Weekend News & Commentary — January 3-4

Published January 4th, 2015 -  - 01.04.152


The Los Angeles Times reports that there has been a surge in union organizing campaigns by part-time adjunct faculty at nearly a dozen private colleges in California.  Faculty members are seeking improved pay and more predictable employment, while administrators worry that the unionization of faculty will drive up tuition and reduce flexibility.

In POLITICO, Timothy Noah interviewed labor lawyer and author Thomas Geoghegan on his new book “Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs A New Kind of Labor Movement.”  Geoghegan characterizes the steps he suggests as a last-ditch effort both for the labor movement and for the Democrats.  He recommends that the labor movement direct strikes and campaigns at Democrats and that the labor movement accept a national right-to-work law in exchange for a protection of the right to organize under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The Japanese government is encouraging mothers to enter the workforce to help bolster the country’s economy, according to the New York Times.  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has plans for more state-funded child care and other measures to reverse a decline in the labor force and a recession.  Abe faces a gender gap in Japan that is even more significant than that in the United States and Europe, reinforced by Japanese corporate and societal norms. The Wall Street Journal notes that Japanese retailers are also addressing labor shortages by increasing self-checkout.

Federal mediators announced that FairPoint Communications and unions representing over 1,700 striking workers are resuming negotiations, the Boston Globe reports.  The workers have been on strike since October, and the last negotiations were held on November 18.  As previously noted by OnLabor, the National Labor Relations Board recently rejected the union’s argument that FairPoint failed to bargain in good faith.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram reports that labor negotiations between port operators and dockworkers became even more hostile on Friday, when both sides accused each other of bargaining in bad faith.  The conflict has already crippled the posts of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and a strike or lockout could drain $2 billion a day from the US economy.  Workers have been without a contract since July.

Writing in The New York Times, Harvard economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan summarizes research on the effect of race on hiring, employment and other areas where there is significant discrimination.  He concludes that much of this discrimination is unconscious and results from implicit bias that is harder to identify that outright bigotry.

Writing for Watchdog.org, Tom Seward writes about the decline in union membership in Minnesota and nationwide, despite widespread media coverage on recent strikes and protests.  He describes the challenges facing unions in Minnesota as well as several recent accomplishments of unions in the face of those challenges.

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