Millions in U.S. Climb Out of Poverty

by Patricia Cohn,
19poverty2-master675
The availability of full-time jobs at a livable wage may be essential to move out of poverty but is not necessarily enough. Many poor people, saddled with a deficient education, inadequate health care and few marketable skills, find small setbacks can quickly set off a downward spiral. The lack of resources can prevent them from even reaching the starting gate: no computer to search job sites, no way to compensate for the bad impression a missing tooth can leave.
Many of those who made it had outsize determination, but also benefited from a government or nonprofit program that provided training, financial counseling, job hunting skills, safe havens and other services.
Cheyvonné Grayson, 29, grew up in South-Central Los Angeles, where he, at the age of 14, saw a friend gunned down. Since graduating from high school, Mr. Grayson has worked mostly as a day laborer. In 2014, he was paying $300 a month to sleep on someone’s couch and showing up at 6 a.m., morning after morning, at nonunion construction sites in the hopes of getting work.
Often the supervisors and workers spoke only Spanish, and it was hard to understand the orders and measurements. He remembered one foreman looking him up and down, skeptical that he could do the job.

“I had to prove this man wrong,” Mr. Grayson said.
At every site, he said he tried to pick up skills, carefully observing other workers, asking questions and later reinforcing the lessons by watching YouTube videos. Even so, the work was inconsistent and paid poorly, he said.
What made the difference, he said, was getting into the carpenters’ union — a feat he could not have achieved without the help of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center. “That was the door opener,” Mr. Grayson said.

He had to borrow a few hundred dollars for fees and tools, but his first apprenticeship as a carpenter started at $16.16 an hour. He quickly moved up to $20.20 an hour and is paid for his further training. He is now hanging doors for new dormitories at the University of Southern California.
For the first time in his life, he opened a bank account.

As a carpenter he started at $16.16 an hour. He quickly moved up to $20.20 an hour and is paid for his further training. He is now hanging doors for new dormitories at the University of Southern California.
For the first time in his life, he opened a bank account.
Read the entire piece. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/26/business/economy/millions-in-us-climb-out-of-poverty-at-long-last.html?_r=0

Trump Promises Jobs in Anthracite Coal Industry That Collapsed in 1950s

by Martin Kich

 Donald Trump spoke in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and promised to restore the jobs of coal miners.

I grew up in Scranton, and he might just as well have promised to restore the jobs of telegraph operators or those in typewriter factories.

The population of Scranton peaked at more than 140,000 in 1930. By 1960, the population had decreased to just over 110,000, and today it is between 75,000 and 80,000. The population decline mirrored the decline of the coal industry, though the production of coal ultimately fell more dramatically than the population.

Scranton remains the largest city in what is known as Pennsylvania’s “Coal Region.” Four substantial deposits of anthracite coal extend throughout a spur of the Appalachians in east central and northeastern Pennsylvania.

From the late nineteenth century through World War II, anthracite coal became the primary heating fuel for homes in the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. Production peaked in 1917 at more than 100 million tons annually.

By 1950, annual production had dropped to 46 million tons. By 1970, it had dropped to 9.2 million tons, and by 1987, to 5.2 million tons.

Today, 7.9 million tons are produced annually. But that increase is very misleading if one believes that it can be equated with employment.

Through World War II, anthracite mining was a labor-intensive and dangerous enterprise and almost all of the anthracite produced was deep-mined. These conditions combined to produce much labor unrest, most famously in the violence perpetrated by the Molly Maguires, and by the 1930s, the “Coal Region” was a union stronghold.

But today, only about 235,000 tons of anthracite are produced by deep mining, about 2,316,000 by open-pit mining, and, most notably, about 5,444,000 tons by processing coal refuse.

Coal refuse accumulated near coal “breakers,” where the anthracite was separated from slate, slag, and other materials and then separated by size for use in various types of furnaces. The piles of coal refuse were known as culm dumps, and when I was a boy, Scranton tried to lure tourists by inviting them to come and witness the “”burning mountains.” In the summer, the coal in the culm dumps would ignite in orange bands that sometimes resembled lava. The sulphurous smell was just God-awful.

