Weekend News and Commentary: February 8-9

Published February 9th, 2014 -  - 02.09.14


The New York Times details the rise and fall of college athletes’ unionization efforts, culminating with the recent petition to the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board seeking recognition for Northwestern football players’ union.  Ramogi Huma, the president of the newly formed College Athletes Players Association, faces allegations that he is attempting to “professionalize college sports” due to his affiliation with the United Steelworkers union.  The article goes on to note that “the new group faces an uncertain future, particularly at public universities in states that forbid public employees from collective bargaining.” 

In an op-ed, The New York Times editorial board laid out the “Case for the Minimum Wage.”  Stating that “the real argument against it is political, not economic,” the Editorial Board addresses the purpose behind the minimum wage, alternatives to the minimum wage, the proper minimum wage rate, and the minimum wage’s effect on employment rates.  They conclude that “Republican opposition will likely keep any future increase in the minimum wage below a level that would constitute a firm wage floor, though an increase to $10.10 an hour would help tens of millions of workers.  It also would help the economy by supporting consumer spending that in turn supports job growth.  It is not a cure-all; it is not bold or innovative.  But it is on the legislative agenda, and it deserves to pass.”  The New York Times also introduced an interactive “Can You Live on the Minimum Wage?” calculator.

The Wall Street Journal’s Corporate Intelligence Blog reports that the United Auto Workers is trying to turn recent bonuses and pay increases for workers at Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler into pro-union votes in their ongoing efforts to organize a Chattanooga, Tennessee Volkswagen plant.  The UAW has been “touting the $8,000 or more in profit sharing bonuses that Ford workers are getting this year” as well as advertising that “80% of UAW workers at auto plants earn $28.12 an hour.”  The UAW is also using news of Ford workers’ bonuses to rally support among workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama. 

The Long Island Newsday reports that the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) unions are threatening to strike for the first time in 20 years.  John Samuelson, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100 that represents 38,000 New York City subway and bus employees, “wrote a letter to union members last week saying that they would support an LIRR workers strike, which could come as soon as next month, ‘in every way possible.’”  The LIRR unions, which have been working without a contract since 2010, have threatened to strike as early as March 21 unless they reach a new deal or the Metropolitan Transportation Authority asks President Barack Obama to appoint a second Presidential Emergency Board of mediators to recommend an agreement.

Reuters and The Oregonian have reported that the Portland, Oregon teachers union have voted to authorize a strike, “setting the stage for a walkout that could disrupt classes for nearly 48,000 students, union officials said.”  The union is seeking higher wages, smaller class sizes, and early retirement incentives.  There is an official mediation session between the union and the school district set for February 9.

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