Weekend News and Commentary — March 15-16
The LA Times Editorial Board is supportive of President Obama’s recent directive to the Department of Labor to revise the eligibility standards for overtime pay, calling the proposal “a matter of basic fairness.”
The Wall Street Journal reports on the UAW’s struggles to unionize a Nissan plant in Mississippi in the wake of the Chattanooga defeat last month. The union has said that there has been a surge in the number of workers who have signed on to the union drive since the Chattanooga election. However, UAW officials have said they “won’t hold a vote on whether to unionize at the Nissan plant until the company agrees to let union supporters make their pitch to workers inside the facility. Nissan officials say they won’t let that happen.” The article also notes that the Mississippi legislature recently passed a bill limiting unions’ right to picket outside a business, among other union activities.
Jeremy Rifkin writes in the NY Times Op-Ed page about the “zero marginal cost” phenomenon that is seeping into all sectors economic life, whereby “the inherent dynamism of competitive markets is bringing costs so far down that many goods and services are becoming nearly free, abundant, and no longer subject to market forces.” He argues that this change has particular importance for the labor market, where we are seeing the decline of traditional manufacturing jobs, and the rise of “collaborative commons in fields that tend to be nonprofit and strengthen social infrastructure — education, health care, aiding the poor, environmental restoration, child care and care for the elderly, the promotion of the arts and recreation.”
Glenn Hutchins writes in the NY Times Op-Ed page that Unemployment Insurance and Disability Insurance should be reformed to encourage workers to stay in work, rather than compensate them after they have lost their jobs. Among other suggestions, he cites the German job-share model as a better alternative to the US Unemployment Insurance system. In the German system, “if an employer cuts an employee’s hours so that income is reduced by more than 10 percent, the government compensates workers for a large portion of wages lost. This enables companies to cut costs during downturns without having to lay workers off. And then they’re better placed for a recovery because they’ve been able to preserve their pool of skilled labor.”
NPR has a story about a large group of workers in Greece that has continued working even though their employers have not paid them since 2012. With an unemployment rate of 28%, the economic situation there is so desperate that the workers keep working in the hopes that conditions will improve and they will eventually be paid.