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Employment Costs are Higher Than They Appear

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yglesias_matthew_bioTo wax a bit conservative for a moment, while this Felix Salmon / Pedro da Costa thought experiment is fun, it’s simply not the case that “With $2 billion, you could employ 40,000 people for a full year at $50,000 each.” You’d have to pay Social Security tax, Unemployment Insurance, etc. Plus you’d probably have to carry all kinds of liability coverage. Depending on where you’re located there’s be other state/local stuff to deal with.

Then to wax back progressive again comes the big whopper: Health care. There’s a huge health insurance shaped wedge between what you think you make and what your employer thinks he’s paying you. To provide health insurance coverage to 40,000 people costs a lot more than $0. Ironically, if you were talking about paying your employees, less this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem as they’d be eligible for Medicaid. You’d be creating quintessential low-wage “bad jobs,” but you’d at least be creating a lot of them. But once you have the kind of workforce needs where you want to offer a decent wage, you’re either going to be restricting your pool to people who can get insurance through their spouse or else you have to tack a large extra employment cost onto the bill. What’s more, you’re bearing a weird kind of risk since if over time the cost of the insurance plan increases faster than your firm’s revenue and that causes you to make the plan less generous to your employees they’re going to view that as a mean cut in benefits that you initiated.

America got derailed from a long-term growth conversation by a financial crisis and a recession. Then we got derailed from a short-term jobs conversation by a ginned-up budget crisis. People in the know recognize that the health costs piece is critical to the budget issue, but the reality is that health care is critical to the long-term fate of the federal budget primarily because it’s critical to the long-term fate of the economy as a whole.

This post originally appeared on Think Progress on September 15, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Matthew Yglesias is a Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. He holds a BA in Philosophy from Harvard University. His first book, Heads in the Sand, was published in May 2008 by Wiley. Matt has previously worked as an Associate Editor at The Atlantic, a Staff Writer at The American Prospect, and an Associate Editor at Talking Points Memo. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Guardian, Slate, The Washington Monthly, and other publications. Matthew has appeared on Fox News and MSNBC, and been a guest on many radio shows.

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Obama’s Jobs Plan Leaves Out Manufacturing

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Productivity is up, so where are the jobs?

When President Obama announced his jobs plan last week, he proclaimed that more goods should be produced domestically to help bolster the struggling manufacturing sector.

“If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers. I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with three proud words: ‘Made in America,’ ” he said.

The declaration, which was prefaced earlier by his support for new free trade agreements, drew applause from members of Congress. But some experts are saying the U.S. has not established a clear plan on how to revive the manufacturing industry beyond outlining broad goals, adding that politicians have not paid enough attention to the decline.

Manufacturing is projected to have the highest productivity rate across all sectors by 2018, but jobs are not expected to grow, a new study has found. With companies already eliminating jobs or moving them overseas, that hurts areas like the Midwest, where manufacturing jobs have been disappearing. According to a new report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, the industrial heartland was hardest hit by the economic crisis. More than 610,000 manufacturing jobs have been eliminated since 2007, representing nearly one-third of the sector’s national job losses during the recession.

With an emphasis on more service-oriented labor, many of these jobs that provided decent pay with few skills are gone for good, the report said. Two million jobs will be added by 2018, but only because workers are retiring. Many of the Midwestern states have shifted toward other industries like healthcare and education. That shift is projected to create demand for higher skilled workers with college degrees, creating a gap for middle-income earners hoping to find mid-skilled work.

And overall, the manufacturing industry has contributed a smaller share to the country’s gross domestic product. More than 60 years ago, the industry accounted for 28 percent of the U.S. economy. Today, it has fallen to 11.7 percent, indicating that the jobs are disappearing. In the Midwest, the manufacturing sector has fallen from 39 percent of jobs during the 1960s to 12 percent today, only slightly higher than the national average of 9 percent.

Yet even though the GDP has fallen, companies are still relying on manufacturing employees to work harder. In 2010, worker productivity was three times higher than it was in 1970, with each employee, on average, now producing $300,000. But jobs are not expected to grow in the future despite higher output. The report writes:

Our projections show that manufacturing output will grow from roughly $4.0 trillion in 2008 to $4.9 trillion in 2018, ranking it as America’s largest industry when measured by contributions to national output. But that will not translate to job growth. In fact, even as manufacturing’s output explodes over the next decade, its workforce will contract.

Even though many Americans are working harder than in the past, many multinational companies have shifted much of their production abroad. During the last decade, corporations have cut 2.9 million domestic jobs but added 2.4 million abroad. Those companies include General Electric, headed by chief executive Jeffrey Immelt, who heads Obama’s Job Council.

The Center for American Progress explains why it’s important to keep operation and manufacturing jobs in the domestic sphere:

When the basic manufacturing leaves, the feedback loop from the manufacturing floor to the rest of a manufacturing operation—a critical element in the innovative process—is eventually broken. To maintain that feedback loop, companies need to move higher-skill jobs to where they do their manufacturing.

