Wages

Morning Must Reads: Wages Under Pressure and Doing Nothing Is Not an Option

It's hard out here for a cellist!

On the cusp of the opening of the orchestra's 2011-12 season, members of the ensemble approved a contract calling for a 15 percent pay cut, reducing the size of the ensemble, and replacing the defined-benefit pension with a defined-contribution plan. The deal, also ratified by the association's board of directors, was mediated under the supervision of Stephen Raslavich, chief judge of U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and is subject to bankruptcy court approval. The American Federation of Musicians and Employers' Pension Fund, the $1.7 billion national plan that would be jilted by the new deal, has pledged to fight for up to $35 million it says it will be owed if the orchestra association withdraws from the fund.

Morning Must Reads: The Senate Chooses to Do Nothing About the Economy and You Should Root for GE

The economic news this morning makes you feel like you are watching Major Kong (from the movie Dr. Strangelove — the picture on the left) ride the bomb like a mechanical bull to our mutual total economic destruction. But our economic situation is more similar to that of Otto (played by Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda — on the right).  At first we are amused with the idea of being run down by a steamroller moving 2 miles per hour. But then we realize that we have stepped in wet cement and are thus destined to be run down by the U.S. Senate a one-eyed man with ketchup stains round his nostrils.

In short, our problem is a lack of aggregate demand and the solution is well within our grasp, but our politics are paralyzed and millions are destined to be run down by years of needless misery.

Third and State This Week: Record Poverty, Public-Sector Job Losses, and Ending Loser Liberalism

This week we blogged about new data on poverty in America, public-sector job losses putting a drag on the economy, and a new book by economist Dean Baker explaining how we can put an end to "loser liberalism."

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On poverty, Michael Wood blogged about new Census data showing the American poverty rate has risen to its highest level since 1993 and that the number of people living in poverty is at a record high. Christopher Lilienthal shared charts from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities interpreting the Census data and linked to another Center analysis showing that by several measures poverty is worse than it has been in decades. 
  • On health care, Sharon Ward highlighted a recent policy brief from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center showing that on the six-month anniversary of adultBasic's end, few former enrollees have signed on to the alternative insurance options offered to them.
  • On jobs and the economy, Mark Price commented on the increase in Pennsylvania's unemployment rate last month and how declining public-sector employment is continuing to be a drag on the economy. 
  • Finally, Stephen Herzenberg blogged about a new book by economist Dean Baker with the provocative title The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive and an online discussion of the book planned for Sunday from 5-7 p.m.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

National Poverty Rates Hits 15.1%, Highest Level Since 1993

As the recession took its toll last year, more Americans fell into poverty, saw their incomes decline and joined the ranks of the uninsured, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau released the results of its annual Current Population Survey today in a new report — the first to include a full year of data from the Great Recession. At the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, we have an analysis of the data, including a look at some state-level details.

During 2010, the national poverty rate increased to 15.1%, the highest level since 1993, with a record-breaking 46.2 million American adults and children living in poverty. Median household income also declined, and the number of individuals without health insurance increased again, now approaching 50 million.

Third and State This Week: The Economy, Obama Jobs Plan and Education Cuts

This week, we blogged about the President's jobs plan, education funding cuts, "network" unionism, the August jobs report and more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On jobs and the economy, Mark Price shared his statement and some analysis from national experts on President Obama's jobs speech. Mark also blogged about the August jobs report and responded to a Patriot-News columnist's misguided take on the unemployed.
  • On the workplace, Stephen Herzenberg highlighted a recent op-ed he co-wrote with Pennsylvania AFL-CIO president Rick Bloomingdale on the foreign student incident at Hershey and proposed one solution: forming a union among workers that cuts across Hershey's entire supply chain.
  • On education funding, Chris Lilienthal wrote about a recent analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tracking how much states cut per-student, inflation adjusted K-12 spending in the new fiscal year.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

How About A Sitdown Strike Across Hershey’s Supply Chain?

