Archive for the ‘Labor’ Category

Jobless youth and oldsters who can’t retire

July 26, 2016

Thomas Geoghegan, a labor lawyer in Chicago, wrote a good article for The Baffler about the connection between low wages, high youth unemployment and older people (such as himself) being unwilling to retire.

Thomas Geoghegan

Thomas Geoghegan

A reporter asked Pope Francis to name the single biggest evil in the world.  Secularism?  No.  Abortion?  Not even.  Here’s what he said: “Youth unemployment—and the abandonment of the elderly.”

OK, that’s two evils.  But aren’t they really one thing?  Unable to get a start, boomerang kids move back home—while their grandparents hang on to their jobs.

Why hang on?  They fear being abandoned.  They didn’t save.  The young have always had to wait for the old to retire in order to move up a notch, but in the twenty-first century, that wait is getting longer, increasing the competition for scarce jobs.

For the state to shrink, the old must work more.  It’s a neoliberal axiom.  Call it the New Old Deal.

As a labor lawyer, let me defend my clients.  The working-class people I represent are dying sooner, not mucking up the labor market by living too long.  Alcohol and heroin are partially to blame, and trending stories on epidemics afflicting the white working class make easy fodder for TV newsmagazines.

But let me tell you what I more often see happening to non-college whites: those who do hard physical labor for an hourly wage go lame.  By age fifty-five, or certainly sixty, many are just done.

And when they go lame, they have no options.  They have no union-bargained pensions anymore.   They certainly have no 401(k) retirement accounts.

Maybe the country should be grateful; to the extent that they die prematurely, they help shore up Social Security.  And hey, should the GOP make it harder for them to receive workers’ comp or disability, these high school grads may die even younger.

The whole article is worth reading.  Click on Exit Planning to read it.

Dean Baker on white privilege

June 6, 2016

violentTrump-RallyThe rise of Trump has provoked a considerable outpouring of commentary from the pundits.  Most of it centered on the chief complaint that the white working class is upset about losing its privileged position and see Trump as the ticket to setting things right.

There is considerable truth to this story.  Trump’s strongest support comes from white men without college degrees, although he also does quite well among small business owners.  But before we condemn these workers as hopeless Neanderthals, it is worth stepping back a bit to consider what led them to support Donald Trump’s candidacy in the first place.

The “privilege” that these working class whites are looking to defend is middle-class factory jobs paying between $15 and $30 an hour.  These jobs generally came with decent health care benefits and often a traditional defined benefit pension, although that has become increasingly rare over the last two decades.

Trump-Iowa-supporters-Getty-640x480This is certainly a privileged position compared to billions of people in the developing world who would be happy to make $15 a day.  It is also privileged compared to women, whose pay still averages less than 80 percent of their male counterparts.  And, it is privileged compared to the situation of Americans of color who have frequently been trapped in the least desirable and lowest-paying jobs.

But these factory jobs and other blue collar occupations are hardly privileged when compared to the high flyers in the financial industry, the CEOs and other top level managers, or even professionals like doctors and dentists.  These groups have all seen substantial increases in their pay and living standards over the last four decades.

If you want to see “privilege,” look to the CEO making $20 million a year as they turn in a mediocre performance managing a major corporation.  Or talk to a cardiologist, an occupation with a median annual salary of more than $420,000 a year.

The pundits all know about these disparities in pay, but they want us to believe that they have nothing to do with privilege; rather, they reflect the natural workings of the market.  And they tend to act really ridiculous when shown evidence otherwise.

Source: Dean Baker | truthout

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Obama extends overtime pay over GOP objection

May 18, 2016

overtimepay30-b2-a8-1571-1454141881Give credit where credit is due.   The Department of Labor’s new rule on overtime pay for salaried workers would benefit millions of American workers.  Such a rule would not have been proposed under a Republican administration.

But why is the rule being introduced now, and not years ago?  I suspect, although I cannot prove, that this is a response to the Bernie Sanders campaign.

A Republican administration would not have done what Obama just did.  Conservative Democrats are not advocates for working people, but they can be pressured into appeasing working people.  This is not true of conservative Republicans, who oppose high wages and pro-labor legislation.

If Hillary Clinton and other conservative Democrats are elected this fall, the lesson for labor unions, civil rights organizations and consumer advocates is to keep the pressure on to support their interests.

