9/30/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- From the archive, 30 September 1974: VW Beetle seeks survival in new markets - Originally published in the Guardian on 30 September 1974, by Charles Cook, The Guardian via guardian.co.uk
WOLFSBURG, W. Germany - Unless last week's enforced short-time working at Volkswagen's Wolfsburg headquarters has upset the company's calculations, the eighteen millionth VW Beetle should lie built on Thursday. Such a statistic is perhaps of academic interest – two years ago the Beetle overtook the Model T Ford as the world's best-selling single model, and with another million Beetles soon to roll off the production lines this year, the only remaining question is how much longer VW will continue to produce the thing.
The Beetle has been both the making and the breaking of VW's might. Conceived before the war and first produced by the British military caretaker Government in West Germany in the late 1940s, the Beetle's phenomenal success made VW into the country's biggest employer, biggest taxpayer, biggest vehicle producer and so on ad absurdum. But the management began to believe that the vehicle's success would be perpetual and in recent years the single model policy which for so long ruled Wolfsburg has led the company into financial difficulties.
There have been several hundred changes to the Beetle during the years, and there are few parts in today's cars which would fit those early Beetles. But the car still shows its age, and by the end of the decade VW must surely have taken it off the European market. Until then, however, it continues to be made at the rate of about 4,000 a day in Germany, Belgium, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, and shortly in Nigeria, as well as being assembled in Australia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, and several other countries. It seems that for the future the company will concentrate on selling the Beetle in developing countries where its mechanical simplicity, longevity, and lack of sophistication are considered to be virtues rather than disadvantages.
The Beetle in Britain is no longer a cheap car: even the most basic car costs over £1,000. This year's inflation and the movement of the Deutschmark against Sterling has hit British VW sales hard, and in spite of innumerable marketing gimmicks such as selling Beetles with seats upholstered in jeans material, the attraction of the model seems to be waning. The Beetle's American success was slowed down by safety campaigner Ralph Nader, who accused the company of building unsafe cars. The early Beetles were indeed inherently unstable, very susceptible to sidewinds, and generally ill-handling cars. More recently, the suspension has been given a major redesign and the result is a great improvement – but the car still lacks any great feeling of security. It is not a car to be driven fast.
[So a strong economy has been working on timesizing for decades, while a weak economy is still going the other way -]
- Greece Risks EU Court Over Doctors' Working Hours, by Apostolos Papapostolou, Greek Reporter via greece.greekreporter.com
ATHENS, Greece - Doctors in Greece work too many hours and today the European Commission asked Athens to conform to EU regulations on working hours in public health services. Brussels has sent Greece a formal letter, and now the country has two months time to take the necessary measures.
If Greece fails to conform to regulations, it could be taken to the European Court of Justice. Brussels claims that doctors in Greece working in public hospitals and healthcare centres must work an average of 64 hours per week, 90 hours in some cases. Greece has imposed no ceiling on the number of hours doctors are required to work in continuation, and often they don’t have time to take sufficient breaks.
The European Commission sees this situation as a serious violation of the EU directive on working hours. Working too many hours without sufficient rest creates health and security risks for the workers themselves, and excessive exhaustion of doctors can have serious consequences for their patients.
[Compare yesterday's story (#2) on Ireland.]
9/29/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- UPDATE1 - FEATURE - Booming German firms cast nervous eye to euro crisis, by Noah Barkin and Brian Rohan, Reuters.com
GOETTINGEN, Germany - The euro zone crisis looms like a dark cloud over Europe's biggest economy, but Stephan Gais can't see it. Not for now at least.
The 55-year old chairman of Mahr, a classic German "Mittelstand" firm that makes measuring instruments for the auto, engineering and medical sectors, had his best month ever in August, pulling in 18 million euros worth of new orders.
He expects revenues to push above the 200 million euro mark for the first time next year, nearly double what the company hauled in at the height of the global financial crisis in 2009, when demand for Mahr's high-precision products dried up overnight.
"We aren't feeling it at all," said Gais, a big man with a booming voice whose great-great-grandfather, Carl Mahr, founded the company in 1861.
"Naturally we are worried about the turbulence on financial markets, because in the end, the strength of the economy is 50 percent psychology. You can't underestimate psychology. But we are very optimistic heading into next year," he told Reuters at the company's headquarters in Goettingen, a university town in central Germany.
Like Mahr, the German economy bounced back sharply from the deep crisis triggered by the bankruptcy of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers three years ago. But signs are mounting that the rebound could be short-lived.
German growth ground to a virtual halt in the second quarter of 2011 and leading economic indicators are painting a worrying picture. Last week a survey of purchasing managers suggested the country's private sector was teetering on the brink, with business activity growing at its weakest pace in more than two years.
The threats to Europe's economic engine are multiple. Growth is slowing in many of Germany's top export markets as governments rein in spending to bring down high debt levels.
Turbulence on financial markets has also made companies and consumers nervous. And the euro zone crisis is a growing danger, as talk of a Greek default builds and investors pile pressure on big economies like Italy and Spain.
MIX OF OPTIMISM AND UNCERTAINTY
Still, a more nuanced picture emerged from interviews that Reuters conducted with a half dozen or so manufacturers from the German Mittelstand -- the small- and medium-sized businesses, often family-owned, that form the backbone of the economy and employ roughly two thirds of its workforce.
Many of these firms said they had used the crisis of 2009 to streamline production, make their staff more flexible and accelerate a push into faster-growing emerging markets like China and India.
They held on to key employees by making use of the government's "Kurzarbeit" short-time working scheme -- state subsidies which encouraged firms to keep workers on reduced hours. That helped them respond quickly when demand returned.
Thanks to longstanding relationships with local, cooperative banks, the Volksbanken, Mittelstand firms say they still have access to loans crucial for investment despite rising pressure on lenders to rein in credit because of the euro zone crisis.
Gais at Mahr, for example, said he would seal a 5-year, 45-million euro credit line with a group of banks this week at an interest rate of just 3.5 percent.
State bank KfW forecast last week that business investment in Germany would rise 9 percent this year and by 4.5 percent in 2012, fuelled by real interest rates that are near historically low levels.
Coupled with the optimism, however, is growing frustration with Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and the sense that economic conditions could deteriorate rapidly, as they did after the Lehman collapse, if European leaders fail to act swiftly and decisively in countering their debt crisis.
Merkel managed to staunch a rebellion in her centre-right coalition on Thursday and secure parliamentary backing for an offer of more cash to back heavily indebted EU governments -- but that alone will do little to shore up investors' confidence.
Michael Schneider of Hahn Automation, a 350-strong firm in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate which builds custom robotics for factories, said the company's order backlog would provide it with cushion through to mid-2012 and that it had encountered no problems getting funding.
"But that could change quickly if things get worse in the euro zone periphery, or if banks get spooked into a credit crunch," he said.
Much depends on where firms get their revenues. Hahn is well placed because it relies heavily on Germany and exports to growing markets like eastern Europe, Turkey, Mexico and China.
Less fortunate may be Aerzener Maschinenfabrik, a maker of twin-shaft rotary piston machines up the road from Mahr near Hamelin -- the town of the legendary pied piper. The Aerzen firm has exposure to euro zone countries like Italy and Spain, where customers are holding back on making investments.
"We are watching the euro crisis closely," said Bernd Woehlken, a managing director at Aerzener. "We're not seeing a direct impact, but we are seeing an indirect effect through delays in investment plans. The uncertainty is not good."
HOUSE OF CARDS
Klaus Abberger, an economist at the Munich-based Ifo institute who oversees its monthly survey of 7,000 German firms, does not expect Germany to fall back into recession but says the economy could contract in the fourth quarter of the year.
He says the biggest risks are a slowdown in the United States, Germany's second biggest export market, and a deterioration of the euro zone crisis.
Until now, investors have viewed Germany as a safe haven, pushing down interest rates for consumers and companies. Were the crisis to deepen however, for example through a Greek debt default that hit German banks, the country could lose its allure, with knock-on effects for the economy.
Stephan Gais at Mahr believes the chief threat comes from Europe's politicians themselves. He accused Merkel of adjusting her euro policy based on the latest opinion polls and polemics in the media, and savaged her coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), whom he voted for in the 2009 election but now dismisses as a "total flop".
"They don't have a plan for where they want to take Germany, where they want to take Europe," Gais said.
"I'm not at the point where I think we'll relive what we experienced in 2009, the kind of recession we saw then. But one thing is clear -- if Greece and Italy go bankrupt it will be much worse than Lehman Brothers. Then the house of cards will crumble," he said.
"It needs to be avoided at all costs and I'm hopeful the politicians can do it. In the end they need to make clear that they want Europe, that they want the euro, and how beneficial it has been for us."
(Editing by Alastair Macdonald)
- EC in threat over junior doctor working hours, RTE.ie
DUBLIN, Ireland - The European Commission has threatened to take Ireland to the European Court of Justice unless it takes action to reduce the number of hours worked by junior doctors.
The commission says junior doctors are often forced to work over 100 hours in a single week, sometimes without adequate breaks for rest or sleep.
In a statement issued this morning, Brussels said the practice was contrary to EU rules on doctors' working hours in public hospitals.
The EU Working Time Directive requires that, for health and safety reasons, all workers should work no more than an average of 48 hours per week, and have a minimum of 11 hours rest per day.
Fully qualified doctors are covered by the legislation, and while a phasing in period for junior doctors was agreed, trainees have been subject to the new rules since August 2009.
A formal letter was sent to Ireland by the European Commission in November 2009 seeking information on why the directive was not being implemented.
The Commission said that while some changes had taken place, compliance with the directive had "not improved substantially."
The Commission said this morning's announcement came in the form of a "reasoned opinion," meaning the Government has two months to bring its legislation into line with EU law or face a hearing at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
- The long-term unemployed - The ravages of time - An intractable problem is getting worse, (10/01 p.33 early e-pickup) The Economist via economist.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - AMERICA’S great labour market slump continues to cast its pall over the economy, leaving one lonely group in particular shrouded in shadows. Over 6m Americans, more than 40% of all those unemployed, have now been out of work for more than six months. Most of these, 4.5m, haven’t worked for a year or more. This crisis of long-term joblessness is unprecedented in the post-war period.
Lacklustre growth is the main problem. The pace of new hiring crashed during the recession and has scarcely recovered since. Although America’s unemployment rate is down a percentage point from its peak, this is little cause for cheer. Workers are escaping unemployment more slowly than at any time since 1948. The long-term unemployed are struggling most; in the year to June, the newly jobless were three times more likely to find new work in a given month than the long-term unemployed. Many of the latter have given up hope. For the first time in decades, jobless workers are more likely to drop out of the labour force (and cease to be counted as unemployed) than to get a job (see chart). Bit by bit, a large mass of American workers is losing touch with the labour market.
One might expect unemployment to carry less stigma after a deep recession—bad times, rather than personal shortcoming, being the more likely reason for a sacking. Yet a worker’s lifetime earnings are hurt more by a job loss in a weak economy. An experienced worker laid off when unemployment is at 9% faces a reduction in lifetime earnings nearly twice that of someone sacked when the rate is 5%: a loss of 20% on average, according to new work by Steven Davis and Till von Wachter. The unemployed increasingly face discrimination in the hiring queue, often enough that Barack Obama proposes to ban the practice. Such a rule might encourage employers not to hire at all, for fear of legal action.
Still, there are some signs that the long-term jobless can be coaxed back into the working world. New research by economists Michael Elsby, Bart Hobijn, Aysegül Sahin, and Rob Valletta shows that movement in and out of the labour force is actually more fluid than has been previously assumed. The ranks of the unemployed are often replenished by those moving from outside the labour force—that is, from not looking for work at all—into active jobseeking. The long-term unemployed pay close attention to the state of the job market and resume their job search in optimistic periods. A burst of optimism early this year, corresponding to a period when employment was growing by more than 200,000 jobs a month, coincided with a surge of workers back into the labour force to seek work. This may have reversed in recent months. In July, just 10% of workers polled by Gallup said it was a good time to find a decent job, down from 17% in April. The horizon has only grown cloudier since then.
Policymakers are slowly beginning to respond to the crisis. Barack Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act would reauthorise for another year current emergency unemployment benefits, which help to support consumption among the jobless, reducing poverty and propping up demand. Mr Obama proposes to increase the programme’s flexibility. Benefits could be used to supplement wages at businesses that cut hours rather than lay off workers, for instance. The president also seems fond of state-level programmes like “Georgia Works”, which pay benefits to jobless workers engaged in training. Should Congress approve, such measures could light the path back to work for many jobless Americans.
The Federal Reserve is also paying heed. At a speech in late August, Chairman Ben Bernanke warned that long-term unemployment could harm the economy’s long-run growth prospects, though since then he has done little to help. Nothing would be so effective as a strong economy and a tight labour market. Despite growing interest in their troubles, that seems a distant prospect for those languishing on the edge of the working world.
from the print edition | United States
- JetBlue CEO to Washington: FAA shutdown "criminal", CBSnews.com
B>NEW YORK, N.Y. - Top executives of some of America's biggest companies say they plan to cut back on hiring. In a report out Thursday, just 36 percent of the CEOs surveyed said they plan to hire in the next six months.
CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley has been speaking recently with some of the country's top CEOs, asking them how to get America back to work.
RLJ CEO to D.C. politicians: Think "one-term"
Starbucks CEO: "Crisis of leadership" in D.C.
CAT CEO on economy: Washington lacks honesty
In a conversation with David Barger, CEO of JetBlue, Barger points out that it has taken a last-minute Congressional resolution to keep the FAA funded 22 times in a row.
This past summer, when the money didn't come through, the FAA was forced to furlough 4,000 workers.
Barger says businesses don't hire when there's that kind of uncertainty.
David Barger: Take a look in the airline industry - the FAA being partially shut down. I mean that's criminal.
Scott Pelley: What do you mean that's criminal?
Barger: When I use the word criminal, our elected officials are really, they're in office working on behalf of the citizens of our country. And so I just use this micro example within our industry - don't shut us down. Help support us, help fund us. Don't put 4,000 jobs on the unemployment line. Work together.
Pelley: When you saw the country teetering on the edge of defaulting on its debts, what did you think?
Barger: What a shame. Embarrassed. That's not who we are.
Pelley: How do you create jobs in this country?
Barger: We've gotta have people out of Washington that are willing to work together and talk with each other as opposed to not crossing the aisles. So I think that's the No. 1 issue that's really holding us back at this point in time.
Pelley: How do you get us off 9.1 percent unemployment?
Barger: As we build a budget, you have to balance the budget. You have to spend that which is within your limits.
Pelley: The Republicans want to do it with cuts, the Democrats want to have tax increases. What's the answer?
Barger: I think there can be a combination, I truly do. I don't think it has to be a win-lose situation.
Pelley: That seems to be what they think in Washington. That it has to be one or the other.
Barger: That's absolutely right. I don't think it has to be that way. I really don't. We could disagree, but let's at least meet. And it can't be a hostage situation. It can't be win-lose. It has to be win-win.
Pelley: What's the solution?
Barger: In the airline industry, new airplanes? They're going to China, India, and the Middle East. They're not coming to the United States.
Pelley: What does that tell you?
Barger: The real growth, the jobs that are being created - they're offshore. They're not happening here - and so we have to change that.
Pelley: Unemployment has been at 9 percent and above for right about two years now.
Pelley: Where are things going?
Barger: I think we're in a little bit of a holding pattern right now because we're back into this election cycle.
Pelley: Another recession headed our way?
Barger: Don't see it. Don't see it. Could there be a double dip? Could. But we're not seeing it.
Pelley: And your message to Washington would be what?
Barger: I think the number one message to Washington from the airline community is help us be a further enabler to the economy. But most importantly: Talk to one another.
13 Comments...#10 -
by SIDtheDOG September 29, 2011 8:25 PM EDT
The economy has change but the politicians still can't adjust to what is needed to get this country back on track. All you hear is the same old solutions that worked in the 60's. If you want businesses to hire, you must make fundamental changes in the work week to begin with. That would be shortening the work week to 32 hours a week and then 24 down the line. Overtime would be paid for any hours worked over those hours. This could be done in weeks and not years. This would open up new posiions and allow others to seek additional employment.
You need to understand that what took 5 men to do several years ago only takes 1 now. That is the biggest difference. And it is only going to get worse.
Home purchases would increase with the end of mortgage write offs on all new home loans after the 1st of the year 2013. SSI could be done in a cafeteria style, with workers picking how much they want to contribute into the system and how much they would receive when they retire. The same could be done with Medicare. The first $15000.00 from an individual's savings account would not be taxed per year. This would spur savings and banks to compete for customer's accounts. And last, a flat tax rate.
- The Four Day Work Week, by Jason Gots, BigThink.com
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - According to psychologist Dan Ariely, Google’s policy of giving employees free reign over 20% of their work week – one full day out of five – makes for happier, more passionate workers and a better, more creative company.
What’s the Big Idea?
You are busy. Crazy busy. You’re going nonstop. 10 cups of coffee a day. No lunch breaks for you, Buster. You’re always the first one in the office and the last one to leave. Your recycling bin is overflowing with completed checklists. And yet, you feel like Sisyphus, schlepping that boulder up the hill each day only to have it roll back down to the bottom again. Promotion is nice when it comes – it means higher pay and a momentary sense of upward momentum – but without perspective, passion, a sense of higher purpose? Well, you’re just trading one treadmill for another, slightly posher model.
Between “the rat race” and retiring to Hawaii there’s a saner middle ground – a scenario in which people’s work lives are far less “busy” and far more productive. Where people spend less time plowing through checklists and more time solving problems creatively – for pay, of course, but also for the joy and sense of accomplishment this brings. Let’s not kid ourselves. A person screwing caps on ketchup bottles for a living is not likely to find deep, personal satisfaction on the job. But for the vast number of idea workers in the present and future economy, there’s a better way.
Psychologist Dan Ariely, author of The Upside of Irrationality, cites the example of Google, whose engineers are free to use 20% of their work week (one full day) any way they want. Google’s betting that its highly creative employees will devote at least some of that time to projects that benefit the company. An even surer bet is that they’ll be working hard – in the best sense of the phrase – the other 80% of their time, happy to invest their energy in a company that respects their autonomy and views them not only as employees, but as people.
What’s the Significance?
Until his untimely death at the age of 31, Eric Rauch was a biologist and theoretical ecologist at MIT. In his article Productivity and the Workweek, he argues that while productivity has steadily increased in developed countries since 1950, workers’ subjective sense of well-being has not seen a similar increase. In other words, the work week could be drastically shortened without painfully reducing workers’ standards of living. In fact, Rauch points out, “shorter hours were assumed to be a natural consequence of increased productivity in the US until the 1930's, appearing in the platforms of all major parties.”
[If shorter hours were really a natural consequence of increased productivity, why would the need to appear in the platforms of any major political parties??? That assumption has allowed the workweek to remain frozen now for 71 years and counting, and the huge resulting labor surplus in the context of rising levels of worksaving technology to lower wages, hyperconcentrate and decirculate the money supply, and riddle both the public and private sectors through and through with desperate, inefficient and ecobashing artificial job creation, such as the grotesque American trucking industry: 100,000s of individual locomotive engineers each dragging one huge freight car, wearing out the nation's highways and endangering motorists.]
But what would we do with all that free time? According to Dan Ariely, lots of things – some directly work-related, some not, but all likely to improve the quality of our working lives. Humans are not, Ariely notes, motivated only by money on the one hand and the desire to sunbathe while sipping martinis on the other. Ironically, a shorter “official” work week would likely weaken the defensive barriers many employees erect between work and play, freeing their minds to reach “a-ha” solutions to work-related problems even while sunbathing, and to use their time at the office more efficiently and effectively.
For companies curious – yet anxious – about becoming more Google-like, a first step might be to take a hard look at your office culture. Do people seem relaxed and enthusiastic about their jobs? Do they spontaneously share ideas and collaborate informally when problems arise? Or is everybody hunched over his or her respective desk all day, radiating a “Harder-Working-Than-Thou” aura?
If b), ask yourself this: is all that hard work translating into the kind of innovation and progress your company dreams of? Chances are it isn’t. The reason, says Ariely, is that human productivity isn’t a simple “numbers game.” And any job that robots won’t be doing 50 years from now needs an employee with a sense of balance and personal freedom, not a slave mentality.
- Charles Reiterates Urgent Need for Flexible Work Week, by Chris Patterson, Government of Jamaica Information Service via jis.gov.jm
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles, says the Ministry is close to implementing the flexi-work week, which will provide better employment opportunities.
He said that he is hastening to have the flexi work week implemented, because it is expected to increases employment.
[What is he thinking? Why would scrunching the same number of hours into fewer days spread any work to additional employees? All 40 hours of work from the "old" five-day workweek will have been used up in the "new" 2-3 day workweek and no work left to spread to new hires!]
“Where a worker can do a 40-hour work week in three and a half days and go home for two days or a day and a half…and give somebody else a job,” he said.
[Wrong. It just gives somebody else a desk but no market-demanded work to do at it.]
Mr. Charles was speaking at a press conference at the Courtleigh Hotel and Suites, in New Kingston, on Friday (September 23).
He explained that the delay in the process has resulted from the fact that the Green Paper has not yet been turned into a White Paper, to be laid in Parliament with agreement from both sides of the House.
The introduction of Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs), as part of the Labour Market Reform (LMR) process, has been under discussion at the Labour Advisory Committee (LAC), as well as in Parliament, since 1997. It addresses variations in the number of hours worked each day, the number of days worked each week, as well as in the days of the week when employees work.
The LAC is a tripartite industrial relations body, comprised of representatives of the Ministry, the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) and the Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF).
A Green Paper on the issue was tabled in Parliament in 2001, and a Joint Select Committee, chaired by Mr. Charles, reviewed the Green Paper and tabled a report in 2009 recommending a 12-hour cap on work days replacing the current 8-10 hours work days. However churches, including the Seventh-day Adventists, have raised concerns about Sabbath days becoming normal work days.
- Ma vows to back 5-day workweek, ChinaPost.com.tw
TAIPEI, Taiwan - President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday pledged to promote an across-the-board implementation of a five-day workweek system within five years, probably in 2016, once he succeeds in his re-election bid for the presidential race slated for Jan. 14, 2012.
Ma made the pledge when unveiling his “Golden Decade” policies at a press conference held yesterday afternoon in the company of his running mate, Premier Wu Den-yih.
This is one of the goals which Ma's administration has vowed to achieve in the coming decade to upgrade the welfare of workers.
The goals also include boosting the labor-participation rate to 60 percent from 58 percent, hiking minimum monthly wage, improving living quality for workers, and reducing the number of legal weekly work hours to 80 from the existing 84, in addition to the across-the-board implementation of a five-day workweek system.
At the moment, the Labor Standards Act sets the legal number of weekly work hours at 84, meaning that workers can enjoy a five-day workweek every other week.
[Huh? Insufficient information to figure out how the conclusion follows.]
By contrast, government employees have since 2001 enjoyed a regular five-day workweek, prompting workers to demand the same treatment. This, coupled with the growing trend for working five days a week in most countries, has cemented Ma's determination to push for the across-the-board five-day workweek system as a mid-term labor policy during his next term as president.
Meanwhile, Minister Jennifer Wang of the Cabinet-level Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), told reporters that once the regular five-day workweek system is officially enforced in 2016, as many as 6.24 million workers will benefit from the system.
The council will have to revise the Labor Standards Act to legalize the shorter workweek, and the revision should be ratified by the Legislative Yuan before it takes effect.
According to statistics compiled by the CLA, if the shorter workweek is fully implemented, local enterprises will together face an additional overtime pay of NT$23.3 billion per year, accounting for only 0.66 percent of their aggregate salary cost.
The same tallies showed that there are around 55 percent of local enterprises failing to enforce the five-day workweek system, involving a total workforce of 2.99 million.
Accordingly, the 2.99 million workers in such enterprises will benefit the most from the shorter workweek if implemented thoroughly.
In response to the shorter-workweek policy to be pushed by Ma, most local business leaders disagreed with the policy.
For instance, Chang Ping-chao, chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China, said that although allowing workers to have a sufficient leave is emerging as a popular trend worldwide, the government should not force enterprises to follow the trend and had better allow enterprises to adapt to the trend on their own.
Lin Bing-bing, chairman of the National Association of Small & Medium Enterprises, said that recklessly implementing the shorter workweek system may be accompanied by many more problems undermining the normal operations of enterprises, which, in turn, may lead to unemployment of more workers.
On another front, labor groups called for the Ma administration to push the across-the-board enforcement of the shorter-workweek system right now instead of waiting until the next presidential term.
9/28/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Budget approved, but crisis not averted, by Keith Roysdon, Muncie Star Press via thestarpress.com
MUNCIE, Ind. -- After months of discussions and weeks of meetings, Delaware County Council on Tuesday approved a 2012 budget that paved the way for a four-day work week and preserved the jobs of more than 400 county employees.
But council members admitted afterward that the county's budget crisis -- fueled by property tax caps and other revenue shortfalls -- isn't over.
Council members said they wanted to add a "budget cuts" line item to the agenda for their upcoming monthly meetings, and council President James King said further cuts still could be made.
"It could be reduction of staff, changes to employee insurance or longevity," King told The Star Press after the meeting. "We'll find the reductions."
Rick Spangler, one of two Republican minority members of the council, was critical of the steps the council has taken so far.
"Reducing the work week to 32 hours is only going to create havoc and not create near enough savings," Spangler said. "We didn't get a budget. We didn't cut spending. We deferred loans. Next year we'll be right back here again."
Spangler and Kevin Nemyer, a Democrat and the council vice president, voted against the budget.
Now that council has approved the financial details of the 32-hour, four-day work week, the county commissioners could approve, as early as their Oct. 3 meeting, the closing of the county building every Friday. Commissioners Todd Donati and Donald Dunnuck have indicated they will approve the plan, which would not cover emergency services and court personnel. Commissioner Larry Bledsoe has said he will not vote for the Friday closings.
Tuesday's budget finale followed the council's regular monthly meeting and played out before a couple of dozen officials and employees, but was so low-key that some audience members didn't realize the budget had been approved.
Late in the meeting, Democrat council member Mike Jones asked, "When are we going to reconvene?" King replied, "We're done."
Part of what prompted Jones' question might have been the feeling that council members, who met and discussed at great length elements of the budget, didn't feel as if their work was done.
Early this year, council members said the county's workforce would have to be cut, and more than two dozen positions were eliminated over the course of the year. Council members had said as many as 100 more positions might be cut.
Council members on Tuesday approved resolutions that put into place not only the 32-hour week -- for a savings of $2.1 million -- but also cuts in the county's operating balance for next year and cuts to the amount the council will repay its own rainy day loan fund.
While council members finalized cuts to the 2012 budget that totaled more than $8 million, some officials pointed out the ongoing financial concerns, including $7 million in health insurance costs this year.
"We passed the budget for 2012, but we will still be doing cuts this year and next," King said, prompting council member Chris Matchett to ask for regular consideration of budget cuts on each month's council agenda "until we get to where we need to be."
Contact business editor Keith Roysdon at 213-5828. Find him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/keithroysdon.
- Salary vs sleep: Which would you pick? by Jena McGregor, WashingtonPost.com/blogs
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Which would you prefer: An $80,000 job with reasonable work hours and seven and a half hours of sleep each night, or a $140,000 job with long work hours and just six hours of sleep? A new study from researchers at Cornell, to be published in the American Economic Review, found that most people would pick the higher-paying job with more hours and less sleep.
Such a finding would be wholly unsurprising to most Americans working in an economic downturn if it weren’t for a prevailing theme in recent research about employee satisfaction and motivation. Surveys have been telling us for years now that people are valuing more vacation time or more flexible hours over better pay. People leave jobs not just because they aren’t paid enough, study after study tells us, but because they don’t get the attention they should, they don’t like their boss, or they don’t feel they have enough development opportunities. Author Dan Pink provided the capstone for this thinking in his popular 2009 book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, which explores how people are inspired by autonomy, mastery and purpose much more than they are by money.
There may even be a magic number in all this, researchers reported last year. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and other researchers found that beyond a household income of $75,000 a year, money apparently “does nothing for happiness, enjoyment, sadness or stress.” When The New York Times spoke with Kahneman about the study, he said “it’s not so much that money buys you happiness, but that lack of money buys you misery.”
So what to make of a study that offers people two salaries above that supposedly magic $75,000 number? It’s hard to know. But after years of research that seems to say more and more money is mattering less and less, it finds that it still matters plenty. The Cornell study asked more than 2,600 participants to consider which option would make them happier, and even asked them if they thought their responses might be in error. Just 7 percent said they thought they were making a mistake, and only 23 percent admitted they might regret making such a choice between money and lifestyle, reports Futurity, a site that features new university research.
I’m no psychologist, economist or human resources expert. But it’s not hard to see that making an extra $60,000 a year—almost twice as much when the baseline is $80,000—for an hour less of sleep at night and a few more hours of work would not be a hard choice for many folks. I have to think the findings would have been quite different if the extra cash was more on the order of what someone making $80,000 might really be offered to move up into a different job—say, an extra $10,000 or $15,000. People deciding between jobs, after all, don’t typically have choices like this.
A study of that nature certainly would have been more useful to leaders trying to divvy up the dollars they can use to retain their best people between actual cash raises and benefit policies, leadership training and new development opportunities. Yes, salary may still matter. But leaders who ignore the many other reasons people make decisions—whether for a healthier lifestyle, more flexible hours, better bosses or greater opportunities—are sure to be disappointed in the results.
- Talks lift spirits in elevator face-off, by Samson Lee, Hong Kong Standard via thestandard.com.hk
HONG KONG, China - Hopes were last night rising for an end to a strike by workers of a lift maintenance company with the start of marathon talks aimed at resolving the pay dispute.
Union leaders said company representatives were showing "some sincerity" in wanting an amicable resolution.
That may be good news for the around 70 striking staff of ThyssenKrupp Elevator demanding minimum pay of HK$8,500 and shorter hours.
Their colleagues got a lift up and going again at the Oasis Nursing Home for the elderly in Tsz Wan Shan soon after two staff members were trapped.
The prompt response - striking workers only agreed to resume emergency repairs yesterday, the third day of their industrial action - came amid fears of incidents in the 1,800 or so lifts and escalators the company upkeeps in 600 buildings, including police headquarters, Sunshine City Plaza and Empire Hotel Kowloon and the Mid- Levels escalator.
Among fearful customers is the Empire Hotel, where a spokeswoman warned a switch to other companies may be in the offing if ThyssenKrupp fails to come through on emergency repairs.
"The safety of our customers safety is paramount," she said, adding that there have, thankfully, not been any lift failures in the hotel so far.
Competitors are looking to step into the breach.
Sigma Elevator reportedly distributed notices to the affected buildings, saying it is willing to provide emergency repairs for free. The company, however, refused to comment.
The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department has not received any calls for help.
But it said it would contact The Lift and Escalator Contractors Association if escalator owners and building management agents need assistance.
9/27/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Walked Out - Union walks out on steel talks, by Steve Arnold, Hamilton Spectator via thespec.com
HAMILTON, Ont., Canada - Local 1005 negotiators have walked out of talks seeking an end to the bitter 10-month lockout at U.S. Steel.
In a letter sent to all Hamilton Works employees Tuesday, U.S. Steel warns that the future of the former Stelco is at stake.
“Your Union leadership rejected the Company’s proposal and left the negotiations without advising the Company as to whether they would submit our proposal to you for a vote,” the company letter states. “Their actions today made it clear that a negotiated end to the labour dispute is not in sight.”
“The Hamilton Works is a severely challenged facility in a very tough business. It has sustained massive losses over the last four years. In fact, Hamilton Works has lost money at times even when other steel plants in North America have made money. Hamilton Works will survive only on its own merits. It won’t be protected or subsidized.”
Union leaders left the negotiations Friday but made no public announcement because of a news blackout. Union members are to get an update from leaders in a special meeting Thursday night.
When talks with the company were revived earlier this month, a small window of hope opened for workers who have been surviving on about two-thirds of their normal pay since November. They were sheltered from the full impact of the lockout by a special decision allowing them to collect employment insurance benefits — but those claims are now expiring, meaning they now face subsisting on only $200 a week in union strike pay.
The members of Local 1005 of the United Steelworkers have been locked out since November in a dispute over pension plans. U.S. Steel has demanded the current defined benefit pension plan be closed to new members in favour of a defined contribution scheme — essentially a group RRSP — to be administered by the union. The company has also demanded an end to pension indexing for current retirees.
Union leaders have flatly rejected those demands and have refused to put that contract to a vote of members. (Two “show of hands” efforts since November to get such a vote, or at least a vote on the question of holding a vote, have been defeated by union members. U.S. Steel has also refused to exercise its right to petition Ontario for a government supervised secret ballot vote.)
In its latest offer to employees, the company refuses to move on its pension demands but offers a $3,000 signing bonus, a profit sharing plan that could pay up to $3,500 per employee every quarter, and a guarantee of a minimum of 26 weeks’ work at 32 hours a week and time credit for the months on lockout for employees who would otherwise have gained the 30 years service needed to retire.
The company appeal to employees, signed by senior vice-president James Garraux and U.S. Steel Canada president Anton Jura, warns this deal has a limited shelf life, noting “we have advised the Union leadership that depending upon business conditions, we reserve our right to withdraw this offer if it is not accepted by the membership.”
The final offer, the company adds, “is more than fair given Hamilton’s performance and the significant challenges ahead. This is the Company’s final offer for a new collective bargaining agreement. You deserve an opportunity to vote in favour of the Company’s offer, end the lockout and return to work.”
U.S. Steel spokesperson Trevor Harris refused to comment beyond what is in the company’s letter but confirmed the union walked out of the Friday negotiations.
Union president Rolf Gerstenberger did not return calls for comment. In the past he has called the labour dispute a “phoney” lockout by a company trying to “shaft” future employees and pensioners by refusing to bargain in good faith with the union.
Union leaders have repeatedly called for government intervention to force the company back to negotiations. They have been especially galled by the fact that the federal government acted in only two days to get a court injunction ending the union’s blockade of the Burlington lift bridge while its suit against the company for breaking employment and production promises given in exchange for approval to buy Stelco has dragged on for two years without getting to the substantive issue.
Thursday’s special union meeting is called for 7 p.m. at the Michelangelo Banquet Centre, 1555 Upper Ottawa St.
- How would you like to have a four-day work week? Herald Sun via heraldsun.com.au
CANBERRA, Australia - MOST of us dream about having a three-day weekend every week.
But one Canberra digital design firm has made it a reality.
Michael Honey, director of Icelab, takes a different approach to the traditional nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday work week.
Instead, his staff work four days a week.
“We've got a certain amount of work to do, let's work when we feel like it,” he said.
[The question here - is it really a shorter workweek of about 32-hours (four 8-hour days) or just another rearranged workweek like Utah's recent flash-in-the-pan of four 10-hour days? And the danger is, if and when the company grows and/or pressure builds, what guarantees are there than the "certain amount of work to do" won't require an 80-hour workweek like the sicko American Medical Association requires of its residents and interns?]
The company implemented a four-day work week in 2008, allowing his staff to have Fridays off.
Staff hours are also fluid and they can decide when they come in to work.
But Icelab’s laid-back approach doesn’t mean they don’t get the job done.
“We need to make money, we can't afford to slack off, but also we don't have to do things the way everyone else does them,” Mr Honey said.
The company, which builds websites, mobile phone applications and touch screen interactives for museums and other businesses, has been based in Canberra for five years.
One of the company’s three directors, Max Wheeler, recently moved to Melbourne and can work from there, communicating with the Canberra office through video chat and email.
The company’s third director, Tim Riley, is moving to the Philippines in November and will work from overseas for at least eight months.
Mr Riley said having the three directors in different locations around the world actually makes running the company easier.
“In a sense, if one of us is going to be somewhere else, it’s actually better if we’re all somewhere else because we communicate more evenly,” Mr Riley said
“You can’t throw a few offhand comments to the guy sitting next to you (in the office), which the third person might miss out on.”
But even Icelab’s two other full-time employees can be flexible about where they work.
“Maybe you'll work late one night and not come in the next morning. Maybe you'll stay in bed the next morning and just answer someone emails in your pyjamas. I think that's just fine,” Mr Honey said.
But the hardest part of having employees scattered around the world is a decent internet connection.
“If you have a good internet connection, you can work from anywhere,” Mr Honey said.
Earlier this month an Australian Bureau of Statistics study showed bigger companies usually offer better flexibility for their staff than smaller firms.
With only five full-time employees, Icelab is certainly bucking this trend.
Mr Honey said they were a "21st century business".
“We’re one of those sort of places - we’re not a coffee shop, we’re not a dry-cleaning business, we’re a bunch of guys with laptops that can work anywhere on earth at any time,” he said.
But Mr Honey said flexible work conditions require the right staff.
“Not everyone is cut out to handle the four day week thing, or the responsibly to be able to make the decision about when they work and where they work,” he said.
“Not everyone can work in a location by themselves and not everyone has the motivation to learn and to think about what they're doing. The guys here are awesome guys.”
[For a sustainable future, it's not about location, or working self-supervised, or motivation, or how awesome we all are. It's about accountably sharing the vanishing natural market-demanded employment that has not yet been taken over by automation or robotization, or outsourced to China.]
9/25-26/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- In company town, cuts but no layoffs, by Andrew Martin, 9/25 New York Times, Bu1.
WARROAD, Minn. - Three things matter big in this flyspeck city just south of the Canadian border: hockey, walleye and Marvin.
Not necessarily in that order. Yes, Warroad, nicknamed “Hockeytown, U.S.A.,” has sent six of its sons to the N.H.L. And the walleye plucked from Lake of the Woods are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner down at the Lakeview Restaurant.
But Marvin — as in, Marvin Windows and Doors — is the commercial engine in these parts and has been since George G. Marvin arrived in 1904. So when times get tough at Marvin, as they are now, the 1,700 or so residents of Warroad hold their collective breath.
But in this season of economic unease, when neither Washington nor Wall Street seems to have the answers, the descendants of George Marvin are going against the grain. Unlike so many other companies, Marvin Windows has neither laid off workers nor reduced health insurance benefits. And, its executives vow, it won’t.
Marvin Windows might seem like a footnote in the nation’s economic ledger. It employs roughly 4,300 people, about 2,000 of them here, and has annual sales somewhere from $500 million to $1 billion. But what this company is doing — and, more to the point, what it is not doing — is worth knowing.
