Afternoon Coffee: Microsoft to Require Suppliers to Provide Paid Parental Leave, Is the New NAFTA a Boon for Labor Unions?

Microsoft announced in a blog post yesterday that it will be requiring its U.S. suppliers to offer employees a minimum of 12 weeks of paid parental leave, up to $1,000 per week. Only suppliers with more than 50 employees and that “perform substantial work for Microsoft” will be required to follow this policy.

Squabble of Semantics

Amazon is refuting Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)’ claims that many of its employees have to resort to federal assistance programs to supplement their low wages, accounting for about $150 billion in taxpayer money, the Washington Post reports. Sanders plans to introduce legislation requiring Amazon and other large employers to reimburse the government for federal assistance received by employees.

The online retailer published a testy blog post complaining that Sanders included “people who only worked for Amazon for a short period of time and/or chose to work part-time” in his estimation of the number of Amazon employees who qualify for food stamps. Considering that the median salary of full-time Amazon employees is still a paltry $34,123 (and that CEO Jeff Bezos makes 59 times that amount), it seems that Amazon’s only self-defense is to argue over the definition of “employee” and “choice.”

Prison Labor in Chinese Supply Chains

Although exporting goods produced by prison labor is illegal under international trade laws, there is strong evidence of prison labor in many supply chains that go through China, the Financial Times reports. As China’s wages rise and the working-age population declines, companies are exploiting prison labor in order to keep costs down.

New NAFTA and Labor Unions

Could the new NAFTA be a significant win for labor unions? The Wall Street Journal’s Josh Zumbrun says yes, noting that the new agreement with Mexico contains several changes sought by the AFL-CIO, the largest union group in the U.S. These changes include a requirement that 40% to 45% of automotive parts come from factories that pay workers a minimum of $16 an hour.

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