These culm dumps were often hundreds of feet high, and when Interstate 81 was constructed between Scranton and Binghampton, New York, several dozen of these “burning mountains” still stood along the southbound lanes of the new interstate. Most of the material in those and other culm dumps would be trucked to Scranton’s east and west sides, where the culm was flushed into mine tunnels that were starting to collapse under streets and homes.

In any case, the decline of the anthracite coal industry can be attributed to four factors: (1) the shift to oil and natural gas as home heating fuels following World War II; (2) the increased attention to the environmental damage produced both by mining and by burning coal (illustrated not just by the culm dumps but also by the Centralia mine fire, which is still burning decades after the town was largely abandoned); (3) the increased concern about on-the-job fatalities and disabling injuries and conditions, most notably “black lung”; and (4) the fact that the anthracite mines, especially in the northern part of the “Coal Region,” had reached the water table, making the coal much more expensive to extract.

In 1959, 16 miners died in the Knox Mine Disaster. The mine was located near Port Griffith, between Scranton and Wilkes Barre. The Susquehanna River broke through the ceiling of a mine shaft and eventually flooded most of the anthracite mine tunnels in Luzerne County. Historians find it a convenient marker for the demise of anthracite mining as a major industry, but they generally acknowledge that the industry suffered a long and sometimes agonizing death, rather than succumbing to a sudden catastrophe.

I have not been able to find out how many people are still employed in anthracite mining, but in 2010, only 8,724 people were employed directly in coal mining in Pennsylvania, which is still the nation’s sixth most populous state. Indeed, about four times that number of people in the state–32,853–are employed in manufacturing mining equipment. That number likely reflects not only  the increased automation of coal mining but also the rapid growth of the natural-gas fracking industry in Pennsylvania.

This article is reposted from the Academe Blog with the permission of the author.

[Ed. note:  As a Catholic high schooler in Harrisburg, PA in the 1950s, I admired the grittiness of the Coal Region football teams I played against.  But their families were already streaming out of the collapsing region to look for employment elsewhere.  Nothing “Berns” me more about Trump than his cynical and ignorant disregard for the suffering of actual working families – Paul Garver]

Who Gets the Gains from Trade?

tppa malaysia

by Stan Sorscher

Let’s start the debate about trade policy on the right foot. Everyone I know is “for” trade. A better question is, “Who gets the gains from trade?”

Gains from anything, trade included, can be divided in 3 ways.

  1. Someone might give you your share of gains, for whatever reason.
  2. You might take your share, if you have power.
  3. You might get nothing, or possibly lose what you have.

Option 1 presumes some level of trust. Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, projected that sentiment onto women, when he told them to be patient and not ask for raises. Their bosses would recognize their value and reward them in due time. Nadella and other CEO’s are accustomed to power. He was probably expressing benevolence, muddled with sexism.

Ultimately, power relationships determine how gains are shared. If you have power, you get gains. If someone else has power, they get gains. If power is balanced, then gains are more likely to be shared.

Nadella’s paternalism is reflected in an edgy cliché told about trade policy, “Sure, trade creates winners and losers. The winners could compensate the losers.” Right. Winners might voluntarily compensate losers, but the point of being a winner is to win, not to compensate someone else!

Where do workers get power? I remember a time when unions made demands. They could strike to increase their share of gains from productivity and work. Union contracts would then set standards for employment generally.

Sorscher 1

Figure 1. Large works stoppages over time.

In the late 70’s that power started to evaporate.

Continue reading

The Democratic Party’s Draft Platform Doesn’t Oppose the TPP—That’s Bad Policy and Bad Politics

By Larry Cohen

Sorcher TPP sinking ship

Working-class Americans have had enough of trade policies that accelerate the race to the bottom.

Continue reading

How Low can the Trans-Pacific Partnership Go?

by Stan SorscherSorcher TPP sinking ship

[Ed. note:  With all the major Presidential contenders opposed, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) might be regarded as a sinking ship, but the unholy alliance of the mainstream Republican Party, Business Roundtable, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and President Obama is plotting to sneak its ratification past the American people during the Lame Duck Congressional Session after the November 2016 election.  Stan Sorscher reminds us just how bad an idea this would be].

