Dean Baker

Labor Day Victories to Celebrate

Read the full report, “Rebuilding the Middle Class Requires Reviving Strong Unions” In recent decades the news for the country’s workers and the labor movement has been mostly bad. We’ve seen stagnant wages, declining unionization rates, anti-union court rulings, and for the last six years mass unemployment as the labor market is still far from recovering from the collapse of the housing bubble. It would be easy to go on about how bad things are, but it is worth highlighting a couple of good news items against this backdrop. First, there was the victory of the workers at Market Basket, the Boston based grocery store chain. This was far from a normal labor action. It involved most of the workers, and most of the managers, uniting to bring back Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO of the company, after he had been fired in a coup engineered by his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas.

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Bill Moyers

Politicians Show Their Gratitude Where It Count$

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart, a poet wrote, and as this year’s summer winds toward its end and elections approach, gratitude is indeed what our politicians have flowing from that space where their hearts should be. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is grateful to his friend Rick Anderson, the CEO of Delta Airlines. In late July, a week after McConnell treated him to breakfast in the Senate Dining Room, checks for McConnell’s super PAC came winging their way from Anderson and his wife, as well as Delta’s political action committee. “This is the kind of rare access that most of us will never experience.” That’s Sheila Krumholz, executive director the Center for Responsive Politics, the campaign finance watchdog.

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Lynne Stuart Parramore

Wages Dropped for Almost All American Workers in First Half of 2014

Think your money’s not going very far this year? It’s not your imagination. According to new research by the Economic Policy Institute, real hourly wages declined for almost everybody in the U.S. workforce in the first half of 2014. Thanks, so-called recovery. Photo via DG EMPL @ Flickr. Economist Elise Gould pored over data from the government’s Current Population Survey and determined that workers at the 20th, 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th, 70th, 80th, 90th, and 95th percentiles all saw declines in their real wages in the first half of 2014 compared with the same period last year. This was true whether you had no high school degree, a high school diploma, some college, a college degree, or an advanced degree. In fact, people with advanced degrees saw the biggest drop (2.7 percent). EPI reveals this isn’t just a blip.

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Robert Borosage

It’s Harder to Reach the American Dream If You’re Reaching All Alone

Read the full report, “Rebuilding the Middle Class Requires Reviving Strong Unions” “Hours of chaos” is how the New York Times described the work reality of more and more Americans. It highlighted Jannette Navarra, a Starbucks barista, who is regularly forced to work part-time with fluctuating hours. She usually gets her work schedule three days ahead of the workweek, so she is always scrambling to arrange childcare for her son. Any hope Navarra has of advancing by pursuing a degree is shattered by her inability to schedule classes. These sorts of lousy jobs are the increasing reality for many American workers. They are labeled “contingent” workers — part-time, temporary, on contract, on call. They generally earn lower wages than fulltime employees, with little or no benefits, and constant insecurity.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: “No Angel”

Michael Brown was laid to rest in Ferguson, Missouri this week. But that doesn’t mean that wingnuts and right-wingers will let him rest in peace. It was bad enough when the New York Times built its profile of Michael Brown around the idea that he was “no angel.” (What eighteen year old — male or female — is?) Apparently, young black men must now be “angelic” to be worthy of living through an encounter with the police.

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Terrance Heath

Beyond Ferguson: Tell The President To Take Action

Michael Brown has been laid to rest. The National Guard has begun “systematically withdrawing,” and calm has returned to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. With no more dramatic scenes, and no major news to cover unless or until investigations lead to litigation, media will pack up and leave until Ferguson offers a new story to cover. In the meantime, life goes on. Much as they cleaned the streets in the wake of the first violent protests, Ferguson residents are returning to a semblance of “normal” life, and starting the long process of helping their communities recover. The disparities and tensions that fueled angry protests in Ferguson still fester below the surface. Ferguson is still a 67 percent black city with an overwhelmingly white power structure. All but one city council member, all but one school board member, and all but 3 of its 53 police officers are white.

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Sam Pizzigati

Inequality and the USA: A Nation in Denial?

Every August, for most of the last four decades, top central bankers from around the world have been making their way to the Wyoming mountain resort of Jackson Hole for an invitation-only blue-ribbon economic symposium. This year’s Jackson Hole hobnob, once again hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, last week attracted the usual assortment of central bankers, finance ministers, and influential business journalists. But this year’s gathering also attracted something else: protesters. For the first time ever, activists converged on Jackson Hole — to let the Fed’s central bankers know, as protest organizers put it, that “it’s not just the rich who are watching them.” Over 70 groups and unions backed the protest and signed onto an open letter that calls on America’s central bankers to start nurturing an economy that works for workers.

