Monday, December 31, 2018

Labor Line

March 2018___________________________________

Labor line has job news and commentary with a one stop short cut for America’s job markets and job related data including the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This month's job and employment summary data are below. This month's inflation data is below.

The Establishment Job Report and Establishment Job Details for data released March 9, 2018.

American Job Market The Chronicle

Current Job and Employment Data

Total Non-Farm Establishment Jobs up 313,000 to 148,177,000
Total Private Jobs up 287,000 to 125,819,000
Total Government Employment up 26,000 to 22,358,000

Employment Note
Civilian Non-Institutional Population up 154,000 to 256,934,000
Civilian Labor Force up 806,000 to 161,921,000
Employed up 785,000 to 155,215,000
Employed Men up 411,000 to 82,685,000
Employed Women up 373,000 to 72,530,000
Unemployed up 22,000 to 6,706,000
Not in the Labor Force down 653,000 to 95,012,000

Unemployment Rate stayed the same at 4.1% or 6,706/161,921
Labor Force Participation Rate increased .3 percent to 63.0%, or 161,921/256,934

Prices and inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all Urban Consumers was up by a monthly average of 2.13 percent for 2017.

The March CPI report for the 12 months ending with February, shows the

CPI for All Items was up 2.2%
CPI for Food and Beverages was up 1.4%
CPI for Housing was up 2.9%
CPI for Apparel was up .4%
CPI for Transportation including gasoline was up 4.1%
CPI for Medical Care was up 1.8%
CPI for Recreation was up .6%
CPI for Education was up 2.0%
CPI for Communication was down 5.0%

This Month’s Establishment Jobs Press Report


The Bureau of Labor Statistics published its March report for jobs in February. The labor force jumped 806 thousand because 653 thousand entered the labor force looking for work along with normal population growth; 785 thousand found jobs, 22 thousand added to the unemployed that now stands at 6,706,000. The increase in the employed raised the denominator enough to offset the increase in the unemployed to keep the unemployment rate steady at 4.1 per cent. The big increase in the labor force raised the overall labor force participation rate .3 percent to 63 percent.

The seasonally adjusted total of establishment employment was up 313 thousand for February. The increase was 187 thousand more jobs in the private service sector combined with a 100 thousand increase in jobs from goods production. The total of 287 thousand more private sector jobs combined with an increase of 26 thousand government service jobs accounts for the total increase.

The goods production sub sectors had another excellent month with more jobs in all three sub sectors for February. Natural resources had a net of 8 thousand more jobs, most from gains in support activities in mining. Construction added 61 thousand jobs with 37.6 thousand more jobs in specialty trade contracting; construction of buildings added 15.7 thousand jobs; heavy and engineering construction added 7.5 thousand jobs.

Manufacturing had 31 thousand more jobs for February, a good month and better than last month. All the gains came in durable goods jobs with 32 thousand new jobs set against a loss of 1 thousand non-durable goods jobs. Primary metals, fabricated metal products and machinery manufacturing topped all manufacturing categories with 15.2 thousand new jobs.

Government service employment was up a net 26 thousand seasonally adjusted jobs for February. The federal government dropped 7 thousand jobs mostly from a decline in jobs in the postal service. State government added 2 thousand jobs and local government employment jumped by 31 thousand mostly because of a seasonally adjusted increase of 26.9 thousand jobs in public education. State government added another 1.6 thousand education jobs for a combined public education increase of 28.5 thousand jobs. Private education dropped 5.8 thousand jobs, making a net increase of 22.7 thousand jobs in education for February, still a good month.

Trade, transportation and utilities took first place for job gains in February with 72 thousand new jobs; 50.3 thousand of them in retail; wholesale trade added 5.8 thousand more. Transportation added 15.4 thousand new jobs with the biggest gain in truck transportation up 5.6 thousand jobs. Utilities added 1.2 thousand jobs after last month’s losses.

Professional and business services had 50 thousand more jobs, up from last month’s small increase. The professional and technical service sub sector added 18.9 thousand of the new jobs; architecture and engineering services added 5.6 thousand of those jobs; computer design and related services added another 3.1 thousand new jobs, smaller than usual; management and technical consulting dropped 1.8 thousand jobs, an unusual decrease.

