Labor

No Jobs But Crappy Jobs: The Next Big Political Issue?

(AP Photo/The Brownsville Herald, Brad Doherty)
(AP Photo/The Brownsville Herald, Brad Doherty) Wal-Mart employee Nidia Flores arranges shirts, Thursday, August 7, 2014, in Brownsville, Texas. F or decades, the increasing precariousness of work has been a source of mass frustration for tens of millions of Americans. But the issue has been largely below the political radar. Politicians ritually invoke good jobs at good wages, yet presidents have been unwilling to name, much less remedy, the deep economic forces that are turning payroll jobs into what I've termed "The Task Rabbit Economy"—a collection of ad hoc gigs with no benefits, no job security, no career paths, and no employer reciprocity for worker diligence. But there are signs that maybe this issue is starting to break through. One manifestation of job insecurity is extremes of inequality as corporations, banks, and hedge funds capture more than their share of the economy's productive output at the expense of workers. The Occupy movement gave that super-elite a name: the One...

What Judges Know: The Fault for Underfunded Pensions Lies With Politicians, Not Workers

We can’t count on politicians to stick to their word. It’s promising that judges are forcing them to.

(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
(AP Photo/Mel Evans) Union members carry protest signs as they march outside the Mercer County Criminal Courthouse before arguments Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in Trenton, N.J., over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's plan to use pension payments to balance the budget. Public employee unions on Wednesday tell the court the current budget has unspent funds that could go toward pensions. A dvocates of gutting public pensions are running into the same wall over and over again. From California to Illinois to New Jersey and beyond, pension gutting efforts are being overturned by judges who recognize that breaking promises to workers isn’t just regrettable, it’s illegal. Pension opponents castigate the courts as the enemy while conveniently ignoring why legal protections exist in the first place—to protect public employees from politicians who spent years playing politics with their retirement savings. For decades, elected officials across the country skipped pension payments, often while...

Education Alone Is Not the Answer to Income Inequality and Slow Recovery

Chris Ison/PA Wire via AP Images
O ur economy is now five years into an economic recovery, yet the wages of most Americans are flat. For the entire period between 1979 and 2013, median worker wages rose by just 7.9 percent while the economy’s growth and productivity rose 64.9 percent. The top one percent has made off with nearly all of the economy’s gains since 2000. I s there nothing that can be done to improve this picture? To hear a lot of economists tell the story, the remedy is mostly education. It’s true that better-educated people command higher earnings. But it’s also the case that the relative premium paid to college graduates has been declining in recent years. If everyone in America got a PhD, the job market would not be transformed. Mainly, we’d have a lot of frustrated, over-educated people. The current period of widening inequality, after all, is one during which more and more Americans have been going to college. Conversely, the era of broadly distributed prosperity in the three decades after World War...

Surprise! North Carolina Cuts to Jobless Benefits Did Not Help Workers

Republican leaders argued that rolling back unemployment benefits would increase employment in the Tar Heel State. Nice try.

AP Photo/Allen G. Breed
(AP Photo/Allen G. Breed) Julie Banner, right, chats with Rebekah Lowe outside the state unemployment office in Cary, North Carolina, on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009. This article and accompanying interactive chart were first published at the website of the Economic Policy Institute . U nemployment insurance (UI) is a vital part of America’s social safety net, providing benefits to eligible workers who have lost a job through no fault of their own. The system is jointly funded by federal and state payroll taxes, but within broad guidelines from the Department of Labor, states have considerable flexibility in deciding benefit eligibility, how much and for how long beneficiaries are paid, as well as the tax structure for funding the state portion of the program. While most states offer a maximum of twenty-six weeks of UI benefits, the historic magnitude and duration of unemployment brought on by the Great Recession prompted Congress to implement federal extensions of unemployment benefits,...

Cold Porridge For Regular People: The Myth of the Goldilocks Economy

This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T he economy grew at an impressive rate of four percent in the second quarter of this year, according to a government report released on Wednesday. But the stock market promptly tanked. The Dow lost more than 317 points Thursday and another 70 points Friday. What gives? Financial markets like it when the economy grows fast enough to signal that the recovery is continuing—but not so fast that labor markets might tighten and workers get more bargaining power to get raises. Markets also worry that if the economy grows too fast, the Federal Reserve might pull back from its policy of low interest rates. Not to worry, brave investors. The Labor Department weighed in with a report on Friday, revealing that the economy added only 208,000 more jobs in July, down from the June performance. The number of long-term unemployed was basically unchanged. Likewise the rate of labor-force participation. And the percentage of people employed...