Marvin Windows and Doors is a throwback to another era. For starters, it is a private company. No public stockholders are complaining that the latest numbers fell short, that the share price is down.
What’s more, Marvin takes an old-fashioned, even paternal view of its role here in Warroad, where the Marvin family has run things for just about as long as anyone can remember. The company has cut employees’ pay and reduced perks like tuition reimbursement and 401(k) matching. Employees haven’t received profit-sharing checks in two years, nor have the 16 members of the Marvin family who work for the company.
But, unlike its top competitors, Marvin has refused to fire people.
Many here wonder if Marvin can hold out, particularly if, as many fear, the economy sinks into another recession. Company executives say they aren’t panicking yet.
“Housing isn’t in a recession. It’s in a depression,” says Susan Marvin, the company’s president and a granddaughter of George Marvin. “While it’s challenging for our people right now, and not everybody understands all the reasons why, the alternatives are devastating. These people would have to pick up and leave.”
Some have, for places like the booming oil fields of North Dakota. Others are working two jobs to make ends meet.
THE change is palpable in Warroad. This is a place where Marvin employees get the first Monday of November off for “Deer Monday,” so they can go hunting. And where on the Fourth of July the company hands out two nickels to children in town, as George Marvin did during the Depression.
When the housing market collapsed and, with it, the market for windows and doors, competitors shuttered plants and cut work forces. But as a fourth generation of Marvins prepares to take over, the most obvious — some would argue most effective — option was off the table.
While Marvin’s story might seem quaint, even naïve, Ms. Marvin says the no-layoff policy is as much a business wager as an act of benevolence. She says she is confident that it will ultimately pay off. Already, she says, Marvin is gaining market share from weakened rivals.
Ms. Marvin acknowledges that her family’s private company may have more leeway than public counterparts. It has forgone profits for two years to keep everyone employed, for instance. Nonetheless, Ms. Marvin suggests that corporate America could learn a thing or two from Marvin’s approach and long-term outlook.
“You can’t cut your way to prosperity. You can’t grow if you are cutting your lifeblood — and that’s the skills and experience your work force delivers,” she says, adding later: “Today, I think, to a great a degree, I think things have gotten out of balance. We see Wall Street almost punish companies that take the long view.”
Several other window manufacturers are based in the upper Midwest. (The abundance of white pine and the proximity to the Mississippi River were two reasons companies located there). Andersen is outside of St. Paul. Pella is in Iowa. Several dozen smaller operations are scattered throughout the region.
Like Marvin, many of these companies are privately held, often by descendants of their founders. Among the four biggest manufacturers, only Marvin and Jeld-Wen of Oregon continue to be managed by family members. Marvin is the smallest of the four.
Not surprisingly, the fortunes of window manufacturers are tied closely to housing construction and have followed the same precipitous rise and fall. New housing starts began climbing in 2000 and peaked in 2005, at more than two million, as new subdivisions sprouted across the country, particularly in the South and West.
Marvin’s chief executive, Jake Marvin, says his company’s peak year for profitability was 2006, and it continued to perform well through 2008.
Then the financial crisis hit, and housing construction collapsed. In 2005, an estimated 34.1 million windows were shipped for new construction. This year, that figure is projected to be 11.9 million. Mr. Marvin says new housing used to account for 60 percent of his business. These days, it is closer to 25 percent.
Most manufacturers responded to the collapse by closing plants and laying off employees, so much that the industry work force is a third smaller than it was a few years back, says Michael O’Brien, the chief executive of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, a trade group.
Making matters worse, some manufacturers were saddled with debt from acquisitions they made in the boom years. Others confronted formidable financial problems.
Jeld-Wen, for instance, has closed 21 facilities and reduced its work force by 25 percent in the last three years, according to Standard & Poor’s. The company is still struggling to fix its finances.
Other companies have made more modest layoffs, and like Marvin, they are trying to gain market share during the industry shakeout.
Kathy Krafka Harkema, a spokeswoman for Pella, says her company closed two plants, one in Iowa and one in Arizona. The move resulted in just over 300 layoffs. But Pella, which has roughly 8,000 employees, has remained profitable during the downturn, she says.
Mr. O’Brien at the window and door association says consumers remain skittish.
“It’s always, ‘Next year it will turn around,’ ” he says. “It’s a challenge. No one thought we’d be where we are today, having not pulled out of it.”
THE fortunes of Warroad and Marvin Windows, like those of Detroit and the Big Three automakers, are deeply intertwined. Back when this was a Chippewa village, the Sioux invaded by way of the Red and Roseau Rivers, a route that ended at the mouth of the Warroad River — the “war road” in the town’s name.
Today there are more Marvin employees in Warroad, about 2,000, than there are residents, 1,722. (The company’s other employees are scattered at plants in North Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Oregon.) The company’s factory sits on the western edge of town. The visitor center, which includes a company museum that holds a lock of George Marvin’s hair, is nearby, as is company headquarters. The Marvin Home Center, a spacious hardware store, is closer to the town center.
Mayor Bob Marvin is the brother of Jake Marvin, the chief executive, and Susan Marvin, the president. The town library, the senior center, the indoor swimming pool at the high school — all were financed by Marvin or the Marvin family. So was most of the 1,700-seat hockey arena. A Marvin scholarship fund provides college tuition for about 20 Warroad graduates each year.
“These are people we went to school with,” Jake Marvin says. “We go to church with them. We see them in the same restaurants. Indeed, a lot of us have married local girls and boys.”
He later added, “We could be anywhere. But we are in Warroad.”
JAKE MARVIN, a stout 63-year-old with slicked back hair, wire-rimmed glasses and a deep, gravelly voice, says he never saw the economic collapse coming. But when it came, he says, it wasn’t too difficult to decide what to do.
Marvin Windows has laid off employees only once, in the late 1960s, Mr. Marvin says. He had no appetite to do it again. His grandfather kept his eight employees through the Depression.
Jake Marvin could afford to make that decision. His company had no debt and had some money in the bank. Call it luck or shrewd planning, but while others splurged on acquisitions in good times, Marvin Windows stuck to its knitting and grew organically.
Nonetheless, given the severity of the financial crisis, it became clear that something had to give. Other than jobs and medical benefits, everything was on the table.
Salaries were cut by 5 percent. Hourly workers were pulled back to 32 hours a week. While 32-hour weeks weren’t uncommon during slow winters, this time the hours were reduced indefinitely. Raises were suspended, too.
In addition, Marvin stopped paying tuition reimbursement and financing a program that brought professors to Warroad to teach classes. Employees could no longer cash in vacation days they didn’t use. Pizza parties and award ceremonies were nixed.
Employees were encouraged to take unpaid leave, and many did. Through attrition, Marvin pared its work force back to about 4,300 from a peak of over 5,000.
“Every month, something came off the table,” Mr. Marvin says. “We wanted to find a point where we could operate indefinitely until the market turned around.”
MARVIN’S no-layoff announcement was cheered by employees, and in April 2009, Ms. Marvin and a Marvin employee were hailed as “great Americans” on national television. But much of that euphoria has worn off in the three difficult years since, as the reality of smaller paychecks has taken hold.
“Is 32 tough? Absolutely,” says Travis Kelley, a 16-year Marvin plant employee who took a second job at a local supermarket, Doug’s, to help pay the bills. The cut in hours was harder than it might seem because Marvin workers made so much in overtime. “We were taking home some big checks,” Mr. Kelley, 39, says.
[If Marvin had converted chronic overtime into jobs, the recession would be hurting Warroad less today.]
Nonetheless, Mr. Kelly said he was grateful for the job and had come to realize that he might have been spending too much anyway. “I sold off my toys — snowmobile, a couple of guns,” he says. “Now when I am home, I am home.”
Another Marvin employee, Nathan Hoy, 30, is working a second job at the Warroad Municipal Liquor Store. His reduced hours have taken a toll. “You drive less, drink less, go out less often,” he says.
In Warroad’s downtown, at Lake Street Floral and Gifts, Toby Larson says business is down 40 percent. He attributes the decline to the cuts at Marvin and the broader economic malaise.
“As far as the person who used to buy off the sidewalk or cooler, that doesn’t happen any more,” he says.
Over at Thomson Thrifty White Pharmacy, the owner, Dennis Thomson, says customers are still filling prescriptions and buying items “they need to live.” Sales of discretionary items at the front of the store have fallen off.
With little chance of a quick turnaround, some Marvin employees have quit to try their chances elsewhere. Mike Gamache, who worked for the company for 15 years, says he was treated well and earned a two-year college degree on Marvin’s dime.
But he left about six months ago, along with three friends from Warroad, to work in the North Dakota oil fields. “It got to the point where you start looking around. I didn’t see where the economic prospects for the company were getting any better,” he says. “If someone offers you $6 an hour more and tons more overtime, can you blame a guy?”
The Marvins don’t dispute Mr. Gamache’s assessment. But they don’t have second thoughts about their no-layoff stand either, at least not publicly. Layoffs, they say, would hurt everyone here.
“I’ve talked to other business people about it, and they have challenged it. They have challenged the wisdom of it,” Susan Marvin says.
Asked how long Marvin can keep its promises, given the potential for another recession, Jake Marvin replies with a question of his own: “How long does that second recession last?”
- Stimulus and the Depression: The Untold Story - The U.S. doesn't need another war to revive the economy: We need a policy turnaround like the one in the late 1930s, by Harold Cole & Lee Ohanian, 9/26 Wall Street Journal via online.wsj.com
CHICAGO, Illin. [JPE article] - About one-half of President Obama's proposed $447 billion American Jobs Act consists of payroll tax holidays designed to boost spending [and higher aggregate demand] and increase hiring. But these temporary policies will do little to jump-start the economy, much as earlier temporary economic Band-Aids, such as the 2009 stimulus, did little to improve the economy.
Proponents justify stimulus spending in part based on the widely held view that government-fueled increases in "aggregate demand" during FDR's New Deal ended the Great Depression and brought recovery. Christina Romer, former chairwoman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, has argued in op-eds that government should continue to spend for this reason. And in a 2002 speech as a Federal Reserve governor, current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke claimed that monetary expansion and the turnaround from the deflation of 1932 to inflation in 1934 was a key reason that output expanded.
But boosting aggregate demand did not end the Great Depression. After the initial stock market crash of 1929 and subsequent economic plunge [actually the stock crash was a delayed response to an already advanced but downplayed hyperconcentration and decirculation of the money supply with the necessarily accompanying but universally denied weakening of domestic consumer spending and "aggregate demand"], a recovery began in the summer of 1932 [doubtful - 1932 had unemployment of 23.6% and 1933 had 24.9%], well before the New Deal [the previous year is not "well before"]. The Federal Reserve Board's Index of Industrial production rose nearly 50% between the Depression's trough of July 1932 [under standard misleading definitions, a "recovery" can be announced when a 1% blip occurs after a 98% drop and a 50% rise can also be proclaimed because 3% is 50% higher than 2%] and June 1933 [but it was not marketable production because -]. This was a period of significant deflation [so significant price cuts were needed to sell the stuff] Inflation began after June 1933, following the demise of the gold standard [and the birth of the New Deal]. Despite higher aggregate demand [negligibly higher with unemployment up to 24.9%, proved by the fact that -], industrial production was roughly flat over the following year.
The "growth" [our quotes] that followed the low point of the Depression was primarily due to [unmarketable] productivity. Productivity [regardless of marketability] is considered a supply-side factor by many economists: It is determined by the technology and regulatory structure of the economy and therefore is largely independent of spending policies,
[ - and is therefore totally meaningless and unsustainable UNmarketable productivity. We never thought we'd see such an admission from mainstream "thought disorder" economists. Now for a little terminological intimidation to nip any real thinking in the bud -]
The growth rate of real per capita output is the sum of the growth rate of per capita labor input and productivity growth. Increasing aggregate demand is supposed to increase output growth by increasing labor input. But between 1932 and 1934, the period that Mr. Bernanke cited in his speech, per capita real gross domestic product (GDP) growth was entirely due to productivity growth [and was therefore unmarketable and actually UNreal], as per capita total hours worked—a standard measure of labor input—was actually, according to our research, lower in 1934 than it was in 1932.
One reason that many believe higher aggregate demand brought about by government spending programs and monetary expansion created recovery is because unemployment did decline between 1933 and 1937. But declining unemployment reflected significant work-sharing [by itself reducing the need for government spending] in New Deal policies that began in 1933 with the President's Reemployment Agreement and continued with the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
[which instituted the first federal worksharing program via a nationwide workweek max of 44 hours, and then cut it 2 hrs/yr in 1939 and 1940 resulting in a 1938-40 four-percent cut in unemployment (19.0-14.6) parallel to the four-hour cut in the workweek, same results as France got 1997-2001 prior to the arrival of the US-led recession].
Work-sharing increased employment by spreading jobs across more people. Spreading scarce jobs was probably desirable [they're not sure??]. But the key point is that higher aggregate demand didn't significantly expand the amount of work that was done.
[This "key point" has not at all been established, since worksharing alone significantly heightens aggregate demand, thusly: worksharing decreases labor surplus, thereby harnesses market forces in raising wages and centrifuging and recirculating the uncirculating hyperconcentration of the money supply, and heightens consumer spending alias aggregate demand. But their underlying key point, that government spending to hype aggregate demand is bad, stands, but only because worksharing via fluctuating workweek adjustment against unemployment (plus overtime-to-jobs conversion) is a much more natural, organic, gentle, gradual, flexible, sustainable, MARKET-ORIENTED way to raise aggregate demand anyway, and should be used to the exclusion of all impositions on taxpayers in a long-term-sustainable, safely government-minimal capitalist economy, instead of the stifling and debilitating corporate socialism and multidimensionally depressing charity for the rich that we see everywhere today.]
Productivity growth continued to be the major factor for the rest of the 1930s, accounting for about three-quarters of the growth in real per capita output that occurred between 1932 and 1939. But despite rapid productivity growth, the economy remained well below trend because labor input failed to recover. In 1939, labor input as measured by total hours worked per adult was more than 20% below the 1929 level.
Per capita real GDP was about 27% below trend in 1939, with more than three-quarters of this shortfall due to the continuing depression in labor. Our research indicates that New Deal industrial and labor policies, such as the National Industrial Recovery Act and the Wagner Act (the National Labor Relations Act), were the main reasons. The NIRA, for example, fostered monopoly and raised wages well above underlying worker productivity by a quid pro quo arrangement of relaxing antitrust enforcement in exchange for industry paying substantially higher wages.
The Wagner Act substantially increased unionization and union power. This, in conjunction with government's toleration of sit-down strikes, in which union workers forcibly seized factories to stop production, increased wages [and consumer spending and marketable productivity and sustainable investment] further.
[But strikes are unnecessary with fluctuating adjustment of the workweek against unemployment and smooth conversion of overtime into jobs+/-OJT as needed. Capitalism has always run well on a labor shortage cum job surplus, and poorly on a labor surplus cum job shortage.]
In the absence of these policies, we estimate [based on what??] that labor input would have been about 20% higher than it was at the end of the 1930s and would have returned the economy to trend by that time.
Productivity growth is overlooked today [productivity regardless of marketability? it should be overlooked but it certainly isn't - what planet do these guys live on?]. But as in the case of the Great Depression, economic growth since the trough of the Great Recession in June 2009 has been largely accounted for by [speculative unmarketable] productivity growth rather than the restoration of jobs [and wages and spending]. Following the recession's June 2009 trough, about 80% of "real" per capita GDP growth [our quotes] is due to growth in [speculative unmarketable] output per hour worked. And GDP growth is slowing now because [speculative optimism and unmarketable] productivity is no longer growing.
The economy began to recover following the New Deal because policy changed for the better. In a 1938 speech President Roosevelt acknowledged that some administration policies were retarding recovery. Economic policy shifted considerably around this time [to nationwide worksharing via a twice-reduced workweek ceiling], and the economy boomed [not compared to 1941-43 when a greater labor shortage was induced by militarizing a large chuck of the workforce], unemployment came down 2% a year for each of the two 2-hour cuts in the workweek]. Antitrust enforcement resumed. The fiercely controversial undistributed profits tax, which was retarding investment [investment was much more retarded before this tax by lack of sustainable let alone profitable investment], was drastically reduced and then eliminated in 1939. The sit-down strike was declared illegal, and employers could fire sit-down strikers.
The policy changes in the late 1930s benefited the economy by increasing competition, by bringing wages more in line with productivity [oh, so productivity was low? and did not automatically condition wages?! - these guys contradict themselves too often to track], and by improving the incentives for investing [back to "incentives" for the rich (=forced charity from non-rich taxpayers), instead of preventing the depressing hyperconcentration of the money supply in the first place by means of fluctuating adjustment of the workweek against unemployment]. Many assume that World War II spending singlehandedly brought the economy out of the Depression, but nearly half of the increase in nonmilitary hours worked between 1939 and the peak of the war already had occurred by 1941, well before the major wartime spending took place.
[Could be, because the two 2-hour cuts in the first-ever 1938-established nationwide workweek ceiling (44 hours on Oct.24 with many firms anticipating) brought unemployment from 19.0% in 1938 to 17.2 in 1939 to 14.6 in 1940.]
Policy can also improve today. The bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction will make a recommendation by Nov. 23 to deal with future deficits. It has an outstanding opportunity to initiate broad-based tax reform that adopts the recommendations of most bipartisan tax reform commissions of the last 20 years: a simpler tax code that improves the incentives to hire and invest [incentives for hiring and investment conflict in the age of robotization and outsourcing and are both unnecessary], broadens the tax base [incentives for investment do NOT broaden the tax base], lowers the corporate income tax [you'd prefer fees for service?], and also eliminates loopholes to equalize tax treatment of capital income. Sensibly addressing our long-run challenges will do more for the economy than continuing the stop-gap measures that have dominated policy-making for the last three years.
Mr. Cole is professor of economics at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Ohanian is professor of Economics at UCLA and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. They are authors of "New Deal Policies and the Persistence of the Great Depression: A General Equilibrium Analysis" (Journal of Political Economy, 2004).
- DOLE belies Saudization fears, Journal Online via journal.com.ph
[No explanation for DOLE unless it refers to a Dole pineapple plantation in the Philippines in a part of the story that didn't get posted on the Web.]
MANILA, Philippines - Labor Undersecretary Danilo Cruz said he believes Saudization will not have much impact on overseas Filipino workers since this policy of the Saudi Arabian government only applies to the private sector and most Saudi nationals prefer to work in government.
The statement was made by Cruz during “Talking Points,” a program produced by the Radyo ng Bayan, Philippine Information Agency, and PTV-4.
“Based on our experience, Saudi nationals or even those from the entire Middle East in general, prefer to work in government than in private companies because they get higher pay, labor policies are not as strict, and they have shorter working hours,” Cruz said.
“Saudization,” officially known as Saudi nationalization scheme, or “Nitaqat System” in Arabic, is the policy whereby Saudi companies and enterprises are requires to fill up their workforce with Saudi nationals to certain levels. It calls for an increase in the share of Saudi manpower to total employment and for expanding work opportunities for Saudi women and youth.
- Part-time workers on rise in Massachusetts - Many forced to settle for lower-pay jobs, by Megan Woolhouse, 9/26 Boston Globe, A1.
[So shorter hours is happening anyway, but not the best way.]
BOSTON, Mass. - The number of people who took part-time jobs because they were unable to find full-time work has grown nearly fourfold in Massachusetts since 2000 and has been accelerating at an alarming pace for much of this year, according to an analysis by Northeastern University.
In the first eight months of 2011, the number of so-called underemployed workers in the Bay State surged 18 percent to 200,500, a sign the economic recovery has been so weak - and companies so reluctant to hire - that many workers have little choice other than to take lower-paying jobs.
The rise of the underemployed in Massachusetts and across the country also might help explain why consumer spending, a key driver of the US economy, has been anemic and why the country could potentially fall back into a recession.
“The problem has been very bad, and the size of it is something we haven’t seen before,’’ said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, who prepared the analysis for the Globe. “The magnitude of this is really hurting the economy badly.’’
Tom Poirier, 59, of Lowell, is a prime example. He earns less than half of his income of just six months ago. A former salesman of information-technology products, he works two part-time jobs, a total of 22 hours a week, as a security guard in Boston and at a computer repair business in Burlington.
He and his wife have cut all unnecessary spending, Poirier said at a recent job fair at the Radisson Hotel in Boston. Gone are their BlackBerrys; now he keeps a low-cost cellphone for emergencies only.
“We’ve dropped out of the consumer rat race,’’ he said. “We have remarkable restraint; we’re just not big consumers at this point.’’
The difficulties faced by workers like Poirier are not reflected in the state and national unemployment rates that capture headlines. Massachusetts’ unemployment rate was 7.4 percent in August, compared to the nation’s 9.1 percent, figures that track people who are without a job and are looking for work.
If one factors in the ranks of the underemployed and the unemployed who have given up looking for work, a bleaker portrait emerges: About 15.9 percent of the labor market is not fully employed, Sum said. Nationally, the number would be even higher, he said, at 18 percent.
The Northeastern analysis found that underemployed blacks and Hispanics in Massachusetts outnumbered underemployed whites by more than two to one through August of this year.
Of all the high school dropouts who had jobs through August, 11.3 percent were underemployed, regardless of race. That was more than three times the rate for college graduates, 3.2 percent.
Greg Tivnan, a government budget analyst for 13 years, took a job as an airport limousine driver after he was laid off last year. The Bentley College graduate said the last year has been a struggle; his wife was laid off a few months after he lost his job.
The couple, who live in Holden, began collecting Tivnan’s early retirement to take advantage of lower health care rates.
He said his wife has landed a job she likes, conducting court background checks, but their standard of living has not rebounded. The couple has been in negotiations to lower their mortgage payments, and vacations are no longer an option.
“The money coming in is not what it used to be,’’ Tivnan said, estimating the couple earns about 40 percent less than two years ago. “Definitely it’s a blow to my ego. I talk to my wife a lot about it.’’
For others, the reduction in hours has forced them to apply for government aid, including food stamps.
Robert Crews, 60, of Boston said he worked for years at his brother’s painting company, earning a union wage of more than $30 an hour, until work dried up with the recession. Since then, he has struggled to find a steady job and currently earns about $8 an hour at a Boston nonprofit, training other workers how to weatherize homes.
Crews said he receives about $160 a week for the work before taxes and relies on $200 a month in food stamps to eat. When asked about the changes in his lifestyle, he said, “Everything is a huge challenge on $8 an hour.’’
Poirier, the former high-tech salesman, said he continues to search for full-time employment while working his two part-time jobs.
Laid off five months ago, after his company was acquired, he has submitted more than 250 job applications and has gone on about four interviews, he said, with none resulting in full-time work.
Poirier said it is discouraging, particularly because he has also watched the value of his Lowell home slide about 25 percent since he bought it in 2002.
On a typical Saturday, he works from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., taking calls for the computer repair company in Burlington, then drives 40 minutes to Boston to work a 4-to-midnight shift as a security guard, changing into a suit in a bathroom before his shift.
Poirier said he used to spend Sunday evenings with family, but his life has changed.
“I’ve got to work,’’ Poirier said. “I’ve got to make sacrifices.’’
Megan Woolhouse can be reached at email@example.com.
[Marvin is one of America's great timesizing companies, alongside Nucor Steel, Lincoln Electric and SAS, who are leading the way into a sustainable future.]
9/24/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- How Do You Say ‘Economic Security’? by Theodore Marmor & Jerry Mashaw, NYT, A18.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - In the face of nothing but bad economic news, Americans often take heart in remembering that we have been here before — during the Great Depression, when conditions were far worse than they are today — and we survived.
But there is a crucial difference between then and now: the words that our political leaders use to talk about our problems have changed. Where politicians once drew on a morally resonant language of people, family and shared social concern, they now deploy the cold technical idiom of budgetary accounting.
This is more than a superficial difference in rhetoric. It threatens to deprive us of the intellectual resources needed to address today’s problems.
Turn back the clock to June 1934. Millions of Americans are out of work, losing their homes and facing more of the same. President Franklin D. Roosevelt responds by creating the Committee on Economic Security. To Congress, he stresses that he places “the security of the men, women and children of the nation first.” All Americans, he emphasizes, “want decent homes to live in; they want to locate them where they can engage in productive work; and they want some safeguard against misfortunes which cannot be wholly eliminated in this man-made world of ours.”
Roosevelt asks the committee to propose “sound means” to secure against “several of the great disturbing factors in life — especially those which relate to unemployment and old age.” Those “sound means” eventually emerge as the programs of Social Security pensions, old-age assistance and unemployment insurance.
Fast forward to February 2010. With millions of Americans out of work, home foreclosures at historic highs and little prospect of relief for those in need, President Obama acts, establishing a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The commission’s task is to “improve the fiscal situation,” to “achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run” and to address “the growth of entitlement spending.” The commission recommends, true to its charge, cuts in entitlement spending — that is, the programs established in 1935 and later years to aid the unemployed, aged, disabled and sick.
In August 2011, Congress acts, not to aid those in distress but to cut federal spending. The stated goal of its new “super committee” is to create fiscal balance by recommending measures “to reduce the deficit” by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade.
Thus is the desperate situation of many Americans reduced to the clinical language of budgetary accounting. Social insurance programs that protect Americans against the common hazards of a market economy are “entitlements” that need to be revamped (read: cut) in the name of fiscal balance and deficit reduction.
As an economic policy matter, we view cutting entitlement programs as a very bad idea. But we wish to make a more fundamental observation about language and the collective imagination that language reflects.
In 1934, the focus was on people, family security and the risks to family economic well-being that we all share. Today, the people have disappeared. The conversation is now about the federal budget, not about the real economy in which real people live. If a moral concept plays a role in today’s debates, it is only the stern proselytizing of forcing the government to live within its means. If the effect of government policy on average people is discussed, it is only as providing incentives for the sick to economize on medical costs and for the already strapped worker to save for retirement.
From the 1930s to the 1960s, as the Princeton historian Daniel T. Rodgers demonstrates in his recent book, “The Age of Fracture,” American public discourse was filled with references to the social circumstances of average citizens, our common institutions and our common history. Over the last five decades, that discourse has changed in ways that emphasize individual choice, agency and preferences. The language of sociology and common culture has been replaced by the language of economics and individualism.
In 1934, the government was us. We had shared circumstances, shared risks and shared obligations.
[And in 1938, '39, '40 with maximum nationwide workweeks of 44, 42, 40 hours, shared work, and unemployment of 19,17,15%. So how do you say 'economic security'? How about 'sharing,' starting with emergency work sharing and transitioning to permanent timesizing.]
Today the government is the other — not an institution for the achievement of our common goals, but an alien presence that stands between us and the realization of individual ambitions. Programs of social insurance have become “entitlements,” a word apparently meant to signify not a collectively provided and cherished basis for family-income security, but a sinister threat to our national well-being.
Over the last 50 years we seem to have lost the words — and with them the ideas — to frame our situation appropriately.
Can we talk about this? Maybe not.
Theodore R. Marmor is a professor emeritus of public policy, and Jerry L. Mashaw is a professor of law, both at Yale. They are co-authors of “America’s Misunderstood Welfare State: Persistent Myths, Enduring Realities.”
[Well, 20-23 states have shared work programs and Sen. Jack Reed and Rep. Rosa DeLauro have introduced worksharing bills into Congress. But until worried old professors like Marmor and Mashaw notice and help publicize these developments, they will remain "best-kept secrets" and we will be like Antarctic explorers trying to get back to base camp in a blinding blizzard but dying just 20 feet away from safety. So how do you say 'economic security'? How about 'sharing,' starting with emergency worksharing and transitioning to permanent timesizing. If we don't "get it," it's not the end of the world. Germany just breezed through the last downturn with their federal-level version. They say "economic security' with the word "Kurzarbeit" = short work. But worksharing via hourscuts or furloughs is reinvented hundreds of times a day in every U.S. recession, Here's an interesting case today -]
- Impasse remains but city open to new union proposal, by Tiffany Repecki (email@example.com), Cape Coral Daily Breeze via cape-coral-daily-breeze.com
CAPE CORAL, Fla. - The city's labor negotiators acknowledged on Friday a new proposal brought forward by the police union, but questioned how the offer was presented.
John Hament, the city's labor attorney, responded on behalf of the city.
"Even though we are at impasse in negotiations as to both police units, we acknowledge that you have requested a resumption in bargaining," he wrote in an e-mail directed at the Cape Coral Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 33.
Earlier this month, the city declared an impasse after the union offered a proposal involving a 4 percent pension increase that would reduce over two years, as well as a starting salary reduction of 6 percent for all new hires.
At the time, the city was seeking a straight 8 percent wage reduction.
Hament acknowledged that the union has provided the city with a new plan, and that the union intends to present it "formally at the bargaining table."
"You can be assured that this or any other good faith proposal will be given careful consideration," he wrote in the e-mail.
On Wednesday, the union offered what it said were nearly $807,000 in concessions.
Under the plan, union members would increase their pension contribution 3 percent, up from the current 7 percent. Members would also agree to take on 40 or 32 furlough hours each year, depending on their years of service.
Union president Kurt Grau estimated that the savings from the pension contribution increase will be about $348,513. The estimated savings from the furloughs is about $458,265, comparable to a 2 percent salary cut.
The contract would remain status quo until September 2012.
Grau anticipates that union members could ratify it before October.
Hament declined to discuss the city's position on the offer Friday.
"We'll go to bargaining, and then we'll take a position at the bargaining table," he said during a telephone interview Friday. "We're not going to bargain out in public, that's why I'm questioning his (Grau's) motives."
When Grau presented the proposal Wednesday on behalf of the union, it was e-mailed to the Cape Coral City Council members, mayor and city manager. In doing that, Grau sidestepped the city's labor negotiating team and Hament.
"Finally, we note that the union has unilaterally modified our agreed-upon bargaining protocol by virtue of disseminating your bargaining proposal to the council members and the public in advance of negotiations," Hament wrote in the e-mailed response. "Your motives for this deviation are questioned."
Grau explained Friday that the union did want to wait weeks for a meeting.
"My intent was to make sure the city council had all the information available prior to the budget hearing last night (Thursday), and that they understood the importance and significance of our offer to them," he said.
"I felt that if we waited to reschedule another meeting with the city, it would take several more weeks," Grau said.
On Friday, Hament expected that it would take two or three weeks before labor negotiators for the city and union could sit down to bargain again.
The city's human resources department is currently working on it.
"We're basically going to make a formal offer to the city," Grau said of what the union intends to do once the two parties meet.
He thinks that the city's negotiators and city officials will be receptive.
"Our offer actually saves them more than the other one," Grau said.
In July, the union membership voted 185-1 to reject tentative agreements for a 3 percent pay cut and 2 percent pension contribution hike for officers, sergeants and lieutenants. Those totaled about $802,000 a year in savings.
When the proposal was presented Wednesday, some on the city council voiced support, while others thought that furloughs would equate to fewer officers on the streets and, as a result, more overtime pay to dish out.
Lt. Tony Sizemore, the spokesman for the Cape Coral Police Department, explained that furloughs are unpaid leave time. A cost-savings measure, they are prescheduled in accordance with existing leave time and staffing levels.
"It's a minimal impact," he said.
Officers do not take all their hours at once, where overtime is needed.
For example, he explained, 40 furlough hours in one year would be broken down to 10 hours per quarter, or about 3 and a half hours per month. If an officer comes on duty at 6 a.m., he or she may come in at 7 a.m. instead.
"That could be one furlough hour for one employee," Sizemore said.
The following week, another officer might get off an hour early.
"We just make sure there's an overlap of schedules," he said. "They (hours) can be taken in many different conjunctions to make sure we have staffing."
As another example, Sizemore cited if an officer were to take a 40-hour vacation, but they only use up 38 vacation hours. Those last two hours can be subtracted from the number of furlough hours available to the officer.
"So you're chipping away at that time frame throughout the year," he said.
The department's civilian staff and command staff - the rank of captain and above - have undergone furloughs for more than two years now. Civilian staffers currently have 38 hours a year, and the command staff have 40.
"It works without any kind of financial impact or overtime to cover," he said.
Sizemore added that the command staff may not be the front line, on-the-street officers, "but they are a viable part of this organization."
As the city and police union continue negotiations, the impasse stands. The city has waived the first step - mediation - which one party can do, by law. The next step is a special magistrate. Law says both parties must waive it.
Hament previously said the city wants to waive the first two steps and take the issue directly to the legislative body, which would be the city council. The magistrate can provide a recommendation, but the council has the final say.
Kunkel, Miller & Hament has been representing the city in the negotiations with fire, as well as police and general employees. As of Sept. 7, the city had paid the firm $74,318 for its services in connection to the police union talks.
It paid $54,348 in the fire talks, and $114,527 for the general employees.
9/23/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Hino back to five-day work week, by Jolene Craig (email@example.com) , Parkersburg News and Sentinel via newsandsentinel.com
WILLIAMSTOWN, W.V. - Hino Motors Manufacturing USA in Williamstown soon will be up to full production with five-day work weeks as parts needed to build its trucks have become more available since the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, an official said Thursday.
"We have gone back to five-day work weeks with three days of production, but will be upping production soon," said Sandy Ring, Hino's general manager of external and legal affairs at the company's home office in Michigan.
The Williamstown plant will go to four days of production a week in October and will be back to five days with full, predisaster production in November.
The cut in production at the local plant, which is on West Virginia 14, began in April when the Japanese-based company dropped production from five to four days a week. In May production was again decreased to a three-day week as parts for the trucks had become scarce after the natural disasters.
As the team members made trucks three days a week, they still worked four days a week with the fourth day used as training and process improvement.
"Once we get back to five-day work weeks, we will see an increase in production volume from there and hope to be above pre-tsunami numbers not long after," Ring said.
The tsunami and earthquake destroyed parts factories in northeast Japan and caused severe shortages for Toyota and other automakers. A nuclear power plant crippled by the tsunami forced other parts plants offline, which created an electricity supply crunch in the Tokyo and neighboring areas that is expected to continue for months.
The parts crunch was felt around the world, from Malaysia to the United Kingdom to the United States. The auto plant shutdowns caused shortages of some models, especially small and midsize cars.
Last week, Toyota Motor Corp. announced it was back to 100 percent production since the tsunami and earthquake in all North American auto-assembly plants after it temporarily halted all production following the March 11 disasters. Hino is a member of the Toyota family, which gets more than 90 percent of its auto components in Japan.
"Hino Japan is back to 100 percent production and we are hoping to get back to that as soon as possible," Ring said. "They are working hard trying to get everybody's parts numbers back to full production."
Before the disasters, the Williamstown plant had produced 25 trucks a day in one shift. During the scaling back of production, they cut to as few as 22 trucks a day.
"We are in the process of returning to pre-earthquake/tsunami numbers," Ring said. "In fact, for the foreseeable future, we will be at volumes slightly higher.
"Over the longer term, we hope volumes will continue to increase and our investment in Williamstown will continue to grow," he added.
- Greece's OTE reaches initial labour deal to cut costs, save jobs- workers, by Harry Papachristou, Reuters.com
ATHENS, Greece - Greece's dominant telecoms company OTE (OTEr.AT) has reached an initial agreement with workers on a five-year labour deal which cuts wages but avoids firings, the company's labour union said on Friday.
The deal cuts working hours by 12.5 percent to 35 hours a week, translating into an average payroll reduction of 11 percent over three years. Management pledged, in turn, to not seek dismissals or hire any temp workers. The full 40-hour week and current wages will not be reinstated before 2015, the company's labour union OME-OTE said.
"OME-OTE's board will convene on Monday to decide on whether to approve the deal, or not," the labour union said in a statement.
9/22/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- The NYT Has Not Heard About Work Sharing in Germany, by Dean Baker, BusinessInsider.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The NYT noted that Germany's unemployment rate is just 6.2 percent and told readers:
"One reason is a series of policies that loosened job protections and put more pressure on unemployed people to find work."
That might be one reason, although most research shows that these measures have a limited impact on unemployment. The more obvious explanation for Germany's low unemployment rate is its policy of work sharing. This policy encourages firms to reduce work hours rather than lay off workers. The result has been that Germany has met its reduced demand for labor primarily by shortening work hours.
The context for this comment was an assertion that Greece will have to take comparable measures to force people to find work. The prospect of work sharing in Greece and other countries facing demands for austerity might look like an attractive alternative to maintain employment during the downturn.
Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
- Obama's New Jobs Proposal: Can it Turn the Economy Around? by Dennis Prater, SocialistAlternative.org
SEATTLE, Wash. - Under pressure from the growing fear of a double-dip recession, and spurred by the need to boost his image, on September 8 President Obama made his much-anticipated jobs speech. He urged Congress to pass, without delay, a jobs bills that he argued would at the same time create much-needed jobs and provide a framework for debt reduction. This plan has been described as Obama’s chance to appear strong, to score a win on the economy, and to influence the upcoming presidential elections. The jobs bill comes as a blend of Obama-style bipartisanship, “free market” economic doctrine, and electoral positioning.
On Septmber 19, Obama went a step further with his pre-election fake populism, calling for - meager - taxes on the super-wealthy and an end to talk of attacks on Social Security. This is a smokescreen for historic attacks on New Deal programs as the economy goes from bad to worse. Like the jobs speech and all the "hope and change" before that, we are dealing with inadequate and mostly empty rhetoric. Socialist Alternative will provide a response to the more recent speech in the coming days.
The September 8 jobs speech came after the announcement that the unemployment rate in August held firm at 9.1% (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf) and a few days before a 2010 census report stating that there are 46.2 million Americans now living below the official poverty line. That is the highest poverty rate in the 52 years that the government has been calculating poverty statistics. This report, which is based on the official poverty line – a line set notoriously low – and uses census data that almost certainly leave out a large number of people – for example, many impoverished undocumented immigrants – nevertheless shows 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty, (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-09-13/poverty-in-u-s-climbed-to-17-year-high-in-2010-as-household-income-fell.html).
In the face of the massive nature of capitalism’s crisis, the $447 billion Obama has requested to fund the American Jobs Act seems relatively modest. It seems even more modest when we look at the way the money would be spent. One analysis (http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/09/09/140332084/parsing-obamas-jobs-bill) breaks it down this way: About $100 billion will go to pay for various infrastructure projects, such as repairing roads and upgrading school facilities. This part of the proposal resembles Obama’s earlier stimulus package, which partially succeeded in putting a bottom on the recession through a limited job creation.
