Category Archives: Labor

The Six-Hour Work Day Comes to Sweden

by Pete Dolack, published October 16, 2015 at Counterpunch and  Systemic Disorder

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Why do we work so many hours? I mean beyond the obvious answer that the dictatorial employment relationships of capitalism force us to on pain of unemployment. Working hours declined from the inhuman work weeks of the industrial revolution until the mid-20th century, when the hours we work leveled off; in more recent years work hours have been increasing.

It certainly isn’t because productivity has plateaued. On the contrary, advances in machinery and computerization make us more productive than ever before. So why do we still work an eight-hour day after all these decades? (Or more than eight hours in many cases, and not necessarily with extra pay for office workers receiving a flat salary.) An eight-hour day was an outstanding achievement of social movements from the 19th century, when work days lasted 10 and 12 hours.

With the advancements in productivity over the years, we could certainly work fewer hours and still provide all that is necessary. Why not a six-hour day? Or less? In Sweden, there are ongoing experiments with six-hour work days, which so far have met with success. Not surprisingly, given the one-sidedness of workplace relations, these experiments are being done in the name of “greater productivity.” In other words, the standard is to be: Will this be good for the boss’ profits? That it might be good for the workers is part of the equation, but even this is commingled with the idea that rested workers will be more productive workers and thus more profitable for bosses.

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Gothenburg, Sweden

Continue reading The Six-Hour Work Day Comes to Sweden

Big layoffs may signal end of expansion: Challenger

by Tom DiChristopher, published October 1, 2015 at CNBC

The number of announced layoffs by U.S.-based companies surged in September from the previous month, and Hewlett-Packard’s outsized cuts raise a red flag, John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday.

“It’s interesting that we are beginning to see some big layoff announcements this year,” he said. “One of the things you start to see as you get near the end of a period of expansion, but before it really turns, is you start to see major layoffs occurring, big mega-layoffs like we’re seeing now.”

U.S.-headquartered companies put 58,877 jobs on the chopping block last month, up 43 percent from just more than 41,000 in August and the third highest monthly total this year, Challenger’s global outplacement firm reported.
Challenger said the computer sector led all other industries in layoffs in September. Hewlett-Packard accounted for nearly all of the 32,500 reductions.

Last month, Hewlett-Packard announced it would cut 25,000 to 30,000 positions as part of its restructuring, which will split the company into one firm focused on enterprise services and one dedicated to its legacy hardware business.
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Right Now There Are 102.6 Million Working Age Americans That Do Not Have A Job

by Michael Snyder, published October 08, 2015 at the Economic Collapse Blog and Washington’s Blog 

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The federal government uses very carefully manipulated numbers to cover up the crushing economic depression that is going on in this nation.  For the month of September, the federal government told us that 142,000 jobs were added to the economy.  If that was actually true, that would barely be enough to keep up with population growth.  Sadly, the truth is that the real numbers were actually far worse than that.  The unadjusted numbers show that the U.S. economy actually lost 248,000 jobs in September and the government added more than a million Americans to the “not in the labor force” category.  When I first saw that number I truly believed that it was inaccurate.  But you can find the raw figures right here.  According to the Obama administration, there are currently 7.9 million Americans that are “officially unemployed” and another 94.7 million working age Americans that are “not in the labor force”.  That gives us a grand total of 102.6 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.

That is not an economic recovery – that is an economic depression of an almost unbelievable magnitude.

Continue reading Right Now There Are 102.6 Million Working Age Americans That Do Not Have A Job

Sweden is shifting to a 6-hour work day

by Bec Crew at  Science Alert published September 30, 2015

*Packs up life, books plane ticket*

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Despite research telling us it’s a really bad idea, many of us end up working 50-hour weeks or more because we think we’ll get more done and reap the benefits later. And according to a study published last month involving 600,000 people, those of us who clock up a 55-hour week will have a 33 percent greater risk of having a stroke than those who maintain a 35- to 40-hour week.