This Is What Happened When I Took the MTA Bus to Pick Up Food Stamps

A response to a much-chattered-about article by an upper-middle-class white woman who was appalled to find herself judged when she applied for food stamps.

5 Towns Jewish times
M r. Brown folded his large hands and gleamed at me with a placid smile. Then, suddenly, he said, “You have to work!“ His tone was that of a father scolding an errant teenager. “If we give you money, you have to work!” I managed the seething anger brought on by this exchange, and compounded by the hunger I felt after having waited a few hours for my turn at this encounter, not to mention the set of events that led up to me applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (SNAP, a.k.a. food stamps) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). “I have a job,” I managed to say, “it’s part-time and I’m actively looking for a full time job.” I pointed to the printed e-mails of interview appointments, job applications and cover letters. He waved away my evidence and continued down his checklist. I could tell that he gave this speech regularly and had no interest in a rebuttal. I slumped down in the chair, defeated, feeling solidarity with the woman who was escorted out of the...

Minimum Wage For Tipped Workers Hasn’t Increased Since the Fall of the Soviet Union

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute shows the ravages of an artificially depressed wage on food servers and other workers.

Newscast Limited via AP Images
This article originally appeared at the website of the Moyers & Company television program. I n 1991, the US invaded Iraq for the first time. That year, the Soviet Union would dissolve into 15 independent states. Emma Roberts was born. Dances with Wolves won the Oscar for Best Picture, and Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do, I Do It For You” topped Billboard’s chart as the year’s top hit. It also marked the last time that the federal minimum wage for tipped workers was increased—by a whopping four cents, from $2.09 per hour to $2.13. At the time, the minimum for tipped workers was half of the overall floor of $4.25. Today, it stands at just 29 percent of the regular minimum wage (which, at $7.25 per hour, is already well below its real peak value of $10.71 in 1968). On Thursday, Sylvia Allegretto and David Cooper released a report for the Economic Policy Institute detailing who these workers are, how many of them are struggling to make ends meet, and debunking a few common myths about...

Justice Samuel Alito's Deep Roots in the American Right

He's the most pro-corporate jurist on the Supreme Court. So decisions that grant companies religious rights or take aim at labor unions come quite naturally to him.

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., delivers his remarks during a Federalist Society dinner gathering, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006, in Washington. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . S upreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ended this Supreme Court session with a bang, writing the majority opinion in two cases that gave for-profit corporations the right to make religious liberty claims to evade government regulation, and set the stage for the fulfillment of a central goal of the right-wing political movement: the destruction of public employee unions. Neither of the decisions was particularly surprising. Samuel Alito is the single most pro-corporate Justice on the most pro-business Court since the New Deal. Still, Alito's one-two punch was another extraordinary milestone for the strategists who have been working for the past 40 years to put business firmly in the driver's seat of American politics. Many would suggest that...

Health Insurance Is Not a Favor Your Boss Does For You

Flickr/Dani Armengol Garreta
The debate over the Hobby Lobby case has been plagued by many problematic presumptions, but there's one that even many people who disliked the decision seem to sign on to without thinking about it. It's the idea that the health insurance you get through your employer is something that they do for you—not just administratively, but in a complete sense. But this is utterly wrong. You work, and in exchange for that labor you are given a compensation package that includes salary and certain benefits like a retirement account and health coverage. Like the other forms of compensation, the details of that insurance are subject to negotiation between you and your employer, and the government's involvement is to set some minimums—just as it mandates a minimum wage, it mandates certain components health insurance must include. Those who support Hobby Lobby are now talking as though mandating that insurance include preventive care is tantamount to them forcing you to make a contribution to your...

Alabama Steelworkers Fight for Their Jobs, Threatened By Korea Trade Ruling

The steel industry is under attack by the selling or “dumping” of foreign steel, says the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Alliance for American Manufacturing
Alliance for American Manufacturing Approximately 1,000 supporters of steelworker jobs turned out Monday, June 16 at a rally at the U.S. Steel facilities in Fairfield. The author works for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which works in partnership with the United Steelworkers and other petitioners to the Department of Commerce for an appeal of the department's February ruling in favor of South Korea's steel industry. S tanding high atop Red Mountain overlooking the city of Birmingham, Alabama, is a statue known as the Vulcan. It is the symbol of this scrappy southern city, reminding people of Birmingham’s roots in the iron and steel industries. A depiction of the ancient Roman god of the fire and forge, it is, at fifty-six feet tall, the largest iron statue in the world, and the seventh-tallest, free-standing statue in the United States. While it may not dominate the landscape the way the 125-foot “Christ the Redeemer” statue does in Rio de Janeiro, it is a similar symbolic,...

