Making Labor Pay

From Dollars and Sense: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2012/0912sciacchitano.html

Recent battles in Wisconsin and San Jose show why we need universal pensions.

By Katherine Sciacchitano

This article is from the September/October 2012 issue of Dollars & Sense magazine.

The political economy of the recovery is making the United States even more unequal than it was during the bubble years. Incomes fell across the board during the crisis: median family income is 6.3% below what it was in 2001. But the top 1% garnered 93% of income growth in the first year of recovery. Housing, still the main source of wealth for middle-income families, remains depressed while stocks are close to pre-crash highs. Moreover, the drive for more tax cuts for the wealthy continues. And policy initiatives to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would weaken the safety net even as it is most needed.

A spate of attacks on state and local public-sector pensions now threatens to make inequality even more entrenched and painful, and to undermine both short- and long-term economic growth.

The power of labor is dead center in this agenda. Despite a long-term decline in workers covered by union contracts, unions have over 16 million members: they are still the social force most capable of combating the assault on workers’ incomes and militating for greater equality. Crippling their political power therefore remains both a tactical and a strategic objective on the right. With only 6.9% of workers in the private sector covered by union contracts, versus 37% in the public sector, public-sector unions are bearing the brunt of the attacks. And public pensions are the battering ram.

Attacking Unions, Eroding Pensions

The trip wire for the assault on pensions was the combined fall in state and local revenues from the bursting of the housing bubble, and the steep losses suffered by pension funds during the resulting stock market slide of 2007-2009: by 2010 there were widely acknowledged public pension funding shortfalls totaling nearly $800 billion

While pension funds are slowly making back market losses, conservative advocates like Andrew Biggs at the American Enterprise Institute are arguing for new measures of shortfalls that would bring them to over $4 trillion, and using this $4 trillion figure to call for a national movement to slash both public-sector pensions and union rights. The implicit threat is that taxpayers will have to pay these trillions now and into the future, even though they themselves may not have pensions. The stated policy objective is to convince taxpayers and politicians that defined benefit pensions are too expensive in the public sector and should be replaced with defined contribution plans.

Defined benefit pensions are a form of deferred compensation—pay for work performed; they provide guaranteed lifetime payments in retirement. Defined-contribution plans give workers tax breaks for individual savings; workers invest these savings and then pray they don’t run out. Over the past three decades, defined benefit pensions have been nearly eradicated in the private sector for non-union workers; their abandonment in the public sector would effectively end defined benefit pensions as a norm for retirement security and shift the burden of retirement savings almost entirely to individuals.

Continue reading at:  http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2012/0912sciacchitano.html

Walmart Workers Issue Black Friday Ultimatum

UK to Use Slave Labor in Hospitals

From Gaia Health:  http://gaia-health.com/gaia-blog/2012-05-21/uk-to-use-slave-labor-in-hospitals/

by Heidi Stevenson
May 21, 2012

The next time you’re in a hospital, how would you like to have your food brought to you by a slave laborer? If you’re in the UK, you may find out, because slave labor has already been trialed in one hospital, and is about to become standard practice there.

The Guardian reports that the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust (SWBHT), a part of the National Health Service (NHS) piloted the program with six unemployed people in consultation with the union. The trust stated that the type of work included:

… general tidying, welcoming visitors, serving drinks to patients, running errands, reading to patients and assisting with feeding patients.

… and justifies it with the statement:

We are situated in a deprived area with high unemployment and we think it is important to help get people back into work. The project gave participants the opportunity to gain confidence, training and experience, under supervision.

So why don’t they simply hire them? You know, the old-fashioned way of getting employees.

Continue reading at:  http://gaia-health.com/gaia-blog/2012-05-21/uk-to-use-slave-labor-in-hospitals/


Rewriting the Rules of the Global Economy – Creating Economics That Improve People’s Lives

From Truth Out:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/8526-rewriting-the-rules-of-the-global-economy-creating-economics-that-improve-peoples-lives

By Tory Field and Beverly Bell, Other Worlds
Saturday, 14 April 2012

Rather than having these people inside the Beltway be the experts on the issue… we ask: How can we empower the people who are actually affected by the issues to be the spokespeople?” – Deborah James

Ask just about anyone about the “99%” these days and, regardless of how they feel about the Occupy movement, they’ll probably acknowledge the increasing concentration of wealth and power that the past few decades have brought. Occupy has successfully propelled issues of inequality and corporate control to mainstream consciousness, here in the belly of the beast, in the nation that has been pivotal to defining the world economic system.

The current popular US dissent over the extreme concentration of wealth and the marginalization of the voices of the majority has long precursors in US social movements. The farmers’ movements of the 1870s, the populist movement of the 1890s, the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) and other militant labor unions from the dawn of the 20th Century through the 1950s, the civil rights and Black, Chicano, and Native nationalist movements from the 1960s on, and many other social movements… all have been rooted in calls for a more equitable division of power and economic resources. Parallel struggles, in many different forms, have occurred throughout the world.

