Friday, October 30, 2015

Jobs for Epidemiologists


Standard Occupational Classification #19-1041 Epidemiologists

SOC Definition- Epidemiologists #19-1041 - Investigate and describe the determinants and distribution of disease, disability, and other health outcomes and develop the means for prevention and control.

Epidemiology studies the causes, and effects of disease in defined populations to identify trends that can improve public health by identifying the risks of disease. Epidemiologists work in the field to discover the causes of disease or injury, who is at risk, and how to lower or end the incidence of known dangers and diseases. They monitor demographic and social trends and account for a variety of hereditary, behavioral, environmental and health care variables that require interdisciplinary work in statistics, biology including biochemistry and molecular biology and clinical research practices.

Epidemiologists are classified as life science occupations in the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifications with the majority working in the state and local government. For Epidemiologists 54 percent work in government, 17.8 percent in health care, mostly at hospitals, 11.8 percent in scientific research and management consulting, 9 percent in colleges and universities doing teaching and research and almost five percent in the pharmaceutical industry as part of manufacturing.

National employment as Epidemiologists was 5,420 in 2014. Jobs are up since 2000 when jobs were 2,480. The average annual job increase equals 214 per year since 2000 at a growth rate of 5.74 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting job growth for Epidemiologists at 50 per year through 2022 with a growth rate of 1.12 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 Epidemiologists are forecast to be 160 a year through 2022.

The recently updated BLS Education and Training Classification assignments lists MA degree skills as necessary for entry into jobs as Epidemiologists. However, percentages from survey data are published for Epidemiologists showing an educational distribution where 5.8 percent have a BA degree, 92.9 percent have advanced degrees with 64 percent holding doctorates, only .6 percent have some college, but no degree, and .4 percent have an associate’s degree. Less than one percent have high school skills only. 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. There was 1 BA degrees granted in 1 program in June 2012, the last year of complete degree data. There were also 881 MA degrees granted in 1 program in Biology and Biomedical Sciences and 268 PhD degrees. However, many work in epidemiology with doctorates in public health, clinical practice or with MD degrees. Degrees are up in 2012 from previous years. The ratio of relevant BA degree to openings equals 7.18, or 1,149/160, assuring 7 qualified candidates to fill each job opening.

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 Epidemiologists is reported as $43,530 in 2014. The 25th percentile wage equals $53,070. The median wage is $067,420, the 75th percentile wage equals $000 and the 90th percentile wage is $112,360.

The wages of epidemiologists have kept up with inflation for the last decade. For example, to have the buying power of the 2006 median wage of $56,670 in 2014, the epidemiologist’s wage would need to be $66,546.67. Instead it was $67,420, a 1.31 percent increase in the real wage for those eight years.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

UAW Members Accept Revised Fiat Chrysler Contract

UAW Members Accept Revised Fiat Chrysler Contract with 77 percent majority

The rank and file of the United Auto Workers union voted down the contract with Fiat-Chrysler, the elected leadership confirmed October 1, 2015. The No votes were 65 percent; the first contract voted down in thirty years. UAW president Dennis Williams tried to put a good face on the rejection. He said “We don’t consider this a setback; we consider the membership vote a part of the process we respect.”

The press accounts clarify the most important problem with the contract for the rank and file: a dual wage system. Back on October 29, 2007, the UAW agreed to have newly hired assembly workers be paid at a lower wage than established workers. A dual wage system gives the incentive to replace high wage workers with low wage workers. It is also cynical and anti-union for labor leaders to divide the membership and disrupt solidarity.

While there are other issues the rank and file wanted addressed, labor leaders failed to eliminate dual wages or include a proposal to cap low wage entry workers at 25 percent as some disgruntled members wanted. The new revised Memorandum of Understanding for employees hired after October 29, 2007 posted on the union website,, sets up two headings under Non-Skilled wage scales for Team Member Rates. One heading is for those hired after October 29, 2007 until ratification of the newly negotiated contract and the second heading is for those hired after ratification of the contract. There is no percentage limit to lower wage new hires that I can find.

The section in the Memorandum of Understanding has a revised wage scale of Team Member Rates for those hired in one of the eight years beginning October 29, 2007. Those with less than a year of service have to wait eight years to reach the maximum wage for workers hired before October 29, 2007. Those with one year of service wait seven years and so on until those with eight years of service reach the maximum upon ratification of the new contract. The final maximum rate for non-axle operations comes to $29.94 an hour for assembly workers.

The next sub-section in the Memorandum of Understanding proposes a revised wage scale of Team Member Rates for those hired on or after the effective date of contract ratification. This second section identifies two sub sections in non-axle operations where new hires start at the same wage of $17.00 an hour, but fall behind in the out years and reach a lower cap than for those hired before ratification of the contract. The maximum for all non-MOPAR and non-axle operations is $22.50; for MOPAR operations the maximum is $25.00.

Team Assemblers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains staffing percentages with wage and employment data for American industries including the auto industry. There are 1.2 million in an occupation defined as Team Assemblers working in all U.S. industries. A few Team Assemblers work in wholesale and retail trade, and a few more in publishing, but almost all work in manufacturing. More Team Assemblers work in the auto industry than any other industry, 245.9 thousand.

Team Assemblers work in three auto sub-industries. First, there is motor vehicle manufacturing where 96 thousand work as Team Assemblers and have 50.8 percent of the staffing with a median wage of $24.81. Second, in motor vehicle body and trailer manufacturing the 39.8 thousand that work as Team Assemblers hold 28.6 percent of the jobs with a median wage of $14.61. Third in motor vehicle parts manufacturing the 110.1 thousand that work as Team Assemblers hold 20.6 percent of the jobs with a median wage of $14.36.

Median hourly wages for Team Assemblers in the motor vehicle manufacturing industry contrasts with wages in other industries in several ways that suggests the compromises union leaders make in negotiations and perhaps when they get too friendly with management. First, the median hourly wage of $24.81 for Team assemblers in motor vehicle manufacturing is the highest median wage out of 122 industries that have jobs as Team Assemblers. Second the $24.81 median wage exceeds the mean wage, which is only $22.77. It is typical that high wages in a distribution of occupational wages will raise the mean above the median wage. Out of 122 industries using Team Assemblers only eight other industries have a median wage above the mean wage and except for one other industry the median exceeds the mean by only pennies.

To have the median wage more than $2.00 above the mean wage assures many below the median are far below it. Some team assemblers working in the auto industry work for over $25.00 an hour while others work for under $15.00. The difference suggests UAW negotiators will accept dividing their membership to get an agreement.

Continuing Dual Wages

Labor law grants union members a measure of democracy, which makes it risky for labor leaders that ignore a growing share of its membership earning low wages. The 65 percent no votes suggest a majority was unhappy paying union dues to a union that negotiates them into lower wages. Revolts do occur occasionally as happened at Boeing ten years ago.

In the present dispute UAW leaders made a revised proposal for motor vehicle manufacturing that closes the wage gap for those hired in the last eight years. The contract has benefits for those hired in the last eight years in a sliding scale based on their seniority up to eight years. However, new hires that come after ratification start at $17.00 an hour, but that will be less than everyone hired before them. In addition the published wage scales diverge in the out years with new hire wages capped at a lower wage after contract ratification. The combination assures new hires will earn less than more senior employees during the duration of the contract. Management can readily accept the contract because it continues to allow them to hire new people at lower wages than higher paid senior employees.

Negotiators modified the explicit dual wage system, but did not remove it. In effect union leaders have worked out a disguised system where seniority gets rewarded with a pay step type of increase in a job everyone agrees can be learned by all in 90 days or less. It appears to be a calculated scheme to get enough benefit for those hired after October 29, 2007 to get them to change their vote and ratify the modified contract. That worked very well as the switch from 35 percent yes votes to 77 percent yes votes demonstrates. However, union officials had to keep their future membership divided to get an agreement with management and to get the votes they needed to ratify it. Remember though everyone has to pay union dues to support the union, which should help explain why some members of unions feel left out and hostile to organized labor. So much for solidarity.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Jobs for Chemists


Standard Occupational Classification #19-2031 Chemist

SOC definition Chemist #19-2031 - Conduct qualitative and quantitative chemical analyses or chemical experiments in laboratories for quality or process control or to develop new products or knowledge. Chemists are also known as inorganic chemists or chemical analyst. A Chemist is a separate occupation from other occupations that use chemistry skills such as Chemical engineer, #17-2041 and biochemists, #19-1021.

Chemists are classified as physical science occupations with the largest share working in the manufacturing industry. Almost all manufacturing firms hire a few chemists and 37.9 percent of those employed as chemists work in manufacturing. The Chemical manufacturing industry employs the highest share of chemists, at 31.7 percent, leaving only 6.2 percent of chemists working in other manufacturing industries. Over half of chemists working in chemical manufacturing work for pharmaceutical firms or firms manufacturing medicine, 18.1 percent actually.

Just over 12.6 percent of chemists work for engineering firms, mostly in testing labs and another 18.9 percent are employed in scientific research and development. About 5 percent teach, mostly at colleges and universities. The federal, state, and local government employs 13.4 percent. The remainder are quite scattered with nearly one percent working in waste management and remediation.

National employment as chemists was 85,970 in 2014. Jobs are up since 2000 when 82,320 worked as chemists. The annual average job increase equals 231 per year since 2000 at a growth rate of .31 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting job growth for chemists at 560 per year through 2022 at a growth rate of .55 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 chemists are forecast to be 2,780 a year through 2022.