Management of companies added 2.3 thousand jobs. Administration and support services including waste management had 28.4 thousand new jobs, but temporary help services had 26.5 thousand of them. Investigation and security services and services to buildings added a ew more jobs to offset small losses in other business support services.

Health care had 29 thousand more jobs with modest job gains in all four sub-sectors. Ambulatory care had 8.1 thousand new jobs; hospital jobs another 9.3 thousand; social assistance 10.6 thousand new jobs; nursing and residential care came out slightly up with 1.1 thousand more jobs. The February growth rate in health care employment was 1.77 percent, well below the long term average of 2.31 percent.

Leisure and hospitality had an off month with just 16 thousand new jobs. Restaurants accounted for 11.5 thousand of the leisure and hospitality jobs. The arts, entertainment and recreation sub sector added a net of 3.9 thousand jobs mostly from 3.4 thousand more jobs in performing arts and spectator sports.

Information services had a bigger than normal decrease in jobs, down 12 thousand jobs for February. Data processing and hosting services had 2.3 thousand new jobs but remaining sub sectors had job losses. The biggest loss came in motion picture and sound recording, down 9.7 thousand jobs.

Financial activities added a net of 28 thousand jobs, an unusually large increase. Finance and insurance lead the way with 20.4 thousand jobs; real estate and rental and leasing services picked up another 7.2 thousand. In finance credit intermediation added 7.6 thousand jobs; insurance carriers added 7.5 thousand jobs. The category, other services had 10 thousand new jobs. Non-profit associations picked up the most jobs in this sub sector; 5.9 thousand jobs, more than last month. Personal and laundry services added 4.7 thousand jobs; repair and maintenance services had another small job loss for February.

Establishment employment was up 313 thousand in February to 148.177 million jobs, a bigger gain than last month where a gain over 300 thousand should be considered a good to very good gain. The annual growth rate inched up to 2.54 percent. The goods production sector did well this month, but 100 thousand new jobs a month cannot be considered sustainable. Health care and leisure and hospitality needs to do better to sustain job growth. Notice the big manufacturing gains came in steel and aluminum products, which came before the announcement of new tariffs.


February Details

Non Farm Total +313
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Non-Farm employment for establishments increased from December by 313 thousand jobs for a(n) February total of 148.177 million. (Note 1 below) An increase of 313 thousand each month for the next 12 months represents an annual growth rate of +2.54%. The annual growth rate from a year ago beginning February 2017 was +1.56%; the average annual growth rate from 5 years ago beginning February 2013 was +1.79%; from 15 years ago beginning February 2003 it was .85%. America needs growth around 1.5 percent a year to keep itself employed.


Sector breakdown for 12 Sectors in 000’s of jobs

1. Natural Resources +8
Natural Resources jobs including logging and mining were up 8 thousand from January at 713 thousand jobs in February. An increase of 8 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +13.62 percent. Natural resource jobs are up 58 thousand for the 12 months just ended. Jobs in the 1990’s totaled around 770 thousand. Job growth here will be small compared to America’s job needs. This is the smallest of 12 major sectors of the economy with .5 percent of establishment jobs.

2. Construction +61
Construction jobs were up 61 thousand from January with 7.173 million jobs in February. An increase of 61 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +10.29 percent. Construction jobs are up 254 thousand for the 12 months just ended. The growth rate for the last 5 years is +4.37%. Construction jobs rank 9th among the 12 sectors with 4.8 percent of non-farm employment.

3. Manufacturing +31
Manufacturing jobs were up 31 thousand from January with 12.614 million jobs in February. An increase of 31 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +2.96 percent. Manufacturing jobs were up for the last 12 months by 224 thousand. The growth rate for the last 5 years is +1.0%; for the last 15 years by -1.05%. In 1994, manufacturing ranked 2nd but now ranks 6th among 12 major sectors in the economy with 8.5 percent of establishment jobs.

4. Trade, Transportation & Utility +72
Trade, both wholesale and retail, transportation and utility employment was up 72 thousand from January at 27.699 million jobs in February. An increase of 72 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +3.13 percent. Jobs are up by 251 thousand for the last 12 months. Growth rates for the last 5 years are +1.52 percent. Jobs in these sectors rank first as the biggest sectors with combined employment of 18.7 percent of total establishment employment.

