A May Day 2014 Lament for American Labor

https://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/05/01

Today, May 1, 2014, is International Labor Day. It is worth summing up how well American workers—and their unions—have fared over the past year; since the so-called economic recovery began in mid-2009; and for the recent decades preceding.

What’s happened to jobs, wages and incomes, health and retirement security, and other indicators of the quality of life for the more than 100 million non-supervisory wage and salary earners—the core of the working class in America—over the past decade and especially since 2009?

What a summary of the facts tell us is as follows:

  • While jobs have been created for managers, supervisors, and highly skilled business and technical professionals since 2009, job levels for the core of the American working class—the category of the more than 100 million ‘Production & Non-Supervisory Workers’—is still 11 million below 2007 pre-recession levels. Manufacturing jobs are still 1.4 million fewer today than in 2007, and Construction jobs 1.3 million fewer.

  • The real unemployment rate in the US is approximately 14%, when the ‘hidden unemployed’ are added to the ranks of the officially declared full time unemployed (U-3) and underemployed (U-6) estimates. That’s approximately 22 million still jobless after five years of so-called economic recovery.

  • The quality of job creation since 2009 has been extremely poor by past historical standards. The US is ‘churning out’ high paying-good benefit jobs for low pay, increasingly part time/temp (contingent) jobs, with few if any benefits. 79% of jobs lost during the recent recession paid more than $14/hr., while 58% of the jobs created since recession were low pay (less than $14 and with a median of only $7.69hr.)

  • While 5 million plus jobs have been added since the official ‘end’ of the recession in June 2009, more than 5 million have left the labor force or been unable to find work as new entrants—a 5+million ‘in’ and a 5+ million ‘out’ additional churn. As labor force participation has declined in general (from 66.2% to 62.9% since 2009), and has fallen especially rapidly for age groups 35 and below, previously retired workers are entering the labor force in record numbers as their savings are depleted and retirement benefits are being reduced. The fastest growing age groups entering the labor force are: age 65-69 (64% increase in participation), 70-74 (91%), and >75 (81%).

  • The US economy is not only churning out high pay for low pay, and labor force drop-outs for new hires, but is also churning non-union for union jobs, in the process reducing private sector unionization to historic lows not seen since the 19th century.

  • Union membership in the private sector has fallen to only 6.7% of the total labor force, or 7.3 million—down roughly 5 million since 1980 despite 45 million more wage workers having entered the labor force.  And for the first time in decades, since 2009 union membership in the public sector has also begun falling since 2009, down by more than 2% points.

  • The US is experiencing a chronic long-term problem in the 21st century creating jobs sufficient to keep up with the growth of its population, a structural problem in the US economy that clearly pre-dates the onset of the latest recession. Since just 2009, the ratio of employed to the US population has fallen from 63% to 58.7%. The population is growing much faster than the economy can create jobs.

  • The US economy has developed a corresponding problem of inability to find jobs for the long term unemployed, whose numbers are growing as a percent of total jobless. The Employment to Population ratio has continued to decline through both recent recession and recovery, revealing a chronic structural problem of job creation in the US economy long term. The long term jobless as percent of total unemployed remains twice that (36%) of historical average (18%) today, five years into the recovery.

  • Income inequality is growing in the US not only because the rich are getting richer, but because the US working class is locked into stagnant wage growth (in best of times) or declining wage growth (in recession or slow growth times) for the past 30 years.

  • The real average hourly wage for the 100 million plus full-time employed core working class, adjusted for inflation, has declined despite nearly five years of ‘recovery’, from $8.86/hr. (adjusted in 1982-84 prices as per the US Government estimates) to $8.83/hr.

  • But when adjusted for the core working class as a whole—not just full time employed—the decline in core working class income since 2009 has been precipitous—(i.e. when adjusted further for the rise of millions more part time/temp workers, unemployed, for millions of workers leaving the labor force, for millions rise of workers on disability, for millions’ expiration of unemployment benefits, and for workers’ rising share of healthcare benefits costs and reductions of pension benefits). The adjusted decline is at least 15%.