The recently updated Bureau of Labor Statistics Education and Training Classification assignments lists BA degree skills as necessary for entry into jobs as Chemists. However, percentages from survey data are published for chemists showing an educational distribution where 52.5 percent have a BA degree, 40 percent have advanced degrees, 4.2 percent some college, but no degree. Almost 3 percent have an associate’s degree. High school skills were sufficient for .1 percent that work here and .1 percent have less than a high school degree. Previous experience and on-the-job training are considered unnecessary for entry.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports degree data for America’s colleges and universities that can be compared with job growth and openings. There were 13,416 BA degrees granted in 7 programs in June 2012, the last year of complete degree data. There were also 2,434 MA degrees granted in 7 programs in chemistry and 2,532 Ph.D. degrees granted in Chemistry. BA degrees are up by 790 from the previous year. The ratio of relevant BA degrees to openings equals 4.82, or 13,416/2,780, assuring plenty of 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 occupation 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 chemists is reported as $41,560 in 2014. The 25th percentile wage equals $53,420. The median wage is $73,480, the 75th percentile wage equals $99,360 and the 90th percentile wage is $126,220.

The wages of chemists have kept up with inflation for the last decade. For example, to have the buying power of the 2006 median wage of $59,870 in 2014, the chemist wage would need to be $70,304.49. In stead it was $73,480, a 4.52 percent increase in the real wage for those eight years.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Millennials Weary from Overwork

Millennials Weary from Overwork

A recent article in the Washington Post reports on a Global Generations Research Survey by Ernst and Young. [Millennials want a work-life balance. Their bosses don't understand why, WP, 5-6-15] The report finds many work long hours. As a consequence they delay having children, discontinue education and struggle to pay tuition for their children. The article contrasts Millennials with older generations where the young expect technology to free them to work productively from anywhere, but the older bosses are “afraid people who don’t come to the office won’t work as hard.”

The article does not mention a prime source of overwork: unpaid overtime. The demand to have employees around warming up a chair to meet the expectations of the boss has a special hypocrisy since it is common now for business to issue laptop computers, cell phones, and Blackberry’s to employees for use away from the office. Using new technology makes staff available for overtime on evening, weekends, or the middle of the night. Few reports suggest business treat these additional hours of work as paid work much less time and a half for overtime required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Back in 2003 the Bush Administration quietly rewrote the overtime rules in the Fair Labor Standards Act. In theory working more than forty hours a week is entitled to pay at time and half the regular pay rate. The Fair Labor Standards Act rules start out with the time and half rule, but they are followed with pages and pages of exceptions that make it easy for management to avoid overtime pay whenever they want.

Three people working forty hours a week equal two people working sixty hours a week, but management pays less for the two when overtime rules allow unpaid overtime. The abuse violates more than the overtime rules because the Fair Labor Standards Act requires at least regular pay for time worked in all cases. Overtime rules exempt millions of America’s executive, administrative, professional, computer, outside sales employees, motion picture employees, and other more narrowly defined occupations from overtime pay, but quite often they work overtime hours for free. Millions confront regular pressure to donate hours of work to their employers while others looking for work find that difficult to do with others working for nothing.

The Code of Federal Regulations sections known as 29 CFR 541 governs overtime rules. The rules run over 15 thousand words after the Bush Administration revisions. The revisions make it possible to avoid overtime pay for almost any office and professional work as long as an employee receives a salary equal to or greater than $455 a week, or $23,660 on an annual basis. Notice that any employer has authority to pay by the week or pay by the hour to fit the regulations as they choose. In practice it turns out weekly, monthly or annual pay makes it easy to forget the total of hours worked.

The long detailed wording in the regulations allows an employer to define or adjust duties to meet the regulations. The wording for administrative employees explains that any employee employed in a bona fide administrative capacity who is “compensated on a salary or fee basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week, 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” can be exempt from overtime pay.

The regulations describe ways that discretion, independent judgement, and matters of significance might occur and then by changed by higher ups in order to exempt an employer from overtime pay. The regulations read “The exercise of discretion and independent judgment implies that the employee has authority to make an independent choice, free from immediate direction or supervision. However, employees can exercise discretion and independent judgment even if their decisions or recommendations are reviewed at a higher level. Thus, the term ‘discretion and independent judgment’ does not require that the decisions made by an employee have a finality that goes with unlimited authority and a complete absence of review.”

The Obama Administration, now well into a second term, has finally proposed amendments to the overtime rules. They want to raise the salary cap for overtime exemption from $23,660 to $52,000. Business opponents of the change worry and fret to Congress that the new law will cause more lawsuits.

Jamie Richardson, vice president of White Castle Restaurants, told Congress “The new regulations will only result in more complicated laws, and eventually more lawsuits.” He means that raising the threshold for exemption will give financial incentive for more people and groups to challenge the vague terminology used to avoid paying overtime since the Bush Administration amendments went into effect in 2004.

Lawsuits are already on the rise the government’s GAO (General Accounting Office) reports because more employees are tired of employers who expect them to be available to answer emails and cell phones out of business hours on weekends and evenings.

Some like Ryan Shaw, quoted in the Millennial article above, have taken the work hours issue one step further. If they can be expected to work part of the time away from the office then why not all of the time. Since his work was over the Internet and on computers he demanded to leave his employer’s home base in Los Angeles and move to Florida and do his work from there based on a salary disconnected from work hours. Now his work depends only on what he does and not how he does it. Some employers have a hard time recognizing work for what it is; they want control over time.

It’s hard to defend rules that keep employees at work for free. As the Obama Administration moves into its final years, it is about time they did something for working Americans. The proposed rule changes make changes in the right direction; the only question is why so little, so late.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

City of Scoundrels

Gary Krist, City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago, (New York, NY: Crown Publishers, 2012), 273 pages.

Students and scholars of American history will remember how 1919 turned into a post war nightmare of bombings, strikes, riots and violence. The year started with the Seattle general strike. Random bombings started in February and continued around the country. There were the summer race riots, the worst one in Chicago, the fall strikes of the Boston police, steel workers and coal miners. The first raids of A. Mitchell Palmer’s red scare took place in November.

In City of Scoundrels, Gary Krist narrates the 1919 life and troubles for Chicago with special emphasis on twelve days from July 21 to August 1, 1919. The opening prologue narrates a burning exploding Goodyear blimp, the Wingfoot Express, that fell into the central court of the Illinois Trust bank in downtown Chicago on July 21. Bank employees were finishing their workday when the flaming mass dropped literally onto their heads, killing twelve and wounding many more.

Part I follows with eight chapters of background history and events of Chicago from January 1, 1919 until the July 21, 1919 crash of the blimp, which Krist assures readers was a miner mishap compared to what was coming. Chicago politics dominate these early chapters with a detailed account of Mayor Big Bill Thompson’s 1919 campaign for a second term and his rivalry with Illinois Governor Frank Lowden.

Krist mentions events and careers of a number of famous or notorious people with Chicago connections like attorney Clarence Darrow, journalist Ring Lardner, poet and journalist Carl Sandberg, black activist Ida Wells-Barnett, and the new Chicago White Sox manager, “Kid” Gleason.

Discussion includes the newspaper rivalries of the Chicago Tribune and its editor Robert McCormack with the Chicago Daily News and its editor Victor Lawson. Bombings in black neighborhoods and the death of Ernestine Ellis foreshadow the race riots to come. Krist had access to several diaries, which helped him give readers a feel for the Chicago social life of the era that includes discussion of the 1919 new years’ eve celebration and the onset of prohibition.

Krist titles part II, Crisis. It narrates four crisis sprinkled through ten chapters, one chapter for each day starting with Tuesday, July 22 and so on until August 1. Part II picks up the aftermath of the blimp crash, the abduction and murder of a young girl named Janet Wilkinson, a citywide transit strike, and south side race riot.

The Blimp crash brought hearings with charges and counter charges that open part II. The best quote for me came from a Chicago Evening Post editorial. The crash “is due, as so many other disasters are due, to the American habit of taking no preventive action till the disaster as occurred.” Still true I would say.

The blimp crash and its aftermath are one thread through recurring narrative of the four crisis. Krist covers the Janet Wilkinson case in great detail: the disappearance, suspects, arrests, interrogation, a confession, the trial, and execution by hanging, but over half of the 100 plus pages of part II narrate the riots and transit strike which occur on the same July days.

Readers confront the extraordinary violence and bitterness of the riots and the determination of the black community to fight back. Many in the black community served in the armed forces and fought in France during World War I. Narrative highlights the role of white youth gangs in the violence. Like the St. Louis riots before it arson wiped out whole neighborhoods and spread to downtown areas.

Readers will have to evaluate the political and personal rivalry of Mayor Thompson and Illinois Governor Frank Lowden, who acted as competitors rather than allies in spite of the riot. Narrative describes how Mayor Thompson succeeded in keeping Governor Lowden from calling out the National Guard until the Mayor decided it was time on the fourth day, after most of the 23 blacks and 15 whites killed in the riots, were already dead.

Four chapters and an epilogue cover the post riot period from August 1, 1919 through the end of 1920. Much of it recounts the continuing rivalry of the Mayor and the Governor. The Mayor was determined to sabotage the governor’s plan to end the transit strike. The 1920 Republican National Convention was in Chicago and Mayor Thompson had control of key Illinois delegates he used against one of the presidential front runners: Illinois
Governor Frank Lowden. The epilogue follows the major characters in the narrative with a “where they are now” wrap up.

