American Paychecks


I  found this on BillMoyers.com, who found it on the blog of Robert Reich.  It does give an interesting perspective on why we need trade unions again.  My grandfather was a union organizer, and I have a lot of respect for unions and what they can do for workers.  It’s probably the root my activism gene, and I respect that a lot, too.

I hope it makes you think, the way it did for me.  As always, I invite all civil discussion on the matter, because until this is fixed — until our people have a true living wage — we cannot stop poverty.

bjwordpressdivider

WorkersOnAssemblyline

Why Wages Won’t Rise

Robert Reich
TUESDAY, JANUARY 13, 2015

Jobs are coming back, but pay isn’t. The median wage is still below where it was before the Great Recession. Last month, average pay actually fell.

What’s going on? It used to be that as unemployment dropped, employers had to pay more to attract or keep the workers they needed. That’s what happened when I was labor secretary in the late 1990s.

It still could happen – but the unemployment rate would have to sink far lower than it is today, probably below 4 percent.

Yet there’s reason to believe the link between falling unemployment and rising wages has been severed.

For one thing, it’s easier than ever for American employers to get the workers they need at low cost by outsourcing jobs abroad rather than hiking wages at home. Outsourcing can now be done at the click of a computer keyboard.

Besides, many workers in developing nations now have access to both the education and the advanced technologies to be as productive as American workers. So CEOs ask, why pay more?

Meanwhile here at home, a whole new generation of smart technologies is taking over jobs that used to be done only by people.  Rather than pay higher wages, it’s cheaper for employers to install more robots.

Not even professional work is safe. The combination of advanced sensors, voice recognition, artificial intelligence, big data, text-mining, and pattern-recognition algorithms is even generating smart robots capable of quickly learning human actions.

In addition, millions of Americans who dropped out of the labor market in the Great Recession are still jobless. They’re not even counted as unemployment because they’ve stopped looking for work.

But they haven’t disappeared entirely. Employers know they can fill whatever job openings emerge with this “reserve army” of the hidden unemployed – again, without raising wages.

Add to this that today’s workers are less economically secure than workers have been since World War II. Nearly one out of every five is in a part-time job.

Insecure workers don’t demand higher wages when unemployment drops. They’re grateful simply to have a job.

To make things worse, a majority of Americans have no savings to draw upon if they lose their job. Two-thirds of all workers are living paycheck to paycheck. They won’t risk losing a job by asking for higher pay.

Insecurity is now baked into every aspect of the employment relationship. Workers can be fired for any reason, or no reason. And benefits are disappearing. The portion of workers with any pension connected to their job has fallen from over half in 1979 to under 35 percent in today.

Workers used to be represented by trade unions that utilized tight labor markets to bargain for higher pay. In the 1950s, more than a third of all private-sector workers belonged to a union. Today, though, fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers are unionized.

None of these changes has been accidental. The growing use of outsourcing abroad and of labor-replacing technologies, the large reserve of hidden unemployed, the mounting economic insecurities, and the demise of labor unions have been actively pursued by corporations and encouraged by Wall Street. Payrolls are the single biggest cost of business. Lower payrolls mean higher profits.

The results have been touted as “efficient” because, at least in theory, they’ve allowed workers to be shifted to “higher and better uses.” But most haven’t been shifted. Instead, they’ve been shafted.

The human costs of this “efficiency” have been substantial. Ordinary workers have lost jobs and wages, and many communities have been abandoned.

Nor have the efficiency benefits been widely shared. As corporations have steadily weakened their workers’ bargaining power, the link between productivity and workers’ income has been severed.

Since 1979, the nation’s productivity has risen 65 percent, but workers’ median compensation has increased by just 8 percent. Almost all the gains from growth have gone to the top.

This is not a winning corporate strategy over the long term because higher returns ultimately depend on more sales, which requires a large and growing middle class with enough purchasing power to buy what can be produced.

But from the limited viewpoint of the CEO of a single large firm, or of an investment banker or fund manager on Wall Street, it’s worked out just fine – so far.

