From “punk-styled kids” to airline pilots, is Occupy Wall Street the start of something big?

The Occupy Wall Street movement started with a small but growing collection of folks you might expect to be marching on Wall Street. As Jeanne Mansfield recounts for the Boston Review (link here):

The crowd looks like maybe 300 people, mostly punk-styled kids and folks carrying their computers (for live streaming, we found out later) and some aging-hippie types. People are beating drums, blowing whistles, carrying signs, and chanting: “Banks got bailed out, you got sold out!” and “We are the 99 percent!” and “All day, all week, occupy Wall Street!” and of course the classic “This is what democracy looks like!”

The mainstream media largely ignored them. And as this video attests, some presumably well-monied folks considered them an amusing diversion, enjoying a sip of bubbly as they watched the protesters on the streets:

Airline pilots, too

But this movement is gaining steam. The mostly young folks who launched Occupy Wall Street appear to be serving as role models for their elders.

The labor movement is taking note, and mainstream unions now recognize this as a potentially important moment. For example, earlier this week, some 700 uniformed airline pilots staged their own protest over pay and working conditions. Perhaps the fact that “professionals” are now part of this movement may be the reason why even Forbes magazine was moved to cover it (link here):

Hundreds of uniformed pilots, standing in stark contrast to the youthful Occupy Wall Street protesters, staged their own protest outside of Wall Street over the past couple of days, holding signs with the picture of the Hudson river crash asking “What’s a Pilot Worth” and others declaring “Management is Destroying Our Airline.”

Forbes fairly observed that entry-level pay for commercial pilots can be abysmal:

…(P)ilots are among the most dismally paid workers in the country – at least when they start flying.

According to first year pilots make as little as $21,600 a year. Some airlines, such as Southwest, pay more than twice that. On average, starting pay for the major airlines is just above $36,000 a year.

Let’s not forget

The addition of more established players to the scene may give the protests credibility that a bunch of scruffy looking young people could not. But let’s not forget the seeds of anger, resentment, and fear that drove the original protesters to take their message to the locus of America’s wealth.

America’s younger generations face a very uncertain future. The economic meltdown has had a devastating effect on their current employment prospects, and the ripple effects threaten to endure for years, if not decades. They know darn well that they risk being tossed under the bus, economically speaking.

It’s about voice

Paul Crist, an economist, political activist, and fellow board member of Americans for Democratic Action, captured the promise of an emerging movement when he shared these remarks with Facebook friends this morning:

The protests are about to get much bigger! Thanks to NY Transit Workers, SEIU local, United Federation of Teachers, Working Families Party…let’s see the national labor leaders get behind this! The 99% of us who can’t afford a lobbyist WILL BE HEARD!

Yup, it’s about voice. When it comes to peaceful protest about the widening wealth gap and lack of jobs, Americans have been disturbingly quiet and acquiescent in the midst of this crisis. Perhaps Occupy Wall Street, and its welcomed imitators, are on the verge of changing that. As Arun Gupta writes for AlterNet (link here):

They have created a unique opportunity to shift the tides of history in the tradition of other great peaceful occupations, from the sit-down strikes of the 1930s to the lunch-counter sit-ins of the 1960s to the democratic uprisings across the Arab world and Europe today.


Related commentaries, differing perspectives (added Oct. 1)

Michelle Chen, “Labor Movement Rolls Into Wall Street Occupation,” In These Times 

Charles M. Blow, “Hippies and Hipsters Exhale,” New York Times 

Bruce E. Levine, “How Anti-Authoritarians Can Transcend their Sense of Hopelessness and Fight Back,”

Chris Hedges, “The Best Among Us,”


Related posts 

Post-meltdown America: An economic recovery for the wealthy

“It’s no use pretending”

Plutocracy in America: A term for our times

Does it boil down to the rich & powerful vs. the rest of us?

Unpaid interns for “Black Swan” file wage claim against Fox Searchlight Pictures

Two unpaid interns who worked on the crew of the movie “Black Swan,” Alex Footman and Eric Glatt, are suing Fox Searchlight Pictures, alleging that the failure to pay them violated minimum wage and overtime rules.

