Labor Day Weekend Reading

by Paul Garver

Getman cover

If you are as tired as I am of inane electoral political commentary in the media, why not take some time over the Labor Day weekend to consider the deep roots of the growing economic and political inequality that underlies the superficial campaign rhetoric?
I would not normally recommend sources on labor law and labor economics for your holiday reading. But here goes.

The Economic Policy Institute [EPI] just released a new research report, “Union decline lowers wages of nonunion workers: The overlooked reason why wages are stuck and inequality is growing,” Access at

The EPI Report analyzes how the decline of organized labor in the USA has contributed to wage stagnation and economic inequality. If good jobs in industry are increasingly scarce and pay for private sector workers has barely budged in the last four decades, a major cause is the catastrophic decline in private sector unionism from 35% to 5%. Building walls along the borders and expelling undocumented immigrants will not help alienated working-class voters. As Hamilton Nolan advises them in his analysis of the EPI Report: “Don’t get mad at foreigners. Unionize. It’s the only battle in the class war that lies entirely within your power to win.”

However a major contributing factor to the decline of union organization is the way the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted labor law over the same decades. Labor law professor and practitioner Julius Getman has written a concise and spritely study called The Supreme Court on Unions: Why Labor Law Is Failing American Workers (Cornell Univ. Press, 2016). In fewer than 200 pages, Getman demonstrates how a series of Supreme Court decisions on union organizing, collective bargaining, the right to strike, picketing, boycotts, the duty of fair representation, and the definition of “employee” have effectively gutted the ability of labor unions to organize new members and to bargain good contracts.

When over forty years ago I was hired by a local SEIU union to organize hospital workers (NLRB jurisdiction had recently been extended to the hospital sector), I was not prepared to confront the incredible number of tools the employer already could wield to frustrate the right of hospital workers to organize into a union. Despite several badly coordinated legislative efforts to improve union rights during the Carter and Clinton administrations, the legal framework for union organizing and bargaining has continued to deteriorate over the last half century. Getman shows how even many of the more liberal Supreme Court appointees do not comprehend or support interpretations of labor law that would reverse this trend.

Getman analyzes that it is unlikely that even better Court appointments and incremental legislative reform could overturn entrenched basic antiunion precedents After more than half a century of practicing and teaching labor law, Getman realizes that significant change will require a long hard struggle, would be bitterly opposed by wealthy political patrons of both Republican and Democratic parties, and would demand the election of a president willing to make strengthening union organization and collective bargaining as the highest political priority. “Significant labor law reform,” he reluctantly concludes’ “is more likely to follow from than to cause a resurgence of the labor movement.” That can only occur if the workers’ movement becomes part of a wider popular insurgency.

I recommend The Supreme Court on Unions: Why Labor Law is Failing American Workers as an indispensable resource not only for those active in the labor movement, but for all who are committed to building a wider movement for political revolution in the USA.

What’s wrong with America’s tipping system?

The Economic Policy Institute has produced a series of informative videos on tipped wage workers. We will continue to share them haring them over the coming week or so. In this video, Economic analyst and former tipped worker David Cooper explains that, even though there are laws protecting tipped workers, the system doesn’t work well. Laws are hard to enforce and frequently violated.

what life is like on $2.13

The Economic Policy Institute has produced a series of informative videos on tipped wage workers. We will be sharing them over the coming week or so. In the first video, Economic analyst and former tipped worker David Cooper explains that nation widethe poverty rate for tipped workers is nearly double the poverty rate overall. But in states with higher tipped minimum wages (or no separate tipped minimum wage), tipped workers are much better off.

For more information, click here.

Lousy Pay? It’s Your Fault!

by Gregory N. Heires

Low Pay new image copyTechnological change and inadequate education are often cited as the principal causes of our wage crisis.

This argument, in a certain sense, blames workers for their plight. They are unwilling to invest sufficiently in their education, and they lack the necessary skills for complex jobs in the Information Age.

Similarly, conservatives charge that the unemployed leach off the taxpayers, content to get by on generous unemployment benefits and to allow unskilled immigrants to do the low-wage work that they should be doing.

Blame the individual. It’s a very American concept. As the title of a song from the musical “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim puts it: “Your Fault.”

Another argument is that we can’t do much about the wage decline.

Americans simply can’t compete with the low-wage workers of China and developing countries. This presumes a certain inevitability about our falling standard of living. So, let’s just give in.

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Columnists seek to shape opinion in discussing school reform

Duane Campbell

Duane Campbell

The Paucity of Dan Walters’ Commentary on School Issues

The column by Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee entitled “California’s School Wars Heat Up” in the print edition for Dec.20, and entitled  “Powerful Factions Go to War Over Direction of California Schools,”  in the on line version  seriously and deliberatively misinforms.  Walters’s columns are reprinted in newspapers throughout the state.

He frames the conflict between the School Establishment ( school administrators, elected officials, teachers’ unions]  vs. the “School Reformers”.   These are indeed two of the powerful factions competing in the California State Capitol, but not at all the complete story.

To understand the distortion lets see who these “reformers “  see the Democracy and Education Institute

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EPI: Plutocratic attacks on wages, workers and unions all part of a concerted corporate effort

by  Meteor Blades

attribution: Economic Policy Institute

The 2010 congressional victory of the Republican right has mostly meant gridlock inD.C. But the tea-party wave that year also gave Republicans monopoly control in 11 states, and there’s been plenty of action in those, much of it directed at undermining workers’ rights and workers’ compensation, including their pensions. Nothing is more harmful to workers than when plutocrats and their legislative marionettes are feeling their oats and turning greed into law. As Gordon Lafer, an associate professor at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center, puts it in the Economic Policy Institute’s new 75-page briefing paper—The Legislative Attack on American Wages and Labor Standards, 2011-2012:

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9 Things You Didn’t Know About Our Trade Deficit with China

Photo courtesy bitzcelt

In 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO). America’s workers have felt the consequences ever since.

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute examines the primary result in the United States of China’s entry into the WTO, a massive increase in the trade deficit between the two countries, favoring China. The report’s author, Robert E. Scott, concludes that the trade deficit with China drives down wages and benefits in the United States and eliminates good jobs for U.S. workers.

Here are nine facts from the study you might not know about.