Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Health Care and Inequality

The debate over health care reform drags on with charges and counter charges. When the groups opposed to change want to throw down the gauntlet they will describe the Democrat’s proposals as a “complete takeover of the health care industry.”

Using the words “complete takeover” makes it sound like the private insurance industry once served people who now get health care provided through the government, or have no health care at all.

Opposition groups define the duty to provide health care as their right in private markets. They want health care to be an option that goes with a job. Otherwise the saga of America’s health care is a government takeover of groups ignored, and groups abandoned by the fee for service private sector.

Health care provided through employment leaves retirees out of health care, which is why those over 66, the Social Security retirement age, have Medicare health coverage. Notice that Medicare maintains the fee for service principles favored by the private sector. That’s because Medicare is financed with a 1.45 percent tax on wages, which fee for service advocates contend is just like an insurance premium.

Medicare is just one of the partial and patchwork solutions to health insurance. Since health care for those younger than 66 assumes employment, the unemployed are left out. Congress responded to the unemployed with legislation known as COBRA that allows the unemployed to buy their group health insurance at group rates, but only for 18 months. The time limit assumes the unemployed will find more work with health insurance.

Since jobs that pay low wages, or jobs that use low skills, do not always include health care the working poor are left out. Congress responded with Medicaid, but with strict limits on income and assets. The limits are so low that many families above the Medicaid limit are without health insurance. Congress responded with legislation known as SCHIP (State children’s health Insurance Program) as a Medicaid supplement to cover children, but not their parents.

Workmen’s compensation, which is really health insurance for injuries on the job, duplicates some of the coverage for private insurance policies but ignores the unemployed since it too requires a job.

If a job does not include health care insurance individual and family policies get mysteriously expensive and unaffordable for millions with wages too low to pay fees and premiums charged.

The patchwork of government health care reflects the limitations imposed by private sector advocates with the political strength to maintain fee for service principles.
To have health insurance for the uninsured it will be necessary to address the inequality of wages and income outside a fee for service system. The wealthy will have to pay higher income taxes to support health care subsidies to have health care reform. Most of the public debate tries to disguise this requirement, but reform that insures the uninsured must have subsidies to make up for low income.

The debate goes on, but the wealthy are resisting. Health care reform remains doubtful, but we will see.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gambling and Taxes

House democrats announced a plan to raise personal income tax rates up to 5.4 percent on incomes over $350,000. The Obama Administration is supporting a similar plan. The additional tax revenue will be used to pay for health care proposals that extend coverage to 37 million people who are currently without coverage.

In a recent article about the proposal in the Washington Post [Health-Care Plan Would Add Surtax On Wealthy, July 15] there were several objections quoted. One objection caught my eye. It was from Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

He said, "Tax is a four-letter word" with voters. Even families not ranking in the top 1 percent of earners hope they're going to be there someday. So they don't necessarily think it's fair."

He used percent to define the rich, which is significant because America is a democracy. Remember in a democracy 50 percent plus one win elections. Therefore, if Senator Nelson is right then the other 99 percent of American voters, not ranking in the top 1 percent, accept having low taxes for the wealthy because it gives them hope they might become wealthy. The 99 percent would include voters from the 37 million without health care; unless someone thinks the richest 1 percent go without health care.

Notice the word “hope” in his statement. Hope is a word often associated with gambling rather than tax policy, or fairness, or anything else. Americans and politicians talk about what is fair and what is unfair, but when it’s time to vote no one has to consider what is fair. They can vote for any reason they want including the hope they will win a state lottery and pay low taxes on their winnings.

There was a time when the wealthy paid 90 percent of their incremental income as income tax. That was back nearly 50 years ago, but it was also a time when state lotteries and gambling was mostly illegal.

For the millions who lived on a wage 50 years ago, there was little hope of becoming wealthy without years of saving, if saving was possible. Gambling mostly took place in black markets and went untaxed.

For the millions who live on a wage today, there is little hope of becoming wealthy without years of saving, if saving is possible, but the gradual rise of gambling overlaps the decline of the top income tax rate, which dropped to 35 percent back in 2003.

I read the media stories about lobbyists and the influence of money in politics, but the vote has not been abolished in the United States. The richest one percent of Americans cannot have low taxes in a democracy without the acceptance or support of millions.

Senator Nelson’s statement adds anecdotal confirmation to what I have long suspected: gambling has more influence on America’s tax policy than any of us want to admit. Gambling gives hope to the many, but low taxes to the rich. Just ask Senator Nelson.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Telecommuting and Green Jobs

President Obama announced plans to create “green jobs” as part of the Reinvestment and Recovery Act passed earlier this spring. He was quoted as saying "A green, renewable-energy economy isn't some pie-in-the-sky, far-off future. It is now. It is creating jobs now."

The new law provides money and development programs for adopting environmental technologies and helping to expand green projects. Green projects that reduce the use of fossil fuels and expand renewable energy, retrofit buildings, expand mass transit, or longer term initiatives like solar power, wind mill farms and bio-fuels will increase jobs and employment.

Telecommuting could save fossil fuels and reduce green house emissions, which makes it a green initiative but unlike the green projects mentioned above it conflicts with work and jobs. Telecommuting and outsourcing are possible because digital technologies applied in computing and communications let people work anywhere and anytime.

Outsourcing usually has more attention than telecommuting in the popular media, but they are nearly the same and have the same potential to reduce employment. For example, take the customer service representative, which holds 8th place among America’s occupations with 2.1 million total jobs in nearly every sector of the economy, but especially when we need assistance in finance and insurance.

Customer Service Representative gets media attention because America’s corporations outsource some of this work to India and other countries. Many regard outsourcing as the action of ruthless corporate tycoons ripping the heart out of America, but allow me to suggest outsourcing is very much a telecommuting issue.

Over 80 percent of Customer Service Representative jobs are reported for the country’s metropolitan areas, where millions commute by car and donate thousands of hours of their time using up gasoline and wearing out their cars so that others might work. Unlike production workers who must work at factories, Customer Service Representatives work can be anywhere with a computer and a telephone, as the companies themselves have so definitely proved.

Doing computer work from home as telecommuters not only reduces jobs in the automobile industry, car repairs, gasoline, cement, and highway construction, but also for jobs in real estate, office rental, building maintenance, building repair and local government. Quarter-time telecommuting potentially reduces office demand by 25 percent.

The Obama energy initiatives attempt to develop new supplies of energy that will cut down on fossil fuels and green house emissions and create jobs. Politically it should be much easier to do because it avoids sacrifice. Telecommuting confronts America with conflicts and trade offs. Telecommuting can save resources and reduce green house emissions, it will also eliminate jobs.

Business has similar incentives to expand telecommuting as it does outsourcing to other countries. Government has begun to experiment with limited telecommuting. If America gets serious about green house gases it should expect to confront the conflict between energy and jobs. The Obama plan does the easy things first, but it may not be enough. More green initiatives will require us to change the way we think about work and jobs.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Minimum Wages and Work

The minimum wage went up to $7.25 an hour on July 24th as the last of a three year planned increase passed by Congress. The increase is $.70 an hour over the minimum in 2008, a 10.7 percent increase. Since inflation is reported at 3.8 percent for the year the buying power of the minimum wage went up for 2009.

Despite three years of increase, the Federal minimum wage has a history of falling buying power. During the years 1997 to 2007 the federal minimum wage was frozen at $5.15 per hour. Even with annual inflation in the one to three percent range the minimum wage lost 25 percent of its buying power. A wage of $5.15 an hour in 2007 would only buy what $3.99 would buy in 1997.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes wage ranges by occupation as part of its occupational employment survey. The median wage is often quoted in the popular press but there are wage ranges published that include the 10th, 25th, 75th and 90th percentile wages by occupation. For example, the 2008 data show 3.5 million employed nationwide as cashiers with a 10th percentile wage of $6.88. That means that 10 percent, or 350 thousand jobs, can be expected to have wages equal to or less than $6.88 an hour.

The 2008 data show cashier and 30 other occupations with 18 million jobs that have 10th percentile wages of $7.25 or less, which means 1.8 million of the total can expect a boost in pay. It is a $1,456.00 annual increase over the old minimum for a full time job, but still only $15,080 a year and barely half of a self supporting wage.

Business tends to oppose any increase in the minimum wage and economists predict in sinister tones that higher minimum wages lead to falling employment, hurting those who expect to be helped. However, the tendency to use less labor at higher wages is universal and not confined to just minimum wage jobs.

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports managerial jobs in decline with a drop from just over 8 million in 1999 to barely 6 million in 2008. Engineering managers are down by nearly 70 thousand as median wages went steadily up reaching $115,000 in 2008.

Economizing on high paid engineering managers puts engineers in surplus as long as we expect former engineering managers to be looking for engineering work in occupations related to engineering. Most engineering specialties like civil engineering and mechanical engineering have median wages in the mid $70’s. Engineering technician jobs have median wages in the $40’s.

Civil and mechanical engineering jobs are up with some of the unemployed engineering managers adding to the supply of labor, but we can’t be sure who got the engineering jobs. If it is former engineering managers it will certainly mean a pay cut for them.

It could be an engineer who was working as a lower paid engineering technician. If that is the case it will mean a pay raise for them, but it could also be a college graduate in engineering who had been working in a minimum wage job. If that is the case it will mean a pay raise for them.

During the years from 2006 to the present when the minimum wage jumped by $2.10 an hour, jobs as fast food cooks dropped from over 600 thousand to 559 thousand. Maybe that is due to the higher minimum wage, but during the same period there were other labor markets where a surplus of labor kept wages lower and helped expand employment, but in wage ranges well above the minimum.

Economists tend to ignore what is happening in high wage job markets when they predict changes for markets with the lowest wage. A higher minimum wage can eliminate low wage jobs, but that does not relegate the people who had them to endless unemployment, nor prevent them from getting higher wage jobs. That is because changes in job markets create surplus labor in many occupations in other wage ranges, both high and low.

Families are a second wage issue that economists tend to ignore. Economists act as though individuals make independent decisions when it is time to enter the labor force and become part of the labor supply. Yet a majority of Americans live in families and make job decisions that depend on their spouse and the circumstance of other family members.

Suppose the mister in the Smith family has a job as a tool and die maker working in manufacturing and his wife works part time in retail. Tool and die maker is one of America’s better paid production occupations with a median wage reported at $22.32 an hour or $46,430 a year for 2008, and a 90th percentile wage of $34.76 an hour or $72,300 a year. Together they might earn $60 to $80 thousand dollars.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports jobs as tool and die maker in decline every year since the late 1990’s. With a broad base of manufacturing also in decline it is easy to imagine a layoff for Mr. Smith. Economists argue and predict people will work less at lower wages and work more at higher wages so unless Mr. Smith can find work at his tool and die maker wage economists expect him to work less after a layoff than before.

Economists do not base their predictions on interviews, observation or data. Instead they rely on conjecture about preferences. Leisure they argue is valuable and will be traded for work in the personal preferences of individuals. Therefore, at higher wages leisure is more expensive because it means giving up those higher wages, and people with standard preferences want less of what is more expensive. Conversely, at lower wages leisure is less expensive because it means giving up lower wages, and people will want more leisure because it’s less expensive.

Those less devoted to the economist’s way think the Smith’s will do whatever they can to pay the bills and maintain their economic status. Mr. Smith will take a job in maintenance or construction or whatever he can find at lower wages if necessary, and a second job working evenings or weekends. Mrs. Smith will work more hours in retail. Together the Smith’s work more hours at lower wages to keep up, just as they might work less if their wage was higher. People like the Smiths assure that lower wages add to the surplus of labor.

It is easy to understand the business opposition to the minimum wage: it converts profits to costs at $1,456 dollars per full time minimum wage employee. The economist’s opposition to a higher minimum wage is different; they argue that forcing up wages is bad for labor by reducing jobs and raising unemployment as more people look for work at the higher wage.

Economists ignore the two possibilities mentioned above: that those who lose low wage jobs can find surplus markets and other jobs at higher wages and that families work more at lower wages. If either is true then economists are giving bad advice.

This July 24th Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced “This administration is committed to improving the lives of working families across the nation, and the increase in the minimum wage is another important step in the right direction. This well-deserved increase will help workers better provide for their families in the face of today's economic challenges.”

Politicians often exaggerate the significance of what they do and it does sound like high praise for a wage of $7.25 an hour. It is not enough increase to be the important step she says, but it is in the right direction.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Banks and Hedge Funds

Banks are essential, but troublesome institutions that keep checking accounts for depositors, but only hold a fraction of deposit liabilities in reserve to pay for checks.

Normally 15 cents on the dollar will be adequate reserves because those writing checks will about equal those making deposits. Normally borrowers will be paying principal and interest to further assure that banks have reserves to pay on their checking accounts.

Because a bank’s liabilities include personal and business checking accounts, i.e. money, the larger society has a special need to regulate banks to make sure they have reserves to meet their account liabilities.

Even though bank regulations requiring minimum reserves have been around a long time banks have been left to decide which loans to make and which loans to refuse. Individual banks decided when to make loans to hedge funds and how much to loan.

To make payments on their loans hedge fund managers need to have their own reserve funds from investors, or profits, but hedge funds are unregulated so it is up to hedge fund managers to decide their reserves.

More than a few people urge that hedge funds should be regulated like banks because they are taking risks more risky than banks, which can bring down the financial system.

To judge the risk yourself suppose it is 1993 and you are the manager at Long Term Capital Management, a new hedge fund. You notice in August that a new 30 year Treasury bond with coupon interest of 7.2 percent starts trading at 7.24 percent interest and a price of $980.84 for a $1,000 bond, but another 30 year Treasury bond first sold in February 1993 is trading for 7.36 percent interest at a price of $995.13.
(Price calculations are from MS Excel function PRICE)

To exploit the difference of price, the spread, you get a loan to buy the cheaper and older $1,000 bond at $980.84. Then you borrow the other bond from a brokerage house like Merrill-Lynch and immediately sell it for $995.13 cash.

The two transactions will be profitable if the interest rates converge over time: the low one rises and the high one falls. Economic theory predicts price differences will be temporary for a product or service; low prices rise and high prices fall until all are equal.

Suppose in two months the interest rates do converge to 7.3 percent.

At 7.3 percent interest you can sell the older bond for $987.83: a $6.99 profit. You buy back the newer bond for $987.77 and return it to Merrill-Lynch. Since you sold it for $995.13 you make $7.36 on the second transaction. Total profit equals $14.35.
Earning $14.35 will not make you rich, but if a bank will lend you $1 billion to buy many bonds and interest rates do converge then you can get rich.

Banks made billions in loans to hedge funds and many made profits doing the same and similar transactions as the one above. Eventually though, interest rates diverged and some countries and companies defaulted on the bonds in hedge fund portfolios.

Hedge funds could only sell their bonds at a loss, if at all, and without reserves or cash they defaulted on billions in loans. Banks needed those loan payments to have enough reserves to clear checking accounts: my money and yours. That was the downward spiral, the crisis.

Maybe it’s high finance? Maybe it’s gambling? Maybe it’s time to regulate hedge funds like banks?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thoughts on Used Cars

Automobiles have a unique place in American consumption and personal finance. Nothing else remains our personal choice that costs so much and depreciates so fast.

As everyone knows cars are more than transportation. For people in business it is often important to have a late model car to project an image of prestige and prosperity. Others are interested in style and performance and buy one car over another for a range of personal reasons.

For those who buy cars to minimize their personal expense, they buy a used car. Automobile companies, dealers and car traders have to publish price and sales information to do their business, which makes it possible to follow depreciation from the manufacturers suggested retail price through years of resale.