The global justice movement, also known as the anti-globalization movement, exploded around the global South in the 1980s, when new draconian reforms demanded by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), as conditions for loans, destroyed national economies and the lives of those within them. The World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999 and the World Bank and IMF meetings in Washington in 2000, when hundreds of thousands of residents of the US and Europe turned out into the streets to protest the trade and financial regimes, marked something new: active alliance from the global North. Since then, organized populations everywhere have worked in their own countries and transnationally to subvert the rules of the global economy, where the wealthiest citizens, corporations, and counties make the decisions for all of us. The people’s movements have reminded us that economic globalization, which we are told is the only possible economic order, only commenced at the end of World War II, and that we do not have to accept it as it currently exists.

Those who are flooding streets today in Spain, Portugal, and Greece, and the millions who have preceded them around the world, all posit an alternative vision for economies: that they be just, that they provide for all without exploitation, that they place the well-being of human beings and the environment over profit, and that everyone gets to be part of shaping them. They believe that economic relationships should be driven by our desire to nurture each other and our communities, not by the competition and greed often underlying the corporate market. And they have won dramatic victories.

Continue reading at:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/8526-rewriting-the-rules-of-the-global-economy-creating-economics-that-improve-peoples-lives

Posted in Economic Issues, Employment, Uncategorized. Comments Off

The Walmartization of America Redux: How the Relentless Drive for Cheap Stuff Undermines Our Economy, Bankrupts Our Soul, and Pillages the Planet

From Common Dreams:   http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/16-4

by John Atcheson
Published on Friday, December 16, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

If you want to know why the middle class disappeared and where they went, look no further than your local Walmart.  People walked in for the low prices, and walked out with a pile of cheap stuff, but in a figurative sense, they left their wages, jobs, and dignity on the cutting room floor of the House of Cheap.

Welcome to the logical end point of Reagonomics.  Welcome to Ayn Rand’s nightmare vision of morality, where we know the price of everything but the value of nothing; where predatory behavior is celebrated and the notion of community is blasphemy.

In his excellent documentary, Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price, Robert Greenwald carefully documents how Walmart’s giant box stores lower wages across the entire retail sector, impose high social and economic costs on the states and communities in which they operate, and destroy local businesses.

Yet the low prices – which come at such a high cost – are irresistible to American consumers.  Walmart has virtually cornered the retail market and amassed astounding wealth in the process.

But it’s not just Walmart.  Big box stores now rule across the board in the US retail economy in everything from electronics to pet supplies. And it’s not just retail. The entire US economy is now organized around the notion that getting us cheap stuff – the more the better – is the sine qua non of economic policy.

There was a time when corporations understood that paying their employees a living wage had economic and societal benefits.  Henry Ford famously said he wanted his employees to be able to afford to buy the cars they made and launched six decades of prosperity.

Continue reading at:   http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/16-4

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Kids Struggle on the Streets

From ABC NEWS:    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/national-report-16-million-youth-homeless-experts-40/story?id=15147566&singlePage=true#.TuflPPLrHA6

Dec. 13, 2011
Tiffany “LIFE” Cocco has been homeless for seven years, living on park benches, stoops and New York City’s A train.

Her parents died of AIDS in the 1980s and so Cocco was raised by an aunt and uncle who disapproved of how she dressed and led her life — as a lesbian.

“I was kicked out of the house at 15,” said Cocco, a poet whose chosen middle name means “literary, intelligent, forward, engaged.”

She dropped out of high school after being bullied, rebelled and was forced to keep her sexuality a secret. Cocco slipped into a depression so deep she nearly killed herself on an overdose of pain killers, NyQuil and Tylenol PM.

“I didn’t trust anyone at all,” said Cocco, who is now 24. “I tried to tell myself I was strong, but deep down inside I was falling apart.”

A report released this week by the National Center on Family Homelessness, “America’s Youngest Outcasts,” finds one in 45 American children 18 and under — 1.6 million — live on the street, in homeless shelters, motels or with other families last year.

Continue reading at:   http://abcnews.go.com/Health/national-report-16-million-youth-homeless-experts-40/story?id=15147566&singlePage=true#.TuflPPLrHA6

Why I Voted No on the Deficit Deal

From Reader Supported News:  http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/279-82/6911-why-i-voted-no-on-the-deficit-deal

By Sen. Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News
05 August 11

$2.5 trillion deficit-reduction deal brokered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and President Barack Obama is grotesquely unfair. It also is bad economic policy. In the midst of a terrible recession, it will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing extremely well, and when their effective tax rate is the lowest in decades, the rich won’t contribute one penny more for deficit reduction. When corporate profits are soaring and many giant corporations avoid federal income taxes because of obscene loopholes in the tax code, corporate America will not be asked to contribute one penny more for deficit reduction. On the other hand, working families, children, the sick and the elderly – many of whom are already suffering because of the recession – will shoulder the entire burden.