However, once you add the total number of unemployed to the official unemployment rate, then tack on all the people in part-time work who want and need more work, you get, according to one estimate, 25 million people who need more work or just any work, (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/with_300_billion_the_president_can_reduce_unemployment_to_zero_20110908). If Obama’s proposal creates – as the most optimistic estimates predict – 1.9 million jobs, there are 23 million people who still need attention. Socialists call for nothing less than full employment with living wages and benefits.
About $100 billion would go to direct assistance, with $35 billion to keep teachers, firefighters and police on the job and the rest going largely in the form of an extension of unemployment insurance. The extension, however, isn’t all that is proposed for unemployment insurance.
The American Jobs Act would offer unemployment insurance money to workers whose employers choose “work sharing” over layoffs. In its statement on the act, the Center for Economic and Policy Research defines what is called “work sharing” in this way: “Rather than just paying workers who have lost their job, work sharing allows workers to be partially compensated for shorter work hours. Instead of one worker getting half pay after losing her job, under work sharing five workers may get 10 percent of their pay cut after their hours are cut by 20 percent,” (http://www.cepr.net/index.php/press-releases/press-releases/statement-american-jobs-act-worksharing). Notice it says “partially compensated.” Rather than a kinder, gentler way to have our standard of living cut, socialists call for sharing out the available work with no loss of pay. Have the CEOs who helped to cause the crisis received only partial “compensation”?
[These simpletons can "call for" whatever they like, but as long as they regard all employers as multinational CEOs getting millions regardless of their company's health, they aren't getting the huge audience they've had by now if they jumped on shorter hours as labor's power issue 150 years ago as they should have. They ignore the fact with less work and productivity, many employers who are not lavishly compensated do not have the revenue to maintain "no loss of pay." And socialists never seem to "get it" that as worksharing's shorter hours create jobs and cut the labor surplus, market forces flexibly carry pay back up as employers get bidding against one another for good help.]
As it turns out, the proposal for unemployment insurance is also one of the more “bipartisan” aspects of Obama’s proposal. Part of it promotes a new model of unemployment that claims to move people off of unemployment benefits more quickly by allowing the unemployed to take temporary work or pursue on-the-job training. This part of the proposal is so bipartisan that the number two Republican in the House, Eric Cantor, even claims that the Republicans proposed it first. He said it is “something that we should be able to get to work on right away,” (“Could Obama’s jobs bill help end jobless benefits as we know them?” http://news.yahoo.com, 9/13/2011).
This part of the proposal is called the “Bridge to Work” program. Work for the millions of unemployed is a good thing, as is job training. However, it is important to take a second look. If you look at recent historical precedent, it is difficult not to see this proposal as yet another veiled attack on the social safety net, a further infringement on the part of the “free market” doctrine that public programs, wherever possible, should provide profits for the pockets of a few private capitalists. In 1996, Bill Clinton ended welfare as we knew it – without ending the need for welfare. We have seen delicate and not-so-delicate moves to privatize Social Security. And now we must ask: Why should government programs direct workers into insecure, low-pay, no-benefits temporary work? Why build a “bridge to work” when the work at the other end of your bridge is so unstable? It is entirely possible – and needed – for the government to create a massive, direct-hire public works program to meet the needs of people and to massively invest in green energy from the ground up. This, as well as full employment, is what we must demand.
The bulk of the American Jobs Act – around $250 billion - would go to tax cuts. Most of this $250 billion will go to a massive reduction of the payroll tax. You can find a good explanation of what the payroll tax is and of current payroll tax rates here: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2011/09/08/obamas-payroll-tax-plan/. Usually, this tax is paid by both bosses and workers on a 50/50 split. Obama’s proposal would temporarily reduce the current – already reduced – rate by a further 0.9% for workers and by 3.1% for the bosses, who up to now have been paying their usual rate of 6.2%.
The idea that further tax cuts will provide an incentive for new hiring on the part of employers is a further extension of the bailout idea: that if we just let so-called “job creators” have enough money, they will hire workers and get us out of this recession. Actually, bosses hire workers when they think that they can profit from their labor. Currently, they don’t want to hire because they know there is a lack of effective demand for their products, which must be sold in order to bring in profits. The bosses won’t hire workers to make products they can’t sell, so a payroll tax reduction for them, while it may have a minimal effect in new hiring, will on the whole serve merely as an incentive to further hoarding.
Working people already pay too much in taxes, so a payroll tax cut for workers may seem like a positive measure. However, this is the most right-wing way to give workers a tax cut. Payroll taxes fund the Social Security program, and Obama’s proposed payroll tax cut will prepare the way for worse attacks against Social Security. After the program is undermined by this cut in funding, the corporate politicians will then perversely use the deficit their actions created as an excuse for further attacks on Social Security. The ruling-class strategy to undermine public education – starve the schools for money and then introduce reactionary “reforms” because they are “failing” – is now being brought to bear against Social Security.
Moreover, the effect that a payroll tax cut would have as an economic stimulus measure would be minimal. Given the turbulent economy, workers may be inclined to save this money. The many who are already too behind on bills to save it may use it to pay off some debt, but this is neither a source of new demand nor a lever to boost the economy out of crisis. There are far better ways – such as directly creating decent jobs - for Obama to push for progressive stimulus measures that will put money in workers’ pockets.
Nevertheless, AFL-CIO President Trumka, who has lately made disapproving comments on the Democratic Party’s lack of fight on issues important to working people, welcomed Obama’s speech as a sign that the president “is willing to go to the mat” for job creation. In his statement on the proposal, Trumka reminds his readers that “this economic crisis was not created overnight, and it will not be solved overnight.” Counseling patience and reliance on the president, Trumka reminds us that this is “only the opening bid” in a series of moves to end the crisis (http://aflcio.org/mediacenter/prsptm/pr09082011c.cfm).
Given this administration’s record, we may well wonder whether the closing bid will come shortly after election day. When it comes to protecting ourselves from the ravages of the capitalist economy, working people can only rely on ourselves. We desperately need a movement organized in the streets and in the workplaces to push the situation in our favor, the favor of the vast majority. The only change we can believe in is the change we make for ourselves.
We need rallies around the country to demand:
* 1. Hands off Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid! No cuts to education and social services!
* 2. We need jobs, not Cuts! Fund a federal public works program to create millions of jobs for the unemployed.
* 3. Tax the super-rich and big corporations!
* 4. End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan! Slash Pentagon spending!
This could kick-start a movement and a coalition to fight for more far-reaching demands with a wider strategy including strikes, direct action and independent candidates against budget cuts.
[Same old rhetoric. You'd think after 150 years of impotence, socialists would get a little more focused and strategic. AND start translating their agenda into the self-interest of wealthy decision-makers, who are also screwing themselves with today's contradictory policies, such as trying to get growth alias UPsizing, by downsizing, and continuing the policy of redistributing the money supply to the topmost minuscule of the population, where with zero interest rates, there's no reason for risking it in potentially job-creating projects.]
9/21/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Palm Bay city manager finalizes budget after unions vote to accept furloughs, BrevardTimes.com
PALM BAY, Fla. -- City Manager Sue Hann announces the finalization of the proposed fiscal year 2012 budget that will be voted on by the City Council on Thursday, September 22nd following a public hearing that will begin at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers. The proposed budget includes up to 9 furlough days that have been approved by the collective bargaining groups representing the City's union employees. The furloughs, which will affect all employees, helps close a budget shortfall that resulted from a 23.6 percent drop in property values over the prior fiscal year. "It has been an extremely difficult budget cycle," said City Manager Sue Hann. "However, this budget represents a balance of City employees, residents and business each making sacrifices to ensure Palm Bay remains strong even while facing financial challenges. I am very proud of our City staff and I am honored by their commitment to Palm Bay."
In summary the proposed General Fund 2012 budget totals $55,641,960. The budget reflects a property tax rate of 9.0 mills, increased from 7.5000 mills, but projected to bring in $1,875,538 less in property taxes than last fiscal year. "Our budgeting and operating strategies will need to be different in the future and Palm Bay's employees are prepared to be innovated and creative in our approach to the business of local government," Hann added.
The City continues to pursue grant opportunities to support roads, police, fire personnel and equipment and economic development incentives to create jobs and improve the local economy.
- Firefighter work week reviewed - Week would be 54 hours, by Jody Murphy (firstname.lastname@example.org), Parkersburg News and Sentinel via newsandsentinel.com
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. - Maybe less is more.
Members of Parkersburg City Council's Personnel Committee Tuesday approved a revision for the city's policy and procedures to adjust the fire department's work week from 48 to 54 hours a week.
The move would result in a 12 percent increase in wages for the firefighters but officials said it will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in pension costs down the road.
"This is the right thing to do," Mayor Bob Newell said.
[Oh no it ain't.]
Fire Chief Eric Taylor recommended council members approve a change for firefighters from 48 hours a week to 54 hours a week. Under the change firefighters would work three 48-hour shifts a month and a 72-hour shift, a 54-hour per month average.
[48-hour shifts? A 72-hour shift? Welcome to the workweeks of the 1850s.]
Taylor said it would be the addition of one 24-hour shift a month, 12 or 13 additional 24-hour shifts a year.
Taylor said the adjustment would amount to a 12 percent increase in wages for firefighters.
[No, wages will be the same or lower. Personal income will be temporarily higher until the resulting local labor surplus pushes down wages (money per hour). Free time for family, friends, civic involvement, hobbies, travel...LIFE, will be less. If the firefighters accept this, they're drinking Guiana cocktails.]
Committee chairman Tom Joyce made it clear the wage increase was not a raise.
"You work more (hours) you get paid more," he said.
[Until the increased labor surplus pushes down your hourly pay.]
The chief said they are still maintaining 15 firefighters per shift, but paying two people 24 hours of overtime everyday.
"I cannot sustain that," Taylor said.
Officials said the revisions will not change the number of manpower (15) to fill a shift. The chief added the caveat: His department will need a 57-man roster to run the schedule. The department has 49 on-duty men and three staff positions. One firefighter is on unpaid leave.
Taylor wants to hire four firefighters immediately.
Without the [upward] adjustment to 54 hours, the firefighters staff level would be increased to 63.
[There it is in black and white: longer hours, fewer jobs and more anxious, wage-depressing unemployed - shorter hours, more jobs and fewer anxious, wage-depresseing unemployed.]
Personnel Director Pam Savage said the hiring of a new firefighter costs about $14,000 in benefits.
Newell said the adjustment to 54 hours will save the city over the long haul. The mayor said the city pays $745 per month, per person in OPEB liability.
"Hiring seven more men each month and multiple that by 20 years saves hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.
The committee unanimously approved the proposal, sending it onto the full council for consideration.
The committee also approved giving employees the full day off for Christmas Eve. Employees are now given a half day off for Christmas Eve.
The request was one of several the mayor brought before the committee at the request of the Employee Advisory Committee. Newell said the request had been discussed before.
"In light of the insurance increase and the suspension of longevity pay, I was asked to bring this up," he said.
Officials said the proposal will not cost the city any more money, but will result in a reduction in productivity for regular employees.
Newell noted the half-day of Christmas Eve is uneventful. He also said many employees opt to take a half-day off.
Employees who receive holiday pay (such as police and fire) would get eight hours instead of four in holiday pay. As a result, it will cost the city an additional $15,000-$20,000, according to Joyce, who cited a discussion with Finance Director Doug Life.
Life is on vacation and did not attend the meeting. Council member Brad Kimes was also absent.
Councilman John Rockhold, who attended the meeting by phone, thought the move was a good one.
"To show our appreciation to employees," he said.
Council member Sharon Lynch disagreed.
"I wish I could feel warm and fuzzy but when we have the user fee, water rate increases and raised insurance as a council member I am not sure I support this."
Lynch was the lone no vote (3-1) and the motion was approved and forwarded onto the Finance Committee for additional consideration.
[So someone, something, somewhere else will have to do the hiring for West Virginia's economic recovery. But then, W.Virginians ain't the brightest bulbs in a nation of increasingly dim bulbs. Then there's the split situation where the "privileged" betray their neighbors...and themselves -]
- City Hall's Lax Travel Rules | Preckwinkle's Furlough Fury | Rahm's CTA Facelift Plan, by Hunter Clauss & Dan Mihalopoulos, Chicago News Cooperative via chicagonewscoop.org
CHICAGO, Illin. - CITY HALL’S JET SET
Some aldermen are enjoying free trips to the Netherlands thanks to a bicycling advocacy group from Boulder, Colo. But they do not have to report the travel on their financial disclosure statements because city ethics rules are far more lenient than the standards for state and federal politicians, as well as the requirements for leaders of other major U.S. cities, including New York. The travel disclosure rules are one sphere that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s transparency efforts have not sought to alter.
NOT GOOD FOR THE GANDER
Cook County Commissioners Earleen Collins and William Beavers said they do not plan to voluntarily take furlough days as a measure of solidarity with workers who are taking 10 unpaid days off. Without naming names, county Board President Toni Preckwinkle took issue with that approach, saying she was “concerned about commissioners who haven’t behaved as leaders.”
- Many aldermen did not take furlough days, even as city workers took as many as 24 furloughs a year...
CTA’S $25 MILLION FACELIFT
Emanuel and Chicago Transit Authority [CTA] President Forrest Claypool would not rule out fare increases to help the CTA balance its budget. Claypool said the CTA borrowed about $554 million in recent years to help stay out of the red. “Obviously, there’s no one left to borrow from,” he said.
- The mayor and Claypool announced a $25 million program to clean and repair 100 CTA stations....
- The state’s senators, Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, want Metra to explain why it is considering dramatic fare hikes.
IN THE LINE OF DUTY
The medical examiner ruled that police officer Kevin Robinson died in April from breathing fumes from a cleaning substance used at the Southwest Side station where he worked. A janitor reportedly had sprayed the substance from an aerosol can onto a desk at the station.
Skin in the Game: Emanuel will head to Iowa in November to stump for President Obama.
Friend with Major Benefits: Warren Buffett is coming to Chicago to headline an Obama fundraiser.
Shalom: Emanuel delivered the keynote address at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago’s annual meeting.
Collecting the Checks: Vice President Joe Biden attended two fund-raisers in Chicago expected to bring in $250,000 to $500,000.
Not Much Pain, Lots of Gain: More than 20 retired union officials stand to collect about $56 million from two city pension funds.
Pay to Play: City Hall lobbyists were paid more than $6 million between Jan. 20 and July 20.
Choosing Sides: Preckwinkle will host a fund-raiser for Raja Krishnamoorthi, who is running for Congress against Tammy Duckworth.
Taking it to the Internet: Chicago Public Schools launched a website advocating for a longer day this school year.
Moving in: Wal-Mart opens its first downtown store at Presidential Towers.
North Shore Newspaper War: Jack Ryan introduces competition to the Sun-Times’ Pioneer Press paper in Glenview.
9/20/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Canada August Composite Leading Indicators (Text), by Ilan Kolet, Bloomberg.com
OTTAWA, Canada - Following is the text of Canada's leading indicators report from Statistics Canada.
The composite leading index was little changed in August for the third month in a row. Of the 10 components, 6 continued to expand in August, the same number as in July. The weakness in the index was concentrated in the housing index and the stock market, both of which fell more than the month before. The unsmoothed version of the index showed a slight improvement, with a 0.6% increase in August matching its gain in July as a recovery of manufacturing from supply disruptions in the second quarter outweighed losses in the stock market and in housing.
Most of the 0.7% drop in the housing index originated in lower existing home sales. Housing starts levelled off, after recovering over the previous five months. Furniture and appliance sales remained robust, rising 1.1%. Spending on other durable goods rose 1.6%, its largest monthly increase during the recovery, partly as shortages of Japanese models began to ease.
Manufacturing remained mixed. New orders rose 3.4% for a second straight month, as manufacturers began to recover from a series of supply disruptions in autos, petroleum and metal refining that had hampered second-quarter output. However, the trend of shipments has not yet begun to recover, and the ratio of sales to stocks fell for a third straight month. The average workweek continued to fall, although factory employment has been stable in recent months. This partly reflects a decision by firms to keep their workers on staff during the supply disruptions, but at reduced hours.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ilan Kolet in Ottawa at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Marco Babic at email@example.com
- Confederation head slams minister on working hours, HurriyetDailyNews.com
ISTANBUL, Turkey - Turkish authorities must consult with both employers and employees before amending any regulations related to the country’s labor sector instead of just considering international standards, the head of the Turkish Confederation of Employer Associations, or TISK, said Tuesday.
Tugrul Kudatgobilik harshly criticized Development Minister Cevdet Y|lmaz for saying Monday that working hours would be cut. “Let the minister first consult with the Turkish industrialists that opened the way to (high economic) growth in Turkey,” he said.
[It's nice to hear from a Development Minister who's aware of the developed economies' history of cutting workhours (from over 80 in 1840, to 40 in 1940 in the USA) and knows that that is precisely the way to develop a high-wage workforce, a strong domestic consumer base, highly marketable productivity, sustainable domestic investments, and a robust economy overall. Employers complained every step of the way from the 80 hour workweek down to the 40-hour workweek. But they are incapable of hiring on the necessary massive levels if left with a frozen workweek from any earlier level of technology. If it's really true that "Turkish industrialists...opened the way to (high economic) growth in Turkey," why are so many Turks going to shorter-hours Germany for jobs? Notice Germany breezed through the downturn with Kurzarbeit = "short work" = hourscuts instead of jobcuts.]
Noting that authorities claimed they were aiming to bring Turkey’s working hours nearer to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, average, Kudatgobilik said: “The OECD [represents] the United States on one hand, and Japan on the other. There is no such a request [to reduce working hours] by Turkish workers’ confederations either.”
Entering the debate on the possible end to severance payments in Turkey, Kutadgobilik said, “Such changes should not take place without first taking the opinion of both employers and employees.”
Regulations on working conditions must be changed in accordance with the global competitive environment and should resemble the relevant European Union legislation following consultations with all affected parties, he said.
9/18-19/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Big changes for unemployment benefits in Pa., by Kyle O'Donnell, 9/19 Daily Local News via dailylocal.com
EAST WHITELAND, Penn. -- Pennsylvanians who receive unemployment benefits will experience changes in the system beginning next year.
Officials from Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry informed an audience of nearly 300 residents Friday of the changes at The Managing Your Career Transition Conference.
The conference was hosted and managed by Penn State Great Valley’s Office of Continuing Professional Studies. The Chester County Workforce Investment Board and State Rep. Duane Milne co-sponsored the event.
Starting in January, a work search stipulation will be added to unemployment benefits, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway said.
Under the stipulation, unemployment beneficiaries will need to prove that they are actively searching for a job.
Although the state has yet to determine specific criteria for the work search requirement, recipients of unemployment benefits will work through Pennsylvania’s CareerLink on a weekly basis, said Patrick Beaty, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Deputy Secretary for Unemployment Compensation Programs.
The new requirement should not be seen as a limitation on the unemployed, Hearthway said. It is a new opportunity to collect information on jobseekers and directly show employers that qualified individuals are willing and able to work.
Pennsylvania is the last state to enact the requirement, Beaty said.
Another big change for the unemployed: The term of benefits will be reduced next year from 99 weeks to 86 weeks, Beaty said.
The reduction of 13 weeks of benefits is due to Congress not renewing the longer policy, Beaty said. Benefits on the 13-week extension will stop immediately in 2012.
Also beginning in 2012: Severance pay will affect unemployment benefits, Beaty said.
If a severance package equates to more than 40 percent of the average yearly wage in Pennsylvania, weekly unemployment benefits will be offset by the amount of severance pay designated for that week, Beaty said.
The state also is encouraging a shared work program in order to prevent mass layoffs, Beaty said.
Under the shared work program, employers can opt to reduce the number of work hours for an employee. The employee would then receive unemployment benefits for the lost time.
Beaty presented a scenario where an employee’s workweek may be reduced from five days to four days. The employee will be able to receive unemployment benefits for the lost day of work each week.
Such a scenario would equate to compensation of four and a half days, Beaty said.
Beaty also informed the audience about regulations on how self-employment will affect unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania.
Residents cannot receive unemployment benefits during weeks in which they engage in actions that demonstrate self-employment, such as renting an office or advertising services, Beaty said.
Self-employment laws can be traps for the unwary, Beaty said. Businesses do not need to earn profits for the reduction of unemployment benefits to occur.
“Nothing in federal law would prevent us,” Beaty said of changing self-employment regulations that may limit entrepreneurship.
Currently, Pennsylvania has an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent which equates to 516,000 residents, Hearthway said.
Although Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is below the national average, the Department of Labor and Industry needs to work to improve those numbers, Hearthway said.
“I hate to use the phrase I’m from the government and I’m here to help you, but I’m from the government, and we are truly here to help,” Hearthway said.
Aside from the explanation of unemployment benefits, the conference also highlighted resources for Chester County residents such as CareerLink and Commonwealth Workforce Development System.
The Department of Labor and Industry has two goals, Hearthway said. It needs to connect people without jobs to hiring employers and help to grow hiring processes within the state.
Workshops are also available to Chester County residents, Chester County Workforce Investment Board Director Patrick Bokovitz said.
Additional information for jobseekers can be found at Chester County’s Workforce Investment Board’s website http://www.chesco.org/wib/site/default.asp or Pennsylvania CareerLink https://www.cwds.state.pa.us/
- Jobs bills not enough to solve unemployment, economy, 9/18 Cincinnati.com
CINCINATTI, Oh. - More than a week after President Obama unveiled his $447 billion jobs package, the plan hasn't exactly generated a groundswell of support. Polls show voters doubt the bill would reduce unemployment, and legislators in both parties are bashing the plan.
That doesn't mean the proposal lacks merit. Obama's correct that we should move now on jobs, and that government must play a role. We urge our representatives in Congress to act promptly in the coming weeks to pass measures to add jobs.
Then, they should focus on longer-term solutions - such as tax simplification, regulation reform, free trade agreements, deficit reduction and Social Security/Medicare fixes - and have plans in place by the end of the year, after the congressional "supercommittee" on the debt will have completed its work.
But all this ought to come with a reality check for the public:
Government can do only so much. It can't will enough jobs into existence to make up for the 8 million jobs we lost in the recession. It can't solve the unemployment problem with magic wand. There's no short-term fix and no long-term guarantees. For one thing, until the nation's backlog of foreclosed and distressed homes works its way through the system, which could take years, the economy's key housing sector isn't going to be a boon, but a drag on employment. Washington can't simply fix that.
So we can't expect miracles from any jobs package that passes. Even optimistic projections on Obama's bill show about a 1 percent drop in unemployment next year.
What can Congress and the president do right away to help boost employment in the next few months? Some specifics:
• Payroll tax breaks, the least controversial part of Obama's plan, would mean $175 billion more income for workers and $65 billion for employers - more than half of the Obama bill's $447 billion price tag.
Some doubt it will prompt consumers to spend or employers to make new hires in a big way, but putting that much cash directly into the hands of employees and businesses will give the economy some lift. And it is money that won't be kept in the federal system, where it could take months or years to take effect in a federal program.
• Aid for the unemployed can help the economy quickly. Unemployment checks get spent, helping produce goods and services. Obama's plan also lets states craft their own back-to-work programs - including such ideas as adapting Germany's "Kurzarbeit" or "short work" [or "worksharing"] plan, in which the unemployed get part-time work, in effect sharing wages. And it would provide incentives to hire people who have been unemployed for more than six months - workers that firms now overlook, studies have shown. All that could make a quick dent in the unemployment rate.
• Job training programs, particularly at community colleges such as Cincinnati State, are effective ways to target growth industries and move workers into good-paying jobs in those industries. But there aren't enough of those programs, and not enough funding for them. More resources for colleges to work with businesses to craft such programs to their needs could directly translate, in a matter of months, into new hires in booming industries.
It's a real need. The Brookings Institute recently reported that our region does a poor job matching educated workers with growing industries. Strengthen that match, and you boost employment.
A successful bill should take the best ideas from both parties. This is a chance for lawmakers finally to demonstrate that they can not just compromise, but collaborate.
Beyond the jobs bill, Congress and the White House must finally collaborate and develop a larger recovery strategy. In a visit here last week to promote Obama's plan package, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank argued that the bill is just one piece of what should be a much wider plan for job creation and economic growth.
We agree. Such a comprehensive plan should include broad tax reform to make the system simpler and fairer, closing loopholes and decreasing the cost of doing business. It should include a commitment to fair free-trade agreements to ease our exports, creating jobs.
It should include serious reform of federal regulations, as Michael L. Marlow, a former chief economist with the Treasury, writes (below). And it should take real, if painful, steps to reduce the national debt, and to secure the future for Social Security and Medicare.
Yes, the parties must come together quickly and support a jobs initiative. Each should be open to good ideas from the other side. But they have to work on the tough, politically risky stuff, too - the long-term fixes we've mentioned.
And they should admit that nothing they enact is going to work flash-magic on unemployment and the economy. A jobs bill is only a first step, but let's get it moving.
9/17/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- For jobs, it's war - The battle for good jobs is global, op ed by Charles Blow firstname.lastname@example.org, New York Times via nytimes.com
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - The American political discussion has finally turned to the right target: jobs.
Even so, the president’s jobs bill is already being nickeled and dimed from the right — and the left — even though it is only throwing nickels and dimes at the problem to begin with. But at least it’s a start, even if a long-overdue one.
To understand just how overdue it is, one need look no further than the absolutely dreadful data issued this week by the Census Bureau about the increasing numbers of people falling into poverty. No matter how you slice it, it’s bloody.
There are now 46.2 million poor Americans.
Of those, 2.6 million fell into poverty last year.
At 15.1 percent, the poverty rate is at its highest since 1993.
Bloody, bloody, bloody.
But even those numbers somewhat obscure the true historic nature of the crisis and the effect that the recession, falling wages and chronic joblessness have had on those living in poverty. If you remove children and the elderly and just look at working-age adults — those 18 to 64 — the picture is even more bleak. The percentage of that group that is in poverty is the highest recorded since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “war on poverty” during his first State of the Union address in January 1964.
And it’s not that most of these people don’t have jobs. It’s that they don’t have good jobs that pay enough to push them out of poverty. Three out of four of those below the poverty line work: half have full-time jobs, a quarter work part time. Only a quarter do not work at all.
This raises an important distinction — not only do we need to create more jobs, we need to increase the number of good jobs. And we can’t see that quest for good jobs as an internal skirmish between warring political ideologies. It’s an international war. At least that is the way Jim Clifton, chairman of Gallup, frames it in his fascinating — and frightening — new book, “The Coming Jobs War.”
According to Clifton, “the coming world war is an all-out global war for good jobs.”
(He defines a good job, also known as a formal job, as one with a “paycheck from an employer and steady work that averages 30-plus hours per week.”)
In the book he makes this striking statement, drawing from all of Gallup’s data: “The primary will of the world is no longer about peace or freedom or even democracy; it is not about having a family, and it is neither about God nor about owning a home or land. The will of the world is first and foremost to have a good job. Everything else comes after that.” The only problem is that there are not enough good jobs to go around.
Clifton explains that of the world’s five billion people over 15 years old, three billion said they worked or wanted to work, but there are only 1.2 billion full-time, formal jobs. Therefore his conclusion “from reviewing Gallup’s polling on what the world is thinking on pretty much everything is that the next 30 years won’t be led by U.S. political or military force.”
“Instead,” he says, “the world will be led with economic force — a force that is primarily driven by job creation and quality G.D.P. growth.” And guess who is vying for the lead? That’s right: China.
And I must say, we don’t appear to be poised to fight this war. In education we’ve gone from leading to lagging, our infrastructure is literally crumbling around us, ever-expanding health care costs threaten to suffocate us and our politics have succumbed to paralysis.
A widely-cited 2009 study by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools,” found that the recent American educational achievement gaps — between black and Latino students and white ones; between low-income students and the rest; between low-performing states and the rest; and between the United States as a whole and better-performing countries — not only cost the economy trillions of dollars, they also “impose on the United States the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.”
According to a recent report by the Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young, China has “about 9 percent of G.D.P. devoted to infrastructure, compared with less than 3 percent in the United States.” And the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure graded by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2009 was so full of C’s and D’s that it looked like Rick Perry’s college transcript. The group estimated that $2.2 trillion of investment over five years was needed to bring conditions up to par. We’re not even close to that.
Furthermore, Clifton points out that 30 percent of America’s students drop out or do not graduate on time. He concludes, “If this problem isn’t fixed fast, the United States will lose the next worldwide, economic, jobs-based war because its players can’t read, write or think as well as their competitors in a game for keeps.”
And, a Rand Corporation study released last week found that “between 1999 and 2009, total spending on health care in the United States nearly doubled, from $1.3 trillion to $2.5 trillion. During the same period, the percentage of the nation’s gross domestic product devoted to health care climbed from 13.8 percent to 17.6 percent. Per person health care spending grew from $4,600 to just over $8,000 annually.”
We simply can’t sustain that sort of growth.
Clifton enumerates 10 “demands” that America will have to master to “lead the new will of the world” — from drastically increasing exports, to having investments follow “rare entrepreneurs versus the worldwide oversupply of innovation,” to something as basic as doing a better job of identifying where likely customers are. But at the top of the list is understanding that the world has a shortage of good jobs and every decision of every leader must be informed by increasing the share of those jobs.
He puts it this way:
“The war for global jobs is like World War II: a war for all the marbles. The global war for jobs determines the leader of the free world. If the United States allows China or any country or region to out-enterprise, out-job-create, out-grow its G.D.P., everything changes. This is America’s next war for everything.”
- Crowd-sourcing the budget, ChicagoTribune.com
CHICAGO, Illin. - The new mayor asked Chicagoans for ideas on how to balance the budget, and he got thousands of them. Cut the electric bill by turning off every other streetlight. Make out-of-town motorists pay a toll to enter the city. Install a zip line and charge thrill-seekers to surf between skyscrapers. Those were among our favorites, printed last week on the Perspective page.
Many of the ideas require further study. This one doesn't: "Rested employees perform better and get sick less frequently. Eliminating vacation days from being carried over into another year will prevent the city from having to make large payouts when an employee separates from his or her position. The city should mandate that all city employees take their annual vacation time."
The same day's paper carried a story about Mayor Rahm Emanuel's planned changes to vacation policy for nonunion city workers.
The changing of the guard at City Hall cost taxpayers more than $9.5 million in going-away pay, as more than 1,100 departing workers cashed in stockpiles of unused time due.
Leading the pack were former police Superintendent Jody Weis, who collected more than $76,000 for 64 unused vacation days, and former mayor Richard Daley's most recent chief of staff, Ray Orozco, who cashed out 120 days for more than $81,000.
Emanuel wants to move the city to the use-it-or-lose-it model that long ago became standard in the private sector. Under the new policy, employees could carry over a maximum of five vacation days from one year to the next. They'd have until the end of 2012 to burn their accumulated days.
The mayor is also reviewing policies covering comp time and administrative and medical leave.
Many employees have backlogs of unused vacation time because they were forced to take up to 24 days off without pay – 12 holidays and 12 furlough days – to help balance the last three budgets. (Which is worse — that city workers got no paid holidays last year, or that they normally get 12? There's another disconnect between what goes on in private and public sectors.)
Banked vacation days eroded the savings from those furloughs. The carry-over is a taxpayer liability. When the Daley crowd exited, $9.5 million of it came due.
Those furloughs were among the stop-gap gimmicks that Daley used to patch together his final budget, leaving it to his successor to address thorny issues like ballooning pension costs, wasteful union work rules or outsize vacation-time payouts.
By declaring a TIF surplus [Tax Incremental Finance], raiding the rainy-day fund and shutting down City Hall on Christmas Eve, Daley managed only to shove the problems down the road. For lasting fiscal relief, the city might have been better off with that zip line.
9/16/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Call that a strike? Looks more like a temper tantrum to me, by Nick Wood, Daily Mail via wood.dailymail.co.uk
LONDON, U.K. - On the final day of their sadly shrunken annual conference, a shrunken band of brothers vowed to bring the country to its knees over the less than heroic matter of public sector pension contributions.
Once they swamped car parks, downed tools, marched and picketed for higher pay, shorter hours, longer holidays and the imminent overthrow of the capitalist bloodsuckers.
Now the children of the revolution threaten the biggest industrial confrontation for a generation over how they are going to manage in their old age. Don't get me wrong. As The Guardian would put it, pensions are boring but important. But no one under the age of 50 ever thinks they are going to get old.
Once the Trades Union Congress filled a town the size of Brighton or Blackpool, took over dozens of hotels, consumed a tsunami of alcohol and was waited on by an army of reporters. This week, in case you missed it, the TUC was staged at head office in Bloomsbury, attracted no more than a few hundred fossils, and aside from one rather fine slap-up meal, posed no threat to the capital's copious supplies of draft bitter and fine wines.
The rhetoric was vintage 1970s. The reality is rather pathetic for those of us who lived through the glory days of trade union power and can see just how far the mighty have fallen.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison (whatever that is), pledged the fight of our lives. GMB boss Brian Strutton said that the unions were not talking about a token day of protest. "We are talking about something that is long, hard and dirty as well.
"This is going to require days of action, running through the winter into next year and right into the summer."
We have all heard about paradise postponed. In the case of the TUC, Armageddon is going to be postponed as well.
The first one day strike, which could involve about a dozen unions, is not scheduled until the end of November - more than two months away. The rehearsal, held at the end of June, was backed by only a handful of unions and beyond closing a few thousand schools had minimal impact on the life of the nation.
Nothing like the good old days. Back in the 1950s, when Peter Sellers starred in I'm All Right Jack, a film satirising militant trade unionism, Britain was already world class at striking, clocking up an average of around 3 million working days lost a year.
By the 1970s, with the unions running riot, the figures were far more impressive. In the winter of discontent, 1979, the tally was around 30 million lost working days, slightly better than Arthur Scargill's doomed miner's strike of 1984/5 when 27 million days went west.
Today, the figures for working days lost average under one million - puny when you compare it to the 160 million days lost during 1926, the year of the general strike.
Nor were strikes merely one-day affairs, cunningly contrived to hurt the public while causing minimal distress to workers' pay packets. The Grunwick dispute in north London lasted more than two years and featured Labour Cabinet Minister Shirley Williams, now a Lib Dem peer, on the picket line. The union lost and so did Mrs Williams at the 1979 general election.
The seamen's strike of 1966 lasted five weeks and led the government to declare a state of emergency. In the winter of discontent, just about everyone from lorry drivers to NHS ancillary workers, binmen and gravediggers weighed in with strikes lasting weeks if not months.
Things have changed a lot over the last 25 years. Trade union membership has halved to around 6 million and is heavily concentrated in the public sector. I cannot remember the last private sector strike of any account, except for British Airways, which retains a charmingly retro 1970s feel anyway.
The union bosses huff and puff and grab a few minutes of airtime on the news. But I find it hard to take their threats seriously. Ok, they may close some schools and a few benefit offices might shut (which might even save some money), but there will be no return to the salad days of the 1970s when the likes of Vic Feather, Joe Gormley, Jack Jones and Hugh Scanlon were a permanent fixture on the Nine O'Clock News.
I am reminded of the film Crocodile Dundee when the hero is accosted by a thug demanding his wallet. His terrified girlfriend warns him that the youth has a knife. No, says Crocodile, that's not a knife, as he pulls a machete from his belt. This is a knife.
Maybe I will be proved wrong. But I bet Wednesday November 30 will be a day much like any other.
- Friday is state furlough day, Albany Democrat Herald via democratherald.com
ALBANY, Ore. - Most state offices will close Friday as employees take an unpaid furlough day.
Statewide the closure affects 26,500 employees.
Asked why the furloughs are not being taken in a staggered fashion so that the agencies could remain open, the state Human Resource Services Division sent word that most unions bargained the 10 fixed closure dates in their contracts.
State officials in the Department of Administrative Services in Salem said the closure would save $2 million.
The closure on Sept. 16 is the first of 10 closure dates the state has scheduled over the current two-year budget period.
While the closures affect both management and non-management employees, many state workers will take up to four additional days of unpaid furlough on a floating basis during the biennium.
Customers can still do business with DMV and some other state agencies online, even though the offices are closed.
“I encourage the public to check agencies’ websites to find out whether online transactions are possible on the closure day,” said chief operating officer Michael Jordan.
Certain state employees who provide essential services in public safety will remain on the job as usual. That includes state police troopers, corrections officers, certain state hospital workers, and many ODOT workers, for example.
The Oregon Department of Administrative Services has published information on the state’s website (www.Oregon.gov) where members of the public can find out which state offices will remain open on the closure days.
9/15/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- 40-hour work week may be thing of past, by Charles Samek of Mineola NY, TheIslandNow.com
WILLISTON PARK, Long Is., N.Y. - For many months I have listened to dozens of economists with nothing or very little to say. Only once did one touch on the idea that supply is exceeding demand.
Now that tune had changed to that there are some jobs but the applicants don't have the skills: college degrees. It is not a college degree that makes one capable of productive operation of a machine.
Every time I got to a store or whatever for something I am shopping for shortages too. I have not found any shortages. The shelves are full of every product and service. It seems possible that the number of people not working who would like to have a job exceeds far beyond what is indicated by 9.1 percent unemployment.
Possibly four out of five are producing for our needs. The technology and automation of today has made this the new reality. It is clear that the 40 hour week has become obsolete here in the 21st Century. We need a four to four and one half day work week depending on requirements employing everyone who wants to work. Share and share alike.
There are many who would squeal but they are paying the unemployment too. It should become the law of the land. We should all rejoice in the foregoing. Unemployment as we know it would be a thing of the past and everyone could use their added time to better themselves. Economy solely for economy's sake has no value. Our creator does not give a hoot about economy.
I read the article by Larry Penner "Regional councils questionable way to spur biz." According to article, Gov. Cuomo wants to give $1 billion of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars "in an attempt" to create new jobs by creating 12 regional economic councils around the state. Allow me to dramatize $1 billion a bit. One billions dollars equals 1,000 millionaires. It is said over and over these days that the corporations are sitting on a lot of cash and the reason they are not using it is precisely that as I have said we have all we need - the stores are fully stocked.
During the last campaign for governor, I don't recall hearing one word about the big noisy noisy HUD scandal centered around our present governor. It was about money - public money going into private pockets. I see nothing to insure that our $1 billion would not go the same route. If our governor has such an affinity for special interests or owes favors he should resign.
We are a government by the people, for the people. We are the government. I commend Mr. Penner and those like him for doing their duty which is why things are not worse that they are. It is time that the silent majority who are getting a free ride from the efforts of their fellow citizens do their part also. They only have themselves to blame if things are not to their liking.
