Category Archives: Labor

Rev. William Barber Is reviving Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘Poor People’s Campaign’

The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the Moral Mondays movement that opposed North Carolina’s “most restrictive voting law in the nation,” recently scored a major victory against this TeaPublican tyranny. Strict North Carolina Voter ID Law Thwarted After Supreme Court Rejects Case:

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to revive a restrictive North Carolina voting law that a federal appeals court had struck down as an unconstitutional effort to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

The court’s decision not to hear an appeal in the case effectively overturned one of the most far-reaching attempts by Republicans to counter what they contended, without evidence, was widespread voter fraud in North Carolina. The law rejected the forms of identification used disproportionately by blacks, including IDs issued to government employees, students and people receiving public assistance.

Fresh off this victory, Rev. Barber announced last week that he will step down as president of the North Carolina NAACP and lead a new national initiative that aims to end poverty and begin what Rev. Barber calls “a national moral revival.” The Nation reports, The Rev. William Barber Is Bringing MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign Back to Life:

This new Poor People’s Campaign will pick up where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. left off 50 years ago when he turned his focus to uniting poor people across lines of race and geography and pushing their priorities onto the federal agenda.

The campaign, which launches in partnership the Kairos Center at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, will bring together organizations with a longstanding commitment to confronting poverty and inequality—local and national groups such as Picture the Homeless in New York and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. Barber said a task force made up of poor people and economists, theologians, and other experts will in September release a report called “The Souls of Poor Folks” that will lay out the campaign’s agenda.

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April jobs report: employment rebounds from weak March

Last week the Bureau of Economic Analysis released data that real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of only 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017.  CNBC reported, US first-quarter growth weakest in three years, as consumer spending falters:

The U.S. economy grew at its weakest pace in three years in the first quarter as consumer spending barely increased and businesses invested less on inventories, in a potential setback to President Donald Trump’s promise to boost growth.

Gross domestic product increased at a 0.7 percent annual rate also as the government cut back on defense spending, the Commerce Department said on Friday. That was the weakest performance since the first quarter of 2014.

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The pedestrian first-quarter growth pace is, however, not a true picture of the economy’s health. The labor market is near full employment and consumer confidence is near multi-year highs, suggesting that the mostly weather-induced sharp slowdown in consumer spending is probably temporary.

“First quarter GDP tends to underperform because of difficulties with the calculation of data that the government has acknowledged and is working to rectify.”

Steve Benen has the April jobs report today. Job market improved as winter turned to spring:

After a sluggish month for the U.S. job market in March, many were eager to see whether the slide would continue, or whether we’d seen an improvement as winter turned to spring.

As is turns out, it now looks like the latter is true. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the U.S. economy added 211,000 jobs in April, more than double March’s total. The unemployment rate inched lower to 4.4%, the lowest since the summer of 2007, before the start of the Great Recession.

AprilJobs

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Queue the Spooky Organ Music: It’s Budget Time in the #AZLeg (video)

FY2018 Arizona budget

Watching the budget discussion on Cap TV. This JLBC update will be archived on the azleg.gov website.

The much-anticipated FY2018 Arizona state budget was dropped yesterday. On Tuesday, just before 5 p.m. both the Republican and Democratic Appropriations Committees heard the JLBC review of the Republican budget.  Thus begins the mysterious whirlwind of the Arizona budget finalization process, which is scheduled to end in the wee hours of Friday morning.

As a citizen, I always scratched my head as to why the Arizona budget is always passed in the middle of the night. Obviously, the suspicion is that there is something the majority party wants to pass, and it doesn’t want you to know or to be there when it happens. There’s an element of that, for sure, because we have seen some scary stuff passed in the middle of the night by Republicans– like the voter suppression omnibus bill and blowing the doors off of campaign finance by dramatically boosting campaign limits. The majority party schedules the third day of the budget process just after midnight because they don’t want their members to go home between the debates in the Committee of the Whole (COW) and the 3rd Reading vote. If members go home, someone could say, “What are you thinking?” and change votes.

Check out the budgetary known knowns, known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns below.

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#AZGOP Ducks ERA Vote: If Not Now, When? (video)

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley proposes the Equal Rights Amendment.

