French Unemployment Rises Again, Undermining Macron Plans

 French unemployment rose for the second consecutive quarter to reach 7.4%, confirming the slower momentum in the euro area’s second-largest economy and undermining Emmanuel Macron’s long-term objectives. The French president has pledged to return the country to full employment by the end of his presidency in 2027 and has made good progress with the jobless rate reaching the lowest in four decades last year. But economic growth has slowed sharply in recent months and companies are grappling with the fastest increase in interest rates in the history of the euro. Economists expected joblessness would rise slightly less, to 7.3%.

 The Federal Communications Commission has enacted new rules intended to eliminate discrimination in access to internet services, a move which regulators are calling the first major U.S. digital civil rights policy.

The rules package, which the commission ratified on Wednesday, would empower the agency to review and investigate instances of discrimination by broadband providers to different communities based on income, race, ethnicity, and other protected classes.

The order also provides a framework for the FCC to crack down a range of digital inequities including the disparities in the investment of services for different neighborhoods, as well as the “digital divide,” a term experts use to describe the complete lack of internet access many communities experience due to regional or socioeconomic inequality.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that Congress required the agency to adopt rules addressing digital discrimination, through bipartisan infrastructure legislation passed at the start of the Biden administration.

“The digital divide puts us at an economic disadvantage as a country and disproportionately affects communities of color, lower-income areas, and rural areas,” Rosenworcel said in a statement to The Associated Press.

“We know broadband is essential infrastructure for modern life, and these rules will bring us one step closer to ensuring everyone has access to the internet, no matter who they are or where they live,” she said.

Poorer, less white neighborhoods were found to have received lower investment in broadband infrastructure and offered worse deals for internet service than comparatively whiter and higher-income areas. That inequity in access “was especially pronounced during the pandemic,” the chairwoman said.

There is no clear standard for tracking inequities in the provision of digital services, though communities impacted by other discriminatory practices such as redlining and rural disinvestment report worse rates of service or outright lack of access. The FCC hopes its new rules will streamline the process for reporting such issues to establish an official record of discrimination going forward.

The rules allow the agency to examine whether an internet service provider knowingly discriminated against a community in how it built, upgraded, or maintained internet access, as well as provide a framework for determining whether a proposed service plan would create a “discriminatory effect” that couldn’t otherwise be avoided by reasonable steps.

“While the intent of the statute is to apply pressure to internet service providers in order to avert discrimination, it also eases the responsibility of states and localities who are receiving (federal infrastructure) funds to have that same responsibility,” said Nicol Turner Lee, director of the Center for Technology Innovation at The Brookings Institution.

The telecommunications industry has opposed the framework, arguing that the policy would hamper investment in communities by requiring regulations that the industry says are unnecessary. In a statement after Wednesday’s vote, The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the industry’s main trade association, called the new rules “potentially unlawful.” The group also said the FCC was seeking “expansive new authority over virtually every aspect of the broadband marketplace.”

“Many, if not most, long-standing, uniform business practices could be seen to have differential impacts on consumers with different income levels,” the group said.

Meanwhile, Free Press Action, a digital advocacy group, applauded the new rules and called on the FCC to go further by reclassifying some aspects of broadband to bring about “quick action to bring back the important oversight powers the agency needs to do its job.

During Wednesday’s FCC hearing, Brendan Carr, one of the agency’s commissioners, argued that the new policies opened the agency up to potential litigation and would hamper operations by the telecommunications industry. “It’s not about discrimination. It’s about control,” said Carr, who said that the telecommunications industry had entered a “Faustian bargain” by supporting the bipartisan law and had previously called the framework a “power grab.”

“Ignoring disparate impact would have denied Congress’s directive to this agency. It is simply not plausible that we could prevent and eliminate digital discrimination by solely, solely addressing intentional discrimination,” said fellow commissioner Geoffrey Starks. “The rules we adopt here today are not the end of our work.”

The FCC is also poised to reimplement landmark net neutrality rules that were rescinded under the Trump administration. President Joe Biden has said the investments in the bipartisan infrastructure law are meant to connect every U.S. household to quality internet service by 2030 regardless of income or identity.

“Whatever the FCC does in terms of discipline or punishment, I would hope that the benefit goes to the community being discriminated against in the form of more equitable deployment,” said Christopher Ali, a professor of telecommunications at Pennsylvania State University.

“That’s going to be difficult to order. But we need to make sure that the communities are reaping the benefits of these decisions. I think not just that these companies have been punished,” said Ali, who participated in an FCC diversity and equity working group focused on takeaways from the pandemic.

“It’s unclear at the moment how many complaints would be needed for the FCC to elevate it to an investigatory issue,” Ali said. “So maybe then, that’s where community groups and local organizations are going to become absolutely vital.”

The Senate passed a continuing resolution (CR) late Wednesday night to fund federal agencies into early next year, temporarily averting a government shutdown just before the holiday season.