With this in mind, Sweden is moving towards a standard 6-hour work day, with businesses across the country having already implemented the change, and a retirement home embarking on a year-long experiment to compare the costs and benefits of a shorter working day.

“I think the 8-hour work day is not as effective as one would think. To stay focused on a specific work task for 8 hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the work day more endurable. At the same time, we are having it hard to manage our private life outside of work,” Linus Feldt, CEO of Stockholm-based app developer Filimundus, told Adele Peters at Fast Company.

Continue reading Sweden is shifting to a 6-hour work day

Evidence Keeps Piling Up: Unions Are Very, Very, Very Good for Workers

by Deirdre Fulton, published September 11, 2015 at Common Dreams

‘When working people speak with one voice, our economy is stronger, and all workers do better.’
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“Vibrant worker organizations are key to restoring the balance of economic power in our country,” says AFL-CIO. (Photo: Peoples World/flickr/cc)

With most of the largest organized workforces in the U.S. going to the bargaining table before the end of next year, “it is likely that more workers will be seeking raises through the collective bargaining process in 2015–2016 than at any other point in recent American labor history.”

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 2.15.08 PMSo says the AFL-CIO, whose report, released Friday, offers a comprehensive look at the current state of collective bargaining in a period when an estimated 5 million American workers will bargain for new contracts.

The analysis (pdf) finds that working people who bargained for new contracts in the first half of 2015 saw their wages increase by an average of 4.3 percent, a jump of $1,147 a year for an average worker in the U.S.

That’s good news for workers pushing for higher minimum wage nationwide with campaigns like Fight for $15.

Continue reading Evidence Keeps Piling Up: Unions Are Very, Very, Very Good for Workers

Disney’s IT troubles go beyond H-IBs

by Robert X. Cringely, published on June 12. 2015

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Disney has been in the news recently for firing its Orlando-based IT staff, replacing them with H-1B workers primarily from India, and making severance payments to those displaced workers dependent on the outgoing workers training their foreign replacements. I regret not jumping on this story earlier because I heard about it back in March, but an IT friend in Orlando (not from Disney) said it was old news so I didn’t follow-up. Well now I am following with what will eventually be three columns not just about this particular event but what it says about the U.S. computer industry, which is not good.

First we need some context for this Disney event — context that has not been provided in any of the accounts I have read so far. What we’re observing is a multi-step process.

Continue reading Disney’s IT troubles go beyond H-IBs

The H-1B Visa Program Is A Scam

by Robert X. Cringely, published June 16, 2015

h1b-visas-by-companyThis is the second of three columns relating to the recent story of Disney replacing 250 IT workers with foreign workers holding H-1B visas. Over the years I have written many columns about outsourcing (here) and the H-1B visa program in particular (here). Not wanting to just cover again that old material, this column looks at an important misconception that underlies the whole H-1B problem, then gives the unique view of a longtime reader of this column who has H-1B program experience.

First the misconception as laid out in a blog post shared with me by a reader. This blogger maintains that we wouldn’t be so bound to H-1Bs if we had better technical training programs in our schools. This is a popular theme with every recent Presidential administration and, while not explicitly incorrect, it isn’t implicitly correct, either. Schools can always be better but better schools aren’t necessarily limiting U.S. technical employment.

His argument, like that of Google and many other companies often mentioned as H-1B supporters, presupposes that there is a domestic IT labor shortage, but there isn’t. The United States right now has plenty of qualified workers to fill every available position. If there are indeed exceptional jobs that can’t be filled by ANY domestic applicant, there’s still the EB-2 visa program, which somehow doesn’t max-out every year like H-1B. How can that be if there’s a talent shortage? In truth, H-1B has always been unnecessary.

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Using RICO to Stop Union-busting and Restore Wages

by Bud Meyers, published April 22, 2015

ricoIncreased productivity no longer has an affect on raising wages, because all the gains go to the top — and the decline of labor unions plays a big part; as well as a tax code that Congress has skewed to mostly favor the very wealthy and large corporations.