It should be no surprise journalist Krist writes smooth journalistic narrative. The book makes easy reading with sources well documented and a useful and varied bibliography. There are also some fun black and white pictures of the people we meet in the book.

The title of the book, City of Scoundrels, fits for a book length account of grimy Chicago politics and berserk violence, but the sub title, the 12 days of disaster that gave birth to modern Chicago, doesn’t fit as well for me. It could be he means modern Chicago still lives by the me-first principles of “Big Bill" Thompson. I took the mention of the 17 year old Richard J. Daley as a member of one of the white street gangs to be a hint in that direction, but Krist doesn’t follow up too well with what he means by modern Chicago. After you finish this book you might feel better if you just think about Chicago as the windy city!

Monday, June 8, 2015

2014 – A Bad Year for Wages

The Inflation rate for 2014 was low at 1.62 percent, but generally more than dollar wage increases. America has 26 occupations with at least a million people employed in 2014, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports have total employment of 50.5 million. Among the 26 occupations 18 of them had a decrease in real wages; eight had an increase, but the highest increase of the 8 was only .58 percent.

Occupations with lower buying power for 2014 include jobs from management, finance, education, health care, sales, office administration, maintenance and repair, manufacturing and transportation. One of the 26 occupations mentioned is in management: general and operations managers. Its percentage increase in median wages from 2013 to 2014 was .87 compared to the inflation rate of 1.62 percent. If the 2013 median wage of $96,460 for general and operations managers increased by the rate of inflation through 2014 it would be $97,994.31. Instead it is $97,270, a -.74 percent decrease in the real wage.

Accountants and auditors had 1.2 million employed in 2014 with a reported 2014 median wage of $65,940, more than the 2013 median wage of $65,080, but not enough to keep up with inflation. Buying power declined by -.3 percent.

Elementary school teachers had 1.4 million employed in 2014 with a median wage of $54,120, more than the 2013 median wage of $53,540, but real wages declined -.62 percent as a result of inflation. Registered nurses had 2.7 million employed with a 2014 median wage of $66,640, the 2014 increase did not keep up with inflation and registered nurses had a -.97 percent decrease in buying power for 2014.

America’s two biggest occupations are retail salesperson with 4.6 million jobs and cashier with 3.4 million jobs. For retail salespersons the percentage increase in median wages from 2013 to 2014 was 1.18 percent compared to the inflation rate of 1.62 percent. If the 2013 median wage of $21,140 for retail salesperson increased by the rate of inflation through 2014 it would be $21,482.94. Instead it is $21,390, a -.43 percent decrease in the real wage.

For cashiers the median wages from 2013 to 2014 were up .53 percent compared to the inflation rate of 1.62 percent. If the 2013 median wage of $18,960 for cashiers increased by the rate of inflation through 2014 it would be $19,267.57. Instead it is $19,060,
a –1.08 percent decrease in the real wage.

Comparing other years than 2013 with 2014 can give a more complete picture of wage changes. For example, with accountants and auditors the real wage declined from 2013 to 2014, but comparing 2000 wages with 2014 looks much better. For accountants and auditors the 2000 median wage of $45,380 would need to increase to $60,687.98 in 2014 to keep up with the rate of inflation through 2014. Instead it is $65,940, an 8.65 percent increase in the real wage for the 14 years.

For accountants and auditors the decline from 2013 to 2014 looks like a temporary set back in a general upward trend of real wages. In contrast for cashiers real wages are down in 2014 compared to any year of the last 15 years. Median wages adjusted for inflation were down 1.08 percent from 2013 to 2014, down 2.56 percent from 2012 to 2014, down 3.77 percent from 2011 to 2014, down 5.1 percent for 2010 to 2014, down 4.12 percent from 2000 to 2014. For cashiers the 2000 median wage of $14,460 would need to increase to $19,879.23 in 2014 to keep up with the rate of inflation. Instead it is $19,060, hence the 4.12 percent decline.

None of the major occupational categories escaped a decline in wages compared to inflation. In the 34 managerial occupations 13 had real wage declines for 2014 over 2013. However, 53 percent of those employed as managers lost buying power including all of those in education administration.

Food preparation and serving related occupations had the broadest losses with 16 of 18 occupations losing compared to inflation, or 98 percent of food service and restaurant jobs out of a total of 11.9 million in food service occupations losing ground on inflation. Cashier and retail salespersons are two sales occupations, but 14 out of 22 sales occupations show a real wage decline where 85 percent of jobs in sales lost buying power because wage increases did not keep up with inflation.

In health care 26 out of 62 occupations showed a real wage decline. Because some of the more important jobs like registered nurse show real wage declines, almost 73 percent of health care jobs did not keep up with inflation from 2013 to 2014. Computing occupations did relatively well, but some had real wage declines. Web developers had a 2013 median wage of $63,160, but needed to increase to $64,184.60 to equal the rate of inflation through 2014. Instead it is $63,490, a –1.08 percent decrease in the real wage.

The data used here comes from the Occupational Employment Survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It offers a comprehensive and consistent method to survey and compare wage data. It is not infallible, but it shows broad and troubling losses in buying power for millions of wage earners.

The past year was a good year for jobs with 3.1 million new jobs for the 12 months ending December 2014. The press and other media discussed the new jobs as a good thing, generally without reservation. However, stagnant or falling wages encourages new hiring in the short run and so the new jobs went with stagnant wages. Millions more work but their jobs contribute to wage and income inequality. Productivity, output per hour of work, continues to rise. Wages need to rise by the amount of inflation plus at least the annual increase in productivity to be a good year for wages. More jobs are good, but a good year needs more jobs with more buying power. It did not happen in 2014. Maybe another year?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Salary Sharing Taboos and the Memory of Gordie Howe

The title of the article reads “Salary-sharing taboo a big hurdle for pay equity.” [Washington Post, 5-10-15] No single bit of American pretension, vanity and egotism does more to harm the common cause of labor than pay secrecy. It harms more than pay equity; it lowers wages for all.

The article cites a linkedIn survey of a thousand full-time U.S. workers that found 73 percent aren’t comfortable discussing their pay with anyone at their office. Only 13 percent said they were completely comfortable while 14 percent said they could discuss salary with close colleagues but not their wider team.

Pay differentials create the incentive to replace higher paid labor with lower paid labor. If Harry makes more than Barry, business has the incentive to replace Harry with Larry and pay him like Barry. Some people seem to understand this when they complain that union negotiators sell out their members by agreement to have a two-tier wage system. If Harry knows Barry makes less, it is their mutual self interest to negotiate the higher pay for both.

The article cites women as less comfortable than men when discussing pay. How foolish when women have a long history of pay discrimination. Some managers take their discrimination seriously and do not hire women at any wage, but the more unscrupulous know women are employable and productive and can be hired at low wages to replace Harry, Barry or Larry. If women would discuss pay with their male colleagues they would learn lots about the men around them, or any claims they offer about equality.

In a recent sports book about Hockey Legend Gordie Howe, he discusses some of his contract negotiations with the Detroit Red Wings. Howe admitted he and his teammates were in the dark about team salaries and for other players in the NHL. Their contracts committed them to secrecy and forbid comparing pay with teammates or players on other teams.

During contract negotiations General Manager Jack Adams would always tell Howe he was the highest paid player in the league, which would be appropriate for one the finest players ever to play hockey. Trouble is he wasn’t. It was years later that he learned from a player on another team who was head of the players association that he was not even the highest paid player on his team. With that information he negotiated a raise. There was no sign management was embarrassed by their deception.

If pay secrecy appeals to your vanity, remember Gordie. Pay differentials and pay secrecy hold wages down for everyone; they are one of many enemies of better wages.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin Unions and the Plans Ahead

America’s National Labor Relations law as amended governs private sector unions, but not public sector unions. Public sector unions organize and operate under state enabling legislation. Some states like Virginia do not permit public sector unions. In 2011 the state of Wisconsin repealed legislation that allowed public sector unions and cut health insurance and pension benefits at the same time.

In an article from the Washington Post author Robert Samuels reported membership in unions of Wisconsin public school teachers dropped by 50 percent; Wisconsin public employee unions plummeted by as much as 70 percent. [Wis. Unions crippled by clash with governor, WP, 2-23-15] A local AFSME member quoted in the article is out knocking on doors trying to get former members to rejoin and telling them dues will be reduced from $59 a month to $36.

A union has to negotiate and administer a collective bargaining contract to serve its members. Few employers agree to an employment contract when they hire employees. Without a written contract employment is said to be “at will,” a euphemistic term for a job with no rights at all. At will employees can be fired, demoted or laid off at anytime and without recourse.

A union collective bargaining contract establishes written procedures for internal due process and terms for dismissal for cause and seniority in addition to a wage scale and other rights. Without recognition by management or a contract, there is next to nothing that remains of the unions to justify taking $36 a month in dues from members. Maybe those who have dropped out of Wisconsin unions understand that, but it is less clear what those who hang on hope to accomplish.

Without labor law, unions can only get recognition if they have the economic power and the solidarity to strike. Before 1935 and the passing of the National Labor Relations Act the government took no formal role in labor relations. There were strikes and boycotts that tested a union’s economic power to fight the dictates of employers. Win or lose strikes disrupted the economy and cut production.