They should follow the example of the LGBT movement.  President Obama originally opposed gay marriage, but changed his position after LGBT supporters withheld campaign contributions.

This is the way to play politics.  Don’t support anybody unless they give you a positive reason to support them.

Politicians who depend on campaign donations from large corporations and rich people will never go against the vital interests of their donors, but they can be forced to strike a balance between donors and their core voters unless the voters passively support them.

LINKS

Obama Is Bringing Overtime Pay to Millions of Workers by Dave Jamieson for the Huffington Post.

The new overtime rule will directly benefit 12.5 million working people: Who they are and where they live by Ross Eisenbrey and Will Kimball for the Economic Policy Institute.

Republicans Move to Block New Overtime Rules by Connor D. Wolf for the Daily Caller.

The financialized U.S. economy

May 6, 2016

WallStIncomeVsRest-1x-1

Wall Street is still doing much better than Main Street.  And while salaries for financial sector workers are leveling off, the salaries and bonuses of Wall Street CEOs are still rising.

A Fortune magazine writer reported that average Wall Street CEO compensation rose nearly 10 percent last year, while the wages of average American workers rose only 1.6 percent.

Healthy and honest financial markets are necessary for a free enterprise capitalist economy, but I don’t see any justifiable reason why Wall Street should prosper while the rest of the country doesn’t.

LINKS

Wall Street Wages Double in 25 Years as Everyone Else’s Languish by Jennifer Surane for Bloomberg News.

The Only Thing Up on Wall Street is CEO Pay by Stephen Gandel for Fortune.

Why a profitable company laid off 1,400 people

March 28, 2016

carrier2WTTVIndianapolis

In February, 1,400 employees of Carrier Air Conditioner in Indianapolis were told their jobs were being transferred to Mexico to cut costs.

It turns out that, according to the annual report of United Technologies, its parent company, that Carrier was a profitable and growing business segment.  In 2015, it was UT’s best-performing division in the company.

So why mess with it?  UT management hoped to boost the company’s stock price by cutting costs.  Managers say they plan to keep on cutting costs for the indefinite future, evidently without regard to

All this runs contrary to the way I was taught in college that a capitalist free enterprise system is supposed to work.

I was taught that the duty of corporate management is to ensure that the corporation survives and is profitable into the indefinite future.  This goal is achieved by making good products and at a reasonable price, and provide good customer service.  To do this, it is necessary to re-invest a good portion of the profits in the business.

UT management’s philosophy is evidently the opposite—to take money out of the business and give it to the passive shareholders.

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The New York Times evidently had a good article on this, which unfortunately is behind a pay wall.  David Dayen summarized its conclusions in an article for Salon.

Last year, Carrier produced a significant chunk of total profits for its parent company, United Technologies.  Of $7.6 billion in earnings in 2015, $2.9 billion came from the Climate, Controls & Security division, where Carrier resides.  Profits from this division have expanded steadily in recent years, which is not what you’d expect from a unit desperate to cut labor costs.

A look at United Technologies’ annual report reveals even more good news: Commercial and industrial products, Carrier’s category, make up over half of UTC’s $56 billion in net sales. Climate, Controls & Security had 3 percent growth in 2015, the highest in the company; it was the only division to increase its profit margin year-over-year.

“Organic sales growth at UTC Climate, Controls & Security was driven by the U.S. commercial and residential heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and transport refrigeration businesses,” according to page 14 of the report. In other words, air conditioners – what the workers are making in Indianapolis – drove the growth of the best-performing facet of United Technologies’ business.

So why would a profitable, growing business need to ship jobs to Mexico?  Because their shareholders demanded it.

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‘Do you think that we have reached the end?’

March 22, 2016

I can hardly wait to read Thomas Frank’s new book.

Here’s another excerpt.

A while ago I spoke at a firefighters convention in the Pacific Northwest, talking as I always do about the ways we have rationalized these changes to ourselves.

Firefighters are the sort of people we honor for their bravery, but they also happen to be blue-collar workers, and they have watched with increasing alarm what has been happening to folks like them for the last few decades . . . watched as the people formerly known as the heart and soul of this country had their lives taken apart bone by bone.

listen,liberal.9781627795395They themselves still make a decent living, I was told—they are some of the last unionized blue-collar workers who do—but they can see the inferno coming their way now, as their colleagues in other parts of the country get their contracts voided and their pensions reduced.

