Category Archives: Labor

AZ Supreme Court to consider Prop. 206 Minimum Wage appeal

The Arizona Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments by Chamber of Commerce organizations that the new voter-approved minimum wage, Prop. 206, violates the state’s Constitution. State Supreme Court agrees to take up minimum wage case:

The Arizona Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction of the case and announced Tuesday afternoon it will hold a hearing on March 9. At the heart of the issue, which the court will hear, is the claim that Proposition 206 violates the Constitution’s revenue source rule. The case was brought by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and other business groups and supported by Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican legislative leaders.

Justices had declined to block the minimum wage from taking effect on January 1, spurning an appeal from those same business groups after their initial complaint was struck down in Maricopa County Superior Court. Now attorneys will again argue that Proposition 206 violates a requirement in the Arizona Constitution that any new voter-mandated spending designate a funding source to cover its costs. The funding stream may not come from the general fund.

Attorneys for the chamber had offered up other legal arguments against the law in Superior Court, but the Supreme Court will only hear arguments concerning the revenue source rule. Opponents of the minimum wage hike contend the state is forced to increase spending for services through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which contracts with service providers to ensure people have access to care.

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The technology tsunami is replacing ‘good paying jobs’ that are not coming back

Those voters in Appalachia who convinced themselves that a con artist and grifter, Donald Trump, was going to bring back “good paying jobs” by bringing back 20th Century jobs in coal mining and manufacturing are going to be sadly disappointed and badly disillusioned.

Businesses have no financial incentive to bring back labor intensive jobs when they have modern technology — computerization, automation, robotics and now artificial intelligence — to replace human labor.  Tax laws and accounting norms make it easier to invest in robots and equipment than in people.

Ed Hess, professor of business administration at the Darden School of Business at University of Virginia and co-author of the new book, “Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age” writes at the Washington Post, Coming technology will likely destroy millions of jobs. Is Trump ready?

American manufacturing job losses to China and Mexico were a major theme of the presidential campaign, and President Trump has followed up on his promise to pressure manufacturers to keep jobs here rather than send them abroad.

What he hasn’t yet addressed — but should — is the looming technology tsunami that will hit the U.S. job market over the next five to 15 years and likely destroy tens of millions of jobs due to automation by artificial intelligence, 3-D manufacturing, advanced robotics and driverless vehicles — among other emerging technologies. The best research to date indicates that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs are likely to be replaced by technology over the next 10 to 15 years, more than 80 million in all, according to the Bank of England.

Think back to the human misery in this country during the financial recession when unemployment hit 10 percent. Triple that. Or even quintuple it. We as a society and as individuals are not ready for anything like that. This upheaval has the potential of being as disruptive for us now as the Industrial Revolution was for our ancestors.

Techno-optimists tell us to relax — don’t worry, technology will produce lots of new jobs just like it did during the Industrial Revolution. History will repeat itself, they say. Well, not so fast.

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Repeal of ‘Obamacare’ would cause job losses and a ‘$5 billion hole’ in the Arizona economy

Whenever you talk about healthcare in the United States, keep in mind that it currently makes up 17 percent of the nation’s GDP, and represents the fastest growing sector of the economy. Healthcare to Become the Largest Employment Sector of the U.S. Economy: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare jobs and industries are “expected to have the fastest employment growth and to add the most jobs between 2014 and 2024.”

An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 6.3 million of the 11.5 million Americans who used the ACA marketplace to buy their insurance last year live in Republican Congressional districts.

Policy analysts say that a rollback of the ACA would hurt older and rural Americans — the two populations that favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Trump Voters Stand to Suffer Most From Obamacare Repeal:

Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters are likely to be hit the hardest if he makes good on his promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act[.]

“I think you’re going to get a disproportionate impact on people who supported Donald Trump but maybe don’t realize that his policies may end up hurting them instead of helping them,” said Michael O. Moore, a professor of economics and international affairs at George Washington University.