The bill passed with a vote of 87-11, with 10 Republicans voting no and only one Democrat. GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Tim Scott were absent for the vote.

The CR passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday by an overwhelming majority of 336-95.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described Wednesday as "a very, very good night for the American people" before announcing a government shutdown has been avoided.

Sen. Chuck Schumer

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described Wednesday as a "very, very good night" for Americans after the Senate voted 87-11 to fund federal agencies, averting a government shutdown. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., proposed a plan on Saturday creating two separate deadlines for funding different parts of the government to set up more targeted goals to work toward in an effort to prevent Congress from lumping all 12 spending bills into a massive "omnibus" package.

Bills concerning military construction and Veterans Affairs; Agriculture; Energy and Water; Transportation and Housing and Urban Development must be worked out by Jan. 19 while the remaining eight appropriations bills must be decided upon by Feb. 2.

House and Senate leaders agreed another short-term extension was needed to determine the government's spending priorities for the 2023 fiscal year in order to meet the deadline of midnight on Friday.

Voting on a tentative contract agreement between General Motors and the United Auto Workers union that ended a six-week strike against the company appears too close to call after the latest tallies at several GM factories were announced Wednesday.

The union hasn’t posted final vote totals yet, but workers at several large factories who finished voting in the past few days have turned down the four- year-and-eight-month deal by fairly large margins. However, a factory in Arlington, Texas, with about 5,000 workers voted more than 60% to approve the deal in tallies announced Wednesday.

The vote tracker on the UAW’s website Wednesday shows the deal ahead by 958 votes. But those totals do not include votes from GM assembly plants in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Lansing Delta Township, Michigan; and a powertrain plant in Toledo, Ohio, which all voted against the agreement, according to local union officials.

In most cases, the vote tallies ranged from 55% to around 60% against the contract.

But in Arlington the vote was 63% in favor with 60.4% of production workers approving the deal and nearly 65% of skilled trades workers voting in favor, making the tally tight with GM voting to wrap up on Thursday.

Spokesmen for both the union and General Motors declined to comment while the voting continued.

FILE - United Auto Workers members walk in the Labor Day parade in Detroit, Sept. 2, 2019. The tentative contract agreement between General Motors and the United Auto Workers union appears to be headed for defeat. The union hasn’t posted final vote totals yet, but workers at five large factories who finished voting in the past few days have turned down the four year and eight month deal by fairly large margins. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

FILE - United Auto Workers members walk in the Labor Day parade in Detroit, Sept. 2, 2019. The tentative contract agreement between General Motors and the United Auto Workers union appears to be headed for defeat. The union hasn’t posted final vote totals yet, but workers at five large factories who finished voting in the past few days have turned down the four-year and eight-month deal by fairly large margins. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

It wasn’t clear what would happen next, but local union officials don’t expect an immediate walkout if the contract is voted down.

Voting continues at Ford through early Saturday, where the deal is passing with 66.1% voting in favor so far with only a few large factories still counting.

The contract was passed overwhelmingly at Jeep maker Stellantis, where voting continues until Tuesday. The union’s vote tracker on Wednesday showed that 79.5% voted in favor with many large factories yet to finish.

Workers at some smaller GM facilities have yet to vote, and final tallies are expected to be announced late Thursday.

FILE - United Auto Workers members walk the picket line at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., Sept. 26, 2023. Autoworkers at the first Ford factory to go on strike have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a tentative contract agreement reached with the company. Members of Local 900 voted 81% in favor of the four year-and-eight month deal, according to Facebook postings by local members on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, file)

FILE - United Auto Workers members walk the picket line at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., Sept. 26, 2023. Autoworkers at the first Ford factory to go on strike have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a tentative contract agreement reached with the company. Members of Local 900 voted 81% in favor of the four-year-and-eight-month deal, according to Facebook postings by local members on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, file)

Keith Crowell, the local union president in Arlington, said the plant has a diverse group of workers from full- and part-time temporary hires to longtime assembly line employees. Full-time temporary workers liked the large raises they received and the chance to get top union pay, he said. But many longtime workers didn’t think the immediate 11% pay raises were enough to make up for concessions granted to the company in 2008, he said.

“There was something in there for everybody, but everybody couldn’t get everything they wanted,” Crowell said. “At least we’re making a step in the right direction to recover from 2008.”

The union agreed to accept lower pay for new hires and gave up the cost of living adjustments and general annual pay raises in 2008 to help the automakers out of dire financial problems during the Great Recession. GM and Stellantis, then Chrysler, went into government-funded bankruptcies.

In the contracts with all three automakers, long-time workers will get 25% general raises over the life of the deals with 11% upfront. Including cost of living adjustments, they’ll get about 33%, the union said.

The contract took steps toward ending lower tiers of wages for newer hires, reducing the number of years it takes to reach top pay. Many newer hires wanted defined benefit pension plans instead of 401(k) retirement plans. But the company agreed to contribute 10% per year into the 401(k) instead.