Used car buyers know the first rule of used cars: age lowers used car prices faster than mileage. They also know mileage lowers the value of a car more than age. Take an example like the Toyota Camry Sedan. In 1999 a new Camry had a manufacturers suggested retail price of $21,888. This spring, 10 years later, various sales guides show a used car price around $6,400, which is depreciation of almost $15,500, or roughly 71 percent depreciation.

A buyer getting a 10 year old Camry for $6,400 pays 29 percent of the original manufacturers suggested retail price so here is a good question to ask yourself: Can I get more than 29 percent of the car’s total mileage? A 10 year old Camry in decent shape that passes state inspections and with less than 100 thousand miles almost certainly has more than half its usable miles.

Cars last longer and break down less than they used to do, both foreign and domestic. In spite of higher quality, resale prices still drop much faster by age than by miles. As long as that is true used car buyers can capture more of the benefits of higher quality by driving the last miles of a car rather than the first.

Remember as well that a used car means additional savings because the lower price lets you earn interest on the money you saved, or avoid interest on the money you did not need to borrow.

I have checked other makes and models and when I compare reported used car prices of 10 year old cars as a ratio to the manufacturers suggested retail price I find the ratio stays in the low 70 percent range. For the Honda Accord it was 70 percent, the Acura and the Maxima 76 percent, the Mustang 69 percent. Even a Ford, Crown Victoria turned out to be 76 percent.

I often hear people say they buy a foreign car over a domestic car because it retains its value longer. Mine is a small sample but if many other makes and models also lose 70 to 76 percent of their value in 10 years, then cars lose value at about the same rate, suggesting quality is more the same than many of us believe.

Find yourself a 10 year old car; keep it under 100 thousand miles; pay as much less than 70 percent of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price as you can negotiate and save a bundle.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Labor News

“Workers behaving as though they are truly free and truly human are a big threat to corporations, and you don’t need an MBA to figure that out.” --------------------Max Filipacci, quoted from an interview by Andrew Ross in his book No-Collar, 2003

“If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” -------------E. M. Forester

“I felt after I did High Noon that my future would be pretty rosy, but anyone who was sort of liberal in those days or wanting to do anything about improving humanity kind of suffered. And I was part of an organization called the Actor’s Lab and there apparently were quite a few Communists in that organization, so I suppose that ws one of the reasons I was put on the [black] list. Didn’t work for several years.” ------------------------------Actor Lloyd Bridges quoted from an interview by Glenn Frankel in his book account of the film, High Noon p 212

“Let’s pull down these huge piles of gold until there shall be a real job, not a little old sow-belly, black-eyed pea job but a real spending money, beef steak and gravy, Chevrolet, Ford in the garage, new suit, Thomas Jefferson, Jesus Christ, red, white and blue job for every man." -----------------Senator Huey Long, in a speech from 1934

“History proves, indisputably, that a superior and inferior race cannot live together practically on any other terms than that of master and slave, and that the inferior race, like the Indians, must be expelled or exterminated.”-----from “The Problem of the Black Race,” Dr. J.C. Nott, Debows Review, March 1866, p 269

“We are in the saddle as an administration representing business and industry. Never before, here or anywhere else, has a government been so completely fused with business.”-------------Douglas McKay, President Eisenhower’s Secretary of the Interior. 

On Corporate Dishonesty

Unscrupulous managers of great corporate enterprises, with large amounts of money at command, have not hesitated to use it in corrupting legislative and other depositories of political power for the purpose of securing unjust advantages over the community at large. Unfortunately, men of good reputation who would not stoop so low in their private business, are, when interested in great corporations prone to wink at the dishonesty of such expenditures, and to regard them as necessary under the circumstances, stilling their consciences by carefully avoiding embarrassing inquiry into details.
----------------from the Law school commencement address of the University of Michigan Law school by William Howard Taft, June 27, 1894

One Politician to Another

“The call for honest men is a new form of speech at this convention. No invasive honesty will be upheld. Our people want men in office who will not steal, but will not interfere with those who do.”
-------------- Former New York Governor, Horatio Seymour, in a letter to Samuel Tilden, August 24, 1874.

On the Cold War in 1966

“Gradually but unmistakably America is showing signs of that arrogance of power which has afflicted, weakened, and in some cases destroyed great nations in the past.”
---------------J William Fulbright, from the Arrogance of Power, 1966

On Robert F. Kennedy’s Assassination

“This is what we do. As soon as someone tries to speak out and gets too forceful this big machine is gonna shut’em up.”
---------------a comment from an interview for the film, Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation


“As long as I live there will always be a cold spot in my heart for the AFL-CIO. They left us hanging. We are the people in America who just don’t have the right to be viewed as anyone’s equal. They think we only exist to take orders – be it the company, the union bureaucrats, or the politicians. You don’t learn these lessons until it’s your butt that gets in the skillet.”
------------------------Gary Lamb, Local 7837, Vice President, reflecting on the demise of the union at Tate & Lyle subsidiary A.E. Staley company, March 1996.

A Lawyer on Lawyers

“They don’t send lawyers to jail, because we run the country … We’re still members of a privileged class in this country.”
-----------American lawyer, quoted from Kleptocracy in America, The Atlantic, March 2019

Collective Bargaining

“Under no circumstances will we enter into a wage discussion now, and under no circumstances will we deal with anyone, now or hereafter, except our own employees. That is our position now; it will be ourposition next year; and ten years from now.”
------------------Frank A Seiberling, President, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, 1913


“By the beginning of the twenty-first century, unfortunately, Texas was once again what it had been in the early 1900s: a symbol, to the rest of America and the world, of callous capitalism and primitive religion, of demagogic politics and conspicuous consumption, a global leader only in executions, pollution, and corporate crime.”
----------------Texan Michael Lind from his book Made in Texas, 2003

Labor and Civil Rights

“The forces that are anti-Negro are by and large anti-labor, and with the coming together of the powerful influence of labor and all people of good will in the struggle for freedom and human dignity, can assure you that we have a powerful instrument.”
---------------------Martin Luther King Jr. Chicago, 1957

Speaking of Mexicans

He is ignorant of values; he knows nothing of time; he knows nothing or our laws; he is as primitive as we were 2,500 years ago. He does no know our language, the result being that he becomes a petty criminal through ignorant violations and a prey for every unscrupulous scoundrel in the country. He rarely if ever takes out his citizenship, mixes in politics, or labor squabbles unless directed by some American group. He is the most tractable individual that ever came to serve us.
------------- Testimony before the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, 71st Congress, of Dr. George P. Clements, Manager of the agricultural department of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, 1930

Populist Harry Truman

“If it is necessary to cut each working day to two hours to give everybody a job, then let’s cut it to two hours and give the same wage we used to earn for a ten-hour day.”
-----------Harry Truman, as Missouri Reemployment Director, 1937

On Labor Relations

One hardly need point out that since the course of labor-management relations is dependent on the course of the larger society, the great corporations are no less capable, under the stress of circumstances, of altering their labor policies than their investment modalities. . . . In other words, "mature unionism" and the "civilized relationship" on which it depends, has to be viewed in the context of a dynamic, potentially unstable arrangement whose major impulses come from the greater society.
-----------------Bert Cochran, 1977

Trump on Sanctimony

When it comes to the phenomenon of Donald Trump, you have to give him this: sanctimony is not foremost among his sins. He provokes no moral disappointment, because he creates no moral expectations. Just as his business career was characterized by Mob-connected cronies, racial bias, aggrieved contractors, dubious partners, Byzantine lawsuits, and tabloid sensations, his Presidency dispenses with ethical pretense. Human rights in foreign affairs, compassion for the disadvantaged in domestic affairs, and truth in public statements are objects only of disdain.
-------------David Remnick, the New Yorker, April 2, 2018

Butte, Montana, 1898

A practice then prevailed to burn the sulphur out of the copper in great piles near the mines, before it was sent to the smelters. The poison fumes pervade the city and killed all vegetation. Not a blade of grass, a flower, a tree, could be seen in this terrible city. A sprawly, ugly place, with dusty shacks for the miners, t had an ever-expanding cemetery out on the flat lands. The city of the dead, mostly young miners, was almost as large as the living population, even in this very young city.”
-----------------Elizabeth Gurley Flynn from her memoir “I Speak My Own Piece.”

Gwynn Guilford on Appalachia

Across America, obscure clusters of misery are growing in number and concentration—as people get sicker, poorer, and more isolated than they were just a few decades ago. Thus untangling the knotty problems of central Appalachia holds lessons for the rest of the country about how imbalances of wealth and power, created generations ago, can trap places and their people in the past.
--------------------------quoted from her Internet article “The 100-year Capitalist Experiment” December 30, 2017

A Black Coal miner speaks about slavery

The American white miner is in a worse state today than the Negro was in slavery. He has to feed himself and family. The Negro did not have to do all that. When he wanted to go for a long distance he went to his master and asked for a mule to ride and it was all right. He has a full stomach to sleep on. No man working for a coal operator ever has a full stomach. Abe Lincoln signed a proclamation to set the colored slave free. Now the white miners is in slavery. Who will set him free?”
------------------Anthony Gray, from the United Mine Workers Journal, April 1, 1931

Women speak to Men, 1916

It is to the credit of the man of to-day that he has already learned to appreciate what he finds in the women who lives not to please him but to share with him the burdens he has been trying to carry alone. With his increasing scorn of her idleness he is already helping her out of whatever bankruptcy she may have suffered in the transition of ideals. For as he made of her a creature of elegance and obedience in the past, he is now intent that she shall become one of usefulness and independence in thought and action.
-----------------------Eva Elise vom Baur, New Republic Correspondence January 22, 1916

On Rights

All Classes have always been insistent on their own rights, and regardless of the interests of their fellow man. Thus the captains of industry have ever built up their combinations even against positive human law, but they just as loudly deny the right to the working man to monopolize and control the one commodity he has to sell – his labor – which is his flesh and blood, his very life.
--------------Clarence S. Darrow from the Open Shop

On Truth

In the cause of our narratives, it is our tendency to draw massive conclusions based on scant evidence.
-----------------Columnist Michael Gerson, January 2, 2018

On Washington

I learned from my proximity to power, that very few people in Washington really have power. And those who do are generally compromised by the time they get it.
-----------------John Dean, from an Esquire interview September 2017

On Scabs

“I will not work with strike-breakers. It’s a matter of principle for me. I simply refuse to work with anybody who takes money to do a union man’s job while that man is on strike. I call them scabs and I’m surprised that these management people allow themselves to be used that way. I could no more go into a building and work with scabs than I could play handball in church.”
------------------All in the Family actor Carroll O’Connor, during an electrical equipment operators strike at CBS, August 1974

On Democracy

“The development of a partnership between industry and labor in the solution of nation’s problems is the indispensable complement to political democracy. And that leads us to this all-important truth: there can no more be democratic self-government in industry without workers participating therein than there could be democratic government in politics without workers having the right to vote. … That is why the right to bargain collectively is at the bottom of social justice for the worker, as well as the sensible conduct of business affairs. The denial or observance of this right means the difference between despotism and democracy.”
----------Senator Robert F. Wagner, National Democratic Club Forum, May 8, 1937.

On Tyranny

Protest can be organized through social media, but nothing is real that does not end on the streets.
---------------Timothy Snyder, from On Tyranny, Tim Duggan Books, 2017

Labor in Trouble

The Labor movement is in trouble. We’ve lost three million members, but more important we’ve lost the faith of our membership. … Union members no longer truly believe in the trade union movement as a cause, as a social commitment, as a crusade. The gap between the leadership and the membership has widened. … I’ve grown disappointed as I watch George Meany drive to work in the morning with a chauffeur-driven Cadillac … that’s not the symbol that I thought should be the image of the labor movement. … Too much of the labor movement has forgotten where they came from.
-----------------------Tony Mazzocchi, from a speech August 15, 1979 at the convention of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union.

A Striker’s Wife Speaks

In San Francisco, I worked for 16 years in the various laundries as a press operator, and shirt finisher and it was this line of slavery that began to open my eyes to the fact that something was rotten somewhere. … As for me I will fight with the ones that are fighting for me whether they are Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian or Communist. My religion is in my heart, no one can take it out, and being Christian and honest, loving this great country as I do, for it is mine, I long to see the day when IT IS A FREE COUNTRY, when every man and women is equal and hunger is abolished forever and all political rats and grafters are removed.”
------------------Quoted from a letter in the Waterfront Worker, July 1, 1935

Communists on the Founding Fathers

“We communists claim the revolutionary traditions of Americanism. We are the only ones who consciously continue those traditions and apply them to the problems of today. We are the Americans and Communism is the Americanism of the twentieth century.”
-------------------from Earl Browder, Who are the Americans?, July 1936

Osip Ivanovich to Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov

“Just look at their Depression. From beginning to end it lasted ten years. An entire decade in which the Proletariat was left to fend for itself, scrounging in alleys and begging at chapel doors. If ever there had been a time for the American worker to cast off the yoke, surely that was it. But did they join their brothers-in-arms? Did they shoulder their axes and splinter the doors of the mansions? Not even for an afternoon. Instead, they shuffled to the nearest movie house, where the latest fantasy was dangled before them like a pocket watch at the end of a chain. Yes, Alexander, it behooves us to study this phenomenon with the utmost diligence and care.”
-------------------from the Amor Towles novel, A Gentleman in Moscow.

John L. Lewis

May I humbly warn the Senate that labor wants investigation pressed home and wants industry disarmed lest labor men on their march to industrial democracy should have to take by storm the barbed-wire barricades and machine-gun emplacements maintained by the rapacious moguls of corporate industry.
----------------------from a radio address, December 31, 1936

“You don’t understand. You think, in the North, of workers as human beings. The folk here think of them as ‘hands.’ ”
------------From the diary of Mary Heaton Vorse, Gastonia, North Carolina, 1929

“Every day of the average individual is a matter of survival. If by chance he should go from home to work and have an accident, lose an arm or an eye, he’s just like an animal wounded in the jungle. He’s out. Life isn’t easy. Life is a jungle.” 15
-------------Jimmy Hoffa in an interview with David Brinkley, April 1, 1963

Work on the San Francisco Waterfront

Men have dropped dead from exhaustion. Stevedores are paid by the hour. Every minute is checked on him. Every minute Counts. From the time you go to work in the morning until evening you are driven like a slave. If you try to get yourself insured every company will refused you. Physical strain is too much. Life is too uncertain. You have no chance of living as long as people of other walks of life. Speed-up production – the loads that we have to sling out of the ships make it too dangerous. And all these evils center around one thing – fear of losing your job.
--------------------Harry Bridges, International Longshoremen’s Association, 1934

A New Deal in 1971

“The President [Richard Nixon] added a sort of a long philosophical thing, then, making the point that the ordinary working guy makes up two-thirds of the people in this country who never went to college. In this period of our history, the leaders and the educated class are decadent. Whenever you ask for patriotic support, they all run away: the college types, the professors, the elite, etc. So he concludes the more a person is educated, he becomes brighter in the head and weaker in the spine. When you have to call on the nation to be strong on such things as drugs, crime, defense our basic national position, the educated people and the leader class no longer has any character and you can’t count on them. We can only turn for support to the noneducated people.”
--------------President Nixon as quoted from notes by White House Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman, Wednesday July 21, 1971

The Political Wisdom of Ronald Reagan

The New Republican Party I envision will not be, and cannot be, one limited to the country club-big business image that, for reasons both fair and unfair, it is burdened with today. The New Republican Party I am speaking about is going to have room for the man and the woman in the factories, for the farmer, for the cop on the beat and the millions of Americans who may never have thought of joining our party before, but whose interests coincide with those represented by principled Republicanism.
-------------------Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Congress, 1977

Langston Hughes on America

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars,
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek –
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
---------------from Let American Be America Again, 1938

Labor-Management Relations, 1978

“I believe leaders of the business community, with few exceptions, have chosen to wage a one-sided class war today in this country - a war against working people, the unemployed, the poor, the minorities, the very young and the very old, and even many in the middle class of our society. The leaders of industry, commerce and finance in the United States have broken and discarded the fragile, unwritten compact previously existing during a past period of growth and progress.”
--------------Douglas Fraser, President of the United Auto Workers, July 1978

Professor Julius Getman on Labor Law

“Judges, Labor Board members, and arbitrators regularly make decisions with little understanding of the circumstances in which they are to be applied, and influential academics regularly advance ideas about the rights of working people of whose job conditions they are profoundly ignorant. … The system of rules in these areas that has been created since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act gives powerful evidence of class bias, lack of understanding, and overvaluing of theory. … Every right granted to employees by the National Labor Relations Act--the right to organize, strike, bargain collectively, and make common cause with each other--has been cut down, subjected to technical complication, and made dangerous to exercise.”
----------------from the law journal article “Of Labor Law and Birdsong” Connecticut Law Review, 1998

Working at Ford Motor Company in the 1930’s

“You know what they done at Fords’s? And this is the goddarnest truth. They had the servicemen (security cops) follow you into the restrooms and your’re sitting in there, and he made you get up and off the toilet seat to see if you were doing something. And if you wasn’t you was fired.”
--------------Retired Ford Worker circa 1970

Ed Sadlowski on Unions

The biggest thing management has had going over the years is this game of divide and conquer - especially between blacks and whites. Like my pa used to tell me about the share croppers down South. The black share cropper would get a house that was just a little better than the white guy but the white guy would get a dime more on a bale of cotton than the black. And so they’d always be jealous of each other about something and always fighting each other instead of the boss. Management's still doing that kind of thing.”

“You can’t be a union man and be a redneck. I just can’t handle that kind of shit. A guy will come up to me and say nigger this and nigger that and I’ll just unload on him – you don’t know me, I can be a mean sonofa-bitch. There’s no way you can be a union man and a racist.
-------------------from an interview with Joe Klein, “Old Fashioned Hero of the New Working Class” Rolling Stone, December 8, 1975.

On Equality

“The law in its majestic equality forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
-----------Anatole France from his novel The Red Lily, 1894

Lucy Randolph Mason

“When I came south I had no idea of the frequency of attacks on people peacefully pursuing legitimate purposes. I’m appalled at the disregard of the most common civil rights and the dangers of bodily harm to which organizers are exposed.”
--------------from a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt, August 12, 1937

Working on the Assembly Line

Please Mr. Foremen, slow down your assembly line.
No, I don’t mind workin’, but I do mind dyin’.
Workin’ twelve hours a day,
Seven long days a week,
I lie down and try to rest, but Lord knows I’m too tired to sleep.
Lord Knows, I’m too tired to sleep.
Please, Mr. Forman, slow down your assembly line.
I said, Lord, why don’t you slow down that assembly line?
No, I don’t mind workin’ but I do mind dyin’.
--------------------Detroit blues singer, Joe L. Carter, 1965

“Mucking Out Some Myths” at the Nonferrous Industry Conference (NIC), Phoenix, Arizona.

“We in labor learned our economics the hard way – not from curves and graphs but from standing in long soup lines, seeing padlocked factory gates, “No help Wanted” signs, and from just being too broke to buy a beer. We know the cruelties of theories that say that the poor can be helped only if the rich get richer. … What is needed, therefore, is some people economics, value economics, demand-side economics, which must be in place if supply-side is to follow. That’s what we in labor have been about – making demand-side economics work.”
---------------------Frank McKee, United Steelworkers, February 1983

Confessions of a 1991 scab

“The first day I crossed the picket line, I had never seen people with expressions like that on their faces. They looked wild. I was kind of amazed, but I expected it. Then I looked over and there were these state troopers with dogs and there were these Vance people in paramilitary outfits, and I thought, ‘What the hell is going on?’ We walked in, me and another guy, and we were the only two there. I thought there would have been a lot more coming. I knew there were a lot who wanted to come. That’s when I pretty well made up my mind and said I wouldn’t go back the next day.”
-----------------A Decatur Illinois scab quoted by Stephen Franklin from his book: Three Strikes.

On the power of Class Resentments

“Let our rulers learn in time, that the mob is the creation of law --- that mob that lies near the surface of the streets of New York; the mob the revels in theft, outrage, incendiarism and murder in Paris; which in London sympathizes with violence and plots for the overthrow of stable institutions in England; the mob of the continental cities where treason is hatched is the product of law – the law which divides men, not into classes that industry, commerce and moral worth would range them, but into classes of poverty and wealth, the poverty which is forced by schemes of exaction embodied in legislation and the wealth which is created by corporate privilege.”
--------------------from the “Workingman’s Advocate,” May 20, 1871

On Trump

Donald Trump has no record of public service and no qualifications for public office. His affect is that of an infomercial huckster; he traffics in conspiracy theories and racist invective; he is appallingly sexist; he is erratic, secretive, and xenophobic; he expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself. He is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.
------------------the Editors of Atlantic Magazine, November 2016

Political Consensus

Despite the political consensus of Democrats and Republicans in Washington which set limits on American reform, making sure that capitalism was in place, that national military strength was maintained, that wealth and power remained in the hands of a few, there were millions of Americans, probably tens of millions, who refused, either actively or silently, to go along. … They constituted a “permanent adversarial culture.”
---------------------Howard Zinn from the People’s History of the United States, 2003

On Economic Power

“Whoever or whatever controls economic power directs and shapes development for the group or the nation.”
------------------Samuel Gompers, from the Autobiography of Samuel Gompers, 1925

On George Pullman and the Chicago Strike

“We do not expect the company to concede our demands. We do not know what the outcome will be, and in fact we do not care much. We do know we are working for less wages than will maintain ourselves and families in the necessaries of life and on that proposition we absolutely refuse to work any longer.”
--------------Thomas Heathcoate, Chicago Times, May 13, 1894

How to handle strikers by Reverend Dr. Herrick Johnson, professor in the Presbyterian Seminary in Chicago, Illinois

“There is but one way to deal with these troubles now and that is by violence. We will have anarchy and the country will not be safe if this lawlessness is to go on. The time has come when forbearance has ceased to be a virtue. There must be some shooting, men must be killed, and then there will be an end to this defiance of law and destruction of property. Violence must be met with violence. The soldiers must use their guns. They must shoot to kill.”
--------------------quoted from the New York Times, July 9, 1894.

The Story of a Labor Agitator

I came very close to the line that divided reform from revolution. The apathy of the workingman made me sick at heart; the indifference of the middle class discouraged me. The grievances of the workingman received scant courtesy and no support from the influential press. The daily papers were interested, as most of them have always been, in the affairs of the rich; business, not humanity, concerned them.
------------------from James Ray Buchanan, 1903

Working in the United States

Statistics point with unerring precision to the fact that the profits on Bessemer [Steel] Specialties for 1891 ranged from 33 to 66 percent. And yet, we find the manufacturers pleading poverty and resorting to every device that shrewd and able minds are capable of suggesting, to reduce the wage worker’s income, and, incidentally, to cripple the organization that has protected him from becoming the intelligent slave of an unscrupulous master.”
-----------from “Fort Frick” or the Siege of Homestead, Myron Stowell, 1892, page 149

On Boycotts and Due Process

“No matter how mildly practiced, boycotting is a crime, a conspiracy, that should be punished without fear or favor. The laws in the different States are not stringent enough to meet this particular offense, and a general law should be enacted without delay, which should place those engaged in boycotting behind prison bars. This would speedily end the infamous practice. Let the remedy be universal and sweeping, the punishment the same in all States and Territories, and its application instantaneous.”
---------------Rufus Hatch from the North American Review, June 1886

International Paper Strike 1987

“You do not determine scabs by race or sex, you determine scabs by function. The scab on your arm, what is its function? It does not matter the color of the scab, it functions to cover up pus and cancer. The function of a scab is to drive down wages. The function is to break union solidarity.

A worker has a moral foundation. The Bible says a servant is worthy of his or her hire. A servant is worthy of getting paid for work. That’s a moral foundation. The scab has no moral foundation. What the scabs must understand is about the weakness of scabbism. You take somebody’s $10 an hour job for $8, there’s a $6 crowd waiting for you!”
------------Jesse Jackson, speaking at the Jay Community Center, Jay, Maine October 1987

On the strike of 1877

It is cheap labor, more than any other fact, that most endangers our institutions, cheap labor serving corporate wealth, intent upon nothing but more wealth. Here is where capitalists make the gravest mistake, and the great strikes of the present year should be taken as a wholesome warning. Capitalists consider their direct interest in the cheap labor they hire, and not their indirect interest in the dearer labor that buys what wealth wishes to sell.
----------------from the Annals of the Great Strikes in the United States: A Reliable History and Graphic Description of the Cause and Thrilling Events of the Labor Strikes and Riots of 1877, Joseph A. Dacus, editor, St. Louis Republican

Felix Frankfurter on the District of Attorney in American law

The power of a district attorney under our laws are very extensive. They affect to a high degree the liberty of the individual, the good order of society, and the safety of the community. His natural influence with the grand jury, and the confidence commonly reposed in his recommendations by judges, afford to the unscrupulous, the weak or the wicked incumbent of the office vast opportunity to oppress the innocent and to shield the guilty, to trouble his enemies and to protect his friends, and to make the interest of the public subservient to his personal desires, his individual ambitions, and his private advantage. ... Powers so great impose responsibilities correspondingly grave. They demand character incorruptible, reputation unsullied, a high standard of professional ethics, and sound judgment of no mean order.
----------------from The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti, The Atlantic, March 1, 1927

On Patriotism

"We respect your patriotism. But may there not be different kinds of patriotism as there are different kinds of liberty? I know many people - I am one of them - who were not born here, nor have they applied for citizenship, and who yet love America with deeper passion and greater intensity than many natives whose patriotism manifests itself by pulling, kicking, and insulting those who do not rise when the national anthem is played. Our patriotism is that of the man who loves a woman with open eyes. He is enchanted by her beauty, yet he sees her faults."
--------------------Emma Goldman speaking to the jury of her Espionage Act trial June 2, 1919

On Law and Lawyers

“In old-fashioned legal firms like that of which Mr. Letterblair was the head, and which were mainly engaged in the management of large estates and “conservative” investments, there were always two or three young men, fairly well-off, and without professional ambition, who, for a certain number of hours of each day, sat at their desks accomplishing trivial tasks, or simply reading the newspapers. Though it was supposed to be proper for them to have an occupation, the crude fact of money-making was still regarded as derogatory, and the law, being a profession, was accounted a more gentlemanly pursuit than business.”
--------------Newland Archer, from the Edith Wharton novel The Age of Innocence.

Chattel Slavery versus Wage Slavery

“What matters it whether you give the food and clothes to the slave direct, or whether you just give him enough wages to purchase the same?”
--------------John Adams, U. S. Constitutional Convention, 1787

Interview with an Autoworker

“Cars are your real trap, … You need the car to keep the job and you need the job to keep the car. And don’t think they don’t know it. They give you just enough work to keep up the payments. They got it all planned exactly so you can’t quit. They give fifty, fifty-five hours work for a couple of weeks. So your typical boob buys a color TV. Then they cut you back to thirty hours. There’s not a married man that doesn’t have bills. And the company keeps it like that so there’s no way out. You’re stuck for life.”
--------------- from Harpers, 1972, Barbara Garson, “Luddites in Lordstown”

On the Constitution

“The constitution is a compact from Hell, and a life devoted to its destruction would be a life well spent.”
-----John Adams, second president of the United States

An old coal miner speaks to the rank and file

“The contract is what we are fighting for. That is what Lawrence Jones died for, to get a contract. But I told his family, I said, it was for a good cause. And what I said, why couldn’t it be somebody like me, some old man just about spent anyhow. But it took a young man’s life to bring this thing, the government, the union and the operators together.

If this shootin’ had na’ happened, probably this contract, [ ] there wouldn’t probably,[ ] might not have been a meeting, to negotiate a contract. But every contract we’ve ever got has been hard; we’ve had to fight for it. I’ve been all around the bloodshed back down in the thirties, been blood all around me, four men died around my feet, to get a contract. And I think if we ever did hold our peace let’s try to hold it tonight. The price has been paid for it.”
----------Harlan County, USA, 1973

W.E.B. Du Bois

“Total depravity, human hate and Schadenfreude do not explain fully the mob spirit in America. Before the wide eyes of the mob is ever the Shape of Fear. Back of the writhing, yelling, cruel-eyed demons who break, destroy, maim and lynch, and burn at the stake, is a knot, large or small, of normal human beings, and these human beings at heart are desperately afraid of something. Of what? Of many things, but usually of losing their jobs, being declassed, degraded or actually disgraced; of losing their hopes, their savings, their plans for their children; of the actual pangs of hunger, of dirt, of crime. And of all of this, most ubiquitous in modern industrial society is that fear of unemployment.
It is its nucleus of ordinary men that continually gives the mob its initial and awful impetus. Around this nucleus to be sure, gather snowball-wise all manner of flotsam, filth and human garbage, and every lewdness of alcohol and current fashion. But all this is the horrible covering of this inner nucleus of fear.”
------------ from his Black Reconstruction, 1935

On Jobs and Careers

“If you can truly “retire,” you only had a job, but not an occupation.”
-------------Studs Turkel

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Conference 1998

“To accomplish anything the people are going to have to get involved. Just waiting for life to happen can bring some real nasty surprises these days. For the most part it is the average union member who is missing from this conference. If the union is sincere about wanting to set up a dialog with the rank and file then they are going to have to quit attacking those who have a different approach than theirs.”
------- Keith Thomas, Union for Democratic Change, the Boeing Company

On Unions and Education

The person who was organizing [the union] at that time in the school was head of the English Department … Partly because, in 1929, you see the banks closed and teachers were not getting any money and the public didn’t have any money – or thought they didn’t have any money – to give us raises anyway. Teachers were desperate, so the federation [of teachers] looked pretty good to them.

We had all kinds of difficulties. Everybody was horrified. In the first place, the unions, at that time, were not acceptable at any level, from any group. The whole attitude was anti-union and nobody who belonged to the right class of people joined unions. So, the fact the teachers were organizing was way off. They just thought the teachers were supposedly better than union people.
----Dorothy Matheny, Toledo Ohio Teacher, 1934

William Z. Foster

"It is a case pure and simple of the absolute sway of property rights over human rights. A handful of social parasites hidden away in Wall street, with no other interest in the steel industry than to exploit it, settle arbitrarily the vital questions of wages, hours and working conditions, while the enormous mass of the workers, actual producers whose very lives are involved, have no say whatsoever."
--------- From the Great Steel Strike and its Lessons, his book on the Steel Strike of 1919.

President William Howard Taft

“I greatly regret to have to say that the investigations made in the Bureau of Immigration and other sources of information lead to the view that there is urgent necessity for additional legislation and greater executive activity to suppress the recruiting of the ranks of prostitutes from the streams of immigration into this country – an evil which for want of a better name, has been called ‘the white slave trade.’ ”
----from his message to Congress supporting the Mann Act signed into law June 25, 1910

The Wisdom of Calvin Coolidge

“The final solution to unemployment is work.”
------Former President Calvin Coolidge reporting in 1931

A striking coal miner

“We starve while we work; we might as well strike while we starve.”
----- Anonymous Miner, Harlan County, Kentucky, February 1931

The Controller Boss

“I want you to think about your work life, and your family life, and decide which is important to you.”
----- from “When working longer hours doesn’t add up,” Washington Post, May 17, 2015

On Labor Organizing

“My contention is that craft unionism is obsolete. The old type of organization based upon trade lines, can no longer cope successfully with organized capital. To fit modern conditions, our unions must be based upon the lines of industry rather than upon those of craft, the necessary industrial unionism will be arrived at, not through the founding of ideal dual unions, but by amalgamating the old organizations. Already the trade unions, by federations and other get-together devices, have made much progress in the direction of industrial unionism. I hold that this tendency should be consciously encouraged. We should not simply blunder along blindly. The thing that must be done is to boldly proclaim our inevitable goal of one union for each industry, and to adopt every practical means that will tend to get us there at the earliest date.”
-------William Z. Foster, May 1922

My Last Will

My Will is Easy to Decide,
For there is nothing to divide.
My kin don’t need to fuss and moan-
“Moss does not grow to a Rolling Stone.”

My body! If I could choose,
I would ashes to reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow.

Perhaps some fading flowers then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my Last and Final Will,
Good luck to all of you
------Joe Hill, November 18, 1915

A Career

“How do you happen to be in the funeral business?”
“I’m not really. I’m helping out my brother-in-law for a while. My sister’s husband.”
“What would you rather do?”
“That’s a hard one. There isn’t much I’ve done I cared for, or wouldn’t bore you to tears. “Except for a profession I got into when I made my run. There was sure nothing boring about it.”
“What was that?”
“I was a jewel thief.”
-------Jack Delaney from the Elmore Leonard novel Bandits.

Hours of Work

“Labor will continue to suffer defeat until it learns to take its surplus from off the market by reducing the hours of labor until there are no unemployed.”
------Albert Parsons, from the newspaper, Labor Standard, July 5, 1879

Fifty years after the protest for the Sacco and Vanzetti execution of August 23, 1927

This was not a mob, however. It was a silent, intent assembly of citizens--of anxious people come to bear witness and to protest against the terrible wrong about to be committed, not only against the two men about to die, but against all of us, against our common humanity and our shared will to avert what we believed to be not merely a failure in the use of the instrument of the law, an injustice committed through mere human weakness and misunderstanding, but a blindly arrogant, self-righteous determination not to be moved by any arguments, the obstinate assumption of the infallibility of a handful of men intoxicated with the vanity of power and gone mad with wounded self-importance.
------from The Never Ending Wrong, Katherine Anne Porter, the Atlantic Monthly, 1977

On Responsibility

The [San Francisco] Bulletin does not believe that Jesus thought that some men were scoundrels and some were not. It believes that there is evil in all men, preachers and prisoners and editors alike. It believes that the conquest of the evil comes about in two ways – by individual self-discipline and self-mastery, in which religious faith has a legitimate part; and by the substitution, from without, of forces making for good for forces making for evil. Society has been too well satisfied with the first, which requires no sacrifice save on the part of the man to whom it is addressed.”
------Fremont Older, publisher San Francisco Bulletin, May 1, 1914.

On Women and Work

We, the women of this country, have no ballot, even if we wished to use it, ad the only way that we can be represented is to take a man to represent us. You men have made such a mess of it in representing us that we have not much confidence in asking you; and I for one feel very backward in asking the men to represent me. We have no ballot, but we have our labor.

We are the wage slaves of slaves. We are exploited more ruthlessly than men. Wherever wages are to be reduced, the capitalist class uses women to reduce them, and if there is anything that you men should do in the future, it is to organize the women.
----- Lucy Parsons, speaking to the Industrial Workers of the World, June 29, 1905

On Writing History

I had come to understand something about the silence of history and why certain events and people are blacked out in order to maintain the official narrative of history.
------Judith Nies from her personal memoir The Girl I left Behind

After the lost strike of textile workers of 1934

“Many of us did not understand what we do now: that the government protects the strong, not the weak, and that it operates under pressure and yields to that group which is strong enough to assert itself over the other. If nobody learned anything but this from the strike it was worth the lesson.”
----Francis Gorman, Vice President of the United Textile Workers(UTW)

Prayer to Woody

Oh, Woody how we need ya
In a worn out union town,
Where management consultants
Are jumpin' up and down;
Not with goons and ginks this time,
But ball point pens and such,
To promise us all better times
When we don't make so much.

Oh, Woody we could use you
On a highway late at night,
Leavin' Motor City
Like a migrant worker might;
Sing a dust bowl ballad
In a storm of foreign cars,
And Woody sing us some old tune
About this land of ours.

Oh, Woody how we miss you,
And your Oklahoma drawl,
Don't you know your music
Doesn't have to change at all.
Now, some sing for the money,
But the people need a bard,
The times they may be changing,
But the travelin's just as hard.

Oh, Woody where are you
Now that the boom has gone,
Won't you please come back here,
And sing us one more song.
We're down to our last "Church Lick,"
And a long, long way from home,
And you ought not leave us down here
Travelin' on this road alone.
---------------Song lyrics & music by Larry Penn, c. 1983.

Marcus Garvey

It seems strange and a paradox, but the only convenient friend the Negro worker or laborer has in America at the present time is the white capitalist. The capitalist being selfish – seeking only the largest profit out of labor – is willing and glad to use Negro labor wherever possible on a scale reasonably below the standard union wage . . . but if the Negro unionizes himself to the level of the white worker, the choice and preference of employment is given to the white worker.”
---from the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, 1926

Booker T. Washington

“Strikers seem to consider it a much greater crime for a Negro who had been denied an opportunity to work at his trade to take the place of a striking employee than for a white man to do the same thing. Not only have Negro strike breakers been savagely beaten and mobbed by strikers and their sympathizers, but in some instances every Negro, no matter what his occupation, who lived in the vicinity of the strike has found himself in danger.”
-----from the Atlantic Monthly June 1913

In 1937

How little imagination and courage we show in our hatreds. If we earn fifty cents an hour, we admire the rich and pity the poor, and we reserve the full force of our venom for those who make a penny more or a penny less. That’s why there isn’t a revolution every ten years.”
-----Katey Kontent, from the novel Rules of Civility

John P White on World War I
I see no humanitarian issues in the present war. I believe that it is distinctly a commercial war. In my broad travels I find little sentiment among the working people in favor of this terrible war. The United Mine Workers of America has gone on record in a very prominent manner against compulsory military training and we believe that the great masses of the people should determine whether or not they should engage in this unjust and uncalled for war. Therefore, recognizing the sentiments of the people that I represent and expressing my own views, personally, I would most respectfully beg to be excused from participating in the matter [AFL war conference] referred to in your letter.
-------from a letter of John P. White, president of the United Mine Workers, to Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, March 3, 1917

The Slave Regime

The position of the Negro in America today is conditioned by the fact that he was brought here as a slave. He lived here as a slave through eight generations. He has been a free man for barely three. It is hardly strange, therefore, that the habits and attitudes of the years of bondage should still influence the relations of black men and white. All the outstanding characteristics of those relations – the doctrine of the Negro’s racial and social inferiority, the aloof and condescending paternalism of the southern gentle folk, the missionary spirit of northern philanthropy, and the mutual suspicions of the black and white working classes – have their roots in slavery.
----- from Chapter 1 of The Black Worker, Sterling Spero and Abram Harris, Columbia University Press, 1930.

New York Harbor Strike 1934

"You've got to settle this strike. We've been hungry. I am hungry and if I get get any hungrier I won't stop short of killing you. If you can afford a beautiful office and a good home, you can afford to pay your men enough so they won't have to go to garbage cans for their food."
---Terminal boat captain to the boss at the offices of the Regional Labor Board

Labor on the 1948 presidential election
"We shall have to plug for the Democrats on the presidency solely because they are the only instrument at hand for keeping the Republicans out. The Missouri crowd smells bad; but it is less bad than the sewage which will seep in to every cranny of government if the Republicans win."
----written in a letter by United Auto Worker's union Washington Office director Donald Montgomery to Walter Reuther, February 17, 1948.

On the Bolsheviks
“Though they were Marxists and therefore governmentalists, I sided with them because they had repudiated war and had the wisdom to stress the fact that political freedom without corresponding economic equality was an empty boast.”
----Emma Goldman From Living My Life, 1934

Union organizers think they’re peddling better wages and working conditions, but essentially they’re offering dignity. And sometimes the worker who doesn’t articulate this very easily has more awareness than the professional organizer. The civil rights struggle, the equality struggle or whatever you want to call it, is just one part of this continuing struggle for dignity.
----Jerry Wurf, former AFSCME president, 1964-1981

On the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917
“The reason we do not recognize their Republic is because for the first time in history they have set up a government of the working class; and if that experiment succeeds, good-bye to capitalism throughout the world! That is why our capitalist government does not recognize Soviet Russia. We were not too proud to recognize the Tsar nor to have intercourse with Russia whilst Siberia was in existence and human beings were treated like wild beasts; when women were put under the lash and sent to Siberia and brutalized and dehumanized. We could calmly contemplate all this and our President could send congratulations of his to the imperial Tsar of Russia. We could then have perfect intercourse with that Government, but we are now so sensitive under our present high standard of moral ethics that we cannot recognize Soviet Russia. But the time will come when the United States will recognize the Soviet Republic of the Russian people.”
----From a speech by Eugene Debs in Harlem, New York October 30, 1923

The Mines of this district can consolidate. Why not its workman?
---from a miner's poster in a union parade
Michigan copper strike of 1913

If we workers take a notion
We can stop all speeding trains.
Every ship upon the ocean
We can tie with mighty chains.
Every wheel in the creation
Every mine and every mill.
Fleets and armies of all nations
Will at our command
Stand still.
----Joe Hill

May 7, 1970 telegram of Walter P. Reuther, with the unanimous vote of the officer’s of the UAW to Richard Nixon

On behalf of the UAW I wish to convey to you our deep concern and distress over your action authorizing the use of United States forces and material in broadening of the war in Indochina.

Your decision to invade the territory of Cambodia can only increase the enormity of the tragedy in which our nation is already deeply and unfortunately involved in that region.

Your action must stand as a repudiation of your oft repeated pledge to bring this tragic war to an end and not to escalate it.

Widening the war at this point in time once again merely reinforces the bankruptcy of our policy of force and violence in Vietnam.

Your action taken with out consultation or authorization by the Congress has created a serious Constitutional crisis at a time when there is growing division in our nation. Many Senators are understandably aroused. Senator Cooper has clearly pointed out that your action represents a turnabout in your policy and Senator Aiken has warned that your escalation of the war means an end to Vietnamization policy.

However, this dangerous adventure turns out militarily, America has already suffered a moral defeat beyond measure among the people of the world.

You pledged to bring America together. Yet by your action you have driven the wedge of division deeper and you have dangerously alienated millions of young Americans. The bitter fruits of this growing alienation and frustration among America’s youth have been harvested on the campus of Kent State University where the lives of four students involved only in an emotional protest against the war were ended by the needless and inexcusable use of military force.

At no time in the history of our free society have so many troops been sent to so many campuses to suppress the voice of protest by so many young Americans.

With the exception of a small minority, the American people, including our young people, reject violence in all its forms as morally repugnant and counter-productive. The problem, Mr. President, is that we cannot successfully preach non-violence at home while we escalate mass violence abroad.

It is your responsibility to lead us out of the Southeast Asian War – to peace at home and abroad. We must mobilize for peace rather than for wider theaters of war in order to turn our resources and the hearts, hands and minds of our people to the fulfillment of America’s unfinished agenda at home.

John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1920, Chapter 2 - Europe Before the War.

Europe was so organized socially and economically as to secure the maximum accumulation of capital. While there was some continuous improvement in the daily conditions of life of the mass of the population, society was so framed as to throw a great part of the increased income into the control of the class least likely to consume it. The new rich of the nineteenth century were not brought up to large expenditures, and preferred the power which investment gave them to the pleasures of immediate consumption. In fact, it was precisely the inequality of the distribution of wealth which made possible those vast accumulations of fixed wealth and of capital improvements which distinguished that age from all others. Herein lay, in fact, the main justification of the Capitalist System. If the rich had spent their new wealth on their own enjoyments, the world would long ago have found such a regime intolerable. But like bees they saved and accumulated, not less to the advantage of the whole community because they themselves held narrower ends in prospect.

Europe was so organized socially and economically as to secure the maximum accumulation of capital. While there was some continuous improvement in the daily conditions of life of the mass of the population, society was so framed as to throw a great part of the increased income into the control of the class least likely to consume it. The new rich of the nineteenth century were not brought up to large expenditures, and preferred the power which investment gave them to the pleasures of immediate consumption. In fact, it was precisely the inequality of the distribution of wealth which made possible those vast accumulations of fixed wealth and of capital improvements which distinguished that age from all others. Herein lay, in fact, the main justification of the Capitalist System. If the rich had spent their new wealth on their own enjoyments, the world would long ago have found such a regime intolerable. But like bees they saved and accumulated, not less to the advantage of the whole community because they themselves held narrower ends in prospect.

Mother Jones instructions to miners Paint Creek and Cabin Creek Coal strikes - 1912

“Take this document to the Governor’s office, present it to him yourselves and don’t go on your knees; we have no kings in America, Stand erect on both feet with our head erect as citizens of this country and don’t say ‘your honor,’ very few have honor. They don’t know what it is.”

Eugene Debs from his U.S. Strike Commission testimony 1894.

I think the conclusion is inevitable that every labor organization is traceable to the injustice, the oppression, the tyranny of the employing classes.

“The Reverend Henry Ward Beecher Condemns the Strike,” New York Times, July 23, 1877

“Was not a dollar a day enough to buy bread! Water costs nothing. . . . The man who cannot live on bread and water is not fit to live.”

From "The Lesson of the Recent Strikes," Wade Hampton, North American Review, CLIX (August, 1894)

. . . Every consideration of duty, self-respect, honor, interest, demands that the majesty of the law should be vindicated whatever the cost of doing so may be. Every humane man must feel profound sympathy for all honest toilers where labor does not yield proper remuneration; but no legislation, no government, no earthly power, can rectify the immutable law by which the gifts of fortune are distributed with an unequal hand. It has been so since the beginning of time to the end, or to the millennium, for our Devine Master said, "The poor ye have always with you."

Bread and Roses

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts-gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses
For the people hear us singing, bread and roses, bread and roses

James Oppenheim, the American Magazine, Dec 1911

To a Scab

O outcast! despised and hated scab,
With cowardly, downcast eye,
With shuffling step and hangdog look
You meet each passer-by.

All honest men look down upon
All creatures such as you,
And shun you as they would the plague,
As all man ought to do.

You sell your fellowmen for gold;
You'd sell your soul away,
And rob, betray, steal from the dead,
Do anything for pay.

O scab awake! and try to see
The evil you have done,
And Judas like, go hang yourself
Before tomorrow's sun.

From the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers Journal, July 1888

United States Supreme Court Chief Justice, William Howard Taft in a letter to his brother Horace Taft, May 7, 1922
Cited from The Life and Times of William Howard Taft: A Biography, Henry F. Pringle, page 967.

The only class which is distinctly arrayed against the [Supreme] Court is a class that does not like courts at any rate, and that is organized labor. That faction we have to hit every little while, because they are continually violating the law and depending on threats and violence to accomplish their purpose.

Voters: 2012 and 1928

Although the 1928 [presidential] election was a portent for the future, its contemporary significance for labor lay in the fact that [presidential candidate Herbert]Hoover and the Republican Party scored a signal victory. This could not have occurred unless many workers had voted for Hoover, and their willingness to do so is suggestive of their social outlook at the end of the twenties.

Observers were struck with the materialism that permeated all levels of American society, including labor; workers shared with their bosses a devout reverence for the almighty dollar. In Middletown [Ohio] workmen derived little satisfaction from their work. “There isn’t twenty five per cent of me paying attention to the job,” a bench molder stated. Since this frustration was linked to a dim prospect for advancement as workers, the more energetic strove to enter the middle class. The acquisition of money was the main objective of life, and people were measured by the externals money bought – where they live, how they lived, the make of car they drove. In the shops, workers were more concerned with maximizing income than with learning skills or gaining leisure by shorter hours.

From Irving Bernstein, The Lean Years: A History of the American Worker 1920 to 1933, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1960), page 80-81.

National labor union Congress - Baltimore 1866

From the address to the workingmen of the United States

"What is wanted then is for every union to help inculcate the grand, ennobling idea that the interests of labor are one; that there should be no distinction of race or nationality; no classification of Jew or gentile; that there is but one dividing line - that which separates mankind into two great class, the class that labors and the class that lives by other's labor."

President Woodrow Wilson 9/5/1918

"Is there any man here or women - let me say is there any child - who does not know the seeds of war are in industrial and commercial rivalry?"

Father Thomas Hagerty from the Industrial Workers of the World organizing convention June 27th - July 8th 1905.

"The ballot box is simply a capitalist concession. Dropping pieces of paper into a hole in a box never did achieve emancipation for the working class, and to my mind never will achieve it."

December 14, 2011-Now that the Supreme Court has decided to hear the Arizona immigration case we can suppose they understand how much business likes cheap labor and how much commercial interests love that big supply of low paid immigrants. The law sounds draconian in the summaries I have read and reviewed. Even moderate enforcement of its clauses and conditions will empty the state of unauthorized immigrants. Good by low wages. Hello California.

Arizona’s just the beginning if the Supreme Court lets states decide their own immigration rules which I have to doubt they will, but the mystery for me is to speculate on the politics. Politicians know how much business likes cheap foreign labor, but they also know business avoids announcing their preference in the public media: talk about bad PR. They leave it to politicians to make excuses for them. At least I thought so until the Arizona governor decided to defend the angry electoral block that has to compete with cheap foreign labor.

Maybe the governor has promised to provide some cheap prison labor after the low paid immigrants make their exit? But I just don’t see how she can win election and do what business doesn’t want. Maybe she is counting on the Supreme Court to bail her out?

“Bechtel to move 625 jobs from Md. to Fairfax County” Washington Post
Early in the article readers learn that transferring 625 jobs to Virginia is just the “latest round of bragging rights in the commonwealth’s cross border rivalry with Maryland to land big businesses.”

The article quoted Virginia Governor McDonnell who said “The company[Bechtel] was attracted to the commonwealth due to its business environment, cost, and ability to attract the best workforce to meet future growth needs, especially IT and engineering employees in the area.”

Then we learn more of what attracts companies because Maryland paid Bechtel $10 million to keep 1,250 jobs in Maryland as the Virginia governor was approving $6.5 million in Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grants to buy 625 jobs for Virginia.

If we do our arithmetic here we find that Maryland paid $8,000 per job to keep 1,250 jobs while Virginia paid $10,400 per job to buy 625 jobs from Maryland, reassuring us that jobs go to the highest bidder. I was relieved that no one quoted in the article called this a job creation strategy, although everyone quoted accepted or justified the practice.

No mention though where Bechtel might move next.

The November 11, 2011 Washington Post caption reads "Veterans jobs bill passes in Senate, 95 to 0." The bill would expand tax credits to businesses that hire unemployed veterans. It apparently makes good politics, but it doesn't create a single job. Transactions that generate revenue and work for business create jobs. It will do nothing for veterans, but it is good for business.

The article includes "Job listings say the unemployed need not apply."

Hundreds of job listings posted on Monster.com and other jobs sites explicitly state that people who are unemployed would be less attractive applicants, with some telling the long-term unemployed to not even bother with applying.

The New York Times' Catherine Rampell said she found preferences for the already employed or only recently laid off in listings for "hotel concierges, restaurant managers, teachers, I.T. specialists, business analysts, sales directors, account executives, orthopedics device salesmen, auditors and air-conditioning technicians." Even the massive University of Phoenix stated that preference, but removed the listings when the Times started asking questions.

From a business and financial standpoint it is an utterly stupid practice since it eliminates part of the surplus of labor that keeps wages low and saves business costs. It also makes it necessary to pay more to the currently employed to get them to change jobs. It also suggests in a more blunt way than usual that business likes to taunt people and emphasize their control.

The Washington Post May 18th 2011 “The Rust Belt shows some luster.”

In it they describe 1,000 applicants for $7.50 an hour manufacturing jobs making EdenPure space heaters, vacuums, and air purifiers at a company known as Suarez Corporation in Ohio. If a family puts two full time people into the Suarez factory they will have $31,200 dollars of gross income. The article calls this a budding revival in American manufacturing and quotes others including a professor from the University of Michigan-Flint stupid enough to call this the “shining star of the U.S. recovery.”

These articles keep popping up like weeds but they turn into a hodge-podge of disparate quotes and scattered facts in a futile effort to make any new jobs a really good thing. The new production will be in the better known Hoover corporation plant, which was abandoned after they moved to Mexico. By quoting the founder and chief executive of the Suarez Corporation, Ben Suarez, we learn that he decided to come back from China because it takes two months to get products to markets. He got a cheap factory and some very cheap labor, but he warns that his costs are still higher than China. We learn that he will hire 2,500 in the next 18 months but he can only pay commensurate with skills, but we learn the jobs assembling space heaters require relatively simple work. We learn that Suarez has a profit sharing plan, but the new hires will be through contractors who do not receive profit sharing. American renaissance.

The National Labor Relations Board decided to defend organized labor: an incredible turn of events. In the instant case the Boeing Corporation declared their intention to move some production from Washington State to South Carolina, a right to work state whose political officials are hostile to organized labor. The National Labor Relations Act officially makes overt acts of union busting an unfair labor practice, but it is normally easy to evade with some innocuous and empty blather. Boeing must have decided there are no longer limits to their scorn for labor, or gotten the message mixed up, to leave any overt trail.

Business will do anything for cheap labor, but what else is new? The South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was quoted as furious, but last time I heard the vote has not been abolished in South Carolina. Maybe in the Palmetto state a majority think they’re part of the management class. 4/29/11

Thomas Geoghegan, labor lawyer-author of Which Side are You On? 1991

Yet it seems that the more the sense of class increases, the weaker labor becomes. There is more scabbing, more strike breaking, the fewer people voting to join. Also, the weaker labor becomes, the more it is resented.

The Washington Post story from April 14th reads Maine Politics: the Big Picture. The Maine Governor, Paul LePage, got angry and ripped down a labor mural commissioned by the Federal Government and painted by a Maine resident. The mural depicts scenes from United States labor history and includes Francis Perkins, FDR’s labor secretary. The governor decided it was like the murals the communists use in North Korea to “brainwash the masses.” Someone on the Governor’s staff named Adrienne Bennett explained the governor has a new agenda. She said the governor wants a mural with job creators.

Since Maine jobs have dropped below 600 thousand, less than 2000, Maine is a little short of job creators right now. What is odd is the politics. The governor ridicules and debases working people, but he can’t possibly be elected without their votes. Maybe in Maine working people are so brainwashed they think they’re part of the Governors dream. 4/14/11

The Washington Post ran a story April 5th covering hiring practices of the Prince Georges County MD school district in suburban Washington. Apparently the school district hires foreign teachers under the H1-B visa program. They had to apply through the Department of Labor under rules that require them to pay the prevailing wage, which the labor department sets from the Occupational Employment Survey. The Department of Labor has labeled them as willful violators because they steal large four figure sums from their wages and call them recruitment costs. Of course, they deny it is a wage cutting scheme.

Most people in the business community know that foreign labor certification will help enlarge the surplus of labor and hold down wages over time. Why break the rules when the rules are rigged up in you favor? All you need is a little patience, but in PG county they don’t have sense enough for that. Why be sensible when you can be crude?

In Wisconsin the teachers and public employees need to organize themselves through the social media and become more active protecting their own rights outside the confines of Federal and State labor law, which is so tricked up with delays and restrictions it is possibly worse the useless.

Do members of unions let their membership be a substitute for collective action? Does the union staff make decisions for their members as a result of member apathy? Does it make sense to use union dues to support full time salaries for administrative union staff if it does not bring more member participation or collective action?

There are 395 thousand public employees in Wisconsin with 159 thousand in the local schools. If this group pooled their assets and formed their own bank or credit union some of the money they now pay in union dues could go there to earn some interest and be a personal strike fund. Public employees could control the operation of the bank with complete authority to guarantee that loanable funds stay in the state of Wisconsin and be used only for public employee member-depositors or other approved purposes.

“The challenge of American workers is to save truly free enterprise from death at the hands of its self-appointed champions.” Walter Reuther United Auto Workers

Virginia is a union free state but on March 20, 2011 the Washington Post ran an article interviewing Governor McDonnell who says it’s easier to slash budgets and cut costs without unions. “We didn’t have to go and sit down and negotiate with a number of unions about how we were going to do that, McDonnell said. “We just did it.” It is not too hard to suspect he likes solving problems by firing people: no fuss no muss.

AT & T wants to buy T-mobile. It is worth wondering about competition, but if it goes through the consolidation will lower employment in communications.

The Washington Post reaches a new level of sleaze publishing a piece by Governor Walker on March 18, 2011. We already got his editorial opinion when he was recorded bragging to his billionaire donor over the phone. It doesn’t matter that he was duped in that recording, he gave everyone his true opinion and we don’t need his propaganda now. The Post has been going down hill for sometime but I thought we could expect better than this.

A liberal is a conservative who ignores the class distinctions and privileges the rich regard as their right.

There is no teacher good enough that someone can’t run them down if the want to. There is no teacher bad enough that someone can’t defend them if they want to.

Does American labor law help labor?

Take a casual look at America’s labor law and as you read you will realize that labor law helped labor when the statute was first passed. Gradually though there are a few changes and additions as the money interests that own the Congress and the state legislatures begin to pass amendments.

When the National Labor Relations Act was passed back in the 1930’s it was described as the Magna Charta of organized labor. That was followed by the Taft Hartley amendments in 1947, which all by itself tipped the balance of power back to management.

Now organizing a union is a long tortuous, legal and bureaucratic process of requesting and waiting that can be defeated or stalled for years. For those willing to pander to bureaucrats and overcome endless hurdles, the resulting union is an identifiable legal entity that can be threatened with fines, injunctions and law suits. Every issue is bogged down in bureaucracy. A simple grievance can be stalled for years. In the mean time you are expected to listen to sanctimonious politicians and pompous judges reciting endless rules, or wait for months for a case to be dismissed by the saboteurs the Republicans appoint to the National Labor Relations Board.

Working Americans have the legal status of brain damaged children. Labor law is for management.

When will working Americans stop ringing their hands and get mad enough to organize themselves around social networks? Working Americans could be a formidable force, but what there is now; it’s pathetic.

Union Membership down Slightly Among Federal Employees

from the Washington Post, Jan 25, 2011 1/28/10

Ed O'Keefe writes Union membership among federal employees dropped below 1 million last year: 984 thousand members. It is a drop of 1.2 percent from the previous year although about 1.1 million Federal workers are actually represented by unions. The drop is primarily tied to wider use of contractors, but some unions for veterans affairs, the Bureau of Prisons and National Treasury Employees Union increased membership.

Obama Brings Industry to Table
Taps Immelt for Jobs Panel

from the Washington Post, Jan 22, 2011 1/24/10

Zachery Goldfarb and Perry Bacon Jr write that President Obama will bring Jeffery Immelt of General Electric company into the administration to try to boost jobs with more exports. Immelt's role will be to develop ideas for "investing in innovation to provide the companies with the tools they need to compete." There are many doubters however. It was reported in the article that GE had 170 thousand jobs in America when Mr. Immelt's took over the company ten years ago, but 134,000 jobs in America now.

Union Membership

from U.S, Bureau of Labor Statistics Jan 22, 2011 1/22/10

BLS reports union membership down 612,000 members with 11.9 percent of the labor force

Minimum wage earners in 7 states getting raises

from the Associated Press, Dec. 30, 2010 12/31/10

Kristen Wyatt reports that about 650,000 employees will get small raises in 2011 in 7 seven states: Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Washington State has the highest minimum wage at $8.67 an hour. In Colorade it will by up 11 cents to $7.36.

Obama Proposes Two Year Pay Freeze

from the Washington Post, Nov. 30, 2010 12/2/10

Lisa Rein and Perry Bacon Jr write that "President Obama proposed a two year pay freeze for most of the 1.9 million civilians that work for the federal government, as he tried to address concerns over a mushrooming deficit and placate Republicans who have targeted the workforce for big cuts."

The Bush era tax cuts have been around for 10 years but they have not generated enough jobs. Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute was quoted. "This is another example of the administration's tendency to bargain with itself rather than Republicans and the process reinforces ... the myth that federal workers are overpaid."

Senate votes, 60-40, to advance jobless benefits legislation

from the Washington Post, July, 21, 2010 7/21/10

Lori Montgomery wrote the Senate broke a months-long stalemate to restore emergency jobless benefits to people who have been out of work for more than six months, voting to advance the measure over Republican objections that it would add $34 billion to the nation's bloated budget deficit. The vote was 60 to 40 in the Senate. The House is expected to pass the measure when a final vote is taken Wednesday. Two Republicans voted for the bill and one democrate voted against it. Republicans are fretting about the deficit; Democrats worry about jobs.

The bill will revive benefits for more than 2.5 million people whose checks were cut off when the program expired June 2. It allows up to 99 weeks of income support for jobless workers through the end of November.

Democrats seek to extend emergency jobless benefits

from the Washington Post, June, 29, 2010 7/1/10

Lori Montgomery writes that Congressional Democrats are struggling to revive a plan to extend emergency unemployment benefits for millions of jobless workers. After trying for weeks to extend jobless benefits as part of a broader economic package, Democrats said Tuesday that they would jettison all other provisions and push solely for a six-month extension of jobless benefits and a small adjustment to a tax credit for home buyers.

If Congress fails to act before the July 4 recess, the Labor Department projects that more than 2 million people will have their checks cut off before lawmakers return to Washington.

Unemployment-benefits bill stalls in Senate as GOP rejects revised plan

from the Washington Post, June 24, 2010 6/24/10

Lori Montgomery writes Republicans rejected the Democrats latest offer to pare down the size and cost of the jobs bill that has been before Congress for some months. The Bill includes tax breaks for businesses and individuals, as well as emergency support for millions of jobless workers who have exhausted their regular 26-week state benefits. Again they must pass something or many unemployed will stop receiving unemployment benefits. Democrats offered some further cuts to state aid but did not get the additional votes needed.

Jobs bill blocked in Senate

from the Washington Post, June 17, 2010 6/17/10

Lori Montgomery and Brady Dennis write The Senate effectively rejected a slimmed-down package of jobless benefits and state aid late Thursday, rebuffing President Obama's call for urgent action to bolster the economic recovery. Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) voted with a united Republican caucus to block the approximately $120 billion package. The measure needed 60 votes to advance, but garnered only 56. Republicans claim the country is more worried about the deficit.

The measure would protect doctors from a steep cut in Medicare rates, extend emergency unemployment benefits and extend some tax breaks to business and individuals.

The Democrats reduced the size of the package that narrowly passed the House. Senator harry Reid tried to add $24 billion of local government aid by trying to cut the amount of unemployment checks. The deficit dropped from $200 billion to $55 billion, but the bill still failed. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said they would regroup Friday and try to pass the bill because the public wants jobs.

Congressional Democrats downshift on spending, cut provisions to jobs bill

from the Washington Post, May 29, 2010 6/3/10

Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray write about an agonizing week where the House narrowly approved a jobs bill that started out at $200 billion but was scaled back to $116 billion. This new bill will extend unemployment benefits to November 30th, after the election, at a cost of $39.5 billion. Much of the rest of the bill is special tax favors. Congress passed an extension of unemployment benefits earlier this spring but it runs out June 5th. In the Senate, the bill hasn't moved an inch as of Memorial day.

100,000 teachers nationwide face layoffs

from the Washington Post, May 27, 2010 6/1/10

Nick Anderson writes Senior congressional Democrats and the Obama administration scrambled Wednesday to line up support for $23 billion in federal aid to avert an estimated 100,000 or more school layoffs in a brutal year for education budgets coast to coast.

The House expects to take up the issue as part of the war funding bill, but republicans are against it. They argue it is too expensive. If the House approves the measure, proponents hope to overcome Senate obstacles where Senator Harkin of Iowa says he has a majority but not sixty votes.

Focus is on legal workers
Senate Dems to give federal commission say over legal immigrant workers

from Bloomberg news May 24, 2010 5/25/10

Laura Litvan writes The Democrats are thinking of creating a Federal Commission with power to regulate the flow of legal immigrant labor. The plan would require Congress, in certain cases, to vote when immigrant labor is deemed out of line with demand. It would have a major role in regulating low-skilled foreign labor.

Employers or industries that hire lower-skilled immigrants could petition the commission for temporary waivers of visa caps, although the commission would first need to determine that it wouldn't be possible to hire U.S. workers for the jobs.

The commission would issue recommendations for high-skilled worker visas and wage levels, the aide said. For lower-skilled occupations, the commission could declare "emergencies" when it sees an imbalance between foreign-worker supply and demand. A vote in Congress would be required for the panel's recommended immigration levels for these workers.

The overhaul measure would secure the U.S.-Mexico border, create a temporary-worker program and forge a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally.

Obama wants federal agencies to hit the gas on hiring

from the Washington Post, May 11, 2010 5/14/10

John Davidson and Ed Okeefe write President Obama plans to instruct federal agencies to radically overhaul the process now used to hire government workers. The change is expected to cut in half the time it takes to fill vacancies and allow the government to better compete with the private sector for top talent.

The Government Accountability Office has been calling for changes since 2001, and a host of outside voices have criticized the byzantine nature of federal hiring, with its stacks of paperwork and endless rounds of interviews that can keep an applicant hanging for months.

Obama's plan, to be announced Tuesday morning, would cut hiring time to about 80 days from the date a vacancy is announced to the point a candidate is hired. Obama also wants to get managers more involved in the process of deciding on new hires, rather than leaving the final approval to an agency's personnel office. Interviews need to be done by hiring managers that are the closest to the job.

Agencies also will be required to tell applicants when the application is received, when they are deemed qualified, when the applicant is referred for an interview, and finally if they are hired or not. Abandonment by an agency without notification is an abuse to end under the new rules.

Andy Stern Resigns


Andy Stern is leaving as President of the Service Employees International Union(SEIU), which increased its membership during his 14 years as President. It was a time when labor was declining generally. He was instrumental in "Justice for Janitors" a program to organize the lowest paid of America's labor force. He emphasized organizing and increasing union membership and union influence. He also had SEIU break away from the AFL-CIO, emphasized negotiations and deal making with business and government and alienated others in the labor movement. His legacy on Laborline is best remembered for his organizing efforts for the lowest wage workers, janitors along with hotel and garment workers and several others. Raising the wages for the lowest wage workers will eventually push up other wages and act to unite labor as a unified political and economic force.

Uncle Sam is Hiring
Find out where on the National Mall May 8th

wherethejobsare.org May 8, 2010 4/17/10

Job categories are security and compliance, medical and public health, Energy and environment, Administration and program management and international affairs. According to Partnership for Public Service the federal government will need to fill 600,000 positions in the next four years including 270,000 mission critical jobs. Jobs are available in many skills and in the 50 states.

Congress Finally Votes Jobless Benefits

from April 16, 2010 4/17/10

Congress finally agreed yesterday April 15th to restore jobless benefits. This time both houses agreed. The Senate voted 59 to 38 and the Huse 289 to 112. It continues unemployment benefits until June 2. It also blocks cuts to Medicare payments to doctors. The bill gives time to work on extending the current law to allow jobless benefits up to 99 weeks.

Bill could give boost to working from Home

from the Washington Post, April 15, 2010 4/16/10

Jesse Markan writes that a house panel advances a measure called the Telework Improvement Act that sets policies on government telework. It has the support of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and will go to the floor May 5. The Federal government has promoted telework for years, but progress is slow because of past resistence from managers and the need to maintain security.

Jobless benefits clear Senate hurdle with GOP votes

from the Washington Post, April 13, 2010 4/13/10

Ben Pershing writes The Senate moved closer to extending jobless benefits that expired a week ago. The Senate voted to 60 to 39 with four Republicans to extend unemployment insurance, subsidies and COBRA and Federal Flood insurance through May 5. The Republicans remain unhappy about $9 billion more spending without other cuts to offset the spending.

Proposal to extend jobless benefits faces showdown
Deficit Hawks Rally in Senate
Republicans seek cuts to offset $9 billion costs

from the Washington Post April 12, 2010 4/12/10

Ben Pershing writes Congress is posed for another partisan showdown over extending unemployment insurance. The bill hashed out in March got put off and now it is back. The extension of jobless benefits, subsidies for COBRA health incsurance and federal flood insurance through May 5 got through the House but not the Senate where Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn stood in the way. They want to cut the $9 billion cost elsewhere. Many Republicans are threatening to vote against the newer bill.

Deadlock is Ending on Labor Board
the New York Times, April 1, 2010 4/7/10

Steven Greenhouse writes that President Obama made two recess apointments to the National Labor Relations Board. Appointees are Craig Becker and Mark Pearce. Both appointees have labor law and union experience. The Board should have 5 members but only two prior to the new appointments, which bring the new board to four.

The board is responsible to review and make determination on claims of Unfair Labor Practices of unions or management under the National Labor Relations Law. With only two votes out of five the board deadlocked and stopped work so there is a backlog of outstanding cases. Business does not like the appointments; labor is optimistic cases will be resolved and the law applied. Bush era appointees often ruled against union practices like orgqanizing efforts for graduate assistents. The Bush era board, which also filled with recess appointments, ruled that graduate assistents are not employees and could not organize.

Green Jobs

from the Department of Labor March 16, 2010 3/28/10

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has solicited comments on the definition it will use in measuring green jobs, the industry list, and to develop the number of, and trend over time, of green jobs, the industrial, occupational and geographic distribution of the jobs and the wages of workers on these jobs.

Several categories of green economic activity are nearly universally cited: renewable energy, energy efficiency, pollution prevention and clean-up, and natural
resources conservation.

Two approaches will be used: 1. the output approach and 2. the process approach.

In the output approach the Bureau of Labor Statistics is concerned with jobs created producing a specific set of green goods and services and not the environmental effect of the production process. In the process approach the conern is with the production process and whether it limits any environmental effect. The process approach is relevant to any industry.

In the process of counting jobs the North American Industry Classification(NAICS) of industry definitions and the Standard Occupational Classificaton of Occupatons(SOC) will be used.

Green goods and services should have a postive impact on the environment or natural resources conservation. These would be research and development, production, storage or distribution of 1. renewable energy, 2. energy efficiency, 3. greenhouse gas reduction, 4. pollution reduction and cleanup 5. recycling and waste reduction, 6. agricultural and resources conservation, 7. education, compliance, public awareness and training.

The production of green goods and services can 1. direct goods and services like pollution control equipment and weatherization of buildings, 2. indirect goods and services like electricity production from renewable sources, nonpolluting dry cleaning services, hybrid vehicles and mercury free batters, 3. specialized inputs like USDA approved fertilizers for organic crops, wind turbine blades, or mass transit rail cars, and 4. distribution of green goods like transportation and warehouse services, wholesale and retail services, rental and leasing services and restaurants.

To measure the number of green jobs any establishment producing a single green good or service will have all jobs counted, for establishments producing green goods and services and other goods and services the percentage of revenue from green goods will be applied to all jobs to get a green jobs count. BLS has identified potential green goods and services industries, which are NAICS industries that could be producing green jobs. Only establishments actually producing green goods and services from the list of potential green establishments are actually counted. Occupational employment will be estimated from these establishments.

In the Process approach the Bureau of Labor Statistics will estimate jobs associated with using environmentally friendly production processes. Processes include production of green goods and services for use for use within and establishment and use methods, procedures or practices that have a positive environmental effect. BLS would determine if any workers are employed who have primary duties related to environmental processes. These might be research to develop chemical processes that reduce air pollution, or a job operating renewable energy generation equipment, or jobs instaling or maintaining control systems that reduce water pollution.

Comments go to Richard Clayton, Office of Industry Employment Statistics, BLS, green AT bls.gov

Jobless benefits set to expire on April 5

from the Washington Post March 26, 2010 3/26/10

Ben Pershing writes again about the trials and troubles of the House and Senate to pass an extension of unemployment benefits. They keep voting on various proposals that they change and send back to the other chamber. The House approved a $9 billion dollar measure for a one month extension of unemployment benefits, COBRA health benefits and flood insurance, but the Senate refused it. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma objected to the bill and was quoted to say "by adding to the Federal deficit we are stealing future opportunities from our children."

Mitch McConnell offered a one or two week extension that would be fully funded. Speaker Pelosi said no. Stay tuned.

Initial Unemployment Claims

Unemployment Claims are Starting to Decline 3/26/10

Seasonally adjusted 4 week moving average of initial unemployment claims settled back to below 454,000 thousand in the 4 weeks ending March 20, 2010. It is dropped back from 478,000, which was the high in the weeks since January. The 4-week moving average of continuing unemployment claims have also dropped for the seventh week to 5.396 million from its 5.770 million high earlier in the year..

Because unemployment goes up and down depending on initial and continuing unemployment claims the future suggests a decline in the unemployment rate in the future; maybe to 9.6 percent. We shall see.

Senate Passes $140 Billion in tax breaks, aid to unemployed
Legislation could face obstacles in the House

from the Washington Post March 11, 2010 3/12/10

Ben Pershing writes that the Senate voted 62 to 36 to approve the $140 billion of tax breaks and aid to the unemployed. The Senate bill has a one year extension of unemployment benefits and COBRA health insurance plus extra money for states to fund Medicaid. The bill would also block scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to doctors.

The Senate has very different proposals than the House. They emphasize tax breaks to business rather than direct aid to the unemployed. However, the Senate is expected to vote on the $15 billion dollar job subsidy measure passed by the House as mentioned below.

House Passes $15 Billion Job Creation Measure

from the Washington Post March 5, 2010 3/6/10

The House vote was 217 to 201 for $15 billion of tax breaks to companies for hiring new employees. The bill was revised frm the Senate version and so must go

back to the Senate. The Senate continued with amendments to a $150 billion jobs bill that includes a 1 year extension of unemployment benefits and COBRA health benefits among several other benefits to state and local governments.

Workers wait on promise of jobs as Obama agenda stalls on Hill

from the Washington Post February 27, 2010 3/1/10

Lori Montgomery writes that even though President Obama declared jobs his "number one focus," Congress has been unable to push through a single measure aimed at putting people back to work. The House delayed a vote to extend tax breaks for employers who hire new workers. The Senate stalled a measure to extend unemployment benefits, a measure about to expire.

The house delayed a vote to extend tax breaks for employers. The Senate did not vote on a House-passed bill that would have extended emergency unemployment benefits.

The bill pending in the House has a $13 billion payroll tax credit aimed at employers who hire people who have been out of work for at least 60 days. It passed the Senate last week with five GOP votes. A larger package contains $80 billion to extend emergency unemployment benefits for a year and $25 billion to aid strapped state governments. But the measure would also devote $31 billion to revive expired tax breaks supported by Republicans. It would finance no new job-creation measures. Democrats in the House are pushing for a public jobs bill. Other democrats want summer jobs for youth and more job training, but nothing is passed yet.

White House crafts jobs bill, a year into stimulus effort

from the Washington Post February 18, 2010 2/20/10

Neil Irwin, Lori Montgomery and Alec MacGillis write about the Obama press conference marking the one year anniversary of the stimulus spending but acknowledging thespending has not yet helped relieve joblessness.

Most of the press conference and article discussed additional measures for the future. These measures include $267 billion spending to support job creation. In addition, the White House called for $167 billion to extend tax cuts and spending in the original stimulus package, including tax credits worth $400 per year to individuals and $800 to married couples, additional aid for cash-strapped state governments, extension of unemployment benefits through much of this year, and an additional $250 lump-sum "economic recovery" payment to Social Security recipients this year.

The administration also wants to put an additional $100 billion toward an immediate jobs bill. One of the most significant ideas would award tax credits worth as much as $5,000 per new hire to employers that expand their payrolls this year. By the administration's calculations, the tax credit would create 600,000 jobs at a cost to the government of about $33 billion.

Not all of the projects and spending from last year's stimulus have started and other billions have not yet entered the spending stream. When it all gets going the Whitehouse is hoping for a big jump in jobs.

White house report forecasts tepid job growth this year
Unemployment rate expected to stablize, fall to 8.2 percent by 2012

from the Washington Post February 12, 2010 2/13/10

Neil Irwin writes about the release of this year's Whitehouse forecast in the Economic Report of the President. They are projecting new jobs at 95,000 a month, which is too slow to keep up with population growth. They are forecasting 10 percent unemployment through 2010 and then dropping to 8.2 percent in 2012. The report suggests the economy is driven more by business investment and exports.

Reid to Push pared-down bill desiged to create jobs
Feb. 22 Vote Scheduled
Fast-tracked provisions have bipartisan support

from the Washington Post February 12, 2010 2/13/10

Shailagh Murray and Ben Pershing write about Senator Harry Reid's announcement to pass a new job's bill. The centerpiece of the Senate jobs package would exempt companies from paying Social Security taxes for the remainder of 2010 on every new worker who had been unemployed for at least 60 days.

The Senate bill also adds new transportation infra structure spending, expanded investment breaks for small business, and added subsidies for local governments pay for new schools, court houses and other public projects.

However, Reid delayed renewal of several business tax credits, unemployment insurance mentioned below and COBRA health insurance extensions.

Decision Time on Long Term jobless

from the Washington Post February 9, 2010 2/10/10

The $787 billion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress included a measure to have additional unemployment benefits in states with high unemployment rates. Unemployment benefits were extended to 99 weeks even though 26 weeks is the normal amount of time for benefits. Benefits were extended from 79 to 99 weeks by Congress about a year ago, but they must vote again. The bill includes almost $13 billion a month to fund them because Congress is paying for the benefits that are over 26 weeks. Benefits are about 36 percent of weekly pay or an average of $325 a week.

Obama's budget calls for jobs bill and tax changes
Proposal includes health care overhaul

from the Washington Post February 1, 2010 2/3/10

President Obama's budget plan calls for billions more of new spending to combat persistently high unemployment and bolster the middle class. It slashes some programs and raises taxes on banks and the wealthy. $100 billion goes for a jobs bill that includes tax cuts for small businesses, social safety net programs, and aid to state and local government.

Assessing Obama's promises of jobs in a hub of manufacturing

from the Washington Post January 22, 2010 1/29/10

Michael A. Fletcher writes about President Obama's trip to Elyria, Ohio where he talked about job creation. During his campaign he told workers at the National Gypsum drywall factory that he would work on job creation, but the plant is now closed with a loss of 58 jobs. Many other plants in the Lorain county of Ohio are closed. The stimulus money helped but not now in the post stimulus period. Jobs continue to move overseas.

Obama, labor reach a deal on health care
Union members would get reprieve from tax on high-cost insurance

from the Washington Post January 15, 2010 1/14/10

Lori Montgomery and Michael D. Shear write about the deal betwee President Obama and organized labor oveer the tax on high-cost insurance policies. An agreement was reached to exempt unon members from a proposed surtax on expensive insurance plans until 2018, five years after the legislation takes effect.

The 40 percent excise tax on family policies over $23,000, over $8,500 for individual policies, has become increasingly unpopular politically. Labor leaders have argued the tax would especially hard on union members who have bargained for more generous benefits in lieu of higher wages. The deal just made would raise the value of policies subject to tax to $24,000 and $8,900. Some other benefits like dental and vision plans were exempted starting in 2015.The cuts are expected to reduce revenue by $60 billion over 10 years.

As Defense agencies hire, others look to trim staff
Departments offer incentives as they try to shed 37,000 workers

from the Washington Post December 30, 2009 1/4/10

Ed O'Keefe writes The Federal Government hired 97,445 people in the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, but laid off about 37,000 in all other departments.

The Postal Service and nearly every other department have begun offering buyouts with an offer of $25,000. Most of the buyouts are for economic reasons rather than a change of workforce needs.

States' Jobless funds are being drained in recession

from the Washington Post December 22, 2009 12/22/09

Peter Whorisky writes "The recession's jobless toll is draining unemployment-compensation funds so fast that according to federal projections, 40 state programs will go broke within two years and need $90 billion in loans to keep issuing the benefit checks."

The article describes state benefit programs and problems for states in general and quotes and comments for the states of South Carolina, Kentucky, Nevada, Kansas, Vermont, Virginia and Indiana. States have borrowed from the Federal Government to keep up and pay benefits. Not all states fund their programs adequately but shortfalls mean raising taxes or cutting benefits.

Initial Unemployment Claims
Unemployment Claims are Starting to Decline12/10/09

Seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims dropped below 500 thousand in the 4 weeks ending November 21, 2009 for the first time in 2009. They remained below 500 thousand for the week of November 28, 2009. Continuing unemployment claims have also dropped from over 6 million in October to less than 4.5 million by this December. Because unemployment goes up and down depending on initial and continuing unemployment claims the future suggests a decline in the unemployment rate in the future. This month it is 10.0 percent, but next it will drop.

Jobs plan will 'jump-start' hiring

from the Associated Press December 4, 2009 12/4/09

Philip Elliott and Andrew Taylor write "Even as he trumpeted a slowdown in the nation's job losses Friday, President Barack Obama put finishing touches on a proposal he'll unveil next week to "jump-start" business hiring across America." His remarks were part of a speech in Allentown PA

President Obama plans to send Congress an initial list of ideas he supports for a new jobs bill. Expected suggestions include gives people cash incentives to fix up their homes with energy-saving materials, tax incentives and incentives for small business to hire, and more spending on construction projects through the states.

Bernanke Offers grim job outlook, help for dollar

from the Washington Post November 17, 2009 11/18/09

Neil Irwin and Ylan Mui write that Federla Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will focus on the weak job market. He continues to believe inflation will remain subdued so he will support growth by leaving interest rates at rockbottom lows.

Bernanke said "The best thing we can say about the job market right now is that it is maybe getting worse more slowly." He said Fed policies will help assure the dollar remains strong.

Obama Calls for Whitehouse Conference on Job Creation
Unemployment is 'one of the great challenges that remains'

from the Washington Post November 13, 2009 11/14/09

Michael A. Fletcher and Neil Irwin write "President Obama plans to hold a Whitehouse forum on job creation next month an to attempt to signal his concern about the growing ranks of the unemployed and build concensus on future action to stoke the economy."

Small business owners, corporate executives, economists, and financial experts will discuss ideas for accelerating job creation. The artice suggests the Whitehouse says it wants to focus on long term strategies.

Returing Workers Face Steep Pay cuts
Many bouncing back from layoffs struggle to recoup earning power as wage erosion threatens a slow economic recovery

from Wall Street Journal November 12, 2009 11/13/09

Ianthe Jean Dugan writes Nearly 5 million lost unemployment benefits in the last year but many return to steep pay cuts. Wage increases at private companies just 1.2%, adjusted for inflation, for the year ending September 2009. Wages are expected to turn negative based on experience from 2001 and earlier recessions.

Job Openings Increase in Latest Hopeful Indicator

from Wall Street Journal November 11, 2009 11/12/09

Mark Whitehouse and Sara Murray write U.S. companies are gradually catching up their search for workers for the Department of Labor found with the August and September job openings and labor turnover survey. The Labor Department also found the share of companies planning to recall workers laid off for at least 31 days increased to 33 percent in the thrid quarter over 29% in the thrid quarter a year ago.

Unions Push Issues on State Capitals

from Wall Street Journal November 11, 2009 11/12/09

Kris Maher writes Unions are pushing state lawmakers to pass legislation that would make would make organizing workers easier, as efforts to rewrite federal organizing laws remained stalled in Congress. Oregon passed legislation prohibiting companies from holding mandatory employee meetings to counter employee organizing. Law suits are expected to challenge the law. Similar bills are introduced in Connecticut and Michigan.

Congress and the President extends unemployment insurance

Press Release November 6, 2009 11/7/09

The Congress extended unemployment insurance benefits by 20 weeks

White House Faces Pressure on Jobs
Despite Stimulus Successes, More Action Sought

from the Washington Post October 9, 2009 10/12/09

Neil Irwin, Lori Montgomery and Michael A. Fletcher write "Eight months after enacting a massive economic stimulus package, the Obama administration is facing rising pressure from some congressional Democrats to move more aggressively to jump-start the moribund job market and try to spur a housing recovery."

Those in the Democratic party worry the Whitehouse staff is pre-occupied with health care and is ignoring jobs. Democrats in the house have already voted to extend unemployment benefits but they want to extend subsidies to first time home buyers and consider other options for creating jobs through additional public works-stimulus plan projects.

Employers' Hiring Plans Show Continued Anxiety About Future

from the WAshington Post September 24, 2009 9/28/09

V. Dion Haynes writes Even with rosier economic forecasts for next year, a survey of Washington area employers suggests skepticism. Employers appeared less optimistic about the future this year than last year, with more planning to freeze salaries and hire fewer new workers.

That is summary discussion of a survey by the Human Resource Association of the National Capital Area. Other comments describe the Washington area as in a better position than most with expected increases in Federal Hiring.

Holiday Jobs Look Scarce As Pessimism Grips Retail

from the Wall Street Journal September 23, 2009 9/28/09

Ann Zimmerman and Elizabeth Holmes write Nearly half of the nation's 25 biggest retail chains expect to hire fewer holdiay workers this seasn than they did last year. About 40 percent of the stores surveyed expect to hire 5 to 35 percent fewer temporary help in the fourth quarter.

Federal Minimum Wage

Press release from the Department of Labor July 2009 7/30/09

The U.S. Department of Labor reminds employers and employees that the federal minimum wage will increase to $7.25 on Friday, July 24. With this change, employees who are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will be entitled to pay no less than $7.25 per hour.

This increase is the last of three provided by the enactment of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, which amended the FLSA to increase the federal minimum wage in three steps: to $5.85 per hour effective July 24, 2007; to $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008; and now to $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. The latest change will directly benefit workers in 30 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming) where the state minimum wage is currently at or below the federal minimum wage, or there is no state minimum wage. The DC minimum wage is $1 above the national minimum.

A family with a full-time minimum wage earner would see its monthly income increase by about $120.

Pay Raises are the Smallest in Decades, Survey Shows

from the Wall Street Journal July 21, 2009 7/23/09

Michael Sanserino writes Two surveys released Tuesady by Watson Wyatt World Wide Inc and the Hay Group show that median pay raises for 2009 increased between 2 percent and 3 percent, a low increase compared to almost all years. The surveys are private surveys but consistent with data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Fed Sees Heightened Joblessness Drawing Out Recovery

from the Washington Post July 16, 2009 7/16/09

Neil Irwin writes that the Federal Reserve projected that the unemployment rate may surpass 10 percent by year's end and warned that the economy may not return to full health for at least five years.

The Fed's forecasts suggest that the recovery, when it comes, is unlikely to have much immediate impact on the job market. Most of the Fed governors and regional bank presidents expect that the unemployment rate will be 10 percent or higher in the final quarter of the year, according to projections released along with minutes of a June policymaking meeting.

While economic growth and job creation often go hand in hand, that relationship has broken down in the aftermaths of the past two recessions. This could reflect efforts by companies to become more efficient as they emerge from hard times.

Then the article writes that economists are not sure of the reason, but low wages and high taxes and severe inequality of income might be another reason.

Ruling Upends Race's Role in Hiring

from the Wall Street Journal June 30, 2008 7/1/09

Jess Bravin and Suzanne Satoline write "The Supreme Court set a new standard for Employee's use of race in hiring decisions, . . ."

The New Haven, Connecticut city government wrongly discriminated against a group of mostly white fire fighters when it threw out a promotions exam when no black people scored well enought to be promoted.

Justice Kennedy wrote that employers must show a "strong basis in evidence" before ignoring results of empoyment-related tests so as not to frustrate other applicants.

The court concluded the city violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act because the city made its decision based on race by rejecting test results solely because higher scoring candidates were white. The only reason to negate an exam is if there is evidence the exam discriminates.

What Helps New Ph.D.s Land Jobs in Academia? A Passport

from the Wall Street Journal June 19, 2008 6/20/09

Erica Alini writes "The scramble for faculty jobs is prompting graduate students and newly minted Ph.Ds to look overseas."

Cuts in government spending and shrinking endowments are taking a toll on many U.S. Universities. Hiring in English and foreign languages fell 20 percent this year.

Jack Schuster of Claremont Graduate School is quoted "The supply -demand ratio is a bit out of whack in the academic job market in general."

June Inflation Report Shows No Inflation

from Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS) May 17, 2009 6/18/09

The BLS published its new consumer price index numbers for May 2009. Prices for the all items index dropped 1.3 percent. Price changes are for the 12 months ending in May 2009. Some prices were up but those increases were offset by a 14.3 percent decrease in fuel prices for transportation. Food and beverages were up 2.7 percent. The two industry sectors that have been doing well with increaseing jobs also had prices increases. These were medical care with 3.2 percent price increases from May a year ago and 5.5 percent increases for education. Housing and apparel were up but less than one percent.

Unions Look to Labor Board Picks to Reverse Bush Rulings

from the Wall Street journal June 3, 2009 6/7/09

Melanie Trottman writes "Unions are counting on President Obama's new appointees to the National Labor Relations Board to reverse Bush era rulings they sya hamper their efforts to organize workers."

The National Labor Relations Board(NLRB) has a 5 member board that oversees elections and resolves labor disputes. The new chair Wilma Liebman is already on the board and there are two new Obama nominees, Craig Becker and Mark Pearce. Together they will create a majority favorable toward labor and labor union needs and arguments.

Ms. Liebman is former legal counsel to the Teamsters and Bricklayers union. Mr. Becker is legal counsel to the Service Employees International Union. Mr Pearce is a founding partner of a law representing unions.

Many issues of conduct during union organizing are likely to come before the board.

Labor Department Suspends Farmworker Rules

The Labor Department proposed suspending the Bush Administration rules in March. The proposals described earlier on this link were suspended as the U.S. Labor Department restored old regulations governing the H-2A guest worker program. Officials will write new rules.

The announcement was for May 30, 2009. 6/1/09

Layoff Update

Layoff announcments dating from May 19th to May 21, 2009. 5/26/09

American Express said it will eliminate 4,000 jobs in the process of cutting costs by $800 million. It is 6 percent of its global workforce. American Express cut 7,000 jobs in October 2008.

Lockheed announces 130 job cuts from defense department budget cuts for helicopters.

Capital One of McClean to cut 180 jobs in Baton Rouge, LA as part of a consolidation of credit card operations and telephone sales.

Despite Stimulus Funds States to Cut More Jobs
Budget Shortfalls Prompt Mass Layoffs
from the Washington Post May 12, 2009 5/14/09

Alec MacGillis writes "Eleven weeks after Congress settled on a stimulus package that provided $135 billion to limit layoffs in state governments, many states are finding that the funds are not enough and are moving to lay off thousands of public employees."

Layoffs mentioned are Washington State public colleges, 1000; Massachusetts 250 layoffs; Arizona already had 800 layoffs; Maine cut 250 jobs; Florida cut 200 jobs in the last 18 months; Virginia layoffs eliminated 1,500 jobs. California, Georgia and New Jersey are reported as ordering furloughs.

They better try more simulus with the private sector still sinking and jobs falling elsewhere.

Under Restructuring, GM To build More Cars Overseas
from the Washington Post May 10, 2009 5/12/09

Peter Whoriskey writes "The U.S. government is pouring billions into General Moters in hopes of reviving the domestic economy, but when the automaker completes its restructuring plan many ofthe company's new jobs will be filled by workers overseas."

The company admits the number of cars that GM sells in the United States and builds in Mexico, China and South Korea will roughly double. The percentage of cars sold domestically and manufactured in the above low wage countries will rise to 23 Percent from 15 percent. Labor costs are lower in those countries, which may not have health care, workman's compensation, unemployment insurance and social security burdens quite so big as the United States.

Initial Unemployment Claims
Unemployment Claims are Starting to Decline 5/8/09

The initial unemployment claims reached a high of 659 thousand in the 4 weeks ending March 28, 2009. The have been dropping and reached 622 thousand by the week of May 2, 2009. Because unemployment goes up and down along a straight line of graph with initial unemployment claims the future suggests some dropping unemployment in the future. This month it is 8.9 percent, but let's be optimistic and let the numbers do the talking a predict the unemployment rate will stop rising.

Plan to Cut Weapons Programs Disputed
Defense Supporters Say 100,000 Jobs are in Jeopardy
from the Washington Post April 28, 2009 4/29/09

Dan Eggen writes "Some of the nation's largest defense contractors, labor unions and trade groups are banding together to argue that the Obama Administration is putting 100,000 or mor3e jobs at risk by proposing deep cuts in weapons programs." Some of the contractors are quoted from Lockheed and a place called the Aerospace Industries Association. They express worry about jobs but have little to say about defense. Defense sounds like an expensive jobs program.

GM's New Road Map: Partial Nationalization
Automatker to Shed Brands and Workers; Future Hinges on Deal With Bondholders
from the Washington Post April 28, 2009 4/29/09

Steven Mufson writes "... under new sweeping plan that would also shut down GM's Pontiac operations, lay off 21,000 workers and impose harsh terms on the company's bondholders." It is hard to keep up with auto layoffs there have been so many such announcments. Gm announced layoffs of 10,000 on February 11th and then 50,000 on February 18th.

Delta Air Ends Use of India Call Centers
from the Wall Street Journal April 18, 2009 4/24/09

Paulo Prada aned Niraj Sheth write that Delta Airlines has stopped using India based call centers to hadle sales and reservations. Cusomters complained they had trouble with communicating with Indian Agents. The company said it was fundamentally cheapter to use Indian agents, but the article suggested moving the jobs back to America could be a smart public relations move. "The customer acceptance of call centers in foreign countries is low," said Richard Anderson, Delta's chief executive. Delta also has call centers in Jamaica, Soth Africa El Salvador and Guatemala.

GM set to Trim 1600 More Jobs
from the Washington Post from April 21, 2009 4/23/09

Kendra Marr writes that GM's president plans are for layoffs of whitecollar workers in the next few days to speed cost cutting to qualify for more federal loans. Separate negotiations have begun to cut 47,000 blue collar workers by the end of
the year. The GM will spare engineers working on the new Chevrolet Volt, but otherwise reductions will be targeted to marketing and communicatins personnel.

Labor-Management Partnerships Poised to Revive
from the Federal Diary in the Washington Post from April 15, 2009 4/17/09

Apparently partnerships in the Federal government date from 1993 as an executive order of Bill Clinton. The aim was to "build a more cooperative relationship at the workplace between management and employees, which could reduce tensions and formal complaints, including grievances and charges of unfair labor practice." George W. Bush issued hs own order revoking Clinton's less than a month after taking office. It was always hard to think of George Bush as cooperating with anybody.

GAO Report Faults Labor Dept. on Wage Complaints
Division Failed to Take Action from the Washington Post April 7, 2009 4/8/09

Chris Jenkins writes about the General Accounting Office nine-month investigation of worker claims filed with the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division. The report is titled "Wage and Hour Division’s Complaint Intake and Investigative Processes Leave Low Wage Workers Vulnerable to Wage Theft." GAO investigators posed as frustrated workers filing claims. The Wages and Hours division mishandled cases 9 out of 10 times. Caseworkers discouraged the undercover investigators from filing complaints, instead telling them to hire attorneys. Child labor law violations were not investigated. Cases were not entered into agency databases.

"This investigation clearly shows that Labor has left thousands of actual victims of wage theft who sought federal government assistance with nowhere to turn."

The report covered years of the Bush Administration and Elaine Chao as Labor Secretary. Some may regard this report is their intended legacy.

SLM Transfers Overseas Jobs to U.S.
Reston Student Lender to Move 2,000 Jobs Out of Asia from the Washington Post April 7, 2009 4/8/09

Thomas Heath writes "Sallie Mae yesterday announced plans to move 2,000 overseas jobs back to the United States from India and the Philippines, reversing a cost saving measure the company took a year ago."

Sallie Mae makes private student loans and loans backed by the federal government. It bundles the loans and sells them as securities to outside investors. Sallie Mae's chief executive Albert Lord said the company moved the jobs overseas about a year ago when the credit crisis was hurting Sallie Mae's bottom line. "It was a tough decision to move these jobs overseas," Lord said. "It was a lot easier to make the decision to bring them back."

However, all is not well in the student lending and President Obama has proposed an end to subsides for student loan providers such as Sallie Mae and Citi-Group. Government would be the sole provider.

Rep. Paul Kanjorski described the decision as a patriotic act, but the article noted his district will get 600 of the new Sallie Mae jobs. Kanjorski chairs the House Financial Services subcommitte that oversees securities. It was further reported that Sallie Mae is the biggest contributor to Rep. kanjorski's political campaigns, giving $86,000.

Initiative on Worker Safety Gets Poor Marks
IG's Report Links Weak Enforcements to Job Fatalities from the Washington Post April 2, 2009 4/4/09

R. Jeffery Smith writes "A special government program to improve worker safety in hazardous industries rarely fulfilled its promise, a Labor Department audit concluded yesterday[4/1/09], and over the past six years, dozens of deaths occurred at firms that should have been subjected to much tighter federal safety enforcement."

Apparently the program was started by the Bush Administration, but assistant inspector General Elliot P Lewis who did the above mentioned audit cited a failure of enforcement that did not correct workplace hazards of 45 emloyers where 58 fatalities occurred. The audit also concluded that more than half of the 282 workplace fatalities should have been included in the Enhanced Enforcement Program were not properly logged, partly because of poor training at Occupational Health and Saftety Administration.

Donald Shalhoub at the Occupational Health and Saftety Administration acknowledges "the program may not have been consistently accomplishing its purpose and intent." Maybe the program was just a public relations scam, but officials didn't say that.

Union Bill's Declining Chances Give Rise to Alternatives
from the Washington Post March 29th 4/2/09

Alec MacGillis writes about the Employee Free Choice Act, a law that makes it easier for unions to organize new union representation. The law would allow active employees to sign cards rather than sign cards and wait to vote in representation election. The law continues to make the news and draw comments and new proposals.

"This is not the time or the place" for card check, said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who backed the bill in 2007. "To continue to attempt to bring up something that has already worked its way into being so divisive and distracting is unproductive."

"Labor law reform is long overdue," said Mike Asensio, a Columbus, Ohio, lawyer with Baker Hostetler who represents corporations. However, he says the debate will not advance until union supporters scrap the bill and start over. "If they make it all or nothing, they enhance their chances of getting nothing."

Joel Rogers, a pro-labor law professor at the University of Wisconsin, called the rules "ossified." Rogers supports card check but said there may be other ways to limit intimidation by employers, such as exceedingly high penalties. "The problem is not secret ballot versus card check, it's the fear that workers have."

But Robert Bruno, a labor relations professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, doubts reforms short of card check can work. It is unrealistic, he said, to create neutral, civic-style elections in workplaces dominated by employers. Employers "would have to agree to an environment where they give up a lot of control, a lot of prerogative."

David Radelet, a Chicago lawyer who represents corporations, said Sen Arlen Specter's 2010 warnings [that he might be replaced with a democrate] should be heeded. "It does create pressure for the business community to get something done now," he said.

Keith Smith, director of employment policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, said his group is asking its members which reforms they might accept. "We're going to see something again soon. It's all a matter of what it will look like and how it will move," he said.

EEOC Willfully Violated Pay Law, Arbitrator Rules from the Washington Post March 31th 4/1/09

Steve Vogal writes "The Equal Employment Opportunity Commisssion, responsible for ensuring that the nation's workers are treated failry, has itself willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act on a nationwide basis with its own employees, an arbitrator has rule."

The arbitrator's ruling stated that the EEOC offered compensatory time off rather than overtime pay, which amounted to "forced volunteering" and was a knowing violation of the law and went beyond mere negliegence. The employees were pressured into working extra hours but not offered extra pay.

Further readers learn the agency has an unprecendented increase in discrimination claims after 8 years of budget cuts and a reduction of 25 percent of staff; all a legacy of the Bush Administration.

Artictects the Latest Dominoes to Fall
Slowdown Signals a Static Horizon from the Washington Post March 28th 3/29/09

Paul Schwartzman chronicles Washington area jobs for architects describing projects halted and the discouraging job search for laid off architects. Construction layoffs get more media attention but architecture layoffs are a slow down of planning for projects in the future.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 217 thousand jobs at Architecture firms in 2008, up slightly from 214 thousand in 2007. Over 90 percent of architects work in architecture firms or as self employed individuals. Since 2000 architecture jobs have been growing at faster than the national average growth for jobs and adding an average of 4,600 jobs a year. There are up to 4,500 architecture jobs in the Washington Metropolitan area according to analysts at the District's Department of Employment Services.

Times Co. Announces Temporary Salary Cuts from the NY Times March 27th 3/29/09

Richard Perez-Pena writes "The New York Times Company budget plans announced Thursday, including a temporary 5 percent salary cut for most employees, should avert newsroom staff cuts at the flagship Times newspaper this year . . . "

Cuts are for management and non-union and Newspaper Guild staff in the newsroom. The pay cuts are for 9 months.

In addition, the Times annouceed 100 layoffs in business operations or about 5 percent of business operations staff. The company laid off 27 in the advertising department last month and about 500 people in January. Other parts of the company including about.com will have 2.5 percent cuts and 5 days of furlough.

By the end of 2008, the company had 9,346 employees, down from 10,710 working the same operations two years ago.

IBM to Cut 5,000 Jobs; D.C. Area Largely Not Affected from the Washington Post March 27th 3/28/09

Kim Hart writes "IBM has told its employees that the company plans to cut about 5,000 jobs this week, according to industry sources with knowledge of the layoffs."

IBM is reported to be shifting a large number of jobs to lower cost regions, such as India. Most of the jobs being eliminated come from the global services division, which ranges from software developers to data center managers. IBM has been shifting jobs abroad for about a decade. Layoffs come two months after previous layoffs of 4,000 in sales jobs.

Post Offers Another Round of Buyouts from the Washington Post March 27th 3/27/09

Frank Ahrens writes "The Washington Post offered employees another round of early retirement packages yesterday - the fourth since 2003 and second within a year - as part of its ongoing effort to cut costs to compensate for declining circulation and advertising revenue."

The Washington Post continues to lose money despite its reputation as quality journalism. Jobs in newspaper publishing are down from 422,600 to 325,900 in the years since 2000. Jobs in all publishing industries are down from 774,000 in 2000 to 619,000 in 2008. Paper will soon be obsolete.

Specter Will Vote To Block Union Bill
Decision is a Blow to 'Card Check' from the Washington Post March 25th 3/27/09

Alec MacGillis writes that "Sen Arlen Specter (Pa.), the only Republican senator who did not actively oppose the Employee Free Choice Act in the previous Congress, said yesterday that he will vote to block it this year, dealing a blow to the pro-labor legislation."

While Specter agrees with unions that the current system is broken, he prefers more limited reforms. Only if more limited reforms prove ineffective will he reconsider when the economy returns to normalcy.

Business keeps saying they don't like so called 'card check' because they want democracy in unions. With current rules there is a lengthy delay after a majority of the workforce requests a certification election and before union members vote for representation. It is reported that business uses the time to bully, threaten and intimidate their workforce. Perhaps Mr. Specter would support immediate elections without delay.

Job Related Stimulus Funds Fuel Debate
Expanded Unemployment Benefits Would Hurt Business, Va. Republicans Say from the Washington Post, March 25th 3/26/09

Chris Jenkins writes "Thousands of jobless Virginians could be eligible for enhanced unemployment benefits under the stimulus package passed by Congress last month, but a group of Republican lawmakers is urging the state to reject the $125 million in federal money saying it will mean higher taxes for businesses once the money is exhausted."

Virginia business only spends $98 a year per employee to provide the meager Virginia unemployment benefits compared to a national average of $258. The federal money comes with the requirement that states expand their benefits somewhat to be eligible and the Republicans don't want their business friends to have pick up the tab later on, after two years, when the federal money is scheduled to stop.

Apparently they are worried they won't be able to eliminate those extra benefits two years along when Virginia business might have to pay so they would rather throw away $125 million of economic revival money rather than risk it. These particular Republicans seem to forget that money goes round and round; when they unemployed with wages spend their benefits it goes back to business. Only a small detail.

Consumer Price IndexThe Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Consumer Price Index for February on 3/20/09

The overall price increase for all urban consumer was up .2 percent for the 12 months ended Februrary 2009. Small but the price index for food and beverages was up 4.7 percent. Transportation was down -11 percent, mostly because fuel prices are way down from a year ago. Details on the labor line.

Local Tech Community In Uproar over Labor Rights Bill from the Washington Post 3/16/09

Kim Hart writes about the Washington area reaction to the Employee Free Choice Act, which makes it easier for unions to organize by using a system whereby workers can organize union representation after a majority of active employees sign cards instead of having an election.

Business opponents say such things as "The legislation would undermine efforts to attract businesses to Virginia, which is a right to work state." Also ". . . it will embolden unions to try to overturn right-to-work laws." And "If all of a sudden you have a layer of bureaucracy that has a different set of rules for hiring, firing and rewarding employees, that's going to stifle creativity and our ability to innovate."

Labor proponents say "By allowing more workers the ability to bargain for better wages, benefits and retirement security, the Employee Free Choice Act will put more money in the pockets of consumers so they can purchase needed goods and services from companies on Main Streets across our nation." And ". . . Millions of working families are a step closer to gaining real bargaining rights that will enable them to have a better life and will help move our nation along the road to economic recovery."

Labor Secretary Proposes Suspending Farm Rules from the NY Times 3/14/09

Steven Greenhouse writes that Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced that she would suspend regulations that the Bush administration introduced in December 18, 2008 to make it easier and cheaper for agricultural employers to use foreign workers in temporary jobs. Last year tens of thousands of foreign workers were brought in under the temporary agricultural program, known as H-2A to harvest lettuce, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, sugar cane and other crops. The Bush rules cut the wages that many of these workers will receive, reduced the amount growers had to reimburse workers for travel and eliminated other administrative burdens.

Labor unions applauded the bill. A growers representative said "A lot of people have placed orders for these workers, and this will cause some panic in the industry."

Corporations Up Drive Against Bill to Ease Unionization from the Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2009 3/11/09

Kris Mahler writes President Obama's public backing this week of a bill that would make union organizing easier is driving companies to step up opposition. The bill is called the Employee Free Choice Act, which allows workers to opt for unioinization by signing cards, rather than through secret-ballet elections.

Business sources were quoted who don't want the bill claiming it will hurt their ability to boost productivity and keep their work forces flexible enough to respond to changine markets. At Wal-Mart they complained it "effectively eliminates free choice and the right to a secret-ballet election."

Labor and some businesses were quoted as supporting the bill. Labor argues unions can contribute to productivity, safety and training. The AFL-CIO has been able to find some corporate supporters.

The article does not discuss the issue of business interference in union elections and organizing.

Unemployment Rate by Fred Siegmund 3/7/09

On February 17th last month I forecast the unemployment rate to rise from 7.6 percent to 8.2 percent for the March 6th release date. It turned out to be 8.1 percent. I got the unemployed almost exactly but I thought the labor force would decline just slightly, when in fact those not in the labor force entered and began looking for jobs. That held down the rate slightly.

How I do my forecast is not a mystery because as I mentioned the initial unemployment claims in the 4 to 8 weeks ahead give a good indication of next month's unemployment rate. A rise of the 4 week moving average of 1000 claims will bring a 20 to 21 thousand increase in the unemployed for the next month. In forecaster talk it is a tight linear trend.

The bad news is that the 4-week moving average is going up, up, up and now the same tight linear trend is forecasting 8.9 percent unemployment for March. Stay tuned.

Many Hires Needed for Budget Goals
Tens of Thousands Could Be Added to Government Payroll Washington Post 3/3/09

Philip Rucker writes President Obama's budget is so ambitious, with vast new spending on health care, energy independence, education and services for veterans, that experts say he probably will need to hire tens of thousands of new federal government workets to realize his goals.

The article discusses how many jobs might be created. Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs are going to hire 17,000 new employees, which they say will be 7,900 new nurses, 3,300 new doctors, 3,800 new clerks, and 2,400 new practical nurses.

Those are the only specific job numbers mentioned, other increases are speculations. The Heritage Foundation says 100,000 more jobs, the Center for Data Analysis suggest 230 to 260 thousand more jobs.

Federal Government employment including postal employees has an annual average of 2.777 million jobs. Exclude postal jobs and the total is just a few over 2 million, with about 343 thousand of those jobs in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Federal jobs have not changed much, up or down, for more than a decade. They were 3.2 million in 1990.