The National Labor Relations Act created an official body with the National Labor Relations Board to administer and interpret the law. Several specific aims and policies emerged in just a few years and continue today. Government primarily aims to prevent strikes and economic disruptions. In that role government helped create union contract administration that eliminate strikes with a union bureaucracy that can and does act with little or no involvement from the rank and file membership.

The Washington Post article mentioned above has several quotations to illustrate working class isolation and indifference to unions. “If you do a good job everything will take care of itself. The money I’d spend on dues is way more valuable to buy groceries for my family.”

One quotation expressed bitterness with “Everyone knows teachers’ insurance was some of the best you could get. They do fairly well around here, and they do a good job teaching. But everyone in this town has had to tighten their belts. They should too.”

The Federal government and many states offer collective bargaining rights as a voluntary and practical concession to organized labor. Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislature repealed their voluntary offer to bargain in good faith, but that does not prevent union organizing. Labor laws like those in Wisconsin suggest to the unwary they need a special law to grant rights they already have in the constitution: the right of free speech and free association.

In effect Governor Walker and his promoters want to debase the working class for personal or political purposes, but they did not acknowledge that doing so turns the clock back to the days when unions had to strike, picket and rampage to force bargaining and recognition. Governor Walker cannot eliminate the right to organize a union or its ability to disrupt the economy.

There was a time when unions did not worry about labor law. From 1905 to 1917 it took military force to end picketing and break strikes of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). They worked for One Big Union of all workers. Men and women of any race, creed, color or immigrants of any national origin found low fees and dues, immediate rank and file participation, and direct action on wages and working conditions.

The IWW rejected dues check off as a conflict of interest for leaders who might compromise member interests for a steady income. The IWW did not promote legislation or worry about elective politics. They wanted negotiations at the work place, not legislation, seldom enforced.

The IWW considered strikes as a necessary test of their economic power. Strike early and strike often; use mass picketing, parades and demonstrations as a show of solidarity for themselves and others.

The IWW had no use for grievance procedures that replaced rank and file action with private negotiations between employers and labor leaders. Everyone was a leader in the IWW.

The IWW did not worry about a signed contract. They expected employers to repudiate contracts unless the union had the economic power to enforce them. No terms with an employer were ever settled or final; the IWW regarded every battle as a continuing part of a working class struggle they lived with day to day.

There were plenty in business and politics in the last century who liked to taunt organized labor exactly like Scott Walker and the Koch brothers do today. In some of the more celebrated strikes in mining, railroading and steel the tycoons of industry like Henry C Frick, William R Grace, and Elbert H Gary got the working class so angry their strikes could not be broken without the armed intervention of state militia and the federal government.

At least the working class of 1910 and 1920 understood they were working class and what solidarity could do them, even when they lost. The limp and pathetic response of the people in the Samuels piece describes a divided class of people embarrassed to admit they are working class. People without an identity cannot fight; instead they slobber on the people who cheat them.

If the defunct unions of Wisconsin understand their circumstance they will change their name to “Union of Wisconsin” open to everyone who works for wages. They will lower their dues to a dollar or two a year and organize rank and file participation while accepting there cannot be full time paid staff. They must organize and support a selection of strikes. Pick out some chains or a school district to walk out and shut down for a day, or longer, and be ready to give financial support to those with the courage to do it. Of course, this assumes solidarity. What class are you in?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Right to Work Campaign and the Open Shop

The Right to Work Campaign and the Open Shop

The Right to Work keeps making the news. A recent Yahoo report [5-5-15] quoted Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker campaigning in Iowa where he said “He would champion a federal version of the controversial ‘right to work’ law he signed earlier this year.”

Another Yahoo piece by Sara Burnett [5-1-15] reports that Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner travels from town to town to promote “cutting unions down to size.” He wants to expand the right to work in “empowerment zones” in which voters could approve making union membership voluntary, rather than mandatory, at unionized workplaces in their communities.”

Management has always promoted the right to work they just called it the open shop in the years before the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and the Taft-Hartley Amendments of 1947. In the open shop era management expected to hire and fire anyone at any time whereas a union wanted recognition that required management to hire only union members: the open shop versus the closed shop.

In the open shop era unions typically had to strike to get recognition and bargain for a closed shop because management doubted unions had the solidarity to justify giving in to a union. During a Senate investigation after the 1919 steel strike Senator Thomas Walsh questioned former Judge Elbert H. Gary of United States Steel. Senator Walsh wanted to know why Judge Gary refused to negotiate with the steelworkers union. He asked “Did you decline because they were officials of organized labor or because you believed they did not represent the true feelings and sentiments of your employees?”

Judge Gary answered that he did not believe the union leaders “represent the sentiment of the large majority of our people, if any of them.” His statement came after the steel strike when 365,000 steelworkers walked off their jobs; many were not even union members.

Senator Walsh asked if there were any other reasons he refused to talk with labor leaders. He said “Well, I want to be frank enough to say that it has been my policy, and the policy of our corporation, not to deal with union labor leaders. … We are not willing to do anything, which we believe, after consideration, amounts to the establishment of a closed shop as against an open shop, or that tends to do that. We stand firmly on the proposition that industry must be allowed to proceed untrammeled by the dictates of labor unions or anyone else except the employer and the employees and the government.”

It was an age before any restrictions from labor relation’s law so a union could strike and shut down production of any industry if it had the solidarity and the economic power to support members in a strike. Judge Gary doubted steel unions had the economic power to win strikes, but with an open shop he had no restrictions from labor relations law either. He could fire anyone for joining a union if he could find more labor to replace them.

In the open shop era managers would tell the press they wanted to protect the right to work of loyal employees. In his testimony to Senator Walsh Judge Gary declared his opposition to the closed shop in those exact terms. He said “When an employer contracts with the union labor leaders he immediately drives all of his employees into the unions. Otherwise they cannot get employment.”

So true, except union leaders know they cannot maintain a wage scale for anyone if management can fire high wage union employees and replace them with low wage non-union employees as they can do with the open shop.

In the modern era the right to work discussion is the equivalent to the open shop with slight differences caused by the passage and evolution of U.S. labor law after 1935. Collective bargaining agreements start by setting union security that defines who will be in the bargaining unit and the requirements for employees to be in the union and pay union dues. Unions want the closed shop as the best possible way to control membership in their union.

Other forms of union security evolved as a compromise between the extremes of a closed shop and the open shop. The union shop requires new hires to join the union in 60 to 90 days. An agency shop requires payment of a non-member fee 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.

However, the closed shop was banned with the 1947 Taft-Hartley Amendments and Section 14b gives authority to state governments to eliminate the union shop, and the agency shop for unions within their state. Twenty-five states have eliminated the union shop, agency shop and all dues check off, which makes them right to work states in the popular jargon of union hating business and their politicians everywhere.

Once a state legislature passes Section 14b legislation it becomes much more difficult to organize a new union because the new union has to be an open shop with no control over its membership. For established unions dues check off ends and union members can volunteer to pay union dues. Union members and nonmembers alike have the same rights under an existing collective bargaining contract and so no one has the incentive to pay dues for what they get for free.

Because American labor law requires a union to represent all workers in the bargaining unit existing private sector unions with collective bargaining contracts can continue after Section 14b legislation, but without control over new members or the right to collect dues, they will be in a fight to survive.

The wording of Section 14b does not have “right to work” anywhere in it. Those who oppose unions characterize the conditions of union security as a violation of individual rights and personal freedom. Governor Walker said “As much as I think the federal government should get out of most of what it’s in right now, I think establishing fundamental freedoms for the American people is a legitimate thing and that would be something that would provide that opportunity in the other half of America to people who don’t have those opportunities today,”

Governor Rauner said “These special interests have got to be stopped. That’s the key to turning our state around.”

The wealthy classes and their politicians call unions a special interest group because it helps divide the working class just as it did back in Judge Gary’s day. America’s working class is so big it could be the dominant class but only if Americans understand what class they are in, which some do not. In the last few years Governor Walker has convinced the low paid working class of Wisconsin that union members are in a separate privileged class. Instead of recognizing the common interests of everyone who works for wages and the need to raise everyone’s wages, they identify with Judge Gary and Governor Walker as though they could benefit from the intentions of the wealthy. Do they prefer to work for low wages?

In the piece mentioned above by Sara Burnett she quoted a guy named Joe Steichen, a board member of a union in Illinois: Operating Engineers Local 150. When talking about Governor Rauner’s plans, he said “the county has a healthy budget surplus and business environment achieved without trying to "destroy" the working class.” Here is a guy who knows what class he is in. For those who work for a living and support right to work legislation, they should be known as the class of fools.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Jobs for Attorneys


Standard Occupational Classification #23-1011 Lawyers

SOC Definition -- Lawyers #23-1011 Represent clients in criminal and civil litigation and other legal proceedings, draw up legal documents, and manage or advise clients on legal transactions. May specialize in a single area or may practice broadly in many areas of law. Examples of common names in use include Attorney; Real Estate Attorney; Corporate Counsel; Public Defender.

