Category Archives: Labor

Forty Years Of WOW – The War On Workers – In America

Here’s another dog-bites-man story, an economic tale of today’s America that only a Republican could love or ignore or feign surprise at. TPM’s Brian Beutler points us to a preview of the Economic Policy Institute’s forthcoming publication, “The State of Working America,” and the state is… not good. The preview, “The wedges between productivity and median compensation growth” by Lawrence Mishel, informs us that from 1948 (my birth year) to 2011, while worker productivity has gained 254.3% in a more or less straight-line increase, hourly compensation has gained only 113.1% in the same time period. The hourly compensation curve tracks the productivity curve up to the early 1970s, but then flattens out as wages have stagnated for four decades. See the linked EPI article for those graphs.

Another graph is more interesting. This one shows productivity gains from 1973 to 2011… more or less my working lifetime… about 80.4%, again in a more-or-less straight line… and median hourly compensation, by gender. Median male compensation has increased almost not at all… 0.1%. Overall median hourly compensation has increased only 10.7%… remember, this is in the face of an 80% productivity gain.

Average hourly compensation has grown by 39.2%, vastly more than median hourly compensation gains, which means most of the gains by both women and men have gone to higher-paid workers. Median female compensation has grown by only 33.2%, in other words, nowhere close to the average though well above the both-genders median. (I assume the much higher gains for women are because equal-pay laws have somewhat ameliorated the unconscionable underpayment of women in earlier decades.) Here is the graph:


I said at the beginning that this is a dog-bites-man story. If you are a working-class, working-age American, you scarcely need to be told that you are working harder and more hours while your personal economic situation is simply not improving. Of course there are exceptions, but remember the above graph deals in the median… the most typical numbers… and the average numbers. On the whole, all those productivity gains meant profit gains for your employers. Well and good; there’s nothing immoral about profit… unless it is not shared with the people who make it possible. And those are the workers in America who are just plain not getting a fair deal. We’ve doubled our productivity and gotten squat for our reward. That is wrong.

As someone once said on the ancient 1960s/1970s comedy TV show Laugh-In, “We upped our work production… up yours!” It was funnier before it became a true rendition of the attitude of the 1% toward the 99%.

Republican Obama Appointee To NLRB Leaked Insider Info To Former Members Now In Private Sector

Oh my goodness gracious! Where is my fainting couch? Hand me the smelling salts! Who could ever have suspected that a Republican appointee would engage in unethical behavior? [/snark]

Obama is a fool, at best, to indulge his predilection for appointing Republicans… no Republican president would ever appoint a Democrat to anything at all. It is just one more reason why I shall not vote to re-elect the man.

AFTERTHOUGHT: did Republicans thank Obama for the recess appointment of one of their own? Don’t make me laugh… they used the revelation of unethical behavior to fault Obama for using a (perfectly legal) recess appointment. Ingratitude, thy name is Republican. [/snark]

Mark Fiore – ‘iWhine’


H/T Michael Moore.

It Is Time To Recognize Labor’s Civil Right To Organize

So say Richard D. Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit in a NYT op-ed, “A Civil Right to Unionize.” Hear, hear! The decline of union representation in America corresponds directly with the decline of the middle class. Let’s put a stop to both declines. Legislation establishing a legal civil right to organize, analogous to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act, would go a long way toward improving the situations of working people. I am of the opinion that a right to organize is among the unenumerated rights American citizens already have, but in some cases we have to pass legislation to establish such rights beyond the reach of the 1%. The right to organize is such a case.

Obama gave a rousing speech to the AFL-CIO UAW two days ago. Now he needs to follow up. His support for a legal right to unionize would be an opportunity for him to cement his relations with labor in America. On the other hand, if he never comments on the proposal, …

CORRECTION: I mistakenly linked to a Labor Day speech from an earlier year. I’ve removed the link while I look for the correct one. The link has now been fixed.

GOP Blackmails On FAA Bill By Inserting Anti‑Union Provision

and there’s some indication Democrats may cave:

Democrats and Republicans have been unable to pass a long-term reauthorization because Republicans insisted it include a provision that would change mediation rules such that workers who abstained from unionization votes would be counted as if they’d voted “no.”

Democrats held their ground, and the provision was stripped. However, what went in was this: a new union-busting measure would make it harder for workers to trigger a union election by increasing the percentage of workers who must declare interest in unionizing from 35 to 50.

After giving it serious consideration, major unions have concluded that compromise measure is just as unacceptable. Now they’re calling on members to stand against the package until the offending provisions are deleted.

And it is unacceptable to this old retired union member. Support Democrats? Fuck ’em. If they cave on this, then Republicans, with a majority in one house in Congress and without the presidency, have the Democratic majority by both balls.

[Inserted] What’s next? Allow GOPers to insert a provision in every state constitution that counts all citizens who do not vote as having voted

This has the potential to sever my already strained relations with the Democratic Party for good and all. What use are they, if they will contemplate abandoning the rights of one of their biggest groups of supporters?