And with those jobs goes American leadership in technology and innovation. This is why having a critical mass of both manufacturing and associated service jobs in the United States matters. The “industrial commons” that comes from the cross-fertilization and engagement of a community of experts in industry, academia, and government is vital to our nation’s economic competitiveness.

The Obama administration has instituted some initiatives. In June, the president announced a $500 million plan to spur jobs and technological innovation as part of a manufacturing partnership with businesses, universities and government. As he said in his speech, some skills training are also offered at community colleges.

The specific plan, however, does not appear concrete. An MIT economist told the New York Times that the U.S. is the only industrial power without a “strategy or even a procedure for thinking through what must be done when it comes to manufacturing.” Others point to the ostensible decline and shift toward financial and real estate sectors as a reason why politicians aren’t paying attention.

The old days of manufacturing may be long gone, but this is an industry that is slated to soon have higher productivity output than any other in the country; it’s also an industry whose decline can further widen the middle class gulf unless adequate education and training programs are put in place. Tax cuts and new spending are a large part of Obama’s jobs plan, but the consequences of neglecting the manufacturing sector is hard to ignore.

This blog originally appeared in Working in These Times on September 14, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Akito Yoshikane is a freelance writer and reporter for Kyodo News. He regularly contributes to the In These Times blog covering labor and workplace issues. He lives in New York City.

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Louisiana Worshippers Offer Prayers for Avondale Workers

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Image: Mike HallWhen a member of a congregation falls on hard times, it’s not unusual for church members to offer up their prayers. But it is unusual for 120 congregations spanning denominations to send prayers for recovery to a shipyard and the 5,000 people its closure is putting out of work.

That’s what happened this past weekend across southern Louisiana during the Pray for Avondale Weekend organized by the Save Our Shipyard campaign, Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) and, before they returned to school earlier this month, the New Orleans AFL-CIO Union Summer team.

Last year, Northrop Grumman announced it was closing the shipyard and began laying off its 5,000-member skilled workforce. In March, it spun off the shipyard to its newly created company, Huntington Ingalls Industries, and now the workforce is down to 3,000 who are building the final ship on the yard’s order book.

The Rev. Jim VanderWeele, minister of Community Church Unitarian Universalist in New Orleans and the IWJ coordinator there, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that one of the values of prayer is that it draws people together.

It draws them into a texture of attitudinal change. And that’s as valuable on earth as the words we lift up. And if the words we lift up do make contact with that mysterious entity that none of us understands, and we’re blessed as a result, then that blessing is certainly valued.

On Oct. 1, the Save Our Shipyard coalition will hold a march and rally in New Orleans urging state and federal officials to work with them to keep the yard open and enable the thousands of skilled workers to remain on the job. Joining them will be Percy Pyne, CEO of American Feeder Lines, who wants to build commercial vessels at the Avondale yard.

This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO Now on September 13, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL-CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. He carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He’s also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold blood plasma, and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen him at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. He was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still has the shirts, lost the hair.

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A COUNTRY is Not a COMPANY: CEOs Should Sit Down and Shut Up

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Jonathan TasiniI am continuously amazed by the reverence accorded company bosses. Put aside the incompetent ones, who get huge severance packages when they leave, or those who have looted their companies of tens of millions of dollars in pay and benefits, even when the companies lose money or collapse. I’m talking about even the ones who oversee profitable companies.

Why would anyone think that a CEO knows how to run a country? A country is not a company, as Paul Krugman wrote many years ago.

I’m struck by this point today because of three different public pleas by CEOs who essentially say, “the country is screwed up, I know what’s best so listen to me…you fools”. I’ll come back to the pleas in a moment. First, to Krugman.     Back in 1996, Krugman wrote a trenchant article entitled, “A Country Is Not A Company” (which was published as a short book). The beginning of the book is on the mark:

What people learn from running a business won’t help them formulate economic policy. A country is not a big corporation. The habits of mind that make a great business leader are not, in general, those that make a great economic analyst; an executive who has made $1 billion is rarely the right person to turn to for advice about a $6 trillion economy.

Krugman’s book talks about two areas that CEOs claim expertise but demonstrate they nothing about: Exports and Jobs, and Investment and the Trade Balance. I don’t think you need to know the specifics of his argument on those specific areas (but they are pretty interesting) to be able to move to his general observation:

Yet even if a business leader may not be very good at formulating general theories or at explaining what he or she does, there are still those who believe that the businessperson’s ability to spot opportunities and solve problems in his or her own business can be applied to the national economy. After all, what the president of the United States needs from his economic advisers is not learned tracts but sound advice about what to do next. Why isn’t someone who has shown consistently good judgment in running a business likely to give the president good advice about running the country? Because, in short, a country is not a large company.