5. Information Services -12
Information Services employment was down 12 thousand from January at 2.748 million jobs in February. A decrease of 12 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -5.22 percent. (Note 2 below) Jobs are down by 62 thousand for the last 12 months. Information jobs reached 3.7 million at the end of 2000, but started dropping, reaching 3 million by 2004, but now holds in the 2.7 million range. Information Services is a small sector ranking 11th of 12 with 1.9 percent of establishment jobs.

6. Financial Activities +28
Financial Activities jobs were up 28 thousand from January at 8.547 million in February. An increase of 28 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of + 3.94 percent. Jobs are up 143 thousand for the last 12 months. (Note 3 below)This sector also includes real estate as well as real estate lending. Financial Services has been growing slowly with many months of negative growth. The long term growth rates are now at a 5 year growth rate of +1.71 percent, and a 15 year growth rate of +.41 percent. Financial activities rank 8 of 12 with 5.8 percent of establishment jobs.

7. Business & Professional Services +50
Business and Professional Service jobs went up 50 thousand from January to 20.760 million in February. An increase of 50 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +2.90 percent. Jobs are up 495 thousand for the last 12 months. Note 4 The annual growth rate for the last 5 years was 2.56 percent. It ranks as 2nd among the 12 sectors now. It was third in May 1993, when manufacturing was bigger and second rank now with 14.0 percent of establishment employment.

8. Education including public and private +23
Education jobs went up 23 thousand jobs from January at 14.139 million in February. These include public and private education. An increase of 23 thousand jobs each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of+1.93 percent. Jobs are up 115 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 5) The 15 year growth rate equals +.75 percent, slower than the national average. Education ranks 4th among 12 sectors with 9.5 percent of establishment jobs.

9. Health Care +29
Health care jobs were up 29 thousand from January to 19.745 million in February. An increase of 29 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +1.77 percent. Jobs are up 377 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 6) The current month was below long term trends and less than growth from a year ago when the annual growth rate was +1.95 percent. Health care has been growing at +2.31 percent annual rate for the last 15 years, a rate greater than the national rate. Health care ranks 3rd of 12 with 13.3 percent of establishment jobs.

10. Leisure and hospitality +16
Leisure and hospitality jobs went up 16 thousand from January to 16.262 million in February. An increase of 16 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +1.18 percent. Jobs are up 325 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 7) The 5 year growth rate is 2.92%. More than 80 percent of leisure and hospitality are accommodations and restaurants assuring that most of the new jobs are in restaurants. Leisure and hospitality ranks 4th of 12 with 11.0 percent of establishment jobs. It moved up from 7th in the 1990’s to 5th in the last few years.

11. Other +10
Other Service jobs, which include repair, maintenance, personal services and non-profit organizations went up 10 thousand from January to 5.837 million jobs in February. An increase of 10 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of +2.06 percent. Jobs are up 95 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 8) Other services had +.51 percent growth for the last 15 years. These sectors rank 10th of 12 with 3.9 percent of total non-farm establishment jobs.

12. Government, excluding education -2
Government service employment was down 2 thousand from January to 11.941 million jobs in February. A decrease of 2 thousand each month for the next 12 months would be an annual growth rate of -.17 percent. Jobs are up 7 thousand for the last 12 months. (note 9) Government jobs excluding education tend to increase slowly but surely with a 15 year growth rate of +.16 percent. Government, excluding education, ranks 7th of 12 with 8.1 percent of total non-farm establishment jobs.


