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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