Many people have trouble grasping the difference in complexity between even the largest business and a national economy. The U.S. economy employs 120 million people, about 200 times as many as General Motors, the largest employer in the United States. Yet even this 200-to-1 ratio vastly understates the difference in complexity between the largest business organization and the national economy. A mathematician will tell us that the number of potential interactions among a large group of people is proportional to the square of their number. Without getting too mystical, it is likely that the U.S. economy is in some sense not hundreds but tens of thousands of times more complex than the biggest corporation.

Moreover, there is a sense in which even very large corporations are not all that diverse. Most corporations are built around a core competence: a particular technology or an approach to a particular type of market. As a result, even a huge corporation that seems to be in many different businesses tends to be unified by a central theme. [emphasis added]

The point is that actually CEOs, and business people generally, are quite narrow-minded. I don’t, in this context, mean that pejoratively. It is simply that they think in terms of their industry, their product–and they have almost no capability to think in broader terms that we need as a country.

Finally, Krugman says:

The next time you hear business-people propounding their views about the economy, ask yourself, Have they taken the time to study this subject? Have they read what the experts write? If not, never mind how successful they have been in business. Ignore them, because they probably have no idea what they are talking about.[emphasis added]

This argument is elegant and simple–and does not even take into account the most obvious reason not to put economic policy in the hands of business executives: today’s CEOs generally are not interested in the plight of their workers, the middle-class or the poor.

Which brings me to a whole roster of business people who want to give us advice on how to run the country: Steve Schwartzman, Howard Schultz and today’s Heinz-like concoction of 57 varieties of business people et al who are squawking about the phony debt and deficit crisis. Let me take them in turn.

Leading off is the almost comical, if not pathologically perverse, CEO of Blackstone, Steve Schwartzman. Hand-wringing today in the Financial Times, Schwarztman calls for “shared sacrifice” and writes in a piece entitled–hold your laughter, please–“An olive branch to Obama: I will share the pain”:

This problem began when the administration sought to attribute blame for the financial and economic crisis and alienated large segments of the business and banking community. They cast them as villains regardless of their culpability. Predictably, business reacted with fear and limited economic expansion, hiring and new lending. A second response to this was the rise of the Tea Party, which in turn attacked the administration and the Democrats. Unless we end targeted class warfare in the US, we cannot solve our economic problems or stop a long period of potential decline.

So, let me get this “economic logic” straight: the president mildly castigates an industry that was clearly and demonstrably responsible for the financial crisis that obliterated trillions of dollars in wealth and because the president hurt the feelings of the people running this industry and others stopped investing? You mean, as opposed to the economy freezing up because of plummeting demand?

Forget for a moment the whining about “class warfare” (which, in Schwartzman’s mind, is the criticism of the super-wealthy who have robbed the country). How can anyone take seriously a man who connects criticism to the cause of the massive economic crisis? That’s just loony.

Now, in fairness, I understand where Schwartzman is coming from with his bruised feelings because, as I wrote about in The Audacity of Greed”, he’s truly a party man:

Here’s a question to ponder: does Stephen Schwarzman still stare at the giant portrait of himself that hangs in his living room and thinkabout what a financial genius he is—even though his company, the private equity firm Blackstone, lost $232 million in the first quarter of 2009? I’m going to bet that a man who has the desperate need to constantly look at a larger than life representation of himself is not capable of admitting that the vision he has of himself as a financial wunderkind is, based on real world results, a fantasy.

…On top of earning a lot of money, Schwarzman also seems to have a compulsive need to flaunt his wealth, as he has engaged in some ostentatious spending sprees over the years. His sixtieth birthday party in 2007 is already the stuff of society legend in over-the-top self-indulgence. Held in New York City’s cavernous Park Armory, whose entrance was redone to resemble the birthday boy’s apartment, the event included performances by Patti LaBelle, who sang a song about Schwarzman, and Rod Stewart. The emcee was comedian Martin Short. The tab for the party: $3 million. And, to top things off, the massive portrait of Schwarzman was temporarily borrowed from his living room and hung in the Armory for all to gaze upon.

The birthday party was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Schwarzman’s spending orgy. As detailed in The New Yorker, “In May, 2000, Schwarzman paid $37 million—reportedly a record sum at the time for a Manhattan co-op—for a thirty-five-room triplex on Park Avenue that was once owned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. In 2003, he paid $20.5 million for Four Winds, the former E. F. Hutton estate in Florida, which occupies a choice spit of land between the ocean and the Intracoastal waterway.…In 2006, he paid $34 million for a Federal-style house, on eight acres on Mecox Bay, in the Hamptons, that was previously owned by the Vanderbilt heir Carter Burden.” In addition to those homes, Schwarzman also owns a coastal estate in Saint-Tropez and a beachfront property in Jamaica. The total value of the five properties: $125 million. “I love houses,” Schwarzman told The New Yorker. “I’m not sure why.”

