Weekend News & Commentary — August 19-20, 2017

The “Free Speech” rally in Boston on Saturday was dwarfed by counter protestors. The Boston Globe has photos of the protests, and The Atlantic interviewed some of the far-right participants in the rally. By some estimates, 40 people attended the rally, while 40,000 people attended the counter protest. While there was little violence during, Boston police did arrest 33 people, and used pepper spray to restrain protestors in the afternoon.

The remaining members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned on Friday, to protest President Trump’s failure to reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville. The Committee’s letter spoke to Trump’s fitness to be President, saying: “Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.”

On Friday, former U.A.W. senior official Virdell King was charged with conspiring with other union officials to accept improper payments from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles officials over four years.

Alana Semuels at The Atlantic asks, in light of the ongoing negotiations, what would a better NAFTA look like? The suggestions include focusing more on how workers are effected by allowing labor to take complaints to arbitration, like investors currently can; increasing transparency in the negotiation process so that states and local entities are more involved; reforming or eliminating special courts for investors; and better regulating how companies pay taxes. These objectives would be difficult to meet in a Democratic administration, let alone under current leadership.

In their September issue, Wired Magazine tells us to chill, the robots aren’t here to take our jobs. Instead, the magazine points out that economists seem to be concerned about two futures that cannot both be true. Either, robots are coming for human jobs and will transform industry after industry OR we’re in an “era of secular stagnation, stuck with an economy that’s doomed to slow growth and stagnant wages.”

One industry where robots do not seem to be a threat: construction. For a fun weekend diversion, watch London workers build 54 escalators in a 2-minute timelapse.

And the Vocations column at The New York Times interviewed Jose Gabriel Perez, an upholsterer at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan. Perez said he started learning the trade from his father when he was just 12 years old. He says he learned 80 percent of what he knows from his father, and the rest when he came to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 2004. The hardest item to reupholster? Ottomans.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the summer youth employment rate has fallen to its lowest levels since 1969, but that the data comes with a big caveat: “[a] far smaller share of young people are seeking summer jobs than in decades past.” This blog has previously addressed how the summer youth employment rate plays a role in the debate around a teen minimum wage.


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