Shifting Tactics, Moral Monday Movement Launches a New Freedom Summer

Fifty years after the murders of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, North Carolina activists move from civil disobedience to big voter mobilization push.

©Jenny Warburg
Photos by Jenny Warburg for The American Prospect ©Jenny Warburg The North Carolina NAACP’s Moral Freedom Summer organizers, shown here at a Raleigh protest, are fanning out across the state to register and educate voters in advance of the November 2014 elections. “ I normally wear cuff links,” the Rev. William Barber II told the 75 activists, black and white, who filled the pews at Davie Street Presbyterian Church in downtown Raleigh Monday night. “But it’s time to roll up our sleeves.” With those words, the president of the North Carolina NAACP launched the next phase of the Moral Monday movement, the broad faith-based response to the state’s recent sharp-right policy turn. The movement, founded by Barber in 2013 and backed by dozens of church and advocacy groups, is temporarily shifting its attention away from the civil-disobedience protests that yielded more than 1,000 arrests. Between now and Election Day in November, Moral Monday leaders plan to concentrate on local communities...

Listen to Harold Meyerson Analyze the Supreme Court's Big Anti-Union Decision on 'To the Point'

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Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect 's editor at large, appeared on the June 30th edition of Public Radio International's To the Point , analyzing the Supreme Court decision in Harris v. Quinn , which allows home health-care workers in Illinois to opt out of paying their union dues. Listen here . Read Meyerson's essay on the Harris case here: Supreme Court Rules Disadvantaged Workers Should Be Disadvantaged Some More

Supreme Court Rules Disadvantaged Workers Should Be Disadvantaged Some More

DVA.gov
DVA.gov The United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. T he conservative majority on the Supreme Court today took up the case of some of America’s most disadvantaged workers, and ruled that they should be disadvantaged some more. The five-to-four ruling in Harris v. Quinn goes a long way to crippling the efforts that unions have made to help these workers get out of poverty. The case concerned some 28,000 home care aides in Illinois whose paychecks come from Medicaid. Before the state agreed in 2003 that they could form a union, they made the minimum wage. (It’s the state that sets their wage rate, since their pay comes entirely from Medicaid.) Currently, as a result of their union contract, they make $11.85 an hour rather than the minimum of $7.25. Tomorrow, by the terms of their contract, their hourly rate is raised to $12.25, and on December 1 st to $13. The right to hire and fire these workers remains solely, of course, that of their home-bound patients and their...

Why China Has Strikes Without Unions

AP Photo/Vincent Yu
Protesters from labor organizations hold banners and placards during a protest to support workers on strike at Yue Yuen Industrial ( Holdings ) Ltd, at an Adidas office at a shopping mall in Hong Kong, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Workers on strike at a Chinese factory owned by the world's largest maker of athletic shoes had rejected management's latest offer in a labor dispute that crimped production for brands such as Nike and Adidas. H an Dongfang believes that China’s workers may one day compel the country’s Communist Party to actually become social-democratic. I’m not sure if that makes Han the most credulous of China’s democracy activists or the canniest strategist now working to democratize that nation. I am sure, however, that he’s had more successes than anyone else in empowering Chinese workers. Speaking last week to a Washington conclave sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute, Han recounted the victories that striking Chinese workers have won over the past four years. In...

Dear Thom Tillis: How Long Does It Take For a Black Person to Become a Traditional North Carolinian?

An open letter to the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, who is currently running for U.S. Senate, is prompted by his comments about the Republican Party's demographics.

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
AP Photo/Chuck Burton In this May 6, 2014, photo Thom Tillis speaks to supporters at a election night rally in Charlotte, N.C., after winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate Tuesday, May 6, 2014. D ear Thom: I hope I can call you Thom; you may certainly call me Cynthia. Given the circumstances—given how far the policies you've supported since becoming Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives have reached into my home and even my vagina —I feel we are on intimate terms that make surnames superfluous. In your 2012 comments to Carolina Business Review , unearthed by TPM last week, you talked about how Republicans need to reach out to communities of color, the type of GOP hand-wringing we've heard since Mitt Romney went down in flames. I believe your specific comment was this: The traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable. It’s not growing. The African American population is roughly growing but the Hispanic population...

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