The corporate media – which, by and large, covered this debate as if it were a baseball game with political “winners and losers” – mostly glossed over the real-life implications of $917 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. Nobody can predict exactly what programs will fall under the knife or say how much they will be cut. Those decisions will be made over the coming months and years by the appropriations committees. But here’s what’s at stake:

  • At a time when there are long waiting lists for affordable childcare and Head Start, it is likely that these programs will be cut significantly.
  • At a time when the United States is falling further and further behind other countries in the quality of our education, it is likely that tens of thousands of teachers and school personnel will be laid off.
  • At a time when working families are finding it harder to send their kids to college, it is likely that there will be cuts in federal student aid programs.
  • At a time when hunger among seniors and children is rising, it is likely that there will be cuts in various nutrition programs.
  • At a time when 50 million Americans have no health insurance and many of them are utilizing community health centers for their medical needs, it is likely that there will be cuts in primary healthcare.
  • At a time when states, cities and towns already laid off over 500,000 public service employees, it is likely that there will be even more police and firefighter layoffs and large reductions in federal support for roads, bridges, water quality, sewage and public transportation.

That’s just for starters. There likely will be cuts in home heating assistance, affordable housing, support for family-based agriculture, and research in finding cures for cancer and other diseases. There likely will be major staffing reductions in agencies charged with protecting the physical health and economic well-being of our people. It is quite likely that the EPA, which enforces clean water and clean air rules, will be cut. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates Wall Street, will be undermined. It is also very possible that the Social Security Administration, which assures that seniors and the disabled receive the benefits to which they are entitled in a timely manner, will also be cut.

That is just the first round of $900 billion in cuts.

In the second phase of the $2.5 trillion package, sweeping new powers are given to a 12-member, evenly-divided House and Senate super committee. The panel’s mandate is to look at every federal government program and come up with $1.5 trillion more in savings. With Republicans and an increasing number of Democrats calling for major cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, all of those programs will be in jeopardy.

If the committee is unable to agree, cuts will happen anyway. A sequestration process would require $500 billion in cuts to defense spending and $500 billion more in across-the-board cuts to domestic discretionary spending. In that scenario, Social Security, Medicare benefits and Medicaid would be spared, but even more draconian cuts would occur in programs that sustain working families.

There is a great irony in all this. The deficit deal does exactly the opposite of what the American people wanted. In poll after poll, the American people said they believe in shared sacrifice. Instead of putting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education and environmental protection on the chopping block, overwhelming majorities say the best way to reduce the deficit is to end tax breaks for the wealthy, big oil, and Wall Street and take a hard look at military spending. What President Obama and Congress did, however was to let the wealthy and large corporations contribute nothing while making major reductions in services for working families and the most vulnerable people in our country.

Enough is enough! The American people must fight back. We need a government which represents all the people, not just the wealthy, campaign contributors and lobbyists. In these tough and discouraging times, despair is not an option. This fight is not just for us, it is for our children and grandchildren and for the environmental survival of the planet.

The Super-Rich Get Richer, and Everyone Else Is Going Down the Drain

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/economy/148294/the_super-rich_get_richer%2C_and_everyone_else_is_going_down_the_drain/

By Robert B. Reich

Only twice before in American history has so much been held by so few, yet they’re going to keep their fat tax cuts.

September 24, 2010

The super-rich got even wealthier this year, and yet most of them are paying even fewer taxes to support the eduction, job training, and job creation of the rest of us. According to Forbes magazine’s annual survey, just released, the combined net worth of the 400 richest Americans climbed 8% this year, to $1.37 trillion. Wealth rose for 217 members of the list, while 85 saw a decline.

For example, Charles and David Koch, the energy magnates who are pouring vast sums of money into Republican coffers and sponsoring tea partiers all over America, each gained $5.5 billion of wealth over the past year. Each is now worth $21.5 billion.

Wall Street continued to dominate the list; 109 of the richest 400 are in finance or investments.

From another survey we learn that the 25 top hedge-fund managers got an average of $1 billion each, but paid an average of 17 percent in taxes (because so much of their income is considered capital gains, taxed at 15 percent thanks to the Bush tax cuts).

The rest of America got poorer, of course. The number in poverty rose to a post-war high. The median wage continues to deteriorate. And some 20 million Americans don’t have work.

Continue reading at:   http://www.alternet.org/economy/148294/the_super-rich_get_richer%2C_and_everyone_else_is_going_down_the_drain/

That ‘Official’ Poverty Rate? It’s Much Worse than You Think

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/economy/148255/that_%27official%27_poverty_rate_it%27s_much_worse_than_you_think/

The shocking poverty statistics released last week tell only part of the story.

By David DeGraw, AlterNet
Posted on September 23, 2010, Printed on September 23, 2010

While the shocking new poverty statistics from the Census Bureau indicating that a record 43.6 million Americans lived in poverty in 2009 emphatically demonstrates the severity of the economic crisis, the Census is drastically undercounting this demographic. Apparently the government’s poverty statistics are as accurate as its unemployment statistics.

