Ohio Labor

A Monthly Blog

Compiled By Marty Kich

AAUP-WSU home page

AAUP-WSU blog page

December 2011

[Click the links to pdf’s of the full articles.]

The lockout of the production workers at the Cooper Tire plant in Findlay continues. The AFL-CIO has been organizing various events at the plant , at community centers, and at tire retailers to support the idled workers. Details on these events and how you can support these workers can be found at the AFL-CIO Now Blog [http://blog.aflcio.org/]

The ROC National Diners Guide 2012 is A Consumer Guide to the Working Conditions of America’s Restaurants. It may—and ideally should—influence where you decide to eat. Restaurant chains are rated on whether they are “high road” restaurants (whether they belong to an industry roundtable promoting the “high road” to profitability), whether they provide a sustainable base wage to workers who receive tips, whether they pay a higher hourly wage to workers who do not receive tips, whether they provide paid sick days, and whether they provide opportunities for advancement. At the low end of the ratings scale are those restaurant chains that allegedly have engaged in illegal practices. These include Capital Grille, Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster.

One of the most insightful and yet deeply unsettling exposés of the decline of the American working class--of the ways in which a middle-class lifestyle has become an increasingly remote possibility for many American workers--was published on December 22 in the Huffington Post Business blog. Written by Scott Jamieson, “The New Blue Collar: Temporary Work, Lasting Poverty, and the American Warehouse” (linked to here in five parts: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5) vividly details the reliance on sub-contracted, temporary workers—called “lumpers”—who now perform most of the physical labor in America’s ever-expanding networks of warehouses. Most of these workers either have previously held jobs in manufacturing plants or come from socio-economic backgrounds that previously would have led them into jobs in manufacturing. They do very hard work, frequently under very difficult working conditions, for very little pay and with little or no benefits or protections if they are injured. But for these workers, these jobs are all that stand between their tenuous current circumstances and truly abject impoverishment. The author conveys what it is like to live so precariously “on the clock.”

Over the last two months, several significant economic reports were released. On December 8, Policy Matters Ohio released Hollowing Out: Job Loss, Job Growth, and Skills for the Future. Prepared by Hannah C. Halbert and Tim Krueger, the report supports the following conclusions: “After examining job losses and job growth projections by sector and education attainment, we find that Ohio has projected education attainment gap for workers with some postsecondary education but less than a college degree, and for workers with a college or higher level degree. Ohio is also projected to have a surplus of workers with high school degrees or less. The state is not making the training gains it needs to make. At the same time, unfortunately, the state is losing jobs. So the proportion of new workers who will need post-secondary training is shrinking, not because we’re doing a great job with training but because we’re losing employment.”

In November, 2010, the Center for American Progress and American Worker Project released the report Creating Good Jobs in Our Communities: How Higher Wage Standards Affect Economic Development and Employment. The authors, T. William Lester and Ken Jacobs, present the following argument:

“From sports arenas to high-tech manufacturing zones and from commercial office buildings to big-box retail, local governments spend billions of dollars every year to entice private businesses to invest in their communities and create jobs. Yet these public funds often help create jobs that pay poverty-level wages with no basic benefits.

“Cities across the country are working to gain greater control over these projects and help create quality jobs by attaching wage standards to their economic development subsidies. Communities are linking labor standards to public development projects in various ways, including community benefits agreements and prevailing wage laws. But the most common and comprehensive policies are business assistance living wage laws, which require businesses receiving public subsidies to pay workers wages above the poverty level.

“These economic development wage standards have successfully raised pay for covered workers. Yet opponents of these standards argue that such laws prevent businesses from creating jobs and thus help some workers at the expense of employing more workers. Some business leaders and developers also claim that adding labor standards to economic development projects will scare away potential investors by sending an “antibusiness” signal.

“This report examines these claims and finds that economic development wage standards have no negative effect on citywide employment levels. This casts serious doubt on arguments that standards dampen municipalities’ ability to use subsidies to attract new businesses or create negative business climates where all firms avoid investment.

“The study finds that the 15 cities effectively implementing business assistance living wage laws—Ann Arbor, Berkeley, Cambridge, Cleveland, Duluth, Hartford, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Oakland, Philadelphia, Richmond, San Antonio, San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Fe—had the same levels of employment growth overall as a comparable group of control cities. The study also finds that these laws do not harm low-wage workers. Employment in the low-wage industries most likely affected by the living wage laws was unaffected by the change.”

In November, Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released the report Corporate Tax Payers and Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008-2010, as well as the complementary report Corporate Tax Dodgers in the Fifty States, 2008-2010 (the press release and the full report are provided here). These reports provide information on the federal and state income taxes paid by 265 corporations, 68 of which paid no state income tax for at least one of the three years covered by the studies.

In December, Public Campaign released the report, For Hire: Lobbyists or the 99%: How Corporations Pay More for Lobbyists than in Taxes (the press release and the full report are provided here). At the top of the list is General Electric, which between 2008 and 2010 had revenues of $10,460,000,000 -- that’s over ten billion dollars -- while receiving tax refunds totaling $4,737,000,000, and expending $84, 350,000 on lobbying.

As far as I know, everything that General Electric did was perfectly legal. Not so for the corporations whose misdeeds have been chronicled in “Top 100 Corporate Crime Stories of 2011,” written by Russell Mokhiber for Common Dreams. According to Mokhiber, the top ten of those stories were:

10.  Chevron to Pay $24 Million to Settle SEC Lawsuit

9.    Maxim Healthcare Gets Prosecution Deferred, to Pay $150 Million

8.    Accenture to Pay $68 Million to Settle False Claims Charge

7.    Amoco to Pay #20 Million to Settle False Claims Charge

6.    Oracle to Pay $199 Million to Resolve False Claims Charge

5.    Activists Draft Law to Criminalize Fracking

4.    Judge Rakoff Throws Out SEC/Citigroup Settlement

3.    Pfizer to Pay $14 Million to Settle False Claims Charge

2.    UMW Says UBB Mine Disaster Was Industrial Homicide

1.    Glaxo to Pay $3 Billion to Settle False Claims Charge

Linking back to the tax-related reports, several other items of possible interest are a graph (presented as a pdf and as a bitmap) indicating the differences between the current Medicare plan and the controversial “reform” plan proposed by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan. Much more detailed but no less illuminating is the report released by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy--Building a Better Gas Tax: How to Fix One of State Government’s Least Sustainable Revenue Sources. Some sort of “fix” to the calculation of this tax is necessary because, as the authors of the report make clear, inadequate revenues from one major tax source and spending area inevitably affect the funding of other areas.

Finally, one of the more eye-opening articles of this past month has been Gar Alperovitz’s “Worker-Owners of the World Unite,” published in the New York Times on December 14. In the context of the attention to income inequality, the Occupy movement, and the political conflicts over collective bargaining, Alperovitz observes:

“But at another level, something different has been quietly brewing in recent decades: more and more Americans are involved in co-ops, worker-owned companies, and other alternatives to the traditional capitalist model. We may, in fact, be moving toward a hybrid system, something different from both traditional capitalism and socialism, without anyone even noticing.

“Some 130 million Americans, for example, now participate in the ownership of co-op businesses and credit unions. More than 13 million Americans have become worker-owners of more than 11,000 employee-owned companies, six million more than belong to private-sector unions.”

Later in the article, Alperovitz discusses the ways in which local and state governments are bridging the usual divides between the public and private sectors to the benefit of the communities that they serve. At this point, the implications of these trends seem fairly open-ended, but that uncertainty serves just to make the trends all the more fascinating.