Sector Notes___________________________

(1) The total cited above is non-farm establishment employment that counts jobs and not people. If one person has two jobs then two jobs are counted. It excludes agricultural employment and the self employed. Out of a total of people employed agricultural employment typically has about 1.5 percent, the self employed about 6.8 percent, the rest make up wage and salary employment. Jobs and people employed are close to the same, but not identical numbers because jobs are not the same as people employed: some hold two jobs. Remember all these totals are jobs. back

(2) Information Services is part of the new North American Industry Classification System(NAICS). It includes firms or establishments in publishing, motion picture & sound recording, broadcasting, Internet publishing and broadcasting, telecommunications, ISPs, web search portals, data processing, libraries, archives and a few others.back

(3) Financial Activities includes deposit and non-deposit credit firms, most of which are still known as banks, savings and loan and credit unions, but also real estate firms and general and commercial rental and leasing.back

(4) Business and Professional services includes the professional areas such as legal services, architecture, engineering, computing, advertising and supporting services including office services, facilities support, services to buildings, security services, employment agencies and so on.back

(5) Education includes private and public education. Therefore education job totals include public schools and colleges as well as private schools and colleges. back

(6) Health care includes ambulatory care, private hospitals, nursing and residential care, and social services including child care. back

(7) Leisure and hospitality has establishment with arts, entertainment and recreation which has performing arts, spectator sports, gambling, fitness centers and others, which are the leisure part. The hospitality part has accommodations, motels, hotels, RV parks, and full service and fast food restaurants. back

(8) Other is a smorgasbord of repair and maintenance services, especially car repair, personal services and non-profit services of organizations like foundations, social advocacy and civic groups, and business, professional, labor unions, political groups and political parties. back

(9) Government job totals include federal, state, and local government administrative work but without education jobs. back



Jobs are not the same as employment because jobs are counted once but one person could have two jobs adding one to employment but two to jobs. Also the employment numbers include agricultural workers, the self employed, unpaid family workers, household workers and those on unpaid leave. Jobs are establishment jobs and non-other. back


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Trump and his Foolish Tariffs

Trump and his Foolish Tariffs

The United States economy has fully adjusted to forty plus years of continuous negotiations to decrease tariffs. To announce a draconian increase in steel tariffs and a slightly less draconian increase in aluminum tariffs on a Thursday afternoon will do nothing good for jobs or the economy. Corporate America supported lower tariffs all these years, and NAFTA trade agreements, knowing higher tariffs bring retaliation and a decrease in production and trade for everyone.

That’s a generic conclusion, but to see how foolish it really is for jobs compare establishment jobs at Iron and Steel Mills and Aluminum Production to jobs making finished or semi finished steel and aluminum products from purchased steel and aluminum. Iron and steel mills had an average monthly employment of 82.5 thousand jobs in 2017, down from 134.6 thousand jobs in 2000. Aluminum Production establishments had an average monthly employment of 57.5 thousand jobs in 2017, down from 99.9 thousand in 2000.

Fabricated metal product manufacturing companies that use steel in their production had an average monthly job total of 1.431 million in 2017. These are jobs making cutlery, hand tools, kitchen utensils, pots and pans, fabricated structural products like steel joists, ornamental and architectural products like metal window and doors, boiler, tank and shipping containers, steel and aluminum cans, hardware manufacturing, spring and wire product manufacturing, screw, nut and bolt manufacturing and on and on.

Add another 1.079 million machinery manufacturing jobs where companies buy steel to make finished products. These are jobs producing agriculture, construction, mining machinery, industrial, commercial and service industry machinery, heating, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, engine, turbine and power transmission equipment and on and on.

So far we are protecting 140 thousand jobs (82.5+57.5) with tariffs while steeply raising prices for steel inputs to companies that have 2.51 million jobs (1.431+1.079). And I have not mentioned jobs in automobile manufacturing or transportation equipment. Eliminating foreign competition in basic steel and aluminum will raise prices, cut production and sales and jeopardize jobs producing products with 18 times more jobs than steel and aluminum (2.51/.140).

Since the end of the recession in 2010 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a modest recovery of manufacturing jobs, although the current total remains a million jobs below the pre-recession high of 13.4 million in 2008. Since the recession ended 8 years ago in 2010 manufacturing jobs are up a monthly average of 916.2 thousand. However, the increase disguises an unbalanced manufacturing recovery because some sub sectors like textile production, apparel, paper and printing have lost jobs. However, the increase in fabricated metal products and machinery manufacturing is up 233.5 thousand of the 916.2 thousand jobs, or 25.5 percent of the total increase. If I add just the automobile manufacturing from transportation equipment manufacturing, an increase of 274 thousand jobs, then 55.4 percent of the manufacturing total increase comes in products dependent on steel as a major input in production.

