Wednesday, December 6, 2023

[NJFAC] decline in disposable income swamps rise in low wages

Gabriel Zucman @gabriel_zucman 
Low wages are growing, but the decline in disposable income over 2021-23 due to the phase-out of Covid policies completely swamps that — not crazy to believe this is behind a lot of people's discontent with the economy
Image

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June Zaccone
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Thursday, November 30, 2023

[NJFAC] Unions are industrial policy--what's new in the UAW strike

Labor Unions Are Industrial Policy

Last week, the United Auto Workers reached a deal with Stellantis to re-open an idled Belvidere Assembly Plant. "We made them invest," said transformational UAW President Shawn Fain. Lee Hepner Nov 4, 2023

....
A lot of ink has already been spilled regarding the UAW strike strategy and the generational leadership qualities of its President Shawn Fain. But what's even more interesting is how the UAW set targets beyond wages and working conditions. By causing Stellantis to revive the Belvidere facility and sealing Ford's various investment commitments, Fain and the UAW have asserted control over a realm of corporate decision-making that has, for decades, been dictated by financiers. Organized labor is dictating corporate investment decisions and setting industrial policy. Announcing the Stellantis deal, UAW President Shawn Fain made the point: "We made them invest." If the Big 3 automakers were choosing to subcontract and offshore, organized labor countered with an imperative to make things in America again....."

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June Zaccone
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Monday, October 16, 2023

[NJFAC] "fissured workplace" reducing worker power; AI jobs

In 2023, the worldwide share of employees who report being stressed at work reached a record high, according to Gallup. One contributing factor is the "fissured workplace," in which corporate managers carve up their traditional workforce and redistribute its functions to subcontractors. Often marketed in futuristic terms as a part of the tech economy, it is, in fact, a well-worn way of reducing worker power.

In response to pressures from capital markets to improve their financial performance in the 1980s and '90s, large corporations whittled down their directly employed staff to those concentrating on "core competencies," freeing them to fire "non-essential" laborers, such as janitors, whom they subsequently brought back as temps at significantly reduced pay—a domestic expression of labor arbitrage. Neoliberals argue that this corporate strategy is a win-win, liberating workers from being tied to one company, which now must compete for their services. But in reality, they are thrust into unregulated forms of employment with irregular hours, low earnings, no route for advancement, muddied relationships with management, and no business enterprise ultimately responsible for their welfare.

One of the primary characteristics of the fissured workplace is its obscured authority structure.
....
Application programming interfaces, or APIs, which hundreds of tech companies use, bring this process to perfection. APIs are used to crowdsource tasks to workers that a full-time engineering staff and its AI algorithms can't cover (or that firms won't pay to have covered by a stable of full-time employees)..... As the journalist David Zweig reports, when Twitter ratcheted up its content moderation to full-blown censorship during the coronavirus debacle, it tasked, "contractors, in places like the Philippines … to adjudicate tweets on complex topics like myocarditis and mask efficacy data." Americans were rigidly censored by on-demand workers around the world toiling for poverty wages.....

As machines are deployed by corporations to monopolize greater shares of the labor process, new forms of work are generated that require human services at the edges of AI's reach. "Thus," they write, "there is an ever-moving frontier between what machines can and can't solve…. As machines solve more and more problems, we continue to identify needs for augmenting rather than replacing human effort."

Automation, then, will create new jobs, not mass unemployment. But it doesn't necessarily follow that we will want the jobs it creates.

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June Zaccone
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Friday, October 13, 2023

[NJFAC] wage theft: $50+ billion a year stolen from workers


News media interested in crime—its impact on human beings, on society, its cost to the economy—would be interested in wage theft, the more than $50 billion a year stolen from workers in this country. But when is the last time your nightly local news talked about that, or encouraged you to be outraged and concerned and moved to action about that? There are efforts to address this ongoing, mundane thievery, but so far it seems to be under the radar of news outlets that, in every other way, suggest they care very much about crime, all the time.

Rodrigo Camarena is director of Justicia Lab, and co-author, with Cristobal Gutierrez, of the article "How to End Wage Theft—and Advance Immigrant Justice" that appeared earlier this month on NonProfitQuarterly.org. He is also co-creator of ¡Reclamo!, a tech-enabled initiative to combat wage theft.....