Obama To Recess-Appoint Cordray To Head CFPB – UPDATED

Apparently even our confrontation-avoiding president has his limits, and he reached one regarding the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans in the Senate, where “three-fifths” is the new “one-half-plus-one,” stated nonnegotiably that they would not approve anyone to head this agency until its primary goals were modified to the point of effective evisceration. Their reward is beginning to become clear: first, Elizabeth Warren gave up on the post and is running very credibly for Senate. Next, Obama is set to recess-appoint Richard Cordray, an experienced former state AG with a history of consumer advocacy in lawsuits, who worked with Warren in crafting the CFPB, to head the agency. Cordray has the all-too-much-coveted bipartisan support, including a majority in the Senate. But see the rule stated above regarding majorities in the Senate.

One would think Republicans would get the idea that arbitrarily thwarting Obama even when he agrees with them… which is a lot more often than I agree with them… leads to unpleasant consequences. Then again, Republicans, whether from insanity or simple stupidity, frequently seem to go against their self-interest. Wouldn’t it be great to have a sensible opposition party? It’s not gonna happen with today’s GOPers; they come with built-in psychological problems.

Sources: Cleveland Plain Dealer and Washington Post.

A recess appointment is explicitly authorized in the Constitution, and runs through the next session of the Senate. If the Senate approves the appointee, s/he stays in office. A lot depends on whether Senate Republicans think they can get any more political mileage out of this nomination by blocking it. The polls I’ve seen mentioned (I usually don’t read the details of polls) indicate the public’s growing frustration with Republican obstructionism, but I’ve learned never to predict what Republicans will do.

UPDATE: Obama pushes forward with his recess appointments by naming three members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB has existed since 1934 as an agency charged with the duty of addressing “unfair labor practices,” employer interference with union elections, etc. Its recent history is checkered, largely (IMHO) because of increasing dominance of the federal courts system by Republican appointees. The business community seems to have hated the NLRB since its inception; Obama is using recess appointments to put it back in operation after conflicts and court decisions during the Bush administration left it with only two members and hence not allowed by the courts to function. If nothing else, this will give Obama an opportunity to demonstrate his bona fides in support of organized labor. It’s not an all-out pro-labor campaign, but it’s a start.

Ohio SB5 Repealed: Does It Matter?

Gov. John Kasich is still gagging because the people of Ohio took his SB 5 anti-public-employee-union bill and stuffed it back down his throat. Does this represent a trend for organized labor, or is it specific to Ohio? Does it have implications for 2012, either the presidential or congressional races? Reasonable opinions welcome.

Apple Is Rotten

So says Adele M. Stan of FDL:


In its fourth quarter earnings report released last week, Apple Computer revealed that 2/3 of its on-hand cash – some $54 billion — is squirreled away outside the boundaries of the United States, presumably to avoid paying its fair share of taxes. In the meantime, reports Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), a Hong Kong-based group, Apple’s major manufacturing contractors routinely subject employees to forced overtime, wage theft and no breaks — and even unprotected exposure to toxins.

Rumor has it that Apple will soon announce its new model pocket-sized all-in-one device.

It will be named iSweat, after the workers who manufacture its components.

Bloomberg Op-Ed Author Quotes Karl Marx… Favorably

No, seriously. George Magnus says “Give Karl Marx a Chance to Save the World Economy.” Along with the ritual disclaimers one might expect, Magnus also points out that today’s post-Great-Recession world looks a lot like the one Marx described in Das Kapital.

Here are five major planks of a strategy whose time, sadly, has not yet come.

Magnus then offers five proposals, concluding with this assessment:

We can’t know how these proposals might work out, or what their unintended consequences might be. But the policy status quo isn’t acceptable, either. It could turn the U.S. into a more unstable version of Japan, and fracture the euro zone with unknowable political consequences. By 2013, the crisis of Western capitalism could easily spill over to China, but that’s another subject.

I know MandT will be pleased with Magnus’s article! 🙂

Harvard Business School Channels Consultants: ‘Cut Long-Time Workers’ Pay’

If you thought your employers were kicking you in the teeth over the past few years, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet:

You work hard. You do good work. You loyally stick with your employer through good times and bad. Do you have a right to a paycheck that rises over time?

On any Labor Day over the last 50 years, the answer — from labor and management alike — would be obvious: Of course!

But that answer doesn’t seem to hold any more. Earlier this year, a trio of top business consultants openly challenged the notion that good employees doing valuable work deserve to see their paychecks steadily increase. This past July, the Harvard Business School circulated their challenge throughout corporate America’s upper echelons.

This remarkably brazen assault on core American workplace values originated at Booz & Co., one of the nation’s most prestigious corporate consulting firms. America’s corporations, Booz analysts advised earlier this year, need to start attacking the “exorbitant” paychecks now going to their most prized, “steady and reliable” veteran workers.

You know, it occurs to me that an experienced employee with great expertise concerning a company’s processes and procedures might be just the one capable of throwing a spanner in those processes without drawing attention to him- or herself. I’m just sayin’.

And to employers foolish enough to follow this horrible advice, I can only say this: it’s time you laid off the Booz.