Saturday, December 31, 2016

Labor Line

June 2016___________________________________

Labor line has job news and commentary with a one stop short cut for America's job markets and job related data including the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This month's job and employment summary data are below. This month's inflation data is below.

The Establishment Job Report and Establishment Job Details for data released June 3, 2016.

American Job Market The Chronicle

Current Job and Employment Data

Total Non-Farm Establishment Jobs up 38,000 to 143,894,000
Total Private Jobs up 25,000 to 121,805,000
Total Government Employment up 13,000 to 22,089,000

Employment Note
Civilian Non-Institutional Population up 205,000 to 253,174,000
Civilian Labor Force down 458,000 to 158,466,000
Employed up 26,000 to 151,030,000
Employed Men down 50,000 to 80,369,000
Employed Women up 75,000 to 70,661,000
Unemployed down 484,000 to 7,436,000
Not in the Labor Force up 664,000 to 94,708,000

Unemployment Rate was down .3% to 4.7% or 7,436/158,466
Labor Force Participation Rate was down .2% to 62.6%, or 158,466/253,174

Prices and inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all Urban Consumers was up .1 percent for 2015.

The June CPI report for the 12 months ending with May, shows the

CPI for All Items was up 1.0%
CPI for Food and Beverages was up .7%
CPI for Housing was up 2.4%
CPI for Apparel was up .5%
CPI for Transportation including gasoline was down 3.8%
CPI for Medical Care was up 3.2%
CPI for Recreation was up 1.1%
CPI for Education was up 3.0%
CPI for Communication was down .5%

This Month's Establishment Jobs Press Report


The Bureau of Labor Statistics published its June report for jobs in May. The unemployed decreased by 484 thousand, but mostly they left the labor force, which decreased by 458 thousand. Employment was up only 26 thousand. The unemployed were down enough relative to the decline in the labor force that the unemployment rate dropped by .3 percent to 4.7 percent, but a lower unemployment rate with so little new employment is hardly encouraging. The labor force participation rate was down again by .2 percent to 62.6 percent after showing signs of increasing before these last two months.

The seasonally adjusted total of establishment jobs was up only 38 thousand for May. The increase was a total of 25 thousand more private sector jobs combined as 61 thousand more private sector service jobs, a loss of 36 thousand goods production jobs, and a increase of 13 thousand government service jobs.

All three sub sectors of goods production were down with a total job decline of 36 thousand. Natural resources jobs were off 11 thousand, a bigger loss than last month. The job losses in natural resources came primarily in support activities for mining, down 6.1 thousand jobs. Construction lost 15 thousand jobs with a loss of 8.2 thousand jobs in heavy and civil engineering construction. Building construction was also down by 6.3 thousand jobs. Manufacturing dropped a net of 10 thousand jobs with durable goods jobs off 18 thousand. However, motor vehicle and parts manufacturing lost only 500 jobs. Non-durable goods manufacturing picked up 8 thousand jobs with 3.2 thousand new jobs in food processing.

Government service employment picked up 13 thousand jobs in an otherwise bad month in the private sector. The increase came from 12 thousand more Federal jobs including 9.7 thousand postal service jobs. Local government employment was up 8 thousand offset by a drop of 7 thousand jobs in state government. Local public schools added 4.7 thousand jobs while state government education was off 1.3 thousand jobs. Private education added 11.7 thousand jobs, a little less than last month. Combined public and private education did reasonably well in an off month with a net increase of 15 thousand jobs for May.

Health care had the biggest increase of jobs among private service industries adding 55 thousand jobs for May, modestly more than last month. Ambulatory care added 23.5 thousand jobs; hospital jobs were up 16.5 thousand, less than last month but still a significant increase; social services were up 9.7 thousand jobs, after last month's loss. The May growth rate in health care employment was 3.49 percent, well above the long-term trend of 2.48 percent.

Leisure and hospitality services added only 11 thousand jobs for May, but it was the still second highest gain among major service sectors. Food services in restaurants dominated gains in leisure and hospitality, as usual, with 22.2 thousand jobs to offset substantial losses in arts, entertainment and recreation, down 10.4 thousand jobs. Accommodations employment was down slightly.

Professional and business services added a net of 10 thousand jobs, a small gain which is typically much bigger. However, the professional and technical service sub sector picked up 25.8 thousand jobs offset by losses in the management of companies, down 3.3 thousand jobs, and administration and support services, down 10.3 thousand jobs.

Among the professional and technical services computer systems design and related services had 7.4 thousand of the new jobs with management and technical consulting services added another 7.2 thousand, and accounting and bookkeeping services adding 5.4 thousand jobs. Among administrative and support the big loser came with employment services, down 19 thousand jobs. Services to buildings and dwellings added 8.7 thousand jobs and investigation and security services added 1.7 thousand new jobs, but other gains and losses were small.

Trade, transportation and utilities services had no change in jobs for May. Wholesale lost 10.7 thousand jobs while retail added 11.4 thousand jobs, mostly from gains in general merchandise stores. Modal transportation services did poorly again in May but with couriers and messengers up a thousand jobs and warehousing and storage up 3.0 thousand jobs. Utilities were off slightly. Combined transportation services were down about 500 jobs.

Information services dropped a net of 34 thousand jobs in May that resulted from a loss of 37.2 thousand jobs in telecommunications due to a strike. Other information sub sectors had small gains or losses. Financial activities had a slightly better than normal month with 8 thousand new jobs. Finance and insurance added 2.9 thousand jobs, but insurance alone added 3.3 thousand jobs to offset small losses in banking and credit intermediation. The real estate sub sector had 4 thousand new jobs. The category, other services, was down a thousand jobs for May with all three sectors of repair and maintenance, personal and laundry and non-profit associations losing a few hundred jobs.