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June Zaccone
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Saturday, October 7, 2023

[NJFAC] Autoworkers win significant victory

Striking Autoworkers Win Shock Victory

Time for the losers and haters to eat crow Ken Klippenstein Oct 6, 2023

On Thursday, The New York Times declared the United Auto Workers' (UAW) president Shawn Fain "a confrontational figure who vilifies the automakers while alarming Wall Street" amid the UAW's strike.

The article, a profile of the newly-elected Fain, went on to describe him as "caustic," "sharp-edged," a "rebel." You get the idea: the stuff that causes monocles to fall to the ground and shatter. (In fairness, the UAW under Fain has become more assertive, as my colleague Dan Boguslaw has amusingly reported — though I think this is just a union functioning like it's supposed to.)

"Fiery words can inspire, but they can also anger," the Times article cautioned. "Now he must prove that his hard-core tactics pay off."

It is now clear, just one day after the Times article was published, that Fain's tactics have paid off. Today, the UAW stunned onlookers with an announcement that it had won a concession so significant that the union wasn't even technically allowed to strike over it. GM has formally agreed to include battery plants in the master contract, extending the benefits of the union contract to the many non-union workers in facilities manufacturing batteries for electric vehicles.

A concession of this magnitude was almost unimaginable just weeks ago and portends well for the future of the strike.

Fiery words can inspire.

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June Zaccone
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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

[NJFAC] Angus Deaton [who wrote on deaths of despair] on our inequality

....Rare for an economist, Deaton offers a lucid and unsparing critique of America's political system. From healthcare to taxation to poverty to regulations, Deaton sees a system that has increasingly served monopolistic corporations and the rich over ordinary citizens, allowing "a minority to prey on the majority."
....
  • Less well-educated Americans have seen little or no improvement in their material circumstances for more than fifty years. For men without a four-year college degree, median real wages have trended downward since 1970."
  • "There are several million Americans — Black, white, and Hispanic — who live in households with per capita income of a few dollars a day and whose living standards are arguably as bad as or worse than those that the World Bank demarcates as destitute in India or Ethiopia."
  • "The top 10 percent of incomes in the United States account for nearly half of all income, compared with only 14 percent for the bottom half of incomes."
  • "Overall death rates in the United States have been rising, and, even before the pandemic, adult life expectancy has fallen for ten years for those without a four-year college degree.".....
Deaton sees economists as largely as complicit in the changes that have made life harder for millions of Americans. He argues that many (but not all) of the people in his profession have provided an intellectual legitimacy for a range of policies that have stripped away support for working-class Americans and forced them into an increasingly cutthroat labor market.

"They are apostles for the globalization and technical change that have enriched an elite and have redistributed income and wealth from labor to capital, all the while destroying millions of jobs, hollowing out communities, and worsening the lives of their occupants," Angus writes. "And when confronted with deaths of despair, they can blame the victims and those who try to help them."

Going forward, Deaton urges the economics profession to think more about "predistribution — the mechanisms that determine the distribution of income in the market itself, before taxes and transfers — and less about a redistribution that is not going to happen and is not what people want in any case." That, he stresses, will force many economists into "uncomfortable territory: promoting unions, place-based policies, immigration control, tariffs, job preservation, industrial policy, and the like. We need to promote a more realistic understanding of how governments and markets work. We need to abandon our sole fixation on money as a measure of human wellbeing."
....

This is wise policy. After income is already paid, many recipients are likely to resist relinquishing some. Predistribution avoids this. Methods include a national job guarantee at decent wages, though we should still consider a return to the higher taxes that predated Reagan.   jz


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June Zaccone
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Sunday, October 1, 2023

[NJFAC] Widening mortality gap adults with and without a BA: note current declining LE for both;see commentary on labor power

Accounting for the widening mortality gap between American adults with and without a BA

Anne Case Professor of Economics and Public Affairs - Princeton University
Angus Deaton September 27, 2023


Inline image

"GDP may be doing great, but people are dying in increasing numbers, especially less-educated people," Anne Case, one of the authors, said in an interview with The Brookings Institution. "A lot of the increasing prosperity is going to the well-educated elites. It is not going to typical working people."

