Weekend News and Commentary — March 22-23

Published March 23rd, 2014 -  - 03.23.141


The Wall Street Journal reports that metal processing workers at Anglo American PLC’s South African platinum unit have agreed to stop their strike after six weeks of labor unrest.  In exchange for employees returning to work, members of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa will receive an above-inflation pay rise of around 8%, said Anglo American.  Another striking union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, have so far declined the company’s wage offer and request a 29% pay increase, which Anglo says is “unsustainable.”

In European labor news, the Wall Street Journal reports that union representing Lufthansa pilots voted “overwhelmingly in support of a strike over issues including retirement benefits and a long-standing pay dispute.”  The trade union Vereinigung Cockpit said more than 95% of the pilots voted in favor of the strike action.  “At the moment no strikes are planned over Easter, but if Lufthansa provokes us, we may reconsider,” said Ilona Ritter, who heads the wage policy department at union Vereinigung Cockpit.  The WSJ states that Lufthansa and the union have been engaged in conflict regarding pay for over two years.

13,000 University of California medical center employees are expected to go on strike starting Monday.  According to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3299, patient care technical workers voted overwhelmingly to authorize the strike.  Pickets are planned throughout California next week.  “By repeatedly and illegally subverting the collective bargaining process, UC has created unnecessary conflict and sabotaged our good faith efforts to improve patient care at UC hospitals,” said Randall Johnson, a union leader and MRI technologist at UC San Francisco.  “The frontline workers we represent know that if left unchallenged, UC’s serial lawbreaking will ultimately endanger the patients we serve. And we are not going to let that happen.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference has accepted Canadian National’s offer to enter into negotiations for a contract settlement on the condition that binding arbitration will apply if the parties do not reach agreement.

In an article entitled “All Economics is Local” in the New York Times, Berkeley researchers Michael Reich and Ken Jacobs discuss the recent political and economic trend for lawmakers to legislate the minimum wage on a local level.  Citing their recent study, they argue that the impact of local minimum wage increase laws on workers’ wages and access to health care is “strong and positive and that none of the dire predictions of employment loss have come to pass.”

The L.A. Times reports that unions have taken a renewed interest in film workers’ safety efforts since the death of Sarah Jones, a 27 year old camera assistant.  In response to Jones’s accidental death in Georgia on the set of “Midnight Rider”, the Atlanta-based union IATSE Local 479 has set up a Sarah Jones Safety Committee.  The accident is under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

In the New York Times Economix blog, Binyamin Appelbaum examines the struggles facing the long-term unemployed.  In a piece entitles “Unemployed?  You Might Never Work Again,” he reviews a new study by Princeton University economists that claims that unemployed workers in America face obstacles that prevent them from ever working again unless they find new jobs quickly.

In a New York Times DealBook article, The Energy Project CEO Tony Schwartz argues that if employers pay higher wages, they will earn more profit.  Mr. Schwartz believes that it is ” it’s morally repellent to pay honest and hardworking full-time workers less than they need to live.”

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