The May establishment employment report has few good signs. Health care did well, but nothing else, except possibly government which help make up for private sector losses. Health care has picked up .2 percent share of establishment employment in the twelve months just ended. Leisure and hospitality picked up a .1 percent share in the same period as did professional and technical services and administrative and support services. All other sectors are holding on or losing share of establishment employment. November 2014 was the last month to have an increase of establishment employment of 300 thousand. The May increase of 38 thousand needs a multiple of ten; enough said.


May Details

Non Farm Total +38
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Non-Farm employment for establishments increased from April by 38 thousand jobs for a(n) May total of 143.894 million. (Note 1 below) An increase of 38 thousand each month for the next 12 months represents an annual growth rate of .32%. The annual growth rate from a year ago beginning May 2015 was +1.69%; the average annual growth rate from 5 years ago beginning May 2011 was +1.78%; from 15 years ago beginning May 2001 it was .55%. America needs growth around 1.5 percent a year to keep itself employed.


Sector breakdown for 12 Sectors in 000's of jobs

1. Natural Resources -11
Natural Resources jobs including logging and mining were down 11 thousand from April at 695 thousand jobs in May. A decrease of 11 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -18.7 percent. Natural resource jobs are down 129 thousand for the 12 months just ended. Jobs in the 1990's totaled around 770 thousand. Job growth here will be small compared to America's job needs. This is the smallest of 12 major sectors of the economy with .5 percent of establishment jobs.

2. Construction -15
Construction jobs were down 15 thousand from April at 6.645 million jobs in May. A decrease of 15 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -2.7 percent. Construction jobs are up 219 thousand for the 12 months just ended. The growth rate for the last 5 years is +3.79%. Construction jobs rank 9th among the 12 sectors with 4.6 percent of non-farm employment.

3. Manufacturing -10
Manufacturing jobs were down 10 thousand from April with 12.285 million jobs in May. A decrease of 10 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -.98 percent. Manufacturing jobs were down for the last 12 months by 4 thousand. The growth rate for the last 5 years is +.96%; for the last 15 years by -2.01%. In 1994, manufacturing ranked 2nd but now ranks 6th among 12 major sectors in the economy with 8.5 percent of establishment jobs.

4. Trade, Transportation & Utility +0
Trade, both wholesale and retail, transportation and utility employment stayed the same at 27,286 million jobs in May. Jobs are up by 425 thousand for the last 12 months. Growth rates for the last 5 years are +1.75 percent. Jobs in these sectors rank first as the biggest sectors with combined employment of 19.0 percent of total establishment employment.

5. Information Services -34
Information Services employment was down 34 thousand from April at 2.751 million jobs in May. A decrease of 34 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -14.65 percent. (Note 2 below) Jobs are up by 4 thousand for the last 12 months. Monthly employment in information services gyrates month to month and has been doing so for more than a decade. Information jobs reached 3.7 million at the end of 2000, but started dropping, reaching 3 million by 2004, but now creeps up to 2.8 million. Information Services is a small sector ranking 11th of 12 with 1.9 percent of establishment jobs.

6. Financial Activities +8
Financial Activities jobs were up 8 thousand from April at 8.255 million in May. An increase of 8 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of + 1.16 percent. Jobs are up 157 thousand for the last 12 months. (Note 3 below)This sector also includes real estate as well as real estate lending. Financial Services has been growing slowly with many months of negative growth. The long term growth rates are now at a 5 year growth rate of +1.40 percent, and a 15 year growth rate of +.29 percent. Financial activities rank 8 of 12 with 5.7 percent of establishment jobs.

7. Business & Professional Services +10
Business and Professional Service jobs went up 10 thousand from April to 20.110 million in May. An increase of 10 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +.60 percent. Jobs are up 525 thousand for the last 12 months. Note 4 The annual growth rate for the last 5 years was 3.08 percent. It ranks as 2nd among the 12 sectors now. It was third in May 1993, when manufacturing was bigger and second rank now with 14.0 percent of establishment employment.

8. Education including public and private +15
Education jobs went up 15 thousand jobs from April at 13.791 million in May. These include public and private education. An increase of 15 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +1.32 percent. Jobs are up 85 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 5) The 15 year growth rate equals +.90 percent, slower than the national average. Education ranks 4th among 12 sectors with 9.6 percent of establishment jobs.

9. Health Care +55
Health care jobs were up 55 thousand from April to 19.100 million in May. An increase of 55 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +3.49 percent. Jobs are up 588 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 6) The current month was above long term trends and more than growth from a year ago when the annual growth rate was +3.18 percent. Health care has been growing at +2.48 percent annual rate for the last 15 years, a rate greater than the national rate. Health care ranks 3rd of 12 with 13.3 percent of establishment jobs.

10. Leisure and hospitality +11
Leisure and hospitality jobs went up 11 thousand from April to 15.453 million in May. An increase of 11 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +.85 percent. Jobs are up 394 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 7) The 5 year growth rate is 3.06%. More than 80 percent of leisure and hospitality are accommodations and restaurants assuring that most of the new jobs are in restaurants. Leisure and hospitality ranks 4th of 12 with 10.7 percent of establishment jobs. It moved up from 7th in the 1990's to 5th in the last few years.