Based on the grandiose and very public expressions of his wealth, you would at least think that the actual financial performance of the Blackstone Group under Schwarzman’s leadership would be strong. Guess again. In fact, many of the investments that the company has made under Schwarzman’s watch have turned sour.

So, why would anyone consider this CEO fit to be listened to?

Exhibit #2: Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks. You probably have caught his letters to America”.

We must restore hope in the American Dream. We must celebrate all that America stands for around the world. And while our Founding Fathers recognized the constructive value of political debate, we must send the message to today’s elected officials in a civil, respectful voice they hear and understand, that the time to put citizenship ahead of partisanship is now.

Ah, yes, the CEO all worried about “partisanship gridlock”…we’ve heard that song before. Putting aside why anyone would listen to a guy who knows one thing (coffee), why would a country want to listen to someone who wants to restore the “American Dream”, but conveniently forgets how aggressively he has resisted and fought any attempt to unionize Starbucks?

He’s another charlatan.

And, finally, riding to the rescue is the Ketchup brigade, who want us–you and me, dummy–to really think “big” when it comes to the phony debt and deficit “crisis”:

A group of at least 57 prominent business executives and former government officials have signed a petition in support of a greater deficit reduction, which they are to release at a news conference on Monday. Among them are former treasury secretaries, budget directors and economic advisers to eight presidents from Richard M. Nixon to Mr. Obama; former Congressional leaders; and executives of top companies.

Their letter reflects a broad sense of urgency in both parties, and among economists and businesses, that the nation must put in place long-range measures to shrink future deficits.At current spending levels, those deficits are expected to balloon over the next decade as the population ages and as health care costs rise.

The letter does not call for short-term job-creation measures like the tax cuts and infrastructure spending Mr. Obama proposed last week, which would add to deficits initially.[emphasis added]

Ahem. The group is led by David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell, whose main distinction, as far as I can tell is, that he was paid $15.2 million while his company got a $471 million refund and maintains at least five tax havens off-shore

And this is a guy who we want to listen to about ANY policy relating to economic health of the country? Who helps a corporation not pay taxes AND stashed money abroad?

To sum up: it is just foolish to believe that CEOs have any clue how to run a country. The only reason, in real life, that they have any megaphone is simply because they can buy it–either full-page ads, or think-tank loyalty, or literally our politicians.

But, we shouldn’t give them the time of day.

This blog originally appeared on Working Life on September 12, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Jonathan Tasini is the executive director of Labor Research Association. Tasini ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in New York. For the past 25 years, Jonathan has been a union leader and organizer, a social activist, and a commentator and writer on work, labor and the economy. From 1990 to April 2003, he served as president of the National Writers Union (United Auto Workers Local 1981).He was the lead plaintiff in Tasini vs. The New York Times, the landmark electronic rights case that took on the corporate media’s assault on the rights of thousands of freelance authors.

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Union Heroes Made a Difference on 9/11

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Image: James ParksAs the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack approaches, the union movement remembers those who lost their lives, those who risked their lives to get others to safety and those who took part in the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that followed.

On the AFL-CIO website here, you can find a video we produced after the attacks of union members describing their efforts. Also on the site is a message from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and links to union websites about 9/11.

A member of AFGE Local 2004, Jeffrey Matthews was employed as a federal police officer with the Defense Protective Service (now called the U.S. Pentagon Police) on 9/11. His and other AFGE members’ stories are featured here. He says when he saw the TV broadcast of a plane flying into the World Trade Center, he jumped into his police uniform, grabbed his weapon, ran to his car and headed for the Pentagon.

While Matthews was on his way, Margaret Espinoza, a paraprofessional in a school two blocks from the World Trade Center, was already trying to get students safely out of the building. A member of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), an affiliate of AFT, Espinoza remembers the dust and noise, the confusion and fear. She and a colleague, Julia Martinez, partly wheeled and partly carried two wheelchair-bound students to safety through streets choked with debris.

Across New York City, teachers, school staff and administrators helped secure safe passage home for 8,000 students without a single serious injury. You’ll find Espinoza’s story and those of other AFT members here. She  says:

They did just an awesome job, a wonderful job in the aftermath. At school, everyone was like family, and we came together in kindness and decency.

Meanwhile, as Matthews approached the Pentagon, the smoke was still billowing from the building.

There were helicopters taking the injured away. It was pure chaos.

He was assigned a location to scan the crowds and onlookers for snipers. Later he was  assigned to guard the morgue tent. He spent the next 26 hours helping the U.S. Marshals Service provide scene security and helping the FBI collect and document evidence.

Witnessing the carnage of the attack, he thought: I have stared into the face of Satan, and I still remain to fight another day.

