Category Archives: Labor

The Devastating Transformation Of Work In The US

Marty Hart-Landsberg | December 28 2016 | Reports From the Economic Front

Two of the best-known labor economists in the US,  Lawrence F. Katz and Alan B. Krueger, recently published a study of the rise of so-called alternative work arrangements.

Here is what they found:

The percentage of workers engaged in alternative work arrangements – defined as temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, and independent contractors or freelancers – rose from 10.1 percent [of all employed workers] in February 2005 to 15.8 percent in late 2015.

That is a huge jump, especially since the percentage of workers with alternative work arrangements barely budged over the period February 1995 to February 2005; it was only 9.3 in 1995.

But their most startling finding is the following:

A striking implication of these estimates is that all of the net employment growth in the U.S. economy from 2005 to 2015 appears to have occurred in alternative work arrangements. Total employment according to the CPS increased by 9.1 million (6.5 percent) over the decade, from 140.4 million in February 2005 to 149.4 in November 2015. The increase in the share of workers in alternative work arrangements from 10.1 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2015 implies that the number of workers employed in alternative arrangement increased by 9.4 million (66.5 percent), from 14.2 million in February 2005 to 23.6 million in November 2015. Thus, these figures imply that employment in traditional jobs (standard employment arrangements) slightly declined by 0.4 million (0.3 percent) from 126.2 million in February 2005 to 125.8 million in November 2015.

Take a moment to let that sink in—and think about what that tells us about the operation of the US economy and the future for working people.  Employment in so-called traditional jobs is actually shrinking. The only types of jobs that have been growing in net terms are ones in which workers have little or no security and minimal social benefits.

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To Pay for Subsidies to Massive Corporations, States Are Waging War on Poor Families

Jake Johnson | Jun 02 2016 | Common Dreams

‘As wealthy CEOs and their politically influential companies gain unrestricted access to the Treasury,’ writes Johnson, ‘the most vulnerable are increasingly locked out.’

To witness the consequences of a political system captured by and utterly subservient to the interests of organized wealth, take a quick look at the state of Oklahoma.

There we see the embodiment of the economic trends that have, over the past several decades, harmed working families and lifted the wealthiest: While providing a windfall of cash to special interests, particularly big oil, the state is cutting education and slashing funds allocated for the earned income tax credit, widely recognized as one of the more effective anti-poverty programs.

As the state cuts benefits for the poor, “Oklahoma’s tax breaks for the oil and gas companies — among the most generous in the nation — gave the industry $470 million in tax relief last year,” a recent New York Times editorial observes.

“It’s despicable to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable population” while refusing to push any of the burden onto the wealthiest, lamented State Representative Emily Virgin.

One can look, also, to Wisconsin, where the Koch-backed governor Scott Walker achieved political prominence on the basis of his record of “taking on” unions and his philosophical approach to governance, which, though shrouded in libertarian garb, largely consists of socialism for the rich and austerity for everyone else.

Continue reading To Pay for Subsidies to Massive Corporations, States Are Waging War on Poor Families

Obama’s Jobs Fig Leaf Falls to the Ground

Paul Craig Roberts | Jun 03 2016

Employment Lies

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the US economy only created 38,000 new jobs in May and revised down by 59,000 jobs the previously reported gains in March and April.

Yet the BLS reported that the unemployment rate fell from 5.0 to 4.7 percent, a figure generally regarded as full employment.

The May jobs increase only covers a small fraction of the monthly growth in the labor force and, therefore, cannot account for the drop in unemployment.

Moreover, the BLS reported that the labor force participation rate fell by 0.2 percentage points, bringing the decline to 0.4 percentage points over the past two months. Normally, a strong labor market, such as one represented by a 4.7% unemployment rate, causes an increase in the labor force participation rate.

The question becomes: How real is the 4.7% rate of unemployment?

The answer is: Not at all.

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Flat wages show the US doesn’t have a labor market

by David Cay Johnston, published August 4, 2015 at ALJAZEERAAMERICA

Government action is required to correct imbalance in employer power

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Another warning sign of our fragile economy popped up Friday in the latest quarterly employment-cost-index report, which measures the total cost of labor to employers. The index rose by one-fifth of 1 percent — the smallest increase since the data series was launched in 1982.

Without real growth in wages the economy cannot grow because the capacity of people to buy goods and services — what economists call aggregate demand — will remain flat.

This is a problem that we can fix, and there are three obvious ways to address it. But it requires the involvement of government, which makes the rules governing the market. If there is one thing that centuries of experience have taught, it is this: Whatever the rules, businesses adapt.

Flat wages

The median wage — half make more, half less — has been stuck since 1998 at a bit more than $500 a week. In 2013 average pay declined from the previous year in 59 of the 60 salary levels the government tracks.  Only jobs paying $50 million or more had higher average pay.

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Low wage jobs are dominating the U.S. recovery

By Brad Plumer, published August 31, 2012 at The Washington Post

The United States lost about 8.1 million jobs after the recession began in late 2007. The economy has since recovered about 3.3 million of those jobs, starting in early 2010. That, in itself, should alarm policymakers. The labor market is still in a deep, deep hole.

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The jobs of the future? (Washington Post)

But in some respects, the situation is even bleaker than that. The types of jobs that have come back so far don’t seem to be paying as well as those that were lost.