- Largest European Economy Supports shorter work week with paid time off! Posted by Casanova King, (9/12 late pickup) ICEM (International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine & General Workers' Unions) via TheSudburyStar.com ONT
Original headline: IG Metall Breaks New Ground with First Accord in German Solar Energy Sector
THURINGIA, Germany - A first-of-a-kind collective agreement took root in Germany’s solar energy manufacturing industry on 1 September. It was then that a labour contract took effect between IG Metall and three subsidiaries of Bosch in the state of Thuringia, making it the first collective agreement in Germany’s solar power industry.
The agreement covers 2,500 workers at factories of Bosch Solar Energy AC, Bosch Solar Wafers GmbH, and Bosch Solar Thin Film in the cities of Erfurt and Arnstadt. IG Metal Hesse and Thuringia Region representatives used the effective date of the three-year agreement to distribute leaflets to workers at other solar product manufacturers in central and eastern Germany highlighting details of the Bosch accord.
Those companies include Q-cells, Conergy, and Solon, to name just a few. It is the union’s hope that the Bosch accord will spur a national collective agreement in the solar manufacturing industry, a sector now encompassing 130,000 German workers.
Labour agreements in renewable energy industries, said IG Metall Regional Secretary Armin Schild, have been “a no man’s land. This agreement hopefully will become the standard throughout the industry.”
Based on the union’s metal sector agreement, this first contract contains a bounty of benefits for workers of the three Bosch subsidiaries. Although it contains no set wage increases over the three years, workers will see their pay increase with regular bonuses, performance-based bonuses, and additional compensation for holiday and night-shift work.
The work week will be reduced with full pay from 40 to 38 hours in increments over the three-year term, and overtime work will either be paid in full or employees have the option to convert that overtime to paid time off. And apprentices completing training are assured of at least a one-year fixed-term period of employment.
The three Bosch worksites are relatively new in Thuringia, with Bosch Solar only opening the massive cell and panel plant in Arnstadt a year ago. The agreement is a trendsetting pact within Germany’s former eastern states and IG Metall deserves high accolades for achieving this milestone.
- Opposition leader seeks to reduce working hours, by Kim Eun-jung email@example.com, Yonhap News via english.yonhapnews.co.kr
SEOUL, S.Korea -- The leader of the main opposition Democratic Party said Thursday that he will seek measures to reduce working hours to improve workers' quality of life and create more jobs.
Rep. Sohn Hak-kyu said in a radio address that if employers reduce working hours to the level of developed countries, the nation's employment rate can reach over 70 percent, up from the current 60 percent.
South Korea's average yearly working hours totaled 2,111 hours last year, the most among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and exceeding the statutory limits of 40 hours per week, which adds up to about 1,920 hours a year.
As for ways to accomplish such goals, Sohn suggested that companies hold employees to deadlines on work and increase the number of summer vacation days.
"The most important part is shortening overtime hours," Sohn said.
His left-leaning party has pushed for expanding social welfare programs as part of efforts to galvanize voters ahead of next year's parliamentary elections and presidential vote.
"A fair welfare state focuses on people and appreciates the value of labor," Sohn said. "The most important part (for a welfare state) is changing labor policy."
The Lee Myung-bak administration is grappling with Koreans' rising discontent over the rising income gap between rich and poor and higher consumer prices.
In an attempt to woo the broader public, the governing Grand National Party said last week that it would scrap tax cuts for big businesses, raise subsidies for low-wage temporary workers and curb college tuitions.
9/14/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Will Westminster's Working Hours Modernise After Today? by Ellen Seymour, Huffington Post UK via huffingtonpost.co.uk
LONDON, U.K. - Joan Ruddock MP will today lobby her colleagues for a change of working hours in the House. It's quite a modest request really: she suggests close of day at 6 or 7pm midweek for business in the House, enabling MPs to get back to their young children in time to read them a bedtime story if they are within commuting distance, while the workaholics can continue with parliamentary business. She warns that the pressures will magnify when the present number of MPs is reduced, increasing their workload.
Joan, a long-time campaigner for modernising working hours in the House, surveyed 646 MPs to judge their level of support for change and had 554 responses from fellow Members who would like earlier starting and finishing times on Tuesdays - Thursdays. Joan will present these findings to the Procedure Committee to show that a majority of MPs would prefer working 11.30am - 7pm on Tuesdays, and/or 10.30am-6pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (60..8% Labour, 56.9% Conservative and 66.6% Liberal Democrats). Disappointingly, only 123 out of 305 Conservative MPs responded to the survey, despite this government's pledge to modernise Parliament, compared to 227 out of 257 Labour MPs and 30 out of 40 Liberal Democrat MPs.
Joan is the feisty former Minister of State for Energy, and Minister for Women, as well as a former CND chair, who we can credit to a great extent for our present kerbside recycling collection. As a press consultant promoting recycling around 2003 or 04, I remember meeting Joan and listening as she described how she once cornered Gordon Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer to make fiscal changes in support of her plans which seem quite humble now; she wanted all local authorities to ensure that every household had a collection of at least two types of recyclable waste by the year 2010. Most local authorities in the UK must have surpassed that.
However, getting her own House in order and reducing its late night sittings has been a greater challenge for Joan, who is married to Labour MP Frank Doran. She contacted me following my recent post on the working hours of MPs to thank me for highlighting the issues, and to inform me of this report entitled, Sitting Hours of the House.
Joan, who was elected 24 years ago, tells it straight, describing her efforts to modernise Westminster over the years, along with fellow MP Ann Coffey, as well as Robin Cook:
I had some knowledge of the House before I arrived and had always worked long hours under pressure. However, I quickly discovered that the House was the least efficient working environment I had ever encountered. I also found working in the Commons divorced from everyday experience, unhealthy and inimicable to the maintenance of a private life.
I was determined to do what I could to help modernise the institution. In 2001 I joined the Modernisation Committee, which was taken over by Robin Cook later that year. Ann Coffey, MP for Stockport, was also a member of the Committee. Together we pushed for a radical set of proposals, many of which were adopted by the House in 2002 and took effect in January 2003. A few important proposals did not get the backing of the Cabinet and were not put to the House. One of the reforms adopted - namely the earlier Tuesday sitting - was reversed in 2005.
Both Ann Coffey and I remained determined to revisit the modernisation programme if the opportunity ever arose again. We saw that opportunity last year with the large turnover of MPs in the 2010 election and the great loss of public confidence following the expenses scandal.
When I came to the Commons in 1987, over 40% of sittings went to midnight or beyond, including all-night sittings where the next day's business was lost. Over the next decade these late sittings were reduced to around 5%, but the House still met 2.30pm to 10.30pm Monday to Thursday.
Surveys indicate that MPs admit to being exhausted much of the time and stressed by their jobs, with personal lives suffering as a consequence. Starting and finishing formal business earlier would give MPs more control over the remaining hours of the day. Most would continue to work, but in their own way; those who can would chose to go home.
The role of an MP has changed radically during the 24 years I have been in Parliament. The advent of a second debating chamber, increased work in Select Committees, the increased pressure of 24 hour media, e-campaigns and particularly the demands of constituents have all made our roles more complex and demanding. These changes are irreversible and will get worse when the number of MPs is reduced to 600. Time management is at a premium and that is why so many MPs seek more control of their time, as well as more predictability in the parliamentary day.
When Tuesdays started at 11.30am in 2003-2005, the rest of Parliament's work was adjusted accordingly and it worked. When Tuesdays started at 11.30am in 2003-2005, the rest of Parliament's work was adjusted accordingly and it worked. Furthermore, Thursday's arrangements illustrate that it would be possible to run Tuesday and Wednesday from 10.30am. Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions might be seen as a special concern, but departmental question times could be rearranged so that there was an hour-long session preceding PMQs on Wednesdays and a half hour on Thursdays.
Starting Thursdays at 10.00am would enable those few MPs with especially difficult journeys to reach home that night. If Tuesdays started at 10.30am or 11.30am PMBs could be taken that evening. Bills would be timetabled, normally voting at 10.00pm (a Bill could be held over until the following week in exceptional cases by agreement).
Friday sittings should be ended, enabling every MP to be in his or her constituency, demonstrating that attending to constituency matters is a key part of the job.
I hope that the outcomes of Joan's survey is heeded when she presents her written submission to the Procedure Committee.. The House has adjourned later than 2am on one occasion in the last year, and frequently sits between 10pm - midnight. No wonder some MPs are exhausted! We expect organisations to have a duty of care towards their staff, so who is responsible for the well being of our MPs? The constituency association are their employers, in effect, but they have no right to parliamentary decision making, so it is up to MPs to decide.
Astonishingly, Joan says she had no wish to reduce the number of hours worked - which are often around 80 hours per week, but the hours in which they are worked.
We should support the needs of MPs to have a happy family life. If it wasn't for the fact that Joan and her husband are both MPs and can perhaps juggle their diaries to meet up for lunch, they may find it difficult to spend much time together as Frank's constituency is in Aberdeen North - the opposite end of the country to Joan's London constituency of Lewisham Deptford.
[So Britain's still working on humane hours for MPs while Germany has it for everyone but some are still complaining, and some Brits are straining to make the most of the rarified level of misery -]
- Workers sidelined by German success, by Paul Henley, BBC News via bbc.co.uk
"Ordinary Germans increasingly ask, 'How can we participate in the national success?'” Cologne University Professor Hans-Juergen Andress (photo caption)
ESSEN, Germany - Germany is one of the very few European countries to have emerged convincingly from recession - but not everyone is sharing in the rewards.
By keeping wages low the country has stayed competitive, sold exports and fuelled growth. But those on the low wages are feeling increasingly squeezed.
[Never mind two years ago they were bashing Germany for its uncompetitively HIGH wages! (And sometimes they slip and do so now as well.)]
Iris Heinrich is what is known in local social security-speak as an aufstocker, someone in part-time work (30 hours a week in an office canteen) whose income is officially deemed insufficient for her and her teenage son.
So she gets top-ups from the government towards rent and costs, amounts which she describes as inadequate for a "humane" existence.
When I meet her in the centre of her home city, Essen, she comes armed with carefully tabulated lists of her outgoings and her income, highlighting the differences between what the German government says her heating, telephone and food bills should be and what they actually are without, she says, the slightest hint of luxury.
In the past, Iris has also - briefly - been unemployed. She says she felt aimless and miserable and that she has no desire to go back there. The problem is that her work simply does not pay enough.
She is one of a growing number of contract employees, paid by an agency and not directly by her place of work. And, after tax, she says she takes home less than four euros (£3.40; $5.40) an hour.
She describes how every supermarket purchase (she would not think of looking beyond the likes of discount stores Aldi or Lidl) is a fraught calculation.
"I actually ask myself why I bother to get up every morning to go to work for the 50 euros a month extra I get for it," she tells me. "Strictly speaking, it just isn't worth it."
Ms Heinrich's case and those of hundreds of thousands like her are relatively new in Germany.
Iris Heinrich Iris Heinrich wants to work but struggles to make ends meet in her job
There has been a consistent fall in unemployment since the summer of 2009 but many of those in work today are, nevertheless, on the breadline.
The very latest export figures may not be quite the raging success story to which German manufacturing has grown accustomed since the recovery.
Still, heavy industry was never allowed to wither away in Germany and German products have had a significant revival on world export markets - enough to help boost the national economy and boost employment.
And yet, with the new employment has come extensive deregulation of the labour market.
It was modelled very much on Tony Blair's British example when it was brought in by then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in 2005.
A key element was making it easier for employers to hire staff and to fire them.
It meant the creation of so-called mini-jobs - free of national insurance and pension - and a fast increase in the numbers of leiharbeiter - agency contract workers like Ms Heinrich. But, perhaps surprisingly, it did not mean the introduction of a national minimum wage.
Minimum wages do exist in certain industries, specifically negotiated with the unions, who have a reputation not just for power in Germany, but for their willingness to compromise.
Many argue there has been too much compromise recently from union representatives keen to exchange rising incomes for job security.
Professor Hans-Juergen Andress, of Cologne University and co-author of The Working Poor in Europe, says Germany no longer bucks a European trend and that wage inequality is catching up with other countries less renowned for their interest in social justice.
"Germany has polarised," he says.
"What is also striking, in the last year, is that workers' incomes haven't increased, at least not as much as the export victory for Germany in the world.
"Especially given the huge increases at the upper end of the income distribution, ordinary Germans increasingly ask, 'How can we participate in the national success?'."
The boss of one of the country's most successful manufacturing exporters told me he was aware of the social problems associated with the leiharbeiter system - but that he was grateful for the flexibility it afforded him.
Andreas Widl is CEO of Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum, which is a global concern employing around 400 workers in Cologne alone, and which enjoyed its most lucrative export period ever in the first half of this year.
"I strongly believe in sharing the success with the staff, those who have created that success," he says.
"But on the other hand, if things go down, I need to be able to reduce working capacity. And the leiharbeiter model just works."
Under the previous system, he says, "the fixed terms of employment are so rigid that you cannot adapt anything. If the company gets into a problem, there are very few other ways of reducing costs."
The government itself is sensitive to the fact that temporary, contract workers are the poor cousins, in terms of the pay they receive, of staff workers doing exactly the same jobs.
And the labour ministry is keen to point out that it is "putting pressure" on those who employ the leiharbeiter to give them equal pay.
On whether the country needs a national minimum wage, in this week's Spiegel news magazine, Ursula von der Leyen, Germany's minister for labour and social affairs, says she is convinced that Germany will set one "sooner or later".
"Many employers," she says "are already demanding it because they want to compete on quality and not on how low they can drive wages.
"However, one condition I would attach is that the figure for a minimum wage be fixed by negotiation between those involved, and independently of the state.
"We must not allow the level of a minimum wage to become a political football."
[If they moved on from worksharing to timesizing and trimmed the workweek enough, they wouldn't need a minimum wage. Market forces would gradually and flexibly take care of it.]
The political arguments seem remote to Iris Heinrich, struggling on her combination of benefits and part-time job.
"It's all about the bigwigs getting more and more money and the little citizens like me getting less," she says. Across Europe, hers is becoming a familiar refrain.
- Cleaning out super-exploitation, By James Pendlebury, ZACF via Anarkismo.net
Cleaning workers throughout South Africa have been on strike since Monday 8 August. They are demanding a living wage of R4 200 per month, as well as a 13th cheque and shorter hours.
WITWATERSRAND, R.S.A. - How can the most harshly exploited workers fight back against the bosses? Cleaning workers throughout South Africa have been on strike since Monday 8 August. They are demanding a living wage of R4 200 per month, as well as a 13th cheque and shorter hours.
Many of these workers are now paid R2 000 per month or even less, and work under the harshest conditions. The vast majority are black, and a great many are women; their supervisors are often racist and sexist bullies of the worst kind. They are frequently compelled to use dangerous chemicals, without even the protection of gloves; these chemicals can make them sick, and some have died as a result. In last month’s talks, employers initially offered a 6% wage increase, subsequently raised to 8%. This means just another R160 to workers who are getting paid R2 000. On top of this, cleaners have often had difficulty joining unions to protect them. A big problem is that many are outsourced. They work in private companies, government offices, hospitals, universities – anywhere that needs cleaning. But the institutions where they work are frequently not their direct employers: rather, the institution hires a cleaning company such as Supercare or Impact, which employs workers at miserable wages.
A typical story is that of the cleaners at Wits University. Before 2000, Wits employed its cleaners directly at a wage of about R2 000 per month. In 2000, Wits outsourced cleaning, gardening, catering and other support services. It retrenched 613 workers; those cleaners who were re-employed by Supercare received a monthly wage of R1 000 (with inflation-linked wage increases, this had risen to about R2 000 by 2011). These workers also lost many benefits, including free tuition at Wits for their children. Wits management outsourced its workers to reduce its wage bill – and to weaken their organisation. The workers were transferred to four different outsourcing companies, and the number of firms has grown. Instead of bargaining together for their wages with one employer, they were broken up to fight four different companies. Nehawu, the main union that had represented the workers at Wits, was completely defeated in the fight against retrenchments, lost most of its members on campus, and has never recovered. Companies like Supercare constantly threaten any workers who join unions or try to organise, and try to ban meetings at the workplace. By dividing workers and preventing organisation, they keep workers frightened and keep wages low. Similarly to labour brokers, that is why these companies exist in the first place. Nonetheless, the cleaning workers have succeeded in organising a national strike, and have held out for more than two weeks so far, sticking to their demands. Yet even so, the strike in many ways reflects the division and weakness of the workers. This was shown when the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union accepted management’s 8% offer on 28 August, completely betraying the demands of workers, and leaving the other seven unions seriously weakened. With more unions selling out, even those that remain have been compelled to call off the strike from Monday 12 September – not to accept the bosses’ offer, but to ask the state to settle the matter. On past experience, it is quite likely that the state will favour the bosses, now that the workers’ greatest weapon of the strike has failed. Why do such betrayals and defeats happen; why do they happen so often?
Unfortunately, most unions today are controlled not by their members but by highly paid bureaucrats who spend more time talking to the bosses than hearing from ordinary workers. All too often, they try to end strikes and make peace with the enemy; they are prepared to accept smaller offers from the bosses in order to stop the strike quickly. Involving more bureaucrats increases the danger.
Another source of weakness and disunity is the fact that the cleaners are striking alone – and here, too, outsourcing is a great weapon for the bosses. A strong union is a union that brings together all the workers in each workplace, each company, each industry, so that when the cleaners strike, they are joined by the drivers and the machinists and the clerical workers. This would hit the bosses that much harder. But here, not only are the cleaners striking alone, but thanks to outsourcing they are not even striking against the same bosses!
And on top of that, the bosses have brought in their favourite weapon: scab labour. It’s hard to tell where the scabs are coming from, but they are easy to find for jobs like cleaning. All the bosses need to do is head for the townships, find some unemployed people on the street, offer them a couple of days’ work. Class consciousness in South Africa today is not strong; many people do not realise how far scab labour weakens the working class.
The one thing that can prevent the employment of scabs is for striking workers to stay on the premises. Solid and permanent picket lines outside are almost as good, but sit-down strikes are even better. If strikers are always ready to toyi-toyi when scabs appear, who is going to scab? Such actions would be illegal – but the law is there for the bosses, not the workers. This, too, is a problem with union bureaucrats: they live by negotiating and “reasoning” with the bosses, so they don’t want to break the bosses’ laws. If the workers controlled their own unions, and knew who their enemies were, they need have no such scruples.
At Wits, there have been some steps in the right direction. This year, the Wits Workers’ Solidarity Committee has united workers from many outsourcing companies with a small group of Wits students, academics and support staff. The committee has already won one victory: it has forced the resignation of Ian Armitage, a racist Wits manager tasked with dealing with outsource workers, and known for insulting them as “k*****s”. This has raised the fighting spirit of the workers as it has never been since 2000. And now the committee is campaigning against scabs, calling for their removal from campus. Wits management has been compelled to acknowledge the right of students to speak to scabs and try to persuade them to stop what they are doing. Students have taken action to make a mess on campus, making things harder for the scabs. But this is still too little. How much more could be done if all working-class students joined this campaign? How much more if striking workers were on campus all the time?
This strike is in danger: from many divisions among workers, from union bureaucrats, from scabs. The strike might have been won if workers held firm, if they extended their actions and sought ways to enter the workplaces, if they watched their “leaders” closely to prevent more sellout deals. But how much further could workers go? The Wits Solidarity Committee aims to force the university to end outsourcing and re-employ workers directly. This will end one major division, and open the way to end others.
All workers and students at Wits – all workers in any workplace – should be united into one big union, facing the bosses as a single great force. Such a union should be controlled not by its bosses but by its members, held together by our common needs and common power as the working class. And One Big Union can bring together all workplaces, all sectors, can reach even beyond the workplace, can bring together employed and unemployed to put an end to scabbing. Such a union, strengthened by an anarchist understanding of the workers’ cause and the workers’ power, can, in the end, be our weapon to smash the oppressor, to remove the bosses, to put an end to exploitation once and for all....
9/13/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- The World Isn't Up To Global Coordination, by Paul Hannon, Wall Street Journal via online.wsj.com
NEW YORK, N.Y. - he global economic crisis seemed very far away as the sun blazed down on Marseille's old port Friday. But such is the depth of the gloom surrounding the economic outlook, finance officials from the Group of Seven leading developed economies must have envied the carefree souls piloting their yachts out of the harbor and onto calm blue seas.
For these officials, there is very little chance of a respite any time soon. Indeed, with panic gripping global financial markets, they were forced to backtrack on their original intention not to issue a communiqué and make a statement intended to reassure.
In it, they acknowledged that "there are now clear signs of a slowdown in global growth," and asserted that they were "committed to a strong and coordinated international response to these challenges."
But there are growing reasons to doubt this promise, and underlying the mounting global despondency is a realization that while very few parts of the world will be left unaffected by events in the euro zone, the U.S., Switzerland or anywhere else, the political responses are likely to be patchy and inward-looking.
The euro zone's inability to prevent and then respond to its fiscal crisis is a key reason for doubting that, at a time when links between national economies are deeper and more significant than ever before, the response of politicians will match.
After all, the currency area is the boldest experiment yet in attempting to coordinate economic policy closely, and under circumstances that are relatively favorable.
It is a bloc with a single central bank, a single market for goods, considerable scope for labor mobility and a high
degree of integration in its financial markets.
On top of that, the currency area has an antecedent that goes back to 1956, driven by an imperative from the dreadful history of the first half of the 20th century, and boasting a track record of success in achieving its main goals, which are peace and prosperity.
Its leading politicians know each other well, and currently seem to spend more time in each other's company than with their children. For the most part, they share the same broad Christian Democratic outlook that has dominated the European Union since its early years.
But despite all the above, the euro zone is still a relatively loose association of states with peculiar histories and tensions, and its political leaders are obliged to defend the interests of the various states they govern. They have struggled to confront the mounting crisis, required as each of them are to attend to their national constituencies, and hold on to power through electoral cycles of varying degrees of intensity.
As a result, there are economic policy paths for the currency area that can never be considered, even if they are good ideas. One slightly unusual recent proposal has come from the Geneva-based United Nations Conference on Trade and Development [UNCTAD]. It argues that one of the fundamental causes of the euro zone's economic crisis is differential wage growth since the currency was launched in 1999.
Put simply, wages grew rapidly in Greece, Ireland and other economies that are now troubled, but only very moderately, if at all, in Germany. Companies in those economies that had experienced rapid wage growth were unable to compete with companies in those that hadn't.
UNCTAD's proposed solution is that German wages should now rise rapidly, which sounds like a bit of a vote-winner. Except that the German model is now based on a system known as Kurzarbeit, or "short work," and requires frequent changes in wages and hours.
Many Germans credit Kurzarbeit with the turnaround in their nation's economic fortunes from industrial museum to refreshed global powerhouse, and it's unlikely to be abandoned soon. It is especially difficult to envisage a politician advocating that it be dropped, and that even something as apparently attractive as wage rises be encouraged, if the argument were that it must be done for the good of the euro zone.
The G-7 also has a relatively long history, and its members broadly share a political and economic understanding. But it, too, has struggled to deliver meaningful governance of the global economy, and did so even before it was cast into redundancy by the rise of the big developing economies.
The G-7's redundancy was apparent once again in Marseille. The U.S. came to the meeting with President Barack Obama's latest stimulus program, no doubt anxious to see others join the effort. But many of the others were otherwise preoccupied: the euro-zone nations with their fiscal crisis, the U.K. with defending its all-or-nothing austerity program, Japan with clearing the way for more intervention to weaken the yen.
Nobody was at or close to the point of doing anything primarily intended to rebalance the global economy, despite most having acknowledged this as a primary objective for coming years.
And the situation is unlikely to change when finance officials from the G-20 meet in Washington later this month.
So perhaps it's time for a rethink. The economic history of the past few decades has been characterized by a steady progress toward more and more integration, within regions in the form of initiatives like the euro zone, and between regions in the form of freer trade and capital flows.
This has done some good; you can't argue that lifting hundreds of millions of Chinese workers out of poverty was a bad thing.
But it also has its very obvious dangers, chief among which is that politics and people just haven't kept up. In dangerous economic times like these, the policy response has proved woefully, almost pathetically, inadequate.
So just as the euro zone now seems a step too far in a basically good idea—perhaps a few decades too soon, rather than fundamentally wrong—we may have to find ways of halting or reversing globalization. We just aren't grown-up enough, xenophiliac enough or far-sighted enough to deal with it.
Write to Paul Hannon at firstname.lastname@example.org
- SEIU Countywide walk-out: Unfair labor lawsuit field against the county, by Tiffany Revelle, UkiahDailyJournal.com
UKIAH, Calif. - The largest county employee bargaining group, Service Employees International Union, Local 1021, on Monday filed an unfair labor practice lawsuit against the county.
Workers wearing purple and waving signs lined both sides of State Street in front of the Ukiah courthouse Monday just before 1 p.m., when the union planned a countywide walk-out to bring public attention to the issues it is raising with the negotiation process.
"They're not bargaining; they're giving us artificial deadlines and saying, take it or leave it,'" said organizer Christal Padilla, a practice she said is illegal. That, and other practices the union claims is unfair, is the subject of the lawsuit.
The union claims it had a hand-shake agreement with county negotiators in July that would have moved represented workers to a 36-hour, full-time work week. The union's members voted in favor or the agreement, but then the county withdrew the offer, saying more details needed to be discussed, according to Padilla.
Mendocino County CEO Carmel Angelo's office issued a statement from the Board of Supervisors Friday saying the four-day work week was off the table because the union had failed to approve the agreement in by Sept. 2.
The county then offered a 15-percent wage cut instead, and gave the union until 5 p.m. Monday to accept it. The agreement would be good until Sept. 30, 2012, create a new retirement tier for new hires, change language concerning on-the-job injuries and add language regarding inspection of personnel files and disciplinary action definitions, according to the county's statement.
The county has a collective bargaining process it must follow, according to the county's statement. Angelo said a closed-door meeting regarding negotiations with SEIU is scheduled today, at which time the board can give direction to its negotiators.
SEIU organizers say union members are planning to speak to the Board of Supervisors during that meeting, and possibly to protest outside. Talk of striking isn't off the table, according to Padilla, depending on what union leaders decide after speaking to the board.
The union, which represents about 700 county employees, called on workers in Ukiah, Willits and Fort Bragg to walk out of county offices at 12:50 p.m. ("10 to one," as the local SEIU chapter often calls itself). Workers rallied in their respective cities to protest what the union, and the lawsuit, calls unfair labor practices and to draw public attention to the workers' plights.
Padilla said the union offered its own 36-hour work week proposal that would give the county the concessions it wants, but would keep the workers as full-time employees, rather than making them permanent, part-time employees. She said as of 1 p.m. Monday, the county had rejected the offer.
"SEIU workers tend to be younger than the management group; there's a lot of single mothers; they're people with children that have to pay child care; they make considerably less money," said SEIU negotiator Pam Partee. "The reason we supported the four-day work week, with the 36 hours, is so people ... would have time to get a second job, because they would need that to support the reduction in pay, and secondly, those that are on a five-day work week now would go to a four-day, and they could drop that extra day for childcare."
Tess O'Connell, who works 32 hours a week, said a proposal to cut hours by 10 percent would reduce her work week to 28.8 hours, making her a part-time employee and therefore ineligible for retirement. She works in the Women, Infants and Children program of the county's Public Health Division, and has worked for the county for 20 years.
The wage reduction would cut $600 out of her monthly income, she said, and raise the cost of health care for her family.
Health and Human Services, Child Services Division worker Paula Burns-Heron said the cut would be "devastating."
"The prices of everything are going up, and if our wages go down, that makes us not able to support the local economy," Burns-Heron said. "And I believe in doing that; I believe in shopping here."
Tiffany Revelle can be reached at email@example.com, or at 468-3523.
9/11-12/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- German plan to reduce US unemployment, by Suzy Khimm, Washington Post (blog) via washingtonpost.com/blogs
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Germany has kept its employment levels astoundingly high throughout the global recession. How high? In July, the country’s unemployment rate was just 6.1 percent, a full two points lower than it was in January 2008. Many credit labor reforms that allow employers to use government subsidies to keep more workers on the job, temporarily reducing hours while using public funds to make up some of the difference. Known as “short-time work” or “work-sharing,” the scheme aims to spread the pain of recession around rather than forcing a handful to bear the brunt of the suffering.
By many accounts, work-sharing appears to have been successful, and a growing number of countries — primarily in Europe, as well as Japan — have actively embraced it. “European countries with widespread and generous short-time compensation experienced a smaller rise in unemployment in the recent recession than those without,” write economists Pierre Cahuc and Stephane Carcillo for VoxEU. They explain that a one-percentage-point increase in short-time work correlates with a one-point decrease in unemployment.
[USA 1938-40 and France 1H97-1H01 got 1% less unemployment for each hour cut from the workweek.]
Even as German firms began to suffer from a severe decline in production, many of them “chose to keep rather than shed workers,” keeping the employment rate high and the “German miracle” alive, explain George Washington University’s Alexander Reisenbichler and Kimberly J. Morgan.
President Obama now seems eager to follow Germany’s lead. The American Jobs Act contains a provision that would encourage employers to utilize work-sharing instead of layoffs, allowing workers whose hours have been reduced to receive unemployment benefits. Liberal[?] economists such as Dean Baker have also been vocal in urging expansion of the program — which more than 20 states have already adopted in some form — calling it the “quick route back to full employment.”
[Now the strained objections -]
Others have warned, however, that work-sharing is not a fail-proof panacea, arguing that the policy could dampen productivity [unmarketable productivity doesn't matter] and efficient labor-force reallocation [most efficient = all robots, no employees, no consumers]. The scheme has a positive effect on full-time employment but doesn’t help temporary employment, which could make it harder for those who are unemployed to reenter the workplace, [let's assume there's supposed to be a sentence break here]
[Note the confusion of paradigms here. Are we talking about full-time vs. part-time, or permanent vs. temporary?? Some economists strain for "warnings" by talking fudge.]
Cahuc and Carcillo argue: “The benefits of insiders can be at the expense of the outsiders whose entry into employment is made even more difficult.”
[Hooboy, now we've got a third paradigm shmooshed into the fudge bowl = insiders vs. outsiders by which we have to assume they mean employed vs. unemployed. They can't toc cleer to sayv thayr lies.]
And there’s some data that could back up this claim. Though its overall employment rate is low, Germany’s long-term unemployed make up a higher percentage of total unemployment than in many comparable nations, including the United States.
[But Germany's long-term unemployment was higher before worksharing cut in, so ... invalid point.]
What’s more [Mad Hatter: "can always have more than nothing"], work-sharing probably would have had the most impact in the United States [complete change of scene] had it been implemented before companies made huge layoffs, not afterward.
The program could deter firms from making future layoffs, but that doesn’t mean they would be motivated to hire additional workers.
[First, you do emergency worksharing to deter future layoffs. Then you do timesizing to motivate hiring additional workers. Another way of looking at this: First you enforce the official 40-hour workweek max and secure existing jobs, doing on-the-job retraining at wartime levels. Then you adjust the 71-year frozen 40-hour max downward and create as many more jobs as you need to hire all available additional workers and turn them and their dependents back into confident consumers.]
But given the country’s [United States'] dismal economic outlook, those who have held on to their jobs may be grateful for extra protection where they can get it.
[Or, the USA can continue to toss them into unemployment, welfare, disability, homelessness, prison or ... client-less self-employment till the nestegg runs out. So it's worksharing "or else."]
- Why Fewer Work Hours Means a Smaller Environmental Footprint, by Sami Grover, 9/12 Treehugger.com
CARRBORO, N.C. - Last week I got quite inspired by a rather beautiful video on working less, playing more and reducing our impact on the environment. From simple living in tiny houses to the value of DIY culture, we've already seen plenty of ways that people are thinking beyond the earn-spend-consume economic paradigm and toward a more connected, rich and ultimately sustainable economic model of "plenitude". But here was somebody connecting those dots. The creator of that video, Juliet Schor, has an article explaining the "plenitude economy" in mode detail, and it makes a powerful case for why less work and fewer hours would mean a cleaner environment and a more just, equitable economy too:
A French study found that, after controlling for income, households with longer working hours increased their spending on housing (buying larger homes with more appliances), transport (longer hours reduced the use of public transportation), and hotels and restaurants. A recent Swedish study found that when households reduce their working hours by 1 percent, their greenhouse gas emissions go down by 0.8 percent. One explanation is that when households spend more time earning money, they compensate in part by purchasing more goods and services, and buying them at later stages of processing (e.g., more prepared foods). People who have more time at home and less at work can engage in slower, less resource-intensive activities.
- Editorial: More unionized workers would be a bigger burden for city's budget - The latest effort to unionize more Denver government workers would likely lead to an increase in taxes or decreases in services, 9/11 Denver Post
DENVER, Colo. - Stop us if you've heard this before: A labor union has promised to launch a drive to bring collective bargaining to all city of Denver employees.
Currently, only police, sheriff and fire personnel — roughly 3,100 of 7,200 employees — can collectively bargain.
In 1980 and again in 1997, Denver voters rejected changes to the city charter that would have extended collective bargaining to additional employees.
In 2008, the Teamsters announced a plan to lobby the City Council to once again bring collective bargaining to more of the workforce.
That effort failed.
But last year, after spending six-figure amounts in an unsuccessful bid to defeat Michael Hancock in the mayoral race, organized labor groups were able to elect several more allies to the City Council.
The bill has apparently come due.
As The Post's Jeremy P. Meyer reported last week, officials with the Teamsters union plan a membership drive to add more Denver city workers to their rolls with hopes of asking voters to approve the right to collectively bargain.
To politely paraphrase Teamsters' boss James Hoffa, it's an idea that needs to be "taken out."
Denver is not alone among governments throughout the state and country that are grappling not just with the current economic downturn, but with structural deficits in which revenues are far outpaced by expenses.
Ed Bagwell, public-service director for Teamsters Local No. 17, argues that employees have been bearing the brunt of budget cuts in the form of staff reductions, layoffs and furloughs.
He should take a closer look.
While it's easy to comprehend why city employees would be upset with the 13 unpaid furlough days they've had to take as the city has coped with multimillion-dollars budget shortfalls since 2008, it's important to remember this: It beats the alternative. That alternative is job losses.
Because of furloughs, there haven't been many job losses among Denver employees. Since 2008, the city has cut about 600 jobs from its budget. Yet most of those have been through attrition, with fewer than 80 people having been laid off.
And it's not as though city employees haven't been getting pay bumps in the downturn. They received raises in 2008, 2009 (though frozen to 2.25 percent) and 2011.
That's a position many private-sector employees would love to be in.
As City Councilman Charlie Brown said: "Under the Career Service Authority, the employees get damn good benefits already, and they get prevailing wages in comparison to other municipalities."
To further burden Denver's budget with additional union employees, in our view, is neither timely or prudent. In fact, doing so would likely lead to an increase in the city's tax rate or decreases in services — both of which make this among the most desirable places in the country to live.
- Working Hours in Tbilisi Are Increasing Due to Customers' Satisfaction, by Nana Mghebrishvili, 9/12 The FINANCIAL via finchannel.com
TBILISI, Georgia (the Asian country, not the U.S. state) - "Working hours in Tbilisi correspond to the needs of the customers," claim office representatives in Tbilisi.
Those who are employed in Tbilisi wake up between 8 and 9 o’clock in the morning as the majority of offices and organizations start their working day at 10 A.M. and it end it at 6 P.M.
According to the Georgian Labour Code the maximum working hours permitted in Georgia are 41 per week. But the employer can arrange different working hours within the employment contract. The Code doesn’t define the financial side of extra working hours.
Neither office staff nor customers need to worry about the general working hours (10 A.M. – 6 P.M.) in Georgia.
“From 10 A.M till 6 P.M is a perfectly adequate time frame for office work,” Giorgi Kapanadze, Specialist of a Business Administration, said, “In the past many offices expanded their working day by adding 30-60 minutes in both the morning and the evening. This isn't necessarily bad, but a longer working day isn’t needed.”
The main problem caused by working hours in trade centres and stores is that they close very early. The problem has more or less been solved, but still lots of shops are closing at 7 P.M.
Ia Demurishvili, 32, is a doctor and has long working days. After work she can’t shop in Tbilisi as almost all the shops are closed.
“I leave the hospital at about 8 P.M. After hard days I have a little rest at home and then I go out walking at about 10 P.M. At that time there aren’t as many cars in the street as in the daytime so the air is fresher. I’d love for shops to still be open, but none of them are. I know that lots of people have busy days like me and so they’d also like to shop late because of the lack of time in the day,” Demurishvili said.
“I advise for shops to stay open until 11 P.M. They won’t lose any money by doing this,” she added.
Kidobani is one of the biggest trading centres in Tbilisi . The majority of Tbilisi residents shop there as prices are more or less affordable for everybody. The central entrance of Kidobani is closed at 8 P.M but most of the stores within it close before that time.
“We increase our working hours in the summer due to the shop owner’s request,” Mamuka Ameridze, Administrator of Kidobani, said. “Therefore in the summer the trade centre is still open at 8 P.M but in winter we close at 7 P.M. But we don’t control the shops inside the centre and owners can close them at any time they want. Even now when the central entrance is open until 8 P.M, lots of stores are closed at 7.”
“If leaseholders ask for a longer working day it isn’t problem for us. But there are no customers after 8 P.M.,” Ameridze added.
Pekini Street is one of the best places for shopping in Tbilisi . There lots of famous brand stores and small boutiques are located. The vast majority of them close at 8 P.M as the shop representatives say that there are no customers after that time.
“We close the shop at 8 o’clock. There are less people in the evening and that’s why we don’t close it later,” Khatuna Parjiani, Manager of the United Colors of Georgia, said. “If there is an increase in late-shopping demand, we won’t be against closing our shop later.”
Unlike shop representatives, consumers and marketing specialists think that shops have to still be open at least till 9 P.M.
“Working hours of shops don’t correspond to their customers’ schedules. The target segment of stores is people who are employed and have a disposable income. Therefore as they finish their working day at about 6-7 P.M., shops have to be open till 9-10 P.M,” Tinatin Gugberidze, Director of the Marketing and PR Department of the Caucasus University, said.
“Stores which are closed early lose lots of customers. They need a better business model of functioning. I’m sure that if stores worked till late, the number of their customers, purchases, turnover and income would grow significantly,” she stated.
