RSSCategory: Labor and Working Conditions

Will Your Job Be Lost to a Robot?

June 14, 2017 | By | Reply More

This article in MarketWatch, and this stunning graphic, should give many people concern, though not everyone:

Occupations that are expected to remain in demand for a live human are, not surprisingly, those that require compassion, understanding and moral judgment, such as nurses, teachers and police officers . . .


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Karl Marx was correct about these ill-affects of capitalism

November 12, 2014 | By | Reply More

Rolling Stone points out that, despite some huge problems with his proposed solutions, Marx was correct about these ill-effects of capitalism.

1. Capitalism’s Chaotic Nature

2. Imaginary Appetites

3. The Globalization of Capitalism

4. Monopoly

5. The Reserve Army of Industrial Labor


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Should your job even exist?

May 10, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

I’ve often wondered how most of us in the United State would fare if we were forced to stand up and justify our jobs, one by one. We can do without most of the stuff in high-priced malls. We can do without casinos and all of the thousands of people they employ. Wall Street banks “make” only about the amount that they take in from federal government welfare, year after year. We could do away with all of these, and many many more.

Should your job even exist? David Graeber explains that people with make-work jobs envy those with real jobs:

All my life, there’s people, you meet them at parties, you run into them, you ask them what they do, and they kind of look sheepish and don’t want to admit it, you know? They say, well, it’s not really very interesting. It’s like, well, I’m a human resource consultant; I work at a computer firm where I fill out forms of a certain kind to make it faster for somebody else to do this, or I’m a middle man among seven layers of middlemen in this sort of outsourcing… They’re always embarrassed; they don’t look like they do anything. All those people out there who have these jobs that you don’t think they’re really doing anything, they must be suffering, they must know that their jobs are essentially made up. Imagine going to work every day knowing you’re not really doing anything. What must that do to someone’s soul?
Why America’s favorite anarchist thinks most American workers are slaves

How could you have dignity in labor if you secretly believe your job shouldn’t exist? But, of course, you’re not going to tell your boss that. So I thought, you know, there must be enormous moral and spiritual damage done to our society. And then I thought, well, maybe that explains some other things, like why is it there’s this deep, popular resentment against people who have real jobs? They can get people so angry at auto-workers, just because they make 30 bucks an hour, which is like nowhere near what corporate lawyers make, but nobody seems to resent them. They get angry at the auto-workers; they get angry at teachers. They don’t get angry at school administrators, who actually make more money. Most of the problems people blame on teachers, and I think on some level, that’s resentment: all these people with meaningless jobs are saying, but, you guys get to teach kids, you get to make cars; that’s real work. We don’t get to do real work; you want benefits, too? That’s not reasonable. . . . It’s envy of people who get to have meaningful jobs that actually produce something.


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How Google hires.

February 28, 2014 | By | Reply More

Excellent points made in this article describing how Google hires. The title is, “Why Google doesn’t care about hiring top college graduates.” These approaches dovetail well with Paul Tough’s book, “How Children Succeed.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Google looks for the ability to step back and embrace other people’s ideas when they’re better. “It’s ‘intellectual humility.’ Without humility, you are unable to learn,” Bock says. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure.”


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Costco v Wal-Mart

November 25, 2012 | By | Reply More

You don’t need to treat your workers badly to succeed as a retailer. See this article in the NYT comparing Costco to Wal-Mart.


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Looking Forward?

November 7, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More
Looking Forward?

As usual, Florida is still undecided, a mess. According to NPR, though, it is leaning heavily toward Obama, despite the shenanigans of the state GOP in suppressing the vote.

I didn’t watch last night. Couldn’t. We went to bed early.

But then Donna got up around midnight and woke me by a whoop of joy that I briefly mistook for anguish.

To my small surprise and relief, Obama won.

I will not miss the constant electioneering, the radio ads, the tv spots, the slick mailers. I will not miss keeping still in mixed groups about my politics (something I am not good at, but this election cycle it feels more like holy war than an election). I will not miss wincing every time some politician opens his or her mouth and nonsense spills out. (This is, of course, normal, but during presidential years it feels much, much worse.) I will not miss…

Anyway, the election came out partially the way I expected, in those moments when I felt calm enough to think rationally. Rationality seemed in short supply this year and mine was sorely tasked. So now, I sit here sorting through my reactions, trying to come up with something cogent to say.

I am disappointed the House is still Republican, but it seems a number of the Tea Party robots from 2010 lost their seats, so maybe the temperature in chambers will drop a degree or two and some business may get done.

Gary Johnson, running as a Libertarian, pulled 350,000 votes as of nine last night. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, got around 100,000. (Randall Terry received 8700 votes, a fact that both reassures me and gives me shivers—there are people who will actually vote for him?)

Combined, the independent candidates made virtually no difference nationally. Which is a shame, really. I’ve read both Stein’s and Johnson’s platforms and both of them are willing to address the problems in the system. Johnson is the least realistic of the two and I like a lot of the Green Party platform.

More . . .


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William Black explains Mitt Romney’s 47% comment

September 18, 2012 | By | Reply More

William K. Black is spot on in his analysis of Mitt Romney, the candidate of America’s Social Darwinist Party (aka the Republican Party):

Romney’s initial non-apology for his dismissal of the 47 percent claimed that he was not “elegant” in his statements, but that is a deliberate effort to divert our attention from the real point. His consignment of nearly half of all Americans to the trash heap was deliberately crude because his fellow plutocrats love the crudeness of his dismissal of those they see as immoral moochers. His speech demonstrated perfect pitch for his audience because his plutocratic peers are the only Americans who Romney knows and understands.