After I spoke, a firefighter from the Seattle area picked up the microphone. Workers had been watching their standard of living get whittled away for decades, he said, and up till now they had always been able to come up with ways to get by.

The first adjustment they made, he recalled, was when women entered the workforce.  Families “added that income, you got to keep your boat, or your second car, or your vacation, and everything was OK.”  Next, people ran up debt on their credit cards.  Then, in the last decade, people began “pulling home equity out,” borrowing against their houses.

“All three of those things have kept the middle class from having to sink down into abject poverty,” he said. But now all three coping mechanisms were at an end.  There were no more family members to send to work, the expiration date had passed for the home-equity MasterCard, and still wages sank. His question was this: “Is there a fourth economic savior out there, or do you think that maybe we have reached the end?”

I had no good answer for him.  Nobody does.

Source: Listen, Liberal

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Disinvesting in America, and what to do about it

March 21, 2016

Corporate executives and holders of financial assets—I’ll call them “capitalists” for short—are ceasing to invest in American industry.

BusinessCutsBack-1x-1

Instead corporations are investing their profits in buying back stock, which automatically increases the value of the rest of the stock.  This, by the way, were an illegal form of stock market manipulation prior to 1982.

buybackbonanza-1x-1

Meanwhile American manufacturing jobs are going away.

Manufacturing-Employment

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Why millions of ordinary Americans back Trump

March 11, 2016

Donald Trump is a con man, a racist and a bully.  The record is clear.  But the world is full of confidence men, racists and bullies.  What sets him apart?

Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter With Kansas? and other great political books, took the trouble to listen for himself to several hours of Trump speeches (which I confess I have never done).

I saw the man ramble and boast and threaten and even seem to gloat when protesters were ejected from the arenas in which he spoke.  I was disgusted by these things, as I have been disgusted by Trump for 20 years.

thomasfrank4718But I also noticed something surprising. In each of the speeches I watched, Trump spent a good part of his time talking about an entirely legitimate issue, one that could even be called left-wing. 

Yes, Donald Trump talked about trade.  In fact, to judge by how much time he spent talking about it, trade may be his single biggest concern – not white supremacy.   Not even his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, the issue that first won him political fame.  He did it again during the debate on 3 March: asked about his political excommunication by Mitt Romney, he chose to pivot and talk about … trade.

It seems to obsess him: the destructive free-trade deals our leaders have made, the many companies that have moved their production facilities to other lands, the phone calls he will make to those companies’ CEOs in order to threaten them with steep tariffs unless they move back to the US.

Trump embellished this vision with another favorite left-wing idea: under his leadership, the government would “start competitive bidding in the drug industry”.  (“We don’t competitively bid!” he marveled – another true fact, a legendary boondoggle brought to you by the George W Bush administration.) 

Many liberals think that Trump supporters are simply out of touch with reality.  But they themselves are out of touch with how trade and immigration are changing American life.

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How to drive down American wages

February 5, 2016

Americans used to say that service jobs were safe from the impact of globalization because there was no way for companies to ship them overseas.

But employers can achieve the same goal by employing unauthorized immigrants, who, like the workers in Asian sweatshops, are outside the protection of American labor law.

A recent example of this was contracting the delivery of the Boston Globe to a company that employed unauthorized immigrants.  The public was upset by the huge number of delivery problems.  It should also have been upset by the loss of jobs of American workers who formerly provided reliable service.

The problem is not the unauthorized immigrants, who are hardworking people who are trying to get by the best they can.  The problem is those American employers who are trying to drive down American wages by any means necessary.

LINK

All the News That’s Fit to Print: How the Media Hide Undocumented Workers by Aviva Chomsky.

Les Leopold on runaway inequality

January 2, 2016

I grew up and spent my early working years in the golden age of capitalism, which was from 1945 to 1976.  Almost anybody—as least, any white American man—who was willing to work could get a decent job sufficient to support a family.

Then a lot of things turned bad as once.  Worker pay no longer kept pace with productivity, but the pay of CEOs and wealthy investors grew much faster.   Manufacturing declined and high finance expanded.  Hourly wages declined and debt increased.  What went wrong?