As reported by Steven Greenhouse for the New York Times (link here):

One plaintiff, Alex Footman, a 2009 Wesleyan graduate who majored in film studies, said he had worked as a production intern on “Black Swan” in New York from October 2009 to February 2010.

He said his responsibilities included preparing coffee for the production office, ensuring that the coffee pot was full, taking and distributing lunch orders for the production staff, taking out the trash and cleaning the office.


The other named plaintiff, Eric Glatt, 42, who has an M.B.A. from Case Western Reserve University, was an accounting intern for “Black Swan.” He prepared documents for purchase orders and petty cash, traveled to the set to obtain signatures on documents and created spreadsheets to track missing information in employee personnel file.

This is a welcomed development.  I have long argued (see link to law review article below) that most unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws and other labor standards.

In addition, the failure to pay interns leaves them more vulnerable to discrimination and sexual harassment. At least one federal court has held that unpaid interns cannot bring a claim under the Civil Rights Act because they are not employees within the meaning of the law.

This will be an interesting case. Stay tuned!


Additional information

For more blog posts on interns and the law, go here.

To download, without charge, a copy of my 2002 Connecticut Law Review article, “The Employment Law Rights of Student Interns” — hailed by Ross Perlin’s Intern Nation (2011) as “the best single source of information” on student internships and the law — go here.

On press, paparazzi, privacy, and work

Joe McGinniss’s controversial new biography of Sarah Palin, The Rogue (2011), raises important questions about connections between work, privacy, and individual dignity. From various published reviews it appears the book is a wildly contrasting mix of solid investigative reportage on matters related to Palin’s conduct as a politician and a lot of gossipy, trashy stuff about the personal lives of Palin family members.

I confess I’m not a fan of Sarah Palin. I don’t think she’s got much substance, and her widely acknowledged track record of viciously going after people who cross her and personalizing political disputes is disturbing. Still, there’s some consensus that McGinniss has crossed the line at times in his book, and my inclination is that the criticism is on target.

I don’t claim to have all the wisdom about when the public figure ends and the private person begins, but here are some questions worth asking:

1. Is it true?

If not, there’s no excuse for deliberate or reckless falsehoods. If so, the inquiry doesn’t end there.

2. Even if it’s true, does it bear upon the individual’s public life, whether it be in politics, the media, entertainment, or any other highly visible vocation?

For public officials, the personal can and perhaps should become public if it relates to decisions made and positions taken while in office or on the campaign trail.

That said, there are certain aspects of one’s personal life that should be off limits as a matter of individual dignity. It appears we have fairly obliterated that standard in our current popular culture.

3. Does the subject of the coverage deliberately seek out the limelight and stoke the very attention s/he claims is exploitative or invasive when the subject matter becomes uncomfortable?

This is a fine line, but individuals who encourage a culture of celebrity or a cult of personality-type following may have less to complain about when the media coverage is unflattering. (Live by the limelight, die by it too.) This is especially true for celebrities or wannabes who feel the need to expose or exploit aspects of their private lives and engage in ostentatious displays of personal conduct that beg for attention.

What do you think about Harvard’s “kindness pledge”?

Joshua Rothman, blogging for the Boston Globe (registration may be required), writes about a “kindness pledge” that Harvard University is asking all entering first-year students to sign:

The pledge requires students to “act with integrity, respect, and industry, and to sustain a community characterized by inclusiveness and civility.” “As we begin at Harvard,” it continues, “we commit to upholding the values of the College and to making the entryway and Yard a place where all can thrive and where the exercise of kindness holds a place on par with intellectual attainment.”


Those who have followed the anti-bullying theme of this blog may think I’d be in favor of such a pledge, but actually, I find it troubling.

I believe we do need laws and policies to establish boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. But aspirational pledges drafted by an organization give rise to hard questions of interpretation and even dicier issues of possible enforcement or discipline.

Defining terms such as “integrity, respect, and industry” and “inclusiveness and civility” is difficult, subjective business. Accusations that someone has “violated” the pledge are almost sure to follow, and subsequent events may lead to more bad feelings.


