Archive for the ‘Labor’ Category

Cab Calloway performs “Doing the Reactionary”

February 27, 2015

Hat tip to Bill Harvey

Cab Calloway performs “Doing the Reactionary” and “One Big Union for Two,” both from the musical revue Pins and Needles , which was put on by members of the International Ladies Garment Workers and ran on Broadway from 1937 to 1940.

Scott Walker’s Southern economic strategy

February 25, 2015

right-to-work-2Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is pushing through a right-to-work law, which gives workers protected by union contracts the right not to pay union dues.

It is part of an economic strategy copied from Southern states such as Alabama—to attract branch plants of industries headquartered elsewhere by means of low taxes, low wages and no labor unions.

The price of the strategy is low educational levels, low public services and deteriorating infrastructure—all the things that make a state attractive to entrepreneurial, high-tech and high-wage enteprise.

I think the Walker strategy is a bad one because Wisconsin can’t out-impoverish states like Mississippi, and the USA as a whole can’t out-impoverish nations like Bangladesh.  Even if we could, would we want to?

What we Americans as a nation need to think about is how to add value, and how to distribute the benefits among the working people who create value.

Scott Walker has been a highly successful politician, and looks to be a strong presidential candidate, by distracting attention away from these questions.   Instead he encourages people who are floundering economically to focus their resentment on their neighbors who still have union jobs and good wages, and away from the tiny economic elite who benefit from the low wage, high unemployment economy.

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The changing U.S. economy in four maps

February 22, 2015

The most common job in each state in 1978.

16389997587_0e9959bd23_zThe most common job in each state in 1988.

16574791922_bd081f6292_zThe most common job in each state in 2000.

16574792062_6c7be6e8d6_zThe most common job in each state in 2014

mostcommonjobSource: National Public Radio via Mike the Mad Biologist.

Long story short:  The most common jobs remaining are the ones that haven’t been automated and aren’t being done cheaper overseas.

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Dow Jones firms’ profit is $48,887 per employee

January 31, 2015
Profit-per-employee

Click to enlarge.

The 30 companies that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Averages took in an average profit of $48,887 per employee last year.  It would be interesting to know what those employees’ average incomes were.

LINKS

Five years into recovery, Dow companies squeeze workers as investors thrive by Michael Santoli for Yahoo Finance.

Another image of labor’s broken back: $48,887 in profit per employee! by Daniel Becker for Angry Bear.  (Hat tip to naked capitalism)

Why were Democrats AWOL on minimum wage?

January 26, 2015

President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union message proposed tying the minimum wage to the rate of inflation.

A blogger named Jamison Foser pointed out that the Democrats, who had a majority in the Senate, did not introduce any legislation in 2014 to accomplish that.

minimum_wage_onpagePresident Obama in his 2014 State of the Union message proposed an increase in the minimum wage.

Foser pointed out that the Democrats, who still had a majority in the Senate, introduced a bill in April to raise the minimum wage and, when it failed, they did not try again.

The Republicans who controlled the House of Representatives meanwhile passed bill after bill to repeal Obamacare.

Pundits ridiculed them for this, but in the 2014 elections, the Obamacare mess was a much bigger issue for voters than minimum wage.  Some states that passed referendums to increase the minimum wage still voted Republican.

This is a failure of the whole Washington leadership of the Democratic Party.

What good are politicians who won’t fight for the public good even when it’s popular?

LINK

After the State of the Union by Jamison Foser.  Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist.

American labor unions and the future

January 26, 2015

The New Deal is regarded as the emancipator of the American labor union movement.  By giving Americans a legal right to bargain collectively through labor unions of their own choosing, the National Labor Relations Act gave unions a recognized place in society.

Under the NLRB umbrella, American labor unions in the 1930s and 1940s became greater in size and power than they ever were before or have been since.

But Stanley Aronowitz in his new book, THE DEATH AND LIFE OF AMERICAN LABOR: Toward a New Workers’ Movement (2014), said that the NLRB in the long run proved a trap.

aronowitz.death&lifeamericanlabor03,200_Aronowitz said that unions agreed to restrictions on their only weapon, the strike.  During the course of a contract, unions themselves were responsible for suppressing unauthorized strikes.

Employers became adept at using the NLRB to thwart union organizing.  In the interim between a petition for a union election and the election itself, they could weed out the union supporters (although this was technically illegal) and threaten and propagandize the employees.

Labor leaders gave up the goal of transforming society in return for place at the table where decisions about the U.S. economy were made.  But they didn’t even get a place at the table.

Over the years, new laws weakened union rights and imposed new restrictions.  Union leaders became less and less able or willing to use their basic weapon—the strike.  Union membership is below 11 percent of the American work force, the lowest level since before the New Deal.

Aronowitz, a professor at City University of New York and a former factory worker and union organizer himself, wrote that if the labor movement is to survive, workers and labor leaders must break out of old ways of thinking.

They need to engage in direct action, outside the NLRB framework, as has was done in the recent Walmart and fast-food walkouts.

Aronowitz noted that these actions were taken without union recognition or expectation of a contract, but were effective nonetheless in forcing management to respond to workers’ demands.