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the huge new 12-country trade deal, raises the question: How low would we go to get the next NAFTA-style deal?

The basic idea of a trade deal is that we will lower our tariffs, you will lower your tariffs, and trade goes up. That would be a trade deal.

TPP is much more than that. The tariff schedules in TPP are not controversial. Really, TPP will not pass or fail based on the tariff schedule.

Rather, the rules in TPP are very controversial because the rules define power relationships, and those power relationships determine who will take the gains from globalization.

President Obama wants us to set the rules, so China doesn’t. Good.

But “our” rules were written by and for global investors. Those rules are very favorable to corporations who want to move production to low-wage countries with weak social and political systems.

  • Using very optimistic assumptions, the International Trade Commission estimates TPP would increase GDP by 0.15% after 15 years– a number too small to measure. Our lived experience with NAFTA CAFTA, and other deals tells a different story. Under those NAFTA-style deals our economy has steadily de-industrialized, and millions of jobs have moved to low-wage countries.
  • TPP’s rules for dispute settlement create corporate friendly tribunals, which pay no attention to our Constitution, our Supreme Court, or our legal traditions, and are not accountable to any political process. These tribunals shield global companies from government actions intended to protect public interests.
  • TPP’s toothless rules on currency rates allow China, Korea, Japan and other countries to distort trade, favoring goods produced in their countries for export to the US. This is great for US corporations who produce in China, but is bad for workers and communities in the US.
  • TPP’s weak “Rules of Origin” encourage high-wage countries to source more of their products in low-wage countries. Countries with terrible labor and environmental standards can ship parts to 11 other TPP countries, and voilà! – those parts are now TPP-qualified for favorable access to our markets.
  • TPP’s rules on labor and human trafficking are pathetic. Malaysia qualifies as one of our TPP partners, even though our State Department ranks Malaysia among the worst in the world for human trafficking. Malaysia has a documented history of forced labor and the worst forms of child labor. Malaysia knows that we will never hold them accountable for improving conditions.
  • Our indifference to global labor standards is so deep that Vietnam can embarrass President Obama– to his face – during his latest trip there, by forbidding labor activists from accepting Obama’s invitation to meet with him. President Obama inspires us with soaring rhetoric on human rights in Vietnam, but Vietnam’s leaders know we will never hold them accountable for improving labor conditions.
  • TPP’s environmental protection rules are a step back from earlier standards. That is neither here nor there, because we have never enforced any environmental rules in any trade deal.
  • In spite of repeated documented violations. Peru and other countries with sorry records for environmental standards know we will never hold them accountable when they ignore environmental standards.
  • Berta Cáseres, an internationally recognized Honduran environmental activist, was assassinated in her home. Honduras is one of our CAFTA trading partners. Honduras is arguably the most dangerous country on earth for environmental activists. Civil society around the world condemned Berta Cáseres’ murder, but not a word can be found on the web sites for the White Houseor the US Trade Representative.
  • Another CAFTA trading partner is Guatemala, which is arguably the most dangerous country in the world for labor activists. Our trade officials have “consulted” with Guatemala, and an 8-year old inquiry is underway into Guatemala’s dismal record regarding labor standards. Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia [another free trade partner] know we will never hold them accountable for improving labor conditions.

So, how low would we go to get the shadowy 0.15% growth of GDP after 15 years with TPP? Influential House and Senate members will answer that question.

For many years, Representative Sander Levin has been a strong advocate for trade language that raises labor and environmental standards and protects access to life-saving medicines for treatable diseases in developing countries. As TPP negotiations finished up, Mr. Levin realized that TPP was a step backwards. He opposes TPP and is a champion for a better trade policy.

Mr. Levin’s postcard description from Vietnam describes labor leaders being beaten and jailed. His message stands in contrast to President Obama’s weary acceptance of conditions there.