I’d prefer that there be strong lines drawn on abusive behaviors such as bullying, harassment, and stalking, combined with efforts by university leadership to create an organizational culture that embraces respect, inclusiveness, and civility.

No wonder folks at Harvard are vigorously debating this pledge! At the very least, if incoming students are feeling pressured to sign it, I hope their professors and senior administrators have agreed to sign and be subject to it as well.

Should you confront your workplace bully?

This suggestion is popping up with increasingly frequency in well-meaning advice columns about bullying at work: Make your concerns known by confronting your workplace bully.

Recently I praised British journalist Jackie Ashley for calling upon us to stand up to the bullies in our society. But I should’ve been more specific. In agreeing with her, I meant that we should be standing up against bullying behaviors as a community.

That’s different than telling a target to confront her abuser individually and await the consequences.

Questionable advice

Nevertheless, career advice columns that address workplace bullying often urge targets to do just that.

Minneapolis business author Harvey Mackay suggested this option in a syndicated piece that ran in newspapers across the country (link here):

Speak up to the harasser. Your first step should be to tell the person that his or her behavior, comments or requests aren’t welcome. In some cases, the matter may end there. But don’t hesitate to inform management if you can’t comfortably confront the other person on your own.

Risks of direct confrontation

If there is one suggestion that causes me to question the wisdom behind one-size-fits-all advice columns on workplace bullying, this is it.

When objectionable behavior involves milder forms of incivility or disrespect, tactfully and directly speaking up may prove to be an effective way to address it. But targeted, malicious bullying is different; it’s a form of abuse. In any situation involving genuine abuse, face-to-face confrontation is fraught with risks. Here’s why:

First, if there’s no third party to observe the conversation, it’s the target’s word against the bully’s as to what transpired in that interaction. The bully could even attempt to turn the tables, suggesting that he was the actual “victim” of the encounter.

Second, targets of abuse usually (and understandably) are not in the best frame of mind when dealing directly with their abuser. People in these circumstances are more likely to say or do something they later regret.

Third, when bullying is covert or indirect, it’s doubly hard to confront the tormenter, who often will deny there’s any such behavior going on and may even act like she was wrongfully accused.

Fourth, even if one does not wish to confront the bully alone, the question of which third party to enlist can be a vexing one, because frequently the bully is a member of management and/or has friends at that level.

Finally, and most importantly, we know that many bullying targets have tried this approach with disastrous results. Over the years, I have spoken to scores of people who have paid a price for thinking that they could work it out with their tormenter(s).

Evaluate each situation individually

People are different. Bullying situations are different. Stock advice columns about dealing with workplace bullying can be dangerous in that they offer suggestions that may be effective in some situations, while backfiring horribly in others.

As I wrote in a post here last month, there is no substitute for doing your homework in planning a course of action. Keeping a cool head in these situations is very difficult. People who believe they are targets of bullying will benefit from learning and understanding before acting.


For more about dealing with workplace bullying situations, please go to the Need Help page of this blog, here.


Correction: I had erroneously summarized a column by Tia Benjamin (link here) as recommending that a target directly confront a bully. She contacted me and kindly explained that her recommendations are for organizations, not individual bullying targets. My apologies to Tia and thanks for pointing out my mistake.

Website of the Week: Working Families Win

For many years, I’ve been a big fan of Working Families Win (WFW), a grassroots community education and organizing project that:

works to change the economy in favor of working families, provides education about economic decisions made in Washington and the impacts within our local communities, and engages individuals through neighbor to neighbor communication to hold our elected officials accountable.

As an initiative of the progressive Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), WFW believes that:

New trade rules can distribute the benefits of a globalizing economy more equitably to workers here and abroad.  Health care for all Americans would address a major burden facing working families today.  A real “living wage,” investment in jobs, producing clean energy, and stronger rights for workers to join unions and bargain collectively would all help maintain and rebuild our nation’s middle class.

