On Monday, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez delivered remarks at the National Press Club, strongly endorsing the right to union membership, paid paternal leave, and a higher minimum wage. Perez also connected declining wages to decreasing union participation. “Worker voice takes so many forms, and one of the most important of which is being a union,” Secretary Perez began. “When it comes to protecting collective bargaining rights in this country, we need to continue to protect those rights. And those rights have frankly come under withering attack in recent years.” Commentators at the Washington Post noted that Perez’s remarks are a departure from the administration’s more arms-length relationship to unions, and may be particularly significant if Perez remains a front-runner to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General. The Secretary will be traveling next week to Germany to meet with Volkswagen officials, to learn more about their works council model. “That works council model is a wonderful model that we should consider importing into the United States, because a works council is all about codetermination,” Perez noted. Further coverage is available at the Boston Globe, Buffalo News, the Huffington Post and Politico, and the National Press Club has made the full speech available here.
The Washington Post reports on a new survey by Working Mother Media, finding that nearly 80 percent of men not only work flexible schedules, but feel comfortable doing so. More than half of surveyed men noted that their employers supported flexible work, while one-fourth said their employers could but chose not to. 60 percent of the working fathers said they would prefer to work part-time, if that meant they could still do meaningful work and rise in their careers.
Reuters reports on how the Ebola outbreak may galvanize unionization among emergency response workers, airline workers, and nurses. A number of groups, including the largest nurses’ union in the country, are demanding specific Ebola protections in ongoing contract negotiations with employers, and many workers have expressed concerns about workplace safety.
New research by scholars at Vanderbilt University suggests that women face a wage penalty for obesity. “Starting when a woman becomes overweight, she is increasingly less likely to work in a personal interaction or personal communication occupation. And the heaviest women in the labor market are the least likely individuals to work in personal interaction occupations,” noted Jennifer Shinall, assistant professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School and author of “Occupational Characteristics and the Obesity Wage Penalty.”