Tuesday, August 6, 2013

War on Labor



It was 32 years ago that Ronald Reagan and the Republicans began their assault on organized labor, by staring down the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO).  Since then we have seen a steady erosion of labor rights, stagnated wages and more and more companies using part-time employment (up to 35 hours per week) to avoid providing health care and unemployment compensation to its workers.

Walmart is the most notorious example of this. PBS provided a broad outline of Walmart's hiring practices in Store Wars, but this didn't stop Forbes from ranking Walmart as one of the 100 best corporations to work for, even going so far as to blame "Obamacare" for Walmart's increased use of temps, which has been a practice used long before Obama came to town.

Obama and the Democrats have made few in-roads over the last 5 years, but the attempt to spread government health care to a broader segment of the population took an important first step today, as you can now open your own personal "Obamacare" account.

Still, the battle to raise the minimum wage to a living wage is thwarted by Congressional Republicans.  This hasn't stopped municipalities from establishing their own minimum wages, such as San Francisco, which set $10.55 an hour as the baseline.  Even still, it is below the $11 most economists regard as the bare minimum to meet today's cost of living.

This didn't stop Fox's purported "financial analyst" Neil Cavuto from offering viewers a little anecdote how he started out at two bucks an hour at Arthur Treacher's in 1974.  He didn't bother to tell his listeners that if that same starting wage was adjusted for inflation, it would be $9.47 per hour today, more than most fast food workers get.  But, it seems the GOP lives in a world not adjusted for inflation, at least not at the bottom rung of the ladder.

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