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Dave Johnson

Why Fight For Unions? So We Can Fight An Economy Rigged Against Us

The other day I wrote about how FedEx has been pretending that their employees are not employees, which gets around labor standards for things like overtime, family leave and the rest. This misclassification game is just one way that big companies have been rigging the rules to give themselves an edge, getting around what We the People set down for our democracy. The result, of course, is even more people paid even less with even worse working conditions. And the bad players get an advantage that drives out the good ones. Like misclassification, this game-rigging, cheating, edge-seeking, rule-bypassing stuff is everywhere you look. (Rigged trade deals, corporate tax “deferral” and inversions, corporate campaign donations, too-big-to-fail banks, Congressional obstruction, etc. and etc…) This rigging of the game in favor of the ultra-wealthy gets worse and worse.

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Richard Eskow

Looks Like Burger King’s Subjects Are Royally Pissed Off

Tolstoy wrote in “War and Peace” that “kings are the slaves of history.” And when the “king” in question depends on the patronage of happy customers for his well-being, his monarchy is also a slave to public opinion. Unfortunately for Burger King, which intends to renounce its American status for tax purposes, neither history nor public opinion is on its side. In fact, if social media is any gauge, the Burger King’s American subjects are downright pissed. Tell Burger King’s CEO: “Stay American and pay your fair share of taxes or I’ll dine elsewhere.”Burger King’s Facebook page currently features the rather unfortunately timed slogan, “Chicken Fries Are Back” (is that as in, too chicken to pay your taxes?), and it has drawn a lot of angry comments about its planned tax move.

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Terrance Heath

From Ferguson To Raleigh: The March For Jobs And Freedom Continues

Fifty-one years ago, thousands of Americans gathered for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Today, events in Ferguson, Mo., and North Carolina show how much work remains, and how we can carry on the mission of the March. America has made tremendous progress since thousands marched for “civil and economic rights”, and Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech before the Lincoln Memorial. As I wrote last year, on the fiftieth anniversary, we have undoubtedly come a long way: We are more educated. Seventy-five percent of African-Americans complete high school now, compared to 15 percent in 1963. There are 3.5 times more African-Americans attending college, and five college graduates for every one in 1963. Fewer of us live in poverty. The number of African-Americans living in poverty has declined 23 percent since 1963.

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Dave Johnson

Court Rules That FedEx Employees Are FedEx Employees – Why This Matters

You know all those people who work for FedEx? A court has ruled that they work for FedEx! FedEx, like so many other companies, has been shifting costs onto employees by pretending they are not employees. This is called “misclassification” and this ruling matters. FedEx has been pretending that their employees are “independent contractors” even though they are FedEx employees. Just in time for Labor Day, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that FedEx’s employees (in California and Oregon, and likely many states with similar employee-protection laws) are FedEx’s employees, ruling that, “… we hold that plaintiffs are employees as a matter of law.” This ruling matters because actual employees have certain rights and benefits that contractors do not have. These rights include, Overtime pay.

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Jeff Bryant

Charter Schools Don’t Need An Ad Campaign; They Need Regulation

This time of year, while classroom teachers and administrators in public schools are busy welcoming students back to a new school year and figuring out how they’re going to cope with devastating financial constraints, advocates in the charter schools industry are propping up their image with an extensive new public relations campaign called “Truth About Charters.” That contrast alone pretty much tells you everything you need to know about where we are in the nation’s parallel education narratives, in which a gritty documentary competes with what is essentially an advertising campaign for a shiny, new product. There are good reasons for charter schools advocates to feel they need an ad campaign.

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Robert Borosage

Inequality: A Broad Middle Class Requires Empowering Workers

On Labor Day, families gather, politicians pay tribute to values of hard work, and some workers even get an extra day off. But this Labor Day arrives with working families struggling to stay afloat. Working family incomes haven’t gone up in the 21st century. Inequality reaches new extremes. Corporate profits are reaping a record portion of the nation’s income, while worker wages wallow at record lows. Three-fourths of Americans fear their children will fare less well than they have. This Labor Day, we should do more than celebrate workers – we should understand how vital reviving worker unions is to rebuilding a broad middle class. The raging debate on inequality and its remedies often omits discussion of unions. Inequality is blamed on globalization and technology that have transformed our workforce.

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Dave Johnson

Our Solution To Burger King-Style Abandonment Of U.S. Gains Traction

Amidst all the news about Burger King – another company renouncing its US “citizenship” to avoid paying taxes for the roads, courts, police and the rest of the government services that made them prosperous – an idea that Campaign for America’s Future has been promoting is gaining traction. The technical name for it is “Single Sales Factor Apportionment” but it just means tax companies based on how much they sell here. In the post, “A Simplified Way To Tax Multinational Corporations,” I discussed a report by District Economics Group economist Michael Udell that “offered a bold new alternative that is so radically simple that even the most clever corporate tax accountant would have a hard time finding a way around its fair and universal proposition: If a company sells products or services in the U.S., it must pay taxes on the U.S.

