Weekend News & Commentary — May 9-10

Published May 10th, 2015 -  - 05.10.156


President Obama was criticized for choosing to visit Nike as part of his push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, because of Nike’s troublesome overseas labor practices.  The Los Angeles Times outlines some of the most prevalent criticisms of Nike in spite of improved practices.  The New York Times has more on the conflict in the context of Obama’s relationship with Nike.  Lydia DePillis in The Washington Post described the potential impact of the pact on improved working conditions in Vietnam.     

Writing in The Washington Post, Lydia DePillis also describes efforts to pass state and local legislation that addresses “just-in-time scheduling,” the increasingly common practice of employers to time shifts at the last minute exactly when work is needed.  The proposals would give workers more control over their schedules.  The first such bill, which went into effect this year in San Francisco, requires that employers “give workers two weeks’ notice of their schedules, pay workers for the shifts when they’re on call and give hours to current employees instead of hiring more, among other provisions.”

The New York Times reports that Republicans are undertaking efforts to “end prevailing-wage laws are emerging in statehouses around the nation.”  The laws were generally passed during the Great Depression and exist in 32 states and for federal contracts, requiring “private contractors to pay workers on public projects wages in line with those earned by people doing comparable work in the same region.”

According to The Bangor Daily News, “the latest effort to make Maine a right-to-work state stumbled Wednesday, when lawmakers on the Legislature’s Labor Committee narrowly rejected a bill that would have allowed employees who benefit from collective bargaining to opt out of paying unions for those services.”  The bill still faces additional votes in the Maine House and Senate.

This week, the Illinois House will vote on whether the state should adopt right-to-work laws, The Chicago Sun-Times reports.  While Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has touted right-to-work as part of his agenda, he has yet to present formal legislation.  Also in Illinois, The New York Times notes that “the Illinois Supreme Court on Friday rejected changes that legislators made to fix a deeply troubled public pension system, leaving the state where it had started — with a significant budget crisis, a vastly underfunded pension program and no plan in sight.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, new data from the Department of Labor shows the U.S. legal services sector added 2,300 jobs in April, leaving the total number of legal jobs in the country the highest since August 2014.  The numbers are still far below their peak in 2007, before the recession. Nationally, CNN reports the U.S. added 223,000 jobs in April.

Writing in The New York Times, Robert W. Goldfarb describes difficulties faced by veterans in seeking jobs after their military service.  He writes about how stereotypes, veterans’ unfamiliarity with the job market and other factors complicate their employment prospects.  He concludes that “hiring officials are obligated to employ only those candidates who will enhance their organization. But they also need to see each veteran as an individual, rather than as someone who might be bringing unwanted baggage back from the war.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that a vast majority of teachers’ union members voted to ratify a new three-year contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District.  The contract includes a 1-% raise over 3 years, and is expected to be approved by the Board of Education as soon as next week.

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