News & Commentary

December 7, 2014

Jon Weinberg

Jon Weinberg is a student at Harvard Law School.

NPR noted that the November jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the economy added 321,000 jobs in the past month and the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent.  Neal Irwin at The Upshot called the numbers “the best all-around news about the state of the American economy in months, and maybe years.”  The New York Times editorial board expressed skepticism over the long-term viability of improvements and called for a greater focus on job quality, specifically pay and working conditions.

Steven Greenhouse, who as OnLabor reported is leaving The New York Times, discussed labor journalism, unions and the labor movement in an extended interview with Gawker.  Greenhouse commented on reduced labor coverage by reporters, the effects of globalization and corporate power on labor, the future of the American worker, challenges facing organized labor and the prospects of unionization of low-wage service workers.  Greenhouse concluded that “it is harder to unionize now than in the late 1970s because employers fight unionization far more fiercely and because many workers today don’t know or care as much about unions as workers did decades ago.”

The New York Times covered the stories of six millennials who elect to pursue multiple careers simultaneously, generally one that pays and another that is creative.  Those profiled suggested traditional notions of work and careers are outdated.  The elective “career jugglers” are unlike the many Americans who work several low-wage jobs out of necessity to support themselves and their families.

The Atlantic profiled Audra Rondeau, a home-care worker in Vermont and long-time union skeptic, who joined successful organizing efforts and came around to seeing the benefits of unionization.  Rondeau was won over by wage increases, opportunities to talk to colleagues about improving her profession and a more effective vehicle to protest state funding cuts.  The article also discusses trends in unionization and their relation to public opinion.

Bloomberg BNA reported that “the political groundwork for enacting a comprehensive right-to-work law in Wisconsin is taking shape with the state’s Senate majority leader calling for swift action in the upcoming legislative session and a right-leaning advocacy organization launching a radio campaign to sway public opinion.”  Paul Secunda of Marquette University Law School believes that Gov. Walker is conceptually on board with the legislation and that a carve-out provision would be problematic.  OnLabor previously reported that Governor Walker has asked the State Senate not to take up the bill.

In The New York Times, Floyd Norris discusses possible ways to save endangered multiemployer pension plans.  He notes that current efforts are “a far cry from the spirit that defined the progress toward income security of the previous two centuries” and that “the political system seems unwilling to even consider a taxpayer-supported solution.”

Michigan’s state legislature is considering legislation to block collective bargaining for student-athletes.  The bill is a reaction to the pending unionization efforts of football players at Northwestern University in Illinois.

Major League Soccer, the top professional soccer league in the United States and Canada, faces an expiring collective bargaining agreement at the end of January.  According to Sports Illustrated, the primary points of contention between the league and the Major League Soccer Players Union are compensation and free agency.  Without a new agreement, a work stoppage is possible.

A National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge ruled New York-based Cablevision illegally gave raises to technicians to persuade them against voting for unionization, as reported in The New York Times.  In a separate ruling, the judge said Cablevision did not bargain in bad faith with a union that represents a different group of technicians.

The New York Times also reported that New York City reached a tentative contract deal with the union representing school principals.  According to the Times, “Union members would see their pay increase 18 percent over the life of the nine-year contract, which was agreed to Friday night, at a potential cost to the city of about $775 million.”

As noted in, contract negotiations “between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association were underway today and are expected to continue through Sunday as negotiators look ahead to the ILWU caucus that is scheduled for Dec. 15.”  Negotiations over the contract for workers at major West Coast ports have been underway for 7 months.

Non-management employees of Hubway, Boston’s bike share, have voted to unionize. said the workers, who will join TWU Local 100, seek safety and scheduling improvements.

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