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Home Care Workers

[ 46 ] November 26, 2013 |

For those of you who like long, detailed reports about the struggles of working people to earn a decent living in the United States, this report on home care workers is very much worth your while. An excerpt:

In-home workers are more than 90 percent female, and are disproportionately immigrants. One out of every nine foreign-born female workers with a high school degree or less works in an in-home occupation. In-home occupations are growing rapidly, driven by sharp growth in direct-care work, including personal care aides and home health aides.

In-home workers receive very low pay, and many have trouble getting the hours they need.

The median hourly wage for in-home workers is $10.21, compared with $17.55 for workers in other occupations. After accounting for demographic differences between in-home workers and other workers, in-home workers have hourly wages nearly 25 percent lower than those of similar workers in other occupations.

In-home workers are more likely to work part time than other workers. This is due in many instances to their own preferences, but it is also the case that a larger share of in-home workers than other workers want (and are available for) full-time jobs, but have had to settle for a part-time schedule.

The median weekly pay for in-home workers who have or want full-time work is $382, compared with $769 for workers in other occupations. After accounting for demographic differences between in-home workers and other workers, in-home workers who have or want full-time work have weekly wages 36.5 percent lower than those of similar workers in other occupations.

In-home workers rarely receive fringe benefits.

Only 12.2 percent of in-home workers receive health insurance from their job, compared with 50.6 percent of workers in other occupations. The majority of in-home workers who receive health insurance from their job are agency-based direct-care aides (18.4 percent of whom have employer-provided health insurance). Only 4.9 percent of maids and 6.3 percent of nannies receive employer-provided health insurance.

Only 7.0 percent of in-home workers are covered by a pension plan at their job, compared with 43.8 percent of workers in other occupations. The majority of in-home workers who are covered by a pension plan at their job are agency-based direct-care aides (10.7 percent of whom are covered by a pension plan). Less than 3 percent of maids and nannies are covered by a pension plan.

In-home workers have a higher incidence of poverty than workers in other occupations.

Nearly a quarter—23.4 percent—of in-home workers live below the official poverty line, compared with 6.5 percent of workers in other occupations.

Twice the official poverty threshold is commonly used by researchers as a measure of what it takes a family to actually make ends meet. More than half—51.4 percent—of in-home workers live below twice the poverty line, compared with 20.8 percent of workers in other occupations.

One of the strengths of SEIU comes from its ability to organize some of these workers and deliver concrete improvements in their lives. Given the growth of this sector of labor and the desperation of those who work at it, not to mention the fact that they lack the common shopfloor experience that has traditionally bound workers together, SEIU’s work organizing these workers is all that much more important.

Emissions Reductions

[ 33 ] November 26, 2013 |

As these researchers point out, it absolutely makes sense to engage in a significant emissions reduction program, even if India and China are going to pump out as much into the atmosphere as they can. Ultimately, preparing early for climate change is going to pay off down the road. But the political benefits of doing so, which are all short-term benefits, are very hard to see and discourage any action. Of course, as the huge methane emissions of Oklahoma and Texas demonstrate, we are far from showing any leadership on this issue.

Hacktackular

[ 5 ] November 26, 2013 |

Shocking that Tom Coburn’s report on the national parks would be nothing but a justification for slashing budgets, eliminating the Antiquities Act (one of America’s best laws and one that western legislators have hated ever since it was passed in 1906 and Theodore Roosevelt used it to get around the despoiling businesses and legislators of the West) and opening up lands for oil exploration.

Executed Today

[ 29 ] November 25, 2013 |

If you think your life isn’t depressing enough, reading the excellent history site Executed Today is a good way to do accomplish this task. What is Executed Today? It’s a website with daily postings about someone executed on that day in history. Good times, no? Today in 1838, Tsali, a Cherokee who refused to leave his home in North Carolina to go to Oklahoma, was executed. An excerpt:

So it’s also fitting to remember that this day in 1838** was the execution of Tsali, the hero of those escaped North Carolina Cherokee whom Brown mentions — a man tied to a tree and shot this date by the U.S. Army for resisting “Indian removal”.

While assimilated Cherokees like Chief John Ross were themselves right in the thick of the debate about deportation, Tsali was a traditionalist farmer in North Carolina who had little contact with such sketchy political machinations.

When Washington’s ethnic cleansing policy shed its diplomatic cover for naked force, Tsali and his family killed some of the soldiers sent to capture them for removal.** General Scott was not amused.