  • Per US Government statistics (unadjusted per above), real median household income fell 4.1% under George W. Bush, collapsed by 9.6% since 2008 under Obama, recovering only 3.4% of the overall decline since 2012—i.e. a net loss of more than 10% since 2000.

  • The share of wages & salaries of total National Income has declined steadily for 30 years, from 55.6% in 1983 to 52.0% in 2007 just prior to the recession. It has continued to fall during the recession period, 2007-09, as well as during the post-2009 recovery, to 49.1% today.

Concluding Comments

Much has been written over the past year about the growing income inequality in America, and how the wealthiest 1% households, who almost exclusively derive their income from returns on capital (capital gains from stock & bond trading, foreign exchange & derivatives speculation, interest, real estate, rents, etc.), have accrued 95% of all the national income gains in the US economy since the June 2009 so-called economic ‘recovery’ officially began.   

Liberal economists like Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, James Galbraith and others have been writing numerous books and countless newspaper columns on the subject of income inequality in general over the past year. They have finally discovered in recent years the sad fact of accelerating income inequality in America, a developing trend that has been in progress for decades, at least since the early 1980s.

But while liberal economists today are finally focusing on why and how the wealthiest 1% are accruing more for themselves, not enough attention has been paid to why and how more than 100 million working class households in America have been doing so poorly—and increasingly so—during recent decades and in particular during the most recent period, 2004-2014. Nor have mainstream commentaries offered much in the way of correcting the historic decline in American working class conditions. How to improve the latter is just as important as taming the runaway capital incomes of the rich and super-rich. But only tepid and conservative proposals are forthcoming thus far from the mainstream economic profession, proposals that are long term and ‘safe’ for the owners of Capital today and do not embarrass their political friends and benefactors.

That condition of the 100 million plus working families in America today, International Labor Day 2014, is as lamentable as the accelerating accrual of income and wealth by the 1% is disgusting. Of course, the two trends are not mutually exclusive but directly related.  The rich and very rich are becoming super-rich and mega-rich in large part at the direct expense of the rest.

Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus is a Professor of Economics at St. Mary’s College. He is the author of Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression (Pluto Press - 2010) and Obama's Recover: Recovery for the Few (Pluto Press - 2011).  He has been a business economist, market analyst, vice-president of the National Writers Union and elected local union president and organizer for various labor unions. His website is: www.kyklosproductions.com. Follow him on Twitter: @drjackrasmus.

International Workers/May Day - May 1st!

Clasping Workers' Hands Across Borders

In a May Day article in 1941, the “Rebel Girl” Elizabeth Gurley Flynn wrote:

“Only workers are forbidden to be internationalists. It’s perfectly proper for J. P. Morgan and Henry Ford; for the bankers, the munitions trusts, the chemical companies. … Only the clasped hands of the workers across the boundaries are struck down in every country.”

Efren Carrillo, resign now!

A Sexual Preditor is on the Loose in Sonoma County!

Demand Carrillo's resignation at a demonstration

on Wednesday, April 30th, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.,

Courthouse Square, 3rd and Mendocino, Santa Rosa

Protect Internet Neutrality - Only YOU Can Do it! Urgent!

The FCC is proposing rules to end net neutrality - the Internet needs to stop this from happening:

http://http://cms.fightforthefuture.org/tellfcc/

Contact the FCC and contact your representatives in Washington, D.C.!

President Obama, move from talk to action on nuclear disarmament

The Peace & Justice Center has signed on to a letter, along with 60 additional signatories, asking that the United States move from talk to action on nuclear disarmament. Here is the beginning of the letter followed by a link for the full letter.

Dear President Obama,

During the closing session of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014, you cited a number of concrete measures to secure highly-enriched uranium and plutonium and strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime that have been implemented as a result of the three Nuclear Security Summits, concluding: “So what’s been valuable about this summit is that it has not just been talk, it’s been action.”

