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Starbucks Worker Militancy Forces Legal Victories

Recently, Starbucks workers achieved some significant wins in the form of National Labor Relations Board complaints and judgments against the company. Workers are waiting to see if these will materialize into meaningful changes in what is now a year-long, union-busting campaign waged by the company. The NLRB filed a complaint Aug. 24 over Starbucks’ illegal withholding of pay raises and other benefits from workers who were unionized or in the process of organizing.  Since the beginning of the union drive, Starbucks has been announcing a number of perks for workers who decide not to unionize, including a pay raise which took effect Aug. 1.

Repurposing Prisons Can Revitalize Rural America

The economic fortunes of rural communities across the United States are often deeply intertwined with the prison industrial complex. This poses a real challenge to the project of ending mass incarceration. How can organizers build political opposition to prisons in areas where prisons are the lifeblood of a community? And what should be done with former prisons once they are closed? The question of repurposing prisons in particular is too often neglected by state governments. A new report  from the Sentencing Project finds that while 21 states have closed prisons since 2000, many of these sites have simply become other types of correctional facilities in the absence of clear transition plans. Nicole Porter  from the Sentencing Project joins Rattling the Bars  to discuss this new report.

Inside Lockheed Martin’s Sweeping Recruitment On College Campuses

To a casual observer, the Black Hawk and Sikorsky S-76 helicopters may have seemed incongruous landing next to the student union on the University of Connecticut’s pastoral green campus, but this particular Thursday in September 2018 was Lockheed Martin Day, and the aircraft were the main attraction. A small group of students stood nearby, signs in hand, protesting Lockheed’s presence and informing others about a recent massacre. Weeks earlier, 40 children had been killed when a Saudi-led coalition air strike dropped a 500-pound bomb on a school bus in northern Yemen. A CNN investigation found that Lockheed — the world’s largest weapons manufacturer — had sold the precision-guided munition to Saudi Arabia a year prior in a $110 billion arms deal brokered under former President Donald Trump.

Ominous Economic Distress In India: No Buying Power, No Jobs, Rising Prices

Recently released estimates of India’s economic output show that people are not spending enough. The only reason this can be is because they do not have sufficient income, and their buying power is limited. On the other hand, prices of all essential commodities are increasing at a disturbingly high rate. This will further restrict spending. Industrial production has grown at snail’s pace, and with people not having enough to spend, demand will continue to be low and industrial output too will languish. Bank credit for large industries is growing very slowly. So, prospects of any check on raging unemployment continue to be bleak because there is unlikely to be a fresh investment that would create jobs.

The Year In Inequality

A year ago we had such high hopes. We expected the Covid vaccine rollout to bring a swift end to the pandemic, opening a window for pushing bold solutions to the long-standing economic, racial, and gender divides that had grown even wider under Covid. Where are we as 2021 comes to a close? These 10 charts highlight major inequality developments of the year, covering some steps back and some important steps forward. The combined wealth of the 745 U.S. billionaires surpassed $5 trillion in 2021, up 70 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness analysis of Forbes data.

Rather Than Pay Fairer Wages, Businesses Look To Prisons

For months, business owners and corporate media pundits in the US have complained about a “labor shortage,” claiming that businesses are struggling to find new employees because “no one wants to work.” Rather than enticing applicants with more competitive wages and stronger benefits and protections, though, many businesses are opting to exploit prison slave labor.

The US Job Market Is About To Turn Into A Giant Science Experiment

Partisan politics, Congress' legislative language, and interest group lobbying are about to turn America's 160 million workers into guinea pigs. We're all about to be part of a huge study on whether unemployment insurance keeps people out of the labor market. The biggest variable in this 50-state experiment is the new unemployment benefits created during the pandemic. Republican governors in nearly two dozen states are rolling back key benefits that helped people through the downturn: expansions in unemployment insurance to workers not previously covered, increased length of coverage for unemployed workers, and topped-up weekly payments are some of the initiatives.
New York Post Cover (5/8/21)

Jobs Report Coverage Lacked Context, Worker Perspective

In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, the editorial board of the Financial Times  (4/20/20), perhaps the most important newspaper of capital in the English-speaking world, fretted about how the pandemic could upend labor relations. After the Black Death of the 1300s, the paper noted, the population decline meant surviving peasants had the leverage to demand higher pay. The editors assured their readers that nothing so radical was coming due to Covid-19: “A thankfully much lower mortality rate means such a transformation is unlikely,” the editors said. A year later, things aren’t going as planned. News outlets trumpeted what they often called “disappointing” job growth numbers in the United States (Yahoo! Finance, 5/7/21; CNN, 5/7/21; Reuters, 5/7/21; BBC, 5/7/21; Time, 5/8/21). The New York Post (5/7/21) ran...

