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Thoughts on Labor Day 2013

3:30 pm in Economy, Jobs, Media, Politics by dakine01

Labor Day Parade

Labor Day Parade, Peoria, IL

Well, well, well. As I look back the last couple of years, it seems I have established a small tradition of writing something about Labor Day. This is the post I wrote in 2011 and this is last year’s post. As I read my words from the last two years, I recognize that very little has changed in some ways yet in others, we have seen some massive changes.

Labor Day 2011 was just before the start of Occupy Wall St. Today, two years later, we are seeing fast food and retail workers staging strikes for higher wages. While many people are able to ignore the demands of these workers, there is coverage in the TradMed, albeit at the local level. This is a positive thing, even as so much of the news cycles are taken up by the rush to war with Syria (and it is a rush to war, no matter how the words and proposed actions may be caveated as “limited.”

Yesterday (Saturday, August 31) the Firedoglake Book Salon was Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, the plight of young adults from working class families. NBC News has been doing a series titled In Plain Sight: Poverty In America which has been covering all aspects of living poor in today’s United States. Yet with all the discussion in some parts of the TradMed on working poor (and as I first wrote a couple of years ago, trying to live on minimum wage is at best an exercise in treading water), we are more likely to find articles like this one from ABC News yesterday with the title Top Labor Day 2013 ‘Made in America’ Sales or this one from International Business Times titled Labor Day Sales 2013: 27 Stores To Score The Best Deals And Discounts This Weekend. The Denver Post today (Sunday, September 1) had this article titled New culture of work, both virtual and traditional, on Labor Day 2013 while the Washington Post had this blog post on the failure of schools to teach anything about the labor movement:

Major textbooks, among other things, often represent labor organizing as inherently violence, and virtually ignore the role organized labor played in winning broad social protections such as child labor laws, Social Security and Medicare.

Scholars say this [is] a result of the unfavorable view the business community and some politicians hold towards unions, an attitude that appears in textbooks that are approved by states in processes that are very political.

So as you sit down to your barbecue or grilled whatever this Labor Day; as you seek out the best deals at the store for whatever Labor Day sales this weekend; remember that the working poor, the laborers if you will, are probably not getting a paid day off. Or maybe they are among the long term un and underemployed who probably are not sitting down to a nice cook out meal to celebrate the “end of summer.”

When the politicians make their Labor Day statements, remember their actions towards labor rather than their words.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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Once a Year Speeches Do Not Mean Support for Workers

10:46 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

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Today is Monday, September 5, 2011. Since it is the first Monday of September, it is the national holiday known as Labor Day. Supposedly, it is the day when our politicians and pundits proclaim their unrelenting love for all things worker related – even as they spend the other 364 days a year doing all in their power to destroy the lives of workers by cutting salaries, limiting benefits. Just today, the Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson had a column decrying the state of labor in the US:

On this Labor Day, there is little good news about labor. We have entered a long period of crushing unemployment and downward pressure on wages that may well transform the nation’s economic and political landscape. There was no job growth in August, and the overall numbers are stupefying: 14 million unemployed; nearly 9 million part-time workers wanting full-time jobs; 6.5 million who want jobs but have given up looking and are, therefore, not counted in the official labor force. People are only gradually recognizing the magnitude of the problem.

…snip…

It’s not only the jobless who will be affected. No one has yet repealed the law of supply and demand. At last count, there were 4.5 unemployed workers for every job opening. Bargaining power has shifted from labor to capital. Sure, some workers will get promotions and seniority raises. Otherwise, gains will be slim. Since September 2008, annual wage and salary increases have averaged 1.6 percent, the slowest pace in 30 years, reports EPI’s Lawrence Mishel.

…snip…

Still, the harshest effects of joblessness fall on the jobless. “We’re creating a bifurcated society,” worries Harvard economist Lawrence Katz. “We’re talking about a lost generation of younger workers and displaced workers.” Younger workers have a harder time starting careers. Because many skills are developed on the job, long unemployment spells can lower lifetime earnings. The same is true of older workers. Even when those who lose stable jobs get new work, they often suffer a 20 percent earnings loss for 15 years or more, reports economist Till von Wachter of Columbia University.

I find it somewhat interesting that Samuelson felt the need to write his column given how many times over the years he has extolled the death of unions, called for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and called for leaving the minimum wage age at $5.15 per hour. As I noted here, trying to do much more than survive on minimum wage for one person is not really possible and that’s when it is at today’s $7.25 an hour.

Some folks in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania did actually tell anti-worker/anti-union politicians that they were not welcome at some local Labor Day parades and celebrations (although the folks in Wisconsin may have backed down from their initial non-invitation – I hope the folks in Wausau do have plenty of rotten tomatoes available for their oh so poor US Representative who cant make ends meet on $174K per year.)