The Arizona House Democrats made history on April 27, 2017. Through a ninja parliamentary procedure, we forced members of the Arizona House of Representatives to voice their opinion on equal rights for women and, specifically, on ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

I made a motion for immediate third reading of HCR2012 ratification; equal rights amendment, which temporarily caused muted chaos at the dais.  ERA backers in the Democratic Caucus had conferred with the rules attorneys and the Clerk in advance of the motion; so, we knew we were on solid parliamentary grounds.

Predictably, Speaker J.D. Mesnard offered a substitute amendment to recess, which stopped the up-or-down vote on the ERA. Democrats had anticipated this move on the chess board. By calling for a roll call vote on the substitute amendment, everyone opposed to the up-or-down vote on the ERA was put on record as stopping the vote. (Watch video clip of the motion, the quiet chaos that ensued, Mesnard’s motion, and my speech here. It will start automatically after a pause.)

During the vote explanation exercise, nearly every Democrat and several Republicans stood up and gave their opinion on the ERA, equal rights for women, equal pay for equal work, equal protection for women under the Constitution, the nuances of Article V of the Constitution, and the reasons why American women need the ERA (or not).

“I want to clarify that a vote for this substitute amendment to recess is really an up-or-down vote on the Equal Rights Amendment, ” I started.

“The Equal Rights Amendment is a simple, one-sentence statement: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.

“Members, there is a dramatic wage gap in the US between men and women. You may have heard the statistics that overall women earn 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Over a lifetime that translates to a $500,000 in lost wages for the average working woman. The wage gap has narrowed only 13 cents per hour since 1980, I continued.

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Book Review: Killing the Host

I finally got around to reading Michael Hudson’s Killing the Host. I think it was released over a year ago. Hudson is a professor of economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, which is where some of the most progressive work is being done, particularly in monetary theory.

This book is not especially well written. The editing was downright sloppy, in my opinion.

But it’s written well enough to follow and the content is valuable. Hudson’s central thesis is that economic policy has moved in the exact opposite direction of what economic philosophers of the 19th and early 20th century foresaw. They believed the world would become increasingly egalitarian, as economic and tax policy would favor industrialists and labor. Instead, it has favored rent seekers, particularly those in the finance sector.

Hudson likens the relationship of the finance sector to the economy to that of parasite to host. Eventually, the parasite drains the life out of the host.

For those interested in economic policy, Killing the Host is an important read. There are insights in this book I’ve not seen elsewhere. So, even though it could have been better written, I recommend it.

 

Higher minimum wage did not reduce restaurant employment after all (updated)

The Arizona Restaurant Association (ARA) is the principal chamber of commerce organization that has sought to defeat and to undermine Arizona’s Minimum Wage Act first approved by voters in 2006, and reaffirmed by voters in 2016.

The ARA was behind HB 2579, our Tea-Pulican legislature’s attempt to gut the 2006 Minimum Wage Act by narrowly redefining “wages.” The ARA participated in a failed legal challenge to the sufficiency of the 2016 Minimum Wage Initiative, and after the Minimum Wage Initiative was passed by voters, the ARA participated in the failed legal challenge to overturn the will of the voters.

The ARA’s position is always that the minimum wage (most restaurant workers are paid a sub-minimum wage and must rely on the kindness of strangers for tips) is devastating to restaurant businesses. The ARA always claims that a higher minimum wage will reduce employment in the restaurant sector.

While some marginal businesses teetering on failure may have closed due to higher wage costs, those businesses have been replaced by others that are competitive at the higher wage costs. And isn’t that what “creative destruction” in a free market economy is all about?

Howard Fischer reports today that employment in the restaurant sector has gone up since passage of the increase in the minimum wage. Food sector job growth outpaces state since wage hike on Jan. 1:

Remember those claims during the Proposition 206 debate that increasing the minimum wage would lead to less hiring and people being laid off from low-wage jobs?

The latest unemployment statistics suggest that hasn’t happened.

In fact, the data from the state Office of Economic Opportunity shows that the number of people working in bars and restaurants last month not only increased but did so at a rate six times higher than the economy as a whole. Employers who run food service and drinking establishments added 7,800 new workers compared with February, a 3.3 percent boost.

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