She and co-author Angus Deaton, the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in economics, both of Princeton University, analyzed U.S. death certificate information, including the age of death, cause of death, and educational attainment. They found that life expectancy for the college educated in 2021 was eight-and-a-half years longer than for the two-thirds of American adults without a bachelor's degree. That's more than triple the 1992 gap of about two-and-a-half years.

....

Deaths of despair were the leading driver of the widening mortality gap over the past 30 years, but the gap also widened for most other major causes of death, the paper notes. Cancer mortality, for instance, has declined overall but it has declined more for people with college degrees.

....

This is not a story about education. This is a story about inequality. .... as Case and Deaton make clear, college degrees here are a proxy for socioeconomic class, and the differing life experiences that America inflicts on different classes.

....For all of the complexity of America's socioeconomic problems, the overriding practical solution to most of them is straightforward: Labor power must increase. Union density must go up. More workers must be able to organize and collectively bargain and strike. Remember a couple months ago when the Teamsters won a healthy six-figure pay package for hundreds of thousands of UPS workers, by exerting unified labor power? Yeah. That's how it's done. Blue collar jobs held by people without college degrees do not automatically carry with them shitty pay and nonexistent benefits leading directly to poor health and despair and death, due to some sort of natural economic law.....


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June Zaccone
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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

[NJFAC] Earnings of Men, Women Aged 20–59, by Age Group and Race/Ethnicity, 2020–2021

Earnings of Men, Aged 20–59, by Age Group and Race/Ethnicity, 2020–2021

Released: September 2023

DEFINITION: Earnings consist of all wages, salaries, and self-employment income in covered and noncovered employment, including earnings that exceed the annual taxable maximum.

In the 2-year period 2020–2021:

  • For the 20–29 age group, the real median annual earnings of:
    • White, non-Hispanic men were 34% higher than Black, non-Hispanic men and 16% higher than Hispanic men.
    • Asian men were 34% higher than Black, non-Hispanic men and 15% higher than Hispanic men.
  • For the 50–59 age group, the real median annual earnings of:
    • White, non-Hispanic men were 49% higher than Black, non-Hispanic men and 53% higher than Hispanic men.
    • Asian men were 67% higher than Black, non-Hispanic men 71% higher than Hispanic men.

Earnings of Women Aged 20–59, by Age Group and Race/Ethnicity, 2020–2021

Released: September 2023

DEFINITION: Earnings consist of all wages, salaries, and self-employment income in covered and noncovered employment, including earnings that exceed the annual taxable maximum.

In the 2-year period 2020–2021:

  • For the 20–29 age group, the real median annual earnings of:
    • White, non-Hispanic women were 31% higher than Black, non-Hispanic women and 17% higher than Hispanic women.
    • Asian women were 54% higher than Black, non-Hispanic women and 38% higher than Hispanic women.
  • For the 50–59 age group, the real median annual earnings of:
    • White, non-Hispanic women were 9% higher than Black, non-Hispanic women and 56% higher than Hispanic women.
    • Asian women were 7% lower than Black, non-Hispanic women and 33% higher than Hispanic women.

SOURCE: Social Security Administration (SSA) calculations using SSA earnings data linked to Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement public-use files.

NOTES: Earnings are indexed to 2021 values based on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.

Includes workers with annual earnings equal to or greater than one earnings credit. In current dollars, the earnings required to earn a single credit were $1,410 in 2020 and $1,470 in 2021.

Current Population Survey data were merged for the 2-year period 2020–2021 to reduce annual variability that can occur when sampling relatively small demographic groups.


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June Zaccone
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Saturday, September 16, 2023

[NJFAC] Former Prisoners as employees

Why Criminal Justice Reform Is Becoming a Corporate Priority

Business opportunity and ethical concerns are lining up to change hiring practices and policies to give those with criminal records a second chance. By Will Maddox | September 11, 2023

....
Research shows that 70 to 100 million Americans have a criminal record, around one in three working-age adults. Sixty percent of them are unemployed a year after leaving prison. This group is underutilized and bypassed for the millions of jobs that remain open across all industries, but the winds are shifting.
Justice-impacted individuals face several challenges to reentering the workforce and staying out of trouble. These barriers, imposed by legislation, law enforcement, employers, and society, make it more likely that they'll run afoul of the law again. But several businesses are taking the bold step to be the leading edge of the movement to put this group of people to work.