There is a famous line in Shakespeare. "First thing, kill all the lawyers." We have to be glad no one is talking that way now but not everyone feels happy with the modern day legal services industry. People would appreciate lawyers more if they would think about the different legal specialties: bankruptcy, divorce, crime, personal injury, medical malpractice. As we can see lawyers spend their professional life in the middle of somebody else’s argument. Bickering, wrangling, hectoring fill their days. And who ever tries to shore up their morale? Even the winning plaintiffs can be hostile. “I should’a got a better settlement.”

Arguments and other legal business employed 603,300 as lawyers in 2014. Jobs are up since 2000 when jobs were 489,500. The annual average job increase equals 8,127 per year since 2000 at a growth rate of 1.50 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting job growth for lawyers at 7,480 per year through 2022 with a growth rate of 1.19 percent a year.

It is important to know that only lawyers working as lawyers in jobs at establishments are counted in the totals above. Lawyers can maintain bar membership, but if they work as managers or in another occupation their job will not be counted as a lawyer. A 51 percent majority of employed attorneys work in the Legal Services industry, another 18 percent work in government with small percents scattered in many other industries working as in-house counsel.

The totals above do not include lawyers working as self-employed attorneys in their own business. They have to be counted separately because the Bureau of Labor Statistics checks all their employment numbers with the unemployment insurance rolls. The self employed with no payroll do not have to be in the unemployment insurance system so they cannot be checked and counted in establishment employment, but have to be counted separately. The self-employed census estimate is 166,218, which brings the total of lawyers doing lawyer’s work to 769,528.

Job openings for establishment jobs give a better measure of new hiring than job growth. Job openings are job growth and the number of net replacements. Net replacements count people who permanently leave an occupation for another occupation or retirement and must be replaced before there can be job growth. Job openings for lawyers are forecast to be 19.6 thousand a year through 2022.

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 hours.

The entry wage for lawyers in the national market equals the 10th percentile reported as $55,400 in 2014. The 25th percentile wage equals $75,630. The median wage is $114,970, the 75th percentile wage equals $172,540 and the 90th percentile wage is $187,200.

The wages of lawyers have not kept up with inflation during the last decade. For example, to have the buying power of the 2006 median wage of $102,470 in 2014, the lawyers wage would need to be $120,329.10. In stead it was $114,970, a 4.45 percent decrease in the real wage for those six years.

The wages of lawyers have not kept up with inflation from 2013 to 2014. For example, to have the buying power of the 2013 median wage of $114,300.00 in 2014, the lawyers wage would need to be $116,154.20. In stead it was $114,970.00, a 1.02 percent decrease in the real wage for those six years.

Back in Abe Lincoln’s day, Abe and other aspiring lawyers studied the law working in law offices and learned through the mentoring system. Now we have three years of postgraduate law school and the summer bar exam. This system helps keep people out of the work force a full seven years and generates jobs in law schools.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports degree data for law schools as well as the American Bar Association (ABA). Both report recent law school degree totals for 205 accredited law schools to be in the 46 thousand range. The ABA reports 43,979 degrees for 2011, 46,364 for 2012 and 46,776 for 2013. Degrees can be compared with job growth and openings. With 46,776 law degrees in June 2013, the last year of complete degree data, the ratio of relevant JD degrees to openings equals 2.39, or 46,776/19,600, assuring a large surplus of qualified candidates to fill job openings.

The ABA also reports current tuition for accredited law schools, which tends to be in the $30,000 range, but varies widely. Some tuition is under $1,000 such as the University of Dayton with reported tuition of $910, while at prestigious Yale tuition rings in at $43,750. High law school tuition has the potential to make law school quite profitable, but colleges including law schools do negotiate reductions for especially promising students.

The difference in tuition puts significant but different financial pressures on graduates. Investing three years worth of $43,750 tuition at 4 percent a year would generate $276,665.80 after 20 years. Current interest rates are less than 4 percent but long term stock market returns are higher so 4 percent represents a defensible middle of the road return. It will be necessary to earn $19,574.57 a year more in wages to justify the tuition investment, again over 20 years and discounting the additional wages at 4 percent interest and annual compounding. Thanks go to Excel spreadsheet functions for these calculations.

Graduates of the high priced and well known schools like Yale and Stanford can find jobs in the largest law firms at salaries of $140,000 to $160,000, which is enough to make the three year investment in tuition payoff quite well. Large law firms pay better than smaller law firms, typically at least double small ones. Recent data show 21 law firms have more than 1,000 attorneys and a couple have over three thousand, but there are typically no more than 300 United States law firms with more than a hundred attorneys.

While the newly hired associates at large law firms can expect $140 to $160 thousand salaries, their numbers are small compared to the number of graduates each year. Large law firms can be expected to employ 60-65 thousand associate attorneys, the number varies some year to year, but that represents no more than 10 percent of jobs for associate attorneys.

The 10th percentile wage of $55,400 should be thought of as a realistic entry wage for new law school graduates. The lower entry salaries for most of the graduates makes the law school payoff more uncertain. A safe calculation should compare three years of law school tuition with any increase in salary based on a wage of $45 to $65 thousand. As of 2014 it is quite possible that law school can be a bad investment.

To be a lawyer representing clients before a court requires admission to a state bar association and the payment of bar dues. Some lawyers decide to practice law in several states but that requires passing more bar exams and paying bar dues to multiple state bar associations. Bar association dues are like the union dues paid by machinists or electricians who have to demonstrate their skills to belong to the International Association of Machinists, or International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

People in associations with common skills, like bar associations for lawyers, have successfully cultivated a different image for themselves than the public perception of people in unions like machinists or electrical workers. Machinists and electrical workers join a union. Lawyers support a prestigious professional association, but lawyers, machinists, and electrical workers have an identical set of needs and goals.

Each has a need to assure that people who enter the practice of law, machinist, or electrician have a common set of essential skills. Imposters are bad for practitioners and consumers alike, but the time and expense learning the skills of a lawyer, machinist, or electrician has to be covered in higher wages. Partly higher wages give the incentive to learn new skills, but incentive alone is not enough. That is because not everybody can afford the time and expense it takes to learn a skilled profession unless they can pay for the investment later with higher wages.

The median wages reported for lawyers are among the highest median wages in the Occupational Employment Survey. Physicians are generally higher, and a few other occupations like chief executive and selected actors and entertainers. Trouble is lawyers who are already lawyers have two reasons to limit entry. In addition to maintaining high skills those already qualified and licensed have the incentive to prevent too many new entrants from lowering wages.

In America, law courts do not allow partial license that would let someone represent others in divorce law, or real estate law, or other legal specialty. The requirement for a three year law degree, the bar exam and bar dues as prerequisite to represent anybody amounts to a one size fits all lawyer that limits the number of lawyer jobs. Comparison with court practices in other countries might show that America’s restrictions are not necessary, except to limit entry and keep earnings higher for lawyers.

Law firms usually charge clients by the hour with charges of $300 an hour or more, which limits legal access to the well-to-do and corporations and government, but it also limits jobs. The Legal Services industry employment in all its occupations has remained at about 1.1 million since about 2002 with a 20 year record of slow growth. Actually it is .72 percent a year since 1990; .36 percent a year since 2000; -.75 percent for last year 2013 to 2014; the worst record among professional service sub sectors. America needs jobs, more legal services and a broader approach legal representation could help.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The IRS and Ted Cruz

The IRS and Ted Cruz

Recently the Washington Post ran an editorial by Catherine Rampell discussing the Ted Cruz proposal to get rid of the IRS. [Cruz’s Anti-IRS illogic Washington Post, 3/24/15] “Imagine abolishing the IRS” he tells his audience, where they “have more words in the IRS code than there are words in the bible.”

Congress makes the tax law, which is so complicated the collection process generates additional problems unrelated to the taxes Congress expects us to pay. Since the IRS only operates with forms Americans are forced to pay their taxes by filling out forms filled with details that often require additional forms and sub-forms all governed by thousands of pages of tax law.

The process is error prone and not only by taxpayers. The IRS computers get confused and generate false accusations and hostile demands for incorrect tax payments, penalty and interest. The computer and IRS force taxpayers to answer and prove their innocence, not the other way around that we are innocent until proven guilty, like it says in the constitution. The process generates a hatred for the IRS quite apart from actual tax payments.

In the Rampell piece she worries someone has to collect the taxes and she can’t quite decide if Cruz wants to “zero out” the IRS or just make it simpler so we could have a “postcard” size tax return.

I can think of ways to eliminate the IRS in personal income tax collection. One alternative recognizes the current tax law has created categories of income to be taxed in different ways and at different rates. Wages are taxed one way and dividends and capital gains in another and so on. As well, the IRS requires withholding of wage income from each paycheck but not interest, dividends or capital gains.

It is therefore possible, and reasonable, to have all categories of income withheld, the tax paid by the source of the transaction and to have the annual tax rates converted to weeks, months or quarters as appropriate. There is absolutely no reason why tax rates have to be by the year. A 12 percent annual tax rate applied each month generates the same tax at one percent a month. Any and all exemptions and deductions can easily be converted to the same weeks, months or quarters to match income earning transactions.

Collecting income taxes at the source eliminates the IRS from the personal income tax; the IRS will be left to enforce the tax laws through business account audits: a tiny job by comparison. Individuals with tax disputes will settle them with the businesses that compute them.

Ted Cruz is a media star who knows how to huff and puff in indignation at our complicated tax system and get press attention, but he knows perfectly well the vested interests that benefit from the IRS and have the power and the will to make it more complicated, not less. Rampell reports there are 4,100 changes in the tax code since 2004, or more than one per day.

