Happy Labor Day

I hope you all have had a good day celebrating American workers. Of course, this being the United States, the day to celebrate Labor is not May 1 (which was chosen to commemorate the Haymarket riots). Labor Day was pushed through six days after the Pullman strike.

Unions in the US are now weak, which is a good thing as evidenced by such things as:

  • employees being cheated out of their wages. There’s another example in today’s Globe:

Jorge Porras used to report to his carwash job at 8:15 most mornings, but he said his boss often did not let him clock in until 11, when customers began streaming in. Many days, he was paid for just six hours, he said, even though he worked 9½ hours.

One day, when the heavy chain that pulled cars forward got stuck, Porras tried to fix it, but it lurched forward and cut off the top of his right ring finger. The injury caused him to miss work for the next two weeks, he said, but he got no pay or workers’ compensation for the forced time off.

they didn’t form a union but did get together to try to organize to get their legal wages. That’s bad:

“We feel that the group’s tactics are over the top,” said Carol Wight, chief executive of the New Mexico Restaurant Association. “I think there are nicer, more effective ways of getting what you want achieving justice for workers.” She said most restaurants tried to comply with labor laws, but New Mexico has various overlapping minimum wage laws that can make compliance difficult.

Glenn Spencer, executive director of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Freedom Initiative, voiced concern that some immigrant worker groups like Somos were fronts for unions and were being used to help rebuild the labor movement.

And obviously unions are bad, if workers were just nice and quiet there wouldn’t be any problems.

The hourly compensation of a typical worker essentially grew in tandem with productivity from 1948 to 1973. After 1973, these series diverge markedly. Between 1973 and 2014 productivity grew 72.2 percent, or 1.33 percent each year, while the typical worker’s compensation was nearly stagnant, growing just 0.22 percent annually, or 9.2 percent over the entire 1973–2014 period. Further, nearly all of the pay growth over this 41-year period occurred during the seven years from 1995 to 2002, when wages were boosted by the very tight labor markets of the late 1990s and early 2000s. This divergence of pay and productivity has meant that the vast majority of workers were not benefiting much from productivity growth; the economy could afford higher pay but was not providing it.

  • this goes together with people getting priced out of places like Boston:

From 1990 to 2010, the share of families earning between two and five times the poverty level (a family of four making $49,000 to $121,000 a year) dropped by nearly 8 percentage points, from almost 43 percent to just over 35 percent, according to the Dukakis Center’s analysis.

  • the President is in Boston to introduce an executive order to require federal contractors to offer paid sick leave. This is instead of passing a law requiring all businesses to offer paid sick leave:

‘‘We are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers,’’ Obama also said. ‘‘And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.’’

There are, of course, people who are against it:

“The president and these Democrats imagine that every company is Google and Apple and Exxon Mobil and they have giant pools of workers they can shuffle around to accommodate workers who aren’t there. It’s just not true,” said Jack Mozloom, national media director for the National Federation of Independent Business, a coalition that represents only a few government contractors but is concerned about measures being applied to all companies. “Half the economy is a small business, and many of them can’t absorb it.”

So, the rest of the world is able to do it, but, again, the US is different. I’m not sure if Mozloom would say that’s because we’re better or worse.

Anyway, Happy Labor Day.

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