11. Other -1
Other Service jobs, which include repair, maintenance, personal services and non-profit organizations went down 1 thousand from April to 5.685 million jobs in May. A decrease of 1 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -.21 percent. Jobs are up 63 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 8) Other services had +1.24 percent growth for the last 5 years. These sectors rank 10th of 12 with 4.0 percent of total non-farm establishment jobs.

12. Government, excluding education +9
Government service employment was up 9 thousand from April to 11.839 million jobs in May. An increase of 9 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +.80 percent. Jobs are up 97 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 9) Government jobs excluding education tend to increase slowly but surely with a 15 year growth rate of +.20 percent. Government, excluding education, ranks 7th of 12 with 8.2 percent of total non-farm establishment jobs.


Sector Notes___________________________

(1) The total cited above is non-farm establishment employment that counts jobs and not people. If one person has two jobs then two jobs are counted. It excludes agricultural employment and the self employed. Out of a total of people employed agricultural employment typically has about 1.5 percent, the self employed about 6.8 percent, the rest make up wage and salary employment. Jobs and people employed are close to the same, but not identical numbers because jobs are not the same as people employed: some hold two jobs. Remember all these totals are jobs. back

(2) Information Services is part of the new North American Industry Classification System(NAICS). It includes firms or establishments in publishing, motion picture & sound recording, broadcasting, Internet publishing and broadcasting, telecommunications, ISPs, web search portals, data processing, libraries, archives and a few others.back

(3) Financial Activities includes deposit and non-deposit credit firms, most of which are still known as banks, savings and loan and credit unions, but also real estate firms and general and commercial rental and leasing.back

(4) Business and Professional services includes the professional areas such as legal services, architecture, engineering, computing, advertising and supporting services including office services, facilities support, services to buildings, security services, employment agencies and so on.back

(5) Education includes private and public education. Therefore education job totals include public schools and colleges as well as private schools and colleges. back

(6) Health care includes ambulatory care, private hospitals, nursing and residential care, and social services including child care. back

(7) Leisure and hospitality has establishment with arts, entertainment and recreation which has performing arts, spectator sports, gambling, fitness centers and others, which are the leisure part. The hospitality part has accommodations, motels, hotels, RV parks, and full service and fast food restaurants. back

(8) Other is a smorgasbord of repair and maintenance services, especially car repair, personal services and non-profit services of organizations like foundations, social advocacy and civic groups, and business, professional, labor unions, political groups and political parties. back

(9) Government job totals include federal, state, and local government administrative work but without education jobs. back



Jobs are not the same as employment because jobs are counted once but one person could have two jobs adding one to employment but two to jobs. Also the employment numbers include agricultural workers, the self employed, unpaid family workers, household workers and those on unpaid leave. Jobs are establishment jobs and non-other. back


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Jobs in Public Relations

Public Relations Managers and Public Relations Specialists

Standard Occupational Classification #11-2031 Public Relations Managers
Standard Occupational Classification #27-3031 Public Relations Specialists

SOC Definition for Public Relations Managers #11-2031 -- Plan and direct public relations programs designed to create and maintain a favorable public image for employer or client; or if engaged in fundraising, plan and direct activities to solicit and maintain funds for special projects and nonprofit organizations. Also known as: Fundraising Director, Public Information Director, Publicity Director

SOC Definition for Public Relations Specialists #27-3031 – Engage in promoting or creating good will for individuals, groups, or organizations by writing or selecting favorable publicity material and releasing it through various communications media. May prepare and arrange displays, and make speeches. Also known as Account Executive, Communications Director, Communications Specialist, Corporate Communications Specialist, Media Relations Specialist, Public Affairs Specialist, Public Information Officer, Public Information Specialist, Public Relations Coordinator or Specialist

Respond to requests for information from the media. Write press releases or other media communications to promote clients and an organization's accomplishments, agenda, or environmental responsibility. Establish or maintain cooperative relationships with representatives of community, consumer, employee, or interest groups. Coach client representatives in effective communication with the public or with employees. Update and maintain content posted on the Web. Prepare or edit organizational publications, such as employee newsletters or stockholders' reports, for internal or external audiences. Coordinate public responses to management incidents or conflicts.

Public Relations Managers are classified as managerial occupations with 24.2 percent working in the non-profit Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional, and Similar Organizations, 16.6 percent working in Junior Colleges, Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools, 8.2 percent working in Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services, 9.3 percent working in Management of Companies and Enterprises and a scattering of small percents in many industries.

For Public Relations Specialist are classified as Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations with 21.6 percent working in Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional, and Similar Organizations, 9.5 percent working in Junior Colleges, Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools, 14.9 percent working in Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services, 7.3 percent working in hospitals and social assistance, 6.9 percent working in state and local government, excluding education and hospitals and a scattering of small percents in many industries.

National employment as Public Relations Managers was 60,380 in 2015. Jobs are down since 2000 when jobs were 68,000. The annual average job decrease equals 508 per year since 2000 at a growth rate of -.79 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting job growth for Public Relations Managers at 470 per year through 2024 at a growth rate of .69 percent a year.

National employment as Public Relations Specialists was 218,910 in 2015. Jobs are up since 2000 when jobs were 128,570. The annual average job increase equals 6,023 per year since 2000 at a growth rate of 3.61 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting job growth for Public Relations Specialists at 14,900 per year through 2024 at a growth rate of .60 percent a year.

Job openings make a better measure of new hiring than job growth. Job openings are job growth and the number of net replacements. Net replacements are people who permanently leave an occupation for another occupation or retirement and must be replaced before there can be job growth. Job openings for Public Relations Managers are forecast to be 610 a year through 2024.

