In today's On the News segment: The UAW isn't giving up on workers in Chattanooga; a new report by the Economic Policy Institute proves that our economic system is rigged; since 2010, low-paying jobs have dominated the job market; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economics and Labor News
You need to know this. According to the Economic Policy Institute, we need an economy that works for everyone – not just the top one percent. The EPI recently issued a new report on how those at the top have fared - compared to the rest of us - over the last few decades. What they found proves that the system is rigged. The EPI report states that, "between 1979 and 2007, the top one percent of taxpayers in all states captured an increasing share of the income." And, in the years since the Great Recession, the "top one percent of incomes in most states once again grew faster than the incomes of the bottom 99 percent." The report shows that in all 50 states, income inequality has gotten worse, and the average worker has been shut out of our nation's prosperity. EPI noted that unionization rates are lower than they've been since before 1928, which means that most workers don't have the power to demand higher wages. In fact, the EPI report states "The federal minimum wage purchases fewer goods and services than it did in 1968." There is just no denying it – those at the top are getting richer, and the rest of us aren't even keeping up. In their conclusion, EPI states, "In the next decade, something must give. Either America must accept that the American Dream of widespread economic mobility is dead, or new policies must emerge that will begin to restore broadly shared prosperity." Income inequality is finally getting some long-overdue attention from our lawmakers, but we need less talk and more action to make our economy work for the 99 percent.
The UAW isn't giving up on workers in Chattanooga. Last Friday, the United Automobile Workers union appealed to the National Labor Relations Board. The UAW argues that the recent unionization vote at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee was unduly influenced by Republican politicians. In the days leading up to that vote, Senator Bob Corker and Governor Bill Haslam pressured workers to reject the unions, using blatant lies and threatening to take away that plant's state tax incentives. In their appeal to the NLRB, the union stated that those intimidation tactics "were a blatant attempt to create an atmosphere of fear of harm to employees, their jobs, and the viability of their employer." Labor law experts say that there is little doubt that these tactics had an impact on the unionization efforts, however, overturning the vote will not be easy. Labor law in the US protects workers from an employer, but the law is not written in a way to deal with outside influence from politicians. Hopefully, the National Labor Relations Board stands up to these anti-union government officials. It's time to make it clear that no matter who you are, you don't have the right to intimidate workers to keep them from forming a union.
The US job market is slowly getting stronger, but the damage from the recession is far from being repaired. Since 2007, middle-class jobs in America have been disappearing, and they're being replaced by more and more low-wage work. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco broke down the job numbers from the National Employment Law Project to show how big this problem really is. During the recession, 60 percent of job losses were from so-called "mid-wage occupations" that paid between $13.83 and $21.13 an hour. However, only 27 percent of the jobs created during the recovery pay somewhere within that range. Since 2010, low-paying jobs have dominated the recovery, and 58 percent of new jobs pay less than $13.83 per hour. Middle-class jobs have simply disappeared, and more Americans are working in low-wage sectors like food service and retail. Some experts say that this shift is the result of American jobs being shipped overseas, while others argue that US workers are simply getting paid less for the same work. Whatever the reason, middle-class jobs have been disappearing faster since the recession. If we don't reverse this trend, income inequality in our country is only going to get worse.
Only one third of people with intellectual disabilities are working. According to a new survey from the Special Olympics, the employment rate of people with these disabilities is about half of the rate of the general population. And those who are working may be getting shafted by their employers because of a loophole in federal labor law that allows companies to pay disabled workers less than minimum wage. Although that provision is supposed to help these people find work, some companies and organizations like Goodwill Industries pay disabled workers as little as 22 cents an hour. Considering this information, it's no surprise that people with disabilities are three times more likely to live in poverty, although that does not mean it's acceptable. Some disabled workers will get a raise thanks to President Obama's recent executive order increasing the minimum wage for federal contractors, but we must do more to address this problem. It's time for Congress to pass a bipartisan bill to close this discriminatory loophole altogether. All employees should be paid for their work, and shouldn't be treated like slaves because of a disability.
And finally... For many Americans, the dream of home ownership has become a fantasy. But, that won't stop the finance industry from cashing in. According to the real estate magazine, CRE Finance World, declining incomes have kept more US families out of the housing market. So, the banksters have begun securitizing the rental market. According to Deutsche Bank analyst Harris Trifon, the rental housing securities market will grow from $5 billion dollars to $20 billion dollars by the end of this year. Not only are the gamblers on Wall Street creating a dangerous new derivatives market, but tenants are renting from faceless corporate landlords who care more about making a profit than about caring for rental property. We should never underestimate the banksters' ability to come up with greedy new ways to gamble.
And that's the way it is - for the week of February 24, 2014 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.