Weekend News & Commentary — October 28-29, 2017

Published October 29th, 2017 -  - 10.29.173


The Labor Department will file an appeal on Monday of the ruling which struck down the Obama administration’s overtime-pay rule. A Labor Department official said Friday evening that in filing the appeal, the Department is seeking to maintain Secretary Acosta’s ability to establish overtime regulations, and that the appeal should not be taken as an endorsement of the regulation. Sharon Block, along with Patricia Smith, previously argued that Acosta should appeal the ruling.

The National Labor Relations Board announced that Fuyao Glass America’s union vote will take place on November 8-9. The United Auto Workers is hoping that the 1,500 workers in the Moraine, Ohio-based plant will vote to unionize, especially after workers in Canton, MS chose not to unionize at the Nissan plant earlier this year. Workers at the Fuyao plant have complained of a series of OSHA violations.

Walmart is “testing out shelf-scanning robots in more than 50 stores. The devices make sure items are in stock and priced correctly.” Walmart e-commerce division CEO Marc Lore talked about the company’s forays into robotic technology at Fast Company’s Innovation Festival. “Fabletics cofounder Kate Hudson, who shared the stage with Lore, says it might take time for consumers to adapt to engaging with robots rather than people.”

“We’re going to have robots,” says [Kate] Hudson with a sigh. “But it makes me kind of sad.”

Sixty-six workers at the BMW plant in Spartanburg, S.C. are piloting an exoskeleton vest, aimed at reducing the muscle effort needed for certain tasks. The vests – which are “motorized metal frameworks that the employees wear” – can reduce the effort required to complete certain tasks by 30 to 40 percent. Is this an answer to the automation crisis? Frank Pochiro, a BMW innovation manufacturing engineer in Spartanburg, “looks at wearables as technology that can keep people on the job longer.”

The wildfires in California have devastated marijuana farmers’ crops and it is unclear the extent of damage the fires may have caused to the growing pot industry in the state. Farmers not only lost crops, but also their life’s savings, as many kept money buried under or near their homes; that liquid capital has now been burned to ash. With no crop insurance and no banks willing to lend, farmers complain that they are not being respected as legitimate business owners.

Amazon is now the second largest US company employer. The company had 541,900 employees at the end of the September, up from 159,500 at the end of June . In part the growth is due to the acquisitions of Whole Foods and Souq.com, but Amazon also hired 70,000 additional employees during that time, and plans to hire an additional 120,000 seasonal workers for the holidays. Yahoo Finance has an interview with Amazon workers, about how the company is able to onboard so many people so quickly. The answer in short: state-of-the-art technology. The average employment period “for an Amazon seasonal worker can range anywhere between six weeks and three months.”

In light of President Trump’s dispute with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson who was killed in Niger, Jamelle Bouie at Slate, details America’s painful historic contempt for black soldiers. Although black people served in the military from the Revolutionary War onwards out of military necessity, Bouie argues that “the mere fact of black soldiers challenged ideals of American manhood and citizenship that were built on whiteness.” They fought for America, thinking that they were also fighting for their own equality, but were denied at every turn. Full integration of military units did not occur until after WWII, and even then the Civil Rights Era for civilian integration was another twenty years off.

The New York Times, takes a closer look at how French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to sell his new labor plan to skeptics. Macron has sought to link his plan with the Nordic way, but “[e]conomists doubt that the Nordic model can be transplanted from Scandinavia — where dealings between unions and employers are convivial — to France, where strikes that bring life to a halt are a cherished ritual.” Unions see Macron’s plan as a scheme to strip away labor protections, but they face a PR crisis of their own with accusations of “accept[ing] joblessness for the masses as the price of protecting their narrow segment of French workers — a group that trends white and male.”

Buying candy for Halloween on Tuesday? A note that your gummy bears might be made with slave labor, but never fear – the ALF-CIO has a list of union-made in America candy if that’s your thing.

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