Jared Bernstein, former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, recently writes:

“A number of economists and commentators have suggested that faster productivity growth would be a big way to boost the income of middle-class households … There is a large and persistent gap between productivity growth and middle-class incomes: we cannot realistically assume that faster productivity growth would reach the middle as opposed to doing an end-run around them on its way to the top.”

Via the professor of economics, Mark Thoma: As noted by the Economic Policy Institute, since 1979, the vast majority of American workers have seen their hourly wages stagnate or decline—even though decades of consistent gains in economy-wide productivity have provided ample room for wage growth:

“Until workers recover the bargaining power they lost with the decline of unions and the rise of globalization, it’s hard to imagine a reversal of the forces pushing us toward stagnating wages and ever higher inequality. It’s not market forces alone that are determining the split of income between those at the top of the income distribution and those below, it’s also the institutions that determine who holds the cards in negotiations over wages. Presently workers are not faring well … So long as we continue to believe that market forces and the attainment of full employment will solve the problem of stagnating wages and rising inequality, so long as we fail to recognize that workers need a level playing field when bargaining over wages, inequality will continue to be a problem.”

Continue reading Using RICO to Stop Union-busting and Restore Wages

The High Cost of Fighting for $15

by Leo Gerard, USW International President, published April 14, 2015

Fight-for-15-graphicThis is no plea for pity for corporate kingpins like Walmart and McDonald’s inundated by workers’ demands for living wages.

Raises would, of course, cost these billion-dollar corporations something. More costly, though, is the price paid by minimum-wage workers who have not received a raise in six years.  Even more dear is what these workers have paid for their campaign to get raises. Managers have harassed, threatened and fired them.

Despite all that, low-wage workers will return to picket lines and demonstrations Wednesday in a National Day of Action in the fight for $15 an hour. The date is 4 – 15. These are workers who live paycheck to paycheck, barely able to pay their bills, and certainly unable to cope with an emergency. They know the risk they’re taking by participating in strikes for pay hikes. They’ve seen bosses punish co-workers for demonstrating for raises. To lose a job, even one that pays poverty wages, during a time of high unemployment is terrifying. Still, thousands will participate Wednesday. That is valor.

Kip Hedges exhibited that courage. He’s a 61-year-old with 26 years of service as a baggage handler for Delta at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. He wanted better wages for young workers and a union. He said so in a video, noting that “probably close to half make under $15 an hour.”

Delta fired him. The airline said he’d disparaged the company. Apparently Delta believes it has been disparaged if the flying public learns the truth about the way Delta treats workers.

Clearly, Delta planned to shut Hedges up and intimidate other workers. The message to his co-workers was clear: “You wanna talk about the paltry wages you get? Well, let’s talk about this pink slip.”

But when Delta messed with Hedges, it messed up big time. The firing failed to silence him. He continued to protest low wages. His co-workers rallied round him. The media covered his firing and his appeal. He looked like a low-wage worker hero. Delta looked like a vindictive heel.

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Steelworkers’ Gerard Rules Out GOP Presidential Hopefuls

by Mark Gruenberg, Editor, Press Associates Union News

leoRRAs far as his union is concerned, every single one of the raft of Republican presidential hopefuls for next year’s election are out of the running, Steelworkers President Leo Gerard says.  The Democrats are another matter.

“I don’t see a Republican that’s worth talking to,” Gerard told a press conference on April 13 during the Good Jobs Green Jobs meeting in D.C.  “But I’m just talking about the presidential candidates.”

Gerard and other leaders – representing unions and environmentalists in their joint Blue Green Alliance, which sponsors Good Jobs Green Jobs – called the press conference to react to Vice President Joseph Biden’s speech to the meeting minutes before (see separate story).

Gerard said the Steelworkers, who are known for their political savvy and impressive organizing around political and economic issues, will take announced presidential candidates through their normal evaluation process, he said.

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