Archive for Labor

Aug
18

Keeping Them In Their Places

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(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

A report from the Guttmacher Institute shows how cutbacks to reproductive health services have particularly hurt poorer women. Even as the need has increased over the last decade-plus, the number of women actually receiving publicly funded assistance has fallen by 9 percent.

While public support for contraceptive services for poorer women dates back to 1970, that portion of the safety net has been failing, particularly in states that refuse to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act, and with increasing attacks on women’s health services, writes Tara Culp-Ressler.

The issue has recently been getting worse. In the period between 2010 and 2012 alone — when attacks on publicly-funded clinics intensified — the number of poor adult women in need of contraceptive services increased by 12 percent. In Texas, where lawmakers’ crusade against abortion has undermined the entire family planning landscape over the past two years, this health care crisis is coming into sharp focus. Advocates are holding up the state as a negative example of what happens without Title X.

Michael Hiltzik points out the folly in attacking Title X reproductive health services.

In more recent years, however, congressional conservatives have had their knives out for Title X. The program was openly made a target of the right wing’s attack on Planned Parenthood, for example. The religion-based attack on ACA-mandated contraceptive services–the Hobby Lobby effect–is more of the same.

Let’s be blunt here: There is no more witless public-health position than one that targets women’s reproductive health. Preventing unwanted pregnancies pays off in multiples by reducing the burden on healthcare institutions and improving women’s work and career prospects and the health of their families.

Yet ultimately these policies are neither about economics nor religion. Which makes it even more annoying when religious business people argue that it is their rights being infringed by being required to pay for employee health care plans that include coverage for contraception.

Employment is a form of contract in which employers agree to compensate employees for their labor with a package of cash and benefits. Once those services have been rendered, the employer has incurred an enforceable debt. The money passing through the employer’s account to purchase health insurance he had contracted to pay as compensation is no longer his, but the employee’s to spend as she/he chooses. But framing it that way treats employees as equal economic partners in the employer/employee relationship. And in the new neo-feudalism, “job creators” can’t have that.

In the end, the attacks on women’s reproductive health services — as well as on labor — are not just about religion or economics, but about power. About reaffirming who’s in charge and who isn’t. As I observed at my home blog,

In every economic argument these days, notice the unstated assumption, how among both top Republicans and Democrats that the concerns of the employer, the entrepreneur — his needs, his convenience, his profitability, his confidence, his incentives — are always front and center, the primary topic of debate and of legislation. And the needs and concerns of workers without whom nothing gets done are a secondary, even tertiary concern. Because all Americans are equal, but some are more equal than others. Once you tune your ear to listen for it, you hear it everywhere.

Welcome to Orwell’s Farm.

Categories : Labor, Women's Issues
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Before becoming Ronald Reagan’s vice-president, George H.W. Bush called trickle down theory voodoo economics. He was wrong about that. Zombie economics is more accurate. Trickle down won’t die and stay dead.

“Private wealth creation requires huge investments in commonwealth,” David Cay Johnston told Chris Hayes last night on “All In.” Tax cut after tax cut — primarily favoring the entrepreneurial class — were sold on the premise that they would spur investment and hiring by the entrepreneurial class and lift all boats, as it were. Those tax cuts have instead cut into public investments over the last decade-plus, costing the average family a lot of money, says Johnston.

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Categories : Economy, Labor
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I have long been wary of the fetish among the business and political classes for efficiency. It’s a frequent rationale for bureaucratic decisions that seem to come at the expense of living, breathing people.

A Good Read

Thomas Frank (“What’s the Matter with Kansas?”) speaks with Barry Lynn at Salon on the reemergence of monopolies in America. Lynn describes how, rather than overturning laws on the books for decades, the Reagan administration changed the way the laws regulating monopolies were enforced.

Yes, that was what was so brilliant about what they did. The Department of Justice establishes guidelines that detail how regulators plan to interpret certain types of laws. So the Reagan people did not aim to change the antimonopoly laws themselves, because that would have sparked a real uproar. Instead they said they planned merely to change the guidelines that determine how the regulators and judiciary are supposed to interpret the law.

The Justice Dept. went from raising its eyebrows in the 1960s at mergers that concentrated a few percent of a market to waving though deals involving 80-90% of it.

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Feb
21

Losing Ground? It’s No Accident.

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More from Robert Reich here.

Categories : Economy, Education, Labor, Poverty
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Wow! That’s terrific bunny …

Federal judge strikes down Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s welfare drug testing law

A federal judge in Orlando, Florida ruled Tuesday that the state’s law requiring drug tests from all applicants for public assistance is unconstitutional. According to the New York Times, Judge Mary S. Scriven found that the law — Tea Party Gov. Rick Scott (R)’s signature piece of legislation — violates the U.S. Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,” Scriven wrote.

South Korea: Rail Workers, Repression and Resistance

In South Korea, no one can hear you scream. Workers have the right to organize, just not the right to do anything with it.

As the strike dragged on -soon becoming the longest rail strike in Korean history -the repression intensified. On December 17, police raided the headquarters of the Korean Railway Workers’ Union (KRWU) in search of top leaders to arrest -but found none. Instead they confiscated office equipment. including disk drives and confidential documents. Two days later, they carried out similar raids on union offices in four other cities.