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Legislative Whirlwind Part 4: Lettuce & Birds (video)

Lettuce in Yuma

Here we can see miles of fields of Romaine lettuce with crews of migrant workers in the distance. In the foreground are 1000s of discarded outer Romaine lettuce leaves. Workers severely trim lettuce heads down, so they can be sold as “Romaine hearts”. The leaves will be plowed back into the ground for nutrients, but still, the waste was surprise to someone like me who heard “waste not want not” many times while growing up.

During our Yuma Legislative Tour in December, we saw miles and miles of lettuce, cotton, broccoli, seed crops, and more. We got muddy and trudged around the Romaine lettuce fields with migrant workers, and we also toured a cotton gin. (More photos are here on my Facebook page.)

After our first day of touring Yuma’s agricultural areas, we heard multiple presentations at a hosted dinner paid for by different growing/ranching industry groups and served up by 4H and JTED youth. The presentation by Paul Brierley, director of the University of Arizona Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, stuck out in my mind. He talked about using engineering technology to help growers in the Yuma area. According to the UA website, “The [Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture], based in Yuma, is a public-private partnership (PPP) between the college and the Arizona and California desert agriculture industry, dedicated to addressing ‘on-the-ground’ industry needs through collaboration and research.” The website continues on to say: “More than two dozen industry partners from Yuma and Salinas, California, have invested in the center, together committing more than $1.1 million over the next three years.”

Brierley is an affable engineer who grew up on a large farm. According to Bierley, the primary problem that industry partners wanted the PPP center to tackle was “productivity”. He talked about different ways to boost productivity by using technology. For example, Brierley said that the date palms needed help with pollination. He showed a photo of a migrant worker pollinating date trees using a machine that looked like a leaf blower strapped on his back. This human-assisted pollination worked, but to improve productivity, the UA and Yuma growers began experimenting with drones. They found that drones to be more efficient pollinators than people. Technology to the rescue: mechanical birds. (For some jobs, this is the future: people being replaced by machines.)

Another problem area that had been identified as a hindrance to productivity was birds.

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December jobs report: the 75th consecutive month of positive job growth, the longest on record

The December jobs report is the final jobs report of the Obama era. It offered the latest in a series of reminders that the president is handing off a healthy economy to his successor, Donald Trump (who spent the campaign denigrating Obama and declaring the economy to be a disaster).

Steve Benen has the December jobs report. Obama era ends with steady job growth:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the U.S. economy added 156,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, remains low, inching higher from 4.6% to 4.7%. It’s the 15th consecutive month the rate has been at 5% or lower. (Remember when Mitt Romney said he might be able to get the jobless rate down to 6% by the end of his first term? I do.)

DecemberJobs

As for the revisions, October’s and November’s job totals were both revised up, adding a net gain of 19,000.

Also of interest, this report showed a larger-than-expected hike in average hourly earnings, suggesting not only that job growth is steady, but American wages are improving, too.

Though the latest data still faces some revisions, the preliminary estimates now show the overall economy added 2.15 million new jobs in 2016, which is a pretty healthy number. What’s more, December was the 75th consecutive month of positive job growth, which is the longest on record.

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Legislative Whirlwind Part 3: 92,000 Cows

92,000 cows in Yuma

This is what 92,000 cows looks like, and this is what agribusiness looks like.

The Yuma border tour in mid-December was amazing on multiple levels.

Outside of Yuma, Arizona Legislators toured a feed lot had been owned by a local Yuma family for generations. The sign for McElhaney Cattle Company can still be seen at the entrance and on some of the equipment. In recent years, it was sold to a Brazillian corporation, which has invested millions and greatly expanded it, according to our tour guides.

Down from a normal population of 100,000 cows, we saw 92,000 cows standing and lying around in pens– with nary a cowboy in sight. We were told that the cowboys check all of the cows every night because of the heat. Although the temperature was pleasant on the December day that we visited, there were no feed lot workers anywhere– except for the couple on the bus giving the tour. The guides said these cows are tracked by computer. Is Hal tending the herd?

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