Anyone who cares about working people needs to read Laura Clawson of the Huffington Post. Today she examines the state of Workers Compensation, which has been cut in 33 states. There is also great disparity between states and how they pay for injuries. Clawson points out that if a worker in Alabama loses an eye, she will be awarded $27,280. The same injury in Pennsylvania will be compensated at $261,525. Companies are paying less and less in damages every year and finding new ways to restrict workers' benefits. This story is outrageous, but it’s no more outrageous than stories of workers losing pensions or wage theft or union busting. Until American workers – white and blue collar – realize their common interests, employers will continue to find new ways to make them suffer. It’s easy to blame the super rich. They are acting in a way that makes sense for their interests and security. What is our problem?
A picture – or a graph – can be worth a thousand words. In a recent blog post, Paul Krugman includes a graph that tracks the wages of U.S. workers from 2007-Present. Between 2009-2010, the average wage of American workers takes a sharp drop. In the years since 2010, wages have remained stagnant. This graph helps us understand why many American remain downbeat despite the “good” news about job growth. Too many people are working hard and running in place – or–worse still – falling behind. As Krugman says, our political leaders don’t get it or don’t care. Hopefully they will wake up before it’s too late.
Today’s top story is all about the world’s greatest basketball player, LeBron James, who has decided to return to Cleveland because he wants to raise his children where he was born. This story warms the hearts of people, especially for those like me who root for rust-belt cities like Cleveland and Detroit. There’s a deeper story that the media is not covering. As a free agent, James was able to move to the team he choose. Once upon a time, pro athletes were tied to the same teams for their entire career. Players organized in unions and sued for the right to control their futures. The most important names in this struggle were probably Curt Flood and Marvin Miller, of the baseball players union. Flood prematurely ended his career to sue and break the “reserve clause.” Many of the people cheering for LeBron James are probably anti-union. They’ve been influenced by more than thirty years of propaganda funded by large corporate interests. When they cheer for James, they should think about the freedom and security he has because of those who came before him and fought for his right to choose where he wanted to work.
Yes magazine explores the ways people work together to enhance the common good. It reports that there is good news out of New York City, where the City Council has appropriate $1.2 million to support worker-owned cooperatives. Though the fund is small and is predicted to create fewer than 250 jobs, it helps set a model for other cities. In 2013, Yes outlined the ways worker-owned and other co-ops are changing the economy. In a time when Wall Street is booming and large corporations are merging, it’s refreshing to see that some people are building an alternative economy, one where workers can have some say in how a business is run. If you’re looking to start a business, see if co-ops are legal in your state. They might be a good way to have a successful business in which all workers will “take ownership.”
Paul Ryan claims to care about poor people. During a speech at a conservative conference, he said Democrats support school lunch programs so children can have “full bellies and empty souls.” Disgusting. How can anyone talk about poor children in such a callous way? I understand that Ryan and his fellow conservatives believe that the state should not provide a safety net. While I disagree with that belief, it is not the same thing as claiming that state programs empty our souls. The last time I checked good Pope Francis was teaching Jesus’ message to care for the poor. Ryan must understand the message to be that Jesus wants us to cut food programs for children – in the name of saving their souls.
Paul Krugman discusses this story in a much more intelligent way. I’m too livid to try to be rational about this. Over 20% of the children in America live in poverty. Most of the nutrition they receive comes when they are at school. Save their souls – and transfer the money to billionaires and corporations. That’s true morality.
Aljazeera America reports that McDonald’s issued an SEC report claiming that its sales may suffer because of “campaigns by labor organizations and activists” to raise the minimum wage. This is the message the corporation sent to shareholders via the SEC report. Aljazeera quotes an industry spokesperson who says that a raise to the minimum wage would have little to no impact on McDonald’s stock price. It would have a big impact on workers’ lives. $15 per hour would have a bigger impact. We need a living wage, not a minimum wage.
The former Secretary of Labor takes on those who claim that a raise in the minimum wage would be a “job killer.” Instead, Reich, a trained economist, points out a simple fact: economies grow when people spend. People living on $7.25 an hour can only cover essentials, and often can only do so with the help of safety net programs, which are being cut. Reich points out that Walmart could have raised the wages of its $9 an hour employees to $15 by using the money spent buying back stock on salary.
If we want more jobs and higher wages, we need more spending (and less billionaire greed). Raising the minimum wage (and extending unemployment benefits) would give working class people discretionary income. As they spend more, companies will need more workers to make and sell things. Reich is outlining common sense. Opponents of the minimum wage have no good data to support their claims, so they rely on fear-based rhetoric like “job killer.” They used the same language to demonize the Affordable Care Act. I’m with Reich and President Obama: “America needs a raise.”
Three cheers to Common Dreams for giving thinkers like Reich a platform that is not found in the corporate media (which includes PBS).
Common Dreams has published several great posts that link the late Pete Seeger to progressive politics and workers’ rights. Today, it posted a remembrance by David Lindorff, a journalist who talks about Seeger’s impact on his life. While this essay touches on politics, it is more about how an artist can touch us and change our lives. All great art, like politics, is personal.
Former owner of the Chicago Tribune Sam Zell claims that the 1% work harder than the rest of us. That must be why Tribune Media entered bankruptcy under Zell’s hard-working leadership. Once again we have a very rich person feeling sorry for himself while putting down the people whose hard work have made him rich. Zell claims that "Lots of people have come from nowhere and become part of the 1 percent.” Economic mobility in America is worse than it has been in the last 100 years. No one except the super rich and their lackeys believe in the pull yourself up by your bootstraps lie anymore. I don’t feel sorry for same Zell. He’s working very hard at feeling sorry for himself.
Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson examines the plight of temporary workers. In many cases, especially if the worker is employed in a factory, a temp job will pay less, be more dangerous, and not be temporary. Temp workers are performing the same tasks as full-time employees with few being on hired to full-time status. Some of these jobs pay as little as $10 per hour. As the U.S. came out of previous recessions, the rise of contract work preceded increased hiring. Now,employer leverage temp workers as a way to hold down labor costs while getting the same level of productivity. Workers have low pay, few benefits, and no security. If this is the way manufacturing will come back to America, it might be better if this type of job stay overseas.
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