By now most of you have heard about the recent Hershey incident in which foreign students, having paid for the privilege of participating in a “cultural exchange” visit to the United States, found themselves packaging the candy company’s chocolate for about $8 per hour (not counting the upfront fee for the program and before you subtract the living costs taken out of the students’ paychecks). 

As Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale and I pointed out in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed last week, the implications of this incident go far beyond the advantage taken of the 400 students. It’s a case that demonstrates the irresistible urge of global corporations to fragment workers in their production chains so that the most vulnerable can be paid very low wages. Hershey, after all, has a stronger motivation than most corporations to resist this impulse: it’s in a capital-intensive industry, it has a cherished consumer brand placed at risk by the relentless pursuit of low wages, and the company is held in trust on behalf of a school for underprivileged children. The Hershey case demonstrates the need for constraints on companies’ freedom to pursue low-wage strategies.

Third and State This Week: July Jobs, Public Sector Wages, an Insurance Marketplace and Why People Move

This week, we blogged about the future of purchasing health care insurance, the state of employment in Pennsylvania, the wages of public versus private sector workers and more!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On public sector wages, Stephen Herzenberg highlighted the recent, albeit not surprising, findings of an Economic Policy Institute study documenting that jobs in Pennsylvania state and local government are not the way to get rich.
  • On unions, taxes and migration, Michael Wood debunked claims that the outmigration of Pennsylvania taxpayers can be linked to unions. Most of the departures between 2004 and 2009, Mike writes, were to states with warmer climates.
  • On health insurance, Christopher Lilienthal blogged about the creation of a competitive health-insurance marketplace in Pennsylvania and how that will make purchasing high-quality and affordable health care easier and more efficient.
  • On jobs and the economy, Sean Brandon sorts through the recent labor market data and explains why we shouldn't put too much stock in a single month's jobs numbers, good or bad.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

News Flash: PA Public-Sector Jobs Not Path to Riches

The Economic Policy Institute has a new report out documenting — surprise, surprise — that jobs in Pennsylvania state and local government aren’t the way to get rich.

The report, authored by Rutgers University labor and employment relations Professor Jeffrey Keefe, shows that Pennsylvania public-sector workers make the same or slightly less in wages plus benefits than comparable Pennsylvania private-sector workers. The more-generous benefits of public-sector workers are balanced by lower wages and salaries.

We weren’t very surprised by this result. We had made similar observations earlier this year.

Third and State This Week: Jobs and the Marcellus Shale, Personal Incomes and the Myth of Tax Flight

This week, we blogged about the myth of tax flight, Marcellus Shale drilling and the state economy, and the increasing share of Americans drawing income from public programs like Social Security and unemployment compensation.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On the federal budget and the economy, Emma Lowenberg wrote that more Americans are drawing income from government programs like Social Security and unemployment benefits. While some of this change can be attributed to naturally aging populations, much is undoubtedly the result of higher unemployment rates.
  • On the state budget, Chris Lilienthal highlighted a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities busting the common myth that if you increase state taxes (or don't cut them), people will up and leave for lower tax states.
  • Finally, on the Marcellus Shale, Mark Price blogged that while oil and gas extraction is helping to reduce unemployment in Pennsylvania, it remains an open question precisely how big the impact is, given how small employment in that sector is relative to an economy that employs 5.8 million people.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

More Americans Drawing Income from Unemployment, Social Security

Emma Lowenberg, InternBy Emma Lowenberg, Intern

The fact that the economy is still struggling is not news to anyone. The national unemployment rate has increased steadily since February. Now, at 9.2%, it is not too far from its peak of 9.9% in December 2009.

Nationally, the personal income of 20% of Americans comes from the government through programs like Social Security and unemployment benefits, according to a report in The New York Times. The percentage is even higher in the economically worst-off states – like Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Arizona.

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