Congress takes a casual look at the peer-to-peer economy - “Finding new ways to monetise used or existing assets has the obvious and immediate effects of raising their value and the wealth of their owners, while simultaneously reducing the value of comparable stuff owned by incumbent companies — for whom monetisation already wasn’t a problem, and who find themselves burdened by the newly competitive environment. The innovations also provide a surplus to those consumers who previously would have paid more to an incumbent. And all without any new stuff actually having to be made.” [more inside]
On Graduate School and 'Love' is yet another commentary on the economics of academic work. A younger student chimes in on the role of education in life: "much of education is oriented, for better or worse, toward making a living, rather than making a life." [more inside]
Peter Hartcher, political editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, tells the story of the self-immolation of the Australian Labor party and the political destruction of two prime ministers, in a five part series: Meltdown. [more inside]
Brad DeLong, recently installed at Equitablog, lays out a future (wonkish) where the returns to capital keep increasing relative to labor: "What do we people do to add value? Eight things... [more inside]
Dwarf Fortress: A Marxist Analysis
What one does in Dwarf Fortress is create a colony of an existing dwarven fortress – you’re always sent out as a team from a much larger existing stronghold elsewhere, and your foreign relations with other dwarves are limited to that particular fortress, on the whole. Even though your settlement is independent and self-governing, and the relations with the mother fortress mostly those of trade, the purpose of the game in all its open-endedness can be nothing other than to create oneself in the image of the previous fortress. In other words, fundamentally in Dwarf Fortress you reproduce the existing structure of dwarven society on a merely quantitatively expanded scale.[more inside]
BART workers are continuing their strike into Monday, with no quick end to the strike in sight. [more inside]
Raveena Aulakh of The Star got hired at a sweatshop in Bangladesh. Her boss was a 9 year old girl named Meem.
Home Truths: Domestic Workers in California (PDF). 2012's groundbreaking National Domestic Worker Survey was conducted in 14 cities; the sample analyzed in this report includes 631 domestic workers (nannies, caregivers, housecleaners) in four metropolitan areas in California: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. [more inside]
A photograph of breaker boys that changed history for millions of kids in America, who worked grueling lives as child laborers. What Charles Dickens did with words for the underage toilers of London, Lewis Hine did with photographs for the youthful laborers in the United States. Library of Congress collection of over 5,000 Lewis Hine child labor photos. Kentucky 1916. Previously. [more inside]
Kevin Rudd has visited Yarralumla and has asked the Governor General to issue the writs for an election to be held on September the 7th. The ABC's coverage starts the coverage with Vote Compass - Where do you stand (as if you already didn't know)? Faifax has offered this handy ready reckoner. News Corp Australia? Well they are calling on the services of Col Pot to ensure that Voting compasses and ready reckoners point in only the right direction, and to ensure that News' editors - rely on their instincts
At age 99, Mr. Newton still gets up and goes to work 3X a week. The company doesn't need him to do the work, and in fact the company didn't actually hire him. He showed up at age 86 on a Monday after the property had been sold. He worked for the previous owner, and he came with the property.
108 stitches per ball. One stitch every 8.3 seconds. For a 10.5 hour shift*. 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Complicated? [more inside]
Why we're not allowed to work less. Machinery offers us an opportunity to work less, an opportunity that as a society we have chosen not to take -- by 2000 the average couple with kids worked 500 hours a year more than in 1979. This is the story of how the a few companies like Kellogg's at first bucked the trend, and the massive propaganda campaign against shorter hours that's nearly won it's battle to make capitalism synonymous with the “American Way.”
"Everyone Only Wants Temps" - My stint doing "on demand" grunt work for one of America's hottest growth industries
It's not a pretty formula, but it works. With 600 offices and a workforce of 400,000—more employees than Target or Home Depot—Labor Ready is the undisputed king of the blue-collar temp industry. Specializing in "tough-to-fill, high-turnover positions," the company dispatches people to dig ditches, demolish buildings, remove debris, stock giant fulfillment warehouses—jobs that take their toll on a body.[more inside]
Big tech is saying we need to issue more temporary visas so high-skill STEM workers can enter the US, because there's a shortage of Americans who can do the work. But according to this essay in the Columbia Journalism Review, there might be plenty of US citizens available, in fact maybe even a glut, and immigration reform proposals might just be a way to keep STEM labor costs down for corporations and universities. [more inside]
On May 16, 1934, the Teamsters local 574 of Minneapolis, Minnesota called for a strike to stop all truck deliveries in the city not run by union workers. This 1981 documentary tells the story in the workers' own words. Part 1, part 2.
Boston taxi cab drivers, often cheated, work in a world where risk and reward are a mismatch. [more inside]
Each year on March 25, the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Ruth Sergel and a team of volunteers have installed "Chalk," a public art project commemorating the lives lost that day in 1911. Sergel, who also founded the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition has made a publicly available data map that records "the name, home address, likely age, country of origin, and final resting place of all known Triangle Fire victims." Says Sergel, "The chalk will wash away but the following year we return, insisting on the memory of these lost young workers." [more inside]
Economists and the theory of politics - "why unions were often well worth any deadweight cost" [more inside]
"In the past three decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. The rise has come even as medical advances have allowed many more people to remain on the job, and new laws have banned workplace discrimination against the disabled. Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government." A multimedia story by Planet Money reporter Chana Joffe-Walt, also featured on This American Life this week.
"A "mystery shopper" visits every Pret outlet once a week. If the employee who rings up the sale is appropriately ebullient, then everyone in the shop gets a bonus. If not, nobody does." The doubtful ethics of the new emotional labor.
After their annual audit showed a large spike in underage workers, Apple made good on its promise to take more responsibility for its suppliers.