Representative Earl Blumenauer was an early champion for stronger environmental rules in trade deals. Peru ignored its commitments under previous trade deals, and recently fired the public official who was trying to move those standards forward. We will see how low Mr. Blumenauer might go.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden worked hard to reveal the details of TPP, which were negotiated in strictest secrecy. He promoted “Oregon values” which meant creating good jobs in his state, promoting human rights, improving labor conditions, safeguarding the environment and protecting a free and open internet. Now, Senator Wyden must decide if TPP upholds Oregon values, or is too low to go.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said her leadership role did not obligate her to promote a bad trade policy. She said she would happily vote for a deal that does as much for workers and the environment as it does for global investors.

Hillary Clinton says she “opposes TPP before and after the election.” She adds, “I’m not interested in tinkering around the margins of our trade policy. I think we need a fundamental rethink of how we approach trade deals going forward. It is critical that we address labor protections and ensure that human rights are protected, as well as health, environmental, and consumer safety issues in any new trade agreements.”

Larry Summers(!!) backs away from TPP, preferring a trade approach where “issues such as labor rights and environmental protection would be central, while issues related to empowering foreign producers would be secondary.”

TPP is an historic disappointment. Sander Levin, Hillary Clinton, Larry Summers, and Nancy Pelosi recognize that we can’t tweak TPP into shape. We need a new approach. To paraphrase Naomi Klein, “TPP is the no that must be said before the yes.”

The more the public hears about TPP, the less we like it. For most voters, TPP is too low to go. We are very much looking forward to stopping TPP, and starting a “rethink” of our approach to globalization.

Stan Sorscher is Labor Representative, Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.  This essay is reposted from the Huffington Post with the permission of the author at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stan-sorscher/how-low-would-we-go-for-t_b_10336934.html

Follow Stan Sorscher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sorscher

 

A Global New Deal

by Dave Anderson

The two major parties will have to change, or they are likely to be
changed by voters who have had enough,” the Reverend Jesse Jackson
said recently. He knows about the impact of grassroots discontent
because he ran an unexpectedly strong progressive populist campaign
for president in the Democratic primaries in the 1980s which was very
similar to Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

Quite a few U.S. labor union leaders are alarmed at Trump’s popularity
among too many workers. On May 9 and 10, Trump was a focus of concern
at an international conference in Washington D.C. on rising far right
populism in the U.S. and Europe. It was sponsored by the AFL-CIO (the
largest federation of unions in this country), Working America (the
federation’s outreach arm to non-union workers) and the Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung (a German foundation associated with the Social
Democratic Party).

With Donald Trump as its presumptive nominee, the Republican Party is
changing to address the fears of economically insecure Americans with
a cynical and phony populism. If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic
nominee, how will she respond? Mainstream pundits (and most likely
rich donors) urge her to “pivot to the center” and focus on attracting
affluent Republican suburbanites who are leery of Trump.

Labor people came from France, Germany, Belgium, Canada, the
Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. The conference was a
response to the ascendancy of not only Trump in the U.S. but also the
National Democratic Party in Germany, the National Front in France,
the Golden Dawn in Greece and others.

“Too many politicians in the U.S. and Europe are exploiting our
differences and inciting hate and division,” said Richard Trumka,
president of AFL-CIO. “…Political tactics that scapegoat hardworking
immigrants and refugees only serve to pit workers against one another,
while ignoring the corporate excess that created these problems.” Continue reading

Sanders Joins Verizon Workers on Picket Line

labor for berniePresidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) boosted the cause of striking Verizon workers on Wednesday, joining them on a picket line in New York City and blasting the telecom giant in a sidewalk speech.

Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers on the East Coast went on strike early Wednesday morning after 10 months of negotiations with the company failed to produce a new contract. The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers unions represent the workers.

It’s the largest strike in the U.S. in four years, and it’s happening just as the presidential primaries come to New York.

Sanders’ raucous speech aired live on cable news, giving Verizon a taste of the attention it may receive in the coming days. Sanders, a close ally of CWA who received the union’s endorsement, called Verizon “another major American corporation trying to destroy the lives of working Americans.”

“Verizon is one of the largest, most profitable corporations in this country,” Sanders said. “They want to outsource decent-paying jobs. They want to give their CEO $20 million a year.”

See more on the Huffington Post.