LesLeopoldRunawayInequality51uuYumpldL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_I recently finished reading a book, RUNAWAY INEQUALITY by Les Leopold (recommended by my e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey) that explains what happened as well as anything I’ve come across.

He blames America’s current woes on the adoption of what he calls the Better Business Climate model of economic policy.

This model is based on the argument that the key to economic prosperity is economic growth, that economic growth depends on investment, and that investment depends on business profitability, and that the way to increase business profitability is lower taxes, lower social spending and fewer regulations.

0.9265We used to call this Reaganomics.  Now we call it neoliberalism.   Many people thought it was a plausible response to the economic stagnation and high inflation of the late 1970s.  I myself thought it was worth a try (more fool I).  I wouldn’t have objected to making rich people richer if everybody else had benefitted in the long run.

But this isn’t how things worked out.  Instead:

  • Wage increases stopped keeping pace with productivity.
  • The CEO-worker wage gap took off.
  • The financial sector grew at the expense of manufacturing.
  • Wall Street profits skyrocketed.
  • The income gap between the super-rich and the rest of us widened.
  • Corporate debt, consumer debt and government debt rose.

What went wrong?

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Economic snapshots of 2015

December 26, 2015

I thank my e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey for pointing me to these charts from the Economic Policy Institute.  Any candidate for national office who ignores the issues raised by these charts isn’t worth listening to.

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Donald Trump and the sores of discontent

December 22, 2015

Lambert Strether, a blogger who helps with the naked capitalism web log, says college-educated liberals are making a big mistake to dismiss Donald Trump’s followers as ignorant, racist or fascistic, and nothing more

He wrote that history – the history of Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and the reign of the Ku Klux Klan in the Old South – teaches that people turn to fascist movements when they’ve suffered damage – military defeat, economic devastation and, above all, psychic damage.

Germans and Italians in World War One, and white Southern Americans in the Civil War, suffered  military defeat, economic devastation and, worst of all, humiliation.   What kind of damage have Donald Trump’s followers suffered?

Speculating freely, I’m guessing we’ve got several overlapping subsets in Trump’s following, with damage common to them all.

  • First overlap:  The cohort described by Yves [Smith] in this post: “‘Stunning’ Rise in Death Rate, Pain Levels for Middle-Aged, Less Educated Whites”; “488,500 deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013,” had the death rate continued to fall at its previous rate of decline.  That’s a lot of organic damage.
  • whats.wrongSecond overlap: The “working class whites” whose jobs and communities were destroyed by the neo-liberal dispensation that began in the mid-70s, given that “less educated” is a proxy for working class.  More damage there.
  • Third overlap: Military personnel who were sent, by elites, to fight and lose the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, many of whom (thanks to the wonders of modern battlefield medicine) came back to their families and communities terribly wounded (not to mention with post-traumatic stress).  More damage.
  • Fourth overlap: The “bitter”/”cling to” voters (explicitly) thrown under the bus by Obama’s faction when it took control of the Democratic Party in 2008 (with results that we saw in the failure to ameliorate the foreclosure crisis, and the administration’s successful shrinkage of the workforce, as shown by the labor force participation rate).  More damage.

So Democratic apparatchiks can recycle 2008’s racism tropes all they want — identity politics is all they know, after all — but at best they’re over-simplifying, and at worst they’re destroying the dream of “uniting lower- and middle-income Americans on economic issues.”

Again, add up the decades of organic damage.  My anger would be bone deep. And justified.  Wouldn’t yours?  Trump, and maybe Sanders, are speaking to that anger.  Today’s Democratic establishment is not.

Source: naked capitalism

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Union membership as a civil right

October 7, 2015

A new bill—the Workplace Action for a Growing Economy Act, aka the WAGE Act—would make the right to join a labor union a civil right.

Workers who are fired or discriminated because they are union members would have the same rights as workers who suffer racial or sex discrimination.

This would be a big change.  It would give individual workers a much stronger legal position than under existing labor law—in some

2.unions&sharedprosperityLabor union membership has been steadily declining—not, in my opinion, because American workers are satisfied with their wages and working conditions, but because they fear retaliation from employers.

