Weekend News & Commentary — November 25-26, 2017

Published November 26th, 2017 -  - 11.26.174


Bloomberg Law reports on a number of Congressional labor policy staff who are leaving the Hill, although the staffing changes are not expected to change labor policy for either Republicans or Democrats. Liz Watson, the former labor policy director for Democrats on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, recently moved home to Indiana to run for Congress in the state’s 9th District. Watson, who is strongly backed by labor unions, is one of five Democrats seeking to challenge freshman Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R).

While reflecting on Black Friday, Steven Greenhouse, a former labor and workplace reporter for the New York Times, argues in the Los Angeles Times in favor of Fair Workweek laws. “UCLA researchers recently surveyed 800 retail employees in the L.A. area and found that ever-varying work hours create chaos in many workers’ lives, problems compounded by the city’s size and transportation woes.” Proposed Fair Workweek laws “generally apply to retail and restaurant workers and require two weeks’ notice of work schedules. And they usually call for a good-faith estimate of weekly hours upon hiring, and give workers the right to decline to work when there is less than 10 or 11 hours between shifts. All the laws require predictability pay.” According to Greenhouse, the Fair Workweek movement may target L.A. for similar regulations next year.

Workers at Amazon’s warehouses in Italy and Germany decided to strike on Black Friday, following a failure to negotiate bonuses with the company. Reuters reports that workers have also decided not to do any overtime until Dec. 31, putting pressure on Amazon during the peak e-commerce season.

The New York Times looks at the workers of Neenah, Wisconsin and how the town turned from blue to red in 2016. Workers are concerned about the future of manufacturing jobs in the town, but they are also concerned that strong protectionist trade policies meant to help workers could actually lead to a trade war.

“Do we really understand what we’re doing?” Mr. Riordan asked. “We have a big trade surplus with Mexico in terms of grain. If U.S. farmers are suddenly at a disadvantage, who is going to pay the price for that? American agricultural equipment manufacturers, which impacts us.”

The Atlantic has an interview with Sarah Adler-Milstein about Alta Garcia, a clothing workshop in the Dominican Republic which “pays its workers a living wage in an industry that is notorious for skimping on worker salaries.” Alder-Milstein, co-author of Sewing Hope: How One Factory Challenges the Apparel Industry’s Sweatshops, speaks about why Alta Garcia was founded, how its model works, and what its successes and challenges reveal about the garment industry more broadly.

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