Weekend News & Commentary — July 7 – 8, 2018
The Department of Labor released its monthly job report on Friday. In the month of June, the United States added 213,000 jobs, though the unemployment rate ticked slightly upward from 3.8 percent to 4 percent. Some 50,000 of those jobs came from the professional and business services sector, while manufacturing added another 36,000 jobs. Many analysts viewed the report as a positive sign of U.S. economic growth in the face of numerous trade wars with countries like China and Canada. Others were less sanguine. Average hourly pay rose only 2.7 percent in the 12 months since June 2017. As a result, wages have been more or less stagnant over the past year when adjusted for inflation.
The University of Vermont Medical Center nurses’ strike reached national attention on Friday after Senator Bernie Sanders threw his weight behind the Burlington healthcare workers. Sanders drew attention to the wage disparity between UVM’s nurses and its top administrators, and called on the hospital to increase hiring and raise nurses’ pay. The nurses, who are demanding a 24 percent pay raise, entered contract negotiations with UVM on Friday night, but were unable to reach an agreement. Bargaining is set to continue on Monday. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, the nurses plan to strike on July 12 and 13. According to the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, 1,227 of its 1,800 members voted to authorize the strike last month.
The Las Vegas Culinary Union continues to call for better wages and working conditions as some union employees entered their second month without a contract. On Friday, hundreds of casino workers ran picket lines outside of the D Casino Hotel, demanding 4 percent wage increase, job protection against automation, and better workplace safety in the face of last year’s mass shooting. The workers’ contracts expired on June 1 after last-minute negotiations faltered. While some locals have reached final or tentative agreements with individual employers, some 8,000 of the Culinary Union’s 57,000 members remain without contracts.
President Donald Trump is reportedly seeking to hire 61 foreign workers to serve as wait staff and cooks at his property in Mar-a-Lago, FL. Since taking office last year, Trump has been critical of U.S. employers who hire foreign workers, arguing that those positions should be reserved for Americans. He hired 70 foreign workers under the H-2B visa program last year.
Finally, OnLabor Senior Contributor Sharon Block was quoted on Thursday in an article on the National Education Association’s next moves after Janus. The Intercept’s Rachel Cohen writes that the NEA, which currently represents over 3 million teachers and school support staff, expects to lose around 370,000 members over the next two years. In response, it has approved a two-year budget that will slash its costs by $50 million. The union also recently considered, but ultimately rejected, a proposal to create a new type of union membership that would be open to “any person who demonstrates support in advancing the cause of public education,” regardless of profession. Block warned that, going forward, the NEA and other public sector unions could expect a torrent of litigation from conservative groups pushing the limits of Janus’s holding.