In honor of Labor Day, UC Berkeley Labor Center has made some interesting informational tools available. There is the Map of Public Assistance Expenditures for Working Families by State, The Inventory of US City and County Minimum Wage Ordinances and a 2014 Chartbook of Low Wage Workers in California.
FINLAND: New Government Commits to a Basic Income Experiment - "The Finnish government of Juha Sipilä is considering a pilot project that would give everyone of working age a basic income."[1,2,3] (via) [more inside]
Mike Bulajewski on the war between labor and management in the software industry, as manifested in the rise (and possible fall) of the Agile development: From this subset of principles, it’s clear that although Agile positions itself as a software development methodology, a closer inspection reveals clues to a greater ambition: to protect the interests of software engineers at work. [...] With this agenda, it is possible to characterize the Agile movement as a labour union.
In a week when China's troubled economy and plunging stock market have made headlines worldwide, the Globe and Mail probes one of hidden causes of the difficulty the country faces in transitioning to a modern consumer economy: The Ant Tribe, the middle class Chinese who are literally being driven underground. [more inside]
As the demand for tech labor grows, ambitious teenagers are flooding into San Francisco. There’s no official tally of the number of teens who work in tech, but Fontenot estimates that there are as many as a hundred recent high school dropouts working on startups in the city. Some were too distracted by programming projects and weekend hackathons to go to class. Others couldn’t pay for college and questioned why they should go into debt when there is easy money to be made. Still others had already launched successful apps or businesses and didn’t see why they should wait at home for their lives to start. In Facebook groups for young technologists, they saw an alternative: teens lounging in sunny Dolores Park (dolo, as they call it), teens leasing expansive South of Market office space, teens throwing parties whenever they want. And so they moved to San Francisco, many of them landing in houses like Mission Control. -- The Real Teens of Silicon Valley: Inside the almost-adult lives of the industry’s newest recruits
If you feed your pet commercial pet food, there's a good chance the fish in it came from slave labor. "In the past year, Thai Union has shipped more than 28 million pounds of seafood-based cat and dog food for some of the top brands sold in America including Iams, Meow Mix and Fancy Feast, according to United States Customs documents."
"We're still trying to eliminate sweatshops and child labor by buying right. But that's not how the world works in 2015." - Michael Hobbes [more inside]
Housework is not work. Sex work is not work. Emotional work is not work. Why? Because they don’t take effort? No, because women are supposed to provide them uncompensated, out of the goodness of our hearts.
President Obama, blogging at the Huffington Post, announces new overtime regulations. The rule change proposed by the Department of Labor would raise the salary threshold of workers covered by overtime to $50,400, from $23,660. [more inside]
The New York Times reports that the Dominican Republic will begin deporting thousands of undocumented migrant workers, most of them Haitian, later this week. The Washington Post provides historical context. In The Nation, Greg Grandin reports on the imminent event. Last week, he characterized the effort as "a vicious, anti-black pogrom.” In Harper’s, Rachel Nolan has a detailed letter from the Dominican Republic explaining the situation at length.
Aspirational parents condemn their children to a desperate joyless life From infancy to employment, this is a life-denying, love-denying mindset, informed not by joy or contentment, but by an ambition that is both desperate and pointless, for it cannot compensate: childhood, family life, the joys of summer, meaningful and productive work, a sense of arrival, living in the moment.
The Unacceptably High Cost of Labor – How a deeper dive into our supply chain led to a new Migrant Worker Standard. Patagonia started auditing their supply chain in 2011 and uncovered the dark side of migrant-worker relations in Taiwan.
Today, Gawker editorial staff vote on whether to unionize with Writers Guild of America, East, saying that transparency in compensation and fair health benefits are among the issues that have led them to organize. [more inside]
Joe Stiglitz on Inequality, Wealth, and Growth: Why Capitalism is Failing (video; if you don't have 30m, skip to 20m for discussion of political inequality, wealth, credit and monetary policy) - "If the very rich can use their position to get higher returns, more investment information, more extraction of rents, and if the very rich have equal or higher savings rates, then wealth will become more concentrated... economic inequality inevitably gets translated into political inequality, and political inequality gets translated into more economic inequality. The basic and really important idea here is that markets don't exist in a vacuum, that market economies operate according to certain rules, certain regulations that specify how they work. And those effect the efficiency of those markets, but they also effect how the fruits of the benefits of those markets are distributed and the result of that is there are large numbers of aspects of our basic economic framework that in recent years have worked to increase the inequality of wealth and income in our society... leading to a society which can be better described, increasingly, as an inherited plutocracy." [more inside]
Disruption’s Tragic Flaw The case of Uber shows why European companies should not follow the example of their American competitors too closely. It pays to take the needs of customers and contractors into account.