This post originally appeared in the AFL-CIO Now Blog on September 9, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: James Parks: My first encounter with unions was at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when my colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. I saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. I am a journalist by trade, and I worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. I also have been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. My proudest career moment, though, was when I served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

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Trumka: Obama ‘Goes to the Mat’ to Create New Jobs

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imagesAFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement on President Obama’s jobs and the economy proposal that he presented to a joint session of Congress tonight.

The President took an important and necessary step tonight: he started a serious national conversation about how to solve our jobs crisis.  He showed working people that he is willing to go to the mat to create new jobs on a substantial scale.  Tonight’s speech should energize the nation to come together, work hard and get serious about jobs.

As the President explained, we can no longer delay putting Americans back to work and rebuilding our nation’s schools, roads, bridges, transit, ports, rail, communications and energy systems.  And we need to help state and local governments avoid layoffs that are dragging down the economy—rejecting the pernicious myth that the only way to address Wall Street’s crisis is to punish firefighters, teachers and others who perform critical public services.

We call on Congress to act and look forward to working with the President and Congress on all elements of this proposal.

The plan announced by the President is only the opening bid.  We expect to see more proposals in the next weeks and months to put America back to work.  President Obama understands that this economic crisis was not created overnight, and it will not be solved overnight.  The middle class has been under attack for decades.  He understands that we need to rebuild our economy for the 21st century and rebuild our middle class.  But doing this will require a revolution in the way Washington takes on these questions.  Republicans are going to have to stop blocking bills that sustain or create millions of jobs and start offering credible solutions. We don’t have time to waste on the same old failed policies of deregulation and lower taxes that drove our economy off the cliff in the first place.  All our elected leaders will be judged by whether they act with integrity and energy to create good jobs now.

Politicians need to recognize that America’s best days are still before us. We will not accept the disappearance of the American middle class or several more years of crisis-level joblessness.  We can and must solve the jobs crisis and we must start now.  Our country is too good and too rich to weaken our commitment to safety net protections such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Unemployment Insurance.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the author are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Workplace Fairness.

This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO News Blog on September 8, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

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New Report Finds High School Textbooks Ignore or Distort the Role of Labor Unions in American History

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jilani_zaid_bioOn Monday, America celebrated Labor Day, which is set aside to honor American laborers and their unions. Yet a new report from the American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) Albert Shanker Institute titled “American Labor in U.S. History Textbooks: How Labor’s Story is Distorted in High School History Textbooks” finds that America’s high school students are not being properly taught about the contributions of organized labor to American history.

The Shanker Institute report surveyed four high school textbooks — The American Vision, American History, The Americans, and American Anthem — published by major publishers that make up a “significant” portion of the American textbook market and found serious deficiencies in the coverage of labor unions. Here are some highlights from the report:

– The Role Of Unions In Winning Broad Social Protections Is Overlooked: The textbooks surveyed failed to record the history of American unions using their political clout to win social protections for all Americans. This overlooked advocacy includes activism on behalf of the “Progressive Era and New Deal reforms, such as the Social Security Act of 1935, Medicare, Medicaid, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency.”

– The Role Of American Labor In Battling Human Rights Abuses Abroad Is Ignored: The report notes that the textbooks surveyed failed to mention the “the important role that the American labor movement played in support of the establishment of free and democratic trade unions in post-war Western Europe.” They also ignored the role that unions played in allying with the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa or “numerous other efforts to support free and democratic unions as a bulwark against totalitarian and authoritarian regimes.”

– Labor’s Role In Winning Civil Rights Is Ignored: One of the major omissions of these textbooks is overlooking the role that unions played in the civil rights movement. The contributions of labor leaders to these movements are ignored, and the labor advocacy conducted by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is barely covered. There is no mention in any of the textbooks, for example, that AFL-CIO president George Meany paid $160,000 in 1963 for bail to release King and 2,000 other civil rights demonstrators from jail.

– Anti-Union Behavior By Employers Is Glossed Over: The report finds that the textbooks largely ignore the “history of aggressive and at times violent anti-union behavior by employers.” These abuses are “neither addressed as a significant legal problem nor is it analyzed as a serious denial of First Amendment rights.” For example, The Americans praises Andrew Carnegie’s and John D. Rockefeller’s business successes but fails to note their anti-union behavior.

– Major Strikes Are Misrepresented: Historic strikes are “treated as costly failures, as violent, as lacking public support and backfiring against unions.” The “role [of the employer] in provoking strikes through prolonged, unrelenting worker abuse, and employers’ attempts to suppress strikes, often through illegal and violent means, are glossed over.” For example, American Anthem praises Reagan’s firing of PATCO workers, calling it “decisive.”

The report concludes with a set of recommendations for text book publishers. Included among these is including sections on unionism past the 1960?s, which is very lightly covered, and presenting unionism as a basic right.