The U.S. economy desperately needs manufacturing employment. Foolish might be too nice a term for the latest Trumpism. How about idiotic? Moronic?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Delivering Groceries

Delivering Groceries – Another low wage job

Most of us drive a mile or two for our weekly trip to the grocery store, but more and more stores have started offering pick-up and delivery services. In a recent piece in the Washington Post [“Amazon offers free Whole Foods delivery to Prime Members in 4 U.S. Cities” WP, February 9, 2018] author Abha Bhattarai quotes a supermarket analyst David Livingston: “Nearly every chain that plans on being in business in five years is moving to delivery.”

Bhattarai cites some of the challenges. “Grocery stores aren’t warehouses, so it often takes reconfiguring to efficiently find and package fresh food for delivery. And then there’s the issue of keeping cold items cold and frozen foods frozen.” The where and how of a delivery system continues to be a subject for experimenting, but everyone agrees delivery is a pricey business.

The growing use of grocery delivery services reflects the growing disparity of profits and wages. The well to do already support services that suggest growth of discretionary income as part of a growing suburban affluence. Jobs at golf and country clubs have a growth rate more than double the national rate as do recreational sports centers, nail salons, pet care services and landscaping services; perhaps jobs as delivery drivers at grocery stores will be provide some more replacement jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 426.3 thousand jobs as delivery drivers in 2016, their latest occupational total. The total is up from the year 2000 when 373.7 thousand worked as delivery drivers, an average increase of 3,291 a year at an annual rate of growth of .83 percent. A little over 41 percent of delivery drivers work in wholesale or retail trade, although more work at pharmacies than grocery stores.

The median wage for delivery drivers in 2016 was $10.98 an hour or $22,830 a year. Like so many jobs though the wage has not kept up with inflation. To keep up with rising prices the 2000 median wage of $20,360 would need to be $28,377.61 in 2016 just to have the same buying power. Instead it was $22,830, a 19.55 percent loss of real wages.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the 2016 median wage for delivery drivers of $10.98 is only $.05 cents an hour higher than it was in 2009 when it was $10.93 an hour even though employment is going up. To keep up with rising prices the 2009 median wage would need to be $25,451.56 in 2016 just to maintain buying power. Instead $22,740 is a 10.3 percent loss of real wages over the eight years.

If the median wage for delivery drivers kept up with inflation for the last nine years it would hardly a living wage. Grocery delivery reflects opportunities in a country like the United States with extreme income and wealth inequality that creates low wage and low skill jobs providing personal services to the rich. It’s not the working of free markets; it’s a deliberate policy of Trump and Congress.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Labor Under Fire

Timothy J. Minchin, Labor Under Fire: A History of the AFL-CIO Since 1979, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017), 314 pages

In his new book Labor Under Fire author Timothy Minchin tells readers he intends to provide “the first general history of the AFL-CIO in the turbulent era after Meany’s retirement, a time when the Federation operated in a hostile political and economic climate.” George Meany retired in 1979 after 24 years as the first and only President of the AFL-CIO; Lane Kirkland took over as president in November 1979.

After an introductory section, ten chapters and a brief epilogue follow. The opening chapter provides a review of the 1955-1979 Meany era, which readers will find stands in stark contrast to the nine chapters that cover the years after 1979.

The Meany era review recounts the details of the 1955 merger, the Meany feud with Walter Reuther, his stand on corruption and the Teamsters, his anti-Communist views and support for the Vietnam war. Those around him called him “tough as nails” except as Minchin notes he served as political schmoozer and chief lobbyist for the “People’s Lobby.” He showed little interest in organizing.

Lane Kirkland took over as AFL-CIO president a little over half way into the Carter administration. The Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, which made the Carter years, years of opportunity. Carter remained friendly and accessible to labor but did next to nothing to help. Meany and then Kirkland pushed to correct the serious defects in the National Labor Relations Act, but it was a lost opportunity that Carter did not care about or perhaps understand.

Minchin does not dwell on Carter, but moves on to the Reagan election and the expected difficulties of a Reagan administration. The second chapter gives details of the decision and planning for Labor Solidarity Day on the National Mall, September 19, 1981. Chapter 3 goes through the details of the day and assessment of its significance with commentary by many of those who planned and took part in it. These chapters include the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike and its significance in the 1980’s decline in labor relations. Minchin mentions all of the major strikes of the era – Phelps-Dodge, Hormel, Pittston Coal, International Paper.