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Motherhood and Politics

April 13, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Motherhood and Politics

I don’t have a lot to say about this kerfluffle over the remarks of someone who, as it turns out, is not actually working for Obama regarding Ann Romney never having worked a day in her life.  This kind of hyperbole ought to be treated as it deserves—ignored.

But we live in an age when the least thing can become a huge political Thing, so ignoring idiocy is not an option.

I remember back in the 1990s a brief flap over Robert Reich.  I’m not certain but I believe it was Rush Limbaugh who started it by lampooning the Clinton Administration’s Secretary of Labor for “never having had a real job in his life.”  Meaning that he had gone from graduation into politics with no intervening time served as, at a guess, a fast-food cook or carwasher or checker at a WalMart.  Whatever might qualify as “real” or as a “job” in this formulation.  In any event, it was an absurd criticism that overlooked what had been a long career in law and as a teacher before Clinton appointed him.  It’s intent was to discredit him, of course, which was the intent of the comments aimed at Mrs. Romney by asserting that she has no idea what a working mother has to go through.

A different formulation of the charge might carry more weight, but would garner less attention.   It is true being a mother has little to do with what we regard as “gainful employment” in this country: employees have laws which would prevent the kinds of hours worked (all of them, on call, every day including weekends and holidays) for the level of wages paid (none to speak of) mothers endure.

Hilary Rosen raised a storm over remarks aimed at making Mrs. Romney appear out of touch with working mothers.  A more pointed criticism might be that Mrs. Romney does not have any experience like that of many women who must enter employment in order to support themselves and their families, that a woman who can afford nannies (whether she actually made use of any is beside the point—the fact is she had that option, which most women do not) can’t know what working mothers must go through.

But that’s a nuanced critique and we aren’t used to that, apparently.  Soundbite, twitter tweets, that’s what people are used to, encapsulate your charge in a 144 characters or less, if we have to think about it more than thirty seconds, boredom takes over and the audience is lost.

Unfortunately, the chief victims then are truth and reality.

So the president gets dragged into it for damage control and the issue becomes a campaign issue.

Which might not be such a bad thing.  We could stand to have a renewed conversation about all this, what with so many related issues being on the table, given the last year of legislation aimed at “modifying” women’s services and rights.  Whether they intended it this way or not, the GOP has become saddled with the appearance of waging culture wars against women, the most recent act being Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin’s repeal of that state’s equal pay law.  Romney is the presumptive nominee for head of that party and one of the things he’s going to have to do if figure out where he stands on these matters and then try to convince the country that he and his party are not anti-woman.

Yes, that’s hyperbolic, but not by much.  This is where the culture wars have brought us—one part of society trying to tell the other part what it ought to be doing and apparently prepared to enact legislation to force the issue.  Ms. Rosen’s remarks, ill-aimed as they were, point up a major policy problem facing the GOP and the country as a whole, which is the matter of inequality.

That’s become a catch-all phrase these days, but that doesn’t mean it lacks importance.  The fact is that money and position pertain directly to questions of relevance in matters of representation.  Ann Romney becomes in this a symbol, which is an unfortunate but inevitable by-product of our politics, and it is legitimate to ask if she can speak to women’s concerns among those well below her level of available resource and degree of life experience.

The problem with all politics, left, right, or center, is that in general it’s all too general.  Which is why Ms. Rosen’s remarks, no matter how well-intentioned or even statistically based on economic disparities, fail to hit the mark.  She can’t know Ann Romney’s life experience and how it has equipped her to empathize with other women.  Just as Ann Romney, viewing life through the lens of party politics, may be unable to empathize with women the GOP has been trying very hard to pretend are irrelevant.

Like with Robert Reich’s critics, it all comes down to what you mean by “real” and “work.”  And that’s both personal and relative. Isn’t it?


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You Don’t Get Me. I’m Part of the Union

February 8, 2012 | By | Reply More
You Don’t Get Me. I’m Part of the Union

I remember the song “You Don’t Get Me, I’m Part of the Union,” by the Strawbs, from my high school days. My father often told me of the early days of union organizing in the rock quarries in the St. Louis area. In the early 30’s my dad worked with my grandfather who was an organizer for the Crushed Rock and Gravel Workers’ Union, Local 1. It was often pitched warfare between unions and management. There were often riots and violence when miners struck, with management armies, deputies and National Guard troops shooting down striking miners. Mother Jones, a famous United Mine Workers organizer and supporter of all things labor, is buried with striking miners who where killed in the Union Miners Cemetery in Mt. Olive, Illinois off Highway 55 as one goes north from St. Louis up to Litchfield, Illinois.

I’ve traveled to the Union Miners Cemetery, said prayers for the workers buried there and all workers and left a rock on Mother’s grave as a promise to remember the sacrifices which have given me the life I have today. As I walked the cemetery grounds, family members of the miners buried there drove by. I went over and introduced myself and told the guys what I was up to and asked if there were anyone in particular they wanted me to pray for that day. We talked about family and unions and went our separate ways.

Republicans have declared war on unions. The first shot fired in The Republican War on Christmas was President Reagan’s firing of all the members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO). Please understand, the firings had nothing to do with the legality or illegality of any public employee union strike but, manifested a deep visceral Republican hatred of any union at any workplace. All over the country, public employee unions are under attack by Republican Governors and Republican legislatures to cut off the collective bargaining rights of millions of employees. Now, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is about to pass from any ability to protect union members’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act, passed in 1935, which allows unions to organize in workplaces.

[More . . . ]


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