Would that you would apply the same standard to nuclear disarmament!

http://wslfweb.org/docs/Obamaletter416.doc

Here and Now by Bruce Gagnon

                                                                                      

The starkness of the times
causing even old warriors
to fall
the suffering can bear a load
even on the strongest

For many moons our people
have struggled to survive
been through hell
and back
but we are here

Now

Many of us have fallen
victim to the hype, the pretense,
the flim-flam man,
and the desire to just
be one of the crowd

That's OK

It's just time to move on
to get serious about dealing
with our present here
and now

Let the spiritual connection
to our relatives,
that is real,
the two-leggeds.
the four-leggeds, the things
that fly, the things that swim,
the water, the air, the earth

All our relatives

We must fight, crawl, dribble,
snort, swear, and swim
in order to protect
the future generations
who cry out to us
in our sleep.

Here we are now.....

by Bruce K. Gagnon
Coordinator
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

PJC Hosts Mike Roselle - Co-founder of Earth First!, Rainforest Action Network, Ruckus Society and Climate Ground Zero

Activist Lounge - Friday, April 25 - 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Gaia's Garden Restaurant, 1899 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa

Mike Roselle will speak on his current efforts with Climate Ground Zero to stop mountaintop removal, as well as his past efforts and his work with nonviolent direct action. See the link below for an article about Mike's current work

Poetry by Dean Walker and Music by Carl Sokol

$5.00 minimum purchase - Tea, chai, wine, beer, juices

And join us if you can for the vegetarian buffet beforehand - reservations at 707-544-2491

Sponsored by the Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County, 100 Thousand Poets for Change and Gaia's Garden

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2311593/one_state_under_coal.html

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back and Enjoy Collapse of United States

The Onion! All too true!

WASHINGTON—Putting the nation on alert against what it has described as a “highly credible terrorist threat,” the FBI announced today that it has uncovered a plot by members of al-Qaeda to sit back and enjoy themselves while the United States collapses of its own accord.

Multiple intelligence agencies confirmed that the militant Islamist organization and its numerous affiliates intend to carry out a massive, coordinated plan to stand aside and watch America’s increasingly rapid decline, with terrorist operatives across the globe reportedly mobilizing to take it easy, relax, and savor the spectacle as it unfolds.  Continue on link:

http://www.theonion.com/articles/fbi-uncovers-alqaeda-plot-to-just-sit-back-and-enj,35788/

Journalists Who Broke NSA Story in Guardian Dedicate George Polk Award to Snowden

The journalists who first revealed the extent of the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities dedicated a prestigious award on Friday to their source, Edward Snowden.

Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras had earlier cleared immigration at John F Kennedy airport in New York without a hitch as they arrived to share a George Polk Award for national security reporting with Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian and Barton Gellman of the Washington Post. The Polk awards are administered by Long Island University.

"This award is really for Edward Snowden," said Poitras, who first met the former NSA analyst in Hong Kong with Greenwald and MacAskill last year, as she accepted the award in the ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan.

Continue on link:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/11/journalists-nsa-guardian-polk-award-snowden

The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies - Chris Hedges

The most prescient portrait of the American character and our ultimate fate as a species is found in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Melville makes our murderous obsessions, our hubris, violent impulses, moral weakness and inevitable self-destruction visible in his chronicle of a whaling voyage. He is our foremost oracle. He is to us what William Shakespeare was to Elizabethan England or Fyodor Dostoyevsky to czarist Russia.

Our country is given shape in the form of the ship, the Pequod, named after the Indian tribe exterminated in 1638 by the Puritans and their Native American allies. The ship’s 30-man crew—there were 30 states in the Union when Melville wrote the novel—is a mixture of races and creeds. The object of the hunt is a massive white whale, Moby Dick, which in a previous encounter maimed the ship’s captain, Ahab, by dismembering one of his legs. The self-destructive fury of the quest, much like that of the one we are on, assures the Pequod’s destruction. And those on the ship, on some level, know they are doomed—just as many of us know that a consumer culture based on corporate profit, limitless exploitation and the continued extraction of fossil fuels is doomed.

Continue with this link:

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_myth_of_human_progress_and_the_collapse_of_complex_societies_video_2014/