Too many people make too much money from the tax system, either directly with accounting jobs and legal services, or with one of the cottage industries like printing, software, books, courts, the Post Office and advice, in addition to those in a position to exploit its complicated features.

The tax law Congress creates reflects the American mania for competition and a money making contest. In tax matters fighting favors the wealthy who can afford attorneys and accountants who help write the law and know how to exploit it. I have read there are 65 thousand pages in the tax code. Over the years I have read less than 100, but I do know what the other 64,900 pages are intended to do. So does Ted Cruz.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Unions, the Supreme Court and the Ruling in Harris v. Quinn

In the Supreme Court Case of Harris v. Quinn the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union group, financed a challenge to the common law doctrine in labor law established in the case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education [431 U. S. 209] from 1977. In the Abood case 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.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 as amended and administered by the National Labor Relations Board requires a majority vote in a democratic election to establish a union, and requires the union to represent all employees in the bargaining unit not just its members. 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; employees might object to policies adopted by the union in its role of exclusive representative.

Service Employees International Union

In the case of Harris v. Quinn concluded in 2014 Illinois used federal funds for a Medicaid Rehabilitation Program designed for Americans unable to live in their own homes without assistance but unable to afford the expense of in-home care. 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.

In the 1980’s a majority of Illinois personal assistants voted to have Service Employees International Union represent them as their exclusive bargaining agent. SEIU petitioned the Illinois Labor Relations Board for permission to represent the Personal Assistants as their union, which at first the Board declined to allow. After some delay and discussion the Illinois legislature amended the state’s Public Labor Relations Act by declaring personal assistants working in the Medicaid program to be public employees for purposes of collective bargaining. The Public Labor Relations Act specifically permits a collective bargaining agreement whereby non-union members in the bargaining unit pay an agency fee as their fair share.

In 2010 three personal assistants in the bargaining unit 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 common law doctrine established in the Abood case. The District Court and the seventh court of appeals dismissed the petition, but the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

Labor and Free Speech

The labor movement has endured 150 years of free speech attacks; nothing is new in Harris v. Quinn. 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. Instead he would faithfully defend and protect the liberty and free speech for his loyal employees who did not want to join a union.

There is suspicion that U.S. Courts treat free speech rights for labor unions differently than other free speech rights. A union under U.S. labor law needs a majority vote of employees in a union representation election. It is a democratic vote in a democratic society that elects representatives by majority vote to serve in legislative bodies that in turn make decisions by majority vote. If the U.S. Congress votes to declare war as they sometimes do, not everyone agrees with the vote to go to war. If Courts worried about free speech for the minority who oppose war in the same way Courts worry about free speech for those who oppose unions, then those who oppose war, or other matters of government, could withhold a percentage of their taxes in proportion to federal budget expenditures on a war.

Full-Fledged Employment

In Harris v. Quinn the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to strike down the “fair share” fee for SEIU, but only for the Rehabilitation Program. The majority of five included a long discussion ridiculing the Abood opinion of the 1977 Supreme Court majority, but they decided not to overturn it. Instead they decided to restrict the “fair share” rules to what they called “full-fledged” employees. To have the “fair share” rules apply to personal assistants, they wrote, “. . . asks us to approve a very substantial expansion of Abood’s reach.” Such an expansion has “important practical consequences” which “would invite problems.”

The mention of practical consequences and problems came on page 20 of the 39 page majority opinion. Much of the remaining 19 pages described the conditions of employment as full-fledged employees and how they differed from those of personal assistants they claimed to be partial public employees, but additional discussion infers problems. The majority wrote “Suppose, for example that a customer fires a personal assistant because the customer wrongly believes that the assistant stole a fork. Or suppose that a personal assistant is discharged because the assistant shows no interest in the customer’s favorite daytime soaps. Can the union file a grievance on behalf of the assistant? The answer is no.”
The majority worried that requiring a “fair share” fee for personal assistants in Illinois could bring an expansion beyond full-fledged employees to “individuals who follow a common calling and benefit from advocacy or lobbying conducted by a group to which they do not belong and pay no dues.”

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.” But the majority added that “the agency-fee provision cannot be sustained unless the cited benefits for personal assistants could not have been achieved if the union had been required to depend for funding on the dues paid by those personal assistants who chose to join.” The majority did not reference a previous case for their authority or give an example application for their assertion.

A blunt dissent of 25 pages written for the minority by Justice Kagen treats the majority opinion as a ramble of irrelevant excuses. Kagen would apply the Abood ruling as common law 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.” . . . Yet “Illinois sets all the workforce-wide terms of employment. Most notably, the State determines and pays the employees’ wages and benefits, including health insurance (while also withholding taxes).”
Justice Kagan argues that Supreme Court “decisions have long afforded government entities broad latitude to manage their workforces, even when that affects speech they could not regulate in other contexts. . . . The “deci¬sion also enables the government to advance its interests in operating effectively—by bargaining, if it so chooses, with a single employee representative and preventing free riding on that union’s efforts.”

In a more blunt point, the minority argued, the majority declined to overrule the Abood doctrines as requested by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation because it has been used for so long the Supreme Court has come to apply the rule as “a general First Amendment principle.” As such the court has relied on “fair share” rules in deciding cases involving compulsory fees outside the labor context, although not for wars.

Maybe the majority decided it would be too difficult to write a legal justification to throw out compulsory fees just for labor unions, but needless to say they did not write that in their opinion. Ultimately they did accept when a federal law requires a union to provide union services, the government can make a collective bargaining contract to allow the union to be re¬imbursed for their required services. Five justices needed some excuses why it should only apply to “full fledged” employees. It is worth noting that four Supreme Court justices, one district judge and at least two appeals court justices make a majority of federal judges voting to uphold the Abood ruling. However five Supreme Court Justices made up a little bit of law to help their anti-union constituents; just politics as usual.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fighting Chance

Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance, (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt & Co. 2014), 277 pages, $28.00

Elizabeth Warren’s latest book, Fighting Chance, has the label Political Science on the back cover, but librarians catalog it in biography. It is a little of both, but more the politics of banking and finance and her two-decade role in it. The first chapter does chronicle her growing up in Oklahoma in typical fashion for a biography. It includes education, marriages, children, divorce, college, law school, teaching, and early interest in bankruptcy as a professor of law. Narrative is sprinkled with some personal stories and anecdotes.

One story occurred when her young son Alex attended a law school class at the University of Texas. Walking out with Alex, Mom asked “What did you think?” Alex answered, “Mom you’re not that funny.” “But they all laughed,” she defended. “They had to, Mom.” We can figure Mom has a sense of humor, but obviously Alex knows the truth. Trust me, all teachers learn that eventually.

The rest of the book explores national finance issues beginning in the mid-1990’s with a few more family stories and biographical asides thrown in to the narrative. Mostly though the remaining five chapters are serious politics beginning with Chapter 2 that covers her early career as a professor writing about bankruptcy law and practice.

The move from professor into politics came when Warren was invited to join the National Bankruptcy Review Commission in 1995 at the age of 46: a non-partisan commission appointed by Bill Clinton to review the bankruptcy law over 2 years and write a review and recommendations. Readers learn about her life on the commission and then afterward when she meets Senator Kennedy and gets to participate on work to draft and pass a new bankruptcy law.

From the late 1990’s until the 2008 financial collapse Warren was a professor who gained notoriety outside academia by authoring and co-authoring books and articles as part of an on-going analysis of bankruptcy, especially the book the Two Income Trap. She also appeared on talk shows to describe the family and personal hardships of bankruptcy. This part of the story has a bad ending when President Bush signed a new Bankruptcy law in 2005, gutting many protections for personal bankruptcy.

Another big change and chance for Warren occurs in Chapter 3. After the financial meltdown and crisis of 2008 Warren was invited by Senator Reid to be on a Congressional Oversight Panel, COP, intended to monitor and report on the congressional recovery plan known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Here readers get more into the grimy character of politics and the personal tussles that go with it. On page 96 Warren writes “Yes, the crisis involved complicated financial dealings, but a lot of the supposed complication was nothing more than BS designed to cover up what was going on.” We visit meetings and discussions with President Bush’s Secretary of the Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, President Obama’s Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and economist Larry Summers. In a lunch meeting with Summers he tells Warren that only insiders have influence if they follow the rule for insiders: They don’t criticize other insiders. Touche.

Chapter 4 begins discussion of Warren’s vision for an independent Consumer Protection Agency but there is more on negotiations for the financial reform bill known as the Dodd-Frank Act signed into law July 21, 2010. The new law included a Consumer Protection Agency, but another whole chapter describes the trials of getting it going. The bankers did not want Warren named to head the agency out of fear she would make it work.

Warren details a succession of meetings with President Obama who would praise her work but would not appoint her to run agency, once telling her “ . . .for some reason you are like a red hot poker in the eye of the Republicans.” We see the cautious side of Obama who would only offer her an interim position to get the agency going, which she finally accepted. She worked until July 18, 2011; the date someone else was nominated to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she organized. From there it was onto to chapter 6 and her run for the Senate from Massachusetts and her eventual victory over incumbent Scott Brown.

Senator Warren uses an easy to read conversational style with many personal asides intended for a broad audience. Many of her human interest stories read like things the voters of Massachusetts might like to know about their Senator. Even though she is an academic she leaves out academic jargon and virtually all of the technical details of the financial topics and legislation she covers in a general way. Except for biographical material the book covers political negotiations and gives feelings and impressions of the many people who took part in national financial problems and crisis over the last twenty years.

