Weekend News and Commentary: January 25-26

Published January 26th, 2014 -  - 01.26.141


Michigan Governor Rick Synder is urging the state legislature to approve up to $350 million to fund pensions in Detroit. The L.A. Times reports that the proposed aid would include a few conditions, including having public sector labor unions drop current and pending legal challenges to Detroit’s bankruptcy.

A small group of workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee will appeal a recent NLRB ruling, which rejected complaints that the United Auto Workers union had pressured employees to sign union cards and misrepresented the meaning of signing the cards. As the WSJ reports, the appeal may delay any vote to unionize the factory.

The Pennsylvania state legislature is considering a bill prohibiting automatic union dues payments in public-sector collective bargaining agreements. The “paycheck protection plans” have been strongly opposed by labor groups. As quoted in the WSJ, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO has warned that such measures “would significantly impair unions’ ability to represent their dues and fee paying members.”

At the New York Times, columnist Steven Rattner rejects the view that America is experiencing an industrial manufacturing “renaissance.” Providing empirical overviews of wage trends in American industrial manufacturing – particularly in the auto industry – Rattner argues that the so-called “renaissance” has come at the price of low worker wages and huge public subsidies.

Though union membership as a whole remained steady over the last year, the New York Times points out that the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report indicated an alarming drop of 118,000 members from public sector unions. The trend was particularly pronounced in some states. In Wisconsin, for instance, where union bargaining rights have been recently limited, “membership in the public sector fell to just 37.6 percent in 2013, from 53.4 percent in 2011.”

In global news, Reuters reports that as many as 100,000 South African platinum miners have continued a multiday strike. Worker demands for a higher minimum wage will be discussed at government-brokered talks between the workers’ union and three large mining companies next week.

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