, 2015

Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist, and David Rolf, a labor organizer, are teaming up to push for better wages and benefits for part-time workers, according to the Los Angeles Times.  The two are focusing not only on those who work as independent contractors, but also on workers who are paid minimum wage at companies like Starbucks and McDonald’s.  Hanauer and Rolf have been pushing for a $15/hour minimum wage, which has found some traction in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City.  Next on the agenda is benefits: Hanauer and Rolf have a plan for a privately operated Shared Security System that collects payments from companies for every worker, and puts the payments into a trust fund that the worker can use to pay for benefits.  They believe a plan like this should be federally mandated, but privately managed, and they’re hoping the fund can be managed by using an app.

A recent report by the Boston Globe takes a look into the problems with the domestic work industry in Massachusetts, describing several workers’ experiences with abuse, theft, and other violations of their rights by their employers.  There are an estimated 67,000 domestic workers in the state, and while there are no state or federal statistics tracking legal violations against them, legal advocates and law enforcement officials agree that only a fraction of abuses are recorded, and an even smaller fraction are taken to court.  With what little statistical data is available, the Globe explains that those who are live-in domestic workers are most vulnerable, and over one-third of live-in workers report being threatened, insulted, or verbally abused.

In campaign news, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are competing for union support, the New York Times reports, as the two have held dueling town-hall meetings to court the endorsement of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.  Clinton swore to fight the movement against public sector unions, and Sanders emphasized his pro-union Congressional voting record, his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and his goal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Looking abroad, Europe is experiencing some labor rumblings.  Reuters reports that a Frankfurt court has allowed a Lufthansa pilot strike to go on, despite Lufthansa’s bid for a temporary injunction yesterday.  The pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) staged a strike on long-haul flights yesterday, and called for another walkout today on short-haul flights, which would force Lufthansa to cancel 1,000 flights, or two-thirds of its schedule.  As Lufthansa cuts costs to compete with lower-cost airlines like EasyJet, negotiations between VC and the company have soured.  Pilots have offered concessions, including increasing retirement age to 60, but they have demanded that the company stop moving jobs out of Germany.  Lufthansa stated yesterday that it will only discuss pay and contract issues with VC, cutting the union out of strategy issues entirely.  This constitutes the pilots’ 13th strike in the past 18 months, costing Lufthansa about 100 million euros this year.

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