The Responsible Business Initiative for Justice compiled data to show that justice-impacted individuals compare well to the average employee. A survey of human resource professionals and managers found that 83 percent rated the job performance of justice-impacted individuals to be as good or better than the average worker, and about three-fourths found that justice-impacted workers are as or more dependable than the average employee. Seventy percent said job retention was also better for justice-impacted individuals.....

This potential labor force faces many barriers, experts say. First, employers must be willing to take a chance on justice-impacted applicants. Second, those individuals need access to various services to help them get up to speed and become stable and ready to enter the workforce. And lastly, policies need to be updated to help people transition. Success will require progress in all three areas....


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June Zaccone
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Tuesday, September 5, 2023

[NJFAC] AI threats to workers

MIT Economist Daron Acemoğlu Takes on Big Tech: "Our Future Will Be Very Dystopian" The rich and powerful have hijacked progress throughout history, says Daron Acemoğlu. They did so back in the Middle Ages and also now in the age of artificial intelligence. In an interview, the MIT economist dives into the question of whether Silicon Valley is plunging humanity into destitution. https://www.spiegel.de/international/business/mit-economist-daron-acemoglu-takes-on-big-tech-our-future-will-be-very-dystopian-a-6b9feec3-2d8a-4916-8f3f-dd4401bff083?s Interview By Benjamin Bidder 28.08.2023

....

Acemoğlu: In the United States, for 40 years, we have had declines in the real earnings of workers without a college degree. The decline amounts to around a half a percentage point per year. This is an enormous amount. If nothing changes, AI is going to double down on that. AI might still become very useful for well-off citizens, knowledge workers and highly skilled employees. But it is not going to be good for most people on its current path.

....
Labor Economist: AI May Bring a Boom in Horrible Jobs Interview by Lynn Parramore, featuring Nadia Garbellini
Losing jobs isn't the only thing workers have to worry about. AI may make many jobs worse.

"What concerns me, more than the disappearance of jobs, is the quality of the new ones in terms of working conditions, wages, autonomy, alienation, etc. What I fear is a world with millions of underpaid, ignorant, politically naive, isolated workers, stuck at home in front of their computers in both work and leisure time, producing goods and services they cannot afford to buy."
....

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June Zaccone
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Saturday, September 2, 2023

[NJFAC] Executive Excess 2023: IPS on 100 corporations with lowest median worker pay

Executive Excess 2023 Sarah Anderson

Introduction:

In response to strikes and union organizing drives, corporate leaders routinely insist they simply lack the resources to raise employee pay.

And yet top executives seem to have little trouble finding enough to enrich themselves and wealthy shareholders. In 2021 and 2022, S&P 500 corporations spent record sums on stock buybacks, a maneuver that artificially inflates the value of a company's stock — and CEOs' stock-based pay.

All employees contribute to company profits. But instead of broadly sharing the wealth, companies are using a once-illegal form of market manipulation to make those at the top of the corporate ladder even richer.

This 29th annual Executive Excess report takes an in-depth look at the 100 S&P 500 corporations that had the lowest median worker pay levels in 2022, a group we've dubbed the "Low-Wage 100." For each of these firms, we report the total compensation and personal stock holdings of CEOs, the CEO-worker pay gap, and the overall outlays for stock buybacks.

We also reveal how taxpayers are enriching ― through federal contracts ― the majority of the Low-Wage 100. And we conclude with the most comprehensive available policy menu for achieving a fair corporate compensation system.

The full report — complete with comprehensive findings, recommendations, and methodology, along with data for each of the 100 companies we studied — is available here. A summary follows.

Key Findings

1. The CEO-worker pay gap at the Low-Wage 100 averaged 603 to 1 in 2022.

  • Chief executives in this group raked in $15.3 million on average in 2022, while median worker pay averaged just $31,672.
  • Live Nation Entertainment had the fattest CEO paycheck and the widest pay gap. Michael Rapino hauled in $139 million, 5,414 times as much as his firm's median of $25,673.

