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Work More!

[ 141 ] July 9, 2015 |

US-ECONOMY-CEO-BUSH

Jeb Bush’s hands are far apart to indicate he wants workers to labor all the hours

Jeb Bush really is a man of the New Gilded Age. His beliefs about labor are truly Lochner-esque.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said Wednesday that in order to grow the economy “people should work longer hours” — a comment that the Bush campaign argues was a reference to underemployed part-time workers but which Democrats are already using to attack him.

During an interview that was live-streamed on the app Periscope, Bush told New Hampshire’s The Union Leader that to grow the economy, “people should work longer hours.”

He was answering a question about his plans for tax reform and responded:

“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours” and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”

That’s just what we need in this country, people working longer hours. After all, the American worker has already become incredibly productive and Americans already work ridiculously long hours compared to Europe, but there might be more profit to be squeezed from their bodies and their brains if they were to work, say, a 12 hour day. Really, the ideal should be the workers of Bangladesh and Cambodia. Those are people who know how to work long hours!

Jeb later said this was taken out of context yadda yadda, but his labor policy would be absolutely horrible as president.

This Day in Labor History: July 9, 1948

[ 6 ] July 9, 2015 |

ilo-logo

On July 9, 1948, the International Labour Organization signed The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention. Unfortunately, the United States Senate never ratified it, showing the difficulty international standards, labor and otherwise, have always had in becoming law in the United States and the damage that can do for the effectiveness of these agreements. It also suggests just how limited labor rights really are in the United States compared to much of the world.

The International Labour Organization came to be in 1919 as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. As the U.S. never ratified that treaty, it did not join the ILO until 1934. The ILO became significantly more important after World War II as it became closely associated with the United Nations. The UN asked the ILO to create a series of conventions immediately after the war, making the request official in 1947.

The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention is one of the 8 conventions that make up the core of international labor law. It is a very basic document. Article 1 urges all ILO states to follow the following direction:

Article 2

Workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and, subject only to the rules of the organisation concerned, to join organisations of their own choosing without previous authorisation.

Article 3

1. Workers’ and employers’ organisations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organise their administration and activities and to formulate their programmes.

2. The public authorities shall refrain from any interference which would restrict this right or impede the lawful exercise thereof.

Article 4

Workers’ and employers’ organisations shall not be liable to be dissolved or suspended by administrative authority.

Article 5

Workers’ and employers’ organisations shall have the right to establish and join federations and confederations and any such organisation, federation or confederation shall have the right to affiliate with international organisations of workers and employers.

Article 6

The provisions of Articles 2, 3 and 4 hereof apply to federations and confederations of workers’ and employers’ organisations.

Article 7

The acquisition of legal personality by workers’ and employers’ organisations, federations and confederations shall not be made subject to conditions of such a character as to restrict the application of the provisions of Articles 2, 3 and 4 hereof.

Article 8

1. In exercising the rights provided for in this Convention workers and employers and their respective organisations, like other persons or organised collectivities, shall respect the law of the land.

2. The law of the land shall not be such as to impair, nor shall it be so applied as to impair, the guarantees provided for in this Convention.

Article 9

1. The extent to which the guarantees provided for in this Convention shall apply to the armed forces and the police shall be determined by national laws or regulations.

2. In accordance with the principle set forth in paragraph 8 of Article 19 of the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation the ratification of this Convention by any Member shall not be deemed to affect any existing law, award, custom or agreement in virtue of which members of the armed forces or the police enjoy any right guaranteed by this Convention.

Article 10

In this Convention the term organisation means any organisation of workers or of employers for furthering and defending the interests of workers or of employers.