Working Families Win was created by the late Jim Jontz, a three-term Member of Congress from northern Indiana, who understood the need to educate and organize voters in hard-fought battleground and heartland states such as Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Ohio. Jim founded WFW after serving as President of ADA.

Check out the WFW website here.


Disclosure note: I currently serve, on a pro bono basis, as Chair of ADA’s National Executive Committee.

“Mentally injured” vs. “mentally ill”: On changing attitudes, removing stigmas

As I will demonstrate below, I make no claim to limiting myself to politically correct terminology. However, here’s an important memo to self: Whenever applicable, use the term “mental injury” instead of “mental illness.”

During the past decade, my work in the realm of workplace bullying has provided an education in psychology and psychiatry. This has included plenty of hanging around those who study, diagnose, and heal the damage caused by psychological abuse at work. It has had a transformative effect on how I look at the law and public policy.

But my informal course of study has been far from thorough or systematic, and consequently I’m still learning the vocabulary. And oftentimes I use the term mental illness when mental injury strikes me as being much more appropriate.

Illness vs. injury

When someone is wounded by a gunshot, do we say they are “ill”? No, we say they are injured.

But what happens when, say, someone experiences violence or bullying at work so terrible that they develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Well…we’re more apt to say they’re suffering from a mental illness or disorder.

And yet, haven’t they, too, suffered an injury, a psychological trauma? So why do we use terms that unnecessarily stigmatize the person who suffers that injury?

What’s “abnormal” psychology?

While I’m at it, I also find myself questioning the term “abnormal psychology.” Writer and educator Kendra Cherry defines the term this way:

Abnormal psychology is a branch of psychology that deals with psychopathology and abnormal behavior. The term covers a broad range of disorders, from depression to obsession-compulsion to sexual deviation and many more. Counselors, clinical psychologists and psychotherapists often work directly in this field.

Here again, a similar point: So many conditions labeled “abnormal” — such as depression triggered by situations in one’s life — strike me as being natural responses to difficult experiences and setbacks. (And on the extreme end, there’s nothing abnormal about suffering PTSD after doing two tours of duty in Iraq.)

Unnecessarily stigmatizing terms

Over the past decade, some of the most insightful and empathetic people I’ve met include those who have suffered from depression, PTSD, and other conditions triggered or exacerbated by horrible experiences at work.

By contrast — with apologies for my lack of precise terminology  — some of the most screwed up, uptight people I’ve ever met would likely get clean bills of health from therapists or psychiatrists.

Terms like “mental illness” and “abnormal” scare people. They create in our minds a fearful Other. My friends holding doctorates in psychology may have plenty of good reasons to tell me I’m wrong, but I’d really like us to think about how we use these labels.

Do credibility and innovation mix?


Cover of “Poke the Box”

Is it possible to have both credibility with the Establishment and freedom to innovate?

Seth Godin captures it beautifully in this snippet from his latest book, Poke the Box (2011), in which he encourages people to create and market new, valuable goods and services. Here he summarizes the “paradox of success”:

People with no credibility or resources rarely get the leverage they need to bring their ideas to the world.

People with credibility and resources are so busy trying to hold onto them that they fail to bring their provocative ideas to the world.

Bingo. In two sentences he explains why new, fresh, promising ideas face such a challenge in getting their due, and why people and organizations who have “made it” sometimes become timid and cautious.

Risking credibility

There are exceptions to this dynamic, and not surprisingly they come from very successful enterprises that are in a position to risk some street cred.

Remember when Apple introduced its iPad? Many reviewers and computer industry gurus scoffed at this odd cross between a netbook computer and a smart phone, wondering if Apple had invested a ton of money and marketing into a clunker of a product that would soon disappear.

I felt the same way. I thought the iPad was a silly indulgence that had very little practical use. However, every time I stepped into an Apple store, I’d find myself playing with the iPads. And once the iPad 2 was announced, I knew I was a goner. (I now use mine regularly.)

Apple invented a market, created the conditions for that product to thrive (almost singlehandedly introducing the term “apps” into our lexicon), and now dominates that market — while its competitors serve up bad imitations.

