News & Commentary

October 25, 2015

Just days after the United Automobile Workers Union (UAW) approved a new contract with Fiat Chrysler Automobile, the union is playing hardball to secure another new contract with General Motors (GM).  On Saturday, the UAW union set a deadline of Sunday night (tonight) for GM to agree to a new four-year contract.  The union primarily seeks compensation for concessions that it made in recent years to help GM survive bankruptcy during the bailout.  Although the New York Times reports that negotiations between the two parties have intensified over the last few days, the impending expiration date of the workers’ current contract (tonight at 11:59 pm) certainly raises the prospect of a strike.  The Wall Street Journal reports that after the union has completed negotiations with GM, it will next focus its efforts on negotiations with Ford — negotiations that may be colored by the considerable increase in profits that Ford has recently experienced.

The Washington Post highlights that despite efforts in this country to ensure that disabled people are able to return to and maintain employment, massive barriers still remain.  Surprisingly, one of the largest barriers is the social security disability program that we currently have in place.  Although intended to be a social safety net, the program in fact complicates working for those who endure the administratively-burdensome process of obtaining disability insurance and medicaid.

For starters, the actual benefits provided by the program are not enough — the average recipient is given just $1,200/month, placing them near the poverty line.  But perhaps worse is that disabled workers who return to work can quickly lose all of the medical assistance provided by the program if they begin earning a certain amount of money.  Thus, workers’ concerns over losing much-needed assistance if they make too much money discourages them from full participation in the workforce.  This intuition is backed by statistics — the labor-force participation rate for work-limited disabled people has decreased much more quickly than that of the general population.  In fact, so many people are on the government’s payroll that, absent changes, the federal government’s disability fund is projected to be out of money by the end of 2017.

Finally, a New York Times piece mused about how changes in job titles have mirrored changes in the employment sphere.  As employment has grown more fragmented, entrepreneurial, and digital, popular job titles have also began to reflect a shift away from traditional roles.  Particularly prevalent in the start-up world, a search across LinkedIn revealed substantial numbers of people with untraditional job titles such as “culture influencer,” “brand architect,” and “professional evangelist.”  One expert suggests that these changing titles suggest very real changes in the operation of businesses as well as a real need to continue to reimagine traditional employment roles for those in creative, management-focused positions.

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