Yet this was too far for the United States. In fact, the United States has only ratified two of the eight fundamental conventions. The U.S. voted for the convention within the ILO and Harry Truman sent it to the Senate for ratification in 1949. Secretary of State Dean Acheson assured the Senate that the U.S. would need no legal changes to comply with it. But 1949 was not an auspicious time for international labor conventions and the U.S. Senate, not in the aftermath of the Taft-Hartley Act and the rise of McCarthyism. John Bricker, the isolationist and anti-union senator from Ohio led the opposition, saying the ILO “wants to become the economic overseer of all humanity.” The fear of international supremacy over American law also motivated many senators to not support the ILO and other international legal frameworks. Bricker, based in no small part on his opposition to the ILO, attempted to get constitutional amendments ratified that would significantly reduce presidential power to agree to international law and in 1954 his amendment failed in the Senate by one vote after Dwight Eisenhower personally intervened against it. The Senate never ratified the convention. Conservatives have occasionally spoke out for ratification over the years, including George Schulz, Elizabeth Dole, and even Orrin Hatch. But it has never again received serious attention.

Today, 153 nations have ratified the convention. Among the 30 nations who have not ratified it are North Korea, Belarus, and the United States. It’s not a dead letter either. Last year, Somalia signed it. But not the United States. It undermines American credibility on labor issues worldwide. When the U.S. lectures about democracy, as it has since the early days of the Cold War, labor issues and the freedom of association are usually part of that critique. Yet many at home and abroad have noted that, once again, the U.S. does not practice what it preaches because it won’t pass the basic ILO conventions. It’s not as if the U.S. never passes ILO conventions. For instance, in 1999, the Senate ratified an ILO convention against particularly exploitative forms of child labor. But a serious commitment to international labor rights is of little interest to many senators, indicative of a nation that has not passed major pro-labor legislation since 1938. In fact, the US has ratified only 14 of the 188 ILO conventions.

We might ask whether such agreements make a difference. Obviously Somalia does not all of a sudden lead the world in labor rights. Nor do other signatory nations Bangladesh, Guatemala (which signed it under the leadership of Jacobo Arbenz), or Honduras. Enforcement matters and the ILO doesn’t have enforcement rights. Yet in a world of rampant global labor exploitation, often led by Americans companies operating internationally, it’s quite telling that the United States refuses to sign on to basic international labor rights. Like any international agreement, it’s strength is largely determined by the most powerful members. In the U.S., whether in international law or international agreements to stop Bangladeshis from dying in factories making clothing for Walmart, the nation’s political and business leaders refuse to commit to anything that might hold the powerful accountable.

I borrowed some of this from Steve Charnowitz’s paper, “The ILO Convention on Freedom of Association and Its Future in the United States.”

This is the 150th post in this series. I guess that’s a sort of milestone. Previous posts are archived here.

Angry Goldwater

[ 29 ] July 8, 2015 |

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Barry Goldwater is PISSED and he’s pounding that desk to let you know it.

Terrorism!

[ 48 ] July 8, 2015 |

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Above: ISIS founder and accordion terrorist Frank Yankovich.


When will the terrorists stop attacking us with their squeezeboxes?

More than two hours. More than 30 police, fire and rescue workers. And more than enough police cars and big trucks to widen the eyes of three dozen youngsters in day care, all to investigate a suspicious package that turned out to be … an accordion.

About 9 a.m. Friday, Howard County authorities were alerted to what appeared to be an abandoned suitcase in front of the Owen Brown Interfaith Center in Columbia, according to fire officials. The center, at 7246 Cradlerock Way, tucked behind a shopping center, is home to a day care center.

The area around the building was cordoned off with yellow police tape. Just outside the perimeter were police cars, an emergency services command truck, and fire and rescue trucks. “We send out equipment based on a worst-case scenario,” said Assistant Fire Chief Joe Dixon.

The day care center temporarily relocated to a room in Giant Foods nearby. The experts went to work opening the package.

Inside: the musical instrument.

Owner: Unknown, said police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn.

“I’m sure the police took it into custody,” she said.

Will the police arrest Flaco Jimenez for being too awesome on the accordion? Or will they string up Weird Al for the sins of his distant relative? As a real American, I hope for both.