The next two chapters continue with the Reagan years and Kirkland’s efforts to unify the labor movement in constructive resistance to the Reagan onslaught. Minchin narrates Executive Council meetings and such topics as the need to involve more women and minorities in top level positions, and the early debate over organizing effort.

In the fifth chapter Minchin writes “Throughout Reagan’s second term, there was little good news for labor.” Actually the Reagan first term did not go too well either. He appointed people hostile to labor such as important posts on the National Labor Relations Board and the Secretary of Labor.

George H. W. Bush won the 1988 presidential election. By now a majority of the labor vote returned to the Democratic Party but not enough to get Michael Dukakis in office. Kirkland found the Bush Administration “a little more civilized than Reagan’s.” He made Elizabeth Dole Secretary of Labor and she intervened to mediate the Pittston Coal strike, but Bush could not bring himself to support an increase in the minimum wage and he started the ball rolling on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Business in the 1980’s more fully exploited their ability to fire and replace strikers and so Kirkland and the Executive Council pushed an “Anti-Striker Replacement Act, but it did not pass.

Democrat Bill Clinton entered the White House in January 1993. The next three chapters narrate organized labor in the eight Clinton years, years of hope and Democratic fumbling. Clinton had majority control of Congress with 57 Democrats in the Senate to start his presidency and like Carter before him failed to help labor in significant ways, which Minchin narrates in considerable detail. Clinton did not get a complicated hard to sell Health Care Bill passed; took the business side to pass George Bush’s NAFTA law over strong labor objections; failed another try to pass a Striker Replacement Bill. I have always thought of Bill Clinton as a smart, well educated and well meaning politician, except he wanted to be accepted in the social circles of the rich and privileged people he desperately needed to regulate.

The Democrats lost the House of Representatives to the Newt Gingrich Republicans in 1994, which brought internal incrimination and fighting into AFL-CIO politics. Minchin devotes most of Chapter 8 to the pressures on Lane Kirkland and contentious debate over organizing and the need for change. John Sweeney was the leader of the opposition who won a divisive election to be AFL-CIO president October 25, 1995. Minchin narrates the twists and turns of a hard fought and divisive campaign.

Sweeney brought optimism to the last years of the Clinton Administration and worked to use AFL-CIO resources in the interests of the working class. A big increase in organizing efforts in service industries helped stem the tide of loss in manufacturing, but business fought unions as hard as ever. George W. Bush took the 2000 election, even though AFL-CIO efforts turned out a large labor vote. The Supreme Court interference and failure to count the Florida vote made the loss tougher. Minchin quotes chief of staff Bob Welsh “We never met with Bush. I mean he was on another planet.”

Bush got a political boost of popularity from the events of 9/11 and like the Reagan administration made important appointments of people hostile to labor who showed little respect for law much less labor. The disappointments brought more divisions in the labor movement. In 2005 Andy Stern formed an opposition group “Change to Win” that diverted Sweeney efforts, which are covered in detail.

Sweeney retired in 2009 and former United Mine Workers president and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, Richard Trumka, took over without a challenger. Minchin compiles and narrates many insider opinions to evaluate the Sweeney era before going into the early years of Trumka as AFL-CIO president.

The final pages of the book narrate Trumka changes and the first Obama election where the AFL-CIO played a major role in his election to over racial hesitations. Trumka provided AFL-CIO support to the “Occupy Wall Street” protest and pressed for labor law reform and national health care. Obama had two years with both houses of Congress, enough to get health care reform through the Congress, but not much else. The relentless attack on labor continues without relief. The book ends in Obama’s second term and with Richard Trumka fighting for the labor agenda.