Job openings make a better measure of new hiring than job growth. Job openings are job growth and the number of net replacements. Net replacements are people who permanently leave an occupation for another occupation or retirement and must be replaced before there can be job growth. Job openings for Public Relations Specialists are forecast to be 2,620 a year through 2024.

The recently updated BLS Education and Training Classification assignments lists BA degree skills as necessary for entry into jobs as Public Relations Manager. However, percentages from survey data are published for Public Relations Managers showing an educational distribution where 49.2 percent have a BA degree, 23.6 percent have advanced degrees, 13.9 percent some college, but no degree, and almost 5.6 percent have an associate’s degree. High school skills were sufficient for 7.6 percent who work here and .6 percent have less than a high school degree. Previous experience is considered unnecessary, but moderate on-the-job training is expected to be necessary for new hires.

BA degree skills are necessary for Public Relations Specialists. Percentages from survey data are published for Public Relations Specialists showing an educational distribution where 56.2 percent have a BA degree, 22.4 percent have advanced degrees, 11.2 percent some college, but no degree, and almost 4.3 percent have an associate’s degree. High school skills were sufficient for 5.4 percent who work here and .6 percent have less than a high school degree. Previous experience is considered unnecessary, but moderate on-the-job training is expected to be necessary for new hires.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports degree data for America’s colleges and universities that can be compared with job growth and openings. Relevant BA degree programs include Public relations/image management, advertising, political communication, health communication, public relations, advertising and applied communications specialties. There were 11,126 BA degrees granted in the 5 programs in public relations, advertising and applied communications in June 2013, the last year of complete degree data. These are up slightly from June 2011 when they were 10,027 and June 2012 when they were 9,948. There were also 1,004 MA degrees granted and 11 Ph.D degrees granted in June 2013. The ratio of relevant BA degree to openings equals 3.44, or 11,126/(610+2620), assuring more than three qualified candidates to fill job openings.

The basic wage data from the BLS occupational employment survey includes a wage distribution. Averages are not used much in wage data. A few high wages pull up the average and make it unrepresentative. Instead a distribution range of wages is published with the 10th, 25th, median, 75th, and 90th percentiles of wages. A 10th percentile wage means 10 percent working in this job have wages equal to or less than the 10th percentile wage and so on. Annual wages are converted to hourly wages by dividing annual wages by 2080

The entry wage for the national market in the 10th percentile for Public Relations Manager is reported as $56,890 in 2015. The 25th percentile wage equals $76,000. The median wage is $104,140, the 75th percentile wage equals $147,590 and the 90th percentile wage is $187,200.

The wages of Public Relations Manager have kept up with inflation for the last decade. For example, to have the buying power of the 2008 median wage of $89,430 in 2015, the Public Relations Manager wage would need to be $98,448.40. In stead it was $104,140, a 5.78 percent increase in the real wage for those eight years.

The entry wage for the national market in the 10th percentile for Public Relations Specialist is reported as $31,690 in 2015. The 25th percentile wage equals $41,520. The median wage is $56,770, the 75th percentile wage equals $78,340 and the 90th percentile wage is $110,080.

The wages of Public Relations Specialist have kept up with inflation for the last decade. For example, to have the buying power of the 2008 median wage of $51,280 in 2015, the Public Relations Specialist wage would need to be $56,451.23. In stead it was $56,770, a 0.56 percent increase in the real wage for those eight years.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The New Overtime Rules and the Deceptive Response

The New Overtime Rules and the Deceptive Response

New overtime rules for the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will begin December 1 of this year. Current overtime rules only apply to someone paid a salary equal to or less than $23,660 a year or to someone paid an hourly wage, a decision entirely at the discretion of the employer. FLSA rules calls for pay at a rate of time and a half for hours over forty hours a week. Over time pay gives employers the incentive to hire additional people rather than pay overtime; two people working sixty hours a week equals three people working forty hours a week.

The current overtime pay exemptions date from August 23, 2004 following a substantial revision of Fair Labor Standards regulations by the Bush Administration. The revision added lots of new language that made it easier to exempt executive, administrative and professional employees from overtime pay as long as they work for a salary above $23,660.

The new rules are sometimes called white-collar rules because exemptions to overtime pay have never applied to “manual laborers or other ‘blue collar’ workers who perform work involving repetitive operations with their hands, physical skill and energy.” For example, with the current white collar rules an employee can be denied overtime pay if employed in a bona fide executive, administrative or professional capacity and compensated by salary at a rate of not less than $455 per week ($23,660 a year) exclusive of board, lodging or other facilities, whose primary duty is the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer's customers and whose primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.

On December 1 the minimum annual salary requirement for overtime pay goes up to $47,476, but does not change the regulations like the one paraphrased above. The new minimum is high enough that some employees previously exempted from - denied - the right to overtime pay will be entitled to it.


Business owners, managers and those who identify with business owners and managers will not like the change. It will raise wage costs and lower profits; the changes redistribute income to wage earners at the expense of individual business profits. The people who do not like the policy do not generally mention how much easier it was to avoid paying overtime after the Bush administration revisions of 2004, or how stagnant wages reduce buying power and limit economic growth.

The Department of Labor estimates the new rules will apply to 4.2 million people and if overtime pay raises buying power enough to increase total spending, more production and sales will increase collective business profits. In that way the rules might improve the economy for the larger society but individual businesses will have higher net profits if they can get essential work done by avoiding over time pay.