The book has 57 pages of footnotes, some of them quite long and in small print. The notes have some of the technical legal and financial material left out of the narrative. We can almost hear the discussion with her editor of her target audience. That’s too technical for a general audience; put it in a footnote. She did.

By the end of the book I am comfortable that Elizabeth Warren will never be the cynical politician, or for that matter, the cynical Democrat, who talks a good game and sells out behind closed doors. She might lose a fight but not her work to have what is ethical and fair minded, and to end what is not.

One of her stories was about a congressman who spoke to Warren about some of his constituents who got swindled by the rogues and scoundrels sprinkled around the financial world. Then he said “if he stood up for the families who’d been hurt, he could find himself sidelined in Congress by the leadership of his own party.” Well, that will not happen with Senator Warren.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Healthy Families Act

President Obama and the Healthy Families Act

President Obama called on Congress to approve the Healthy Families Act, which would guarantee seven days of paid sick leave. He also announced a “Modernizing Federal Leave Policies for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care to Recruit and Retain Talent and Improve Productivity.” A brief discussion in the Washington Post [“Federal Workers Get Expanded Sick Leave”, WP, 1/16/2015] called that borrowing sick leave earned from the future. Apparently Federal supervisors can allow that already but now they cannot turn it down.

Sick Leave

The United States is the only country among developed countries that does not guarantee any paid sick days. American workers can be fired for absence from work for illness, whether its something as simple as the flu or whether it’s something that goes on for months. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act requires an employer to allow unpaid leave, but only those employers with more than 50 employees and only for the employees who have worked more than half time for the last twelve months. Allow really means unpaid time off without being subject to dismissal at the whim of their employer.

Not having paid sick leave pressures the sick to be at work where they can spread their germs around. Sick restaurant workers cough on your dinner or sick children spread contagious diseases around the daycare when parents cannot afford to take leave. Sick people are less productive. Some countries require employers to cover salaries when people are out sick while others have social insurance where the government pays fixed or sick leave salaries determined by formula. Some have a combination.

The Center for Economic Policy Research reported sick leave for 21 developed countries in Europe and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Sick leave in these countries is national policy with sick pay financing, maximum amounts, and waiting periods set for all employers. A number of countries guarantee sick pay for long periods. Norway guarantees 52 weeks at full pay, Luxembourg 11 weeks, Austria 8 weeks, Germany 6 weeks, Denmark 4 weeks, Switzerland 3 weeks, Greece 2 weeks. None of these countries have waiting periods to start benefits.

Finland has 9 days of sick leave at full pay financed by the employer, but in a continued illness employees get 300 days of additional sick pay over a two year period at a rate of pay figured as 70 percent of earnings divided by 300. The rate is adjusted for high earners to be 40 percent and the whole expense is 100 percent funded by social insurance.

Germany has 6 weeks of sick leave at full pay financed by the employer funds, but in a continued illness employees get 78 weeks of additional sick pay over a three year period up to a maximum of 90 percent of regular pay. It is 70 percent funded through social insurance.

The United States has nothing, although a few states and cities have paid sick leave requirements. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that Connecticut was the first state to require private sector employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees, with a law enacted in 2011. California was next and Massachusetts third.

Common conditions in these statutes require a dollar of paid sick leave for every thirty hours of work with payment that begins on the eighth day of illness in California. Connecticut and Massachusetts use forty hours. San Francisco and Oakland, California, Washington, DC, Seattle, Washington, Portland and Eugene, Oregon, New York City, and Newark and six other New Jersey towns have some paid sick leave. Wisconsin does not require paid sick leave and reports are that Governor Scott Walker signed a bill to prevent cities from adopting their own paid sick leave proposals.

Family Leave Policies

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, already mentioned, also applies for a spouse, natural or adopted child or a parent, but still as an unpaid requirement. Since both partners in a marriage are eligible their combined leave could be 24 weeks. As with unpaid sick leave the law applies to those in their current employment for at least one year and who work at an establishment with at least 50 employees.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports twelve states with there own unpaid family leave laws but only three states – California, Connecticut, Massachusetts – have paid family leave statutes. All three states fund their programs through employee-paid payroll taxes with administration through their respective disability programs. The California program was first to take effect July 1, 2004. Recent review shows nearly 90 percent of benefits go to new mothers who take time to be with newborn children.

Holiday and Vacation Policies

The United States remains unique among developed countries by refusing to guarantee any paid holidays or any paid vacation. Austria and Portugal lead with 13 paid holidays, Spain has 12, Italy has 11, Germany, Belgium, New Zealand have 10, Canada and Ireland 9, Australia 8, but the United States has none. There are currently ten Federal holidays for Federal workers, but private employers can do as they please.

The Center for Economic Policy Research reports France is the leader in paid vacation with 30 days guaranteed. Great Britain is next with 28 days followed by Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden with 25. Germany guarantees 24, Austria, Portugal, Spain guarantees 22. Eight countries guarantee 20 days: Italy, Belgium, New Zealand, Ireland, Austria, Greece, Netherlands, Switzerland. Canada and Japan guarantee 10 days, but the United States has none. Private employers can do as they please.

The U.S. Private Sector

The United States primarily relies on private business to decide employee benefits where other countries regard them as a national decision to be decided through the political process. Without a Congressional or legislative mandate sick leave, family leave, holiday and vacation pay become part of an employers job offer and a source of labor market strategy and competition.

The 2012 results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey report 61 percent of private sector employers have paid sick leave and 11 percent offer paid family leave to take care of a spouse, parents or children. Of the 61 percent with paid sick leave 76 percent have between 1 and 9 days, lower than most of the countries reported above.

However, paid sick leave and paid family leave drop off for part time employees. Only 23 percent have paid sick leave and 4 percent paid family leave. Paid sick leave and family leave also varies by industry. The leisure and hospitality industry with arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodations and food service establishments has the lowest paid sick and family leave coverage among United States industries. The National Compensation Survey reports only 27 percent have paid sick leave and 3 percent paid family leave.

Paid sick leave and family leave also vary by firm size. Only 50 percent of firms with 1 to 49 employees have paid sick leave while 82 percent of firms with more than 500 employees have paid sick leave. Only 7 percent of firms with 1 to 49 employees have paid family leave while 20 percent of firms with more than 500 employees have paid family leave.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a similar pattern for paid holidays and vacation time, but with higher percentages. The National Compensation Survey report 77 percent have some paid holidays and 77 percent have some paid vacation. Only 42 percent of firms allow all 10 federal holidays.

However, paid holidays and paid vacation also drop off for part time employees. Only 40 percent have paid holidays and 35 percent paid vacation. Paid holidays and vacations also vary by industry. The leisure and hospitality industry with arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodations and food service establishments has the lowest paid holiday and vacation coverage among United States industries. The National Compensation Survey reports only 38 percent have paid holidays and 46 percent paid vacation.

Only 69 percent of firms with 1 to 49 employees have paid holidays while 91 percent of firms with more than 500 employees have paid holidays. Only 67 percent of firms with 1 to 49 employees have paid vacation while 90 percent of firms with more than 500 employees have paid vacation.

The varied employment benefits offered in the private sector suggests they are high or low depending on the same market conditions that affect wages. For example, the food service industry, mostly restaurants, pays among the lowest wages and also has the lowest benefits. Part time work does not often pay as well as full time work and it also has substantially lower benefits. Unequal benefits contribute further to inequality of income and wealth.

Company benefits make it harder to compare pay packages between firms and may allow firms with better benefits to keep employees from leaving for higher wage offers. Company benefits can also be adjusted to improve with years of service. Vacations often work this way. The National Compensation Survey reports that only 20 percent of private sector firms have 3 weeks or more of vacation after one year of service while 76 percent have 3 weeks or more after 10 years of service. Moving to another job will be less attractive if it is necessary to start over in vacation days.

President Obama’s proposal comes after six years in office and compared to other countries it is very modest. The Healthy Families Act he supports only applies to employers with more than 15 employers where paid sick days accumulate by 1 day for each 30 days on the job up to a maximum of 56 hours.

There is another proposed law not mentioned in the Washington Post article: the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, sometimes called the Family Act. It would allow up to 12 weeks of leave with partial income payment of 66 percent of monthly wages capped at a maximum amount. Payments would be financed with a payroll charge of twenty cents per $100 of wages. It is also a modest proposal.

These new proposals come at a time when new forms of competition pressure firms to reduce or eliminate employment benefits, especially for the service industry. The higher productivity that is possible using smart phones and GPS communications pressures companies with older traditional forms of employment to imitate or go broke. For example, companies like Uber offer taxi services through Uber’s centralized communications network, but drivers provide their own car and manage their own work and time as independent entrepreneurs. The new business model eliminates key conditions that define employment or to apply the requirement for employers to pay social security payroll taxes. Similar service arrangements are spreading to short term rental housing like Airbnb, or home repairs like Taskrabbit and home services like Homejoy.