This blog originally appeared at Think Progress on September 7, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Zaid Jilani is a Senior Reporter/Blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Zaid grew up in Kennesaw, GA, and holds a B.A. in International Affairs with a minor in Arabic from the University of Georgia. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Zaid interned for Just Foreign Policy and was a weekly columnist at The Red & Black, the University of Georgia’s official student newspaper. He is a co-editor at the Georgia-based blog Georgia Liberal and a regular on RT America’s The Alyona Show and The Thom Hartmann Show. He is also an occassional contributor to the op-ed pages of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Recent College Graduates Face Long-Lasting Economic Damage

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snapshot-wages_college_gradsThey say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this graph certainly is. (Including, though it’s not what I’m focusing on here, quite a few words about gender inequality.)

Heidi Shierholz writes:

After gains in the 1980s and particularly in the 1990s, hourly wages for young college-educated men in 2000 were $22.75, but that dropped by almost a full dollar to $21.77 by 2010.  For young college-educated women, hourly wages fell from $19.38 to $18.43 over the same period.  Now, with unemployment expected to remain above 8% well into 2014, it will likely be many years before young college graduates — or any workers — see substantial wage growth.

A recent New York Times article adds some more information about what new college graduates face:

The numbers are not encouraging. About 14 percent of those who graduated from college between 2006 and 2010 are looking for full-time jobs, either because they are unemployed or have only part-time jobs, according to a survey of 571 recent college graduates released in May by the Heldrich Center at Rutgers.

And then there is the slice of graduates effectively underemployed, using a college degree for positions that don’t require one or barely scraping by, working in call centers, bars or art-supply stores.


The Heldrich survey also found that the portion of graduates who described their first job as a “career” fell from 30 percent, if they graduated before the 2008 economic downturn (in 2006 and 2007), to 22 percent, if they graduated after the downturn (in 2009 and 2010).

This isn’t something that will just affect these young workers for a couple years, until the economy recovers. For one thing, a real jobs recovery does not seem to be on the horizon. But even if it is, studies show that people who first enter the job market in a recession face a significant earnings loss that persists for more than 15 years.

Too bad there’s no chance of the federal government doing anything meaningful to create jobs.

This post originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on September 7, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

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In the Future the Only Jobs Left Will Be Green

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romm_joe_bioIn the future, the only jobs left will be green.  Last year, the NY Times reported, “In the energy sector alone, the deployment of new technologies, like wind and solar power, has the potential to support 20 million jobs by 2030 and trillions of dollars in revenue, analysts estimate.”

Averting catastrophic climate change will generate far more jobs by 2050, as we must deploy more than 10,000 GW of clean energy (see here).  Failing to avert catastrophic climate change will probably generate more jobs, especially post-2030, since we still have to make the transition off fossil fuels, but on top of that we will have to have to make probably 10 times as much investment in sea walls, levees, relocating people and cities, and the like (see Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery).

The inevitable transition to a low carbon, low-fossil-fuel, water- and resource-efficient economy is apparently lost on many in the media.  We expect confusion and misinformation on this point from the right wing media (see Conservative Media Inanely Declare Solar Power ‘Doesn’t Work’).  It is surprising, though, when even NPR runs the headline, “Is Obama’s Bet On Green Jobs Risky?”

In fact, the only “risky” move is failing to aggressively pursue clean energy, failing to quickly reduce dependence on petroleum before peak oil forces us too, and failing to embrace a sustainable economy before the global Ponzi scheme collapses.

NPR and many other media outlets have confused the (very high) risks inherent in investing in any single company with the (super-low) risks of placing a large bet across the full portfolio of green tech, as I discuss here.

The rest of this post imagines Labor Day a couple of decades from now, updating an earlier piece, “When the global Ponzi scheme collapses (circa 2030), the only jobs left will be green.”

In my March 2009, post, “Why the United States REQUIRES a strong climate bill to remain competitive,” I reprised the thesis first documented by Harvard’s Michael Porter — strong, leading edge, pro-innovation regulations promote national competitiveness. As President Obama said (once upon a time):

We can let the jobs of tomorrow be created abroad, or we can create those jobs right here in America and lay the foundation for our lasting prosperity.

It is Obama’s final point — “lasting prosperity” — that is the focus of this post. Obama is hinting at a point I tried to make explicit in my interview with NYT’s Tom Friedman and subsequent post:

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm.

To perpetuate the high returns the rich countries in particular have been achieving in recent decades, we have been taking an ever greater fraction of nonrenewable energy resources (especially hydrocarbons) and natural capital (fresh water, arable land, forests, fisheries), and, the most important nonrenewable natural capital of all “” a livable climate.

In short, we have failed to designed a system capable of lasting prosperity. Quite the reverse.

Like all Ponzi schemes, the system must collapse. When it does, the only jobs left standing will be those that are “green” “” which can be defined as those jobs that do not plunder nonrenewable energy resources and natural capital and/or do not to destroy a livable climate.