Address shops (Celio, Promod, Tom Tailor, Etam, 1,2,3, Gerry Weber, etc.) are some of the few exceptions as they continue working till 9 P.M on Pekini Street.
“Our shops are open from 11 A.M till 9 P.M,” Ani Chokhonelidze, the Marketing Manager of Address, said. “Shops’ working hours have to correspond to each of their consumers.”
Malsi has four stores in Tbilisi . They used to be closed at 7 P.M but recently working hours have been increased so that they now close at 8 P.M.
“The change in working hours was our consumers’ demand,” Natia Tediashvili, Manager of Malsi said. “Now both we and they are more satisfied. They can shop after their work and we have more customers. This one hour increase has significantly grown the number of our sales.”
Unlike in Georgia, most shops are still open late at night in Europe. But the average work week is shorter in lots of European countries than in Georgia. For example, in France and Germany the average work week is 35 hours. In Switzerland it’s similar to Georgia (41 hours). But there is a legal maximum of 45 hours, any hours over the maximum working time is considered overtime. Overtime must be compensated with a premium of 25% of salary according to the Labour Codex of Switzerland.
- Republic Airways Continues Attack On Pilots Group With Sham Furloughs, by Mike Mitchell, 9/11 (9/08 late pickup) AvStop Aviation News via avstop.com
[Here's a new (bad) use for furloughs -]
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Teamster-represented pilots of Republic Airways has learned that Republic plans to furlough approximately 56 pilots despite the fact that the profitable airline is currently so understaffed that it asks pilots to volunteer to work overtime every day.
“This sham furlough is simply another attack by Republic Holdings on its pilot group,” said IBT Airline Director David Bourne. “Republic executives are trying to blame the pilots for their own inability to create a viable business plan at its subsidiary, Frontier a failure that has caused Republic’s stock to lose more than two-thirds of its value since Republic Holdings acquired Frontier.
“Rather than own up to their failed leadership, Republic executives falsely shift blame to its pilots and their union to undermine the resolve of the pilot group to obtain a new collective bargaining agreement under Teamster representation.”
Republic Airlines IBT Local 357 Pilot Executive Council Chairman Pat Gannon stated, “This furlough is completely unnecessary. Our airline is currently understaffed with pilots. The Company asks pilots every day to volunteer to work overtime. Our airline has produced tens of millions of dollars in profit in the past year, but the Company claims it cannot finance new aircraft because of Frontier’s losses.
“Republic’s claims that it needs to furlough are false and another effort to blame its pilots for the Company’s senior management’s inability to develop a viable business plan at Frontier Airlines.”
David Bourne stated further, “We believe this sham furlough may be another tactic in Republic’s illegal campaign to interfere with its pilots’ union representation that required the IBT to file its lawsuit against Republic Holdings. I will instruct the IBT’s attorneys to investigate the Company’s action and pursue any additional legal claims raised by Republic’s announced actions against its pilot group.”
Republic Airways Holdings, Inc. is an aviation holding corporation based in Indianapolis, Indiana, which owns six airlines operating in the United States: Chautauqua Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Republic Airlines, Shuttle America, and the former Lynx Aviation.
Chautauqua operates regional jet (RJ) aircraft with up to 50 seats, Shuttle America operates Embraer 175 aircraft airliners with 76 seats, and Republic Airlines operates Embraer 170, 175 and 190 aircraft with 70-99 seats. Frontier Airlines operates Airbus A320 family aircraft with 120-162 seats.
The separation of the four contract airlines is due to "scope clauses" between mainline pilots and each major carrier Republic feeds. These clauses regulate the size of regional jet aircraft that affiliate carriers may operate; the intent behind such clauses is to protect mainline pilots from being replaced by lower-paid regional pilots.
In 2005, Republic paid a $6.6 million settlement to the Allied Pilots Association after placing Embraer 170s in service with Chautauqua Airlines as United Express, because such aircraft violated the scope clause in the pilots' contract at American Airlines, which also contracts with Chautauqua for regional service as American Connection. To avoid further liability, Republic moved all of its Embraer 170 aircraft to Shuttle America, an airline that previously only operated Saab 340 turboprops.
- America's Productivity Crisis, by Tim Worstall, 9/12 Forbes.com
LONDON, U.K. - Derek Thompson over at the Atlatnic [sic, et al.] has a nice piece about how productivity and relative prices have changed over the years in the US. The story is much the same elsewhere of course although in Europe the tax burden has taken much of the strain. Where you in hte US will see the rise in relative prices in health care or education cdirectly, as you pay for it directly, we Europeans see them as rises in the tax burden because those things are largely paid for through taxation over here.
However, a couple of comments:
Coming up with a theory is the hard part. Let me try.
[This embarrassment to the Brit brain is apparently straining here.]
The reason why toasters are cheap and health insurance is not is that the productivity gains that made toasters — not to mention computers, media*, durable goods, food, and clothes — more affordable are not spilling over into health care. The next chart from McKinsey tells the story: More than half of total productivity growth comes from computers and information technology. Practically zero comes from health care and education. In fact, one reason why heath and education are adding the most jobs today is that employers can’t meet new demand with technology or offshoring. They have to keep hiring people.
Good observations, but there’s no need to try to come up with an explanation for we already have one: Baumol’s Cost Disease. It is more difficult to increase labour productivity in services than it is in manufacturing thus as real incomes rise we would expect the costs of services to rise relative to the costs of manufactures. This is a bad mistake though:
Let’s review what we know. From 1950 to 1970, earnings rose 25 percent each decade. From 1970 to 2010, real GDP doubled while real earnings fell by 28 percent. Two labor trends helped to offset this reversal. First, and very happily, women stormed into the workforce and supported their families with income.
[Very happily? This genius is apparently unaware that women deepened the labor surplus when the postwar babyboomers grew up and entered the job markets around 1970, and strengthened the downward pressure on wages. Hence it began to take two working parents to support the family whereas in the 1950s, it only took one.]
Second, and less joyously, everybody worked much harder.
["harder" as in longer = longer hours - watch now, he first confirms this and then contradicts it...]
The typical two-parent family worked 26 percent more hours in 2010 than in 1975 [there's the confirmation of longer hours] but [should be "and"?] the middle class still feels incredibly squeezed.
Where on earth the “real earnings fell” number comes from I have no idea. That’s not been the experience of any advanced country, US or European, over that time scale.
[God only knows what he's using for data.]
Further, it’s simply not true that working hours have risen over those decades.
[Uh, he just said they rose 26%.]
They cannot have done, for the average person has more leisure now than they did then.
[Where on earth is he getting this idea unless he's only looking at France, Germany, Netherlands and Scandinavia? - or invalidly counting anxious unemployment as worry-free leisure.]
Thus working hours must have fallen.
[With thinking like this, it's no wonder that Britain lost its empire.]
It is true that the composition of working hours has changed, yes, but not that the number has increased.
[There he goes again.]
We separate time into personal hours (eating, sleeping, grooming), leisure, household production and market working hours.
[Ca veut dire, market-demanded working hours?]
Over the relevant decades the number of market working hours have risen, this is absolutely true. For women alone though, it is only women who are doing more paid working hours. Men are doing fewer paid working hours [yeah but that means more anxious un(der)employment, not more financially secure leisure!] and both men and women are doing many fewer unpaid working hours in household production.
[If they're unpaid, they're not "working hours" in any economic discussion - they're hobby, avocation, optional.]
This is largely a result of those technological advances and greater affordability of manufactures. Dishwashers, microwaves, non-iron shirts, washing machines, reliable cars, all these things have reduced household production hours by more than the increase in market working hours. The balance of the 24 hours which each day contains is the increase in leisure.
[Not if there's no earned income - then it's anxious un(der)employment. Leisure doesn't rhyme with pleasure for nothing!]
It simply isn’t true that Americans or Europeans are working more hours than their parents or grandparents. They have more leisure so it just isn’t possible that they are.
[This guy is a complete nitwit. For starters, you can't blithely mix Americans working 40 and more hours a week if they still have a full-time job (and no minimum vacation legislation) with Europeans working 38 and fewer hours a week (and 4-6 weeks of annual vacation).]
9/10/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Obama suggests changing unemployment system, by Don Lee and Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times via latimes.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In urging Congress to extend jobless benefits, President Obama went beyond short-term aid and called on the country to rethink how it looks at unemployment, recognizing the long-term devastating costs of having so many unproductive people on its hands for long periods.
Specifically, Obama endorsed a work-sharing plan embraced in Europe that averts layoffs by spreading the pain among co-workers, as well as a more controversial bridge-to-work idea that puts people who are on unemployment benefits into training or temporary work that would set them on a path toward regular jobs.
The president also proposed, as part of his $447-billion stimulus bill unveiled Thursday night, a $4,000 tax credit to employers for hiring anybody who has spent more than six months looking for a job.
The White House estimated that this part of Obama's economic stimulus would amount to $49 billion, mostly for extending jobless benefits that would otherwise expire early next year for more than 3 million people.
The president's overall aim is to get more out of unemployment insurance funds in light of the reality of today's economy: Job growth has stalled and the number of people out of work for six months or more has swelled to unprecedented levels.
Some 6 million U.S. workers, or about 43% of the total unemployed, have been without jobs for more than six months, according to federal statistics for last month. Discouraged, many others have dropped out of the labor force. And the longer they remain jobless, the more likely they are to suffer the scarring effects of unemployment that can hurt their earnings permanently.
Devastating as this is for the jobless and their families, it's an increasingly serious problem for the nation too, as it means a less productive economy that will make it all that much harder for the country to pay for Medicare, defense and infrastructure that affects everyone.
"It is painfully obvious that the large quantities of unused resources in the U.S. are an enormous waste," Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said this week in a speech that called on the Fed to do more to fight unemployment.
"And it's not just the current loss. Over substantial periods of time, the skills of long-term unemployed workers decline, their re-employment prospects for similar jobs fade, and these reductions in skills have a lasting effect on the future growth potential of the economy," Evans said.
Regardless of whether Congress will adopt Obama's specific proposals, labor experts and economists agree that the nation's decades-old unemployment insurance system needs to change with an economy in which unemployment is running longer and employers aren't calling back workers after layoffs as often as they used to.
The president's plan is "an attempt to break into that," MIT economist Paul Osterman said.
Work-sharing isn't new to the U.S. It's been around since the 1980s, and employers in 23 states, including California, can sign up for it, though relatively few have.
As described by George Wentworth, a senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, the plan works like this:
An employer has five workers, but business can only support four. Rather than lay off one worker, the employer cuts each worker's week by eight hours — leaving five workers each putting in 32 hours a week.
The unemployment benefits that might have gone to the laid-off worker would be distributed equally among the five employees. Unemployment benefits usually cover about 50% of a worker's pay.
Work-sharing is particularly popular in Germany and has helped keep its unemployment rate down during the turmoil of the last few years: It is at 7%, compared with the United States' 9.1%.
Some economists have argued that although that's a good idea in general, this isn't the time for work-sharing because the job problems today aren't about layoffs but rather about companies' simply not hiring.
Not so, said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. That doesn't account for the destruction and creation of jobs every month, the so-called churning of the market in which some 2 million people may lose their jobs involuntarily while a similar number are hired in the same month.
Viewed in that light, Baker said, work-sharing could save tens of thousands of jobs every month.
- Obama Administration Comes Back to Liberal Wonks for Job Creation Ideas, by David Dayen, FireDogLake.com
[Wake up, David - Kevin Hassett, whom you quote, is NOT a "liberal wonk" and his American Enterprise Institute is hardly a liberal thinktank.]
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The White House wants you to believe that the American Jobs Act is loaded up with bipartisan solutions once preferred by Republicans. And to some extent, that’s true. But there are a number of Easter eggs in here, policy ideas that originated with liberal policy groups. The White House may be touting the bipartisan bona fides on the top line. They may have frozen out the liberal policy shops for years. But when the time comes to save their bacon with jobs programs, they come back to the liberal wonks.
Here are some examples. First of all, there’s FAST, the $30 billion program aimed at modernizing American public schools and community colleges. 35,000 public schools and thousands of community colleges would be affected, and the design is to improve classrooms, make emergency repairs, make schools more energy efficient, remove asbestos, and upgrade technology with new science an computer labs. This sounds like a great thing to dump $30 billion into, with a lasting policy component. It would have green benefits as well as benefits for public health and probably student achievement.
It came from the Economic Policy Institute, and was part of their jobs plans going back years, most recently in their American Jobs Plan at the end of 2009. This reportedly would have been in the stimulus package if it wasn’t for Susan Collins. More recently, Jared Bernstein has taken up the mantle for this idea.
Then there’s a job creation tax credit. I’m more skeptical on this one, but it was taken from another design by EPI, with a tax credit for firms that increase their hiring next year, or firms that give wage increases. That acts as a wage increase in some places, as a job subsidy in others. Again, I don’t know if it’ll work, but it does have a liberal wonk underpinning.
Perhaps the most refreshing part of the bill comes further down the fact sheet:
Work Sharing: UI reform to prevent layoffs. Preventing layoffs in the first place is a win-win for workers and businesses. The President‘s plan – consistent with proposals championed by leaders like Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) – calls for work sharing that would let workers receive pro-rated UI benefits as compensation for a reduction in hours at businesses that would otherwise lay workers off.
• Work sharing programs currently operate in about 20 states.
• According to an OECD paper, during the recession, work-sharing programs in Germany, Italy, and Japan reduced the drop in employment from 2008 to 2009 by between 0.5 and 1 percentage points.
• Dean Baker (the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research) and Kevin Hassett (Director of Economic Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute) wrote that “work sharing could work for us… there is one [policy] that clearly dominates in terms of impact and cost-effectiveness: work-sharing”
Baker has been working on this for some time. There may not be a ton of funds devoted to it – it’s a bit hard to say – but basically you have the government make up the difference for a reduction in hours, and therefore pay. That way, to get the same work done, the company can reduce hours and keep more workers, rather than laying someone off. If it reduces involuntary layoffs by 20%, that’s 400,000 layoffs avoided a month. Even at 10%, it’s still 2.4 million jobs per year. And it adds flexibility and quality of life to people who would otherwise be unemployed and depressed.
Baker’s statement on the inclusion of work-sharing is glowing:
It is encouraging to hear that President Obama included work sharing as part of his jobs agenda. This is a job creation measure that both has been shown to be successful and has the potential to break through partisan gridlock.
The basic logic of work sharing is simple. Currently the government effectively pays for workers to be unemployed with unemployment insurance. Rather than just paying workers who have lost their job, work sharing allows workers to be partially compensated for shorter work hours. Instead of 1 worker getting half pay after losing her job, under work sharing 5 workers may get 10 percent of their pay after their hours are cut by 20 percent.
This situation is likely to be better for both employees and employers. It allows workers to maintain their jobs and continue to upgrade their skills. It avoids a situation where workers may end up as long-term unemployed and find it difficult to get re-employed.
It is encouraging that President Obama was willing to step outside the box and try a new approach. If the Republicans cooperate, this policy could make a big difference to millions of workers and their families.
Again, it takes a liberal economist – Baker did get conservative support for it, but he was the main developer, importing it from Germany and the Netherlands – to come up with the idea.
Maybe those liberals are worth listening to, after all.
[Except that worksharing isn't liberal. Liberal FDR tossed the worksharing of the 1933 30-hour workweek bill under the bus to run off in a frenzy of makework (CCC, WPA, NRA, TVA...) and socialism (social security, workman's comp, unemployment insurance and minimum wage) - none of which would have been necessary if he'd just pushed through the 30-hour workweek when he had the chance. The 30-hour workweek bill was based on W.K. Kellogg's application of it at his cereal factory starting in 1930 and the advocacy of it Lord Leverhulme (Lever Brothers) in his 1919 book "The Six-Hour Day and Other Industrial Questions." Right now we are locked in a gruesome tennis match between private-sector downsizing by the right and public-sector upsizing by the left. The vitriolic battles between the right and the left are ironic because they both need each other - if either side has its way too much, as during the Bush regime for the right in terms of private-sector downsizing AND public-sector upsizing (along "defense" lines) come to think of it, the economy's diagonally downward spiral accelerates. The sustainable form of worksharing, timesizing, obsoletes both: it obsoletes private-sector downsizing because we can't do without the consumer spending associated with those downsized employees - we need it to maintain the economy's circulatory system (including especially the volume and velocity of the economy's circulating medium, money). And timesizing obsoletes public-sector upsizing because that is based on the fallacy that taxpayers (dba government) have no alternative but to replace all the jobs, at the same unadjusted 40-hour level, that the private-sector downsizes, which effectively zeroes any realization of the promise of worksaving technology: to "make life easier for everyone." At the same time, timesizing does not interfere with individual downsizings by individual companies - it doesn't "sweat the details." Timesizing obsoletes downsizing at the overall level by forcing the private-sector overall to maintain its overall workforce, which prevents individual downsizings from building up and snowballing into the kind of diagonally downward spiral we see today in an economy where the disposable employees of one or two downsizings can be resorbed, but when downsizing becomes the kind of fad it became since the 70s and 80s, it takes longer and longer for those who get rehired to do so, and it builds up a bigger and bigger burden of entitlement (welfare, disability, incarceration) for those who do not get rehired. And of course, the longer time required among the non-wealthy to get re-employed is paralleled by the longer time required by the wealthy to find sustainable investment targets, which require not just productivity but marketable productivity, something that is declining thanks to the snowballing of individual corporate downsizings, not to mention the aggravation of their impact by product-and-service imports and job exports (outsourcings). (Un)employment insurance is insuring worktime with payments in money. Timesizing insures worktime with payments in worktime, and thereby ensures that an economy doesn't ruin itself by perpetuating an overlong workweek (=share of worktime per person per week) deep into the age of robots. For as Reuther said when Ford taunted him with "Let's see you unionize these robots!" - "Let's see you sell them cars."]
- Obama: American Jobs Act, Richmond Times Dispatch via www2.timesdispatch.com
RICHMOND, Va. - "The American Jobs Act" proposal to use unemployment insurance benefits creatively for job hiring and job creation is one of the most sensible proposals by the president. Rather than firing some workers during economic slumps, businesses in 23 states use a type of unemployment insurance called "work sharing" that permits them to keep employees on the job by reducing their work hours. Employees are provided with partial unemployment benefits for their reduced work.
Virginia is not among the states that enable companies to voluntarily participate in work sharing programs. In the last session of the General Assembly, Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple and 18 other members sponsored a bill (SB 1474) to allow Virginia businesses to participate in shared work, but it failed to get favorable action.
The practice of work sharing was developed in Europe in the 1920s and has been used by American businesses in other states since the 1980s. This year, Republican-led Maine and Pennsylvania enacted shared work programs with bipartisan support, preceded during the recession by Colorado, the District of Columbia, New Hampshire,
[*New Jersey] and Oklahoma. Employees benefit by keeping their jobs rather than being laid off, while employers avoid the costly and time-consuming task of rebuilding their workforce when the economy improves.
Virginia's jobless rate has hovered around an unacceptable 6 percent since the peak rate of 7.2 percent in early 2010. It is time for Gov. Bob McDonnell and the General Assembly to modernize the commonwealth's unemployment insurance program by adding shared work as a job-saving business option. Work sharing is a way to keep more Virginians working, supporting their families, paying taxes and preserving their dignities and sense of contribution.
9/09/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- US Work Sharing Could Produce Equivalent Of 2.4 Million New Jobs A Year - Analysis, by Dean Baker, EurasiaReview.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - It is encouraging to hear that President Obama included work sharing as part of his jobs agenda. This is a job creation measure that both has been shown to be successful and has the potential to break through partisan gridlock.
The basic logic of work sharing is simple. Currently the government effectively pays for workers to be unemployed with unemployment insurance. Rather than just paying workers who have lost their job, work sharing allows workers to be partially compensated for shorter work hours. Instead of 1 worker getting half pay after losing her job, under work sharing 5 workers may get 10 percent of their pay after their hours are cut by 20 percent.
This situation is likely to be better for both employees and employers. It allows workers to maintain their jobs and continue to upgrade their skills. It avoids a situation where workers may end up as long-term unemployed and find it difficult to get re-employed.
This is also likely to be better from the standpoint of employers since it keeps trained workers on the job. When demand picks up, they don’t need to find and train new workers, they simply must increase hours for their existing work force.
This approach has been a proven success in many countries, most importantly Germany. The unemployment rate in Germany is half of a percentage point below its pre-recession level even though its growth has been no better than in the United States. If a work sharing program here in the United States can reduce dismissals and layoffs by just 10 percent, it would generate the equivalent of 2.4 million new jobs a year.
As a new approach, this plan may also get around Republican opposition. Work sharing has drawn support across the political spectrum. AEI economist Kevin Hassett, who was Senator McCain’s chief economist in his 2000 campaign, has been a vocal proponent of work sharing. The policy in Germany is fervently embraced by Germany’s conservative government.
It is encouraging that President Obama was willing to step outside the box and try a new approach. If the Republicans cooperate, this policy could make a big difference to millions of workers and their families.
About the author:
Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of "Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy."
- Obama's $447-billion jobs plan faces opposition, by Paul Davidson and Aamer Madhani, USAtoday.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Economists say President Obama has put forth an ambitious job-creation plan that reaches into nearly every corner of the nation's half-speed economy, touching the long-term unemployed, struggling households and wary small businesses.
Under the $447billion blueprint, payroll tax cuts would be continued for all working Americans, the unemployed would keep receiving extended benefits and small business would get tax credits for boosting hiring from today's low levels.
The plan, if enacted would boost economic growth next year by 2 percentage points and create 2million additional jobs, says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics.
The nation's unemployment problem is deep: 14million Americans are unemployed and the jobless rate, now 9.1%, is widely expected to be above 8% in late 2012.
Obama also has instructed his economic team to find ways to help more people to refinance their mortgages, which could save borrowers billions of dollars and spur the economy and job growth.
"It's much larger than anticipated," Zandi says. "I think the intent is correct."
Some experts and business officials say the plan isn't balanced by corporate tax cuts and reduced regulation.
"I don't think it addresses some of the structural changes that are needed," says Ross DeVol, chief research officer at the Milken Institute. And other than payroll tax cuts for workers, many elements of Obama's plan stand little chance of passing a deficit-minded Congress, Zandi says.
The plan includes:
Tax breaks for workers
The payroll tax holiday set to expire Dec.31 would be expanded and extended through next year at a cost of $175billion. The president has long pressed for an extension of the tax, which funds Social Security, and would return to 6.2% from 4.2% if Congress doesn't act. Obama wants to cut it to 3.1%.
Zandi says the extra cash ripples through the economy and employment would fall by an average of 750,000 next year if the cut isn't extended.
But Patrick Louis Knudsen, former House Budget Committee policy director and an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, questioned whether the proposal would do much to bolster consumer spending or job growth.
"Temporary tax rebates tend not to be very effective," said Knudsen, who noted that President George W. Bush's 2008 effort to use a tax rebate for the middle class also failed to spur consumer spending. "People don't make large investments based on temporary improvement in their economic situation."
Help for small businesses
Obama wants to expand the payroll tax cut to small businesses, cutting it in half to 3.1% for the first $5million in wages. That would instantly put money in the pockets of businesses that they could use to invest or hire, says Michael Greenstone, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a think tank.
William Dunkelberg, chief economist of the National Federation of Independent Business, says it's unlikely small businesses will spend the cash on new investment or hiring. "I'd rather give all the money to consumers," he says.
To directly spur hiring, businesses would be exempt from the entire payroll tax for any growth in total payroll up to $50million over last year's level, whether by new hires or wage increases. Greenstone says that would nudge on-the-fence employers into hiring.
Dunkelberg says companies won't make long-term investments for a quick windfall. "We're lacking customers."
Both tax breaks would cost $70billion and could create several hundred thousand jobs.
Any business could get additional tax credits for especially beleaguered workers, such as the long-term unemployed or veterans.
"We are concerned that President Obama offers only short term temporary tax relief for small businesses but still suggests future higher marginal tax rates for successful small businesses, our job creators," says Caroline Harris, chief tax counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Repairs and rebuilding
The plan calls for $30billion to upgrade at least 35,000 public schools with emergency repairs, energy efficiency upgrades and asbestos abatement, giving rural schools priority.
The money could be disbursed to schools within 30 days through existing funding formulas. And it would put people, rather than heavy machinery, to work, employing perhaps 250,000, economists say. It would employ perhaps 250,000 people, economists say.
Another $50billion would fix the nation's crumbling and congested highways, rail lines and airports, and $15billion to refurbish thousands of foreclosed homes and businesses. Zandi says much of it would not begin until late next year.
Obama's plan also would create an infrastructure bank funded with $10billion to use for loans and guarantees and leverage several times that amount in private investment. The problem: It could take at least a year or two to get it up and running.
Aid to states and cities
The plan would spend $35billion to prevent the layoffs of 280,000 teachers, hire tens of thousands more and keep cops and firefighters working. Michael Ettlinger of the liberal Center for American Progress, says aid to states is a fast way to help employment.
Helping the jobless
Obama called for a series of initiatives to assist the jobless, including extending unemployment benefits for 5million Americans in danger of losing their benefits and new laws prohibiting employers from discriminating against unemployed workers when hiring.
But economists and employment experts said among the most intriguing proposals were the president's call for a work-sharing program and something called "Bridge to Work," a program where the long-term unemployed continue to receive benefits while doing unpaid work for companies that give them on-the-job training.
Work sharing has had some [actually, much] success in Germany, where unemployment hovers below 7%, even though the country's economic growth has trailed the United States in recent years, said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center of Economic and Policy Research.
[Has anyone besides academics noticed any economic growth in the land of downsizing in recent years? Let's ask, 'Growth' for whom?]
"Obviously people aren't happy about working shorter hours, but it's better than being laid off," Baker said.
[Bad angle, Dean - people are happy about shorter hours, aren't happy about less pay.]
"Over the long term if you can keep workers at the workplace they continue to maintain their skills and you avoid the situation of long-term employment where people are out of work for one or two years and may never find work again."
The Bridge to Work program is more controversial. It's inspired by Georgia Works, a Georgia state run program that allows businesses to train jobless participants for up to eight weeks without having to pay them. That program has served as a sort of tryout and about a fifth of participants were hired by their employers.
Critics say that the Georgia program has been exploitative and the Progressive Change Committee, a left-leaning political action committee, has already taken ads criticizing the administration for floating a similar program. White House officials say the protections will be put in place to guarantee that the program is compliant with existing worker right provisions and participants receive the equivalent of minimum wage.
Bolstering housing market
Obama has instructed his economic team to work with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and lenders to help more Americans to refinance their mortgages to the current historically low rate that hovers around 4%.
Administration officials offered scant details about how they plan to convince the major players to get on board with facilitating more refinancing.
Early in 2009, Obama engineered the Home Affordable Refinancing Program (HARP), which allows qualified underwater homeowners to refinance up to 125% of a property's value. At the time, administration officials thought that as many 5 million would take advantage of HARP.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, wrote in a report last month that lowering interest rates could mean a windfall of about $45billion in savings for borrowers, while reducing the odds of defaults.
9/08/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Jobs Plan Fact Sheet - Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs, Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) via blogs.ajc.com/jamie-dupree-washington-insider
[Basically all far far too detailed and picky and interfering and overreaching except - the small parts on worksharing which should be at the top and elaborated - and then all the rest would be unnecessary because the private sector, core-balanced and made responsible for absorbing its own disposable workers and reactivating its own deactivated consumers, could take care of it all by itself without a government attempt to cover every detail - with attendant intensification of government debt.]
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The White House released the following fact sheet to go along with President Obama's speech to the Congress on jobs and economic growth:
THE AMERICAN JOBS ACT
1. Tax Cuts to Help America’s Small Businesses Hire and Grow
* Cutting the payroll tax in half for 98 percent of businesses: The President’s plan will cut in half the taxes paid by businesses on their first $5 million in payroll, targeting the benefit to the 98 percent of firms that have payroll below this threshold.
* A complete payroll tax holiday for added workers or increased wages: The President’s plan will completely eliminate payroll taxes for firms that increase their payroll by adding new workers or increasing the wages of their current worker (the benefit is capped at the first $50 million in payroll increases).
* Extending 100% expensing into 2012: This continues an effective incentive for new investment.
* Reforms and regulatory reductions to help entrepreneurs and small businesses access capital.
2. Putting Workers Back on the Job While Rebuilding and Modernizing America
* A “Returning Heroes” hiring tax credit for veterans: This provides tax credits from $5,600 to $9,600 to encourage the hiring of unemployed veterans.
* Preventing up to 280,000 teacher layoffs, while keeping cops and firefighters on the job.
o Modernizing at least 35,000 public schools across the country, supporting new science labs, Internet-ready classrooms and renovations at schools across the country, in rural and urban areas.
o Immediate investments in infrastructure and a bipartisan National Infrastructure Bank, modernizing our roads, rail, airports and waterways while putting hundreds of thousands of workers back on the job.
o A New “Project Rebuild”, which will put people to work rehabilitating homes, businesses and communities, leveraging private capital and scaling land banks and other public-private collaborations.
o Expanding access to high-speed wireless as part of a plan for freeing up the nation’s spectrum.
3. Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs.
* The most innovative reform to the unemployment insurance program in 40 years: As part of an extension of unemployment insurance to prevent 5 million Americans looking for work from losing their benefits, the President’s plan includes innovative work-based reforms to prevent layoffs and give states greater flexibility to use UI funds to best support job-seekers, including:
o Work-Sharing: UI for workers whose employers choose work-sharing over layoffs.
o A new “Bridge to Work” program: The plan builds on and improves innovative state programs
where those displaced take temporary, voluntary work or pursue on-the-job training.
o Innovative entrepreneurship and wage insurance programs: States will also be empowered to implement wage insurance to help reemploy older workers and programs that make it easier for unemployed workers to start their own businesses.
* A $4,000 tax credit to employers for hiring long-term unemployed workers.
* Prohibiting employers from discriminating against unemployed workers when hiring.
o Expanding job opportunities for low-income youth and adults through a fund for successful approaches for subsidized employment, innovative training programs and summer/year-round jobs for youth.
4. Tax Relief for Every American Worker and Family
* Cutting payroll taxes in half for 160 million workers next year: The President’s plan will expand the payroll tax cut passed last year to cut workers payroll taxes in half in 2012 – providing a $1,500 tax cut to the typical American family, without negatively impacting the Social Security Trust Fund.
* Allowing more Americans to refinance their mortgages at today’s near 4 percent interest rates, which can put more than $2,000 a year in a family’s pocket.
5. Fully Paid for as Part of the President’s Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan. To ensure that the American Jobs Act is fully paid for, the President will call on the Joint Committee to come up with additional deficit reduction necessary to pay for the Act and still meet its deficit target. The President will, in the coming days, release a detailed plan that will show how we can do that while achieving the additional deficit reduction necessary to meet the President’s broader goal of stabilizing our debt as a share of the economy.
AMERICAN JOBS ACT OVERVIEW
The American people understand that the economic crisis and the deep recession weren’t created overnight and won’t be solved overnight. The economic security of the middle class has been under attack for decades. That’s why President Obama believes we need to do more than just recover from this economic crisis – we need to rebuild the economy the American way, based on balance, fairness, and the same set of rules for everyone from Wall Street to Main Street. We can work together to create the jobs of the future by helping small business entrepreneurs [they don't need help; they just don't need hindrance], by investing in education [post-2ndary education is just money wasting makework; let's get back to OJT], and by making things the world buys [quit wasting time on the export industry; it's only 17% of the economy and we have no control over "the world"]. The President understands that to restore an American economy that’s built to last we cannot afford to outsource American jobs and encourage reckless financial deals that put middle class security at risk [so why did he back the bank bailout?].
To create jobs, the President unveiled the American Jobs Act – nearly all of which is made up of ideas that have been supported by both Democrats and Republicans, and that Congress should pass right away to get the economy moving now. The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans. And it would do so without adding a dime to the deficit.
1. Tax Cuts to Help America’s Small Businesses Hire and Grow
* New Tax Cuts to Businesses to Support Hiring and Investment: The President is proposing three tax cuts to provide immediate incentives to hire and invest:
o Cutting the Payroll Tax in Half for the First $5 Million in Wages: This provision would cut the payroll tax in half to 3.1% for employers on the first $5 million in wages, providing broad tax relief to all businesses but targeting it to the 98 percent of firms with wages below this level.
o Temporarily Eliminating Employer Payroll Taxes on Wages for New Workers or Raises for Existing Workers: The President is proposing a full holiday on the 6.2% payroll tax firms pay for any growth in their payroll up to $50 million above the prior year, whether driven by new hires, increased wages or both. This is the kind of job creation measure that CBO has called the most effective of all tax cuts in supporting employment.
o Extending 100% Expensing into 2012: The President is proposing to extend 100 percent expensing, the largest temporary investment incentive in history, allowing all firms – large and small – to take an immediate deduction on investments in new plants and equipment.
* Helping Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses Access Capital and Grow: The President’s plan includes administrative, regulatory and legislative measures – including those developed and recommended by the President’s Jobs Council – to help small firms start and expand. This includes changing the way the government does business with small firms. The Administration will soon announce a plan to accelerate government payments to small contractors to help put money in their hands faster. The President is also charging his CIO and CTO to, within 90 days, stand up a one-stop, online portal for small businesses to easily access government services. As part of the President’s Startup America initiative, the Administration will work with the SEC to conduct a comprehensive review of securities regulations from the perspective of these small companies to reduce the regulatory burdens on small business capital formation in ways that are consistent with investor protection, including expanding “crowdfunding” opportunities and increasing mini-offerings. Finally, the President’s plan calls for Congress to pass comprehensive patent reform, increase guarantees for bonds to help small businesses compete for infrastructure projects and remove burdensome withholding requirements that keep capital out of the hands of job creators.
2. Putting Workers Back on the Job While Rebuilding and Modernizing America
* Tax Credits and Career Readiness Efforts to Support Veterans’ Hiring: The President is proposing a Returning Heroes Tax Credit of up to $5,600 for hiring unemployed veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months, and a Wounded Warriors Tax Credit of up to $9,600 for hiring unemployed workers with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months, while creating a new task force to maximize career readiness of servicemembers.
* Preventing Layoffs of Teachers, Cops and Firefighters: The President is proposing to invest $35 billion to prevent layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers, while supporting the hiring of tens of thousands more and keeping cops and firefighters on the job. These funds would help states and localities avoid and reverse layoffs now, requiring that funds be drawn down quickly. Under the President’s proposal, $30 billion be directed towards educators and $5 billion would support the hiring and retention of public safety and first responder personnel.
* Modernizing Over 35,000 Schools – From Science Labs and Internet-Ready Classrooms to Renovated Facilities: The President is proposing a $25 billion investment in school infrastructure that will modernize at least 35,000 public schools – investments that will create jobs, while improving classrooms and upgrading our schools to meet 21st century needs. This includes a priority for rural schools and dedicated funding for Bureau of Indian Education funded schools. Funds could be used for a range of emergency repair and renovation projects, greening and energy efficiency upgrades, asbestos abatement and removal, and modernization efforts to build new science and computer labs and to upgrade technology in our schools. The President is also proposing a $5 billion investment in modernizing community colleges (including tribal colleges), bolstering their infrastructure in this time of need while ensuring their ability to serve future generations of students and communities.
* Making an Immediate Investment in Our Roads, Rails and Airports: The President’s plan includes $50 billion in immediate investments for highways, transit, rail and aviation, helping to modernize an infrastructure that now receives a grade of “D” from the American Society of Civil Engineers and putting hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job. The President’s plan includes investments to improve our airports, support NextGen Air Traffic Modernization efforts, and resources for the TIGER and TIFIA programs, which target competitive dollars to innovative multi-modal infrastructure programs. It will also take special steps to enhance infrastructure-related job training opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups and ensure that small businesses can compete for infrastructure contracts. The President will work administratively to speed infrastructure investment through a recently issued Presidential Memorandum developed with his Jobs Council directing departments and agencies to identify high impact, job-creating infrastructure projects that can be expedited in a transparent manner through outstanding review and permitting processes. The call for greater infrastructure investment has been joined by leaders from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka to U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue.
* Establishing a National Infrastructure Bank: The President is calling for Congress to pass a National Infrastructure Bank capitalized with $10 billion, in order to leverage private and public capital and to invest in a broad range of infrastructure projects of national and regional significance, without earmarks or traditional political influence. The Bank would be based on the model Senators Kerry and Hutchison have championed while building on legislation by Senators Rockefeller and Lautenberg and the work of long-time infrastructure bank champions like Rosa DeLauro and the input of the President’s Jobs Council.
* Project Rebuild: Putting People Back to Work Rehabilitating Homes, Businesses and Communities. The President is proposing to invest $15 billion in a national effort to put construction workers on the job rehabilitating and refurbishing hundreds of thousands of vacant and foreclosed homes and businesses. Building on proven approaches to stabilizing neighborhoods with high concentrations of foreclosures, Project Rebuild will bring in expertise and capital from the private sector, focus on commercial and residential property improvements, and expand innovative property solutions like land banks. This approach will not only create construction jobs but will help reduce blight and crime and stabilize housing prices in areas hardest hit by the housing crisis.
* Expanding Access to High-Speed Wireless in a Fiscally Responsible Way: The President is calling for a deficit reducing plan to deploy high-speed wireless services to at least 98 percent of Americans, including those in more remote rural communities, while freeing up spectrum through incentive auctions, spurring innovation, and creating a nationwide, interoperable wireless network for public safety.
3. Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs.
* Reform Our Unemployment Insurance System to Provide Greater Flexibility, While Ensuring 6 Million People Do Not Lose Benefits: Drawing on the best ideas of both parties and the most innovative states, the President is proposing the most sweeping reforms to the unemployment insurance (UI) system in 40 years help those without jobs transition to the workplace. Alongside these reforms, the President is reiterating his call to extend unemployment insurance, preventing 6 million people looking for work from losing their benefits and extending what the independent Congressional Budget Office has determined is the highest “bang for the buck” option to increase economic activity.
o Reemployment Assistance: States will be required to design more rigorous reemployment services for the long-term unemployed and to conduct assessments to review the longest-term claimants of UI to assess their eligibility and help them develop a work-search plan. These reforms are proven to speed up UI beneficiaries’ return to work.
o Work-sharing: The President will expand “work-sharing” to encourage arrangements using UI that keep employees on the job at reduced hours, rather than laying them off.
o State Flexibility for Bold Reforms to Put the Long-Term Unemployed Back To Work: The President is proposing to provide additional funds to allow states to introduce new programs aimed at long-term unemployed workers, including:
§ “Bridge to Work” Programs: States will be able to put in place reforms that build off what works in programs like Georgia Works or Opportunity North Carolina, while instituting important fixes and reforms that ensure minimum wage and fair labor protections are being enforced. These approaches permits long-term unemployed workers to continue receiving UI while they take temporary, voluntary work or pursue work-based training. The President’s plan requires compliance with applicable minimum wage and other worker rights laws.
