Weekend News and Commentary — March 4-5, 2017
According to the Wall Street Journal, Senate democrats are raising concerns about the integrity and independence of statistics release by the Department of Labor under President Trump, such as as the monthly jobs report and consumer price index. Senator Patty Murray and seven colleagues sent a letter to the White House last week asking Trump to commit to “neutral and unbiased reports on our country’s labor market and unemployment rate.” Their concerns stem from Trump’s statements during his campaign criticizing DOL statistics, such as calling the unemployment rate “one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics.” House Democrats sent a similar letter last month. Trump has not yet nominated a Commissioner for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On Friday, the New York City Council considered six labor bills, many focusing specifically on improving working conditions for fast food workers, reports Politico. One would require fast food employers to pay employees $100 for any shift where they opened and closed the restaurant in two consecutive shifts. Others focused on scheduling predictability. For example, one bill would require employers to provide employees with their schedules two weeks in advance or provide “predictability pay,” and another would prohibit employers from using “on call” scheduling. Labor and advocacy groups, such as the SEIU, Better Balance, and the National Organization for Women, have called on the City Council to adopt the bill.
A recent article in the Washington Post explores whether the burgeoning trade relationships between China and various African countries may be detrimental to labor rights in Africa. The Post reports that, while the overall effect of trade with China on African labor rights is small, labor standards have declined substantially in countries where exports to China have increased most. There are two possible reasons that trading with China may have a detrimental impact on labor standards. First, producers likely feel pressure to keep labor costs low to avoid losing business with Chinese importers. Second, as China itself has a poor record on labor rights, there is limited accountability if African labor violations are reported to importers.
As people live longer and healthier lives, the New York Times reports that Americans are working longer as well. Over 18% of Americans 65 and older were employed in 2016, as compared to 13% in 2000. That number is expected to increase to 32% over the next five years. Education may also be a factor contributing to the increase, as workers are more likely employed in jobs that are less physically demanding than in the past.