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What's New at IBU National
An Overdue Apology to Organized Labor

The Cost of a Decline in Unions

by Nicholas Kristof

February 19, 2015

Like many Americans, I’ve been wary of labor unions.  Full-time union stagehands at Carnegie Hall earning more than $400,000 a year? A union hailing its defense of a New York teacher who smelled of alcohol and passed out in class, with even the principal unable to rouse her? A police union in New York City that has a tantrum and goes on virtual strike?

More broadly, I disdained unions as bringing corruption, nepotism and rigid work rules to the labor market, impeding the economic growth that ultimately makes a country strong.  I was wrong.

The abuses are real. But, as unions wane in American life, it’s also increasingly clear that they were doing a lot of good in sustaining middle class life — especially the private-sector unions that are now dwindling.  Read More

Weak Economic Recovery

What Happened to the Recovery?


Part I: Weak Employment, Stagnant Wages, and Booming Profits

The 2007-2010 recession was the longest and deepest since World War II. The subsequent recovery has been the weakest in the postwar period. While total employment has finally returned to its pre-recession level, millions remain out of work and annual output (GDP) is almost a trillion dollars below the economy’s “full-employment” capacity. This column explains how high levels of unemployment have held down wages, contributing to soaring corporate profits and a remarkable run-up in the stock market. Read more.

International Labor News

International Labor Leader Bob Crow Passes Away

Maritime Union of Australia National Secretary Paddy Crumlin has described Bob Crow as a true internationalist who encouraged trade unionists, civil rights advocates and politically progressive people in every field of endeavour.

Crow was a figure of controversy in the United Kingdom who never shied away from a fight in defence of his members. He also made a memorable speech at the MUA Quadrennial Conference in Sydney in 2012 where he spoke passionately about the many battles facing working people across the world.

"He spoke with the honesty and directness of his actions and commitments. He was above all a family man who understood that the real wealth and value of our lives also springs from a loving nurturing of those closest to us. Our parents, partners children and extended family.

"I'm proud to say I considered Bob as a mate, and I greatly admired his tenacity in representing his members and the working class in general. Bob never gave a hoot about his general popularity and was the target of many a hate campaign from the notorious UK media and those purporting to be conscience and commentators of the English upper class who have never supported workers, let alone their leaders," Mr Doleman said.

Bob Crow - Stand by Me 2014 from Dejavusion Productions on Vimeo.

Origins of May Day

The Brief Origins of May Day

By Eric Chase

Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers' Day or May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don't realize that May Day has its origins here in this country and is as "American" as baseball and apple pie.

In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and Jack London's The Iron Heel. As early as the 1860's, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn't until the late 1880's that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class. Read more by clicking below.

Download: BriefMayDayHistory.pdf
Labor History Education

HARTFORD >> Connecticut lawmakers are moving closer to requiring the Department of Education to come up with a curriculum that local school districts can use to teach about the history of the labor movement.

The Senate on Wednesday passed a bill on a bipartisan 25-10 vote. Some critics said the bill is unnecessary, political and could send an anti-business message.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney argued it’s important for students to learn about the labor struggle “as the right of workers to organize and collectively bargain is being challenged across the country.”

Under the bill — which awaits House action — labor history, collective bargaining and existing workplace protections would be part of the voluntary curriculum.

The state already provides curriculum on the Holocaust, the Great Famine in Ireland and African-American history.

Unions Make Democracy
Recently the Department of Labor released data on the union status of the American workforce. Unfortunately the data showed a decline in the percentage of workers who are unionized because of the one-two punch of long-term trends—such as the escalation of aggressive employer campaigns against union representation—and political attacks such as Wisconsin’s new law banning public-sector collective bargaining. Even though less than 12 percent of all workers are currently union members, Americans—whether unionized or not—should care about this decline because unions give workers a bigger say in our economy and our political system. That helps the middle class, and it’s good for democracy.  Read more.
The 'Organizing Model' Goes Global

The 'Organizing Model' Goes Global!

April 2013

by Erik Forman

“Mate, what do you think of the ‘Organizing Model’? That’s an American thing, isn’t it?”

During a break at an IWW organizer training in London, the question caught me off guard. There were many organizing models, right? I chalked it up to U.S.-U.K. cultural misunderstanding. But a few weeks later in Cologne, Germany, I got the same question. I decided to do some digging.

It turns out the United States doesn’t export only Justin Bieber and Big Macs. We also export the trends of our labor movement. Over the last 15 years—as American management practices have cast a pall over the global economy—unions from the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, and Australia have looked to U.S. unions for survival strategies. They came back with “the organizing model”.  Read more.

Stats for Labor

Organized Labor's Biggest Enemy

For a more in depth look please go to this link at the Bill Moyers Show.

Labor Economics

The Price of Inequality: Interview With Joseph E. Stiglitz

...In this book you develop an elaborate set of arguments about how the high levels of economic inequality we’re seeing hurt our economy, our institutions, and our politics. Let’s start with the economy. A lot of people argue that there’s a tradeoff between growth and inequality -- that you can have faster growth but you might have to take more inequality along with it.