Strong action on climate legislation and clean energy are not the only measures needed to avert the collapse, but they are an essential first start. Absent such action, the collapse is all but inevitable.

When will be collapse begin and what will it look like? I expect most opinion makers and the majority of the public to get desperate about reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the 2020s. But desperation is not collapse. I have tended to think that the inflection point is around 2030.

Now it just so happens that the UK government’s chief scientist, Professor John Beddington, laid out something very close to the collapse scenario in a speech to the government’s Sustainable Development UK conference in Westminster. He warned that by 2030, “A ‘perfect storm’ of food shortages, scarce water and insufficient energy resources threaten to unleash public unrest, cross-border conflicts and mass migration as people flee from the worst-affected regions,” as the UK’s Guardian put it.

You can see a five-minute BBC interview with Beddington here. The speech is now online.  Here are some excerpts:

We saw the food spike last year; prices going up by something in the order of 300%, rice went up by 400%, we saw food riots, we saw major issues for the poorest in the world, in the sense that the organisations like the World Food Programme did not have sufficient money to buy food on the open market and actually use it to feed the poorest of the poor.

So this is a major problem. You can see the catastrophic decline in those reserves, over the last five years or so, indicates that we actually have a problem; we’re not growing enough food, we’re not able to put stuff into the reserves….

So, what are the drivers? I am going to go through them now very briefly.

First of all, population growth. World population grows by six million every month — greater than the size of the UK population every year….  I am going to focus on the year 2030 and the reason I am going to focus on 2030 is that I feel that some of the climate change discussions focusing on 2100 don’t actually grip”…. I am going to look at 2030 because that’s when a whole series of events come together.

By 2030, looking at population terms, you are looking at the global population increasing from a little over six billion at the moment to about eight billion…

you are going to see major changes but particularly in the demand for livestock — meat and dairy….

By 2030, the demand for food is going to be increased by about 50%. Can we do it? One of the questions. There is a major food security issue by 2030. We’ve got to somehow produce 50% more by that time.  The second issue I want to focus on is the availability of fresh water….  The fresh water available per head of the world population is around 25% of what it was in 1960. To give you some idea of this; there are enormous potential shortages in certain parts of the world….  China has something like 23% of the world’s population and 11% of the world’s water.

…. the massive use of water is in agriculture and particularly in developing world agriculture. Something of the order of 70% of that. One in three people are already facing water shortages and the total world demand for water is predicted to increase by 30% by 2030.

So, we’ve got food — expectation of demand increase of 50% by 2030, we’ve got water — expectation of demand increase of 30% by 2030. And in terms of what it looks like, we have real issues of global water security.

…. where there is genuine water stress [in 2025 is] China and also parts of India, but look at parts of southern Europe where by 2025 we are looking at serious issues of water stress….

So, water is really enormously important. I am going to get onto the climate change interactions with it a little bit later but water is the one area that I feel is seriously threatening. It is so important because a shortage of water obviously interacts with a shortage of food, there are real potentials for driving significant international problems “” what do you do if you have no water and you have no food? You migrate. So one can have a reasonable expectation that international migration will occur as these shortages come in.

Now, the third one I want to focus on is energy and, driven by the population increase that I talked about, the urbanisation I talked about and indeed the movement out of poverty….  For the first time, the demand of the rest of the world exceeded the demand of energy of the OECD….  Energy demand is actually increasing and going to hit something of the order of a 50% increase, again by 2030.

…  But we also have, of course, the issue of climate change. Now, this is a very familiar slide to you all but we are shooting for a target of two degrees centigrade, a perfectly sensible target. There is enormous uncertainty in the climate change models about that particular target. It is perfectly reasonable to say ‘shouldn’t we be shooting for one degrees centigrade or, oddly enough, it is perfectly reasonable to say ‘shouldn’t we be shooting for three degrees centigrade’, the only information we have is really enormously uncertain in terms of the climate change model.

Shooting for two seems a perfectly sensible and legitimate objective but there are enormous problems. You are talking about serious problems in tropical glaciers “” the Chinese government has recognised this and has actually announced about 10 days ago that it is going to build 59 new reservoirs to take the glacial melt in the Xinjiang province. 59 reservoirs. It is actually contemplating putting many of them underground. This is a recognition that water, which has hitherto been stored in glaciers, is going to be very scarce. We have to think about water in a major way….

The other area that really worries me in terms of climate change and the potential for positive feedbacks and also for interactions with food is ocean acidification….

As I say, it’s as acid today as it has been for 25 million years. When this occurred some 25 million years ago, this level of acidification in the ocean, you had major problems with it, problems of extinctions of large numbers of species in the ocean community. The areas which are going to be hit most severely by this are the coral reefs of the world and that is already starting to show. Coral reefs provide significant protein supplies to about a billion people. So it is not just that you can’t go snorkelling and see lots of pretty fish, it is that there are a billion people dependent on coral reefs for a very substantial portion of their high protein diet.