I have read many reports that simply restate what the government has said without questioning the fact that the metrics it uses to calculate poverty are extremely outdated.

News reports say that in 2009 the poverty rate “skyrocketed” to 43.6 million — up from 39.8 million in 2008, which is the largest year-to-year increase, and the highest number since statistics have been recorded — putting the poverty rate for 2009 at 14.3 percent. This is obviously a tragedy and horrific news. However, this is also the result of lazy reporting.

Let’s revisit the 2008 Census total stating that 39.8 million Americans lived in poverty. It turns out that the National Academy of Science did its own study and found that 47.4 million Americans actually lived in poverty in 2008. The Census missed 7.6 million Americans living in poverty that year.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/148255/that_%27official%27_poverty_rate_it%27s_much_worse_than_you_think/

Posted in Economic Issues, Employment. Comments Off

Bitter Tales from the Massive White Underclass in Joe Bageant’s “Redneck” Memoir

I write more about class than most LGBT/T folks do.  That’s because I grew up poor and working class.  Awareness of my working class roots is why I am a leftist.

When I come across a book that relates to the class structure and class oppression, well that’s a book I’m going to want to read.  Joe Bageant’s book isn’t out yet here in the US and the link on Alternet takes you to Amazon UK.

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/books/148237/bitter_tales_from_the_massive_white_underclass_in_joe_bageant%27s_%22redneck%22_memoir/

“Economic, political, and social culture in America is staggering under the sheer weight of its white underclass, which now numbers some sixty million.”
September 20, 2010 |

The following is an excerpt from the introduction of Joe Bageant’s new book Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir (Portobello Press, 2010).

The United States has always maintained a white underclass — citizens whose role in the greater scheme of things has been to cushion national economic shocks through the disposability of their labor, with occasional time off to serve as bullet magnets in defense of the Empire. Until the post-World War II era, the existence of such an underclass was widely acknowledged. During the U.S. Civil War, for instance, many northern abolitionists also called for the liberation of ‘four million miserable white southerners held in bondage by the wealthy planter class’. Planter elites, who often held several large plantations which, together, constituted much or most of a county’s economy, saw to it that poor whites got no schools, money, or political power. Poll taxes and literacy requirements kept white subsistence farmers and poor laborers from entering voting booths. Often accounting for up to 70 per cent of many deep-southern counties, they could not vote, and thus could never challenge the status quo.

Today, almost nobody in the social sciences seems willing to touch the subject of America’s large white underclass; or, being firmly placed in the true middle class themselves, can even agree that such a thing exists. Apparently, you can’t smell the rabble from the putting green.

Public discussion of this class remains off limits, deemed hyperbole and the stuff of dangerous radical leftists. And besides, as everyone agrees, white people cannot be an underclass. We’re the majority, dammit. You must be at least one shade darker than a paper bag to officially qualify as a member of any underclass. The middle and upper classes generally agree, openly or tacitly, that white Americans have always had an advantage (which has certainly been the middle- and upper-class experience). Thus, in politically correct circles, either liberal or conservative, the term ‘white underclass’ is an oxymoron. Sure, there are working-poor whites, but not that many, and definitely not enough to be called a white underclass, much less an American peasantry.

Economic, political, and social culture in America is staggering under the sheer weight of its white underclass, which now numbers some sixty million. Generally unable to read at a functional level, they are easily manipulated by corporate-political interests to vote against advances in health and education, and even more easily mustered in support of any proposed military conflict, aggressive or otherwise. One-third of their children are born out of wedlock, and are unemployable by any contemporary industrialized-world standard. Even if we were to bring back their jobs from China and elsewhere — a damned unlikely scenario — they would be competing at a wage scale that would not meet even their basic needs. Low skilled, and with little understanding of the world beyond either what is presented to them by kitschy and simplistic television, movie, and other media entertainments, or their experience as armed grunts in foreign combat, the future of the white underclass not only looks grim, but permanent.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/books/148237/bitter_tales_from_the_massive_white_underclass_in_joe_bageant%27s_%22redneck%22_memoir/

For the Unemployed Over 50, Fears of Never Working Again

From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/20/business/economy/20older.html?_r=1&hp

By MOTOKO RICH

VASHON ISLAND, Wash. — Patricia Reid is not in her 70s, an age when many Americans continue to work. She is not even in her 60s. She is just 57.

But four years after losing her job she cannot, in her darkest moments, escape a nagging thought: she may never work again.

College educated, with a degree in business administration, she is experienced, having worked for two decades as an internal auditor and analyst at Boeing before losing that job.

But that does not seem to matter, not for her and not for a growing number of people in their 50s and 60s who desperately want or need to work to pay for retirement and who are starting to worry that they may be discarded from the work force — forever.

Since the economic collapse, there are not enough jobs being created for the population as a whole, much less for those in the twilight of their careers.