Unions should not agree to contracts with no-strike provisions, he wrote.  Or, if they do, only as a last resort and for a limited time.

I always thought that the Walmart and fast-food workers, who are continually at the brink of destitution, showed great courage by defying their employers like that.  I wouldn’t have thought it possible if it hadn’t happened.  Maybe in this case freedom really is just another word for nothing left to use.

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The passing scene: January 4, 2015

January 4, 2015

Scavengers by Adam Johnson for Granta.

Adam Johnson walked down the stairs of his North Korean tourist hotel because he did not trust the elevator, and discovered that most floors of were unoccupied and scavenged for furnishings in order to keep up appearances on the few floors on which the tourists stayed.  This is one of the glimpses his article provides of the reality of life in North Korea.

Remembering the Russian Orthodox Priest Who Fought the Orthodox Church by Cathy Young for the Daily Beast.

Father Gleb Yakunin, a Russian Orthodox priest who died on Christmas, fought for democracy, Christian values and freedom for all religions against Communist totalitarianism and Putinist corruption.  He was defrocked twice for protesting and exposing the ties of the Russian Orthodox church with the Soviet government.

Religion in Latin America by the Pew Research Center.

Pentecostalism is on the rise in a historically Roman Catholic region.  The worldwide spread of Pentecostalism may be the most significant religious development of our time.

Tayloring Christianity by Matthew Rose for First Things.

A Secular Age? by Patrick J. Dineen for The American Conservative.

Secularism in the USA does not war on religion, the way anti-clericalism has done in France, Mexico and other countries.  American secularists simply want religion to be an individual matter rather than the organizing principle of society.  In a way, American secular liberals are the ultimate Protestants.

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More police union job actions like this, please

December 31, 2014

Police in New York City are conducting a job action by only enforcing the law when strictly necessary.  They’ll ignore minor traffic violations, public drinking and drug possession by people not bothering anybody else.   That is to say, they’ll do exactly what their critics want them to do.

MADIronically, if they had been conducting such an action several months ago, Eric Garner would still be alive and there would be no showdown between the Police Benevolent Association and Mayor De Blasio.

A labor union job action, for those who’ve never been a union member, consists of “working to rule”—doing exactly what the job requires, no more and no less, without exercise of any judgment.

Years ago police job actions consisted of enforcing every law, no matter how trivial, without exercising any discretion.  But what once was a form of harassment is now standard procedure in the poor neighborhoods of New York and many other cities.

I think New York City’s current police job action is a worthwhile, even if unintentional, social experiment.  It will be interesting to see the results of minimum rather than maximum policing.

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Hat tip to The Banality of Blue by B Psycho on Psychopolitik.

 

Can Democrats win back white working men?

December 12, 2014

From Andrew Jackson to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democratic Party was the party of white working men, with all the good and bad things that phrase implies.

Now a majority of white Americans vote Republican and the Republicans are especially strong among blue-collar white working men with high school educations—people who in FDR’s time would have been the backbone of the Democratic Party.

which-side-are-you-onI think there is a very obvious way that the Democrats (or, for that matter, the Republicans) could win the votes of the majority of white working people, and it is the same way they could win the votes of the majority of black, brown, yellow and red working people.

It is to put the United States on the path to a full employment, high wage economy.   I admit I do not have a blueprint on how to accomplish this, but there are a number of obvious things that would be both popular and beneficial to the vast majority.

Public opinion polls show a majority of Americans favor (1) a higher minimum wage, (2) prosecution of financial fraud, (3) breakup of “too big to fail” banks and (4) higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires and lower taxes on middle class and working people.

Polls also show a majority of Americans are opposed to (1) NATA-style trade pacts and (2) chipping away at Social Security and Medicare.   In all these cases, the American people are wiser than the decision-makers in Washington.

I think the AFL-CIO has some good ideas.  But I don’t think the problem is lack of good ideas, or even the inability to convince the public of good ideas.

The problem is that certain financial institutions and corporations are so entrenched in the federal government, in lobbying and in the political parties’ nominating process that they have the power to block good ideas.

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Hillary Clinton Presidency Could Have the Same Problems as Obama’s by Norm Scheiber for The New Republic.

Can We Talk?  Here’s Why the White Working Class Hates Democrats by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.

Have Democrats Failed the White Working Class? by Thomas Edsall for the New York Times.

Our real white male problem: Why Fox News beats Bruce Springsteen and liberal moralizing every time by Jim Sleeper for Salon.

Germany on the same path as the USA

December 12, 2014
Wage and productivity growth in Germany

Wage and productivity growth in Germany

Via VoxEU

Some years back I wrote a post holding up Germany as a role model for the United States.  I said Germany’s policies showed that a nation can have a strong labor movement and a strong social safety net and yet have a growing economy and success in world markets.

I failed to recognize that Germany was and is following the same path as the United States—high profits, wage stagnation and financialization.  Germans are better off than Americans only because their starting point was higher when they started on the road to decline.

The chart shows that German productivity is increasing, just as in the United States, but German wage-earners aren’t getting the benefit of it.

Just like in the USA.

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