Weekend News & Commentary — February 20-21, 2016

Published February 21st, 2016 -  - 02.21.161


As expected, West Virginia passed legislation making it the nation’s 26th right-to-work state.  Writing for The Washington Post, Lydia DePillis explains how one of the nation’s historic bastions of labor rights turned against unions in the context of a struggling economy.  She notes how unions became a resented minority in West Virginia, coal production in the state has declined, and Republicans have become a powerful force in state politics.

The New York Times editorial board opined considerably on labor and employment issues this week.  First, they criticized Gov. Scott Walker’s actions to gut Wisconsin’s historic Civil Service system for state employment.  Second, they addressed “the staggering problem of chronic unemployment among minority men.”

While some airlines are facing labor challenges, Southwest Airlines will keep flying.  The Wall Street Journal reports that “in ballots tallied Friday, Southwest Airlines Co. airport ground workers authorized a new five-year labor contract by a mere 75 votes, according to the Transport Workers Union.”  Notably, “the new contract includes pay raises of more than 20% over the life of the deal. Southwest, in a statement, said it also includes work-rule improvements but enhances the carrier’s competitive standing within the industry.”

After 15 years of hard work to organize restaurant workers, one labor leader is being recognized for her efforts.  The New York Times profiled the work of Saru Jayaraman, who “earned the fear of restaurant owners with a mix of dogged organizing, costly lawsuits and nationwide lobbying.  Today she is pushing to change the laws that she says enable restaurants to mistreat employees.  She is a leading voice in the so-called Fight for $15, the national campaign to raise the minimum wage.  She is struggling to eliminate the lower, tipped minimum wage.  And she is campaigning for mandatory paid sick days.”

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