Continue reading at:   http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/20/business/economy/20older.html?_r=1&hp

The Revolution will not Enjoy Corporate Sponsorship

The Revolution  absolutely will not be brought to you by Absolut

The Revolution will not give the leaders of the revolution passes to fly on American Airlines as long as they wear a corporate pin

Working Assets may fund a lobbyist to kiss up to some congress person but it will it put some one on a picket line?

Wearing a rainbow pin while waving a rainbow flag sucking down the beer that is sponsoring this years Pride Festival will give you neither freedom nor Pride

Do you really think corporations will sponsor workers rights to a fair share?

A living wage?

Or will they maybe try to buy you off  by helping you focus all your energy on getting a bill passed that will help you enjoy equal access to being a 9.00 dollar an hour barista with a college degree.  A job where you get to pee in the bottle for the manager of the Starbucks that under pays you and over works you.  You know the one that came in and drove the neat funky coffee house where they had poetry readings out of business.

I may be wrong but I sure wouldn’t count on Starbucks sponsoring the revolution.  Because when push come to shove Starbucks is just another Walmart.

Corporations will not sponsor your fight to end NAFTA/CAFTA/GATT or the off shoring of all the jobs that paid a decent wage.

I’ll tell you an open secret about corporation… The only purpose of a corporation is to make a profit for their executives and shareholders.  The corporations do not give a flying fuck about your gender identity or your sexuality.

They will throw you under the bus if some Christer doesn’t like your looks and complains.  If you are not in a union and have the misfortune to live in a so called “right to work” state they do not need a reason to fire you and see to it you do not get un-employment.  And ENDA won’t do a damned thing about that.  If you think otherwise look at the rate of un-employment for people of color.

Corporations do not have your best interests at heart.  You are a human resource to be used to increase the one thing that a corporation exists for, the bottom line.  They care only about money.

When they say something different they are lying.

There will be a revolution when and only when people stop arguing over bull shit like identity and unite to say they are tired of being collectively fuck by corporations that don’t give a rats ass about their lives.

The revolution will start when people start saying no to advertising.  When people stop buying stuff they don’t need but are brainwashed into wanting.  Or if they do buy it they pay cash and say no to paying the banks usurious piles of interest charged for using credit cards.

Because the only real value we have to the rich, to the corporations is  in buying, consuming, endlessly…

If we picked just one or two corporations at a time and stopped buying from them until they start treating workers with respect, permitting unions, paying a living wage etc…  That would be revolutionary and I guarantee that revolution will not have corporate sponsorship.

Fox News bullies organized labor in run-up to Labor Day

From Media Matters for America

http://mediamatters.org/research/201009030041

Fox News figures have attacked labor unions in the days leading up to Labor Day, a national holiday originally created to honor the victories of the labor movement and the achievements of American workers.

Fox News figures assail organized labor

Beck: “I think the unions are like Biff,” the bully from Back to the Future. During the September 2 edition of his Fox News show, Glenn Beck said, “You know what I think of some of the unions? I actually think of Back to the Future. I think the unions are like Biff.” Beck showed a clip featuring Biff Tannen, the bully in the film, and added, “But in the end, once you really realize who they are and you’re not afraid anymore, it always turns out exactly the same way for the bully every time.” Beck then showed a clip of Biff working for the man he originally bullied.

Malkin accused unions of embezzlement, violence, and corruption. During the September 2 edition of Fox News’ America Live, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin accused labor leaders of “embezzlement,” “violence,” and “corruption.”

Varney: There will be “[t]wo more union outrage stories to bring to you in our next half-hour.” During the September 2 edition of Fox Business Network’s Varney & Co., guest Joseph Caruso criticized a Securities and Exchange Commission rule that would allow more shareholders of public companies to use proxy votes to nominate board members. Caruso claimed that unions would use the rule to “wreak havoc” by nominating labor-friendly board members. In response, Fox Business’ Charles Payne suggested, “So, this will be used more as a tool of intimidation than anything else.” In a subsequent tease, Varney said, “Two more union outrage stories to bring to you in our next half-hour.”

Cavuto likened unions to Hurricane Earl on a “collision course on our towns.” During the September 2 edition of Fox News’ Your World, host Neil Cavuto compared unions to Hurricane Earl, saying, “The monster and the mess. Your World on top of Earl’s collision course with our coast and what could be unions’ collision course with our towns.” Cavuto added: “And get ready for Earl’s wallop and, to hear some state and local governments tell it, unions’ direct hit on their wallet.”

Carlson: How much of the cost of a Chevy Volt is “because you have to pay the unions so much money?” During a discussion of the Chevy Volt on the September 2 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson asked, “How much of that money … is because you have to pay the unions so much money?”

Beck: Labor hero is “indoctrinating children.” During the September 1 edition of his Fox News show, Beck accused Dolores Huerta, an 80-year-old labor activist who co-founded the United Farm Workers with César Chávez, of “indoctrinating our children” because she spoke at a high school. Beck also criticized the Labor Department for spending money on what he called a “catchy tune” that included Labor Secretary Hilda Solis saying, “You work hard, and you have the right to be paid fairly,” and, “[I]t is a serious problem when workers in this country are not being paid every cent they earn.”