Artist Zak Smith addresses the problem of Big Art made by assistants for artists who don't claim to use assistants. good bit starts at 3:40
"The company at this point isn’t just a key purveyor of lower labor standards and a globalized and concentrated supply chain, it is a key tell for policymakers."
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
Thought the "rubber rooms" where New York City teachers were sent to wait for disciplinary hearings were closed? Not so much. [more inside]
The governments of the United Kingdom and Scotland agree on a framework for the latter to vote on independence. Other reporting in the Telegraph, Guardian and the Scottish Sun. The referendum, for this nation of 5.25 million people and a unicorn as its national animal, will be held before the end of 2014. [more inside]
Citizens United has wrought widespread changes in the election law landscape. Yet, a lesser-known consequence of this watershed case might have a significant impact in the workplace: it may permit employers to hold political captive audience workplace meetings with their employees. Under Citizens United’s robust conception of corporate political speech, employers may now be able to compel their employees to listen to their political views at such meetings on pain of termination. And employers such as Koch Industries are taking full advantage of this. [more inside]
Since June, the NFL has locked out its referees as their union and league management have failed to come to an agreement over a range of issues, most notably the future of the referees' pensions. In their absence, the league has resorted to using replacement refs to officiate games. The results have not been pretty. [more inside]
With negotiations between management and the Indianapolis Symphony musicians hitting a standstill, one of the few remaining full time orchestras in the country has been locked out. [more inside]
Trade-offs between inequality, productivity, and employment - "The poor do not employ one another, because the necessities they require are produced and sold so cheaply by the rich. The rich are glad to sell to the poor, as long as the poor can come up with property or debt claims or other forms of insurance to offer as payment..." [more inside]
Is there a man (or woman) among us with pluck enough to wear Big Bill Haywood's workingman's pants? [more inside]
Years of labour peace between the government of Ontario and teachers came to an end this year. Like their colleagues in British Columbia, Ontario teachers and support staff are complaining of unfair, unnecessary, and unconstitutional legislation -- the Putting Students First Act, 2012 -- that gives the Education Minister, Laura Broten, unchallenged power to ban strikes, job actions, set compensation and benefits, and to take over local school boards who are non-compliant. Ontario school boards are unanimously opposed to the Act, which reduces their power, and so are teachers and support staff, who feel the government is manufacturing a crisis. Most see this as a cynical ploy to capture public support for two by-elections this week that could nudge the Liberal government into majority status. ETFO and OSSTF, two of the teacher unions involved, have repeatedly pointed out that "the school year is not in jeopardy", that they had already accepted a wage freeze, and that local bargaining is proceeding well. As legislation looms aheads, teachers, support staff, and labour activists are wondering: is this the end of collective bargaining for the public sector? [more inside]
"Today, the Chinese working class is fighting. More than thirty years into the Communist Party’s project of market reform, China is undeniably the epicenter of global labor unrest." — Eli Friedman from Jacobin
"It's the 21ist century--why are we working so much?" In which Owen Hatherley exhumes the humiliated, expired idea that the reduction of work is a worthwhile goal. "If there's one thing practically all futurologists once agreed on, it's that in the 21st century there would be a lot less work. What would they have thought, if they had known that in 2012, the 9-5 working day had in the UK become something more like 7am to 7pm? They would surely have looked around and seen technology take over in many professions which previously needed heavy manpower, they would have looked at the increase in automation and mass production, and wondered – why are they spending 12 hours a day on menial tasks?" [more inside]
Let it Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace from Crooked Timber.
Mark Ames (of the eXile): The Left’s Big Sellout – How the ACLU and Human Rights Groups Quietly Exterminated Labor Rights (via naked capitalism) [more inside]
What's also obvious is that this phase of Occupy, with talk of credit unions and occupying the SEC, while eminently worthy, is also kind of boring, especially when compared to the thrill of Occupy's park phase. Some, though, are ready to move on. "It's easy to go back to the park occupation and fetishize it, in a way," says Occupy Chicago's Brian Bean. "I prefer not to run a mini-society – I want to run society." - The Battle For The Soul Of Occupy Wall Street - Rolling Stone - Mark Binelli.
In Praise of Leisure - "Imagine a world in which most people worked only 15 hours a week. They would be paid as much as, or even more than, they now are, because the fruits of their labor would be distributed more evenly across society. Leisure would occupy far more of their waking hours than work. It was exactly this prospect that John Maynard Keynes conjured up in a little essay published in 1930 called 'Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.' Its thesis was simple. As technological progress made possible an increase in the output of goods per hour worked, people would have to work less and less to satisfy their needs, until in the end they would have to work hardly at all... He thought this condition might be reached in about 100 years — that is, by 2030." (via) [more inside]
DEAR AMERICA: You Should Be Mad As Hell About This. Here is a helpful series of excellent visual aids that shed light on the state of our current American socioeconomy.
If you asked me two years ago whether I’d have a baby and give it away for money, I wouldn’t just laugh at you, I would be so insulted I might hit you in the face,” said Indirani, a 30-year old garment worker and gestational surrogate mother.
"Nicolas Sarkozy did very little about fostering innovation — he didn’t have a clue. As for François Hollande, the strongest part of its electorate (largely composed of teachers and other public servants) opposes any rapprochement between private sector and public higher education. And let’s not mention the underlying “ideology” of venture capital, carried interest, IPO’s, flexible employment rules, etc. Hollande’s supporters will also oppose any removal of cobwebs from the 102-year-old labor code that greatly complicates the management of companies employing 50 or more people. As a result, France has 2.4 times more companies with 49 employees than with 50..." - Francois Hollande’s Start-down Nation
As Chicago prepares to join other cities in marking May Day with a march and a general strike, it is interesting to think about these actions in the context of May Day's Chicago origins and Chicago's role in labor history. [more inside]