Frustrated by their inability to locate the union leaders, police then besieged the headquarters of the KCTU, where they believed the railway workers’ leaders had sought protection. Trade unionists formed a defensive cordon but eventually riot police charged the building, smashing down glass doors and firing pepper gas, causing several injuries. There were reports that some of the trade unionists responded with improvised water cannon.

On Christmas, Republicans Quietly Declare War on Themselves

The news came in the Wall Street Journal, where the Chamber of Commerce disclosed that it will be teaming up with Republican establishment leaders to spend $50 million in an effort to stem the tide of “fools” who have overwhelmed Republican ballots in recent seasons. Check out the language Chamber strategist Scott Reed used in announcing the new campaign:

Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates… That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket.

Good luck with that.

The primary NSA issue isn’t privacy, it’s authority

Government’s access to that data must be determined, in turn, by a separate and much more stringent set of laws born of the principles set forth in the Bill of Rights and built with the knowledge that government has the means to use our information against us, in secret. Does theNSA’s mass collection, analysis, and use of communications metadata violate the Fourth Amendment? I think it does because it acts as surveillance over innocent citizens, treating all of us as criminals in government’s dragnet without probable cause or due process. Or as Jay Rosen puts it: “My liberty is being violated because ‘someone has the power to do so should they choose.’ Thus: It’s not privacy; it’s freedom.”

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Oct
10

Progressive Group’s “Long Game” Paying Off

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Working Families Party shakes up New York city politics (video from this summer), backing Democrat Bill DeBlasio for mayor. DeBlasio leads in the polls. Their “long game” is paying off, says the New York Post:

“On the issues they care about, from minimum wage to tenant issues to development, they are absolutely definitional — they can set the debate at the city and the state level,” de Blasio said of the WFP in 2010.

The party, founded in 1998 to take advantage of New York’s fusion voting system, which allows candidates to run on multiple ballot lines, effectively represents organized labor. Despite its small membership, its used its ballot line and operational resources to push Democratic officials farther left, and elect new ones who are already there. That plan has paid off.

Firmly backing a list of progressive issues from bank bailouts to paid sick leave to affordable housing, WFP helped organize the recent fast food strikes in New York and across the country.

Categories : Labor, National, News
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Sep
22

Robert Reich, Little Big Man

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Categories : Economy, Labor, National
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Sep
12

A Sea Change in Tennessee?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – A majority of workers at Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Tennessee have signed cards favoring the union’s representation in creating a German-style works council at the plant, a top United Auto Workers official said.

More:

Volkswagen declined to comment, but its human resources director defended the union’s attempts to organize at Chattanooga.

“I find it very depressing how deeply divided the country is on the issue of labor unions,” Horst Neumann told Reuters late on Wednesday following a panel discussion with German auto industry executives and senior labor leaders from the IG Metall union.

And finally, the oceans boiled, the earth quaked, the skies collapsed and the whole of Earth was engulfed in fire.

Otherwise, it was clearing and cooler on the coast with a light breeze out of the southwest with moderate temperatures and light surf.

Categories : Economy, Labor
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Aug
08

“Fast-Food Fight” By Low-Wage Workers

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You want a roof over your head with that?

The New York Times supports low-wage workers in its lead editorial:

Activism among fast-food workers is almost certain to continue and is likely to spread to other underpaid workers. Most of the jobs lost during the recession were midwage jobs, while most of the new jobs have been lower paying. In addition to food-service jobs, big growth areas today include home care and retail sales, with median hourly wages of roughly $10 and $11, respectively. According to the Labor Department, six of the 10 occupations that are projected to add the most jobs by 2020 pay wages at the lower end of the scale.

The strikes are spreading and drawing more attention than I might have expected. McDonalds’ helpful financial planning website for employees assumes they work a second part-time job for a total of about 70 hours a week.

Living the Dream.

Categories : Economy, Labor
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With the North Carolina state legislature in recess, Moral Mondays – the Forward Together Movement – began a march across the state, starting in Asheville on August 5 with the largest protest yet. The crowd “well exceeded” the 5,000 the Asheville police department had prepared for, with early police estimates to 10,000.

“You can’t do wrong in Raleigh and then hide back home,” said NC NAACP president the Rev. William Barber. Firing up the crowd as he has in Raleigh, Barber condemned the actions of the state legislature as “constitutionally inconsistent, morally indefensible and economically insane.” Barber and other speakers called out local and state legislators by name, some of whom were in the crowd.

“From the mountains to the coast, we’re sick of this mess,” Barber declared. “This is no momentary hyperventilation or liberal screaming match; this is a movement. We have a governor that has decided to be on the wrong side of history. We have a legislature that is bragging and boasting about its power and is legislating on the basis of lies and discrimination. Though they have temporary power, the future does not belong to them.”

Barber and other speakers addressed education, labor, LGBT rights and a bill seizing the local water system. Asheville local, Heather Rayburn, spoke surrounded with a group of other civil disobedience protestors arrested in Raleigh. Keeping with the moral theme, Rayburn reminded the crowd, “This group of jailbirds and I believe in the Golden Rule. That we should treat people the way we would want to be treated. And politicians should live by the Golden rule too.”

(Cross-posted from Crooks and Liars.)