Opposition comments published in the newspapers (Washington Post, May 21, 2016, “The potential pitfalls of new overtime rule”) and the Internet avoid confronting the redistribution issue or the abuses so common to overtime. The Washington Post article cites the ominous proviso offered by unnamed business groups that “ what workers will probably see a lot less of is flexibility on the job.” … “As an employer, you will have to think about how much time did the person really work … It’s a headache and because it’s a headache, the employer’s first reaction is going to be: ‘No, you can’t work from home. Sorry.’ ”

Beware the deception. Compliance with the FLSA already requires tracking hours worked, whether they are at an office or work from a remote computer. The first sentence of the Fair Labor Standards Act requires that all hours of work will be compensated. Executive, administrative and professional occupations are exempt from overtime pay, but they are entitled to regular pay for work over forty hours a week. Flexibility for salaried people should not turn overtime hours into free work. People who get pressured into working fifty and sixty hours a week who get paid a full time salary based on legally designated full time workweek of forty hours giveaway overtime hours for free.

The Washington Post article cites a lawyer who suggests “some employers may choose to bump workers above the salary threshold, avoiding the problem entirely. But many employees will probably be “re-classified” as hourly workers at which time the number of hours they work might be limited or carefully monitored and tracked.” That translates to some employees can expect reprisals to convince them the new rules are bad for them, as well as business.

These new rules offer modest help to a modest share of working people living on their wages. It is a conservative change, albeit in the right direction, to reduce income inequality. It highlights class conflicts between working people and business owners. Business fights every effort to improve wages as they have here even to the point where low wages are so low they drag down the economy and reduce economic growth. These are new rules, but it’s an old battle.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Taxes, Preferences and Privileges

If two people or two families have the same income but pay different income taxes, it is worth asking why? The 2015 federal income taxes have much higher tax rates for wage income than dividend income or capital gains. For a new college graduate fortunate enough to find a job earning a salary of $40,000, their income will be taxed as wages with federal tax liability of $3,973.75, assuming the standard deduction and one exemption.

If the $40,000 wages were taxed as dividends are taxed they would have paid nothing; no federal income tax at all. That is because a single tax payer can earn up to $47,750 of dividend income, or capital gains, or a combination, and after allowing for the $4,000 exemption and the standard deduction of $6,300 there is no tax on the remaining taxable income of $37,450.

If two college graduates find $40,000 a year jobs, marry and file a joint return on their $80,000 wage income they will pay $7,987.50 in federal taxes. If the $80,000 wages were taxed as dividends are taxed they would have paid nothing; no federal income tax at all. That is because a married couple with no children can earn up to $95,500 of dividends, capital gains or a combination, and after allowing for two $4,000 exemptions and the standard deduction of $12,600 there is no federal income tax on the remaining taxable income of $74,900.

Dividends or capital gains for an individual filer have no tax up to $47,750 of taxable income but only a 15 percent tax rate above that for dividend and capital gains. While zero tax makes for great savings a 15 percent tax rate saves at least 10 percent and up to 24.9 percent on tax rates compared to the tax rates on wage income above $47,750.

For an individual filer with $75,000 of wage income their federal tax will be $11,968.75, assuming one exemption and the standard deduction. If the income was $50,000 of salary and $25,000 of dividends, their tax drops to $9,806.25, a saving of $2,162.50. If the couple above each earned $35,000 salaries and $10,000 of dividend income their tax would drop from $7,987.50 to $6,487.50, a saving of $1,500.

A tax advantage for dividends and capital gains gives wage earners an incentive to save and invest in stocks: better to earn some of that tax free income. Tax free dividends favors older people with more years to save, but the law applies to everyone and so amounts to a preference for dividend income over wage income. I would call it a preference for dividend income rather than a privilege because everyone has the chance to adopt their personal finance to take advantage of the preference. It’s not always that way.

Some of the wealthy and the well placed have the ability to define their income. Wage earners get a w-2 form and have to pay tax on wages. Corporate Boards and corporate officers have the ability to define their pay in non-wage types of stock option arrangements to avoid the w-2 and convert income to be reported on Form 1099. The privileged have the ability to opt for the 15 percent tax rate instead of the 36.9 percent tax rate that applies to taxable wages at or above $464,850.

A million dollars of wage income for a married couple with a joint return and standard deduction pays a federal income tax of $319,865.44, but only $135,675.00 for 1099 income a saving of $184,190.40. I hear people say wealth has its privileges, but wealth creates the privileges for a selected few who use their tax privileges to perpetuate an upper class and the growing income inequality.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Only One Thing Can Save Us

Thomas Geoghegan, Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement, (New York: The New Press, 2014), 244 pages, $25.95.

Labor lawyer and union attorney Thomas Geoghegan has returned with another book that starts with a question. “Do you think labor will ever come back?” Geoghegan never answers yes or no, but as the title suggests, he argues the economy and the middle class will never do well if the labor movement does not revive.

The book has twelve chapters divided into three sections. The six chapters in the first section identify and discuss a variety of specific problems that plague the labor movement and the middle class.

We learn early the author is sixty-five years old and thinking how much longer he will have to work to keep living in the disappearing middle class. The stories and discussion in Chapter One introduce matters Geoghegan takes up later in detail. Include in this list the Democratic party that does so little for labor; that more education alone will not reduce inequality; that Senate filibuster rules and gerrymandering U.S. House districts help prevent labor law reform; that organized or unorganized labor should consider a variety of hit-and run political style strikes and disruptions. And most important America has to restore the labor movement to keep what’s left of the middle class.

Chapter two, entitled “There’s No Middle Class,” suggests the low and stagnate wages eroding the middle class result from deliberate policies of business. Management expects to hire and fire at will without regard for the effect on the middle class. Discussion compares practices and attitudes at American companies like Boeing and Caterpillar with business operations in Germany. In the U.S. innovation comes only from the top; in Germany it also comes from the bottom.

