Tag Archives: Labor

“Live at the People’s House”: Wisconsin’s Solidarity Sing Along

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Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a Solidarity Sing Along in Madison, Wisconsin.  The Sing Along began in March 2011 in protest of Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, Act 10, which (among other controversial provisions) stripped collective bargaining rights from many of Wisconsin’s public sector workers.

Despite the frigid January weather, a group of about thirty singers met outside the state Capitol building.  Continue reading

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Is “Growing the Economy” Really the Answer to Wage Stagnation?

On August 27, David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition to discuss why, despite healthy corporate profits and stock market gains, wages remain stagnant. After addressing the usual suspects, such as globalization and technological change, he claimed that the best solution to wage stagnation “is the old-fashioned one: a faster growing economy.”

So, does the old adage remain true that “a rising tide lifts all boats”? To believe this, you have to ignore a lot of data. Exhibit A is the chart that the Economic Policy Institute updates every year, which shows wage growth relative to productivity growth. Since productivity growth is the measure of the economy growing, we would expect wages to rise as productivity goes up if the cure for wage stagnation was in fact a growing economy. But what do we actually see?

Growth of real hourly compensation for production/nonsupervisory workers and productivity, 1948–2011

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Source: http://www.epi.org/publication/ib330-productivity-vs-compensation/

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Operation Dixie at the DNC

While the Obama sign waving and t-shirt wearing union members at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) creates a picture of a giant love-fest between unions and the Democratic Party, underneath this façade is a burgeoning labor movement in the South that is shaking the foundation of this relationship.

On September 3, on the eve of the DNC at an overpacked church 7 miles from the convention, 300 labor and community activists held a Southern Workers Assembly. Continue reading

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WTF M1GS? Occupy May Need to Separate to Unite

“Where’s the Fairness?” chanted about 300 striking Summit Medical Center nurses and other supporters on May 1 in front of Alta Bates Hospital on the Berkeley/Oakland, California border. This California Nurses Association (CNA) event was part of a string of events for the Occupy movement’s call for a May Day General Strike (M1GS). Reporters, tweeters, and bloggers converged in downtown Oakland to report on more tear gas and arrests, but a broader analysis of May Day in the Bay Area conveys a different story.

Historically, successful political movements have a broad-based alliance of distinct groups          engaged in their own struggles but which also come together under a common cause. On May Day, labor and community-based organizations, along with Occupiers, participated in a series of events which demonstrated the potential for this unity.

Yes, potential. When I mentioned this observation to some Occupy and labor activists, the reaction was that I was being, well, Pollyannaish. Indeed, two key actions that day created movement schisms. Nonetheless, it is because more organizations want to participate in this broader movement that these inevitable debates occur. Indeed, the organizing of diverse semi-coordinated actions that day by a variety of groups – Occupy, student, labor, immigrant, etc. – was a sign of the possibility of an alliance, however tenuous. Continue reading

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