The Health Families Act is a start, but it looks too much like too little too late.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Jobs in Technical Writing

Standard Occupational Classification #27-3042 Technical Writers

SOC definition Technical Writers #27-3042 -- Write technical materials, such as equipment manuals, appendices, or operating and maintenance instruction manuals. Many assist in layout work. Examples of other common names are documentation writer, assembly instructions writer, specifications writer

Technical writing work is classified as a media and communications occupation with the largest share working in the professional and technical services industries, almost 36 percent of the jobs. Among the professional services computer systems design and related services has 18 percent of the jobs, but other professional services like architectural and engineering services, management and scientific and technical consulting services also employ a large number.

Another 16 percent are in various manufacturing industries that need owner’s manuals and repair manuals to go with manufactured products. Computer and electronic product manufacturing has 6 percent of these jobs alone with small percents scattered in many manufacturing industries.

The publishing industry employs a little over 8 percent with 5 percent working for software publishers. Government employs 3.4 percent; 2.5 percent in the federal government. The rest are scattered as small percents in many industries because finance, health care and so many industries need to explain technical material. A little over 9 percent are self employed.

National employment as technical writers was 47,300 in 2013. Jobs are down from 50,700 since 2000 in a modest decline. Annual average job decline was 262 per year since 2000 at a growth rate of -.53 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting job growth for technical writers of 280 per year through 2022 with a growth rate of 2.07 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 technical writers are forecast to be 2,260 a year through 2022.

The recently updated BLS Education and Training Classification assignments lists BA degree skills as necessary for entry into jobs as technical writers. However, percentages from survey data are published for technical writing that show an educational distribution where 47 percent have a BA degree and another 26 percent have advanced degrees. Another 21 percent have some college, but no degree, or an associate’s degree. Some specialized knowledge or experience may be satisfactory in some industries, but less than 6 percent who work as technical writers have high school or less than high school training. Previous experience of 1 to 5 years is considered important, but short term on-the-job training is expected for new hires.

Relevant BA degree programs include Professional, Technical, Business and Scientific Writing, English Language and Literature, General and also Journalism degrees that teach writing as a career. For those interested in technical writing it is wise to find a college that offers the Technical Writing specialty in that only a few actually specialize in technical writing.

There were 685 Professional, Technical, Business and Scientific Writing BA degrees for the last full year of data reported by the Department of Education. In addition, there were 363 more advanced degrees. The ratio of relevant degrees to openings equals 0.464, or 1,048/2,260, assuring a shortage of highly trained and specialized candidates to fill job openings. There were also 43,260 BA degrees in English Language and Literature, General, and 12,249 BA degrees in journalism. Even though these degrees are not as specialized to technical writing, Professional, Technical, Business and Scientific Writing degree candidates should expect other qualified candidates in the applicant pool.

The entry wage for the national market in the 10th percentile for technical writers is reported as $40,270 in 2013. The 25th percentile wage equals $51,850. The median wage is $67,900, the 75th percentile wage equals $86,340 and the 90th percentile wage is $105,760.

The wages of technical writers have kept up with inflation for the last decade. For example, to have the buying power of the 2006 median wage of $58,050 in 2013, the technical writers wage would need to be $67,079.11. In stead it was $67,900, a 1.22 percent increase in the real wage for those six years.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Death's Door

Steve Lehto, Death’s Door: The Truth Behind the Italian Hall Disaster and the Strike of 1913, (Detroit: Momentum Books, 1913) second edition, 397 pages

Steve Lehto first published Death’s Door in 2006. It includes a detailed account and review of evidence from a panic at a Christmas Eve party attended by children and parents of striking copper miners in Keweenaw, Michigan. The panic that took place on the second floor of Italian Hall in Calumet resulted in the death of 73, mostly children. The title Death’s Door derives from the pileup and suffocation of victims toward the bottom of the stairwell in front of the exit door. The book includes narrative history of the Keweenaw copper strike of 1913-14, which is necessary to understand the events at Italian Hall and the claims and charges in the aftermath.

The second edition published in 2013 added new material as the hundredth anniversary of the strike approached. It takes up old controversies that still remain and some new ones that recently surfaced in other books and accounts.

The discussion of the Christmas party comes as a brief version of events in the Introduction, then again in more detail in a chapter also titled Death’s Door, actually Chapter 7, although the book’s sixteen chapters are not numbered. The next chapter narrates several days after and the short chapter fifteen titled “What Actually Happened” provides further discussion and Lehto’s conclusions about the panic at Death’s Door.

The Western Federation of Miners strike in the copper mines of Keweenaw began July 22, 1913 and did not end until April 1914. Sketches of the local community, the mining companies and business groups, the union, and some biographical material of general managers, and other officials fill chapter 2. Chapter 3 narrates the strike from the beginning into mid August, a period that included picketing and parades, the governor mobilizing the National Guard, and the county sheriff deputizing hundreds of strike breakers and vigilantes. The rest of the events of the strike including Italian Hall are scattered in chapters four through ten.

Narrative in the first ten chapters takes several detours to examine specific events that occurred during the strike. For example, chapter four takes sixty pages to discuss the legal record in a brutal attack and shootings by private detectives and sheriffs deputies that occurred August 14 at a boardinghouse full of miners in Seeberville. Discussion of the Seeberville shootings and other violent events like the Italian Hall panic benefit from Lehto’s experience as a Michigan attorney. In each of several other episodes and the Italian Hall panic he reviews and evaluates the legal evidence with a microscope: arrest warrants, transcripts of testimony of preliminary examinations, coroner’s inquests, and trials.

After the hardships of nearly six months on strike miners planned a large Christmas Eve Party at Italian hall for union members and their families. After the party was well underway a man entered the hall, climbed the stairs and shouted “fire” into a room stuffed with 700 hundred people, which caused the panic and death already mentioned. Accounts of what happened varied dramatically depending on who told the story. Striking miners identified the man from a business group known as the Citizens Alliance; mining companies and the newspapers had other stories and supplied other explanations.

Chapter 8 has a thorough review of newspaper reports; chapter 9 covers the archival record of officials like the county sheriff, his deputies, the prosecutor and coroner; and chapter 10 reviews testimony at hearings of a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee sent to Keweenaw to investigate the strike and Italian Hall. Transcripts of official proceedings, especially the coroner’s inquest remain, which allows an evaluation of established legal procedures with the record of events that took place in 1913.

Lehto concludes the misconduct of mine owners with their cozy relationships with law enforcement officers and government officials made them co-conspirators and accomplices to crimes. He writes a strikebreaker named Edward Manley entered Italian hall, cried “fire” and ran out. While it is likely that Manley only wanted to create a disturbance and disrupt miner solidarity, his intentional actions killed 73 people.

Lehto’s views in the first edition published in 2006 got more controversial as the 100th anniversary approached and other accounts and views were discussed and published. More recent explanations have cast the mine owners in a more benevolent light suggesting what occurred at Italian Hall was a tragic accident the cause of which cannot be solved. The remaining six chapters address these controversies as individual topics.

Chapter 11, entitled Lingering Controversies, challenges five of the revisionist views such as the suggestion the exit doors opened inward and that was a cause of the tragedy. Italian Hall was torn down in 1984 and the State of Michigan authorized an historical marker at the site dedicated in November 1989, which allowed these revisionist views, but there are other points in contention reviewed in this chapter.

In the next chapter readers find out about a 2012 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council to Michigan Technological University in Keweenaw to create an exhibit on the strike entitled, Tumult and Tragedy. The authors of Tumult and Tragedy also published a revisionist book about the strike and the Italian Hall panic entitled, Community in Conflict. In the book they specifically attack Lehto’s work and so he devoted a chapter to review their book and reply to these attacks.

A few more short chapters reiterate conclusions to finish the book. The book reads as a mixture of historical narrative, legal analysis and journalism. The writing flows along easily, but the material does not always follow an obvious line of organization and so it sometimes feels jumbled. One aside, Lehto started over a hundred sentences with the word, interestingly, which got to be an amusing bit of surplusage. An insert of 36 pages of pictures and drawings of the floor plans of the Italian Hall adds a significant benefit to the book. It does not have numbered footnotes but a list of unnumbered footnotes at the end organized only by chapter heading, which makes it harder to find citations. There is no index, a serious shortcoming in my view.

The period of 1910 to early 1920’s is a period of vicious and violent attacks on organized labor throughout the United States and especially the Western Federation of Miners. WFM president Charles Moyer had a long career as a labor organizer in the western United States when he arrived to help in the Keweenaw strike. Out west he was frequently attacked, beaten, kidnapped and once acquitted in a long murder trial in Idaho that resulted from perjured testimony.

He arrived in Calumet at the time of the Christmas Eve party. After the Citizens Alliance decided to donate funds to families of victims of Italian Hall, the families and union President Moyer refused the money as inappropriate given events of the strike. Alliance members were enraged and the county sheriff and several Alliance members confronted Moyer at his hotel room. When he again refused their money they threatened him. The sheriff left but within minutes twenty men bashed down his door and physically attacked him. During the beating a hand gun went off and the bullet hit Moyer in the shoulder. Wounded and bleeding the gang dragged him to the train station and forcibly deported him to Chicago; no one was ever prosecuted.

The Moyer shooting and kidnapping and other shootings during the strike were committed by men paid by the mine owners. All of those killed were strikers. These known and admitted facts in the case along with Lehto’s careful examination of the written evidence refute the revisionist views. The Keweenaw copper strike was like strikes all over the country where organized labor and the working class struggled in divided communities to cope with the bitter opposition of business and their supporters among the well-to-do and middle class. Be assured Death’s Door is the definitive source for the Keweenaw copper strike of 1913.