Girl Strikers: Gender and Cleveland's Garment District Strikes of 1911
Before the strike, owners flaunted the fact that production had risen each of the last ten years. The city’s 35 factories employed roughly 20,000 workers, many sewing six days a week, 12-hours a day in conditions widely regarded as sweatshops.
Worse were the starvation wages made possible by the fierce competition for sewing jobs as immigrants flooded the cores of American cities.
Work was bad enough, but 60 percent of the garment workers were sole breadwinners, and another 50,000 Clevelanders either supplied or serviced the local garment industry. The only safety net was charity.
The Machines Are Coming by Zeynep Tufekci
Machines are getting better than humans at figuring out who to hire, who’s in a mood to pay a little more for that sweater, and who needs a coupon to nudge them toward a sale. In applications around the world, software is being used to predict whether people are lying, how they feel and whom they’ll vote for. To crack these cognitive and emotional puzzles, computers needed not only sophisticated, efficient algorithms, but also vast amounts of human-generated data, which can now be easily harvested from our digitized world. The results are dazzling. Most of what we think of as expertise, knowledge and intuition is being deconstructed and recreated as an algorithmic competency, fueled by big data. But computers do not just replace humans in the workplace. They shift the balance of power even more in favor of employers. Our normal response to technological innovation that threatens jobs is to encourage workers to acquire more skills, or to trust that the nuances of the human mind or human attention will always be superior in crucial ways. But when machines of this capacity enter the equation, employers have even more leverage, and our standard response is not sufficient for the looming crisis.[more inside]
The Washington Post reports what the rich and poor actually spend their money on, and where [more inside]
"Post Hurricane Katrina, a whole new American dream was designed for some [South Asian] Indians — how to get trapped in a guarded labor camp by an American company".
A small scale shoe company called American Duchess naturally wanted to make their shoes in the USA. Here is why they were not able.
The Shut-In Economy The dream of on-demand, delivery everything is splitting tech-centered cities into two new classes: shut-ins and servants.
"Parlors, “dining chambers,” and other spaces amenable to dining began appearing in architecture plans. Each nation seemed to have its own idea as to what constituted a proper dining room. The great Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti wrote that it “should be entered off the bosom of the house,” advising further that, “[a]s use demands, there should be [a dining room] for summer, one for winter, and one for middling seasons.” Some two centuries later Englishman William Sanderson would recommend that a “Dyning-Roome” be hung with pictures of kings and queens." The Austerity Kitchen presents A Short History Of The Dining Room Part 1 / Part 2.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing assistants suffered back and other musculoskeletal injuries more than any other occupation in 2013. NPR's Daniel Zwerdling investigated the root cause for many of these injuries: Lifting and moving patients. [more inside]
Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper, flew teenage fashion bloggers, Anniken Jørgensen, Frida Ottesen and Ludvig Hambro, to the Southeast Asian country’s capital of Phnom Penh, where they experienced a modicum of a Cambodian textile worker’s life for a month in 2014. Their experience is the subject of a five-part reality show available online, titled "Sweatshop - Deadly Fashion." [more inside]
From October 1950 to January 1952, the Mexican American miners at the Empire Zinc mine in Bayard, New Mexico were on strike, protesting the racial discrimination between them and their Anglo counterparts in pay, safety standards, and quality of life in company housing. Two events make this particular strike stand out from similar strikes at other mines are the involvement of the miners' wives in both requesting better living conditions and later in taking to the picket lines themselves, and after the strike was over, the feminist and pro-labor docudrama made by blacklisted Hollywood film makers, Salt of the Earth (YouTube; lower quality on Archive.org; Wikipedia). [more inside]
What’s behind Santa’s bloody rise? Three leading elven labor activists offer a class analysis of the North Pole “gift economy.”
Product of Mexico: Hardship on Mexico's farms, a bounty for U.S. tables — the first in a series of four Los Angeles Times long-form stories about labor conditions discovered during an 18-month investigation of Mexican vegetable farms that supply produce to the United States. [more inside]
Tampa homeless program uses unpaid, destitute residents as steady labor force, revenue source [more inside]
About half of the people fighting wildland fires on the ground for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) are incarcerated: over 4,400 prisoners, housed at 42 inmate fire camps, including three for women. Together, says Capt. Jorge Santana, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) liaison who supervises the camps, they save the state over $1 billion a year. This year, California has had over 5,300 wildfires, which is about 700 more than had occurred by this time in 2013, and a thousand more than the five-year average. Now, as the West is coming to the end of one of the driest, hottest years in recorded history, the work of inmate firefighters has become essential to California’s financial and environmental health. (SLBuzzfeedNews)
How he can move gigantic marble blocks, but his own movements are light? An excerpt from Il Capo by Yuri Ancarani, which follows a foreman at a marble quarry.