Without the union voice, wages (adjusted for inflation) are stagnant and inequality is increasing.  If everybody who wants to join a labor union could do so without fear, I think this could turn around.

The WAGE Act was introduced by Senator Patti Murray, D-WA, and Rep. Robert C.  “Bobby” Scott, D-VA.  It was co-sponsored by Bernie Sanders and has been endorsed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The middle class is the middle 60% of income earners

The middle class is the middle 60% of income earners

The bill has virtually nil chance of getting through Congress this year.  A similar bill introduced last year by Rep. Keith Ellison, D-MN, and John Lewis, D-GA, failed.  But it’s only by keeping the issue on the public agenda that this right can be won.

Firing an employee for union membership is at present an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act.   The best that an employee can hope for from the NLRB is reinstatement in the job and partial back pay years later, and the odds are against even that.

Under the WAGE Act, employees would have the right to sue in court and ask to be put back to work with no loss of pay or benefits while the case is pending.   If they won the case, they would get triple back pay, while the employer could face a $50,000 fine—$100,000 if it was a second offense.

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Job creators and wealth creators

September 7, 2015

Maybe we Americans should be less concerned about “job creators” and more concerned about “asset creators”—the workers whose toil and skill creates wealth, rather than owners of that wealth who supposedly enable workers to work (or not).

FDR on the minimum wage, and some charts

September 7, 2015

FDRsaidHat tip to Avedon’s Sideshow

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Why Americans need labor unions

September 5, 2015

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During the past 40 years, the productivity of American workers has continued to increase but their wages (adjusted for inflation) have barely increased at all.

Labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan, in his new book, Only One Thing Can Save Us, says this is because corporate America has decided that it doesn’t want highly-skilled, well-paid workers; it wants low-paid, replaceable workers.

1.UnionsCPS_fig11

The middle class is the middle 60% of income earners, between the top and bottom 20%

Many evils flow from this.  Working people and the middle class have take on more debt in order to buy homes, pay for higher education or maintain their material standard of living.

Bankers and financiers find it more profitable to invest in debt than in the production of goods and services.

This results in the financialization and hollowing-out of the U.S. economy.

Geoghegan thinks the one thing that can save us is a labor union movement strong enough to win wage increases sufficient to keep up with the increase in the production of wealth.

This will give working people and the middle class enough buying power to generate a real economic recovery.

It will enable them to pay down debt.  Shrinking the debt industry will free up money to be invested in producing real goods and services.

Labor union contracts will make it harder to lay people off at will.  This will give employers an incentive to invest in training to make their workers more productive, which union apprenticeship programs can help with.

With more Americans earning good incomes, tax revenues will increase and governmental budgets will be more in balance.  With fewer jobs being shipped overseas, the U.S. trade deficit may shrink.

A politically powerful union movement will bring American politics into balance.  The USA will have both a left wing and a right wing rather than, as at present, only a right wing.

He advocates reforms to strengthen labor unions, including:
1.  Making union membership a civil right.
2.  Allowing members-only unions without NLRB elections.

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Readings for Labor Day weekend 2015

September 4, 2015

LaborDayWeekend

I was a member of Local 17 of the Newspaper Guild in Rochester for 24 years, and I’m still a strong supporter of the labor union movement.

Labor unions have their faults, just as churches, political parties and other institutions do, because they’re merely structures in which people can operate, for good or ill.

But they’re the only structure created for the specific purpose of defending the rights and interests of working people.  Without a strong and independent labor movement, there’s little to stand between individual working people and the structures of corporate and governmental power.

Even a weak labor union, if truly independent, is better than none.  Local 17’s contracts with Gannett Newspapers were highly favorable to the company, but the fact that there was a contract meant that the company could not operate arbitrarily.  Even if the company wrote the rules, it had to follow these rules.

Another thing that helped us was the strength of the International Typographers Unions and other printing trades unions, until they were wiped out by new technologies that didn’t require their skills.  Their high wages and good benefits set a benchmark that benefited all other employees in the building.

A lot of people used to take the gains won by labor unions for granted.  They thought that the eight-hour day, overtime pay, paid vacations, sick pay and medical insurance were something that employers granted out of the goodness of their hearts.  Now that all these things are under attack, I think some of these people are reconsidering.

