Workers Take Most of the Risk


Robert Reich

Robert Reich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Upsurge in Uncertain Work
Robert Reich
As Labor Day looms, more Americans than ever don’t know how much they’ll be earning next week or even tomorrow.

This varied group includes independent contractors, temporary workers, the self-employed, part-timers, freelancers, and free agents. Most file 1099s rather than W2s, for tax purposes.

On demand and on call – in the “share” economy, the “gig” economy, or, more prosaically, the “irregular” economy – the result is the same: no predictable earnings or hours.

It’s the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century, and it’s happening at lightening speed. It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will have uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.
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The Trillion Dollar Money Pump for the 1 Percent

by Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

I saw the movie Inequality for All, where Robert Reich explains the depth and meaning of inequality in America. He paints a compelling picture.

Reich sets up the movie with a teaser: “Something happened in the mid-’70s.”

Indeed “something did happen in the mid-’70s.” For one thing, since then workers’ wages as a fraction of the total economy have lagged by over a trillion dollars per year. If workers’ wages had kept up with gains in productivity since the mid-70’s, wages would be double what they are now. Most new income goes to the top 1 Percent.

2013-10-16-WagesasshareofGDP.4713.jpgFigure 1. Workers’ wages have fallen as a share of total GDP. Continue reading

Inequality is real, expensive, and it was created

Here’s is an attractive, short.animated video narrated by Robert Reich for the launch of the Economic Policy Institute’s exciting new interactive website on inequality in the United States. The text below  is from the video description on Youtube.

Inequality is real, it’s personal, it’s expensive and it was created. Today, 1% of Americans are taking home nearly 20% of the country’s total income and own nearly 35% of the country’s wealth. This didn’t happen by accident. As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains, we allowed it to happen.

We can’t have a prosperous economy without a strong and prosperous middle class. Inequality can be fixed. So, let’s fix it.

inequality.is, a new interactive site from the Economic Policy Institute, explains the causes of and solutions to income inequality

Tell the AFL-CIO: How Can We Reverse the Trend of the Rich Getting Richer While Everyone Else Gets Less and Less?

by Jackie Tortora

Photo from the UC Berkeley blog: http://blogs.berkeley.edu/

Join Robert Reich on Thursday, June 20, noon–1 p.m. EDT for the seventh in the AFL-CIO series of live online discussions on how we build a movement for the future of working people. Reich, former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton and Chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley—and the AFL-CIO—wants to hear your ideas on new ways the labor movement can change economic trends that hurt working people. He poses this question:

The rich keep getting a bigger share of the economic pie while everyone else’s share keeps shrinking. What should be done to reverse this trend?

You can go to the discussion page and give your thoughts now and be sure to come back for the live chat.

Your responses to the questions activists, educators, economists and journalists will be asking through June will help the AFL-CIO  prepare for the 2013 AFL-CIO Convention, which will focus on how we build a movement that can meet the needs of working people now and in the future.

Jackie Tortora is editor of the AFL-CIO Now blog where this post first appeared.

Barack Obama makes economic sense in Osawatamie, Kansas

Barack Obama makes economic sense in Osawatamie, Kansas. Dec.6. 2011.

English: Cropped version of File:Official port...

Image via Wikipedia

For this, Roosevelt was called a radical, a socialist, even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight hour work day and a minimum wage for women; insurance for the unemployed, the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax.

Today, over one hundred years later, our economy has gone through another transformation. Over the last few decades, huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and made it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans.

Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where the workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100, so that layoffs were too often permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. These changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs or the internet. Today, even higher-skilled jobs like accountants and middle management can be outsourced to countries like China and India. And if you’re someone whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in another country, you don’t have a lot of leverage with your employer when it comes to asking for better wages and benefits – especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union.

Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there’s been a certain crowd in Washington for the last few decades who respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. Sure, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everyone else. And even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, they argue, that’s the price of liberty. Continue reading

Two Cheers and One Jeer for the American Jobs Act

by Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Two cheers for the President and his America’s Jobs Act. Cheer Number One: In presenting it to a joint session of Congress, he sounded as passionate and determined as he’s ever sounded.