A new report (pdf) from the National Employment Law Project finds that low-wage jobs, paying $13.83 per hour or less, have dominated the recovery to date. In many cases, they appear to be replacing higher-paying jobs that were lost in the first place.

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The scariest thing about the gig economy is how little we actually know about it

by Alison Griswold, published February 23, 2016 at Quartz

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Gig-ing along. (Collage by Quartz. Images courtesy DoorDash, Handy, TaskRabbit, Lyft, Uber, Washio.)

Earlier this month, hundreds of Uber drivers gathered outside the company’s office in Queens, New York, to protest a 15% reduction in fares.

It was the latest bout of labor unrest to flare since Uber began slashing prices in 100 North American cities in January. Uber insists these cuts benefit everyone by spurring demand in the slow winter months, but drivers watching their per-trip earnings plummet are unconvinced. “This is not partnership,” Mohsin Alvi, an Uber driver of three years, told me at the protest. “This is dictatorship. Uber is dictating this and telling us to do this whether we choose to or not.”

The scene outside Uber’s office that rainy Monday in Queens was familiar. New York drivers also assembled here in September 2014, after Uber lowered its pricing and tweaked the rules concerning which passengers they were required to pick up. Back then, hundreds of protesting drivers were too many to ignore, and the demonstration morphed into a small-scale public relations crisis that led to Uber partly backtracking on its policy changes. This time around, the company had 34,000 drivers in New York City. When a few hundred went on strike, Uber didn’t blink.
Continue reading The scariest thing about the gig economy is how little we actually know about it

The Yelp employee who wasn’t making enough money to eat

by Lindsey Bever, published February 23, 2016 published at The Washington Post 

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Talia Ben-Ora, 25, wrote an open letter to Yelp’s chief executive about her low wages. Soon after, she lost her job. (Courtesy of Talia Ben-Ora)

The Yelp employee who said she was fired after she blogged about the financial pressures she felt while working for the multibillion-dollar business said Monday that her breaking point came one night when she went to sleep — and woke up “starving” two hours later.

Talia Ben-Ora posted an open letter Friday afternoon to Yelp chief executive Jeremy Stoppelman, saying she wasn’t earning a living wage while working in customer support at Eat24, Yelp’s San Francisco-based food delivery arm.

She was out of work hours later, she said.

“They knew that I was picking up pennies and that I was having trouble sleeping and that I was cutting back on every single possible thing I could think of,” Ben-Ora told The Washington Post. “But I was still working as hard as I could — and being as good as I could possibly be at the job.”

In her letter to Stoppelman, which she posted on Medium, she had expressed concerns about how Yelp treats its employees.

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NAFTA Has (and the TPP Will) Destroy U.S. Jobs

NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) has had a devastating effect on American workers.

How do we know this?

The BLS keeps labor force numbers tracking the changes in the American workforce over time for a historical perspective.

NAFTA negotiations started under President George H. W. Bush in 1990 and was signed into law by President Clinton on December 8, 1993.

NAFTA (as law of the land) took effect on January 1, 1994.

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What Happens When You Ask People in the Regular Economy to Work for Free?

by Alexander Reed Kelly, published November 7, 2015 at Truthdig

Toronto ad agency Zulu Alpha Kilo asked restaurateurs, personal trainers and architects to provide some of their product or service for free so shoppers could decide whether to buy it. “Get out of here” was one cook’s response.

The practice of doing some work “on spec” is common in what are called the creative fields, of which advertising is a part.

The clip confirms what most people seem to know: that business is always a negotiation between parties of unequal power, that the outcome is rarely a fair deal, and that our word for this is “exploitation.”

Inside Corporate America’s Campaign to Ditch Workers’ Comp

by Michael Grabell, ProPublica, and Howard Berkes, NPR
October 14, 2015

One Texas lawyer is helping companies opt out of workers’ compensation and write their own rules. What does it mean for injured workers?

STANDING BEFORE A GIANT MAP in his Dallas office, Bill Minick doesn’t seem like anyone’s idea of a bomb thrower. But backed by some of the biggest names in corporate America, this mild-mannered son of an evangelist is plotting a revolution in how companies take care of injured workers.

His idea: Let them opt out of state workers’ compensation laws — and write their own rules.

Minick swept his hand past pushpins marking the headquarters of Walmart, McDonald’s and dozens of his other well-known clients, and hailed his plan as not only cheaper for employers, but better for workers too.

“We’re talking about reengineering one of the pillars of social justice that has not seen significant innovation in 100 years,” Minick said.

Minick’s quest sounds implausible, but he’s already scored significant victories.

Many of the nation’s biggest retail, trucking, health care and food companies have already opted out in Texas, where Minick pioneered the concept as a young lawyer. Oklahoma recently passed a law co-written by Minick allowing companies to opt out there. Tennessee and South Carolina are seriously considering similar measures. And with a coalition led by executives from Walmart, Nordstrom and Lowe’s, Minick has launched a campaign to get laws passed in as many as a dozen states within the next decade.

But as Minick’s opt-out movement marches across the country, there has been little scrutiny of what it means for workers.

ProPublica and NPR obtained the injury benefit plans of nearly 120 companies who have opted out in Texas or Oklahoma — many of them written by Minick’s firm — to conduct the first independent analysis of how these plans compare to state workers’ comp.

The investigation found the plans almost universally have lower benefits, more restrictions and virtually no independent oversight.

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