Labor Day honors the progress of the labor movement

DOL: Labor Day is “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s “History of Labor Day,” Labor Day “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

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Another Bleak Jobs Report as Unemployment Edges Up to 9.6 Percent

This report by Dean Baker supports the case that unemployment is cyclical, not structural. It originally appeared at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The unemployment rate edged up to 9.6 percent in August as the economy shed 54,000 jobs. The decline was entirely attributable to the loss of 114,000 temporary Census jobs. Excluding these jobs, the economy created 60,000 jobs. With job growth for the prior two months revised up by 123,000, excluding the Census jobs, the August pace is roughly even with June and July.

The largest increases in unemployment were among African Americans who saw their overall rate rise 0.8 percentage points to 16.3 percent, near the recession peak. The unemployment rate for black teens jumped 4.8 percentage points to 45.4 percent. Unemployment for Hispanics edged down to 12.0 percent, a full percentage point below its year-ago level.

jobs-2010-09
Involuntary part-time employment rose by 344,000, reversing declines in the prior two months. All the duration measures of unemployment fell, but this likely reflected the long-term unemployed dropping out of the workforce as their benefit period ended. The percent of the unemployed attributable to voluntary quits fell 0.3 percentage points to 5.9 percent, which is near its low-point for the downturn.

Posted in Economic Issues, Employment, Uncategorized, Workers. Comments Off

Wal-Mart Asks Supreme Court to Weigh In on Suit

From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/26/business/26walmart.html?hp

By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
Published: August 25, 2010

Wal-Mart Stores asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to review the largest employment discrimination lawsuit in American history, involving more than 1.5 million current or former female workers at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores.

Nine years after the suit was filed, the central issue before the high court will not be whether any discrimination occurred, but whether more than a million people can even make this joint claim through a class-action lawsuit, as opposed to filing claims individually or in smaller groups. In April, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled 6-to-5 that the lawsuit could proceed as a jumbo class action – the fourth judicial decision upholding a class action.

The stakes are huge. If the Supreme Court allows the suit to proceed as a class action, that could easily cost Wal-Mart $1 billion or more in damages, legal experts say.

More significantly, the court’s ruling could set guidelines for other types of class-action suits. “This is the big one that will set the standards for all other class actions,” said Robin S. Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, an arm of the Chamber of Commerce, which has filed several amicus briefs backing Wal-Mart.

Continue Reading at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/26/business/26walmart.html?hp

Defining Prosperity Down

From the New York Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/opinion/02krugman.html?ref=opinion

By PAUL KRUGMAN

I’m starting to have a sick feeling about prospects for American workers — but not, or not entirely, for the reasons you might think.

Yes, growth is slowing, and the odds are that unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months ahead. That’s bad. But what’s worse is the growing evidence that our governing elite just doesn’t care — that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal.

And I worry that those in power, rather than taking responsibility for job creation, will soon declare that high unemployment is “structural,” a permanent part of the economic landscape — and that by condemning large numbers of Americans to long-term joblessness, they’ll turn that excuse into dismal reality.

Not long ago, anyone predicting that one in six American workers would soon be unemployed or underemployed, and that the average unemployed worker would have been jobless for 35 weeks, would have been dismissed as outlandishly pessimistic — in part because if anything like that happened, policy makers would surely be pulling out all the stops on behalf of job creation.

But now it has happened, and what do we see?

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/opinion/02krugman.html?ref=opinion

Posted in Economic Issues, Employment, Social Justice. Comments Off

Worker Bees and Caffeine, the Legal Drug

Here I am at six thirty in the morning facing another 9-10 hour day filled with stress.  Before me is a huge cup of coffee, the legal stimulant drug that gets me through the day.  Along with “energy drinks”.

I go to work where conformity is demanded and individuality suppressed.  Out on the floor the disgruntled murmur and anger runs skin deep. The name of the game is selling, pushing product with smiling enthusiasm even if the product has so much fat in it or so much sodium that it should wear a skull and cross bones.

Workers are treated like children and act out in a passive aggressive manner.

The stress of part time work in retail is brutal with its fluctuating hours meaning one can never count on a certain amount of pay when ones check come out.

Workers can be forced to pee in cups or the more modern swab instant drug test that gets so many false positives particularly in older workers who are often on a shopping list of medications.

Coffee is the perfect drug.  It helps the focus and boosts both energy and fake enthusiasm. Work turns us into corporate liars and caffeine helps us with the guilt.  We learn to project a false sincerity in order to sell and keep our jobs secure.

Insecurity is the life blood of the retail slave.  We eat insults and customer condescension with a smile knowing that many doing the condescending are but one more economic down turn, one more round of out sourcing or right sizing by the corporate raiders and junk bond peddlers, from joining us.  Welcome to Thomas Friedman’s globalized flat earth.  Welcome the race to the bottom when it comes to paying workers.

So lift your cup of coffee high in a toast to the death of the middle class.  Welcome to the world of the bottom line.