Second cheer: He laid out the problem correctly and effectively. He explained why jobs and growth must be the nation’s first priority now — not the federal deficit. The economy is in crisis. People are hurting. So government must act, and act quickly. It’s irresponsible at a time like this to suggest that government should simply close down.

But a jeer because the jobs plan he presented isn’t nearly large enough or bold enough to make a major dent in unemployment, or to restart the economy.
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Labor Day: Build Esprit de Corps for Action

by Leo Gerard

USW President Leo Gerard

Celebrate Labor Day.  Really, celebrate. It’s important.

Wear a t-shirt announcing to the world the name of your union and march in a parade, chanting and whooping it up about how glad you are to belong to an organization whose members are devoted to looking out for each other. If you’re among those without a union, proclaim your profession and declare your pride in the hard work you do. Make some happy noise. Infect your fellow marchers with your zeal.

Invite your most beleaguered neighbors, friends and co-workers over for a picnic. Raise a pint, braise some burgers and praise your companions for their skill, devotion and compassion. Recognize them for all they’ve persevered through since this relentless recession began in December of 2007.  Build esprit de corps among your fellow workers.

This is one day devoted to labor, to the middle class, to the majority. One day out of 365. On this holiday, everyone gives an obligatory nod to workers. So don’t fret this Labor Day. Don’t waste it away in apathetic doldrums. Don’t let the minority rich and their purchased politicians take this celebration away from us too.

Some, including former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, have called for protests on Labor Day. They say workers must use this opportunity to demand that Washington solve the real crisis debilitating this country – dogged joblessness.
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This Labor Day We Need Protest Marches Rather than Parades

by Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Labor Day is traditionally a time for picnics and parades. But this year is no picnic for American workers, and a protest march would be more appropriate than a parade.

Not only are 25 million unemployed or underemployed, but American companies continue to cut wages and benefits. The median wage is still dropping, adjusted for inflation. High unemployment has given employers extra bargaining leverage to wring out wage concessions.

All told, it’s been the worst decade for American workers in a century. According to Commerce Department data, private-sector wage gains over the last decade have even lagged behind wage gains during the decade of the Great Depression (4 percent over the last ten years, adjusted for inflation, versus 5 percent from 1929 to 1939).

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What the President Should Have Said About Jobs

by Robert Reich

Robert Reich

What did the President do in response to last week’s horrendous job report — unemployment rising to 9.2 percent in June, with only 18,000 new jobs (125,000 are needed each month just to keep up with the growth in the potential labor force)?

He said the economy continues to be in a deep hole, and he urged Congress to extend the temporary reduction in the employee part of the payroll tax, approve pending free-trade agreements, and pass a measure to streamline patent procedures.

To call this inadequate would be a gross understatement.

Here’s what the President should have said:

This job recession shows no sign of ending. It can no longer be blamed on supply-side disruptions from Japan, Europe’s debt crisis, high oil prices, or bad weather.

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Why the Republican War on Workers Rights Undermines the American Economy

by  Robert Reich

Robert Reich

The battle has resumed in Wisconsin. The state supreme court has allowed Governor Scott Walker to strip bargaining rights from state workers.

Meanwhile, legislators in New Hampshire and officials in Missouri are attacking private unions, seeking to make the states so-called “open shop” where workers can get all the benefits of being union members without paying union dues. Needless to say this ploy undermines the capacity of unions to do much of anything. Other Republican governors and legislatures are following suit.

Republicans in Congress are taking aim at the National Labor Relations Board, which is likely to consider a relatively minor rule change allowing workers to vote on whether to unionize soon after a union has been proposed, rather than allowing employers to delay the vote for years. Many employers have used the delaying tactics to retaliate against workers who try to organize, and intimidate others into rejecting a union.

This war on workers’ rights is an assault on the middle class, and it is undermining the American economy.

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