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Harvey J Kaye

This Labor Day 2014 Let’s Think Back To Move Progressively Forward

On Labor Day weekend 2007 the Guardian “Comment is Free” editor commissioned me to write a piece on labor and progressive possibilities.  I published the piece posted below, which the editor titled “TO BE FRANKLIN: Seventy years on he is still under attack from the right, but Democrats should recall, this national holiday, what made Roosevelt truly great.”  So this Labor Day, as we once again look ahead – both to this November’s congressional and state elections and beyond that to November 2016 and a new presidential Administration – let’s not despair but rather think back in favor of moving progressively forward.

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Richard Eskow

Obamacare’s “Secret Trick” Could Cure CEO Pay Excesses

Our economy is broken. There’s one economy for the wealthy, and another for the rest of us. This division has been worsened by the behavior of corporate executives who manage their corporations for short-term personal gain rather than for long-term fiscal soundness. Could a “secret trick” help change that? This “trick” is reviewed in a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), written by Sarah Anderson, Sam Pizzigati and Marjorie Elizabeth Wood, and it comes from what they describe as “a most unlikely source”: Obamacare. CEOs and other executives are overpaid nowadays by any reasonable standard. To make matters worse, taxpayers are footing a large part of the bill. Thanks to some historical lobbying and maneuvering, corporations are able to deduct much of the money they pay to their most highly compensated executives.

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Dave Johnson

Remember That Time When All Those Veterans Died Waiting For Care?

Remember when all those veterans died waiting to get care? At the time there were hundreds of scare stories like these: WFMY (Greensboro, NC): “Report: 1,000 Veterans Die While Waiting For Care, VA Wastes Billions.” The report was released by Senator Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, and is a scathing review of a system he says has “covered up delays and deaths [the VA] has caused.” American Military News: “VA’s Secret Waiting List Killed 40 Veterans.” CNN: “A fatal wait: Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital’s secret list.” NY Daily News: “40 U.S. veterans die while on Phoenix VA hospital’s cost-cutting secret wait list: report.” Politix: “THIS VETERAN DIED WHILE WAITING TO GET HEALTHCARE FROM THE GOVERNMENT.

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Lynne Stuart Parramore

What Life Will Look Like When You Can’t Afford to Retire

In a must-read article in the current issue of Harper’s magazine, journalist Jessica Bruder, adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, adds a new phrase to America’s vocabulary: “Elderly migrant worker.” She documents a growing trend of older Americans for whom the reality of unaffordable housing and scarcity of work has driven them from their homes and onto the road in search of seasonal and temporary employment across the country. Packed into RVs, detached from their communities, these “Okies” of the Great Recession put in time at Amazon warehouses, farms and amusement parks, popping free over-the-counter pain reliever to mask the agony of strained muscles and sore backs. And when they can’t hold up any longer? The RV sometimes becomes a coffin.

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Dave Johnson

Will Republicans Block Action On Corporations Abandoning The U.S.?

There is legislation before Congress to do something about corporations renouncing their US “citizenship.” The odds are that Republicans will block it — and not just because they have obstructed everything else. There is a wave of news about corporations using a technicality called an “inversion” to renounce their US “citizenship.” An inversion is when a US company buys or merges with a non-US company, and then pretends it is no longer a US company. Today it’s Burger King. Not long ago it was Walgreens. Keep Same Executives, Employees, Facilities And Customers Even though an inverted company has renounced its US citizenship, the company keeps the same executives, the same stores or facilities, the same employees, and the same customers — right here in the US. The only things that changes is the company sheds certain tax obligations.

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Richard Eskow

A Stock-Market Milestone is Reached, But Who Cares?

There was great economic news on Monday – for somebody. Monday morning the stock market passed another historic milestone, as the S&P 500 composite index briefly passed the 2,000 mark before ending the day on a record-breaking high. That barrier had symbolic value for many investors, although perhaps not as much as the once-unimaginable goal of seeing the Dow Jones Industrial Average reach the 10,000 mark. A money manager in the go-go nineties once described that figure as “Mount Dow’s summit,” and so it was. Once upon a time, investors could only dream of reaching that lofty Shangri-La. But reach it they did. The Dow reached the 10,000 mark in 1999. Then it passed the 15,000 peak, in May of last year. That was well above its levels before the financial crisis, thanks to a Wall Street bailout that supercharged the stock market while others were left in the dust.

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