Workers’ Wages Rebound From Pandemics But Not For Blacks

While wages for many Americans have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, earnings for Black workers declined in the first quarter of 2021, growing the wage gap to its highest level since before the pandemic, according to a new analysis. In a report of earnings data by the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP) real median earnings have increased by 1 percent for the first quarter of 2021, driven in large part by a 1.6 percent increase in real earnings by Hispanic workers, while real earnings for white workers remained virtually unchanged. Wages for white earners have fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels and are currently 0.3 percent higher in real terms than in December 2019.

The End Of Development

When I was in high school, my economics class read The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs. The book is a passionate appeal to help those living in the worst poverty in the world. Sachs writes that we should not worry too much about the people in second-to-last place, such as the poorly paid workers in labor-intensive industries who were then the focus of considerable debate and activism on U.S. college campuses. Sweatshop workers, Sachs conceded, were on the bottom rung of the ladder. But subsistence farmers were not on the ladder at all. Once we helped them get a foothold, they could begin ascending from textiles all the way up to high tech. I internalized Sachs’s argument, sensing it would help me feel better about the world we live in.

Building Or Unbuilding America?

During the Trump years, the phrase “Infrastructure Week” rang out as a sort of Groundhog Day-style punchline. What began in June 2017 as a failed effort by The Donald’s White House and a Republican Senate to focus on the desperately needed rebuilding of American infrastructure morphed into a meme and a running joke in Washington. Despite the focus in recent years on President Trump’s failure to do anything for the country’s crumbling infrastructure, here’s a sad reality: considered over a longer period of time, Washington’s political failure to fund the repairing, modernizing, or in some cases simply the building of that national infrastructure has proven a remarkably bipartisan “effort.”

The Actual Effects Of Enhanced Unemployment Benefits

No matter how hard they search, unemployed workers can’t find jobs that don’t exist. The major cause of today’s high unemployment is the lack of jobs, not workers who have stopped searching for work and have left jobs unfilled. By the end of July, there were still 11.1 million fewer jobs in the U.S. economy than there had been prior to the pandemic in January 2020. Renewing the FPUC supplemental unemployment benefits would boost spending and create jobs. Economist Mark Zandi from Moody’s Analytics estimates that $1 of renewed unemployment benefits would increase economic output by $1.64...

New Jobs Report Consistent With Weak Economy

Weaker-than-expected job growth in September sent a signal that the sharp economic recovery off the coronavirus shutdown may be hitting a wall. The Labor Department reported Friday that nonfarm payrolls increased by 661,000 in September, held back by declines in government employment and an exodus of workers from the labor force. In normal times, that type of hiring pace would be considered a sign of a robust job market. The total, in fact, would have been the best month the U.S. had seen since 1983 – if these were normal times and not amid the Covid-19 era that has changed the benchmarks by which economic data is measured.

Consequences Of Inadequate Action By Congress

Without federal aid to state and local governments, millions of jobs in the public sector will be lost by the end of 2021, severely impacting Black workers, women, and veterans, who are disproportionately employed in these jobs. Additional jobs will be lost—in both the private and public sectors—if Congress fails to reinstate the $600 weekly unemployment benefit that expired last week. EPI experts weigh in on what could happen if Congress fails to act to prevent further economic shock. (1) The coronavirus shock was historically large—and the bounceback has already likely stalled. (2) UI claims and GDP growth are historically bad, (3) State and local governments have lost 1.5 million jobs since February, and (4) The Senate’s failure to act on federal aid to state and local governments jeopardizes veterans’ jobs.

There Can Be No Equality Without Employment Opportunity For All

The employment opportunity that privileged the white male was much more than a job. By the 1960s, growing numbers of white men had employment that gave them steadily rising real earnings, often with decades of tenure at one organization. The “career-with-one-company” (CWOC) that had become the employment norm by the beginning of the 1960s included health insurance and a defined-benefit pension, both funded by the employee’s business corporation or government agency. This white-man’s world constituted the foundation for the “vast ocean of material prosperity” to which Dr. King referred.
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