2. The Low-Wage 100 have spent more than $340 billion on stock buybacks since 2020.

  • Between January 1, 2020 and May 31, 2023, 90 of the Low-Wage 100 reported combined stock buyback expenditures of $341.2 billion. This maneuver artificially inflates executive stock-based pay and siphons funds from worker wages and other productive investments.
  • Lowe's led the buybacks list, spending $34.9 billion on share repurchases over the past three and a half years. In 2022 alone, Lowe's spent more than $14.1 billion on buybacks — enough to give every one of its 301,000 U.S. employees a $46,923 bonus.
  • Home Depot came in second, with $28.9 billion in stock buybacks since January 2020, and Walmart ranks third, with $23.9 billion.

3. During their stock buyback spree, Low-Wage 100 CEOs' personal stock holdings increased more than three times as fast as their firms' median worker pay.

  • The CEOs of the 90 low-wage S&P 500 companies that have spent funds on buybacks since 2020 have amassed approximately $14.9 billion worth of their company stock.
  • At the 65 buyback companies where the same person held the top job between 2019 and 2022, the CEOs' personal stock holdings soared 33 percent to an average of $184.7 million. Median pay at these firms rose only 10 percent to an average of $31,972 (not adjusted for inflation).
  • FedEx CEO Frederick Smith has the largest stockpile in the Low-Wage 100. His personal holdings have grown 65 percent to more than $5 billion since January 2000. By contrast, FedEx median worker pay fell by 20 percent to $39,177 (including $9,267 in health benefits) between 2019 and 2022.

4. Over half of the Low-Wage 100 receive taxpayer-funded federal contracts.

  • Of the 100 companies in our sample, 51 received federal contracts worth a combined $24.1 billion during fiscal years 2020-2023. These low-wage federal contractors spent nearly $160 billion on stock buybacks over the course of these years.
  • In 2022, the average CEO pay in this low-wage contractor group stood at $12.7 million, 56 times as much as the salary of a Biden administration cabinet secretary. This group's CEOs averaged 438 times their $34,550 median worker pay.

Recommendations

Policy solutions for runaway CEO pay are gaining support.

Public outrage over executive excess is growing across the political spectrum. Policymakers have begun taking serious steps to respond. They include…

  • Stock buybacks taxes and restrictions: In the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, Congress passed a 1 percent excise tax on CEO pay-inflating stock buybacks. President Biden proposed quadrupling this tax in his 2023 State of the Union address. Biden has also included a proposal in his federal budget plan that would ban top executives from selling their personal stock for a multi-year period after a buyback, preventing CEOs from timing share repurchases to cash in personally on a short-term price pop they themselves artificially created. A Senate bill, the ALIGN Act, would do just that.
  • Federal contractor incentives: In 2022, the Department of Commerce announced plans to give priority in the awarding of new CHIPS subsidies for domestic semiconductor manufacturing to firms that do not engage in any stock buybacks. The administration has applied a number of other pro-worker conditions on federal contracts, but federal agencies could go much further to wield the power of the public purse against inequality. The Patriotic Corporations Act could serve as a model. This bill would grant preferential treatment in contracting to firms with pay ratios of 100 to 1 or less, among other benchmarks, including neutrality in union organizing campaigns.
  • Excessive CEO pay taxes: Laws to hike corporate taxes on companies with wide CEO-worker pay gap are now raising revenue in two major cities, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. The more recent of the two taxes, San Francisco's "Overpaid Executive Tax," became effective on January 1, 2022. In May 2023, city officials announced that they now expect the tax to bring in about $125 million per year, a higher return than originally expected. San Francisco's executive tax has also proved more resilient than other local revenue sources. Legislation similar to San Francisco's has been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate and came into play during the Build Back Better negotiations. Higher tax rates on companies with wide CEO-worker pay gaps create an incentive to both rein in executive pay and lift up worker wages, all while generating significant new capital for vital public investments.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2023

[NJFAC] Critiquing economists, especially Wm Nordhaus. for underplaying climate change

"Blame economists for decades of false security And the cataclysmic gap between theory, policy and ecosystem collapse https://annpettifor.substack.com/p/blame-economists-for-decades-of-false Ann Pettifor Aug 21, 2023

....