In Chapter three Geoghegan declares labor too weak to fight, at least with the old and conventional methods. Too many legal and constitutional limitations along with too much hostility in bad press generate fear or indifference in the working class. Here he describes building a labor movement that targets short-term strikes and disruptions.

Geoghegan continues with the disruption argument in Chapter four by writing about the 2012 Chicago teachers strike. This chapter is the first of two lengthy discussions of Chicago’s public education, which comes up again in Chapter nine. Georghegan lives in Chicago and he was the attorney for the Chicago teachers union for two years before the strike so readers get a detailed discussion of education and labor abuses by Democrat Rahm Emanuel and his cronies. He concludes strikes today must be political strikes, as opposed to demands for economic negotiations. With disruption and publicity the Democrats might get embarrassed enough and nervous enough to actually do something for labor.

In Chapter five Geoghegan offers a personal story from his run for the U.S. House in a Chicago district. He tells readers only 11 thousand votes were cast for the winning candidate when there were more union members than that who could have given him a victory. Here he blames labor leaders when the rank and file split their vote or didn’t vote at all; he hopes they will stop fretting about right to work states and confront reality. He makes the charge that organized labor acts at times like a bunch of elite academics.

Next lawyer Geoghegan becomes economist Geoghegan by discussing John Maynard Keynes book, General Theory of Employment Interest and Money. The General Theory is not a general theory at all, but a theory of special cases. The book was published in 1936 in the middle of worldwide depression, but economists still insisted economies operate as self-regulating markets where unemployment would be temporary until lower wages and interest rates restore full production and employment. Keynes identified potential conditions where markets fail and do not work. He cautioned falling wages might not restore full employment for decades, or ever.

Geoghegan uses several of Keynes special case discussions to warn readers that America’s ever bigger personal debt, government debt, and foreign debt are symbols of today’s market failures. Geoghegan expects the failures to continue unless the labor movement recovers to restore middle class buying power.

Part Two entitled Education and Democracy has three chapters. Here Geoghegan ask why demoralize the party base by pushing college education as a savior for the working class? Census data show about 35 percent of adult Americans have a BA degree or above and Bureau of Labor Statistics data show only about 25 to 26 percent of Americans jobs need college degree skills. By acting like college degrees will solve the country’s problems, Obama and the Democratic Party ignore and disenfranchise 65 percent of the working class. The Democratic base votes Republican and Geoghegan argues they will continue unless the Democrats work to restore the labor movement in the way the government built the labor movement in the great depression.

Chapter eight reviews the educational principles of John Dewey, an early twentieth century writer and educator. Dewey believed schools in a democracy should teach children to act collectively as part of a community. Successful education gives children the confidence to extend democracy everywhere into politics, work, schools, and neighborhoods. Chapter nine looks at the dismal record of employee participation and democracy in the workplace and at the growing demand by corporate America to privatize the schools.

Part III has three chapters of hope and policy. Geoghegan begins this section by declaring labor must come back as something different if it can come back at all. The new labor movement needs to involve members who can and will do more for themselves and with less dues revenue.

Then he makes three proposals for change. The first suggests amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by adding to the list of discrimination from race, creed, color, age, and gender with the phrase “and on the basis of union membership.” The legal differences of labor law and civil rights law get a thorough review and evaluation. Here there is excellent discussion of Martin Luther King’s efforts to link civil rights with the goals of organized labor and end the legacy of slavery.

The second proposal wants to end the filibuster rule, which Geoghegan thinks of as the “ultimate” labor law in that historically it assured the defeat of Congressional efforts to end slavery, the ultimate system of cheap labor. More recently it was used to defeat labor law reform and to neutralize labor law enforcement by blocking nominees for the National Labor Relations Board. Here discussion becomes a speculative conversation of problems and possibilities with an emphasis on hope.

The third proposal wants to change corporate law, which is broken because there is no stockholder influence, nor input from employees that work in a dictatorship. Geoghegan recommends that states require corporations to have elected work committees to monitor compliance with labor law and contracts, or to have employees serve on corporate boards to increase managerial accountability. Here the pros are assumed; cons do not exist in a discussion of political possibilities and the chances it can result.

That concludes Chapter ten, which brings two more proposals for change in Chapter eleven, entitled if “All Else Fails.” The two additional proposals are not overt legislation like those in Chapter Ten, but they amount to a change of attitude and practice by organized labor. The first proposal recommends that organized labor work toward more employee participation in managerial decision making. He describes German labor relations that include a thorough discussion of the UAW efforts to organize works councils in the VW plant at Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The second proposal in Chapter Ten suggests giving up on exclusive representation and organizing a minority in the workplace willing to pay their dues. Here Geoghegan raises a variety of political, legal and practical pros and cons. He parcels blame to the right wing that wants to bust organized labor, and to organized labor for getting complacent with the money from agency shop fees and exclusive representation. There is also some more dark discussion of Supreme Court rulings. Geoghegan finishes part III with a short Chapter Eleven confined to hope, as the title “Why We Live in Hope” implies.

The book has the elements of a serious academic tract but tilts away from academia in a chatty conversational voice, which could be unique. There is technical discussion of labor law. Also the book does not use references or supply a bibliography, although reference to some authors and titles appear in the text. The book does have an index.

Geoghegan likes to summarize the merits and demerits of back and forth conversations with peers, colleagues and friends. At one point he is having dinner with a friend in a Washington restaurant and the conversation turns to labor reform. He recounts the conversation, but his friend’s conclusions leave him in shock; he did not realize how few Democrats in high places are friends of labor.