In order to promote her new book, Lena Dunham has elected to engage in some AFPesque labor exploitation: Last month, the writer, actor and producer Lena Dunham started an ambitious project. Nearly 600 people responded to an open call for video auditions on her website, including a sand artist, a ukulele player, a cappella singers, gymnasts, performance artists and stand-up comics, even some exceptionally charismatic babies. The seven who made the final cut won’t be making cameos in “Girls,” Ms. Dunham’s HBO show about Brooklyn 20-somethings. Instead, they’ll be the warm-up acts — performing free of charge — on an elaborately produced, 11-city tour to promote Ms. Dunham’s new book, “Not That Kind of Girl.” [more inside]
According to the philosopher Anselm Jappe, who has come to Lisbon to give a talk at the Teatro Maria Matos, in capitalism we are defined by our relation to labor. But the system is a “house of cards that is beginning to collapse”. It is time to rethink the concept of labor.
The political economy of a universal basic income: "your view of what is feasible should not be backwards looking. The normalization of gay marriage and legalization of marijuana seemed utopian and politically impossible until very recently. Yet in fact those developments are happening, and their expansion is almost inevitable given the demographics of ideology... UBI — defined precisely as periodic transfers of identical fixed dollar amounts to all citizens of the polity — is by far the most probable and politically achievable among policies that might effectively address problems of inequality, socioeconomic fragmentation, and economic stagnation." [more inside]
Jacob Brogan of Georgetown University writes in the Washington Post about the ethics of wearing pre-distressed jeans. [more inside]
One Generation’s Time: The Legacy of Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes (YouTube, 1 hour). The story of two activists who fought to improve the lives of Filipino workers in Alaskan canneries, their murders by members of a street gang, and the eight-year investigation that ultimately found Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos responsible for their deaths. [more inside]
If you like cheap groceries and live in Massachusetts, you may have noticed this weekend that the shelves were bare at Market Basket. Employees of the company staged a walkout on Friday to show their support for Arthur T. Demoulas, the company's recently ousted president. Many people have questioned the sudden change in management. [more inside]
Evidence Based Birth is a blog with articles by Rebecca Dekker, a PhD nurse and faculty member at the University of Kentucky, summarizing the best medical evidence for childbirth practices. To start, check out the table summarizing the state of US maternity care to see the differences between current standard childbirth practices and evidence based care. The topics page lists the currently available articles. [more inside]
Where does the new interest in the “history of capitalism” come from? I’d suggest the following rudiments of an answer. The financial crisis of 2008-09 has clearly placed certain issues of historicization on the agenda. If the accelerated and seemingly unstoppable drive for the “flattening” of the world through a process of neoliberal globalization since the early 1990s has not actually brought us to a permanently unfolding and self-reproducing neoliberal present, but has rather encountered severe structural problems, then how do we historicize this current time? That is, how do we understand the contemporary crisis of capitalism, in all its political and social ramifications, in relation to longer-run processes of capitalist restructuring and their logics of development and difficulty; and how do we locate the history of the present inside a larger-scale framework of periods and conjunctures? [more inside]
"Hi, Marc... You seem to think everyone's worried about robots. But what everyone's worried about is you, Marc. Not just you, but people like you. Robots aren't at the levers of financial and political influence today, but folks like you sure are. People are scared of so much wealth and control being in so few hands... Unless we collectively choose to pay for a safety net, technology alone isn't going to make it happen." [more inside]
Hell on Wheels: Are bad trucking laws partially to blame for Tracy Morgan's accident?
Two days before Kevin Roper crashed his Walmart big rig into Tracy Morgan’s limousine, critically injuring the comedian and killing his colleague James McNair, the Senate Appropriations Committee quietly loosened the laws governing truckers’ hours on the road. Senator Susan Collins slipped an amendment into an appropriations bill suspending for one year a rule limiting truckers to 70-hour work weeks, with a mandatory 34-hour “re-start” once they hit that threshold. Under the amendment, the law would revert to an 82-hour workweek. The Truck Safety Coalition denounced the measure: “What is being portrayed as a small change to the rest period actually has a large impact on crash risk and will set back safety for everyone sharing the roads with large 80,000-pound trucks.”
The other night I was on the train coming home and there was this young girl with three young children, and she had a container of milk, and I heard the middle child of the three ask, "Mom, can I have some milk?" and the mother said, "No, you know we need it for the baby." And I remembered feeling like that.
Interview with David Graeber Why do the least productive people get paid the most money? What ever happened to the big increase in leisure that everyone was expecting 50 years ago? Graeber tells us. [more inside]