Weekend News and Commentary – October 5-6
In a major development regarding the shutdown of the federal government, the Washington Post reports that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered almost all of the Pentagon’s 350,000 furloughed civilian employees back to work this week because the workers are needed to support the readiness of the military. Approximately 450,000 of the federal government’s 2.1 million civilian employees will remain furloughed.
The Post also reports that, in a rare Saturday session, the House of Representatives passed a bill providing backpay to furloughed federal workers. Senate leaders have indicated that they will pass the bill as well, and the President has said that he will sign it. Yet, as the Post notes, federal employees will not receive this backpay until the shutdown is resolved, which may strain workers’ personal finances.
The New York Times reports on the impact that the shutdown is having on basic operations at the White House, “the nerve center of the executive branch.” 1,265 of the 1,701 employees who work in the Executive Office of the President have been furloughed, leading to unanswered phones, canceled presidential trips, and communications challenges.
In other news, the Wall Street Journal reports that, at Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, an anti-union group has collected signatures from more than a quarter of the plant’s workers on petitions expressing opposition to the UAW. As we have been covering, the UAW has been trying to organize the plant, and has explored the possiblity of establishing German-style work councils.
The New York Times reports that thousands of supporters of comprehensive immigration reform held rallies on Saturday at more than 150 sites in 40 states calling on Congress to take action on the issue. At the same time, Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed into law eight bills expanding protections for immigrants in the state, including one bill that restricts the ability of local and state police to detain immigrants in response to requests by federal enforcement officials.
In Vermont, the Burlington Free Press reports that home care workers voted overwhelmingly to unionize, and will join the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Finally, following the launch of the health insurance marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act this week, the Washington Post Editorial Board criticizes the frequent allegations by the law’s critics that it is a “job killer,” arguing that these characterizations are inaccurate or grossly misleading.