News & Commentary

March 23, 2015

U.S. News and World Reports features further coverage of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, a bill introduced in both houses by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn) last week. The bill would create a federal program for employees to continue to receive a paycheck while they take time off work for a long-term illness or to care for a family member. The issue was elevated by President Obama during his State of the Union address, though it will likely face steep opposition from the Republican controlled Congress. Companies including YouTube, Vice Media, and Kinkos have come out in favor of the bill, as have the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Majority, and the American Sustainable Business Council. Similar bills have already been passed at the state level in California and New Jersey.

The International Business Times analyzes big box and department store retailers recent decision to increase wages. Last month, Wal-Mart increase hourly wages for about 500,000 workers to $9 an hour starting in April. Target Corporation and TJX Companies Inc., which owns T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s, recently made similar announcements. Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor history professor at UC Santa Barbara, argues that recent protests by groups like OUR Walmart have damaged the retailers’ ability to access new, urban markets and the wage increase are a way to make Wal-Mart more palatable to local, political interests. In commentary, Claire Zillman at Fortune argues that these retailers have been able to move faster than fast food employers on wage hikes because of the percentage of sales that go to payroll. Labor costs account for approximately 9 percent of total sails in retail while they account for approximately 26 percent in the food service industry.

The Associated Press reports that the Nevada State Assembly has scheduled hearings on a number of bills designed to undercut collective bargaining and restructure public employee pensions. One such bill, nicknamed the “Union Armageddon Bill,” would prohibit collective bargaining agreements from stopping layoffs during budget crisis and would eliminate seniority from being considered in layoffs.

In Colorado, two bills were introduced this week that would raise the minimum wage. According to the Associated Press, the first would increase the wages to $9.50 an hour by 2017 and a dollar a year after that until 2020. The second bill would allow local governments to set their own minimum wage.

In Indiana, faith-based groups borrowing the title of North Carolina’s Moral Mondays are fasting for 72.5 hours to raise awareness of the plight of Indiana’s minimum wage workers, who earn $7.25 an hour. According to WTHITV10, two bills to raise the minimum wage have been filed without much movement in the Indiana General Assembly. The Moral Mondays groups joined with state lawmakers, the state NAACP, and workers at the state house today to lobby for the increase.

According to NEWS10, hundreds of community members gathered at the New York State Capitol today to deliver a petition to Governor Andrew Cuomo calling for a $15 minimum wage. The New York State minimum is currently $8.75 an hour.

This morning, members of SEIU 1199 held informational pickets outside of hospitals owned by Mercy Health across Ohio. According to WKBN27, Al Bacon, Secretary Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199, the union which represents Mercy Health workers, said “Mercy Health is doing very well financially but still is demanding workers do more with less. At the same time, Mercy’s CEO – Michael Connelly – is taking over $2 million in compensation and other top executives are making millions as well.”

According to the Associated Press, the Teamsters Joint Council 32 in Minnesota has retracted its objection to the Sunday-sale of 64 ounce craft beer growlers. The growing craft brewery industry in Minnesota has been pushing to sell these growlers seven days a week. Last year, the Teamsters helped derail a repeal of the Prohibition-era law banning Sunday sales for fear that sales could affect existing labor contracts.

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