Now I realize that to some folks there is no equating the attack on Unions as an attack on individual workers. Yet all those benefits that are available to individual workers are there precisely because of the unions. Whether it is the eight hour day/forty hour work week or paid sick time or worker safety, it is the action of unions that led to these worker benefits available to all. While recognizing that “correlation does not equal causation,” the flatness of wages in the US since the ’70s has at least been a companion to the attacks on unions. CEO and senior executive salaries have exploded while the wages for workers have gone down.

On this Labor Day 2011, we have millions of long term un and underemployed. In an economy that has to create roughly 90K jobs per month to stay even, August 2011 had zero jobs in total. Businesses are profitable so the economy appears to be growing even as the underside of the economy gets larger. Self-employed individuals are not counted among the unemployed nor are new graduates. State and local governments are cutting jobs while those folks with jobs worry that their jobs will be gone tomorrow.

This Thursday evening, President Obama is scheduled to give a speech to Congress on jobs. Yet for all the vaunted interest in creating jobs that has supposedly captured the attention of the Beltway Village Idiots Politicians, Pundits, and Courtiers (finally), all the proposals likely to receive attention are warmed over re-hashes of previously failed policies. Massive tax cuts in place since 2001 have not created jobs so why would further tax cuts create jobs? Regulations and taxes do not stifle small businesses yet we continue to hear how all regulations must be done away with in order for small businesses to thrive.

Short sighted actions by politicians and global businesses will eventually be their downfall (and ours). It would almost be fun to watch it happen if it weren’t causing so much pain and suffering for all the world.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy

No Mr. President, We Need Jobs This Labor Day

10:34 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

So the President gave his Labor Day speech and he gave some ideas for what he thinks people need (or want to hear).

I want to highlight a couple of pieces of this "talk." President Obama goes down the standard list of administration "accomplishments" (though many of those "accomplishments" are subject to debate as to how truly effective they are in helping those in need today). But the following just struck me as wrong on a lot of levels.

That’s why we’re making it easier for workers to save for retirement, with new ways of saving their tax refunds and a simpler system for enrolling in retirement plans like 401(k)s. And we’re going to keep up the fight to protect Social Security for generations to come.

[rant]

Mr. President, I am 58 years old. I have been un- or under-employed for six years now. I do not need a "simpler system for enrolling in retirement plans like 401(k)s" nor do I need a "new way of saving my tax refund."

I NEED A FUCKING JOB THAT ALLOWS ME TO PAY MY BILLS.

I NEED A FUCKING JOB THAT WILL CARRY ME UNTIL I AM ELIGIBLE FOR SOCIAL SECURITY.

AND I NEED TO KNOW THAT SOCIAL SECURITY WILL BE AVAILABLE TO ME, MY SIBLINGS AND COUSINS AND FAMILY OF ALL AGES.

Right now, your Catfood Commission is looking for ways to cut Social Security, not "protect" it. And yes, raising the retirement age is a cut no matter how many ways you may attempt to spin it otherwise.

I’ve had to spend what retirement savings I had in 401(k)s these last few years in order to survive. What I need now is a job and I’ll take care of whatever savings I can from that going forward. But thanks to your bankster friends and catfood commissioners, all I get is words and platitudes, not actions.

So, Mr President, on this Labor Day Weekend of 2010, I hear your words but I’ve seen you parse your words before. At this time, your words do not match your deeds.

I can take care of the savings part on my own as long as you and the banksters don’t blow the economy up again.

But I do need the decent paying job to do this on my own and so far your words are doing nothing for that need for me and millions of other Americans who are un or underemployed today.

Address the issues at hand Mr President, not the issues you wish were at hand.

[/rant]

Today is Labor Day

7:44 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

Today is Labor Day in the US. It is the day that was chosen (American Exceptionalism in operation) by the US so that it could be different from the traditional Labor Day celebrated in many other parts of the world.

Big ef’fin’ woop.

When you see politicians today speechifyin’ on how much Labor means to them, how much they owe to seein’ their papa and mama going off at 0′dark thirty and not gettin’ home ’til half past midnight, and how much they support all their hard working constituents, remember these few things.

The official unemployment rate in the United States on this Labor Day 2009 is 9.7%. Then you start to add in the "discouraged workers" and then you have those that are underemployed (that 20 hour a week job at the Quik-Mart paying minimum wage probably fits here), then the numbers start getting well up into double digits. I’m not up to going through all the various google searches, but let’s put a guess that the total of Unemployed, Discouraged Workers, and Under-employed is near 20%. One in five workers is most likely in these 3 worker categories.

One in five.

Have a good Labor Day, y’all.

And because I can: