Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December 10 is International Human Rights Day. We demand our right to a Living Wage Job!!

Fast food workers, healthcare workers and their supporters shout slogans at a rally and march to demand an increase of the minimum wage in Los Angeles, Calif. on Dec. 4, 2014.  Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty

"…Where, after all, do universal rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he or she lives in; the school or college he or she attends; the factory, the farm or office where he or she works.

Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, and equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world…"

--Eleanor Roosevelt (1968) commenting on the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

"...It is the purpose of the Humphrey Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act (HR 1000) to expedite progress to fulfill the right to useful work at living wages for all persons seeking employment, as promptly as possible and at the earliest practicable date by establishing a Full Employment Trust Fund to fund  and operate a national program of public service employment and to provide additional labor market opportunities to complement those offered by the existing private, public, and nonprofit sectors."   
-- HR 1000 (Full Text), introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) with 57 co-sponsors

December 10 is International Human Rights Day and the anniversary of the day that the Universal Declaration was adopted in 1948.  This year’s slogan, Human Rights 365, encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day. It celebrates the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights, that human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Can We Earn a Living on a Living Planet?

Cross posted from the American Prospect

This July 30, 2010, photo shows a worker walking through a field of solar panels at Pocono Raceway, in Long Pond, Pa. When Pocono Raceway flipped the switch on its 25-acre solar farm last week for the Pennsylvania 500, a NASCAR track became the world's largest solar-powered sports facility and thrusted the racing series into a leading role among U.S. sports in promoting alternative energy.

Can We Earn a Living on a Living Planet?
The Need for Jobs, and the Ecological Limits to Growth
by Chuck Collins, 10/13/14

It has been a tough couple of years in the effort to unite labor, community, and environmental groups, an alliance that has always been strained.

The extractive energy sector—coal, gas, oil—has historically had strong union representation and well-paying jobs. Tensions rose in 2011 after the Sierra Club escalated their campaign to close coal plants and, the climate protection group led by activist Bill McKibben, called for a halt to the Keystone XL Pipeline project.  Even Obama’s relatively mild order this past June on reducing pollution from power plants was opposed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Mineworkers.

“Where is the transition plan for workers? Why isn’t this part of your demands?”
At a February 2013 meeting of labor and environmental activists, Damon Silvers, the AFL-CIO’s director of policy and special counsel, yelled and pounded the table, “Where is the transition plan for workers? Why isn’t this part of your demands?”
Divisions will increase in the coming years, as two competing urgencies collide. Labor and community justice organizations will demand jobs, economic growth, and reductions in inequality. And environmental activists will increase pressure to curtail fossil fuel production in the face of climate disruptions. Both the politics and the policies of these goals seem to diverge. But must they?

“Pitting jobs versus the environment is a false choice,” says Joe Uehlein, a longtime trade unionist, now board president of the Labor Network for Sustainability, which builds alliances between environmental and labor sectors. “We need to figure out how to make a living on a living planet.”

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Low wages keep restaurant workers in cycle of poverty

 Cross-posted from the Ashville Citizen-Times

Low wages keep restaurant workers in cycle of poverty

Mackensy Lunsford  November 22, 2014

"...The [restaurant] industry as a whole has recorded five straight years of economic growth, but “quick-service” restaurants, which include fast-food eateries, are experiencing more robust growth with sales this year at 4.4 percent over last.

At the same time, nearly 17 percent of the country’s 10 million restaurant workers live below the poverty line, with 40 percent living below twice the poverty line, commonly used as a measure of what it takes for a family to make ends meet without assistance.

That’s more than twice the rate of workers outside of the restaurant industry."

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Most unemployed don't get benefits

Cross posted from Grand Haven Tribune

Even though the U.S. job market is gaining strength, there are still a lot of unemployed Americans. Yet only a fraction of them are receiving financial aid from the government.


Fewer than 25 percent of those out of work are signed up for weekly unemployment benefits, a near-record low since the government began tracking this data in 1987. That's a sharp turnaround from just after the recession, when as many as three-quarters of those out of work received help, a record high.

The drop counters a common assumption that most of those out of work receive unemployment benefits. It is partly a sign of an improving job market: Layoffs have plummeted and Americans seem more confident in their prospects for finding a job. But the drop also reflects the fact that state and federal benefit programs have been downsized from where they were just a few years ago. 
Unemployment benefits had been extended nationwide for as long as 99 weeks in 2009.

"We cut back on the safety net really sharply when the labor market is still damaged," said Josh Bivens, director of research at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank.

In October, an average of 2.1 million people received benefits each week, according to calculations by the EPI. That is equal to just 23.3 percent of the nearly 9 million who were out of work, and is just above September's 23.2 percent, the all-time low.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

1 in 7 Young Adults Neither Working Nor in School

Cross posted from Salon

Millennials are hopeless, and it’s all our fault

Jobs are vanishing for young Americans, thanks to a narcissistic national politics that's disconnected from reality


"...[H]ere in the U.S. there are signs of a growing class of young people on their way to being sidelined. This wound appears self-inflicted by a narcissistic national politics totally disconnected from the current social conditions of people outside the Beltway.

