Monday, September 7, 2015

Why do we Celebrate Labor Day?

Do we celebrate for just being lucky enough to have a job — any job at all?

The prominent economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz (and a Fellow of the progressive Roosevelt Institute) once said: “An economy that doesn’t deliver for most of its citizens is a failed economy.”

According to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute: "Since 1973, hourly compensation of the vast majority of American workers has not risen in line with economy-wide productivity. In fact, hourly compensation has almost stopped rising at all."

That sounds like a failed economy: When most increases in productivity (growth/profits) since 1973 went to company executives and investors, and not shared with the workers. Do we celebrate that?

Most increases in productivity (growth/profits) since 1973 when to company executives and investors, not to workers.

From Joseph Stiglitz's new paper:

America has not been doing well in either equality of outcomes or opportunity. We have obtained the dubious distinction of being the country with the highest level of inequality of outcomes, and among the lowest levels of equality of opportunity, compared to other advanced economies ... the American dream today is to a large extent simply a myth. The life prospects of a young American are more dependent on the income and education of his or her parents than in almost any of the other advanced countries. Wages and benefits for American workers grew at the slowest pace in 33 years in the second quarter this year..."

From another recent report by the Economic Policy Institute: How the Economy Has Performed for Workers This Year

  • Unemployment rates remain too high overall, and far too high for African Americans, Hispanics, and young graduates.
  • Wages have continued their 35-year trend of broad-based stagnation.
  • The buying power of the minimum wage continues to erode each year that policymakers refuse to raise it.
  • Declining collective bargaining is harming workers’ wage prospects.
  • Far too many workers have to contend with unpredictable schedules and no paid leave.

New York Times: Employers Exploit Unauthorized Immigrants to Keep Wages Low: "Competition with lesser-skilled immigrants can be a problem for low-wage-earning native-born workers during a recession or a time of high unemployment." (Study:PDF)

The McKinsey Global Institute has projected that in 2020, relative to the number of available jobs, there may be a surplus of about six million workers with a high school degree and of almost one million workers without a high school degree.

A landmark study found that 37 percent of unauthorized immigrant workers were victims of minimum wage violations. An astounding 84 percent who worked full-time were not paid time-and-a-half for overtime when they worked more than 40 hours in a week.

The bargaining power of U.S.-born workers competing in the low-wage labor market is undercut when millions of unauthorized workers cannot safely complain to the Labor Department or sue for unpaid wages.

But the biggest single culprit in the growth of wage inequality has been deunionization. The only way to achieve sustained wage growth is if American and immigrant workers organize and build power together through unionizing and collective bargaining.

But the GOP has been fighting labor unions since the dawn of time. Since the Powell Memo in 1971, we've seen "right to work" state laws flourish and the subsequent decline of union membership (because uninformed people often vote against their own best interests, and the GOP wants to keep them "dumbed down".)

What reasons do we have to celebrate Labor Day during these days of stagnate and declining wages?

Do we celebrate a growing number of part-time and "on call" jobs in this new "gig" economy — where everyone will have to scramble from one job to the next to earn a living — instead of just going to a regular 40-hour-a-week job that offers paid sick days, paid holidays and vacations, good healthcare and a solvent pension plan?

Currently on this Labor Day we have 94 million working-age Americans not in the labor force. We have 149 million who are employed — but 50% of those who are paid wages take home $24,000 a year or less. Should we celebrate this?

Both the Labor Force Participation Rate and the Employment-Population Ratio hasn't been this bad in decades. Do we celebrate a decline in the labor force and a lack of labor representation? With a lack of jobs and the low pay, a Universal Basic Income may be needed in the future.

But in the mean time, what's is there celebrate? For many people, Labor Day is not even a paid holiday any more.

Bernie Sanders campaign store


  1. Worker Committees: Next Best Thing to Labor Unions

    The National Labor Relations Act — enacted under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935 — prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for engaging in “concerted” activity to improve their wages and conditions, even when they are not trying to unionize.

    In an era when the traditional labor unions envisioned by Depression-era supporters of that law have weakened steadily, some advocates now see work site committees as an alternative way to strengthen workers’ clout and protections.

    Many businesses readily take advantage of their immigrant employees. Marcela Diaz, the executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido (We are a United People), representing workers at a car wash: “A lot of workers don’t know about labor unions, and a lot are scared of retaliation if they try to form one. So we have to find ways to protect workers when there isn’t a union.”

    These newfangled worker committees have been accumulating victories for wage theft and illegal firings. A lot of people thought the National Labor Relations Act could only be used during unionization campaigns, but they’re finding that the National Labor Relations Act is much more expansive than many people thought -- it protects nonunion workers, too.

    But these worker committees will rarely if ever be as effective as traditional unions, which are larger and engage in collective bargaining.

    An executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce complained that some immigrant worker groups were fronts for unions and were being used to help rebuild the labor movement.

    If these workers could join a union, they would prefer that. But as far as protecting their own rights, these worker committees are the next best thing.

  2. Bernie Sanders doesn't just "talk the talk," he "walks the walk".

    Union workers at a plant are on the job without a contract, but are threatening to strike if a deal is not reached with the new owner. The picketers cycled through several chants, including, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the war on workers has got to go" when Bernie Sanders' car drove up. He was then handed a sign and took his place in the picket line. Sanders has marched in solidarity with aggrieved workers throughout his career in politics.

