June 20, 2005
Laid Off Unionized Blue Collar Workers
Today's NY Times features an article on a Carrier Air Condition plant that recently closed in NY State (apparently production moved to China).
What is most disturbing is that in the 80s and 90s for the most part stories that featured the effects of a plant closing at least showed a sign that workers were outraged by what was happening to the working class of this country. This latest article however presents to us workers who seem more content and accepting of the fact that they are laid off and will be taking new jobs in different sectors for less pay.
Take Up a New Career at 50? In Syracuse, Life After Layoffs
SYRACUSE - When factories close, the workers who are laid off often feel like dinosaurs in a fast-disappearing industrial age. But when the Carrier Corporation shut down its huge air-conditioning factory here last year, Joseph Huppman saw it as a golden opportunity.
Mr. Huppman, who worked at Carrier for five years after spending 17 years in the Air Force, took advantage of his layoff to pursue a career that had long beckoned to him.
"I always wanted to be a nurse, and the
opportunity never came up before," he said. "Carrier, by sending my job
to China, made the opportunity come up."
But education has not been a cure-all. It does not ensure that the workers will find jobs or, if they do, that the jobs will pay as well as Carrier did. Happy as he is to be a nurse, Mr. Huppman is earning $30,000 a year, half what he earned at Carrier, where he earned $17 an hour and worked hundreds of hours of overtime.
June 17, 2005
California Grocery Chain to Offer Unionized Workforce Buyouts
After the 5 month long strike waged by tens of thousands of UFCW members against 3 major grocery chains in Southern California ended both the union and the employer did not want a repeat. The master grocery contracts that followed in Northern California were significantly better than the settlement in Southern California.
Nevertheless, the grocers continue to search for ways to cut costs and undermine the union. Today's edition of the Contra-Costa Times reports that Safeway is offering its senior workers a buyout to give up their property rights to their job. Ive quoted the article below:
Safeway Inc. this week offered buyouts to
thousands of seasoned Northern California workers in a bid to replace
them with cheaper new hires. At least one longtime worker said the amount isn't nearly high enough, and took a dim view of the impetus for the buyout. "They're trying to get rid of the old-timers who are higher-paid so
they can get the new hires starting at $8 with no benefits or
dependents for 18 months," said Gregg Davidson, a 34-year Safeway
veteran, who works at the Lafayette store. "The plan is to lower
(overall) wages as quickly as they can."
At least one longtime worker said the amount isn't nearly high enough, and took a dim view of the impetus for the buyout.
"They're trying to get rid of the old-timers who are higher-paid so they can get the new hires starting at $8 with no benefits or dependents for 18 months," said Gregg Davidson, a 34-year Safeway veteran, who works at the Lafayette store. "The plan is to lower (overall) wages as quickly as they can."
June 06, 2005
Retail Union Embarks on New Strategy to Empower NY's Lowest Paid Retail Workers
Today's NY Times features an article on a new strategy being undertaken by the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union (RWDSU/UFCW) and a community organization Make the Road by Walking to empower NYC's lowest paid retail workers:
Like many shopping strips in immigrant neighborhoods, Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick is overflowing with 99-cent stores, cuchifrito stands, sneaker shops - and egregious wage and hour violations.
At the Super Star 99 discount store at 353 Knickerbocker, employees say they work 63 hours a week for $260, which works out to $4.13 an hour, far below the state minimum wage of $6 an hour and the federal minimum of $5.15.
At the Nuevo Mexico restaurant at 276 Knickerbocker, Patricia Reyes, a 29-year-old waitress and cook, said she received just $165 a week, including tips, for 72 hours of work, which comes to $2.29 an hour.
And at Footco, a bustling sneaker shop at 431 Knickerbocker, workers said they earned $4.75 an hour working more than 50 hours a week.
Concerned about the high rate of wage violations, Make the Road by Walking and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union have adopted an unusual strategy. They are collecting information about violations from scores of workers on Knickerbocker Avenue. The two groups plan to confront storeowners with this evidence and give them a choice: either face a lawsuit or government action seeking maximum back pay, or agree to unionization and face a less aggressive push for back pay.
The retail union and Make the Road by Walking say that a half century ago, half of Knickerbocker Avenue's stores were unionized, but that just two were now. The groups assert that unionization would be preferable to occasional back-pay settlements because it would mean long-term improvements in wages and benefits.
"The State Department of Labor is completely overwhelmed and doesn't seem to have enough commitment or resources to do the job properly," said Andrew Friedman, a co-director of Make the Road by Walking. "My sense is many folks are very scared to stand up and complain because they worry about losing their jobs and because they have a perception that the State Labor Department isn't interested in protecting the rights of immigrants."
May 25, 2005
An Alternative View on the Difference In Hours Worked in Europe and the US
From Marginal Revolution:
...you ask why we Americans work more hours than do Europeans. But perhaps we don’t. While the data do show that Americans work more hours AT FORMAL JOBS, it doesn’t follow that Americans work more hours in total. The reason is that, compared to Europeans, Americans have more time-saving household appliances, as well as greater access to other time-saving amenities such as prepared foods, child care, and housecleaning services. As a result, we Americans work fewer hours taking care of our households and, hence, can work more hours earning income. Don Boudreaux
May 24, 2005
Last weekend's Financial Times featured a story on "social anthropologists" who study meanings in the daily life of workers. I was immediately interested in the article then became disturbed when I found out the purpose behind these studies:
But in the past few years, some have headed off to places such as accountancy firms and technology companies, partly because there are fewer unspoilt “native” cultures left to study. But the shift also reflects the growing complexity of public and private sector workplaces and the realisation by companies and governments that they must operate in a global environment. In America, anthropologists have been hired by technology groups including Intel, Microsoft, Apple and Xerox. In the UK, the “people watchers” can be found not just pacing the corridors of blue-chip companies, but also the Ministry of Defence, Immigration Services, National Health Service and Foreign Office, as well as non-governmental aid agencies.