§ Wage Insurance: States will be able to use UI to encourage older, long-term unemployed Americans to return to work in new industries or occupations.
§ Startup Assistance: States will have flexibility to help long-term unemployed workers create their own jobs by starting their own small businesses.
§ Other Reemployment Reforms: States will be able to seek waivers from the Secretary of Labor to implement other innovative reforms to connect the long- term unemployed to work opportunities.
* Tax Credits for Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed: The President is proposing a tax credit of up to $4,000 for hiring workers who have been looking for a job for over six months.
* Investing in Low-Income Youth and Adults: The President is proposing a new Pathways Back to Work Fund to provide hundreds of thousands of low-income youth and adults with opportunities to work and to achieve needed training in growth industries. The Initiative will do three things: i) support summer and year-round jobs for youth, building off of successful programs that supported over 370,000 such jobs in 2009 and 2010; ii) support subsidized employment opportunities for low-income individuals who are unemployed, building off the successful TANF Emergency Contingency Fund wage subsidy program that supported 260,000 jobs in 2009 and 2010; and iii) support promising and innovative local work-based job and training initiatives to place low-income adults and youths in jobs quickly.
* Prohibiting Employers from Discriminating Against Unemployed Workers: The President’s plan calls for legislation that would make it unlawful to refuse to hire applicants solely because they are unemployed or to include in a job posting a provision that unemployed persons will not be considered.
4. More Money in the Pockets of Every American Worker and Family
* Cutting Payroll Taxes in Half for 160 Million Workers Next Year. The President’s plan will expand the payroll tax cut passed last December by cutting workers payroll taxes in half next year. This provision will provide a tax cut of $1,500 to the typical family earning $50,000 a year. As with the payroll tax cut passed in December 2010, the American Jobs Act will specify that Social Security will still receive every dollar it would have gotten otherwise, through a transfer from the General Fund into the Social Security Trust Fund.
* Helping More Americans Refinance Mortgages at Today’s Historically Low Interest Rates:: The President has instructed his economic team to work with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, their regulator the FHFA, major lenders and industry leaders to remove the barriers that exist in the current refinancing program (HARP) to help more borrowers benefit from today’s historically low interest rates. This has the potential to not only help these borrowers, but their communities and the American taxpayer, by keeping borrowers in their homes and reducing risk to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
5. Fully Paid for as Part of the President’s Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan.
* To ensure that the American Jobs Act is fully paid for, the President will call on the Joint Committee to come up with additional deficit reduction necessary to pay for the Act and still meet its deficit target. The President will, in the coming days, release a detailed plan that will show how we can do that while achieving the additional deficit reduction necessary to meet the President’s broader goal of stabilizing our debt as a share of the economy.
Table $, bn
Tax Cuts to Help America’s Small Businesses Hire and Grow 70
Cut employer payroll taxes in half & bonus payroll cut for new jobs/wages 65
Extend 100% expensing in 2012 5
Putting Workers Back on the Job While Rebuilding and Modernizing America 140
Teacher rehiring and first responders 35
Modernizing schools 30
Immediate surface transportation 50
Infrastructure bank 10
Rehabilitation/repurposing of vacant property (neighborhood stabilization) 15
National wireless initiative 0*
Veterans hiring initiative n.a.
Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs 62
UI Reform and Extension 49
Jobs tax credit for long term unemployed 8
Pathways back to work fund 5
More Money in the Pockets of Every American Worker and Family 175
Cutting employee payroll taxes in half in 2012 175
* Proposal has a gross cost of $10bn, but a net deficit reducing impact of $18bn because of spectrum auction proceeds.
- The role of government: Lending a hand - Policymakers can help create jobs, up to a point, The Economist of London via economist.com
LONDON, U.K. - The great delusion of a Great Moderation caught on not least because it let those in charge feel they had solved one of the toughest questions of political economy: what is the proper role of government? A combination of free and flexible markets, including for labour, and an independent central bank to keep money sound seemed to have delivered the multiple alchemies of permanently low unemployment, low inflation and an end to the business cycle. Yet the financial crash and the subsequent jobs crisis have thrown the question wide open again.
There is now a renewed debate about the pros and cons of labour-market flexibility, with doubts being aired by the OECD, which had long championed it. Some Americans worry that their labour markets are becoming “Europeanised”, by which they mean saddled with high long-term unemployment and low mobility. Spain’s example shows that introducing flexibility to some parts of the labour market but not others can have undesirable social consequences. On the other hand recent experience in Germany (which in July had an unemployment rate of 7% as against America’s 9.1%) suggests that not all things European are bad and that America’s focus on labour-market flexibility alone may be too narrow.
In this special report
The Hartz labour-market reforms introduced in Germany in the early 2000s included a scheme allowing the government to subsidise short-time working. That is thought to have stopped unemployment soaring after the financial meltdown in September 2008, saving hundreds of thousands of jobs. Singapore benefited from a similar scheme, and several other countries introduced their own versions in the aftermath of the crisis—although the OECD reckons that the ones that worked best were already in place when the crisis hit.
That has lead some economists to argue that governments should put such arrangements in place as an insurance policy. But there have to be safeguards. In Germany it helped that firms had to contribute to the subsidy for short-time working, giving them an incentive to wind down the scheme as soon as demand started to recover. Alain de Serres, an economist at the OECD, suggests that governments should have an on-off switch for the kind of intervention in the labour market that can be helpful in tough times but harmful in normal conditions—for instance, making unemployment benefit payable for longer during a downturn.
About a third of American states have schemes for short-time working in place, but they were hardly used after the crisis because managers thought they would easily be able to rehire the people they had fired. In Britain, which has arguably the most flexible labour markets in the European Union, lots of workers reduced their hours, or had them reduced, without any government subsidy. This saved lots of jobs, helping to keep the unemployment rate well below America’s.
In response to the economic downturn, Britain also took steps to keep younger people from spending long periods on the dole. The then Labour government set up the Young Person’s Guarantee, offering everyone aged 24 or under who had been out of work for six months a guaranteed job or a place in training, backed by a £1 billion fund. Those in work got paid, supposedly enough to make it feel like a “real” job; those in training received extra money on top of their benefits. Over its life the scheme supported around 100,000 young people. Paul Gregg and Richard Layard, the two economists who devised it, believe that government should act as an “employer of last resort”, not just for the young but for anyone who is unemployed for a long period.
But when the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government took over in May last year it scrapped the scheme and introduced its own “Work Programme”. This is based on a fundamentally different philosophy, combining the “tough love” element of the welfare reform introduced in America under Bill Clinton with a payment-for-results contract with the private sector. More than 500 businesses and voluntary organisations have signed up to get people who have claimed unemployment benefit for nine months to a year back into work. The government will pay the contractors only when the worker concerned has held down the job for some time.
These various schemes may help the cyclically unemployed find work and, in so far as those people would have become permanently unemployed, help reduce structural unemployment too. That is not to be sniffed at, but it does not solve the problem of creating enough decent jobs in the long term. The same is true of creating jobs through a debt-financed economic stimulus. That can help in the short run, as it did after the financial crisis. The debate still continues over whether further stimulus would be helpful, supposing politics or the financial markets allowed it. But the only long-term answer is to create real, sustainable jobs. What can government do about that?
A hundred flowers
Soaring unemployment in America has created an appetite for a range of policy ideas that would have been dismissed only a few years ago. In his book, “Make It In America”, Andrew Liveris, the boss of Dow Chemical, calls for an industrial policy to support manufacturing, including the use of government subsidies to keep firms from moving their operations abroad. The firm has helped to try this out in Michigan, where the governor, Jennifer Granholm, who is now on Dow’s board, used a mixture of local, state and federal government incentives to lure a cluster of firms involved in making batteries for electric cars. But governments are notoriously bad at picking industrial winners, and even if they succeed, there are questions about whether their interventions provide value for money. As Ms Granholm admits, whether the battery cluster turns out to be a good deal for taxpayers may depend on America adopting tough policies towards carbon emissions.
There has been much talk about putting the unemployed to work to improve the energy efficiency of homes and commercial buildings, creating a range of “green jobs”. But “I’m not sure what a green job is,” says Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman turned mayor of New York. “Putting a solar panel on a roof is a job for an electrician, and you are not going to take an unemployed person and suddenly make him an electrician.”
Another big idea, again offered with an envious eye to China, is to modernise America’s creaking infrastructure. There is a good economic case for improving roads, bridges and so on, assuming the money can be found to pay for it. The construction industry has been hit hard by the downturn. But according to Mr Bloomberg, to think that this would solve the jobs problem is largely New Deal nostalgia. “The technology is different. If you built the Hoover dam today, you would do it with far fewer people,” he says. “The average worker standing in line for benefits tends not to be muscular.”
In response to accusations that he was anti-business, Barack Obama appointed Jeff Immelt, the boss of GE, to chair his advisory council on job creation. This was controversial, as GE has shifted jobs abroad, and although hugely profitable has recently paid little tax in America. One of the reforms Mr Immelt thinks would help create jobs in America, not least by attracting more foreign direct investment, would be to overhaul its corporate-tax system, which currently imposes one of the world’s highest marginal rates on company profits. Ironically, this would involve closing many of the loopholes that GE has been so adept at exploiting.
Mr Immelt also wants America’s education and training system to be overhauled, not least to produce far more graduates who are properly equipped to compete for good jobs and make it more responsive to the needs of business. A supply of many more people with qualifications in science, technology, engineering and mathematics will “have to be a big element of American competitiveness”, he says.
Businesspeople complain endlessly about public-sector education and training schemes. In India, where many leading firms have established in-house universities to teach recruits the rudiments of their business, the government has responded by asking industry to design one of the world’s most ambitious attempts to close the skills gap. It has provided seed capital for an industry-led programme to train 150m workers by 2022, the 75th anniversary of the country’s independence, focusing on the 20 economic sectors in which it expects high growth. The programme, overseen by a new National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), will be designed and run by the private sector, which will be free to decide how to spend the money. Dilip Chenoy, the chief executive of the NSDC, calls it “a demand-led supply-side model”.
Making entrepreneurs of us all
Mr Immelt admits that tax and education reform, though essential, will take many years to bear fruit. He thinks a third set of policies, to promote innovation and entrepreneurship, is likely to produce faster results.
“Getting the innovation engine going again is essential to reducing the structural rate of unemployment,” says Mr Phelps, the economist, dismissing the idea that innovation might actually destroy jobs by making production more efficient. “Virtually all innovations require people to conceive new products, to develop a way to produce them, market them and evaluate them,” he adds. Empirical evidence suggests that innovation has expanded the number of jobs.
Research funded by the Kauffman Foundation shows that between 1980 and 2005 all net new private-sector jobs in America were created by companies less than five years old. “Big firms destroy jobs to become more productive. Small firms need people to find opportunities to scale. That is why they create jobs,” says Carl Schramm, the foundation’s president. In America about 700,000 new firms are started every year. Until 2005 they created an annual 3m jobs between them, but in the past few years the number of new jobs per start-up has fallen, says Mr Schramm, and the total is now around 2.3m.
The challenge is to raise that rate again, but government efforts to stimulate entrepreneurship have a poor track record. Steve Case, the founder of AOL and another member of the jobs council, thinks Congress could help by passing a bipartisan “entrepreneurship act”. This could break the current political logjam by separately pushing several measures that have been blocked by Washington’s battles over far bigger reforms. For example, it could include giving visas to foreign entrepreneurs on condition that they create jobs in America, which seems a no-brainer but has got nowhere because the country’s mood has turned against immigration for entirely separate reasons. Mr Bloomberg wants to go further by offering visas to foreigners who agree to live in a failing city such as Detroit for a minimum of seven years without claiming any federal, state or local welfare benefits. “Overnight you would fill Detroit with people who would fill it with new jobs,” he says.
Mr Case is also providing financial support for Startup America, an organisation that, among other things, wants to help people clone Silicon Valley in other parts of the country. That idea has been tried before in many parts of the world, but with little success. One reason seems to be that these efforts have generally relied on a single silver bullet, such as tax breaks from the government or small-business incubators set up by venture capitalists. But what makes Silicon Valley special is the way in which a lot of different things are mixed together to make the sum greater than the parts.
A venture called Research Triangle Park in North Carolina seems particularly promising because it has the same sort of talent, wealth and institutions (such as universities and big corporate research departments) as Silicon Valley, but until recently there has been no co-ordinated effort to put them together to produce a strategy for starting and expanding new businesses.
More broadly, Mr Case is calling on Mr Obama and business leaders to give entrepreneurship more of a push because, he thinks, “entrepreneurship is not as uniformly part of the American dynamic as you’d think. The United States is better than most places, but the assumption that entrepreneurship is in America’s DNA is not true.”
If America needs to work harder to encourage entrepreneurs, the rest of the world has to make even more of an effort. StartUp Britain, launched earlier this year, is trying to do much the same as Startup America. Edward Davey, a business minister in the British government, is preparing a comprehensive package of help for entrepreneurs that he calls “employment in a box”, which he says will “make it really, really easy to take on your first employee”.
The emerging markets have similar needs. “In China the biggest challenge in the next five years is job creation,” says Mr Ma of Alibaba. He has set himself the ambitious goal of creating 100m jobs by 2019, but says this depends on the Chinese government adopting a more positive attitude towards entrepreneurs, who do not have an easy life in his country. Small and medium-sized businesses face high raw-materials prices and rising labour costs, but miss out on the low electricity prices and tax advantages enjoyed by big firms. They also have trouble borrowing money. A recent survey found that 84% of the start-up businesses on Alibaba are looking for loans of up to $50,000—too small for most Chinese banks to bother with, says Mr Ma, who is lobbying the government for easier finance.
- Lake Wales panel OKs help for groups, by Phil Attinger, NewsChief.com
LAKE WALES, Fla. - In a 4-to-1 vote, city commissioners approved a budget at their first hearing that included some help to local organizations.
The Lake Wales City Commission first unanimously approved an increased tax rate of $8 for every $1,000 of taxable property value during a regular meeting Wednesday night.
Then, in an almost 1 1/2-hour hearing about the budget, commissioners went back and forth over the issue of whether the city can afford to still support certain local organizations in a tight budget year and a tough economy.
Ultimately, Commissioner John Paul Rogers was the dissenting vote.
He agreed with other commissioners on restoring every one of the 10 unpaid furlough days that city employees would have had to take to balance the budget if the city had not raised the property tax rate.
He disagreed with giving funds to community organizations in a tight budget year and tough economy.
"I don't think with facing employee furloughs, we can do this," Rogers said. "Our duty is the run this city. We are not the Salvation Army."
[But apparently the other commissioners think they are the Salvation Army. They should be monitoring city-level worksharing and overtime-to-jobs conversion to make it easier for all residents to support themselves, instead of usurping residents' rights to choose their own charities. Also, it opens the door to payoffs and bribes.]
The City Commission was obligated by a vote in December 2010 to provide $50,000 to the Green and Gold Foundation to help run the B Street Community Center, which the city recently turned over to the organization.
However, the other four commissioners voted to provide $30,000 this year to the Lake Wales Historical Society and $6,000 to the Lake Wales Senior Center.
Another $45,000, originally suggested as funding for Police Athletic League youth sports programs, will go to repair showers and secure locker rooms at the Kirkland Gym.
Commissioner Jonathan Thornhill said he would like that done to make the gym more useful.
[More useful to what fraction of the city's residents? And what's your percentage, Jonathan?]
Rogers said, before doing that, the city should find where the building is leaking and repairs those leaks.
Commissioner Betty Wojcik said, if the economy worsens and the city loses revenue next year, Lake Wales will face some "really tough choices."
In other business, the City Commission approved a contract with Therese Leary to be the new city manager.
Under contract, she will need to reside inside the Lake Wales city limits within a year and will receive $2,000 to help her move. Her base salary will be $100,000 per year.
Phil Attinger covers the Lake Wales and Frostproof areas and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-401-6981.
9/07/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Work Sharing Should Be Part Of President Obama's Job Program, OpEd by Dean Baker, EurasiaReview.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - It is encouraging that President Obama recognizes his obligation to take steps to restore the economy to full employment. The government alone has the power to lift the economy out of this downturn. Eventually, the private sector will be able to absorb the unemployed, but there are no remotely plausible projections that show private sector employment closing the gap anytime soon.
“There are many useful steps that President Obama can take to boost the economy. These steps include additional aid to state and local governments to stem the tide of layoffs in this sector. A youth jobs program would also give a chance to millions of teens in pockets of especially high unemployment. In addition the slack in the economy provides a great opportunity to address long-neglected infrastructure needs.
“However the quickest, and likely cheapest, way to increase employment would be to aggressively promote a policy of work sharing, for which President Obama already proposed some funding in his 2012 budget. This path has been effectively followed by Germany. Germany has a lower unemployment rate than it did at the start of the downturn even though its growth has been no better than growth in the United States.
“Work sharing is an effective alternative to an irrational system of unemployment insurance. In the current system, workers are effectively paid to be completely unemployed. Workers will get benefits from the government if they are laid off, however they get nothing if their hours are shortened.
“There is no public interest in encouraging employers to lay off workers. In fact there is a public interest in keeping workers employed, even if at shorter hours. If workers stay on the payroll, they maintain their contact with the workforce and continue to upgrade their skills. By contrast, if they are laid off and end up as a victim of long-term unemployment, they are likely to lose contact with the working population and their skills could deteriorate. This could make it significantly harder for them to find new jobs.
“To prevent this situation, the government should make work sharing an attractive alternative to layoffs. If just 10 percent of the workers who lose their job each month could be retained as a result of an effective work sharing program it would be equivalent to creating 2.4 million jobs over the course of a year.
“This simple logic is the reason that work sharing has been embraced by a large number of economists and policy analysts across the political spectrum, including experts at the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for American Progress, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Economic Policy Institute, National Employment Law Project, the New America Foundation.
“There are currently two different routes to promote work sharing being considered in Congress . One route would expand the programs that exist in 20 states. Its lead sponsors are Rosa DeLauro in the House and Jack Reed in the Senate. The other would provide an employer tax credit to subsidize costs for companies that participate in the program. Representative John Conyers is the lead sponsor for this bill, which will likely be introduced in the coming weeks.”
About the author: Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of "Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy."
"Dear Mr. President" - 14 approaches to creating more jobs, WSJ, B1 pointer to B4.
[Or do they mean 4?]
Private ideas on how to create jobs, by Joe Light & Alan Murray, WSJ, B4 target article.
Ahead of Obama's jobs-focused speech to a join session of Congress on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal talked to four groups of people, including CEOs and entrepreneurs, to get their takes on spurring job creation. (photo caption)
When President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on Thursday, he will face a business community both desperate for a boost in ailing sales and deeply skeptical of the government's ability to help.
Bob Greifeld, CEO, Nasdaq-OMX: 'U.S. companies need the ability to recruit the best workers....We must increase the number of H-1B visas available and reform the employment-based green card process.' (photo caption)
[This nitwit suggests more jobseekers, not more jobs.]
Pressure on politicians to act is growing. By any measure, the job market's recovery has been weak. Last Friday, the Labor Department reported that on balance no new U.S. jobs were created in August, the worst showing since last September, and well below the 125,000 needed to keep up with population growth. The White House's own projections call for unemployment to average 9% through 2012.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, more than 70% of Americans think the economy has yet to hit bottom. Without action from Congress, two economic-stimulus programs—a payroll-tax holiday for workers and emergency unemployment-insurance benefits—will expire by year-end, causing a loss of 750,000 jobs in 2012, according to an estimate by Moody's Analytics.
"The labor market has shown absolutely no recovery," said Harvard University economist Lawrence Katz. "There's no scenario in which the labor market doesn't continue to need help three to four years from now."
The Journal talked to four groups of people who analyze hiring and hire workers themselves. Here are their views about how to spur job creation:
Carlos Ghosn, CEO, Renault, Nissan: 'The first would be research and development, promoted both publicly and through companies' investments in R&D....The second would be the development of infrastructure.' (photo caption)
[= more taxpayer-bashing government makework from guys who want lower taxes]
Chief executives of some of the world's largest corporations support repairs to aging infrastructure, financed in part by private money, and point to lower taxes and fewer business restrictions as ways to create jobs.
"I travel the world on a regular basis, and U.S. infrastructure is simply not competitive," said Tom Albanese, CEO of Rio Tinto, the global mining company.
Dominic Barton, managing director of consulting firm McKinsey & Co., said pension funds, asset managers, sovereign wealth funds and private-equity firms are prepared to invest in infrastructure projects and could contribute $250 billion to $500 billion of equity capital to them over the next three years.
The CEOs also want lower corporate taxes in the U.S. and a moratorium or a rollback of business regulations.
"The government needs to be a better partner with the business world," said Magellan Health Services CEO Rene Lerer, echoing a sentiment expressed by many business leaders.
Yet CEOs also showed a practical streak that is often absent from the Washington debate and a willingness to embrace compromise.
Gail Kelly, CEO, Westpac Banking: 'Most important will be to maintain fair and open trading policies, despite likely calls for greater protection, and to encourage the adjustment of currencies globally to reflect the new realities.' (photo caption)
[= more deus ex machina that we cannot predict or control - brilliant! and then there's her contradiction between fair trade and free trade...]
"Political infighting and seemingly disparate objectives...are keeping the U.S. from finding real solutions to real problems," said Roger Wood, chief executive of Dana Holding Inc., the auto-parts company.
Chief executives generally agree that indebted U.S. consumers can no longer drive economic growth in the U.S., and impetus will need to come from developing countries. As a result, they urge the U.S. to embrace global free trade, and make changes that will encourage the growth of export industries here.
Pope McLean Jr., co-owner of Lexington, Ky.-based Crestwood Farm, said business has stabilized at the commercial thoroughbred breeder, but sales are still down more than a third from before the recession. That has made Mr. McLean hesitant to add to his 20-person staff, which is down five employees from its prerecession size. "If sales aren't what they used to be, it's hard for companies to say, 'I'm going to hire more people,' " Mr. McLean said. "You've got to have the work to justify it."
In a July survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, a net 2% of small-business owners planned to increase their work forces over the next three months, on a seasonally adjusted basis. That was down one percentage point from June and well below the net 5% that expected to increase hiring in February.
Carey O'Donnell, chairwoman of the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, said that the lack of access to capital is the top impediment to growth she hears voiced by small businesses. Loosening financial regulations for banks, she said, could make it easier for business in her area of Florida to grow.
Ms. O'Donnell, who is also president of the O'Donnell Agency, a public-relations and advertising firm, said that cuts in her tax burden would prompt her to add to her own 14-employee staff. "It would reduce the risk of hiring more people, even if it was temporary," she said.
Juan Davis, owner of Fast Lane Clothing Co. in Tampa, Fla., said lowering corporate taxes would help his clothing manufacturing and embroidering business grow.
The company now employs 19 workers, more than at the low point of the recession but far below the 35 workers it had in 2008. "We spend more on taxes and insurance than even on payroll," he said.
When Eventbrite CEO Kevin Hartz reads about the slow job market, he says, he feels like he is in a different universe.
His Silicon Valley start-up, which does online event ticketing, has 170 employees, and Mr. Hartz wants to hire another 70 before the end of the year, including software developers, salesmen and customer-service agents. "It's extremely difficult to find people," he said. "It takes an intense amount of focus from our company."
For more than a year, technology start-ups and venture capitalists have lamented a talent shortage, with bidding wars reported for engineers and some companies turning to outsourcing core development work.
The problem, they say, is a lack of fresh engineering graduates from universities and a frustrating visa process for developers from abroad.
Rick Marini, CEO of job networking app BranchOut, said one of his developers was on the verge of being deported this year after the government required his company to submit additional proof that an American couldn't take the job. "If I could find 10 Americans to do this job, I'd hire them tomorrow," he said.
Shervin Pishevar, managing director at Menlo Ventures, a venture-capital firm with more than $4 billion under management, has two ideas for White House officials: Allow immigrants who create jobs to stay in the country and forgive student loans for new college graduates who become entrepreneurs.
As for the more widely discussed forms of stimulus, like payroll-tax cuts and unemployment insurance, "We don't need them," said Travis Katz, CEO of social travel website Gogobot. "We just need qualified candidates."
If he had his druthers, Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi would have the president address big, long-term challenges, such as corporate tax reform and immigration policy while also proposing a $250 billion to $300 billion short-term stimulus package.
The biggest help for the job market, said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight, would be a major public-works program akin to those that were seen during the Great Depression. But economists are tempering their wish lists to fit the reality that the bigger the plan proposed by the president, the less likely it is to get through the Congress.
More modest infrastructure projects still are on the table. In a Labor Day speech, Mr. Obama alluded to more than one million unemployed construction workers that could be put to work rebuilding roads and bridges across the country.
Not all economists believe temporary stimulus would help. Republican Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and president of the American Action Forum think tank, said measures such as tax credits for new hires and extending emergency unemployment-insurance benefits won't encourage hiring.
"They're all one-time things that don't genuinely raise the long-term growth capacity," he said.
Mr. Holtz-Eakin supports reducing the corporate income-tax rate, allowing for tax-free repatriation of overseas profits and repealing the recent health-care overhaul to help reduce uncertainty and spur growth.
But tax cuts don't get to the root of the problem, IHS's Mr. Gault argues. "You have to believe that the No. 1 reason for lack of hiring is corporations don't see demand for their products," he said.
[And they ain't gonna get it from tax-intensive too-little too-late government makework or more jobseekers or more exposure to the vicissitudes of foreign demand for their products. Emergency worksharing leading into permanent timesizing is the only option - but this entire article has nary a breath of it.]
Write to Alan Murray at Alan.Murray@wsj.com
How to bring the jobs back, op ed, New York Times, A27.
President Obama is scheduled to discuss his jobs program on Thursday before Congress. What should he recommend, in the face of zero growth in jobs? Four writers share some suggestions.
[Four writers, zero mentions of worksharing. Oops, tell a lie - there's a brief mention by writer #2.]
 Freeze Public Wages, By BARRY BLUESTONE
[Huh? Barry used to be a lefty. And he used to be able to answer a question without a complete non-sequitur.]
In the face of this economic crisis, the federal government has all but declared unilateral disarmament. The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, has vowed to keep real interest rates near zero, but even at that level few are borrowing. Over at the White House and on Capitol Hill, the pursuit of deficit reduction has taken on a religious fervor just when the economy needs a stimulus.
Should the government strive to create middle-paying jobs? If that is a lost battle, what is the alternative path to recovery?
What can President Obama do? Many are suggesting another try at increasing infrastructure investment, but that would do little to provide a quick boost. Here is a wildly conservative, yet refreshingly liberal, alternative. Mr. Obama should first call together the leaders of all public-sector unions and ask them to pledge to a two-year freeze on federal, state and local public employee wages and benefits in return for a commitment to no government layoffs.
The White House and Congress should then create a two-year, $100 billion program of federal aid to state governments to help them and their municipalities weather this economic storm. All of the money would be spent on keeping services from disappearing and providing new infrastructure and public goods, rather than increasing employee compensation.
To pay for the federal aid program, the White House and Congress should levy a two-year, 5.5 percent “profits tax” on corporations operating in the United States that earned more than $1 million in profits in 2010. Profits have rebounded nicely from the Great Recession and now stand at close to $1.8 trillion, but very little of that is going into producing jobs. If half those profits were made at companies with $1 million or more in corporate earnings, this tax would raise the $100 billion we need to pay for the aid to states.
Finally, even with the economy in vast disarray, there are millions of credit-worthy families who might buy a home if they were not so worried about seeing their new homes lose value. So the Department of Housing and Urban Development should create a “home price insurance” program that would insure home buyers against catastrophic loss if home prices were to fall. For a $500 processing fee, the two-year program would allow applicants to purchase an insurance plan covering 80 percent of any loss in home value. To benefit from the program, a homeowner would have to keep the home for a minimum of three years and maintain it in good order. The cost to the government is likely to be minimal.
These steps will not bring full employment back by next Labor Day. But at least we’d be putting up a fight.
Barry Bluestone is the dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University.
 Invest in Workers
By LAWRENCE F. KATZ
THE last four years have been difficult for American workers. Employment collapsed in 2008-9 in the wake of the financial crisis. There are no signs of recovery in the labor market. Public-sector employment fell in the last year and private-sector employment growth remains tepid. The employment crisis has exacerbated the longer-term trends of rising inequality and a decline in middle-class jobs. Bold action by the federal government is needed.
[But then, what's "bold" about same-ol' same-ol' government makework?]
Should the government strive to create middle-paying jobs? If that is a lost battle, what is the alternative path to recovery?
First, a net job-creation tax credit for the next two years could provide a powerful incentive for private-sector employers to speed hiring and create momentum for a jobs recovery. Private employers who increase employment would get a tax credit to cover a substantial share (say 40 percent) of the payroll costs of net new hires; they would get a check even if they didn’t owe taxes. Such a tax credit would focus the incentives on expanding businesses, where the new jobs are more likely to persist, even after the subsidy expires.
[GREAT idea - from a bankrupt government.]
Second, increased federal spending of at least several hundred billion dollars a year for the next two years is needed to offset weak private-sector demand and crumbling state and local government finances. I would emphasize aid to state and local governments to prevent further layoffs and to increase spending on infrastructure for public schools and community colleges. Recent research shows that investments in public school infrastructure can raise property values and student performance. The most promising transportation, research and development and energy-efficiency investments should also be included.
[GREAT idea - from a bankrupt government.]
Third, the work force investment and re-employment system needs to be revamped. Re-employment services can be cost-effective in helping dislocated and disadvantaged workers find employment more rapidly. The economic rewards from community college and other postsecondary education remain high for young workers and some dislocated workers. There is much evidence that well-functioning training and education programs — like Job Corps, the National Guard Youth Challenge and Career Academies — help disadvantaged youths.
Existing employment and job-training systems are fragmented and hard to navigate. We need to make sure all workers have the resources and information to invest in high-return training.
Unemployment insurance should be made more flexible so that employers have an incentive to shorten workers’ hours instead of laying them off.
[Oops, here's a mention! Grant this pilgrim a plenary indulgence for all his other blather.]
Jobless workers trying to start new businesses should be eligible for continued unemployment insurance benefits. Wage-loss insurance should be granted to help buffer the earnings losses of displaced workers who take new, lower-paid jobs.
Industry-specific training programs that prepare disadvantaged workers for skilled jobs and help connect them to employers have been shown to raise earnings and should be expanded.
These initiatives could start us down the road to a sustained jobs recovery with more broadly shared prosperity.
Lawrence F. Katz is an economics professor at Harvard and was the chief economist at the Labor Department from 1993-1994.
 Not More of the Same, By JOHN B. TAYLOR
[Oh this should be rich.]
When he introduced Alan B. Krueger, his new economic adviser, in the Rose Garden last week, President Obama offered a few hints about his new economic plan. So far it sounds much like the old plan, which is too bad because that plan didn’t work very well.
Should the government strive to create middle-paying jobs? If that is a lost battle, what is the alternative path to recovery?
One part of the new plan, the president said, is to “put more money in the pockets” of people. That was tried in the 2009 stimulus, when the federal government borrowed money and gave it to people in the form of one-time payments or temporary refundable tax credits. The temporary transfers created little or no increase in aggregate consumption or, in turn, in jobs.
Another part of the new plan would “put construction crews to work rebuilding our nation’s roads and railways and airports.” That too was tried in the 2009 stimulus. My colleague John F. Cogan and I found that state and local governments put most of the money in their coffers. The federal government also undertook its own construction programs, but, with few shovel-ready projects, it could only increase infrastructure spending by an immaterial 0.05 percent of G.D.P.
In my estimation, those interventions and most others — cash for clunkers, the first-time homebuyers’ tax credit, quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve and the sharp increase in federal spending — have not only been ineffective but have also lowered investment and consumption demand by increasing concern about the federal debt, another financial crisis and threats of inflation or deflation. Most businesses have plenty of cash to invest and create jobs. They’re sitting on it because of those concerns.
Rather than more of such temporary interventions, the American economy needs a new comprehensive economic strategy. A natural starting place is the debt-limit cum spending-control agreement reached this summer. It reduces projected increases in spending over 10 years by $2.1 trillion to $2.4 trillion. The agreement reduces spending growth in a very gradual way, which is appropriate in a weak economy.
[And that's going to create jobs how?]
But it does not fully deal with the debt and the deficit problem, which is why it needs to be embedded in a broader economic strategy with the goal of closing the rest of the budget gap through pro-growth reforms.
There are of course sharp differences of opinion about the reforms needed to achieve that goal. The biggest differences of opinion will probably have to be hammered out in the 2012 election. Entitlement reform, tax reform, regulatory reform, monetary reform — indeed, the fundamental role of government in the economy — should be part of that debate, but with a clear commitment to America’s living within its means.
[Sounds like More of the Same to us.]
That strategy will take us toward a more stable and predictable economic policy with less uncertainty about the future. It will thereby increase both demand and supply and cause the economy to grow and create jobs again.
John B. Taylor is an economics professor at Stanford and served as the Treasury under secretary for international affairs from 2001-2005.
 A Capitalist Idea, By WILLIAM M. WALKER
President Obama needs to go big.
[Great, but Bam is not a big goer.]
Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman of the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, may have suggestions, but considering that Fortune 100 companies have killed 2.9 million jobs in America over the past decade while adding 2.4 million abroad, that may not be the best input. I’m an entrepreneur and I’m creating jobs. Here are eight suggestions:
Should the government strive to create middle-paying jobs? If that is a lost battle, what is the alternative path to recovery?
Significantly reduce Sarbanes-Oxley regulations for public companies with revenues under $500 million. My company went public last year and spends $3 million to $4 million a year in additional insurance, accounting and legal costs stemming from compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley financial reporting.
Reinstate Glass-Steagall [excellent but not directly job creating] and eliminate Dodd-Frank. Get commercial banks back to being banks, and get investment banks back to raising capital and trading. Reinstating Glass-Steagall would force the “too big to fail” banks to divest assets, something Dodd-Frank does not address.
Raise rates on short-term capital gains and lower rates on long-term capital gains. Hedge funds and private equity investors should not be rewarded for short-term capital gains that produce enormous market volatility. Raise the short-term capital gains rate to 35 percent, and lower the long-term rate (over one year) to 10 percent.
Provide companies with the confidence that if they invest in the United States, they aren’t going to face increased wage and benefit costs. Businesses will not invest if they don’t know the actual cost they will bear to comply with health care, consumer protection, banking and environmental regulations. The president has created a regulatory landscape that scares investors and is making chief executives hoard cash.
Require any mortgage originator who sells a mortgage to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to take a first-loss position, meaning that if the loan goes bad, the originator, not Fannie or Freddie, is responsible for the first 5 percent loss, and then shares losses with Fannie or Freddie up to 20 percent.
Means-test Social Security. Many wealthy Americans do not need benefits. Give them a tax deduction to the value of their estate for their accumulated contributions.
[Ohoh, the omnipresent taxcut "solution."]
Make serious cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. The health care bill sent the message that we will insure every American and cover every disease. We cannot afford that type of health care. Americans need to take responsibility for their health and realize that life choices (smoking, overeating, etc.) may produce health conditions that are not covered.
['Course, that won't help consumer spending, and some of these CEOs have actually realized they need more demand for products.]
Identify 100 major infrastructure projects that will put this country ahead of our competition and put people to work building high-speed trains [YAY! (personal fave)], highways, water pipelines, irrigation canals and alternative energy sources. Borrow as much money as the government possibly can to fund this investment. At 2 percent interest, it’s a good investment.
[Uh, we're already 13-14 trillion in the hole and you rich guys have been cutting your own taxes for the last 50 years.]
William M. Walker is chief executive of Walker & Dunlop, a commercial real estate financing company.
- Mayo Clinic: Burnout Persists Among Medical Residents, Despite Shortened Work Hours, Becker's Hospital Review via beckershospitalreview.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Feelings of burnout persist among internal medicine residents, despite significant cutbacks in duty hours in recent years, a national study by Mayo Clinic found.
Mayo Clinic researchers surveyed 16,394 U.S. residents in training in 2008-2009, representing three-fourths of U.S. internal medicine residents. The study reveals that 51.5 percent of residents reported burnout symptoms, 45.8 percent noted emotional exhaustion and 28.9 percent had feelings of depersonalization, reflected in cynicism and/or callousness.
The study also found markedly lower quality of life, lower satisfaction with work-life balance and increased burnout among those with debt, especially those owing more than $200,000.
Researchers noted that physician well-being is important for both the physician and the patients, as burnout, depression and other negative feelings/perceptions can contribute to medical errors and poor care practices.
- “Average” Statistics that Bruise Our Ears, by Paul Barsch, SmartDataCollective.com
NORTHERN N.J., USA - The term “on average” denotes the usual amount of something. However, using “average” in presentations, media and more can be terribly misleading and it is up to the data driven executive to make proper (and ethical) use of this calculation.
George Orwell’s poignant tome 1984 presents a dystopian future where a surveillance police state has control over the populace in just about every regard from health, food, speech, and education. Large telescreens mounted on street corners and in the home, blast statistics at denizens regarding how good life is under Big Brother; “Day and night telescreens bruised your ears with statistics proving that people today (on average) had more food, more clothes, better houses, better recreations—that they lived longer, worked shorter hours, were bigger, healthier, stronger, happier, more intelligent, better educated, than the people of fifty years ago.”
Statistics can definitely mislead and there are few phrases that bruise the ears more than “on average”. In fact, our minds should be automatically alerted to pay special attention whenever this terminology is used in speech or prose.
An egregious example of the use of the term “average” comes courtesy of a freeway billboard near a local hospital in San Diego. In a display of courage, the billboard proudly pronounces that their “average ER wait time is 30 minutes”.
Now, on the whole, this wait time may sound like a positive attribute, especially considering national papers often highlight emergency horror stories of up three hours (or more) to receive care. And ER wait times have increased over the past decade, so perhaps thirty minutes is really something to trumpet.
But does this statistic really tell the whole story regarding speedy hospital service? Some questions to ponder:
* Considering 24 hours in a day – is the wait time from 12am-6am ten minutes, while during the day it’s an hour? We just don’t know.