The individuals guilty of this unprovoked outrage must be shot down; & there is another object demanding equal & immediate attention, viz: –the protection of the white families, residing in that region, who are, doubtless, much alarmed (& may be in great danger) at the most unexpected spirit of hostility evinced by the fugitive Indians about them by the murders in question.

A Union Thanksgiving

[ 81 ] November 25, 2013 |

A useful list of food products for your Thanksgiving made in union shops. If you have a choice, choose union-produced food.

Blood Avocados

[ 23 ] November 25, 2013 |

I know we frequently talk about a benefit of marijuana legalization undermining the cartel violence in Mexico. But at this point, the cat is out of the bag on that. The cartels have plenty of ways to make money. Such as taking over the entire avocado industry by violence. Scary stuff.

Me and Paul

[ 5 ] November 24, 2013 |

Keep the members of Willie Nelson’s band in your thoughts today as they were in a serious weather related accident yesterday:

One incident injured three members of singer Willie Nelson’s band when their bus struck a pillar on Interstate 30 near Sulphur Springs, about 75 miles northeast of Dallas.

Singer Willie Nelson has suspended performances until December after the incident.
The Texas Department of Public Safety says Nelson was not aboard in the weather-related accident around 3:30 a.m. CST Saturday.

Nelson spokeswoman Elaine Schock says Paul English broke his ankle, his brother Billy English suffered a bruise hip and Tom Harkin has a cracked or bruised rib.

Trooper Sylvia Jennings says seven people were on the westbound bus, including the driver who was dealing with wet roads and high winds.

Sounds like everyone is going to be OK. But Paul English is not a young man. He’s of course most famous for the following:

Divestment

[ 24 ] November 23, 2013 |

Todd Gitlin says the divestment movement against fossil fuel companies is the best tool we have to stop apocalyptic climate change. What makes me sad is that a) it probably actually is the best tool we have and b) it is a drop in the bucket of what needs to happen. I completely support this, but this is a much greater challenge than the apartheid government of South Africa, the historical high water mark of the divestment tactic.

McMurtry

[ 22 ] November 23, 2013 |

If you were at the James McMurtry show last night in Fall River, Massachusetts, your least favorite intellectually dishonest blogger was there with you. I had forgotten how utterly compelling McMurtry could be live. He doesn’t exactly scream charisma, either on his albums or in his bearing or in his limited singing voice. He’s extremely socially awkward and only interacts with the crowd to the extent that he wants to tell them things. But in this solo acoustic show (the first time I’ve seen him in this format, though this is probably the 7th or so time I’ve seen him), I don’t know that I have ever seen an audience as singularly focused on the performer. Usually there’s some jerks talking, people milling about, whatever. Not last night. It was almost total attention. I guess it’s a combination of his unusual personal intensity (he really seems to start right through you when performing) and the amazing quality of the songs.

True story. In 2005, I was driving back from Las Vegas to Santa Fe. And I was getting really sick. By the hour, I was feeling worse and worse. I suppose I should have had my friend drive, but he hated driving and didn’t own a car. Anyway, by the time we got to Flagstaff I was really struggling and thinking about pulling over for a nap or to have him take over. But he had just purchased McMurtry’s Live in Aught-Three album. The only of his albums I think I had at that point was Where’d You Hide the Body, so I wasn’t all that knowledgeable of his catalog. Anyway, listening to this, struggling to go on, was the first time I ever heard “Choctaw Bingo.” I was so blown away and so amused by this comedic tour de force of a meth family that it picked me right up and I slammed through the rest of that drive and got home OK. I credit it with helping to save my life that night. This is a song that works best electric, but it was highly enjoyable to see last night in any form.

Responsibility

[ 39 ] November 23, 2013 |

After the Tarzeen fire and Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh over the past year, killing over 1200 workers in total, European companies subcontracting to those factories have stepped up and built a system of compensation for the families of the dead, the injured, and the unemployed. And that’s a positive. The American companies–not so much:

Even as labor advocates single out Primark for praise, they single out Walmart for criticism — partly because production documents recovered after the Tazreen fire indicate that two months before that fire erupted, 55 percent of the factory’s production was being made for Walmart contractors. Walmart has repeatedly been asked to contribute to the anticipated $6 million compensation program for Tazreen survivors and families.