Cream Pies

[ 59 ] July 8, 2015 |

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So as I am in DC, I managed to spend part of the evening in the company of truly evil people, i.e. Republican congressmen and staffers at a reception that someone suggest I attend, probably as a comedic social experiment. For many reasons I will not go into detail except to say that I was a fish out of waters that support terrible lives for Americans. Also there was 1 minority in a room of at least 150 people, not counting the servants who of course were almost all black. Welcome to the Beltway. Anyway, this seems appropriate this evening:

So it is with unrestrained glee that we share the news of the recovery of a long-missing portion of the greatest pie-throwing fight ever recorded, far superior to the pastry melee of “In the Sweet Pie and Pie,” a 1941 Three Stooges short, or the baked-goods battle in “The Great Race,” a 1965 comedy with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

That, of course, would be the epic custard conflagration in “The Battle of the Century,” a 1927 Laurel and Hardy short that dispensed with 3,000 pies, thrown not with abandon but with slow-burn precision, heightening the comedic effect.

For several decades, the 20-minute, two-reel classic has been missing its second reel, which provided most of the logic for why dozens of people were pelting one another with pastries. Film historians have puttied the gaps in “Battle” with explanatory title cards, but these could never replicate Laurel’s look of thought-free innocence, Hardy’s frown of eternal exasperation.

More pie throwing in DC would raise the intellectual discourse of the city significantly.

Can I Sum Up the 50s in One Image?

[ 42 ] July 8, 2015 |

Yes. Yes I can.

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New Attack on Protecting Interns

[ 33 ] July 8, 2015 |

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I’m not at all shocked that a bunch of elite judges don’t understand the world of internships and how corporations use them to create pools of free labor. But that’s not going to stop them from undermining protections for interns. Ross Perlin:

The judge, William H. Pauley III, found that Fox Searchlight had failed to meet this test. Sadly, on Thursday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit eviscerated the six-factor checklist and replaced it with, in essence, a new legal theory of what internships are all about.

The appeals judges found, among other things, that an internship can be legal even if it doesn’t meet the traditional six-prong test, especially if it is tied to the receipt of school credit and helps the student fulfill academic commitments.

Even worse, the judges declared that “the proper question is whether the intern or the employer is the primary beneficiary of the relationship.” They ignored the legal standard and ethical principle that work merits pay.

The judges stressed that internships may be legal merely because they are supposedly being overseen by the interns’ schools. But these very same institutions have been complicit in the internship boom by ignoring abuses, requiring internships for graduation and charging students for academic credit when they go off campus to do unpaid work.

The “primary beneficiary” approach leads to the atomizing result that interns cannot unite to protect themselves. The judges write that “the question of an intern’s employment status is a highly individualized inquiry,” ignoring the low or nonexistent pay and shabby work conditions common to interns in many offices and industries. Thursday’s ruling all but destroys the basis for collective action through class-action lawsuits.

At oral arguments in January — I had filed an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs — it was evident that the three judges had no firsthand experience of what they call “the modern internship.” Focusing on “what the intern receives in exchange for his work,” the judges completely ignore the significant benefits that employers derive from their interns.

Today in Sexism in Sports

[ 70 ] July 7, 2015 |

Sigh:

In the Women’s World Cup, the USA soccer team took the championship against Japan on Sunday—just not with their pocketbooks. In fact, they are being paid 40 times less than their male counterparts.

In a Politico piece, Mary Pilon points out that the National Women’s Soccer League salaries range from $6,000 to $30,000 and teams often have a salary cap of $200,000. The Men’s League Soccer league salary cap clocked in at $3.1 million last year, and the total payout for the women’s World Cup will be just $15 million compared to the men’s $576 million sum.

Given the ratings for the women’s World Cup, is there even that much evidence that attendance for a good women’s soccer league in the U.S. would be that much less than the men’s league? It’s also worth noting how sports payment disparities reflect gendered pay disparities throughout the American workforce.

Heritage and Hate

[ 34 ] July 7, 2015 |

HaralsonCHmarker

The good people of Haralson County, Georgia defend their widespread use of the American swastika with the same tired arguments about heritage. And of course:

Just across the county line, the Georgia Peach Oyster Bar has operated as a scandalous open secret. Its website features two Confederate battle flags, the description, “The Original Klan, Klam & Oyster Bar,” and a stunningly virulent collection of racist signs. Patrons are confronted with a selection of crude cartoons and graffiti, and a menu that declares, on the appetizer page, “We cater to hangins’.”