It’s well documented that countries that are more unequal don’t do as well, don’t grow as well and they are less stable. It’s not an accident that in the period right before the Great Depression, our inequality reached another peak just like it did in the years before the Great Recession. Inequality destroys growth.

Not to mention opportunity.

That’s right. America has become the country with the least equality of opportunity of any of the advanced industrial countries. That means children that are born of poor parents or poorly educated parents are not living up to their opportunities. We’re wasting our most valuable asset – our human resources.

...Talk more about the political impact. How do you see inequality undermining our democracy?

High levels of economic inequality lead to imbalances in political power as those at the top use their economic weight to shape our politics in ways that give them more economic power. If you look at so many of the outcomes in our political process, no one can say that they reflect the interests of most Americans. Most Americans don’t think speculators should be taxed at a fraction of people that work for a living; or that banks should be allowed to engage in predatory lending or abusive credit card practices; or that drug companies be allowed to get special benefits out of the government in the form of overpayments; or that mining companies should be able to get natural resources at below competitive prices.

At the top [of the income scale], a lot of the inequality arises out of efforts that people take to get a larger share of the pie rather than to increase the size of the pie. As you know, economists call it “rent seeking.” What they’re doing is moving money from the bottom to the top. But they’re not creating wealth; they’re just shifting wealth around. And the people who have been exploited are not better off; in fact, they’re worse off.  Read more.

Our Robber Barron Apologists
The Piketty Panic
       by Paul Krugman
April 24, 2014

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the new book by the French economist Thomas Piketty, is a bona fide phenomenon. Other books on economics have been best sellers, but Mr. Piketty’s contribution is serious, discourse-changing scholarship in a way most best sellers aren’t. And conservatives are terrified. Thus James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute warns in National Review that Mr. Piketty’s work must be refuted, because otherwise it “will spread among the clerisy and reshape the political economic landscape on which all future policy battles will be waged.”

Well, good luck with that. The really striking thing about the debate so far is that the right seems unable to mount any kind of substantive counterattack to Mr. Piketty’s thesis. Instead, the response has been all about name-calling — in particular, claims that Mr. Piketty is a Marxist, and so is anyone who considers inequality of income and wealth an important issue.

I’ll come back to the name-calling in a moment. First, let’s talk about why “Capital” is having such an impact.

Mr. Piketty is hardly the first economist to point out that we are experiencing a sharp rise in inequality, or even to emphasize the contrast between slow income growth for most of the population and soaring incomes at the top. It’s true that Mr. Piketty and his colleagues have added a great deal of historical depth to our knowledge, demonstrating that we really are living in a new Gilded Age. But we’ve known that for a while.

No, what’s really new about “Capital” is the way it demolishes that most cherished of conservative myths, the insistence that we’re living in a meritocracy in which great wealth is earned and deserved. Read more.

The Austerity Agenda
            by Paul Krugman
LONDON - May 31, 2012

“The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity.” So declared John Maynard Keynes 75 years ago, and he was right. Even if you have a long-run deficit problem — and who doesn’t? — slashing spending while the economy is deeply depressed is a self-defeating strategy, because it just deepens the depression.

So why is Britain doing exactly what it shouldn’t? Unlike the governments of, say, Spain or California, the British government can borrow freely, at historically low interest rates. So why is that government sharply reducing investment and eliminating hundreds of thousands of public-sector jobs, rather than waiting until the economy is stronger?

Over the past few days, I’ve posed that question to a number of supporters of the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, sometimes in private, sometimes on TV. And all these conversations followed the same arc: They began with a bad metaphor and ended with the revelation of ulterior motives.

The bad metaphor — which you’ve surely heard many times — equates the debt problems of a national economy with the debt problems of an individual family. A family that has run up too much debt, the story goes, must tighten its belt. So if Britain, as a whole, has run up too much debt — which it has, although it’s mostly private rather than public debt — shouldn’t it do the same? What’s wrong with this comparison?

The answer is that an economy is not like an indebted family. Our debt is mostly money we owe to each other; even more important, our income mostly comes from selling things to each other. Your spending is my income, and my spending is your income.

So what happens if everyone simultaneously slashes spending in an attempt to pay down debt? The answer is that everyone’s income falls — my income falls because you’re spending less, and your income falls because I’m spending less. And, as our incomes plunge, our debt problem gets worse, not better. Read more.

Corporate Tax Myth

Warren Buffett: High Corporate Taxes Are an American 'Myth'

The Huffington Post by Bonnie Kavoussi 02/27/12

Corporations, like the rich, aren't paying their fair share in taxes, billionaire investor Warren Buffett told CNBC on Monday.

Even while enjoying record profits, corporations last year paid just 12.1 percent of those earnings in taxes, their lowest tax rate since 1972, according to the Congressional Budget Office. At least thirty of the country's most profitable companies had a negative tax rate between 2008 and 2010.

Buffett, for one, says it's time to take notice.

"It's a myth that American corporations are paying 35 percent or anything like it," Buffett said, referring to the top marginal corporate tax rate. "Corporate taxes are not strangling American competitiveness."  Read more.

May 06, 2015
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