Nordhaus's 1991 paper "To Slow or Not to Slow: The Economics of The Greenhouse Effect", published in the prestigious Economic Journal—one of only 9 papers that this journal has ever published on climate change — kicked off the practice of economists estimating the economic effects of climate change.

In it, Nordhaus assumed that 87% of America's GDP— manufacturing, mining, utilities, retail and wholesale services, government, and finance—would be "negligibly affected by climate change", because these activities take place in "carefully controlled environments that will not be directly affected by climate change" (Nordhaus 1991, p. 930).

Keen explains that:

The only thing these industries have in common is that they occur under cover (if one ignores, as Nordhaus evidently did in 1991, open-cast mining), and therefore are not directly exposed to the weather. The industries he said would be "potentially severely impacted"—farming, forestry and fishing—are affected by the weather.

Nordhaus therefore effectively equated being exposed to climate change to being exposed to the weather.

...."

Nordhaus shared the Nobel in Economics, sponsored by the Swedish Central Bank, in 2018 for his work on climate. jz
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Thursday, August 3, 2023

[NJFAC] post on SS in Counterpunch




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June Zaccone
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Friday, July 28, 2023

[NJFAC] Jobs for All Newsletter for July-August 2023


Jobs for All Newsletter, July-August 2023  The Truth About Social Security "Reform"; Labor Organizing for the 21st Century; New Leadership for Columbia Full Employment Seminar; Connecticut Jobs & Human Rights Task Force Expands


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June Zaccone
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Tuesday, July 25, 2023

[NJFAC] Galbraith: In Defense of Low Interest Rates

IN DEFENSE OF LOW INTERESTRATES  JAMES K. GALBRAITH

"if John Maynard Keynes were still alive, he would favor a low rate of interest."

"In recalling John Maynard Keynes's revolutionary theory of interest, reviewing the doctrines Keynes sought to overthrow, and analyzing the structural transformations of the US economy, James K. Galbraith maintains there is no alternative to a policy of low interest rates. However, such a policy cannot be effective, he argues, without a radical restructuring of the US economy as a whole."

Unfortunately, the Fed considers raising interest rates the sole tool for addressing inflation. jz

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Friday, July 14, 2023

[NJFAC] Formerly incarcerated people face huge obstacles to finding stable employment


New data on formerly incarcerated people's employment reveal labor market injustices

Newly released data doubles down on what we've reported before: Formerly incarcerated people face huge obstacles to finding stable employment, leading to detrimental society-wide effects. Considering the current labor market, there may be plenty of jobs available, but they don't guarantee stability or economic mobility for this vulnerable population.

by Leah Wang and Wanda Bertram, February 8, 2022

How many formerly incarcerated people are jobless at the moment? A good guess would be 60%, to generalize from a new report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). The report shows that of more than 50,000 people released from federal prisons in 2010, a staggering 33% found no employment at all over four years post-release, and at any given time, no more than 40% of the cohort was employed. People who did find jobs struggled, too: Formerly incarcerated people in the sample had an average of 3.4 jobs throughout the four-year study period, suggesting that they were landing jobs that didn't offer security or upward mobility....



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June Zaccone
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Sunday, July 9, 2023

[NJFAC] child labor returns--definitely NOT part of our job guarantee goal


"...the number of kids at work in the U.S. increased by 37% between 2015 and 2022. During the last two years, 14 states have either introduced or enacted legislation rolling back regulations that governed the number of hours children can be employed, lowered the restrictions on dangerous work, and legalized subminimum wages for youths."



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June Zaccone
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[NJFAC] Leading economists said we’d need higher unemployment to tame inflation. Here’s why they were wrong.

Leading economists said we'd need higher unemployment to tame inflation. Here's why they were wrong.


"...the unemployment rate doesn't really capture everyone who doesn't have a job; it excludes people who aren't looking for work at all. This dividing line makes sense for retired people, full-time students, and others who genuinely don't want work—it wouldn't make sense to call these people unemployed. But retirees and students are not the only adults who are out of the labor force. There are also people who might want a job if the opportunities were good enough. Potential workers like these are precisely who could help alleviate labor-market pressures. More people entering the labor force would mean more workers to fill job openings.