Welcome to the world created by the “free market” and the class war that created the super rich.  Thank the neo-cons and neo-libs who brought us here.

And if you are a straight person of color or a white LGBT/T person welcome to the world where we waste our time on horizontal hostility while those with the money who created this world use us as scapegoats to distract us from who the real oppressors are.

Happy May Day

Today many people have become convinced that May Day Celebrations are rooted in Communism.  Ask most folks and they will tell you that it is Russian in origin.

Yet the roots of May Day as a worker’s celebration are American and Canadian in origin.

Once upon a time workers believed they had rights including the right to form unions and take direct action agianst the companies and corporations that treated them like slaves.

I am on the threshold of being an old woman and I can remember the days of not so long ago when workers had far more rights than they have today after some thirty years of corporate fascist rule.

In 1886 on May Day workers across the US and Canada went out on strike for the eight hour day.

http://www.marxists.org/subject/mayday/articles/tracht.html

Resolved by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions the United States and Canada, that eight hours shall constitute legal day’s labor from May First, 1886, and that we recommend to labor organizations throughout their jurisdiction that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution by the time named.

Although nothing was said in the resolution about the methods by which the Federation expected to establish the 8-hour day, it is self-evident that an organization which at that time commanded an adherence of not more than 50,000 members could not declare “that eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s work” without putting up a fight for it in the shops, mills, and mines where its members were employed, and without attempting to draw into the struggle for the 8-hour day still larger numbers of workers. The provision in the resolution that the unions affiliated to the Federation “so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution” referred to the matter of paying strike benefits to their members who were expected to strike on May First, 1886, for the 8-hour day, and would probably have to stay out long enough to need assistance from the union. As this strike action was to be national in scope and involve all the affiliated organizations, the unions, according to their by-laws, had to secure the endorsement of the strike by their members, particularly since that would involve the expenditure of funds, etc. It must be remembered that the Federation, just as the A. F. of L. today, was organized on a voluntary, federation basis, and decisions of a national convention could be binding upon affiliated unions only if those unions endorsed these decisions.

Preparations for May Day Strike

Although the decade 1880-1890 was generally one of the most active in the development of American industry and the extension of the home market, the year 1883-1885 experienced a depression which was a cyclical depression following the crisis of 1873. The movement for a shorter workday received added impetus from the unemployment and the great suffering which prevailed during that period, just as at the present time the demand for a 7-hour day is becoming a popular issue on account of the tremendous unemployment which American workers are experiencing.

The great strike struggles of 1877, in which tens of thousands of railroad and steel workers militantly fought against the corporations and the government which sent troops to suppress the strikes, left an impress on the whole labor movement. It was the first great mass action of the American working class on a national scale and, although they were defeated by the combined forces of the State and capital, the American workers emerged from these struggles with a clearer understanding of their class position in society, a greater militancy and a heightened morale. It was in part an answer to the coal barons of Pennsylvania who, in their attempt to destroy the miners’ organization in the anthracite region, railroaded ten militant miners (Molly Maguires) to the gallows in 1875.

The Federation, just organized, saw the possibility of utilizing the slogan of the 8-hour day as a rallying organization slogan among the great masses of workers who were outside of the Federation and the Knights of Labor, an older and then still growing organization. The Federation appealed to the Knights of Labor for support in the movement for the 8-hour day, realizing that only a general action involving all organized labor could make possible favorable results.

One of the demands we made in the 1960s was for a 4 day work week for 5 days pay.  We didn’t want to be the slaves of the corporations. “We work for a living, we do not live for working!”

For all too many of us the 8 hour day is but a memory.  We live in the insecurity of part time hell with no time to be ourselves.  The rich have all the good things in live while we are in debt to own even a few toys we rarely have the time to enjoy.  Our lives caught in a vicious cycle of work and consumption.

When the rich blow their money on high risk gambles called derivatives and exotic instruments the working people are expected to bail them out as they are too big to fail.  When working people get behind and lose all they have worked so hard to gain is is purely due to their personal inadequacy.

Mine workers die in the black coal hells of the mines, oil workers die when the rigs explode in fire.  Far more of us suffer with out health care, stressed out by employment insecurity and all the ailments brought on by too much stress and insecurity.

So all of you out there who work for a living….  This Day is for you…

ENDA Should Not Be The Goal!

ENDA should not be the goal but rather the starting point for LGBT/T workers rights.

All too often when I read about ENDA the stories are about people who are already so far up the socio-economic chain as to make their struggles with employment sound like fables.

Focusing on the Susan Stantons of the world makes for good news.  I’m sure she is a decent person and all that and I am equally certain that her losing her job was a vile act of discrimination.

But is the struggle for employment non-discrimination really all about those in the middle and upper classes?

What about those of us who work in restaurants and big box stores?  Or those even more lumpen who have to do sex work because even restaurants and big boxes won’t hire them?