Most Americans in labor unions are better off than Americans not in labor unions.   I hear non-union workers ask why the union members should have benefits that they lack.  I think they should ask themselves why they themselves shouldn’t have these benefits.

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Here are some articles about American labor and labor unions that I read recently and recommend.   If you have the time and interest, they might make for good reading over our Labor Day weekend.

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The passing scene – August 31, 2015

August 31, 2015

Here are some links to article I found interesting, and perhaps you will, too.

How Close Was Donald Trump to the Mob? by David Marcus for The Federalist.

Maybe there are innocent explanations tof Donald Trump’s business connections with known Mafia bosses in New York City and Atlantic City.  If such exist, we the voting public deserve to hear them.

Katrina Washed Away New Orleans Black Middle Class by Ben Casselman for FiveThirtyEight.

Black homeowners and business owners lost the most in Hurricane Katrina.  Black professionals such as physicians and lawyers have moved on.  And black school teachers are losing their jobs to supposed school “reform.”

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Hat tip for the following to Bill Harvey—

The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor? by Alan Nasser for Counterpunch.

The United States was the first country in which a majority of the people were taught to think of themselves as middle class.  In Victorian English novels, the middle class are the doctors, lawyers and other professionals who aren’t working class, but not truly upper class.

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Does any one group speak for black America?

August 19, 2015

One big mistake that white people, especially white liberals like me, make is to anoint some particular group of African-Americans as representatives of all black people.

In the case of people like me, it is naivety and jumping to conclusions.  In other cases, it can be cynicism, a way to divide and rule.

When representatives of #BlackLivesMatter seize a podium, spectators not only have no way of knowing how many black people they represent, they have no way of knowing how many supporters of #BlackLivesMatter they represent, because #BlackLivesMatter is a movement and a Twitter account, not an organization.

I don’t know how representative the guy in the video is, either.

I presume that many or most black people are up in arms about the many times unarmed black people are killed by police.  I presume that many are concerned about Social Security, minimum wage and other issues.   The fact that one group concentrates on one of these issues doesn’t mean the others are unimportant.  There ought to be room for different groups, different priorities and different approaches.

LINKS

Black Lives Matter and The Failure to Build a New Movement by Douglas Williams for South Lawn.

A Short Follow-Up to the Previous Post on Black Lives Matter by Douglas Williams for South Lawn.

What No One Is Saying About the Killings of Blacks in America by Benjamin A. Dixon.

Dear #BlackLivesMatter: We Don’t Need Black Leadership by R.L. Stephens II for Orchestrated Pulse.

A Future for Workers: A Contribution From Black Labor, executive summary of a report by the Black Labor Collaborative.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

The fruits of Reagan’s attacks on the poor

August 19, 2015

Ronald Reagan’s attacks on the minimum wage, families being helped by welfare, those receiving unemployment insurance when the economy failed, became racialized attacks, and not viewed as attacks on the foundation of worker survival.

So in the 1980s, the real value of minimum wage drifted to unprecedented lows, states rolled back eligibility to, and benefit levels for, unemployment insurance and the foundation was laid to attack women who needed help in raising their children to force them into low-wage work.

Without providing any gains to American workers, Reagan mastered the appearance of worker advancement by succeeding not by having wages rise with productivity, as had been the case, but by having wages rise relative to the poor who could not find jobs, or could only find minimum wage jobs.

The silence of the labor movement in the sinking fortunes of the poor meant there was political space, for the first time since the 1930s, to have the economy improve and expand while the poverty rate increased.

==From A Future for Workers: A Contribution From Black Labor(Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

The passing scene – August 17, 2015

August 17, 2015

Seven Myths about the Greek Debt Crisis by Stergios Skaperdas, a University of California economics professor.  (Hat tip to naked capitalism).

An economist argues that (1) default would not be the worst outcome for Greece, (2) the troika (European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Commission) is not trying to rescue Greece, (3) Greece’s problems are not caused by corruption and bad policy, (4) no Greek government could have carried out the troika’s policies, (5) the troika’s policies would not have benefited Greece, (6) exiting the Eurozone would not be catastrophic for Greece and (7) the Greek government in fact does have bargaining power.

Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Care That Much About Abortion Rights by Ted Rall for Counterpunch.