* Does “30 minutes wait time” mean wait time to see a doctor, diagnostics or simply just to see the triage nurse?
* In the statement “average ER wait time is 30 minutes” – an automatic response of the reader/listener should be “compared to what”? In fact, the other local hospital a few miles away may have an “average” wait time of just 20 minutes…
So if statistics sometimes obfuscate, the solution according to author Darrell Huff is to fight back against such abuse. He says that when it comes to statistics, executives should always be on the hunt for bias in sources and samples, and ask “what’s missing”. Sometimes what is presented isn’t as important as what’s hidden.
Lastly, Huff says we should judge statistics with good old fashioned common sense. As in suppose you happen to be in a room of ten people. When Warren Buffett enters the room, are you really “on average” a billionaire? The answer is yes, however it’s too bad your bank account will not concur.
About Paul Barsch Paul Barsch directs professional services marketing programs for Teradata, a leader in data warehousing and analytics. Paul has also worked in senior marketing roles for global consultancies EDS (an HP company) and BearingPoint.
9/06/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- For(sic)-day workweek no benefit to the public, by Robert G. Griffith of Doylestown Township, phillyBurbs.com (blog)
[Maybe it would help their spelling?]
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Most government offices are open Monday through Friday for seven or eight hours each day. For the most part, bureaucrats, not their constituents, have decreed that this is the time frame for conducting all significant transactions. Every once in awhile, someone thinks and acts creatively and modifies this so that service improves. Such is the case with PennDOT, which, to its credit, mandated several years ago that many of the motor vehicle offices would be open on Saturday.
Even banks finally realized that customers were reluctant to take a vacation day in order to cash a check, and thus many of them (often kicking and screaming) greatly extended their hours of operation. There is also the tradition, of course, that some services, public or private, are available every day, including public safety, hospitals and many retail and entertainment businesses.
Get ready for the next great governmental innovation that is slowly, but strategically, being rolled out under the guise of saving the public immense dollars on energy usage; the four-day workweek. This is, to use an elite business school descriptor, a scam. Anyone who will look you in the eye and suggest this is ever in the public interest is not only incompetent but self-serving.
Such proposals might have some attractiveness, of course, if the underlying strategy is to reduce all costs by one-fifth. But that is not the case. This typically involves the desire to gain a three-day weekend by working a little bit longer the other four days. Nowhere in such proposals is there an ounce of sincerity in regard to what's beneficial for the public.
If you hear someone touting such a proposal, consider what's in it for you. The answer should be readily apparent.
- 12 Ways to Survive Academic 2012, by Michael Bugeja, InsideHigherEd.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Earlier this summer the U.S. government faced default and had its credit rating downgraded, convincing almost everyone that we have been living beyond our means — everyone, that is, except many educators. Even those who have been furloughed or had programs cut and workload increased typically blame the economy, the legislature or a political party. This article is about none of that. It’s about the system.
It’s time to smell the Starbucks and abandon the status quo that has cost colleagues their jobs, parents their bank accounts and students their future.
A glimpse of the past: Almost every institution embraced the core value of excellence — sometimes deservedly, sometimes not. But the real guiding principle for decades now has been growth, perhaps instilled in us by the federal government that funds so many of our operations, stimulates our budgets and underwrites tuition with grants and loans.
Inside the institution, the concept of growth is elephantine. Course catalogues are going entirely online not because of convenience but because of the cost of printing the ever-expanding content. Sequences aspire to departments, departments to schools, schools to colleges and branch campuses to free-standing universities.
To reform the institution so that it lives within its means, we will need courageous administrators and cooperative professors. They don’t have to reinvent the academic wheel; they just have to steer it in a more fiscally sound direction.
Here are 12 examples of common practices that inflate tuition, bloat payroll and persist during challenging economic times with a dozen proposals to nullify the status quo so that institutions may operate more efficiently and effectively in academic year 2012, trimming budgets, managing workload, and enhancing student retention and graduation rates.
1. Acknowledge curricular glut.
Status Quo: Create new courses and propose new degrees without removing existing ones from catalogues or dealing with duplication, being oblivious to how this growth affects professorial workload, student tuition and graduation rates.
Solution: Remind faculty members that curricular streamlining decreases workload, frees more time for research to meet promotion and tenure requirements, and allows more one-on-one advising to help student retention. After the reminder, mandate a curricular review to discern which units keep adding to the catalogue, creating sequences and tracks, increasing degree requirements or otherwise inflating pedagogies. Those units should cut excess curricula within one year or risk losing positions or having their budgets cut accordingly so as to force streamlining.
2. Stop program duplication.
Status Quo: Approve courses in digital communication, popular culture and multimedia offered by multiple departments so as to attract non-major enrollment and generate credit hours. Endorse degrees with narrow subject matters, such as “environmental chemistry,” believing that every unit should determine its curricula and partake in innovation and specialization.
Solution: Require each academic unit to create a “Program Responsibility Statement,” specifying curricular and pedagogical areas so as to prevent program overlap. Example: “Journalism and communication produces content across media platforms (digital, print, visual, broadcast, advertising, public relations, science communication, etc.) targeting audience and preparing students to produce work for hire.” Such a document should outline what pedagogical areas fall under the umbrella of each unit, thereby informing curriculum committees so that courses already in the catalogue by one unit are not duplicated by another.
3. Demand curricular reform.
Status Quo: Approve new courses based on pedagogical arguments rather than on available resources and allow senior professors to continue teaching outdated topics such as "Darkroom Photography" or "Mechanical Drawing." Permit teaching centers to advocate for the latest technology without assessing effectiveness or cost, encouraging professors to create courses for each new application or device in the untested belief that technology engages students. Propose new or experimental courses for timely topics often based on fads and trends hyping but not delivering innovation.
Solution: Verify that a new course proposal does not duplicate an existing class and that sufficient resources are available to schedule it on a regular basis. Evaluate the cost of technology such as clickers and determine whether it actually enhances learning by assessing outcomes empirically. Introduce new applications and technologies into existing courses, rather than create new or experimental ones that may be outdated in a few years (Second Life) or commonplace (Facebook). Use the rubrics of seminars, workshops and independent studies for timely topics, rather than propose new or experimental courses that need to be scheduled and staffed on a regular basis.
4. Use the teaching budget for teaching.
Status Quo: Request funds from deans when faculty or staff vacancies occur to be deposited in a unit’s supplemental budget and then use part of those funds for travel and professional development rather than for instruction.
Solution: Raise benefactor money for travel and professional development. Don’t use supplemental budget for those purposes because that impedes student degree progress and adds to faculty workload in as much as more courses need to be staffed. Enforcing this is how deans and provosts earn their pay, sanctioning spending policies that foster student degree progress. Ignoring this means administrators have to come up with “bridge money” so that units can still operate from one semester to the next.
5. Revise budget models.
Status Quo: Endorse resource management models that typically overlook streamlined units whose pedagogies ensure timely graduation rates. Overemphasize student credit hours rather than number of majors, providing cover for small departments with few majors that use adjuncts or graduate assistants to teach general education while professors specialize in arcane topics.
Solution: Revise budget models to recognize timely graduation or establish a provost-level mechanism to reward programs with high four-year rates. Invest in units qualifying as destination majors, attracting high school students. Without majors of the largest programs, small departments specializing in general education would have fewer students generating those credit hours.
6. Change hiring, and promotion and tenure policies.
Status Quo: Use adjuncts or teaching assistants in introductory courses such as composition or beginning math so that senior professors can teach specialties within their degrees. Recruit hires on the promise they can develop their own courses based on narrow research topics and reward continuing professors in Promotion and Tenure for new course creation.
Solution: Hire adjuncts only when faculty members lack experience or expertise in a subject and assign your best professors to teach large introductory classes so they can recruit new majors to your program. Require new hires to teach within the current curriculum and revisit P&T policies, recognizing innovation within existing pedagogies.
7. Restrict non-major enrollment.
Status Quo: Allow students minoring in your discipline to take core or skills classes and other units to require those courses in their own degree programs, effectively creating substandard portfolios or faux expertise in a discipline.
Solution: Funnel non-majors into large introductory and concept classes, preventing them from claiming seats in small required courses so as to safeguard degree progress for your majors and reduce the number of sections being offered each term.
8. Simplify degree requirements.
Status Quo: Keep adding courses to the degree program and increasing the number of hours needed to graduate even though the institution may only require a dozen fewer credits for a diploma. Require pre-requisites for 200- and 300-level courses by adding prefixes and suffixes, such as “Beginning,” “Intermediate” and “Advanced” Economics or Biology “I, II, and III”—often artifacts of an institution that switched in the past from quarters to semesters but also didn’t reduce curricula for the longer academic term.
Solution: Decrease the number of credits needed for the degree and create a curriculum with basic components: cornerstone courses that build a foundation, core courses that expand on that foundation, and capstone courses that prepare students for the workplace or graduate study. Reduce the number of prerequisites for electives and eliminate “intermediate” levels, thereby creating rigor. This ensures that courses have sufficient enrollment and allows for classes to be scheduled in periodic rotation rather than each semester.
9. Eliminate silos.
Status Quo: Create non-official degrees by building curricula around sequences, emphases, options and tracks. This adds to workload in addition to slowing graduation rates because required courses often must be taken in sequence.
Solution: Eliminate the silos of sequences, emphases, options and tracks. If it’s not on the degree, don’t build curricula around it. Revamp courses so as to include components of former silos. For instance, in media classes, require each course to address print, broadcast and Internet rather than build classes around each platform.
10. Require faculty advising.
Status Quo: Hire academic advisers and allow professors to shirk responsibility for knowing the curricula, keeping office hours and meeting with students one-on-one. Allow the institution to handle new student orientation rather than deal with high school students making the transition to college life.
Solution: Require professors to do academic advising, spending more face time rather than Facebook time with students so as to ensure a good retention rate and timely graduation. Professors who resist can teach an additional class. Schedule an orientation workshop for transfer and first-year students, requiring undergraduate plans of study before the sophomore year. This increases four-year graduation rates and gives students a sense of destination.
Status Quo: Allow departments with few majors to hire staff, appoint administrators, use credit cards and add courses to the catalogue to earn a degree for which there is neither need nor demand. Retain professors not by paying them the salary that they deserve but by offering them directorships in institutes and centers that fail to win grants and serve only as pricey showcases for popular causes or scientific trends. Maintain the institution’s archaic organizational structure at all costs.
Solution: Consolidate small programs into departments or schools of humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Professors can teach general education to other majors with the emphasis on critical thinking and interdisciplinary learning in a multicultural world. Terminate institutes and grants that fail to produce results.
12. Cut administration.
Status Quo: Mandate institutional change only at the professorial level and maintain the same number administrators, especially at the college level.
Solution: New operations cannot run on old administrative engines. Limit associate deanships to three per college: budget, curriculum and research.
The status quo may have worked or even benefitted students in better economic times. But those times have ended and a new era of fiscal responsibility has begun. If budgets improve, methods to streamline should not cease because the new challenge then will be reducing student tuition.
Michael Bugeja is the director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University of Science and Technology. Although his budget has been cut 24 percent over the past three years, faculty workload has not increased, research productivity reached record levels in 2010, and students graduated in a timely manner with a 95 percent job placement rate within six months. He teaches 180 pre-majors in two journalism orientation classes.
9/04-05/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- If the Wealthy Really Want to Do Something…, by Philip Hyde III, Federicksburg Freelancer Tribune
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The Boston Sunday Globe recently ran a front-page article on the gulf widening between the haves and have-nots in Massachusetts and the rest of the nation. The article named several wealthy people who were willing to pay more taxes. However, John Fish, CEO of Suffolk Construction in Boston, said, "If it's not connected to an overall strategy...it doesn't make sense."
We agree. Any economic system that depends for vital functions on taxes is lethally flawed, because in the last analysis taxes, like charity, are optional for the rich.
However, it is possible to connect higher outlays from the wealthy to an effective overall strategy based on the idea that the income gap is more actionably described as an income over-concentration. The current extreme over-concentration of income and wealth in America is due to running capitalism on the basis of a general wage-depressing labor surplus and job shortage, which is due in turn to responding to automation and robotization with downsizing (jobcuts) and government-upsizing (makework) instead of "timesizing" (hourscuts).
Until 1998, no one had fully explored the "timesizing" approach. It involves the time dimension, which is encrusted with confusion and superstition. People feel guilty about working less and getting more money - after all, the Protestant work ethic says, Work hard to get ahead - "hard" meaning "long." People suspect shorter hours means less pay. They even worry that fewer workers won't be able to support more retirees in the future, despite the fact that workers' productivity today is multiplied thousands of times by automation and robotics. People have heard about robotics but have no idea how far it's gone. Already, hundreds of factory networks all over the country have NO humans at all. It's called Lights-Out Manufacturing, because they don't even have to keep the lights on.
Also, people want time to stay constant and in the background so they have resisted bringing time forward and declaring it a variable, let alone a control variable, let alone THE economic control variable of their lifetime - though between 1840 and 1940 they had no problem with this. The expansion of the most fundamental freedom, financially secure Free Time, became the major gauge of progress.
We have sooo forgotten all that now and we've been trying to avoid timesizing for 71 years - we still have the same 40-hour/week definition of "full-time work" as we had in precomputer 1940, despite waves of worksaving technology since then.
But timesizing has now become unavoidable because we've tried the other two options, namely: 1. no makework (unless military) and no regulations (unless in your company's favor) and no taxes (unless levied on your rivals), and 2. too-little too-late makework along with any taxes and regulations, which tend to become many regulations in a burgeoning maximum of stifling details.
Yoyoing between these two has brought us to the jobless "recovery" we're in and necessitated a third way: 3. shared work and few regulations in a stable minimum of liberating generalities, theoretically just one, so well-designed and centrally positioned in the Body Economic that it can safely supersede the current morass of government regulations, programs and bureaucracy, and make inroads into the huge inefficiencies penetrating the private sector due to job desperation, such as the sacrifice of American railroads to make work for tens of thousands of truckers, and the sacrifice of high-tech efficiency to make work for spam writers and checkers, adware writers and blockers, spyware writers and removers….
Our best candidate for that single, all-sufficient regulation is a double: 1. a workweek that automatically fluctuates against un(der)employment to maintain full employment and maximum consumer spending, and 2. an automatic conversion of corporate overtime (OT) and individual overwork (overtime from all sources) into OT-targeted-and-funded training and hiring.
The Globe article mentions that auto dealership owner Ernie Boch Jr. would be willing to write a bigger check if he could be assured that higher payments would make a difference. But higher tax payments from the wealthy won't make a difference until we federalize the under-publicized worksharing programs already in place in 23 states by enacting the federal emergency work-sharing bills being sponsored by Sen. Jack Reed and Rep. Rosa Delauro, and start modifying them into permanent timesizing on a sustainable-funding basis.
In other words, the most effective overall strategy to connect with higher payments from the rich is a 100% tax on chronic OT with a 100% exemption for 100% reinvestment of OT profits (for corporations) and earnings (for individuals) in OT-targeted hiring and immediate on-the-job training whenever needed similar to homefront practices during World War II.
Do you get where we're going here? Did you notice the unprecedented systemic respect for the market-determined incidence of overtime which is ignored and wasted today? Timesizing simply standardizes best-practice private-sector job growth and moves training, as needed, into the workplace. There's a whole new, better, easier future in this direction.
Is this dangerous, radical or pink? Hardly. We DID it for over 100 years when we cut the workweek in half, from over 80 hours to 40, between 1840 and 1940. The Republican Party championed this approach for their first 75 years of existence, starting with banning the unlimited workweek of slavery. They realized that if they made it easier for people to support themselves, taxpayers wouldn't have to.
Thoughtful CEOs favor a simple version of timesizing to avoid downsizing, realizing that you can't get growth alias UPsizing, by DOWNsizing. Lord Leverhulme of Lever Brothers wrote a book called "The Six-Hour Day" in 1918. W.K. Kellogg of Kellogg Cereals instituted a 30-hour workweek in the 1930s. The U.S. Senate passed a 30-hour workweek bill in 1933. Lincoln Electric of Cleveland and Nucor Steel of Charlotte have decades of experience maintaining their jobs (and skill sets) by fluctuating their corporate workweeks according to corporate revenues. Worksharing is independently reinvented hundreds of times a day in every recession to avoid layoffs by mostly small and midsized companies and organizations.
As to solving the economic crisis, Germany has just breezed through the last big downturn with a national worksharing program called "short work" or (German) Kurzarbeit.
But isn't the 35-hour workweek in France a failure? Only if you slide the data-window away from 1997 when 39-to-35 hours was voted in (with unemployment at 12.6%) and spring 2001 (8.6%) before the US-led recession hit France. The US itself also got 1% less unemployment per hourcut between 1938 (44 hours, 19%) and 1940 (40 hours, less than 15%).
Will wages decrease with working hours? No, because we're absorbing the wage-depressing surplus of resumes seeking a shortage of jobs. Will inflation increase? No, because economywide conversion of overtime into jobs makes it easier for people to leave jobs they dislike and need more "compensation" for, and find jobs they like and need less "compensation" for. We're going from an overdependence on the quantitative money motive which is inflationary to a balance of qualitative job satisfaction etc. which is deflationary...
Bottom line: emergency worksharing and sustainable timesizing solve the Ford-Reuther Dilemma - Ford. "Let's see you unionize theses robots!" Reuther, "Let's see you sell them cars." So if the wealthy really want to do something, this is by far the most efficient direction to explore because time permeates everything.
Philip Hyde III is the chief economic designer and webmaster of Timesizing.com and author of Timesizing, Not Downsizing (1998), and Defining Time and The Football of Time (2002)
POB 117, Harvard Sq Station
Cambridge, Mass. 02238
- The Limping Middle Class, by Robert Reich, 9/04 New York Sunday Times, Sun.Revu.6.
The Trouble With Work - Those who still have jobs are working longer for less, and don’t like their bosses. Can we do better? (graphic caption)
[An excellent diagnosis with no cure (more "education," more "unions"? oh, please). America's progressives are almost as block-headed as America's regressives but at least they realize, dimly, that Germany has reached Square One of the answer - they just don't realize what it is -]
The 5 percent of Americans with the highest incomes now account for 37 percent of all consumer purchases, according to the latest research from Moody’s Analytics. That should come as no surprise. Our society has become more and more unequal.
When so much income goes to the top, the middle class doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy going without sinking ever more deeply into debt — which, as we’ve seen, ends badly. An economy so dependent on the spending of a few is also prone to great booms and busts. The rich splurge and speculate when their savings are doing well. But when the values of their assets tumble, they pull back. That can lead to wild gyrations. Sound familiar?
The economy won’t really bounce back until America’s surge toward inequality is reversed. Even if by some miracle President Obama gets support for a second big stimulus while Ben S. Bernanke’s Fed keeps interest rates near zero, neither will do the trick without a middle class capable of spending. Pump-priming works only when a well contains enough water.
Look back over the last hundred years and you’ll see the pattern. During periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total income — as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977 — the nation as a whole grew faster and median wages surged. We created a virtuous cycle in which an ever growing middle class had the ability to consume more goods and services, which created more and better jobs, thereby stoking demand. The rising tide did in fact lift all boats.
During periods when the very rich took home a larger proportion — as between 1918 and 1933, and in the Great Regression from 1981 to the present day — growth slowed, median wages stagnated and we suffered giant downturns. It’s no mere coincidence that over the last century the top earners’ share of the nation’s total income peaked in 1928 and 2007 — the two years just preceding the biggest downturns.
Starting in the late 1970s, the middle class began to weaken. Although productivity continued to grow and the economy continued to expand, wages began flattening in the 1970s because new technologies — container ships, satellite communications, eventually computers and the Internet — started to undermine any American job that could be automated or done more cheaply abroad. The same technologies bestowed ever larger rewards on people who could use them to innovate and solve problems. Some were product entrepreneurs; a growing number were financial entrepreneurs. The pay of graduates of prestigious colleges and M.B.A. programs — the “talent” who reached the pinnacles of power in executive suites and on Wall Street — soared.
The middle class nonetheless continued to spend, at first enabled by the flow of women into the work force. (In the 1960s only 12 percent of married women with young children were working for pay; by the late 1990s, 55 percent were.) When that way of life stopped generating enough income, Americans went deeper into debt. From the late 1990s to 2007, the typical household debt grew by a third. As long as housing values continued to rise it seemed a painless way to get additional money.
Eventually, of course, the bubble burst. That ended the middle class’s remarkable ability to keep spending in the face of near stagnant wages. The puzzle is why so little has been done in the last 40 years to help deal with the subversion of the economic power of the middle class. With the continued gains from economic growth, the nation could have enabled more people to become problem solvers and innovators — through early childhood education, better public schools, expanded access to higher education and more efficient public transportation.
We might have enlarged safety nets — by having unemployment insurance cover part-time work, by giving transition assistance to move to new jobs in new locations, by creating insurance for communities that lost a major employer. And we could have made Medicare available to anyone.
Big companies could have been required to pay severance to American workers they let go and train them for new jobs. The minimum wage could have been pegged at half the median wage, and we could have insisted that the foreign nations we trade with do the same, so that all citizens could share in gains from trade.
We could have raised taxes on the rich and cut them for poorer Americans.
[In short, ANYTHING but the most powerful - ALL kinds of arbitrary interventions instead of the single most-powerful least-arbitrary one in the glaringly obvious center that we have the most experience with - stop trying to maintain a frozen pre-computer workweek forever and adjust the workweek down as long as unemployment is too far up - AND convert the overtime into jobs.]
But starting in the late 1970s, and with increasing fervor over the next three decades, government did just the opposite. It deregulated and privatized. It cut spending on infrastructure as a percentage of the national economy and shifted more of the costs of public higher education to families. It shredded safety nets. (Only 27 percent of the unemployed are covered by unemployment insurance.) And it allowed companies to bust unions and threaten employees who tried to organize. Fewer than 8 percent of private-sector workers are unionized.
More generally, it stood by as big American companies became global companies with no more loyalty to the United States than a GPS satellite. Meanwhile, the top income tax rate was halved to 35 percent and many of the nation’s richest were allowed to treat their income as capital gains subject to no more than 15 percent tax. Inheritance taxes that affected only the topmost 1.5 percent of earners were sliced. Yet at the same time sales and payroll taxes — both taking a bigger chunk out of modest paychecks — were increased.
Most telling of all, Washington deregulated Wall Street while insuring it against major losses. In so doing, it allowed finance — which until then had been the servant of American industry — to become its master, demanding short-term profits over long-term growth and raking in an ever larger portion of the nation’s profits. By 2007, financial companies accounted for over 40 percent of American corporate profits and almost as great a percentage of pay, up from 10 percent during the Great Prosperity.
Some say the regressive lurch occurred because Americans lost confidence in government. But this argument has cause and effect backward. The tax revolts that thundered across America starting in the late 1970s were not so much ideological revolts against government — Americans still wanted all the government services they had before, and then some — as against paying more taxes on incomes that had stagnated. Inevitably, government services deteriorated and government deficits exploded, confirming the public’s growing cynicism about government’s doing anything right.
Some say we couldn’t have reversed the consequences of globalization and technological change. Yet the experiences of other nations, like Germany, suggest otherwise. Germany has grown faster than the United States for the last 15 years, and the gains have been more widely spread. While Americans’ average hourly pay has risen only 6 percent since 1985, adjusted for inflation, German workers’ pay has risen almost 30 percent. At the same time, the top 1 percent of German households now take home about 11 percent of all income — about the same as in 1970. And although in the last months Germany has been hit by the debt crisis of its neighbors, its unemployment is still below where it was when the financial crisis started in 2007.
How has Germany done it? Mainly by focusing like a laser on education (German math scores continue to extend their lead over American), and by maintaining strong labor unions.
The real reason for America’s Great Regression was political. As income and wealth became more concentrated in fewer hands, American politics reverted to what Marriner S. Eccles, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, described in the 1920s, when people “with great economic power had an undue influence in making the rules of the economic game.” With hefty campaign contributions and platoons of lobbyists and public relations spinners, America’s executive class has gained lower tax rates while resisting reforms that would spread the gains from growth.
Yet the rich are now being bitten by their own success. Those at the top would be better off with a smaller share of a rapidly growing economy than a large share of one that’s almost dead in the water.
The economy cannot possibly get out of its current doldrums without a strategy to revive the purchasing power of America’s vast middle class. The spending of the richest 5 percent alone will not lead to a virtuous cycle of more jobs and higher living standards. Nor can we rely on exports to fill the gap. It is impossible for every large economy, including the United States, to become a net exporter.
Reviving the middle class requires that we reverse the nation’s decades-long trend toward widening inequality. This is possible notwithstanding the political power of the executive class. So many people are now being hit by job losses, sagging incomes and declining home values that Americans could be mobilized.
Moreover, an economy is not a zero-sum game. Even the executive class has an enlightened self-interest in reversing the trend; just as a rising tide lifts all boats, the ebbing tide is now threatening to beach many of the yachts. The question is whether, and when, we will summon the political will. We have summoned it before in even bleaker times.
As the historian James Truslow Adams defined the American Dream when he coined the term at the depths of the Great Depression, what we seek is “a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone.”
That dream is still within our grasp.
Robert B. Reich is the former secretary of labor, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future.”
- On Labor Day, two jobs better than none, by Patrick May and Joe Rodriguez
firstname.lastname@example.org, 9/04 San Jose Mercury News via mercurynews.com
[= 2 part-time jobs better than 0 full-time job]
SAN JOSE, Calif. - For scores of South Bay residents, Labor Day finds them hustling at part-time jobs just to make ends meet.
Desperate, they wave advertising signs, wash dishes or stock the shelves, but they voice a common refrain: Two or more low-wage jobs without benefits are better than none.
"I hate waving this sign every day, but it's money, and I need whatever I can get right now," said Richard Avila, 25. For $8 an hour, he waves a pointed sign beckoning motorists to try the daily buffet at a Round Table Pizza restaurant in San Jose's Berryessa neighborhood.
After losing his full-time job six years ago assisting passengers at Mineta San Jose International Airport, he has worked part-time jobs in construction and demolition, enrolled at a community college and rooms with relatives or friends.
"But it's hard to find a full-time job out there, so I've had to slap together whatever work I can," Avila said.
Avila is far from alone these days.
The number of people who work at least one part-time job out of necessity -- primarily because the recession has squashed full-time opportunities -- has almost doubled since before the downturn began, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In January 2007, about 4.7 million Americans held part-time jobs. By August 2011, the number shot up to 8.6 million. Part-time is described as work up to 34 hours per week. Full time is 35 hours or more.
Rebecca Ford is another Bay Area resident who matches these statistics.
"I work at Wal-Mart 16 hours a week for $8.20 an hour," she said. "I work part time at a chip company, where I'm assistant finance manager, for $14 an hour ... I also work at a software design company one day a week as an accountant, making $20 an hour."
Ford, who was walking through a West San Jose shopping mall with her two children, ages 11 and 1, said her workweek, household chores and commuting schedule cries out for an Excel spreadsheet to keep it all straight. Like Avila, she's also in college, longing for a diploma and a better chance at a full-time job with good pay and family health benefits.
"Working at one place 40 hours a week," Ford said, "sounds so good to me right now."
Part-time work once was the province of teenagers on summer vacation, recent college graduates and fully employed adults looking to earn extra money for a special purchase, college tuition for their kids or support a side business of their own. Today, as the national unemployment rate hangs around 9 percent, more and more people who lost their one good job are settling for part-time work.
"I'm a dishwasher -- slash janitor -- slash cook in training," said Mark Henderson. He's 41 and holds down two part-time jobs at a Chili's restaurant and Dollar Tree discount store, working up to 60 hours a week. His three grown children live with him at home, go to school or work minimum-wage jobs of their own.
"We own our house, but the bills, including school expenses for my daughter, just keep coming," said Henderson, who lost a full-time job at an Applebee's restaurant. "So after looking six months for a full-time job and not finding anything, I've had to take these two to provide for my family."
He said his workweek -- handling freight and stocking shelves at Dollar Tree and cleanup duties at Chili's -- never seems to end. A heavily marked calendar on a kitchen walls helps him organize his hectic schedule.
"I'll work Chili's from 7:20 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday," Henderson said, "then again on Saturday and Sunday nights from 5 p.m. until 2 in the morning. Then I'll come straight here to Dollar Tree where I'll work all night until 8 a.m. I get sleep when I can."
For Labor Day, Henderson plans on celebrating. He'll be off from both jobs and hopes to barbecue at home with his family.
"I thank God for both my jobs," he said. "Even when I'm exhausted from too little sleep and my back hurts, I just look at my kids and see how happy they are ... and then I know that I'm doing the right thing."
Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689 or email@example.com, or Joe Rodriguez at 408-920-5767 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Jobs Mirage: How Much More Work Do Humans Really Need? Op-Ed by: Jeffery J. Smith, Truthout via truth-out.org
PORTLAND, Ore. - While honest toil is honorable, a day to honor labor does make it easy to overlook certain realities, such as: Why do both left and right clamor for more jobs? Would those who get to opine for a living be willing to perform the jobs they'd impose upon others? And why jobs? If work is the only way one can be worthy of an income, why not also clamor for self-employment and start-ups? Must the jobless look forward to having a boss their entire lives? And are more jobs needed, or even possible?
Instead of clamor for jobs, why not clamor for a shorter workweek and divide the necessary work among more people? How'd 40 hours a week get to be some sort of magic number?
[Near as I can make out, 2 reasons: (1) the euphony of the 40-40-40 Plan - 40c minimum wage, 40 hours maximum workweek, in 1940, and (2) short-sighted businessmen who had succeeded in getting FDR to block the 30-hour workweek bill in the House in 1933, succeeded in 1941 and '42 in freezing the workweek at 40 hours and even getting exemptions to exceed that, and in keeping it frozen ever since despite wave after wave of worksaving technology.]
Why aren't automation and globalization whittling that down to 30, 20, 10, going, going, gone?
[And what mechanism do you assume we have designed and implemented for automation and globalization to be able to do that by themselves? You've assumed that timesizing is already in place and operational. It isn't. And it's apparently going to take a lot more suffering and pressure to wake people like you out of your assumption that it appears by magic - or that, magically, it's already appeared and all you have to do is indignantly ask why it's not working.]
Juliet Schor in her "Overworked American" (1991) calculated that if increases in productivity (more output from less labor input) over the course of a baby boomer's career were applied not to things like fatter CEO salaries, but to shrinking the workweek, it'd now be 6.5 hours. Why isn't it?
[Because the majority after World War II bought the idea that the workweek shrank by itself, and forgot their history of fighting for every workweek cut from 1840 to 1940.]
It has been drastically shorter in the past. In his "Stone Age Economics" (1974), Marshall Sahlins calculated some aborigines worked 15 hours per week. In his "Six Centuries of Work and Wages" (1884), James E. Thorold Rogers, member of Parliament, calculated that after a plague, peasants worked 14 hours per week. (Those were the Dark Ages, and now at 40 hours we're the enlightened ones?) What happened was plagues left fewer people to work prime land so, for a while, surviving aristocrats could not exploit farmers. The key in both instances was access to bountiful land which let humans choose to work as much or as little as they liked.
Now, days with billions of humans on the globe, land is not quite as accessible, but it could be made more affordable. When that happens, jobs sprout and wages climb, as has happened several times: In the 1960s and 1970s, New Zealand's employment rate averaged 99 percent for ten years. In the late 1950s, Danish workers received the biggest one-time raise in wages in Dansk history. And in the 1920s, New York City spurred the construction of numerous apartment buildings that provided jobs and slashed unemployment to negligible.
What was the one thing those places did in common? Their governments levied land. Whenever landowners must pay a heavier land tax, they eschew speculation and put their parcels to good use. The new construction puts people to work as do the resultant shops, offices and factories, as does the spending of wages by the gratefully employed workers.
Why is such a powerful tool for useful employment at decent wages left on the shelf by jobists? Perhaps because today there's a huge disconnect between labor, which has a voice, and its Day and land, which lacks a voice and needs a Day. At college, economics students still learn Ricardo's Law and how wasting prime sites, where wages are high and falling back on marginal sites, where wages are low, forces down overall wages, but they're required to forget that by the time they become the practicing economists whose opinions you see in the media.
Ironically, what economists have forgotten labor organizers used to know. About a century and a quarter ago, the most popular American in any union was a self-taught reformer, Henry George, advocate of the single tax on land and the Labor Party's 1886 candidate for mayor of New York, a race which he won, defeating Teddy Roosevelt in the process, but was denied office by the machinations of Tammany Hall. Samuel Gompers of the AFL-CIO proclaimed himself proud to be a friend of ol' Henry, who even had a cigar named after him. George's campaign manager, Louis Post, who went on to become assistant secretary of labor under Woodrow Wilson, pushed to make Labor Day, which some unions were already celebrating, an official holiday on the first Monday in September, which would some years coincide with the birthday of Henry George, September 2, and honor him, too.
It hasn't quite worked out that way. But forgetting the laws of economics does not make them go away. Idle land still makes idle hands, as the old reformers used to say. Drive around your city's slums; vacant lots - invisible to contemporary urbanites - are still the best indicator of joblessness, poverty and crime. And shifting the property tax off buildings and improvements, onto land and locations, is still the most effective way to harness both prime land and willing labor. A close second must be detaxing wages. If you want jobs so badly, why make them so costly?
This shift of taxes, this powerful reform, awaits implementation even as the left begs for jobs [it's not just the left; it's the jobless; left-right is irrelevant] - anything to get money into the pockets of the poor - and the right pays jobs lip service - what better way to keep the poor busily subservient? But given the resultant rush hours, shriveled family time and sterile communities, it's a Faustian bargain at best. J.W. Smith in his "World's Wasted Wealth" (1994) suggested that if all the people now producing illth - everything from war toys to planned obsolescence - were to instead help produce wealth, we could cut the workweek in half.
This Labor Day, do remember our venerable organizers. But don't forget what generates truly useful jobs organically, the levy on land. It's always worked wherever tried, to the degree tried. Then take the rest of the day off.
Jeffery J. Smith edits The Progress Report and The Geonomist, which won a Greenlight Award. He is a member of the US Society for Ecological Economics and Mensa. His writing credits include Terrain, Eco IQ, Car Free Times, USC’s Planning and Markets, the American Journal of Economics & Sociology, and numerous others.
9/03/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Nothing to Celebrate: This Labor Day Don't Party, Organize and Raise Hell! ThisCantBeHappening! via thiscantbehappening.net
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. - This faux "workers’ holiday" on Monday is not a day for celebrating for American workers.
The official unemployment rate, just released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed unemployment in July to be 9.1%, which is exactly the same as the rate was in June, and which is an increase from the months in the spring. But that’s not even the real picture.
Worse than the official number of unemployed is the BLS’s official number of unemployed together with those who are part-time employed, usually in marginal low-paid jobs, but who want to work full-time. That figure hit 16.2% in July. Things are likely to get worse, though, because the BLS also reported at the same time that in August, no net new jobs were added in the U.S. -- the first time the new jobs figure was zero since 1945.
But even that is only part of the story of the miserable economic situation facing American workers. The BLS doesn’t even count people who have stopped trying to find a job because they’ve tried for so long unsuccessfully that they have realized the effort is pointless. Many of these are people who are now staying home, perhaps helping to raise children. Many others have decided to retire earlier than planned (and earlier than they can afford to). Adding these people to the mix raises the unemployed rate to 17.7%
The Gallup polling organization, which uses a different methodology to count the unemployed, found the total of unemployed and under-employed in August to be 9.1 and 9.4 percent respectively, or a total of 18.5%. That is up 0.5% from 18.0 percent in Gallup’s July survey.
All of these numbers still don’t tell the real story, though, but a little math can help.
According to the Census bureau, The growing US population adds roughly 2 million new workers each year. That means that the public and private sector have to create a net new 150,000 jobs each month just to keep up with the number of new people entering the work force. In fact, though, we haven’t seen a month with 150,000 new jobs in years, and in fact, over the last decade the U.S. has lost a net 3.4 million jobs.
In all, if you add up the 14.6 million people officially counted as unemployed, the 5.9 million who have given up trying to find a job, and the 8.5 million who are working part-time involuntarily, that gives us 30 million people who are desperate.
Remember, there are 310 million Americans, but many of them are under 18 or are in college or the military, are too disabled to work, or are over 65 and are no longer in the labor force. So that means that actually there are only 153 million in the labor force, so the real unemployment rate is is 19.6 percent, or approximately one in five working-age Americans.
No wonder that Gallup also found that 30 percent of Americans say that they are worried about becoming unemployed themselves. Remember, those worried people are folks who are still working, so they’re on top of the 20 percent who don’t have to worry about losing jobs because they are already out of work.
In other words, 50 percent of us are either out of work or worried about becoming jobless.
Meanwhile, those who are still working, according to the BLS, are getting shorter hours or are having their pay cut, so that those who are working are bringing home smaller paychecks.
This is the true picture facing the American people this Labor Day.
Now hold that picture up to the sorry reality of what our politicians, Republican and Democratic, are doing in Washington and in the various state capitals, which is cutting jobs, and cutting budgets.
Over the last several weeks, I have tried to go out with friends or family to one of the local restaurants we have long enjoyed on those occasional times when we choose to eat out. One day, when a friend came in from Europe, I tried three that I liked -- two Mexican restaurants and one Afghan restaurant. All had been closed down over the past two weeks! Another place, a popular salad restaurant, had closed two weeks earlier. Then late last night, when I went out with my wife after we’d both had a very busy workday, we found a long-established diner that we liked also closed down. That’s five of our favorite spots gone in one month’s time. We found another diner, but found ourselves, at 9:30 in the evening on a Friday night, the only ones at a table.
Something is clearly happening here. What all these folded restaurants had in common is that they were not pretentious. They were basic purveyors of good food at reasonable prices -- somewhere in the $9-12 per meal range. And if you think about it, that is exactly the kind of restaurant that ordinary working class Americans patronize -- people who can’t afford luxuries, and who eat out occasionally when they have to or when they want to take an evening off.
When times are hard, these people, and I include myself among them, don’t eat out as often, which would explain why all these little businesses are suddenly closed.
You can’t have a workforce under this kind of stress and hope keep the economy going .
And all those people who own and/or work in these little businesses that are folding join the burgeoning army of the unemployed.
Clearly this is no time for picnics and parades. This Labor Day should be a time for protests for radical speeches and for militant organizing of that army!