He also likes to ask questions and sometimes doubts his answers as in “Of course, I’m being ridiculous” and go on to elaborate the complications. He likes to repeat controversial conclusions others tend to avoid and then to add another jab or two for good measure as when he mentions the GOP stole the 2000 election, and then adds but nobody cares.

Books like this need hope and this one has hope, but I also read his first book, “Which Side Are You On?” That book maps out the many problems for organized labor as of 1991 with a clear discussion of the elements of labor law and the problems of negotiating and administering collective bargaining contracts. He did that in much the same conversational style he uses now, but I do not recall lots of optimism in his earlier work. In the twenty-five years since 1991 labor, and organized labor, has continued in decline, but I feel relieved he did not measure hope then with hope now. I hope what’s left is not as small as it appears to be in 2016.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and the GOP keys to the White House

A recent article in the Washington Post from January 14, 2016 wants to know if working-class whites are the GOP keys to the White House? Reporters Philip Rucker and Robert Costa ventured to New Hampshire to find out how the GOP will try to persuade many more white working class Americans to vote Republican. Ted Cruz campaign manager, Jeff Roe said, “Some of them have never voted.” … “If they can be convinced to come out and vote, we win.”

For some decades now the GOP has pushed one policy: cut taxes and spending and everyone will prosper. During the same decades the Democrats have pushed one policy: get education. Go to college and everyone will prosper. Maybe the working class doesn’t vote because they recognize both Republicans and Democrats ignore them with useless slogans?

Campaign Manager Roe is right though, the working class vote could determine an election because they are the biggest voting block of any voting block. Census data shows 65 percent of the working age adult population does not have college degrees, which suggests the Republicans and Democrats have ignored the economic circumstance of at least 65 percent of the working class.

The Democrats lost the working class in the 1980’s when Ronald Reagan got their vote talking patriotism and a selection of social issues like abortion and gun control, along with lower taxes and union busting. President Obama has done next to nothing to get them back. He finally endorsed a higher minimum wage and a tiny improvement in overtime rules, while stagnant wages and the union busting going on around him.

Over the past thirty years the Republicans have done a good job getting the working class worked up and angry with someone, or something, while getting them to forget the low wages they earn from private sector employers. Now though Rucker and Costa assure their readers Republican see the need for new strategies. They quoted Roe again, he told them “The Republican argument can no longer be just about taxes and spending. It’s got to speak to the working poor and the culture.”

Trump told voters in New Hampshire “You people know better than anybody about jobs leaving an area. Look at what happened to you?” He is the bluntest of all the candidates with his opposition to immigration and the shift of jobs abroad. His campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said “People don’t feel like these jobs have disappeared, they’ve been stolen, and they don’t mind if someone is speaking forcefully about taking them back for blue-collar America.”

When Cruz and Trump pitch trade protection and limits to immigration and foreign investment they speak to the working class, but not to business and corporate America. That part of the Republican party wants all the immigration they can get to keep their supply of cheap labor flowing. That part of the Republican Party expects to roam the world looking for investment opportunities in countries with cheap labor. That part of the Republican party ignores decades of $400 and $500 billion dollar trade deficits, and ignores how much U.S. debt and deficit spending supports employment abroad. But then again the Democrats ignore it too.

The idea that Trump and Cruz will take over the Republican Party to impose policies business does not want sounds too far fetched to consider in spite of the polls that show them leading. I find it ironic that Donald Trump would have a television show, the Apprentice, where he casts an imperious eye around the board room table and fires one person on each episode of the show.

Trump knows that Americans work at will, a euphemistic term for getting fired at any time, and for any reason, at the whim of an employer. Could there be anyone who likes to be the boss more than Donald Trump?

The only way to have job rights in the United States is to negotiate an employment contract. Big time athletes and their coaches have them. Movie stars and celebrities get them. Unions negotiate them, but the Republicans work hard to bust organized labor while the Democrats look on, mostly in silence. Private sector unions have sunk to six or seven percent of private sector jobs. Few of the remaining millions who work at will seem to realize unions are the only means available to negotiate job rights or protect their declining standard of living.

The Democrats know that and so do the Republicans. Unions are dead; long live unions.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et al.

In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association ten teachers filed suit because they claim that many union stances taken in collective bargaining are bad for public schoolteachers and bad for the children they teach. They want the Court to rule that individuals have a right to choose whether or not they join a union. California and twenty-two other states require them to pay agency fees in lieu of union dues to support collective bargaining.

In all states that have adopted the option of a right-to-work as specified by the Taft-Hartley Amendments to the National Labor Relations Act the matter in question is irrelevant. Those states have already banned unions from collecting agency fees. California is not a right to work state and so anti-union groups like the Center for Individual Rights keep encouraging lawsuits hoping to bust unions.

On the Center for Individual Rights web site, Plaintiffs make a number of statements and claims that ignore two important previous Supreme Court cases: Abood v. Detroit Board of Education from 1977 and Harris v. Quinn from 2014. The new suit repeats the same claims just finished in Harris v. Quinn.

Abood v. Detroit Board of Education

In the case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education some public school teachers objected to the requirement in the Detroit Public School's collective bargaining agreement that required non-union members to pay a service charge in lieu of union dues. The Supreme Court allowed the requirement as payment for a non-member's "fair share" as long as the union used the non-member funds only for contract negotiations, contract administration and grievance procedures rather than for political or ideological activities.

