News & Commentary

March 12, 2017

Lauren Godles

Lauren Godles is a student at Harvard Law School.

In response to the February Jobs Report, the President retweeted a post Drudge Report, pronouncing the economy “GREAT AGAIN: +235,000.”  Through this claim, the President attempted to take credit for the results of trends established under President Obama. The New York Times Editorial Board writes that the gains made for middle and low-income workers in the past two years are largely attributable to significant minimum wage increases in 15 states and D.C. – increases which Republicans generally oppose. Similarly, the DOL overtime rule, promulgated under President Obama, would have further boosted wages for middle-income workers, but President Trump promised to roll it back. The President’s new economic optimism also marks a “head-spinning shift” from his inaugural vision of an economy that had left his supporters languishing in “carnage.” While the overall economy is strong, wide swaths of the American workforce are being left out of the growth,  and it remains to be seen whether the President will pursue policies to help those alienated workers who helped elect him.

On Friday, the State Department announced that Afghans who worked with U.S. forces can no longer apply for special visas to come to the United States. The visas are expected to run out by June 1, 2017, and no further interviews will be scheduled. Last fall, the Obama administration requested 4,000 additional visas, and Congress responded by issuing just 1,500. A bipartisan effort, spearheaded by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Sen. John McCain, is underway to advocate for more visas for the Afghan allies and their family members, but comes at a time of general reluctance by the U.S. government to open its borders to those fleeing war and political violence.

With rising rates of employment, some places are finally experiencing worker shortages, which help boost wages and give employees more bargaining power. But the future is not so rosy for restaurants in areas like Palo Alto, where owners report competing as much for staff as for customers. The cost of living is so high in the Bay Area that not even restaurant owners, much less their dishwashers, can afford to live in the cities whose residents they feed. The worker shortage has indeed led to higher wages and increased benefits for restaurant workers, with business owners now focused on being “great employers.” However, the restaurant owners also report that their margins are so slim that “they fear a breaking point is on the horizon.”

Finally, OnLabor recommends some weekend reading on “Housekeepers Versus Harvard: Feminism for the Age of Trump.” The article from The Nation chronicles the three year labor struggles of the mostly-female housekeeping staff at a hotel building owned by Harvard in Boston.

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