But some academics are uneasy about the trend. Is it valid for anthropologists to use their skills to serve giant corporations and governments? And can a discipline better known for examining the culture of exotic tribes really have anything relevant to say about the modern world of companies such as PwC?
It seems US Tech companies are the ones taking most advantage of social anthropologists.
The biggest boost to applied anthropology in the corporate world has come from a surprising source - US technology companies. At first glance, that might seem counter-intuitive: modern technology often appears to transcend cultural barriers with ease - the internet, for example, can be found in homes from Japan to Jordan to Java. Yet that very universality has created a new emphasis on cultural differences, and some companies have realised they need to adjust their western mindset if they want to reach customers or clients. “Many companies assume that if they want to have a global website, say, all they have to do is translate it into different languages,” explains Martin Ortlieb, an anthropologist who now works at a global software group. “But that isn’t true - what works in German can’t just be translated into Japanese with the same effect.”
Intel, the US technology giant, is a case in point. Before the mid-1990s its designers operated with a distinctly American view. “People here used to talk about ‘the US’ and ‘the rest of the world’,” laughs Ken Anderson, an anthropologist at Intel. In 1996, the company created a “People and Practices” group of researchers, such as Anderson, who spend their time trying to understand the cultural context in which technology is used around the globe. The timing of this move was no accident: in the late 1990s, the sector was flush with cash to spend on non-core activities. Despite the tech bubble bursting, Intel has expanded its team of anthropologists and other large technology companies have followed its lead. This suggests the research is proving useful. “I’m not sure that people at Intel always understand what we do... but they have come to understand that we have an intimate relationship with customers that can translate into value for the company,” says Anderson.
May 16, 2005
Arnold Kling Admits Workers are Oppressed
"Since I no longer own my small business, and since I do not control billions in assets, I suppose that I should identify with the oppressed labor class."
Ha, so he then admits that there is an oppressed labor class!
Welcome aboard Brother Kling!!
(Jokes aside EconLog is a great economics blog)
May 15, 2005
The director of Super Size Me has made a new documentary. This time he tackles the minimum wage problem.
TV Guide reported the following:
SUPER MAN RETURNS!: Oscar-nominated documentarian Morgan Spurlock, whose fast-food exposé Super Size Me gave McDonald's a serious case of indigestion, is targeting something smaller for his next project: the nation's minimum wage. For the June 15 premiere of his new FX ducu-series, 30 Days, Spurlock and his fiancée, Alexandra Jamieson, relocated to Columbus, Ohio, for a month and lived on $5.15 an hour. "It's so impossible," says Spurlock. "There were days when I'd work 18 hours and make $90." During the experiment, the human guinea pig toiled as a construction worker, a dishwasher, a landscaper and a printer. "I wanted to get a job at a fast-food restaurant," he reveals, "but, what a surprise — none of them would allow us to shoot there."
Can't wait to see this one!
May 13, 2005
New Star Wars Film = $627 million in Productivity Losses
According to an article in today's NY Sun the employment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas inc states that the opening of next week's Star Wars film will prompt "a significant spike in absenteeism on Thursday and Friday of the four day opening weekend." With an estimated cost the day after the opning midnight screening estimated at $627 million.
May the force be with you...
May 03, 2005
Should Migrant Workers Be Paid the Same as Domestic Workers?
An interesting article in today's International Herald Tribune asks the same question in the context of current debates happening within the European Union. The paper explores the question through a case study of a recent incident making its way around the courts:
The basic facts of the case are straightforward: Last year a Latvian company, Laval un Partneri, won a bid to build the school in Vaxholm, a suburb of Stockholm. The company used Latvian workers, which it is entitled to do because Sweden, along with Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands, has opened its borders to workers from the new East European members of the European Union.
But the Swedish labor union Byggnads objected to the wages of the Latvian workers and blockaded the work site from November until February, when
decided to abandon the project.
Although the union had no workers involved in the project, it successfully called for "sympathy actions" by other unions and companies that did business with
The Swedish labor union says it was acting in the interest of the Latvian workers, who they said should be paid the same wages as their Swedish counterparts. According to Agell, the Latvian workers were paid a monthly salary of 13,600 kronor, or about €1,480, half the level that the union said was appropriate.
May 02, 2005
Starbucks & Healthcare
Starbucks has taken out a full page ad in today's NY Times. In says in part:
From the very beginning, Starbucks has been committed to offering comprehensive, affordable health coverage to our employees. In fact, we were one of the first companies to offer coverage to part-time retail workers. And we'll continue to do that, but no company, small business, or individual can sustain a broken system indefinitely.
The ad then promotes Cover the Uninsured Week and the following website: Cover the Uninsured
Here is an excerpt from the about page:
As the price of health care continues to rise, fewer individuals and families can afford to pay for coverage. Fewer small businesses are able to provide coverage for their employees, and those that do are struggling to hold on to the coverage they offer. It is a problem that affects all of us. Cover the Uninsured Week will mobilize thousands of business owners, union members, educators, students, patients, hospital staff, physicians, nurses, faith leaders and their congregants, and many others at press conferences, health and enrollment fairs and other activities held May 1-8, 2005.
I find it interesting that some corporations are being pressured, through economic forces, to recognize the healthcare crisis.