Indeed they do. As the county’s 1902 lynching of Benjamin Brown after an accusation of attempted rape of a white woman may suggest.

Race in America

[ 11 ] July 7, 2015 |

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TPM has a new feature called Primary Source, where historians present and interpret a primary source for the site’s readership. Josh Marshall, a historian in his previous life, has been opening his site up in recent months to more historical-based work. The latest entry is well worth your time. It’s a 1955 article in Ebony about a sheriff in Florida who decided to declare a family black, thus forcing all the children to be kicked out of the white school. N.D.B. Connolly provides a brief interpretation, not only of the event, but of how the complexities of race worked in the pages of Ebony itself:

Yet, the complexities of race and skin color went even further, reaching off the page and into the homes of Ebony’s black readership. Page three of the Platt’s story appears on the same page as Palmer’s “Skin Success” ointment and soap. In addition to helping with rashes and pimples, Palmer’s was well-known to “even” (i.e. lighten) the complexions of its black consumers. “You’ll forget,” the ad assures, “you ever had skin trouble.” One could only hope.

How to Get Something Done in Government, 1949

[ 26 ] July 6, 2015 |

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I am presently doing research at the Library of Congress. I just ran across this oddity. Ula Glen of Crestone, Colorado was a ranch wife. Somehow (this is not quite clear to me), she knew Leo Goodman, who was a housing and later nuclear expert for the CIO, who I am researching. The Rural Electrification Administration was supposed to hook her home up to the electrical lines. But they hadn’t. So she wrote this poem and sent it to Goodman:

O country life, o country life, how good you are for me…
The early rising, mornings, with the stars still to see.
The daily strolling down the lane, across the road and farther,
Packing, of all things, a couple of pails of water.
O country life!

Our lovely, useless bathroom–a symphony in rose,
The boiler on the cookhouse filled with water ‘stead of clothes.
The cans arrayed with loving care to hold the precious water
Stand South and kind of East of a gas refrigerator.
Icecubes, but no water!

The lamps they set around the room as pretty as a portrait.
But when will they dispel the gloom in this here little Orchard?
The wire from road to housetop–so near and yet so far–
Where or where are the men who doing the ironing are?
Whar?

The REA has gone away from weather below zero.
By kerosene we vent our spleen on them that have such fear-o
Come back, come back, REA, come back from Oklahoma.
It takes electricity to make a house into a homa.

O, REA!

Goodman then contacted a friend of his in the REA who quickly got the Glen’s home on the line.

I am doing research on a new book project for the next three weeks and it’s kind of lonely and boring sometimes. So I may continue updating you with tales from the archives from time to time.

What Should Labor Law Do?

[ 23 ] July 5, 2015 |

NLRB

Today is the 80th anniversary of the National Labor Relations Act.

Of course, the NLRA is hardly working for workers these days, with regulatory capture and unfriendly court decisions creating a regime that keeps all the restrictions on workers and eliminates all the benefits. The extent to which labor should hope to keep using the old legal regime is a big debate within labor circles. Lane Windham weighs in, going over the basics and concluding:

The best way to fix the Wagner Act and to restore workers’ freedom to form union is to lighten the work we expect this 80-year-old law to do. All workers need a guaranteed basic annual income, all workers need full access to health care, and all workers deserve to retire with guaranteed dignity—whether they have a union or not. Once our nation guarantees universal social wage benefits for our workers, employers will have less incentive to wage war on unionizing efforts, and the Wagner Act may once again be a potent tool for bringing democracy and worker empowerment to the nation’s rapidly changing workplaces.

OK, but can I have a pony too? I mean, sure, it’d be great to have universal basic income, Swedish-style health care, and great retirement benefits. But to say that we should quit worrying about labor law until we get these things means that we will never worry about labor law again because these goals will probably never happen in American society. Or it will take decades if we are being optimistic. A scenario of New Deal-esque social legislation before getting to these other issues is, to say the least, not a realistic one. At the very least, Windham should have laid out some framework for when this was going to happen and I’m surprised the editors of the piece didn’t push her on this.

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