Instead of trying to persuade judges that abortion is a constitutional right, why don’t Hillary Clinton and other liberal Democrats support legislation to guarantee abortion rights?  Ted Rall thinks Democrats hold back because they cynically want to keep abortion alive as a issue.  But maybe they’re just timid.

Clown Genius by Scott Adams.   (Hat tip to Rod Dreher)

The creator of the Dilbert cartoons thinks most people probably would buy a used car from Donald Trump because his campaign demonstrates mastery of the classic techniques of salesmanship.

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The passing scene – August 11, 2015

August 11, 2015

The Artful Puppet Master by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.  How Fox News managed the Republican debate so as to minimize political damage to the GOP.

Game of Groans: How Focus on Trump Taunts Hides GOP War on Middle Class, Workers by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.

Get Ready for Scott Walker … and the Ruthless Politics of Walkerism by John Nichols for The Nation.

The United States Infrastructure Is Failing Dramatically But No One Is Paying Attention by Kendyl Kearly for Bustle.

Employee or contractor? Labor seeks to clarify rules by Christopher H. Rugiber for the Associated Press.

You Can Bet on These Racetrack Workers to Fight for a Raise From Their Billionaire Boss by Bruce Vail for In These Times.  (Bill Harvey)  Union organizing at Pimlico racetrack.

Why are Americans leaving the work force?

August 3, 2015

150714171144-chart-labor-force-participation-780x439

Another example of American exceptionalism.

A report by CNN Money indicates that, since the year 2000, the American labor force participation rate—the proportion of working-age Americans with jobs or looking for work—has fallen, while the rate has been increasing in other industrial countries.

I don’t think CNN’s theory—that other countries make it easier for women to work—is the whole story.

Hourly wages, adjusted for inflation, have been falling in the USA since the late 1970s.  For a long time Americans maintained their material standard of living by working longer hours, sending more families into the work force and borrowing money.

Now this has collapsed.   The good jobs are no longer available.  In many cases it makes more sense to cut back on spending than to get a job where low wages are offset by the costs of transportation, child care and the like.

I think—although I don’t claim to be able to prove—that the other countries on the CNN chart are following the same path as the United States, but are not so far along.

One straw in the wind is the increasing number of Europeans who are working “extreme” working hours—50 hours a week or more.   This is pretty much the trend in the USA during the 1990s.

I think the best explanation for what is going on is the Marxist one.   In all the rich countries, there is an increasing flow of income to holders of financial assets and to people in executive positions and a decreasing flow to the middle class, working people and the poor.

LINKS

Why America’s workforce is shrinking and Europe’s isn’t by CNN Money.

Extreme working hours have radically increased in many western European countries since the start of the 1990s by Anna S. Burger of the London School of Economics.

Jobs, productivity and inequality

June 30, 2015

destroying.jobs_.chart1x910_0.

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David Rotman, writing in MIT Technology Review, made the case that advances in technology and growth in productivity have not paid off for working Americans.

He considered whether there is something in the nature of technology that rewards highly-trained employees and eliminates the jobs of unskilled employees.

I think the problem is the priorities of the people in charge, not the nature of technology.

It is not technological progress that leads to public libraries having shorter hours, or public utilities have deferred maintenance, or customer service centers keeping people on “hold” for endless minutes.  Rather it is the priorities of the people in charge.

To the extent technology is the cause, I think the reason is that the impetus has been to develop technologies that eliminate jobs rather than technologies that provide better services and improve the quality of life for the majority of Americans.

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How Technology Is Destroying Jobs by David Rotman for MIT Technology Review.

Technology primarily benefits those who own it

June 29, 2015

jobs.5x650I can remember 50 and 60 years ago when people worried about what Americans would do with all the affluence and leisure time that would result from automation.   Today that seems like a cruel joke.

Technology primarily benefits those who own it.  Applied science primarily benefits those who fund it, or at least reflects what the funders are interested in.  There can be spillover effects that benefit everyone, but these don’t necessarily happen of their own accord.

I came across a good article on this topic in Technology Review.  The lesson I draw from it is (1) technology is not a substitute for social and economic reform and (2) there is a need for scientific and technological research outside the domains of for-profit corporations and the military.

LINK

Who Will Own the Robots? in Technology Review.  (Hat tip to naked capitalism}


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