Section 9(a) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 as amended and administered by the National Labor Relations Board requires the union to represent all employees in the bargaining unit not just its members following a majority vote in a democratic election to establish a union. Because United States labor law forces a certified union to represent all employees the Supreme Court declared a compulsory surcharge fairly distributes "the cost of the union among those who benefit" and "counter acts the incentive that employees might otherwise have to become 'free riders.' "

The court acknowledged in its Abood opinion that such a "fair share" provision has an impact on public employee first amendment rights of free speech, which is why they did not allow an agency fee to include any union dues that support lobbying or political expenses. The Supreme Court requires a partial refund of agency fees equal to the percentage of a union budget that goes for political uses. Plaintiffs in the new Friedrich v. CTA suit acknowledge the refund. I also note that corporate shareholders confront the same free speech issues when corporate boards pay to lobby, but without compensation where profits become a lobbying expense.

Harris v. Quinn

In the case of Harris v. Quinn concluded in 2014 the state of Illinois used federal funds for a Medicaid Rehabilitation Program. The Rehabilitation program provides federal funds for states to pay personal assistants chosen from a state approved pool of personal assistants who provide the in-home care. Three personal assistants in a bargaining unit of the Service Employees International Union petitioned a federal court for an injunction to end the non-union agency fee as a violation of their rights to free speech under the constitution. Petitioners wanted the court to abandon the doctrine established in the Abood case.

The Court voted 5 to 4 that the agency fee could apply to “full fledged” employees, only not to the special case of Illinois personal assistants. The majority opinion included a discussion of objections to the Abood opinion, but the majority decided not to overturn it.

In their written opinion the majority admitted “the wages and benefits of personal assistants have been substantially improved; orientation and training programs, background checks, and a program to deal with lost and erroneous paychecks have been instituted; and a procedure was established to resolve grievances arising under the collective-bargaining agreement . . . and we will assume that this is correct.”

Justice Kagen wrote a 25 page dissent that supported the Abood doctrine because “The only point in dispute is whether it matters that the personal assistants here are employees not only of the State but also of the disabled persons for whom they care.” A final point in the minority opinion suggested the majority found it too difficult to write a legal justification to throw out compulsory fees for labor unions when the court has relied on “fair share” rules in deciding cases involving compulsory fees outside the labor context.

Fredrichs v. California Teachers Association et al

In the present case of Friedrichs v. CTA anti union groups refuse to accept Harris v. Quinn when they can develop another claim that might destroy the agency shop in all the states. In Friedrichs v. CTA plaintiffs claim that collective bargaining amounts to a political act even though they admit those in the bargaining unit can get a refund for their part of the agency fee. In this way they want the Supreme Court to agree that contract negotiations, contract administration and grievance procedures are politics, which require a 100 percent refund of agency fees.

The court will have to overrule itself after just two years, since the Harris v. Quinn decision came June 30, 2014. Since both plaintiff and defendant alike know the court acts as a divided political body, the decision could go either way. However, the anti union groups have taken a few liberties in their public statements about their case.

The Center for Individual Rights writes on its web site that in collective bargaining the union claims to speak for all teachers. Instead Federal labor law requires the union to represent all employees in a bargaining unit of a certified union. The claim made by the Center for Individual Rights contradicts Section 9(a) of the Taft-Hartley Act. Section 9(a) reads “Representatives designated or selected for the purposes of collective bargaining by the majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for such purposes, shall be the exclusive representatives of all the employees in such unit for the purposes of collective bargaining in respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, or other conditions of employment: …”

The labor movement has endured free speech attacks for over a hundred years, nothing is new in Friedrich v. CTA. A hundred years ago business owners blamed strikes on outside agitators. Outsiders would come in and stir up the benevolent owner's happy and contented employees and cause a strike, but he was not going to speak with any labor agitators because he intended to faithfully defend and protect the liberty and free speech for his loyal employees who did not want to join a union.

If employees in a union can be free to drop out as part of a right to work and free speech, then the Supreme Court ought to end the compulsory legal requirement for unions to represent free riders, or really freeloaders. A lawsuit that ends the agency shop but not the “exclusive representatives of all the employees” requires the Supreme Court to deny free speech and free association to unions and their members.

But There’s More

There’s more because one of the plaintiffs in the Friedrich v. CTA suit, a teacher named Harlan Elrich made a variety of personal complaints about unions in an op-ed piece in the January 3 Wall Street Journal. He complains because his “union spends resources pushing for ever-higher teacher salaries.” He favors “decent salaries” but claims teachers are “already well paid compared with everyone else in the Central Valley.”

He complains because the union negotiates policies for “discipline, grievances and seniority” when he knows many of his colleagues are incompetent and the union represents them anyway. It does not seem to occur to him that the union has negotiated a procedure for internal due process to prevent arbitrary firings without cause and that given their legal obligation to represent all employees imposed on them by Federal labor law the union has no choice but to defend all members of the union.

He doesn’t like seniority either because he thinks younger teachers can be better than older teachers, but he ignores that younger teachers are also cheaper teachers and management may find advantage firing higher paid older teachers to replace with lower paid younger teachers, or replace them with even lower paid substitute teachers.

Mr. Elrich adopts each and every point of the upper class attack on teacher unions. His op-ed piece reads like a check list of points supplied by the staff at the Center for Individual Rights or the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Unions would do better getting their members more involved and lowering their dues, but organized labor will always have to confront divisive people like Mr. Elrich who can’t accept he’s just one of millions in the exploited working class, something he will always be. He seems not to know the wealthy upper class howl with laughter at fools like him.