Sarah Jaffe of In These Times reports on an effort in Minnesota to fine companies that pay wages so low that employees have to be on state aid. Take Action Minnesota is promoting what it call the “bad business fee,” a fine for each employee who is working while on some form of federal or state support. Jaffe cites a study that claims Walmart employees receive $6.2 billion per year in some form of assistance. That’s $6 billion the American taxpayer is paying to subsidize the nation’s largest private employer – corporate welfare. Jaffe gives several other compelling examples, and I urge you to read her article.
As progressive radio host Thom Hartmann is fond of saying, a business that can’t pay its employees a living wage shouldn’t be in business. People who work for a living shouldn’t have to rely on services that are meant for the poor or unemployed. If we want to promote the work ethic and the dignity of work, we should be as will to say that all workers deserve a living wage. America needs a raise.
Today saw a second straight disappointing month for job growth. The number again is positive, but not strong enough. Common Dreams has posted an article by Michelle Chen that looks beyond the monthly numbers. Chen, a writer at In These Times, lays bare the mainstream media lie that workers are to blame for unemployment because they have the wrong skills. Citing a study from the Economic Policy Institute, she finds that workers of all education levels are struggling in the current market. Chen concludes that the real gap is one of understanding. People who claim that skills are the problem do not know how the economy works.
I would add to Chen’s analysis by noting that many fields have been glutted by intense marketing from universities, colleges, and training programs. Professions that once had easy entry know have more applicants than open positions, which lets employers drive down salary costs. My simple take is that good jobs are hard to find and getting harder to find all the time. Employers have the upper hand, and they know it, which means wages will continue to stay flat or go down until real job growth happens. Given the attitude of both business and government, we might be in this negative cycle for a long time to come.
In These Times writer David Moberg reports that warehouse workers in Illinois and California are standing up against a giant, Wal-mart, and the contractors that run its warehouses. Workers are protesting the company’s firing of workers who sued over alleged violations of wage law. What this story shows is that workers can join in solidarity even when they do not have union protections. Good luck to these brave people. It’s not easy to fight the giant.
Writing for In These Times, Josh Eidelson profiles American Airlines’ bankruptcy and the effect it is having on the company’s workers. Part of the story is how Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s former company, is the consulting firm guiding the bankruptcy. One union official quips that Romney is a “job cremator.”
Politics aside, American Airlines/AMR has asked for and received concessions from its unions. The company is using bankruptcy as a tool to break its current contracts. Employees will be moved from pensions to 401(K) plans – the kind that Wall Street loves to serves. There will also be layoffs.
One of my clients has worked for this company. She has lost half of her pension and hasn’t had a raise for the last few years. It leads one to ask: Is American Airlines financially bankrupt or morally corrupt?
Update: The number of employees being cut by American is 13,000. The "lucky" employees who keep their jobs face steep cuts in salary and benefits. Don't listen to cliches about job creators -- large corporations only care about more and more profit. People mean nothing to them.
Conventional Wisdom tells us that the New York Times is a liberal newspaper. The paper’s union employees would probably not agree. According to Mike Elk, who blogs about working at In These Times, the paper is giving its former CEO Janet Robinson a $15 million severance package while freezing contributions to union employees’ pension plans and cutting their pay. The employees have sent a letter expressing their outrage to management. Given corporate America’s recent actions, I hope the employees aren’t expecting a positive response. When employees at United Airlines sacrificed during a bankruptcy, executives took bonuses when the company became profitable again. Why should we expect anything different from the Times?
In These Times reports that American, Canadian, and Mexican steelworkers are joining to protect the rights of mine workers in Mexico. This is not pure altruism. Lower wages in Mexico lead to lower wages north of the border. American and Canadian workers are supporting their own cause while they support their Mexican brothers and sisters. A few years ago, the miners backed steelworkers who were on strike.
The wage difference in manufacturing is shocking: An American worker averages over $20 an hour while his Mexican counterpart makes less than $4. How can this problem be addressed? The unions are talking about a cross border merger, which would mean an organization with more than one million members.
It is easy to despair given the news coming out ofWashington. Stories like this one aren’t covered by the main stream corporate media. It’s good news for workers, and we need more of that.
David Bacon, a writer for In These Times, explores how the Mexican government is “reforming” laws that protect workers. Funded by business interests that defeated presidential candidate Andres Manual Lopez Obrador calls “oligarchs,” Mexican politicians would give employers the right to hire employees on 6 month probationary periods. Workers would also lose their protections for a 40 hour week and a minimum wage. According to the CIA, half of Mexico’s population lives in poverty with 20 percent living in extreme poverty. These new laws will not make working Mexicans more secure. However, they will enable employers to hammer wages, which will make the rich richer. Where have we heard that before? Somewhere, the Koch brothers and their friends are smiling.
“Courageous” Representative Paul Ryan suggests gutting Medicare while giving the ultra-rich and corporations even bigger tax breaks. This plan is outrageous. However, it’s just a plan. When we look back at the past 30 years, American workers have lost more and more while the rich have gotten richer through social insecurity.
American are sick of this Screw Deal. Roger Bybee from In These Times notes that so many jobs were offshored between 1999-2009 that no new jobs were created. At the same time. 2/3 of the country’s biggest corporations paid no federal income taxes. In his article, Bybee cites polling data to show that all Americans, including a majority of Republicans, think the rich should pay more in taxes. Multinational corporation cut 2.9 million jobs in the U.S. while hiring 2.4 million people outside of the country. I guess that's why conservatives claim big corporations are “job creators” who should not be taxed. Bybee ends his article by talking about the spirit of the Wisconsin protestors: “Workers are increasingly moving from outrage to action.” That’s good. Enough of being screwed.
Writing in Uncommon Dreams (via In These Times), Michelle Chen examines how the role of labor in the Egyptian democratic uprising could have international ripples. She cites several experts on the role of labor in what has been a “non-ideological” movement. Chen also contrasts Egypt with Iran, which is something PR flaks who dominate the corporatist media have not done. They’re too busy spreading fear.
Amy Dean, writing at In These Times, challenges conventional wisdom about tax cuts and their ability to create jobs. She calls handouts to the wealthy “blind faith” in their relation to the labor economy. Tax cuts are not investment in the economy. They are a give away with most of the reward going to those who have the most. I strongly recommend Dean’s article.
President Obama and several allegedly liberal senators are saying they are being forced to compromise on tax cuts for the top 2% and the estate tax. The president even compared the Republicans to hostage takers. We tend to forget that Obama's first stimulus included 40% in tax cuts. That strategy hasn’t moved the unemployment problem. We need leadership. We’re getting politics.
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