Weekend News & Commentary — April 2-3, 2016
Only a few years ago, the prospect of a $15 minimum wage seemed laughable. Now, California has a graduated increase on the books, and New York may soon follow. Steven Greenhouse at the New York Times discusses how unions—even with historically low participation rates—convinced the people and politicians to support raising the minimum wage.
As economists battle over whether the higher wage will cause job losses, Lydia DePillis at the Washington Post says this is the wrong question. For DePillis and advocates of wage increases, the issue is not whether jobs will be lost, but what structures exist to support unemployed people. They contend that if the goal is to prevent job loss, then the minimum wage will always stay below a living standard. SEIU chief economist asked: “‘What should be the criterion about setting a minimum wage? Should it be the level which produces minimal job loss? Or should it be, in the language of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for the health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers?’”
Workers in Elkhart, Indiana are not thanking President Obama, despite the success of his economic recovery plan in the region. The city’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country, and the auto industry bailout staved off up to150,000 auto jobs in Indiana. But many Elhart voters’ mistrust of big government and strong stances on abortion, gun rights, and same-sex marriage trumps the president’s efforts there. As the New York Times reports, “autoworkers are more apt to complain about the president’s gun proposals than to acknowledge the auto turnaround.”
Since Friday’s walkout from Chicago public schools, the Chicago Teachers Union has tried to maintain momentum as it negotiates a new contract with the school district. Governor Rauner called the strike “the height of arrogance,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Although the CTU, Chicago Public Schools and the governor agree the district needs more money, negotiations stalled over provisions in the governor’s bill “that would weaken union rights in collective bargaining with local governments and school districts.” The CTU hopes their walkout will show the severity of the problem and that teachers are willing to take risks to move negotiations forward.
As mentioned on Friday, five members of the U.S. women’s soccer team filed a complaint against the U.S. Soccer Federation to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging wage discrimination. The Washington Post reports that the EEOC will now investigate if the different levels of compensation given to the U.S. men’s and women’s teams violates the Equal Pay Act.