According to the Social Science Research Council’s report, “A Measure of America Study,” an “astonishing one in seven Americans ages 16 to 24 is neither working nor in school — 5.8 million young people in all.” The authors rightly point out that such idleness has long-erm impacts for our nation. As their plugged-in peers ascend the ladder of success with that first job, these “disconnected youth find themselves adrift at society’s margins unmoored from the structures that confer knowledge, skills, identity and purpose.”

How ironic. Even as we fret most furiously about the lack of a sufficient workforce to carry us baby boomers into our “golden years,” we fail to see that we are squandering the generation we are counting on to carry the load.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

More than a Third of U.S. Workers are Freelancers Now

Cross-posted from Forbes

More Than A Third Of U.S. Workers Are Freelancers Now, But Is That Good For Them?
By Susan Adams 

"... [T]he progressive non-profit group National Employment Law Project released a report this week, Temped Out: How The Domestic Outsourcing of Blue-Collar Jobs Harms America’s Workers, that explores the dark side of contingent work. It focuses on the 12 million people who got jobs through staffing agencies last year.

Though NELP’s focus is on blue collar workers and it tallies its numbers differently from the Freelancers Union, Rebecca Smith, the report’s co-author, says the report’s findings extend to many of the jobs highlighted by the Freelancers Union.

 The focus of NELP’s study is the spread of temporary work to areas of the economy like manufacturing and warehousing, where workers were traditionally full-time and often unionized, with full benefits and good wages. Now that those workers are temporary, employers are paying median wages that are 22% lower than in the overall economy, according to NELP’s research.

Says Smith, “Staffing agencies not only fail to provide livable wages, benefits or job security for their workers, but their influence in an industry can lower standards for all workers in that industry.” When a worker has an issue, it’s not clear whether the staffing agency or the top-line company is responsible for setting wages or controlling working conditions.

The NELP report highlights the conditions faced by several workers who got their jobs through staffing agencies, like David Fields, a 45-year-old father of four who worked for staffing agency LINC Logistics in a Walmart consolidation center in Hammond, IN, where he toiled outside in sub-zero temperatures on a warehouse loading dock during the Christmas rush.

“It’s dangerous to move heavy equipment when you can’t feel your hands and you’re walking on ice,” Fields told the NELP researchers. “But as temp workers, we were expendable, so we just kept on working.” Fields wound up organizing fellow workers and presenting a petition to LINC and Walmart, which put a turbine heater on the dock and granted workers warm-up breaks. The vast majority of workers who are employed through staffing firms are not as successful, says Smith.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Poorly Attended Hearing on One of the Economy's Toughest Problems

C'mon Members of Congress.  You can do better than this.  Even if you can't do anything because of gridlock, can't you pound the podium and shout and stamp your feet?   Is there any passion about unemployment and underemployment inside the Beltway?

The Poorly Attended Hearing on One of the Economy's Toughest Problems
Cross-posted from the National Journal  by Niraj Chokshi, April 24, 2013

When the Joint Economic Committee's hearing on fixing the nation's long-term unemployment problem kicked off on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, only one lawmaker was in attendance: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Committee's vice chair who was holding the hearing.

It stands to reason that lawmakers who often decry the high jobless rate would want to be seen publicly trying to tackle the problem, right? Well, apparently not.

When a hearing to explore how to get the long-term unemployed back to work kicked off on Wednesday morning, only one lawmaker was in attendance. That was Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who was holding the hearing in her role as the vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee. The Joint Economic Commitee is one of a handful of committees whose members come from both parties and both houses of Congress. Klobuchar was eventually joined by three colleagues (in order of their appearance): Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings. All four are Democrats.
Lawmaker schedules are often packed with votes, hearings, meetings, press conferences, the works. By 10:30 a.m., when the long-term unemployment hearing began, more than 25 hearings had already kicked off in the House and Senate. But elected officials also often try to show up at important hearings, even if only for a few minutes, for no other reason than to be seen. For a group that often bickers over how to solve the nation’s biggest economic problems, Wednesday’s hearing represented a perfect chance to do just that: be seen discussing how to tackle the intractable problem of long-term unemployment.
The long-term unemployed have it incredibly rough: their ranks have swelled in recent years, accounting for a larger share of the unemployed; the problem is compounded by eroding skills; and the psychological effects of unemployment can take a toll on them and their families. In a 2010 Pew survey, close to half of the people out of work six or months said being unemployed for so long had strained family relations, and more than 40 percent said they’d lost contact with close friends. Just being unemployed for a long period makes individuals less employable. It’s what Kevin Hassett, a former economic advisor to Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, called a “national emergency” at Wednesday’s hearing.

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