At other factories, local union officials said that longtime workers at GM were unhappy that they didn’t get larger pay raises like newer workers, and they wanted a larger pension increase.

Tony Totty, president of the union local at the Toledo powertrain plant, said the environment is right to seek more from the company. “We need to take advantage of the moment,” he said. “Who knows what the next environment will be for national agreements. The company never has a problem telling us we need to take concessions in bad economic times. Why should we not get the best economic agreement in good economic times?”

At a GM pickup truck factory in Flint, Michigan, which voted 51.8% against the contract, worker Tommy Wolikow said more senior workers should have gotten bigger raises because newer hires and temporary workers got a lot more. “This wage thing, it’s just not cutting it,” he said. Still, he said the contract is close and he’d go for it with a few small additions.

Wolikow, hired by GM in 2008, said he was happy with a 10% annual company contribution to his 401(k) plan rather than a defined benefit pension.

Thousands of UAW members joined picket lines in targeted strikes against Detroit automakers over a six-week stretch before tentative deals were reached late last month. Rather than striking at one company, the union targeted individual plants at all three automakers. At its peak last month about 46,000 of the union’s 146,000 workers at the Detroit companies were walking picket lines.

Of the four GM plants that went on strike, workers at only one, Arlington, Texas, approved the contract. Workers in Wentzville, Missouri; Lansing Delta Township, Michigan; and Spring Hill, Tennessee; voted it down.

 President Joe Biden is nurturing economic ties this week with Asia, but he’s not signing any trade deals at a regional summit in San Francisco.

This fact — no trade deals — reveals a lot about the status of U.S. politics, the evolving global economy and the Biden administration’s own ambitions. U.S. negotiators say they’re progressing on finalizing agreements with 13 other countries on parts of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. The operative word is “framework” as that label allows Biden to bypass Congress in reaching agreements in IPEF (pronounced EYE-pef).

“It’s a framework because the administration wanted to have something it could do by executive agreement,” said Robert Holleyman, a former deputy U.S. trade representative.

Many U.S. voters have negative opinions about trade deals that they see as having caused industrial job loss, a prevailing sentiment in the 2016 presidential election that carries over to the upcoming 2024 race. IPEF can partially fill that gap by sidestepping some of the domestic politics while also addressing issues such as supply chains and climate change that have historically been outside trade deals. Here’s a breakdown of the framework and the progress being announced at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting.


Biden formally announced IPEF during a May 2022 trip to Tokyo. It has four major pillars: supply chains, climate, anti-corruption and trade.

“We’re writing the new rules for the 21st-century economy,” Biden said when the initiative was unveiled. But unlike a traditional trade deal, the framework is not about expanding market access or laying out penalties for unfair practices.

The trade pillar is being overseen by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, while the other three are under Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. The U.S. and its partners are expected to announce agreements on supply chains, climate, and anti-corruption, but negotiators are still working through parts of the trade pillar, according to people who are tracking the talks.

Besides the U.S., there are 13 members that represent 40% of the global gross domestic product. The other members are Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, according to the U.S. government.

Matthew Goodman, director of the Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said before the leaders’ meeting that the White House has been “signaling” the terms of the various agreements. Each pillar is negotiated separately.

On trade, there will be some language on agriculture and expanding trade relationships. However, the major issues of labor, environmental standards, and rules for digital companies are still being negotiated.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, objected to the trade pillar in part because of a lack of worker protections, prompting the Biden administration to not move forward with an agreement on the issue. Brown is up for reelection next year in an increasingly Republican state that identifies with its industrial heritage.

“Instead of negotiating trade deals behind closed doors, we should be working to strengthen enforcement so that American workers can compete on a level playing field,” Brown said.

The U.S. government has suggested there will be an agreement on the other three pillars, but those would also be in the early stages.

It’s simple: Voters say past trade deals caused the loss of factory jobs that hollowed out their hometowns and the Biden administration agrees.

The 2016 presidential election was a landmark event in rejecting trade pacts. Both party candidates, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Then President Trump revised the existing trade deal with Canada and Mexico while raising taxes on a range of imports and starting a trade skirmish with China.

Trade deals offered the prospect of cheaper goods and geopolitical stability, a prospect that was also somewhat undermined as the coronavirus pandemic exposed fragile supply chains that were overly dependent on China. Biden has sought to find alternatives to Chinese factories while maintaining the tariffs that Trump imposed on Chinese goods.

In a June speech, Tai criticized past trade deals.

“If we look at what those agreements did, we see the ways in which they contributed to the very problems we are now trying to address,” said Tai, emphasizing that “our new approach to trade recognizes people as more than just consumers, but also producers —the workers, wage earners, providers, and community members that comprise a vibrant middle class.”

Trade deals also take years to negotiate and even longer to finalize across presidential administrations. The last new trade deal was signed with South Korea in 2007 and went into force in 2012. By comparison, IPEF is moving a speedy clip as agreements are being announced after less than two years.

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