The most recent economic data make clear that the unemployment rate was significantly undercounting the pool of available workers. Even as the official number remains pinned to historical lows, 4 million workers have found jobs over the past year. The labor market was in better shape than many experts thought. Inflation and wage growth have both been slowing down. This did not require a multiyear span of high unemployment, as Summers suggested; to the contrary, the economy keeps adding jobs."


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June Zaccone
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Tuesday, June 20, 2023

[NJFAC] creative new low in anti-worker methods

A California restaurant had someone impersonate a priest and hear workers' confessions.

Then the restaurant used that information to retaliate against workers https://t.co/vOrFao5p8Q

— Crystal Fincher  (@finchfrii) June 18, 2023

..."I found the conversation to be strange and unlike normal confessions," Maria Parra, a server at Taqueria Garibaldi, said in a sworn affidavit attached to the Department of Labor's lawsuit against her employer, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"He asked if I ever got pulled over for speeding, if I drank alcohol, or if I had stolen anything," Parra said. "The priest mostly had work-related questions, which I thought was strange."

According to the employee, the supposed priest urged employees to "get the sins out." He asked them if they had stolen from their employer, been late for work, or done anything to harm their employer. The purported priest also asked if they had bad intentions toward their employer, the Department of Labor said.

Numerous employees went to confession with the supposed priest. Raquel Alfaro, an investigator with the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division, said the workers felt Hernandez "brought the priest to intimidate them."...."


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June Zaccone
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Saturday, June 10, 2023

[NJFAC] WSJ Celebrates Making It Harder for Poor People to Access Food


Wall Street Journal (5/30/23) calls it a "mistake" that "veterans and the homeless" are exempted from work requirement for food vouchers: "These Americans could perhaps most benefit from the dignity and stability of work."


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[NJFAC] ChatGPT is powered by contractors making as little as $15 an hour, no benefits

ChatGPT is powered by these contractors making $15 an hour

Two OpenAI contractors spoke to NBC News about their work training the system behind ChatGPT.

May 6, 2023, By David Ingram
Alexej Savreux, a 34-year-old in Kansas City, says he's done all kinds of work over the years. He's made fast-food sandwiches. He's been a custodian and a junk-hauler. And he's done technical sound work for live theater. 
These days, though, his work is less hands-on: He's an artificial intelligence trainer. 
Savreux is part of a hidden army of contract workers who have been doing the behind-the-scenes labor of teaching AI systems how to analyze data so they can generate the kinds of text and images that have wowed the people using newly popular products like ChatGPT. To improve the accuracy of AI, he has labeled photos and made predictions about what text the apps should generate next. 
The pay: $15 an hour and up, with no benefits. 
Out of the limelight, Savreux and other contractors have spent countless hours in the past few years teaching OpenAI's systems to give better responses in ChatGPT. Their feedback fills an urgent and endless need for the company and its AI competitors: providing streams of sentences, labels and other information that serve as training data. 
"We are grunt workers, but there would be no AI language systems without it," said Savreux, who's done work for tech startups including OpenAI, the San Francisco company that released ChatGPT in November and set off a wave of hype around generative AI. 
"You can design all the neural networks you want, you can get all the researchers involved you want, but without labelers, you have no ChatGPT. You have nothing," Savreux said. 
It's not a job that will give Savreux fame or riches, but it's an essential and often overlooked one in the field of AI, where the seeming magic of a new technological frontier can overshadow the labor of contract workers. 
"A lot of the discourse around AI is very congratulatory," said Sonam Jindal, the program lead for AI, labor and the economy at the Partnership on AI, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that promotes research and education around artificial intelligence. 
"But we're missing a big part of the story: that this is still hugely reliant on a large human workforce," she said. 
The tech industry has for decades relied on the labor of thousands of lower-skilled, lower-paid workers to build its computer empires: from punch-card operators in the 1950s to more recent Google contractors who've complained about second-class status, including yellow badges that set them apart from full-time employees. Online gig work through sites like Amazon Mechanical Turk grew even more popular early in the pandemic. 
Now, the burgeoning AI industry is following a similar playbook. 
The work is defined by its unsteady, on-demand nature, with people employed by written contracts either directly by a company or through a third-party vendor that specializes in temp work or outsourcing. Benefits such as health insurance are rare or nonexistent — which translates to lower costs for tech companies — and the work is usually anonymous, with all the credit going to tech startup executives and researchers. 
The Partnership on AI warned in a 2021 report that a spike in demand was coming for what it called "data enrichment work." It recommended that the industry commit to fair compensation and other improved practices, and last year it published voluntary guidelines for companies to follow. 
DeepMind, an AI subsidiary of Google, is so far the only tech company to publicly commit to those guidelines. 
"A lot of people have recognized that this is important to do. The challenge now is to get companies to do it," Jindal said. 
"This is a new job that's being created by AI," she added. "We have the potential for this to be a high-quality job and for workers who are doing this work to be respected and valued for their contributions to enabling this advancement." 
A spike in demand has arrived, and some AI contract workers are asking for more. In Nairobi, Kenya, more than 150 people who've worked on AI for Facebook, TikTok and ChatGPT voted Monday to form a union, citing low pay and the mental toll of the work, Time magazine reported. Facebook and TikTok did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the vote. OpenAI declined to comment.