  3. According to (a database maintained by two university professors) Iowa is one of 25 states with a right-to-work law that allows workers to be covered by a union contract without joining, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

  4. Hillary is a wash on the TPP trade agreement (just like Obama and Biden) so the labor unions NEED to get behind Bernie (or their members could revolt).

    Cedar Rapids, Iowa: The former AFSCME [union] president from Council Bluffs, is supporting Hillary Clinton again because she believes the former first lady has the connections and fundraising strength to beat a Republican in the general election. The next president needs to have the political clout to work with Republicans in Congress on issues like the minimum wage and improving on the Affordable Care Act, she said.

    MY NOTE: But if Bernie is nominated, won't the DNC (which includes Hillary supporters) provide the connections and fundraising strength to help Bernie beat a Republican in the general election? And what political clout does Hillary have to work with the GOP in Congress? They all hate her guts!!!

  5. President Obama is poised to sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to offer employees up to seven paid sick days a year, a move that could benefit more than 300,000 workers. [What took him so long?]

  6. Former Secretary of the Treasury (Hank Paulson), when asked about wealth inequality, burst out laughing: "We Made It Wider!"

  7. "Virtual manufacturers" (aka “factoryless goods producers” aka “wholesale traders”) are companies that don't do any actual domestic manufacturing themselves, because the outsourced everything offshore (e.g. Apple, Nike, Cisco, etc.)

    Now, U.S. federal agencies (involved in economic data) are proposing to reclassify these “wholesale traders” as “domestic manufacturers.” This means that their sales would be counted as U.S. production and their products that are made offshore and imported into the U. S. for sale would no longer be counted as imports.


    Real Clear Politics -- "Eric Cantor: Poster Boy of the Beltway GOP Crapweasels" by Michelle Malkin - September 2, 2015

    Inside the Beltway, The Washington Post reported, "Cantor remains well-liked and respected in the Virginia business community and among the Republican donor class in the commonwealth." [The "donor class" is the top 0.01% — such as wealthy investors, CEOs of large companies and hedge fund managers.]

    But outside the Beltway, the failed Republican revolutionary-turned-Wall Street influence-peddler is a snortle-inducing spectacle on both sides of the political aisle.

    In Cantor's endorsement statement Thursday, he praised [Jeb] Bush as a "true conservative leader" who "can re-energize our nation and recapture our greatness." That's empty babble coming from the epitome of an out-of-touch, self-aggrandizing, revolving-door ruling class.

    Jeb Bush and Eric Cantor share the same smug condescension toward Americans who believe in strict immigration enforcement and putting American workers first. Cantor fecklessly lied to voters during the campaign season about his position(s).

    He showered his district with anti-illegal immigration flyers that fraudulently portrayed him as standing up to President Obama on amnesty. But on Capitol Hill, he championed the DREAM Act for illegal alien students, huge H-1B visa increases to quench Big Tech's appetite for cheap foreign tech workers, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce/AFL-CIO's collaboration on massive immigration expansions*.

    [* Did you get that last line? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, representing big businesses, who are usually represented by the Republicans — and AFL-CIO, the largest labor union representing workers, who are usually represented by the Democrats. Both want more immigration for two difference reasons: The Republicans for cheap labor and large corporate campaign donations — and the Democrats for more votes — with campaign donations coming from union dues. Immigrants are more like to join a labor union.]

  9. New York Times EDITORIAL BOARD (September 7, 2015)

    "Flat or falling pay is self-reinforcing because it dampens demand and, by extension, economic growth. In the current recovery, median wages have fallen by 3 percent, after adjusting for inflation, while annual economic growth has peaked at around 2.5 percent ... Why has worker pay withered? The answer, in large part, is that rising productivity has increasingly boosted corporate profits, executive compensation and shareholder returns rather than worker pay. Chief executives, for example, now make about 300 times more than typical workers, compared with 30 times more in 1980 ... In the past year, low-wage workers have successfully fought for minimum wage increases in states and cities. Congressional Democrats have championed legislation to raise the federal minimum wage and to fight wage theft and abusive worker scheduling. The Labor Department is moving ahead with a much needed new rule to update the nation’s overtime-pay laws."

    Economic Policy Institute: The Agenda to Raise America’s Pay (Which Senator Bernie Sanders has been campaigning for.)

  10. Economic Policy Institute (September 10, 2015) "Since 2000, the share of income generated by corporations going to workers’ wages declined ... Had the share remained the same over this time, labor compensation today would be high enough to give each U.S. worker a $3,770 raise."


    Wages decline, productivity soars

    Making sense of good job growth and stagnant wages

    The New York Times’ editorial board cited EPI research on how CEOs now make 300 times more than typical workers.

    Paul Krugman of the New York Times also cited data from EPI’s report on the productivity–pay gap:

  11. A new labor bill was just sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) But to be clear, the Democratic proposal has approximately zero chance of going anywhere while the GOP controls both the House and Senate. And they know it. They should have passed this in 2009/2010 when the Democrats held COngress. Now it's just all talk and no action...and they know it.

    Democrats Want To Make Labor Organizing Akin To A Civil Right: A proposal in Congress, backed by labor unions, would make it much riskier for employers to illegally retaliate against pro-union workers ... To be clear, the Democratic proposal has approximately zero chance of going anywhere while the GOP controls both the House and Senate.

    New pro-union bill to serve as litmus test for 2016 presidential candidates: As Scott Walker bashes unions on the campaign trail, Democrats in Congress sponsor the Wage Act, offering new protections for workers seeking to unionize.

    Introducing the WAGE Act to Strengthen the Rights of Working People