“Walmart is the one company that is showing an astonishing lack of responsibility, considering that so much of their product was being made at the Tazreen factory,” said Samantha Maher, a campaign coordinator for the British arm of the Clean Clothes Campaign, a European anti-sweatshop group.

Walmart has also been asked to contribute to the planned Rana Plaza fund because production documents were found in the building rubble indicating that a Canadian contractor was producing jeans for Walmart in 2012 at the Ether Tex factory inside the building. Walmart said that unauthorized contractors were producing garments without the company’s knowledge.

After the International Labor Rights Forum, an advocacy group based in Washington, wrote to Walmart to urge its participation in the compensation efforts, Rajan Kamalanathan, Walmart’s vice president for ethical sourcing, responded in an email that Walmart did not intend to participate. He wrote that “there was no production for Walmart in Rana Plaza at the time of the tragedy” and that the Walmart-related production at Tazreen was unauthorized.

I can’t speak much about the European companies. But for the American apparel industry, it is once again obvious that its ultimate labor vision is the Gilded Age in the United States, when workers risked their lives every day they went to work and companies held no responsibility for the safety of its laborers. That the present system of outsourcing clothing production also mirrors that of the Gilded Age makes this even more conspicuous. And that like in the Triangle Fire, the companies involved face no ramifications after the Bangladesh disasters helps demonstrate this thesis.

There should be a special circle of Hell for Wal-Mart executives.

Kennedy

[ 151 ] November 22, 2013 |

In case you still think John F. Kennedy was a good president, Dylan Matthews has a good run-down of how he was so overrated. It’s the basic case–major foreign policy blunders including nearly blowing up the world, escalating in Vietnam, reticence on civil rights, the lack of any meaningful legislation. I did find this a bit rich though:

• He created the Peace Corps, famously. While that organization played a valuable role in improving foreign attitudes toward the United States during the Cold War, it’s far too small to be a significant development agency, and the work it does is not especially conducive to that goal either. As Gal Beckerman put it in a good profile of the agency in the Boston Globe recently, “The agency has never been structured to do development effectively. In fact, if you were trying to design an organization to avoid having a lasting impact, it might look a lot like the Peace Corps: inexperienced volunteers sent to work in near-total isolation from one another, with time limits guaranteed to make their impact only short term.” And as Robert Strauss has pointed out, its placements are rarely based on where volunteers would provide the most help. The corps was probably a net good, but was much too small and inefficient to justify the extent to which it’s burnished Kennedy’s reputation.

Let’s look at that again:

“The agency has never been structured to do development effectively. In fact, if you were trying to design an organization to avoid having a lasting impact, it might look a lot like the Peace Corps: inexperienced volunteers sent to work in near-total isolation from one another, with time limits guaranteed to make their impact only short term.”

Oh you mean like Teach for America? Good thing Matthews has connected this lesson to that program to show how throwing inexperienced kids into American schools for a short-term lark isn’t effective. Oh wait. On that issue and Matthews’ predilections around these matters, Diane Ravitch has weighed in.

Anti-Union Court Nominees

[ 122 ] November 22, 2013 |

While we can all be happy that the filibuster is finally dead, let’s also pay attention to just who Obama is nominating to these judgeships. Such as Patricia Millet, designer of Starbucks anti-union campaign:

“I find it troubling, because Ms. Millett and her firm Akin Gump went well beyond what I consider the bounds of decency and morality in the very aggressive anti-union campaign they really designed and helped Starbucks carry out,” Daniel Gross, a founding member of the Starbucks Workers Union, told Salon. “The campaign that Ms. Millett and her firm architected and really co-led, and continues to co-lead with Starbucks, involved all of the scorched earth tactics which are starting to come to light more and more.” The White House, the AFL-CIO and Starbucks did not provide comment on Millett’s Starbucks work in response to Thursday inquiries. Akin Gump declined to comment.

After 11 years as an assistant to the solicitor general at the federal Department of Justice, Millett joined the top-flight firm Akin Gump, whose website describes its “Labor Relations Strategic Advice and Counseling” practice as including “union avoidance” and “the defense of unfair labor practice charges …” Millett’s clients there included the coffee giant Starbucks, which faced a union campaign by the Starbucks Workers Union, an affiliate of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, also known as the Wobblies).

You know, it shouldn’t be hard to find Democratic candidates for the federal judiciary who haven’t actually designed anti-union campaigns.

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