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Wednesday, May 3, 2023

[NJFAC] WSJ: Why Is Inflation So Sticky? It Could Be Corporate Profits

Why Is Inflation So Sticky? It Could Be Corporate Profits

Some companies might have been raising prices faster than their costs have increased

Inflation has proved more stubborn than central banks bargained for when prices started surging two years ago. Now some economists think they know why: Businesses are using a rare opportunity to boost their profit margins.
....
Inflation rates also remain uncomfortably high in the U.S. and many other parts of the world despite interest-rate rises that have gone further and been delivered more quickly than at any time since the 1980s.

There have been good reasons for businesses to raise their prices in recent months. The supply-chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the energy, food and raw-material bottlenecks that followed Russia's invasion of Ukraine have pushed costs higher.

But there are signs that companies are doing more than covering their costs.....

But these aren't normal times. In rare situations—such as an economy's reopening after a pandemic—widespread knowledge that costs are rising allows businesses to raise their prices knowing that their competitors will act in the same way, according to a paper by Isabella Weber, assistant professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and her colleague, Evan Wasner.

That is a pattern the two economists said has played out in an analysis of recent earning calls in which executives at U.S. businesses present their financial results to analysts.

"We do have to think about pricing differently," said Ms. Weber. "A cost shock, or bottlenecks can create an implicit agreement among firms that raise their prices, so they can expect others to act likewise."....


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Sunday, April 23, 2023

[NJFAC] Racial Disparities in Unemployment Insurance

Racial Differences in Unemployment Insurance

There are many racial disparities in employment - and  Elizabeth Ananat (Barnard) and Anna Gassman-Pines (Duke) find racial disparities for those who have lost their jobs as well, as reported in our newest EconoFact memo, Racial Differences in Unemployment Insurance. These results are based on their ongoing survey of hourly service workers in Philadelphia.  Not only were a higher proportion of Black and Hispanic workers laid off as compared to White workers, a smaller proportion of these unemployed workers received unemployment insurance (UI).  Their research finds:  

  • Only one-third of the surveyed Black and Hispanic laid-off service workers received UI and the legislated supplement in a timely manner as compared to more than half of White workers.
  • There were more leakages in every stage of the process of applying for, and receiving, UI for Black and Hispanic workers as compared to White workers. These workers were less likely to apply for UI and those who applied were less likely to receive these benefits, including the special supplemental benefits available during the pandemic.
  • There is a range of reasons for these disparities, including complicated bureaucratic processesoutdated state UI systems, and employers blocking UI claims differentially by race and ethnicity.
  • Liz and Anna also report on the adverse consequences to the unemployed because of a lack of access to UI that include material hardship and worsened mental health.  These occurred across all racial and ethnic groups, but Black and Hispanic workers suffered proportionally more because of their relatively lower access to UI.  

Liz and Anna began this survey in the Fall of 2019. In an earlier EconoFact memo from 2021, Liz and Anna's report results from the survey that document the burdens families faced from frequent, unexpected disruptions in childcare and schools during the pandemic.

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