Low unemployment won’t lead to higher pay for most Americans because the key strategy of the nation’s large corporations and financial sector has been to prevent wages from rising.

And, if you hadn’t noticed, the big corporations and Wall Street are calling the shots.

 

bjwordpressdivider

 

The Perfect Storm


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

animated.LoveYou

 

 

In the sixties, there was a perfect storm of hatred and violence and passionate pacifism. Folk singers like Peter, Paul and Mary, Pete Seger and Joan Baez sang the songs that started the fire that crossed America to get the Vietnam War ended. Hearts were set afire with music, poetry, sit-ins and marches. We watched the boys we knew going off to the war. There was a draft and I can remember sitting at the dinner table and listening for the numbers to be selected. You knew the numbers of your family and friends. The silence that would envelope a family when a son’s number was called was so opaque you could cut it with a knife. In addition to this being held like a human sacrifice by a Pagan world, some of these men fled and went to Canada. Very few returned, even when all was forgiven.

 

Thanks to President John Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. whites and blacks moved together to bring his dream of equality to reality. Since the Civil War, the South had promoted and enforced strict segregation. This included separate restrooms, sitting in different parts of busses and not allowing interracial marriage. The very brave black youth who shared Rev. King’s dream began to protest and white Northern kids went South to help them. People lost their lives. The KKK lynched many young black men. The cowards who hid under white sheets were big shots when no one knew who they were. Many deaths were accomplished by the hand of the KKK.

 

In the seventies, my adoptive family lived in a small back water town in Indiana. They were the only Jewish family and there was one Black family. One night both families awoke to crosses burning on their front yards. The Klan had left its business card.

 

Women also participated in all of the changes going on in America. Rosa Parks got on a bus and instead of taking a seat in the back where black people were supposed to ride, she sat in the front of the bus. She was dragged off the bus and arrested but she is a heroine of the Civil Rights Movement. Feminists were out front and speaking up against the war and loudly demanding our civil rights. Women, make $.77 for every $1.00 a man made. We didn’t want to lose jobs if we had a child. Maternity leave was a subject that many businesses used as a reason not to hire women.

 

Women were being beaten by husbands and boyfriends, according to the FBI at a rate of one woman every eleven seconds. I worked hard with other women in my home town to begin a Domestic Violence shelter for women. We wanted to give them a safe place to go. We were a group of Jewish, Protestant and Catholic women who bought an old rotted dingy house with the help of the Sisters of Mercy. A penny was buried in the tree lawn and the Sisters prayed for the money to come to help the women in our community. Today, this shelter still exists and has over a yearly budget of over a half million dollars. But I remember the early days when we literally risked our lives for these woman and I would do it again.

 

Voting rights, economic rights and education are still not equal or just fifty years after the Civil Rights Act was passed. I thought that America had begun to change and we would just continue to move in the direction of fairness and justice. I was wrong. Very wrong. I didn’t realize until our President Obama was elected that the closet held more than homosexual people. It held people who still feel that human beings are not equal because of the color of their skin. This is such a travesty and must be corrected. We are one people who live with hearts beating as one despite color, education, who they love. We need to care as much for the babies who are born and need to be taken care of as we do for a woman’s right to decide what happens with her body. I saw a bumper sticker today on a car that said, “Save the whales, kill the children.”

 

The rich feel that their money gives them more rights than anyone else and it is getting worse every year. Is this a new situation? Not at all. It goes back very far in our history. During the Civil War, President Lincoln instituted a draft to have enough men to save the Union and free the slaves. The rich families were allowed to pay for their beloved sons not to have to go to war. So most soldiers were poor or middle class. They weren’t worth as much because their families had less money. Please don’t think that the rich looking down at the other 98% of our country. People need to select sides not parties. This mid-term election coming up is going to make it necessary for us to stand up and speak out. I encourage everyone do so and fight for justice in your particular country. As is often repeated,         ” If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”