Lets focus for a moment on those workers in what has been labeled by the privileged elite as the “New Service Economy”. There is a reality that was laid out in Barbara Ehrenreich’s  book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America that life sucks for those workers making less than 15 to 20 thousand dollars a year.  One is often unable to keep a roof over one’s head, eat, afford transportation to and from work and the clothes required to work.

Never mind the thought of getting SRS or any of the other procedures commonly required by those in transition including but not exclusive to: Mandated professional psychiatric care.  Electrolysis and hormones.

The great bulk of the medically uninsured are in this category.  But even for those insured medical costs related to transsexualism and transgenderism are often specifically excluded.  Sometimes using the pre-existing condition clause if the policy lacks a specific exclusion.

There is another proposition slowly making its way through the process.  One I hear almost no mention of in the LGBT/T press or activist circles but hear plenty about in the left wing circles that are a major influence on me.

Something called the Employee Free Choice Act that would help end the corporate strangle hold of workers attempting to unionize and organize to promote the rights and interests of the workers.  Too often we have no redress, no one to represent us and argue that our working conditions are un-fair or even dangerous.  Not to mention humiliating, stressful and degrading.

Working conditions suck in the US.  American workers work longer hours with less job security or benefits that do the workers in almost every other industrialized nation.

Oh I forgot we live in a post-industrialized society where the rich become ever richer by moving their money around, creating nothing except an endless cycle of bubbles and recessions, while the rest of us have become the new servant class.  As a member of that servant class I am required to smile and lie to sell others cheap poorly made product, food that is often a nutritional nightmare.  All the while knowing the reality of what I am doing and smiling as well as shuffling in a properly subservient manner.

There is a dirty secret that misses the news for all its coverage of the Tea Bagger, neo-Nazi racist pigs.  There is an equally angry left wing under class of overly educated peons who have read Marx, Kropotkin and Bukharin.

ENDA isn’t the end of the struggle for LGBT/T workers rights.  It is the starting point

Survey: Trans people face much higher rate of job discrimination

From The Dallas Voice

http://www.dallasvoice.com/artman/publish/article_12468.php

By Renee Baker | Contributing Writer renee@renee-baker.com
Feb 11, 2010 – 2:39:54 PM

Problems even worse for trans people of color, study shows

The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have jointly released preliminary results from the largest transgender survey ever completed, showing what most people have assumed as true — that trans people face discrimination in employment at a much higher rate that other minority groups.

The survey of 6,450 transgender people across the United States was taken with the impetus to empirically determine and document the marginalization of transgender lives.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the NCTE, stated the survey was constructed “from the point of view of discrimination and its prevalence.” She said that previous surveys were much smaller in size or merely anecdotal in nature.

Keisling, who has an academic background in statistical research, said the survey provided “great, great data” that is already showing is applicability to advocacy work. She said that by teaming with Sue Rankin, an associate professor at Penn State, researchers gained the necessary academic research tools to produce a thoroughly analyzed and “legitimate research study.”

The joint effort was launched in September 2008, and sample data from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands was collected through February of 2009. The full data set is still being processed; however, NCTE and NGLTF released preliminary results at the Creating Change Conference in Dallas last week.

Comparisons of the data set to the general population were made using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Labor.

One of the key findings of the survey was that transgender people face unemployment at double the rate of the general population as a whole. During the survey period and prior to current recession unemployment levels, 13 percent of trans respondents were unemployed, compared to 6.5 percent in the general population.

The unemployment rate was even more acute for black (26 percent), Latino (18 percent) and multiracial (17 percent) trans people.

Almost half (47 percent) of the survey respondents reported adverse job action because of their transgender status: Either they did not get a job, were denied a promotion or were fired.

Very striking was that 26 percent of transgender respondents lost their jobs due to their gender identity/expression. That number was higher for black respondents (32 percent) and for multiracial respondents (37 percent).

But most striking, according to Keisling, was that 97 percent of respondents reported experiencing mistreatment, harassment or discrimination on the job, including invasion of privacy, verbal abuse and physical or sexual assault.

High rates of poverty were also reported among transgender respondents. Fifteen percent lived on $10,000 or less per year — double the rate in the general population, which is 7 percent.

Another key finding was the rate of housing instability due to gender identity. Nineteen percent of respondents reported that they currently are homeless or have been in the past. One in four respondents had to move back in with family or with friends.

In regard to health insurance, the survey found that “transgender and gender non-conforming people do not have adequate health coverage or access to competent providers.” The respondents had the same rate of coverage as the general population, but only 40 percent had employer-based insurance coverage, compared to 62 percent in the general population.

The survey concludes that “employment protections are paramount,” and that current conditions are causing “significant barriers to employment [that] lead to devastating economic insecurity.”

Both NCTE and the Task Force urge that “Employment should be based on one’s skills and ability to perform a job. No one deserves to be unemployed or fired because of their gender identity or expression.”

No date has been given for the official survey release. For more information on the preliminary survey, go online to TransEquality.org.

Renee Baker is a transgender diversity consultant and can be found online at GenderPower.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 12, 2010.

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