Early in the book Minchin quotes a retired AFL-CIO staff. “The AFL-CIO has always had to fight. We’ve always had to defend.” Labor Under Fire captures that sad dilemma. The book keeps a tight focus on the AFL-CIO as promised. It is well organized, the writing flows easily in narrative fashion and without “academize.” One clear advantage comes by using many quotations from news commentary, AFL-CIO proceedings and notes, and from interviews. Minchin lets the actions, impressions and opinions of participants carry the story, a decided advantage in my view. Readers get a good feel for the skills and character - advantages - disadvantages - of the major figures from organized labor in the era: Lane Kirkland, Tom Donahue, John Sweeney, Andy Stern, Richard Trumka. Numbered footnotes document sources followed by a thorough bibliography.

Minchin effects a gently positive tone for an era with troubling years of labor decline. I did not feel much optimism, but there is respect for labor and labor leaders and the troubles they are forced to confront. Inequality continues to get worse as labor continues to flounder, but in Labor Under Fire there is still hope.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Immigration or Stagnation

Immigration or Stagnation

In a recent Washington Post editorial [Immigration or Stagnation, Washington Post, 1-29-18] Fred Hiatt asserts Republicans can be pro-growth or anti-immigration, but not both. Growth, then, needs immigrants, which is why he thinks “we should remain open to immigration.”

In his discussion Hiatt offers four “big, complicated” rhetorical questions about immigration. One is “How much effort should be devoted to tracking down the undocumented, and how much to punishing companies that hire them?” However, I do not believe those millions of undocumented immigrants came to the U.S. for the beautiful view. They came here for a job and so I would like for Mr. Hiatt to cite one case of a U.S. employer charged, prosecuted and convicted of hiring an undocumented alien. May be there are two, or ten or a hundred stacked up against 11 million undocumented immigrants? Does ICE investigate Corporate America?

While I happen to agree with Mr. Hiatt that immigrants have contributed to economic growth, favoring growth would not normally be an immigration issue. Business demands cheap immigrant labor that works for a pittance, and they do not mind them having no legal or voting rights.

Corporate America also knows the Republican Party needs the votes of the hate peddling bigots who want to deport them all. Well, if Republicans cannot be pro-growth and anti-immigration, neither can they be anti--immigration and ethical citizens favoring equality of rights while remaining silent. Corporate America could be pro-immigration and be ethical citizens but so far they let their toadies in Congress and Trump feed the bigotry and look the other way.

Friday, January 26, 2018

America had nothing for me

America had nothing for me

Mexico City, January 26, 2018 --- Ariel Rodriguez tells the Washington Post that he and his family are now home in Mexico City. He finished a B.A. Degree after 10 years working and studying in the United States. He spoke of Trump and his “negative rhetoric about undocumented people” and enforcement agents, sometimes separating children who were full US citizens from parents.” … “I was reminded daily that I did not belong – reminded by the news, reminded by Trump supporters chanting about the wall, reminded by the president himself. … “The way I see it, this loss is mutual: I lost the chance to have a life in America. America has lost the chance to have me.”

Lawrence, Massachusetts, February 17, 1912 --- Italian textile mill worker Arturo Massavi told a reporter today he is leaving the United States to return home to Italy. “We were urged to come here by posters spread throughout Italy by the American Woolen Company, describing how mill owners will treat us like their own children. … We were treated like dogs. Our Italy is bad but your country’s textile mills are worse.”

You figure it out!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Fight the Gas Tax

Fight the Gas Tax

The Chamber of Commerce announced last week that it wants to have an additional $.25 a gallon gas tax to fund “infra structure” projects. This comes almost immediately after the same Chamber of Commerce and its corporate members and promoters engineered giant multi-billion dollar corporate tax cuts and more multi-billion dollar personal income tax cuts. Both changes deliberately intend to transfer billions of dollars to the rich who earn their income with dividends and capital gains rather than wages.

A $.25 a gallon tax is steeply regressive and guarantees those with modest wage income will pay a higher percentage of their income in gas tax than the rich with their bloated incomes and new lower tax rates. It punishes and penalizes the working class who get to work driving and rarely have alternatives in public transportation. It further lines the pockets of contractors to pour cement with profits from cost plus work awarded by an indulgent Congress.

It is especially depressing coming as it does immediately after billions of dollars of favors already bestowed on the rich in a lopsided economy already burdened with a crude income inequality. It suggests there is no limit to how far, or how often, the privileged rich will to push the working class into a lower economic status.

I think of Republicans as no more than a band of pickpockets.