- Southern University board sets Friday vote on financial emergency request for main campus, by Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press via TheRepublic.com
BATON ROUGE, La. — Faculty at Southern University's main campus persuaded the university governing board Friday to again delay a vote on whether to declare a financial emergency for the Baton Rouge school.
Southern leaders say "financial exigency" can be avoided if 90 percent of the 282 permanent professors agree to two years of consecutive furloughs of up to 10 percent. Faculty leaders said they believe they can reach that benchmark over the holiday weekend.
The Southern University System Board of Supervisors voted 12-4 Friday to give professors until Tuesday afternoon to try to gather enough signatures, only hours before a balanced budget plan is due to the state Board of Regents.
"They have been patient with us. We should be patient with them," Southern board member Tony Clayton said of trying to give faculty the time to get the needed furlough agreements.
It was the third delayed vote on whether to declare an emergency for the current 2011-12 budget year that ends June 30.
The declaration would give the historically black university more leeway to lay off professors and cut their salaries, but would be considered a negative mark against the school that could harm recruiting and accreditation.
A board room packed with students, staff and faculty urged board members against declaring exigency, saying it could harm the university's reputation and the value of degree programs. Others argued Southern administration officials should be sacrificing more and making deeper cuts to help the Baton Rouge campus balance its budget.
Chancellor James Llorens, who is recommending the emergency status, said he doesn't believe enough professors will agree to the furlough by next week. Llorens said the school needs exigency to require the faculty pay cuts and restructure the university so that it doesn't face continued budget gaps in later years.
"You want to burn the house to kill a fly," said Sudhir Trivedi, president of the campus faculty senate.
Administrators and staff at the Baton Rouge campus have had two years of furloughs, according to Southern officials. Only faculty has been exempt. The average professor makes about $65,000.
No public Louisiana university has declared exigency since the University of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
9/02/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- CEOs rewarded most for raising unemployment - No wonder US unemployment is stuck at 9.1% when CEOs are paid more than their companies pay in tax – for cutting jobs, by Pratap Chatterjee, The Manchester Guardian via guardian.co.uk
[There it is - all the "free" market incentives in the once-great USA are set up for the rich decision-makers to commit suicide, everyone else first. BRILLIANT sentence, Pratap! Wish I'd thot of it myself.]
GE chairman and economic adviser to President Obama, Jeffrey Immelt: in 2009, GE paid tax at a lower rate on its income than the average American citizen; in 2010, Immelt took home $15.2m. [photo caption]
MANCHESTER, U.K. - Black & Decker is a household name across the US, as in the UK – as the maker of home and garden improvement products such as the power drill. The company made $8.4bn in sales in 2010 in the US, with net earnings of $198m.
The 101-year-old Maryland-based company has also recently risen in the Fortune standings of top businesses from number 543 to number 288. For this stellar performance, John Lundgren, the CEO, was paid $32.6m last year, a 253% raise over the previous year.
In short, this looks like a solidly successful business that might seem worth emulating in the national search for ideas on how to overcome the economic recession and beat unemployment. Yet – as the latest jobs numbers show no net growth and unemployment stubbornly stuck at 9.1% – the opposite seems to be true.
Not all Lundgren's employees were quite as well rewarded as he was – some 4,000 of the 38,000 Black & Decker worldwide workforce were projected to lose their jobs. Nor did his company give much back to the public – instead, Black & Decker collected $75m in tax refunds from the government in 2010.
Lundgren is one of ten CEOs profiled in of "Executive Excess 2011: The Massive CEO Rewards for Tax Dodging", an annual report published by the Institute for Policy Studies. "Guns don't kill people, the old saw goes. People do," write the authors Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, Scott Klinger and Sam Pizzigati. "By the same token, corporations don't dodge taxes. People do. The people who run corporations."
Black & Decker spokespeople have refused to comment on the new report.
The "Executive Excess" report uncovered 25 major US companies that paid their CEOs more than they paid the federal government in taxes. Indeed, each of the companies received an average of $304m in tax refunds from the government.
Last year's report uncovered another disturbing trend: some of the best paid CEOs are the ones that lay off the most workers. The authors calculated that the CEOs of the 50 companies that laid off the most workers since the onset of the economic crisis took home 42% more pay in 2009 than their peers on the Standard & Poor's 500 index.
A good example of these two trends is General Electric, which received $3.3bn in tax refunds in 2010. The company is no paragon of job creation: General Electric has closed 31 plants in the US since 2008, and let go 19,000 workers in the country. For this, CEO Jeffrey Immelt took home $15.2m last year.
What makes Immelt exceptional is that he was appointed to head President Obama's council on jobs and competitiveness. After much deliberation, Immelt's group came up with some sterling advice for the country this past June: provide more internships and small-business loans, cut red tape, hire construction workers and boost jobs in travel and tourism.
So far, this advice has not panned out too well. Unemployment has stayed stubbornly over 9% this year, with August's figures the worst yet for 2011, although corporate profits are at all-time highs. "These are the worst of times for workers, and the best of times for companies," as the New York Times veteran business reporter Floyd Norris wrote recently.
More ideas from the White House are expected next week after Labor Day (on Monday), the traditional end-of-summer holiday in the US that celebrates workers. On Thursday, Barack Obama has asked to address both houses of Congress with a new plan to jumpstart the economy and increase employment. Also expected to comment on this subject are the leading Republican candidates for the presidency, who will debate each other at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley on Wednesday.
Will any of these politicians pay any attention to the trends among Fortune 500 companies that the Institute for Policy Studies have spotted? Or will they continue to listen to people like Jeffrey Immelt and John Lundgren? If so, there isn't much hope for workers this Labor Day.
Comments in chronological order (Total 72 comments [so far])
#32, bromley, 2 September 2011 4:48PM
Shares rise when a company cuts jobs. They then fall when unemployment rises. Given the woeful performance of shares over the last decade businesses are cutting off their collective noses to spite their face. You can't blame them though, it is what they have to do because their competitors do the same.
Technological advancement comes into the equation. We can create everything we need with fewer workers. It is hard to see where job creation is going to come from. We should be considering working shorter hours to spread the wealth around rather than using tax and benefits.
- Economix: Explaining the Science of Everyday Life - Jobs Report Preview, by Catherine Rampell, (9/01 late pickup) NYT via economix.blogs.nytimes.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Friday morning, the Labor Department will release its first estimate for the number of jobs created in the United States in August, and right now expectations are low.
Wall Street analysts have a median forecast of just a 60,000 net gain in nonfarm payroll jobs, about half of the gain from July. The unemployment rate — which comes from a different survey, and reflects the share of people who want work and are actively looking for it but can’t find a job — is expected to remain 9.1 percent.
To put this in perspective, the United States generally needs to add about 150,000 jobs each month just to keep up with the growth in the working-age population.
These are among the factors that economists are citing for their weak forecasts:
1. The latest consumer confidence survey from the Conference Board showed a sharp drop in perceptions of job availability, back to the lowest level since 2009.
2. A survey from the Institute for Supply Management showed a decline in manufacturing hiring.
3. Layoff announcements have been higher in the last two months than they were earlier this year, according to a recent Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
4. The recent strike by 45,000 Verizon workers occurred during the week that the Labor Department collects data on employment, and so that may be reflected in the employment and unemployment numbers.
5. Layoffs by state and local governments are continuing.
Even if the numbers come in just as expected, economists will be scouring the report for any signs of what lies ahead.
Here are some details to keep an eye on:
1. What’s happening to the length of the workweek? The workweek has averaged 34.3 hours for the two previous months. Economists are expecting it to remain unchanged in August [it was trimmed to 34.2]. A slight change, though, would give a sense of whether employers are thinking of expanding or shrinking their staffs [they're thinking of shrinking], since they usually change hours before making the bigger commitment to hire or fire.
2. How much are average hourly earnings changing? The consensus forecast is that wages will rise 0.2 percent, after having risen 0.4 percent in July. Wage fluctuations can be important for consumer spending, which drives the economy. Recent surveys have found that consumers have very low expectations for income increases in the next few months.
3. Finally, are more people dropping out of the work force? The share of working-age Americans who are either working or looking for work has been dropping to record lows. In July, this labor force participation rate was just 63.9 percent, the lowest share since 1984, when there were many fewer women in the work force. Some of the recent decline in the participation rate reflects the retirement of boomers, but it also means many workers are just giving up. This is a bad sign for the future health of the economy, especially if giving up on looking for work now means giving up forever, which it does for many older workers.
- Dismal jobs report sends stocks lower - The Dow ends down 253 points as a report that the U.S. economy added no new jobs in August increases concerns that the already weak recovery is stalling, by Don Lee email@example.com & Nathaniel Popper firstname.lastname@example.org, Los Angeles Times via latimes.com
WASHINGTON & NEW YORK — The U.S. economy added no new jobs in August as employers cut back hiring and trimmed work hours of existing employees — jolting new evidence that the already weak recovery is stalling and that the possibility of another recession is increasing.
[Ironic - if we trimmed work hours systemically - at the city level or state level, or federal level like Germany - we'd be forcing, yes FORCING employers to MAINTAIN jobs and payrolls and CONSUMER SPENDING AND THEIR OWN MARKETS instead of cutting payrolls and consumer spending and their own markets - in other words, we'd be FORCING EMPLOYERS, despite their loud complaints, TO QUIT COMMITTING SUICIDE by making things worse. Then if we trimmed the maximum work hours per week deeper and incentivated overtime-to-training&hiring conversion, we'd be absorbing the flood of desperate mutually underbidding resumes and harnessing market forces to get employers bidding against one another for good help and thereby raising payrolls and consumer spending and markets and increasing the reality of a real recovery, not the "possibility of another recession." In other words, we'd be forcing, yes, FORCING EMPLOYERS, despite their loud squealing and whining, TO START BUILDING THEIR OWN REAL RECOVERY - because we'd be UPsizing and that, my little self-f*cking morons, is GROWTH, not DOWNsizing. But won't some employers go out of business? YES, but most will be FORCED to start pulling money out of their record-breaking but useless, inactive, uncirculating, corporate cash hoards and actually put to work invested in jobs and wages and consumer spending and markets. Who else is going to do it? Government. ie: taxpayers? The poor little squealing and whining super-rich have bankrupted the government and taxpayers, remember? And we'll never get growth out of downsizing, no matter what we call it ... "smartsizing," "leansizing," "rightsizing" - get real! We will get growth out of timesizing, because timesizing has no adverse effects when done systemically. Don't believe it? You're ignorant of your own economic history! We timesized the workweek from over 80 hrs/wk in 1840 to 40 hrs/wk in 1940 - no adverse effects. Quite the contrary. But we've frozen the 1940 workweek now for 71 years despite wave after wave of worksaving technology, and ever since the postwar babyboomers grew up and replaced the Great Depression's surplus of jobseekers around 1970 (which had been intelligently reduced by timesizing 1938-40 when we established a nationwide 44-hr workweek and cut it 2 hrs/yr for 2 yrs, and then cut horribly by the war 1941-45), things have been getting worse and worse and worse... And it's YOUR stupid suicidal unimaginative wealth-coddling ideas that are responsible! CHANGE, or keep shrinking with your brilliant-sounding Schumpeterian "creatively destructive" - but suicidal - downsizing! WEALTH, after a certain point in the concentration and decirculation of a nation's money supply, IS EVIL. Wake up and smell the danger!]
The August report, the first to show zero job growth in about a year, sent stocks falling for the second straight day amid concerns that the listless economy is heading for deeper troubles. Major stock indexes saw their biggest losses in more than two weeks, with the Dow Jones industrial average ending Friday down 253.31 points, or 2.2%, at 11,240.26.
Making matters worse, the Labor Department's report Friday also revised down job growth figures for July, to 85,000 from 117,000 previously reported. It also said employers added just 20,000 net new jobs in June, not 46,000. In all, the government said the economy added an average of just 35,000 jobs a month in the last three months — a figure so small that most analysts would consider it a statistical rounding error.
The grim employment picture revived bets that the Federal Reserve will launch a new economic stimulus program that is likely to involve the mass purchasing of government bonds. That expectation led long-term Treasury bond yields to tumble to the lowest level in decades Friday.
"The stagnation in U.S. payroll employment is an ominous sign," said Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics. "The broad message is that even if the U.S. economy doesn't start to contract again, any expansion is going to be very, very modest and fall well short of what would be needed to drive the still elevated unemployment rate lower."
The latest numbers are a dramatic slowdown from the nearly 180,000 jobs added monthly, on average, in the first four months of this year, when it looked like the labor market might finally be recovering. The unemployment rate stayed at 9.1% for August as more people reported finding part-time work, many of them saying that's all that was available.
About 14 million people were officially unemployed last month. Six million, or nearly 43%, of them, have been without work for six months or longer. In the short term, many of them face the loss of extended jobless benefits. Longer term, they face increasing risks of their skills atrophying and the likelihood of their getting reemployed diminishing.
For investors, the report was yet another alarming signal that more market turbulence is on the way. Traders yanked money out of the stock market, pushing the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index down 30.45 points, or 2.5%, to 1,173.87.
The financial sector led the way down in the U.S. because of reports that a federal agency that oversees housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would bring lawsuits against leading banks over money-losing mortgage securities they sold during the housing boom. A leading bank index finished the day down 4.5%.
Money shifted into safer bets such as gold and silver. Near-term gold futures up 2.6% to $1,873.70 an ounce — the biggest one-day advance since early August and just 0.8% below the record closing high; silver rose 3.7% to $43.02 an ounce.
The 10-year Treasury note yield, a benchmark for mortgages and other long-term interest rates, ended the day below the once-unthinkable level of 2% at 1.99%, down from 2.13% on Thursday. Shorter-term Treasury yields, however, were slightly higher. The two-year T-note edged up to 0.19% from 0.18% on Thursday.
The reason for the split performance: With short-term rates already near zero, Wall Street now expects the Fed to launch a Treasury bond-buying program specifically aimed at pulling down longer-term interest rates.
Central bankers tried a similar program in the early 1960s. It was dubbed "Operation Twist" because the goal was to twist the so-called yield curve, bringing longer-term rates down while holding shorter-term rates steady or allowing them to rise modestly. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has hinted in recent months that the central bank could turn to that option if the economy needed more help.
The next Fed stimulus plan "would most likely come in the form of an 'Operation Twist'-like approach, whereby the Fed sells shorter-maturity assets to purchase longer-maturity assets," economists at Deutsche Bank Securities said in a report Friday.
Staff writers Tom Petruno and Walter Hamilton in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
9/01/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- More poor turning to food pantries - Food pantries are seeing increasing numbers of middle class and out of work professionals turning for help, by Frances Robles firstname.lastname@example.org, MiamiHerald.com
MIAMI, Fla. - Food pantries are seeing increasing numbers of middle class and out of work professionals turning for help.
It’s a Wednesday morning, and a row of people are standing outside Food of Life Ministries in Homestead.
It’s a queue that forms twice a week, lately more men than in the past, increasingly formed by men, the working poor, more of the kind of folk who never before waited in line for free canned corn. By the end of the month, some 4,000 people will have tapped into the ministry’s food pantry in a desperate pursuit to make ends meet.
“I never tried to get help, because I have always been able to help myself,” said Ronald Petitfrere, 52, who makes $8 an hour cooking 28 hours a week. “Before, even if the amount you earned per hour was low, you could work overtime and get by. You can’t get more than 30 hours these days. I can’t pay my bills.”
Petitfrere’s predicament is being replayed across South Florida, as more middle and working class people find themselves either out of a job, making less or working fewer hours. For the first time, it’s people like them who are now turning to safety nets like the food pantry at the Food of Life.
Official government figures confirm the trend. Families collecting food stamps in Miami-Dade County increased 16 percent to nearly 600,000 people in the last year. In Broward, it jumped 21 percent to 243,000 people.
Statewide, 3.1 million Florida people were using food stamps in August — more than twice the number in 2008, according to state Department of Children and Families records.
“The middle class are the new poor,” said Daniella Levine, CEO of Catalyst Miami, which helps link needy people with social services. “Half the people in this county are just getting by – or not getting by. The lucky ones are the homeless, because they have a steady stream of resources and services.”
The so-called “Great Recession” plunged so many people into poverty that it has changed the face of the American poor. More and more, they are people like Petitfrere, who lost his job in 2006, and now makes less money and works fewer hours.
A Brookings Institution study showed that the number of low-income people living in American suburbs outnumbered those in cities by 1.5 million. Western cities and Florida suburbs were among the first to see the effects of the “Great Recession” translate into significant increases in poverty between 2007 and 2008, the Brookings study said. The number of suburban poor in the United States grew 25 percent from 2000 to 2008 – and that was before the economy collapsed.
The result: strained social service organizations that are seeing more and more clients but fewer and fewer funding dollars. That tendency is particularly notable in the suburbs, where agencies now have to serve large geographical areas, said Scott Allard, an associate professor at the University of Chicago who authored another Brookings study on poverty in the suburbs.
“We didn’t really have a grasp of how few resources were available in communities as poverty increased,” he said. “Most groups saw an increase in demand and a decrease in funding by about 10 percent.”
For example, Farm Share is a South Dade non-profit that distributes excess produce donated by local farmers. Before budget cuts, free produce was delivered directly to the needy, and cars lined up for a half-mile outside for a chance at fresh eggplants and tomatoes.
The Florida Legislature had proposed a $750,000 annual increase for the organization, which annually distributes 18 million pounds of food. But Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the increase, leaving Farm Share with $200,000 less than it had the year before. The result: 5.5 million lbs. of fresh produce won’t get donated this year.
The agency laid off two people and plans to renew direct food distributions were nixed.
“When we first started, people were obviously very needy: a lot of them were had children with them, and the mother would be dressed in something that didn’t fit,” said Patricia Robbins, Farm Share’s CEO and founder. “In the last couple of years, it changed. Now it’s middle class people facing the loss of their jobs. It was a notable shift.”
Farm Share no longer trucks fresh produce from North Florida here during our off season. Its supplies are available only to churches and organizations, which often have to settle for canned goods donated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We started 18 months ago feeding six homeless people,” said Food of Life Ministries pastor Wayne Oxford, who gets his pantry’s donated goods from Farm Share. “We can now sometimes get 1,000 people in a day. One time I saw a lady pull up in a Mercedes SUV, bawling her eyes out. All her clothes were in the car, because she had lost her job and her house.”
Oxford said he sees more and more out of work professionals in need. They usually drop off a resume. He works out of a South Dade warehouse, where canned goods are piled up and the freezer sometimes has goodies like ice cream.
“It doesn’t do any good to give the homeless rice, because they can’t cook it,” he mused, as he offered a tour of his facilities while a volunteer called out numbers indicating the next in line.
With more Americans downwardly mobile than upwardly mobile, the country is living a moment not experienced since the 1920s, said University of Miami Professor George Wilson.
“The middle class is shrinking in the United States,” Wilson said. “For the last 50 or 60 years, ‘middle class’ meant you were removed from the safety net. Now a larger portion of Americans have to rely on that safety net, are not independent, economically stable, well off, and looking toward a bright future. ”
In Miami-Dade, where unemployment is 13.5 percent, the safety net can include everything from unemployment benefits to free cell phones.
Feeding South Florida, which supplies 800 of the region’s food banks, soup kitchens and assisted living facilities, said South Florida saw a 39 percent increase in the number of people in need of food in the past two years. Children make up a third of the “food insecure,” meaning they do not know where their next meal is coming from, said Director of Development Anthea Pennant. The elderly make up another 10 percent.
“We can’t keep pace with the increased demand for food,” she said.
Nearly 1 million South Floridians now tap local food banks each year, Pennant said.
“I have been 31 years in this country, and I never used this kind of help,” Ninotte Gaspard, a laid off nurse’s aide, said while filling plastic bags with canned foods at Food of Life Ministries. “I have always worked, worked, worked.”
The nursing home where she was employed for 12 years shut down and now Gaspard is three months behind in her $550 rent. She’s 62 and unable to find work.
“I have no money to pay,” Gaspard said. “I am in a bad situation.”
- Economists and other experts outline how to create jobs, by Paul Davidson, USAtoday.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - More than two years after the Great Recession ended, some 14 million Americans are out of work, nearly half of them for six months or longer.
What's worse, this bleak picture shows no signs of brightening soon. Economic growth is expected to plod along at a lackluster 2.5% pace next year, leaving the jobless rate hovering just below 9% by the end of 2012.
And so for the second time since early 2009, the government is looking to jump-start a job market caught between tight-fisted consumers and wary businesses. President Obama on Thursday is expected to propose more government spending on construction projects, aid to budget-strapped states and new tax credits to encourage hiring, among other strategies.
Republicans have signaled they're firmly opposed to another large economic stimulus that adds to the $1.3 trillion deficit. They prefer less-costly steps to promote job growth long term, such as cutting the corporate tax rate and streamlining regulations.
USA TODAY decided to look past the partisan crossfire and ask more than a dozen think tanks, economists, industry groups and lawmakers a simple question: What can Washington do to get America back to work again?
Repair roads, bridges, schools
Fixing the nation's aging infrastructure would create jobs more quickly than tax cuts — in as little as a few months — and meet critical needs that must be addressed eventually. Transportation bottlenecks are costing the country about $200 billion a year, or 1.6% of economic output, according to a study by a bipartisan coalition of state and local politicians. It would take $2.2 trillion over the next five years to upgrade the USA's roads, highways, seaports, rail lines and bridges, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates.
With yields on 10-year Treasury bonds at about 2%, borrowing costs for the U.S. government are as low as they've ever been. "There's never been a more opportune time to invest in infrastructure," says Andrew Fieldhouse, policy analyst for the liberal Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
To make a tangible impact, Congress could go big, spending $200 billion each of the next two years. Fieldhouse says that would create more than 2 million jobs and reduce unemployment about 0.8 percentage points. While that may seem ambitious in an era of fiscal austerity, each dollar spent generates $1.44 in economic output, according to EPI and Moody's Analytics. As a result, about half the money would come back to the government through increased tax revenue. Some funds also could be used to build out a smart electric grid, bring broadband to rural areas and upgrade water systems.
Political and budget realities, of course, may mean shrinking grand visions. A growing chorus of economists are calling for a more targeted plan to upgrade the nation's schools with projects such as fixing up playgrounds, removing mold and installing solar panels. Unlike highway or rail improvements that take months to launch, cash could be funneled to states and school districts within 30 days through existing funding formulas, and much of the work could be done in the winter. And since the projects are more labor-intensive, they would largely pay for salaries rather than heavy capital equipment.
Such a plan could draw wide public support, says Jared Bernstein, former economic policy adviser for Vice President Biden and now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "These are the public schools in our communities where we drop our kids off."
A broad jobs bill by Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., calls for spending $100 billion to create 650,000 school construction and maintenance jobs in two years.
Yet anything that looks even remotely like the $800 billion economic stimulus might face an uphill fight in Congress.
A more politically palatable option that's gaining some traction is an infrastructure bank that would provide loans and loan guarantees to private firms that could recoup their investments through highway tolls or local sales taxes. Obama has pushed the idea. And a bill by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, would leverage $10 billion to $160 billion in public financing to generate up to four times as much in private investment.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue this week said, "There is lots of private money there" to invest in infrastructure improvement.
Here's the rub: Such a bank could take at least a year or two to get up and running, so it wouldn't provide the kind of short-term stimulus needed to quickly jump-start the anemic job market.
Give states a helping hand
Since early 2010, budget-crunched state and local governments have cut 425,000 jobs even while private employers have added 2.3 million. States face budget shortfalls totaling $103 billion in the current fiscal year, helping to force an additional 300,000 state and local layoffs by the end of 2012, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.
The government could provide up to $20 billion to states to save about 200,000 teaching and other government jobs. That's probably the quickest way to prop up payrolls, says Michael Ettlinger, vice president for public policy at the liberal Center for American Progress. A $50 billion program would close half the $97 billion deficit states face for Medicaid payments, saving about 500,000 jobs, Fieldhouse says.
Schakowsky's bill would spend $227 billion to create 2.2 million jobs in two years, at a per-job cost of about $50,000 a year, all through existing funding programs that can disburse the money within weeks to states and localities. Besides the school repair projects, her plan would hire about 350,000 teachers, police officers and firefighters, 40,000 health care workers and 100,000 youths to spruce up parks.
Add workers, at a discount
If you want to boost sales, cut the price. That's basically the idea behind a tax credit for each new employee a business hires over its staffing level the previous year. To make an impact, the government should offer a per-employee credit of $10,000 as well as 10% of increased wages for two years, says Michael Greenstone, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
"This is most directly targeted at the thing you want: more employment," he says.
A similar tax credit last year didn't appear to light a fire under employers. Those that hired people who were jobless at least eight weeks were exempt from the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax. Employers of 10.6 million workers from February through October 2010 were eligible for the credit, which saved as much as $3,480 for the addition of a $40,000-a-year worker. But the Treasury Department acknowledges it doesn't know how many of those workers would have been hired anyway.
Both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business oppose a hiring tax credit, saying companies add workers because of increased sales, not temporary windfalls.
Yet a sizable credit could nudge companies thinking of hiring but hesitant to pull the trigger amid economic uncertainty, Greenstone says, adding that last year's credit was too small. He also would not limit hiring to employees who've been jobless for a minimum period as that discouraged businesses that simply wanted to recruit the best workers.
Studies found a $4,500 tax credit in 1977 — $14,400 in 2008 dollars — increased employment by 3% at firms that knew of the program vs. others that didn't, creating 700,000 jobs. Greenstone estimates that under his plan, employers would add about 6 million jobs that would be eligible for a tax credit, about 900,000 of which would not have been created otherwise.
Share jobs to save jobs
Perhaps the least expensive way to bolster payrolls is through work sharing, a program that encourages employers to avoid layoffs by cutting all workers' hours instead. For example, instead of laying off 20% of its staff, a company could trim all workers' hours by 20%. The government then would make up half the workers' lost pay with unemployment insurance — so it's basically a wash or a small expense for state and federal coffers.
"It keeps people employed and at very little cost," says Dean Baker, chief economist of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Twenty-two states have work-sharing programs, but they're sparsely used. Baker says a federal initiative would be better publicized and could give employers more flexibility during the program to modify the number of employees getting reduced pay.
Although the recession's widespread job cuts are over, businesses are always laying off some workers, even when total payrolls are growing. An average of about 650,000 workers a month this year have been temporarily laid off, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If 10% of their employers adopted work sharing, 65,000 jobs a month could be saved.
In Germany, widespread adoption of work sharing helped lower unemployment to 6.7% from 7.1% before the global downturn despite economic growth that has lagged behind the U.S.
Lower corporate taxes
Many economists call for cutting the average 35% federal corporate tax rate to make the U.S. more competitive in a global economy. The average tax rate in Europe is 23%. Chris Edwards, senior fellow at the conservative Cato Institute, calls cutting the rate to 25% "the single best thing we could do" to grow jobs. Obama has said he wants to reduce tax rates while eliminating loopholes and deductions.
Trimming the rate to 22% would cost the government $81 billion in lost revenue but create 350,000 manufacturing jobs directly by 2019 as it prompts U.S. and foreign companies to open factories here instead of overseas, the non-partisan Milken Institute says. An additional 1.7 million jobs would be added as benefits ripple through the economy, Milken says.
Economists say it could take a few years for any tax cuts to grow jobs. But Aparna Mathur, an economist for the conservative American Enterprise Institute, says creating certainty about tax policies could lead firms to hire in the short term.
Train the jobless
At least part of the reason for the high jobless rate is that many laid-off construction and manufacturing workers, for example, lack the skills for growing jobs in heath care and technology. Thirty percent of companies surveyed by McKinsey Global Institute say they have had positions unfilled for six months or longer.
Darlene Miller, CEO of Permac Industries and a member of Obama's Jobs and Competitiveness Council, is helping spearhead a 16-week course in advanced manufacturing at two Minnesota colleges. The program, she says, aims to promote better coordination among colleges, businesses and area career centers to identify and train workers. Officials hope to expand the initiative across the country in three to six months, Miller says.
The council, she says, also wants to help schools graduate 10,000 more engineering students each year to meet a dire shortage of engineers. The panel aims to raise $100 million in private funding for scholarships, launch a media campaign to trumpet engineering careers and encourage schools with high graduation rates to share their strategies.
Cut red tape
The Chamber of Commerce calls regulatory roadblocks that delay construction, environmental and other permits "the most significant obstacles to new hiring."
McKinsey says "inconsistent and sometimes lengthy" reviews can add months or years to project development, discouraging foreign firms from locating in the U.S.
Susan Lund, McKinsey's research head, says the government should allow one-stop shopping so companies can secure various permits from a single agency as well as enterprise zones in which many permits would be pre-approved.
It would be no surprise if the job-creation debate bogs down in political wrangling, with Democrats favoring new stimulus and Republicans supporting tax cuts. But Ross DeVol, Milken's chief research officer, says any viable plan must include both.
"We can't allow ourselves just to be in one or two camps and believe those are the only prescriptions that will work," he says. "Think of it as portfolio of stocks and bonds. You wouldn't want to have all your investments in one particular area."
- Time Off Work for Exercise Linked to Increased Productivity - In Study, Employees Get More Done Despite Reduced Work Hours, Newswise (press release) via newswise.com
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Taking time out of the work week for an employee exercise program may lead to increased productivity—despite the reduction in work hours, reports a study in the August Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).
In the study, one group of employees at a large Swedish public dental health organization was assigned to a mandatory exercise program carried out during regular work hours: 2½ hours per week. Another group received the same reduction in work hours, but no exercise program. (A third group worked regular hours with no exercise program.) The researchers were Ulrica von Thiele Schwarz, Ph.D., and Henna Hasson, Ph.D., of Karolinska Institute, Stockholm.
Employees assigned to the exercise program also had significant increases in self-rated measures of productivity: they felt more productive while on the job and had a reduced rate of work absences due to illness.
The results suggest that reducing work hours for exercise or other health promotion doesn't necessarily lead to decreased productivity—and may even lead to increased productivity. The productivity gains seem to result from higher output during work hours and fewer missed work day. Drs. von Thiele Schwarz and Hasson conclude, "Work hours may be used for health promotion activities with sustained or improved production levels, since the same, or higher, production level can be achieved with lesser resources."
About ACOEM - ACOEM (www.acoem.org), an international society of 5,000 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.
About Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine - The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (www.joem.org) is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.
- How Jobs could reboot working class, Washington Post via ConcordMonitor.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In the week since he announced he was stepping down as Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs has been accorded the kind of demigod status that Americans bestow on the handful of their countrymen who invent, manufacture and market the goods that change their lives for the better. Jobs has been compared to any number of iconic American innovators, but most tellingly to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.
It will take some time and perspective before we can judge whether the mouse (which Jobs popularized), the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes and pixel animation measure up to Edison's electric light, the recording of sound and motion pictures as seminal human creations. It's not too early, though, for a more definitive comparison between Jobs and Ford.
The father of the assembly line and the Model-T is celebrated (and occasionally condemned) for expanding mass production and mass consumption, for quickening the pace of life and enlarging the scope of cities. Like Edison, Jobs and any innovator whose creations lead to increases in productivity, Ford made his nation richer. In the process, though, he did something that Edison and Jobs didn't do: He created a new socioeconomic formation - a decently paid working class.
Ford began producing his Model-T's at his Highland Park, Mich., factory in 1913. One year later, he realized that he could expand his market by paying his workers enough that they could afford to buy the cars they produced. With that, he raised the pay of Ford assembly-line workers to an unheard-of $5 a day.
Ford didn't just build the first car the middle class could afford; he built the middle class itself.
Steve Jobs, by contrast, has worked wonders for American consumers, but like many of his business rivals he has abandoned nonprofessional American workers. In 1996, Apple began turning out its now-legendary product line. But its pods, pads and phones are all assembled in China by Foxconn, a Taiwanese-owned contractor that employs close to a million people, at least 250,000 of whom work solely on Jobs's creations. Until last year, when a wave of worker suicides and labor unrest forced Foxconn to raise wages and cut hours, the men and women who make the stuff America loves worked 60-hour weeks at roughly 50 cents an hour.
Apple's American employees are well paid. Stateside, Apple employs designers of hardware, software and packaging; marketers, managers, supply-chain gurus and financial whizzes - a very talented crew. It employs no U.S.-based production workers.
Which is why Jobs's elevation to our national pantheon is premature.
Bringing some of those production jobs home while holding down the price of his products probably would require devising factories so automated that they wouldn't employ all that many workers. Then again, Apple is sitting on $76 billion in cash, and Jobs is still Apple's chairman. Devoting a few billion to reshape and restart American manufacturing, even if it employs fewer people than in Henry Ford's time and narrows Apple's profit margins, could work wonders for exports and, just possibly, lead to Jobs's most amazing invention of all: a newly vibrant American working class.
In America, we celebrate our great industrialists. We're not likely, some years hence, to celebrate our great offshorers or the guys who built the companies with the most unexpended cash.
Meyerson is editor-at-large of American Prospect.
- Labor Day: A Day to Rest, to Remember, and to Act - for "Entitlements" and Jobs, by Richard Eskow, HuffingtonPost.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rest. A time of rest from long hours of work. That's the principle enshrined in Labor Day, a 125-year-old American holiday that celebrates the spirit of organized labor. It's the spirit behind the six-day workweek, too. A day of rest was enshrined in monotheism's holy texts, after all, but it didn't become law until labor unions demanded it. ("Thou shalt remember the Sabbath and keep it holy" - did your boss forget?)
It's also the spirit behind the principle that people who work all their lives deserve a financially secure retirement. Our forebears fought to win us this time of rest, and now we're called on to defend it once more.
The White House keeps hinting that the President will once again propose cuts to Medicare and Social Security - either when he presents his jobs proposal next week, or shortly afterwards. That would roll back the hard-won principle that people who work hard deserve their time of rest.
If Americans return from their Labor Day celebrations to hear their President announce these cuts, it will feel like the breaking of an ancient compact. Voters should encourage him not to make that mistake, and not to break that promise.
Days of Struggle
As the Department of Labor explains, "Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers." The first Labor Day celebration took place in New York City in 1882, organized by one of the first trade unions. States and municipalities began recognizing it as a holiday in the years that followed, and Congress designated Labor day a Federal holiday in 1894.
Here's a question: Would a bill like that pass Congress today? How far have we really come in the last hundred years? Workers and their rights are under attack all across the country at the local, state, and national levels. Wisconsin is an encouraging sign of resistance, but we're living in a age where the ultra-wealthy are regaining Gilded Age riches and power while the hard-won rights of working-age Americans are being eroded.
If the President of the United States cuts the retirement benefits Americans have paid for throughout their working lives it would reverse more than a century of progress. And it would be unnecessary. Social Security doesn't contribute to the deficit and is easily fixed with relatively minor revenue adjustments. Medicare can only be fixed by correcting the distortions that for-profit medicine have introduced into our health economy - or, to put it more plainly, by getting the greed out of health care.
The Department of Labor notes that this holiday "constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country." Is the White House going to celebrate working people on Monday only to give them the short end of the stick on Thursday?
Days of Rest
Holidays and weekends didn't happen by accident. They were the result of hard-won victories. A 60 or even 70-hour working week was typical for industrial workers in the Nineteenth Century. Fights for ten-hour workdays and a six-day work week were a key part of early union struggles. Now we're seeing working hours rise steeply for households, as both adults now work with diminishing success to maintain the standard of living many of their parents enjoyed on a single income.
It's becoming more common for struggling middle-class people to work two jobs to make ends meet, which means their work weeks are going back up to 19th century lengths. And the benefits that used to come with work - like health insurance, pension, vacations, and paid sick leave - are becoming rarer and weaker.
For 25 million Americans, their hours of rest are involuntary. That's how many people ae unemployed or under-employed in this economy.
As for Medicare and Social Security, I've objected in the past to calling them "entitlements." But if I pay my taxes I'm entitled to police protection. If I pay my insurance and my house burns down, I'm entitled to file a claim.
We didn't destroy the economy with Wall Street greed, or give tax cuts to nonworking billionaires, or start unnecessary wars. So if we've kept our part of the bargain all our lives -- working, following the rules, paying our share - are we "entitled" to these programs when we retire?
Days of Surrender
The White House's Office of Management and Budget is now forecasting unemployment of 9% or greater through next year (and the next election), and above 6% through 2016. That would be the end of Barack Obama's second term, if he wins re-election. Unless the President comes forward with a truly bold jobs plan next week, this economic message will be plainly understood by all 25 million struggling Americans:
No, we can't.
The government can create jobs, if it has the political will. We need a bold and effective action plan for employment. That's half the message the President needs to convey: Here's how we're going to create jobs. The other half of the message must say to middle-class Americans who work in offices, shops, factories, homes, and retail outlets, We will protect your financial security. We will not violate the contract your nation made with you: that if you work hard, the benefits you've earned will be waiting for you when you need them.
That promise demands clear commitments from the President: No cuts to Social Security or Medicare. Real health reform that controls runaway costs, so that every American is ensured decent health coverage - now, and when they retire.
Without bold action the economy will continue to struggle, dooming the prosperity of middle-class Americans - and the re-election prospects of Democrats. The issues of jobs and "entitlements" (Social Security and Medicare) are closely related. We can't create jobs until more people are able to spend money.
And this is not just an argument about tomorrow's security or the needs of older Americans. The cuts proposed by the President would reduce benefits immediately. That means people will have less money and their fears for the future will discourage them from spending what they have. That means less consumer spending today, when the economy urgently needs it, leading to continued stagnation and unemployment.
The end result would be an ongoing cycle of economic - and moral - failure.
Days of Action
The President is set to announce his jobs plan sometime next week - that is, if the Republicans don't decide to change it again. Who knows? They may decide they want to hold a luau (pina colada, anyone?) or that they don't want to miss karaoke night at the C Street house. But unless another GOP tantrum calls for more coddling, that speech is only a few days away.
Here's an idea: While you're enjoying your long weekend, thanks to the struggles of working people a century ago, why not spare a few minutes to let the White House know how you feel? You can get yourself in the mood by watching this video, which points out the difference between Candidate Obama's pledges and President Obama's proposals.
Then you can go here and sign a petition that tells President Obama: Jobs, not cuts. Once you're done, you can hoist a couple of beers, or colas, or protein-enhanced vegetable smoothies, or whatever it is you like to drink on your day off. When you do, don't forget to lift one to those 19th century organizers who made those days possible. We could use some of their spirit right about now.
And while we're offering toasts, here's one: For every American who works for a living - and every American who can't - here's to ya.
Happy Labor Day. You've earned it.
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