… we have got to deal with increased demand for energy, increased demand for food, increased demand for water, and we’ve got to do that while mitigating and adapting to climate change. And we have but 21 years to do it”….

I will leave you with some key questions. Can nine billion people be fed? Can we cope with the demands in the future on water? Can we provide enough energy? Can we do it, all that, while mitigating and adapting to climate change? And can we do all that in 21 years time? That’s when these things are going to start hitting in a really big way. We need to act now. We need investment in science and technology, and all the other ways of treating very seriously these major problems. 2030 is not very far away.

Some of this can be avoid or minimized if we act now. Some of it can’t. But if we don’t act strongly now, then by 2030 we will be in the midst of this “perfect storm” of catastrophes — and everyone in the world will know we face much, much worse probably for hundreds and hundreds of years to come.

That is the inflection point, “Planetary Purgatory” — and you’ll want to make sure you and your children have a sustainable job by then.

This post appeared originally in Think Progress on September 5, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Joe Romm is a Fellow at American Progress and is the editor of Climate Progress, which New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called “the indispensable blog” and Time magazine named one of the 25 “Best Blogs of 2010.? In 2009, Rolling Stone put Romm #88 on its list of 100 “people who are reinventing America.” Time named him a “Hero of the Environment? and “The Web’s most influential climate-change blogger.” Romm was acting assistant secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy in 1997, where he oversaw $1 billion in R&D, demonstration, and deployment of low-carbon technology. He is a Senior Fellow at American Progress and holds a Ph.D. in physics from MIT.

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A Supreme Court Vet Experiences Nation’s Downturn Firsthand

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UnknownIn February, I stood before an audience at a major law school as a featured speaker in its Law, Politics and the Media series. In April, I still sat in my familiar spot in the Supreme Court press gallery several feet from the justices reporting on their every inclination in hearing key oral arguments as part of my duties as Editor-in-Chief and Supreme Court correspondent for a nationwide legal news service.

Two months later, I was out of a job. My company had closed, and I was reporting for a much different kind of duty at the New Jersey Department of Labor. There I sat with nearly 100 people from all different walks of life. Our bond was the need to attend that mandatory meeting as a condition of receiving our recently-filed unemployment benefits.

Just across the parking lot was the Trenton Train Station from which I had departed so many times for Washington, D.C. for more than a decade to attend big cases when the Supreme Court was in session. The irony of the sudden change in situation was not lost on me. Had I needed a reality check, this was certainly it.

Fortunately, the doldrums did not last long. I eventually was able to obtain multiple offers and a good new position before summer’s end. In the interim, I kept busy with my family and a number of other pursuits including this blog.

But many Americans, including I suspect a large number of my cohorts in that Trenton meeting room and others like it, are not nearly so lucky. For some, even strong past work experiences are not enough. Unemployment continues to run rampant with not enough signs that “hope is on the way.”

President Obama’s unmissed predecessor did a good deal to drive the economy into the bushes, but he has been gone for nearly three years now. And yet, unemployment still hovers near double-digits in many parts of the country.

Coming up with solutions, even from the sidelines of the blogosphere, is not easy. But it sure seems like raising taxes on millionaires and putting at least a slight bump in the capital gains tax would be a no-brainer good place to start. If you don’t believe me, ask Warren Buffett who has called for such measures even though he would be among those directly affected. In a recent op-ed piece, he expressed incredulousness that his “rights” were being protected.

Still, it’s become readily apparent that pigs will fly before the Republicans in Congress agree to any increases, even slight ones, on the rich despite the fact that the country is hemorrhaging money. A failure to generate more income only leaves us further in debt to China.

To be sure, the president is not without blame either. His hands may seem largely tied at times now. But when the Democrats had 60 members in the Senate and controlled the House, his philosophy seemed one of Neville Chamberlain-style appeasement rather than bold leadership.

It’s still not too late for that leadership to surface. It’s easy to forget that Bill Clinton did not find his footing until well into his third year as president. After taking on Newt Gingrich, he gained respect as business and workers alike benefitted greatly while on his watch. By refusing to fold, his popularity rose and the Republicans could no longer block him at every turn.

For those sitting in rooms like that one I found myself in at the New Jersey Department of Labor not long ago, that leadership coupled with action from this do-nothing Congress cannot come soon enough.a

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the author are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Workplace Fairness.

About the Author: David Weisenfeld served as U.S. Supreme Court correspondent for LAWCAST from 1998 through June 2011. During that time, he covered every employment law case heard by the Court, and also wrote and co-anchored the company’s employment law newscasts. In addition, his work has appeared in the American Bar Association’s Supreme Court Preview magazine.

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