Responsible risk taking

Okay, so Apple wasn’t exactly the corporate equivalent of Braveheart when it rolled out the iPad. Had it failed, customers would still be gobbling up Macs and iPhones. But it did demonstrate a willingness to be laughed at by those in the know…while saving the last laughs for itself.

Organizations and individuals who have established their credibility may have to make a judgment call on the worthiness of advancing a cutting edge idea or product, especially one that could undermine hard-earned credibility if it fails. But those who who play it safe often lose their edge and become pretty ordinary.

Starting out from scratch

That still leaves the question of folks at the starting gate. What if you’re a newcomer, an unknown, a novice, but you have a great idea that represents out-of-the-box thinking?

You’ll need perseverance and resourcefulness, plus a dose of good luck and the right timing.

However, because you’re not a known or prominent commodity, it’s possible that you’ll be greeted with dismissiveness rather than derision. There are advantages to being taken too lightly, not the least of which is the ability to move forward quietly, however haltingly, while the Establishment pretty much ignores you.

Once your idea or product gains some traction, people will take notice, and you may find yourself creating a new market or movement. This, of course, will grant you a big dose of credibility, in which case you’ll have to figure out what to do the next time you get a neat new idea.

Amazon’s hothouse of a warehouse & Amazon’s customer response

Kudos to Spencer Soper of the Allentown (PA) Morning Call newspaper for breaking what has become a national story about horrible working conditions in’s Lehigh Valley warehouse (link here):

Over the past two months, The Morning Call interviewed 20 current and former warehouse workers who showed pay stubs, tax forms or other proof of employment. They offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it’s like to work in the Amazon warehouse, where temperatures soar on hot summer days, production rates are difficult to achieve and the permanent jobs sought by many temporary workers hired by an outside agency are tough to get.


Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said.


During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress. . . . An emergency room doctor in June called federal regulators to report an “unsafe environment” after he treated several Amazon warehouse workers for heat-related problems.

My letter

I shop often at Amazon, and I own a small amount of Amazon stock in my retirement portfolio. I wanted to register my concerns, and early on Tuesday evening I wrote to Amazon’s customer service desk:

Dear Amazon,

I am a Prime customer who spends quite a bit of money with you. I enjoy your fast, dependable service and appreciate the remarkable convenience of shopping on the Amazon site.

However, I was very dismayed to read about the situation where Amazon warehouse workers had been subjected to such a inhumane working environment.

I realize there are legitimate differences of opinion about employee relations, but treating workers in a physically or psychologically abusive manner is inexcusable.

I would welcome assurances from your company that such practices will be addressed and stopped.  As a customer I am willing to pay more in order to ensure that workers up and down Amazon’s supply chain are treated well.

Thank you for considering my concerns.

A quick response

I received a very fast response from Amazon:

At Amazon, the safety and well-being of our employees is our number one priority. We have several procedures in place to ensure the safety of our associates during the summer heat, including increased breaks, shortened shifts, constant reminders and help about hydration, and extra ice machines.

Our fulfillment team was dealing with record hot temperatures this past summer. We have air conditioning in some of our fulfillment centers — Phoenix, AZ for example — but we haven’t historically had air conditioning in our East Coast fulfillment centers. We’re in the process of adding air conditioning to additional fulfillment centers so that we’re prepared in case what we saw this past summer becomes the new normal.

Thank you for your feedback. We hope to see you again soon.

Falls short of the mark

I appreciated the fast response but was very disappointed in its content.

Many moons ago, I worked in retail warehouses in the Midwest during college summers. High temperatures and humidity combined with the heavy-duty physical nature of the work make summer warehouse work a very hard job. Amazon’s response makes it sound like the 2011 temperatures were an extreme aberration from the past that caught them by surprise, but frankly I’m doubtful. In any event, given the health impact on their workers, extreme remedial measures were called for, and Amazon dropped the ball.

In addition, Amazon’s response did not address the general working conditions of Amazon workers as reported in the Morning Call article. It is interesting that the response centered mainly on the problem of working in excessive heat.

Overall, it appears from the Morning Call news article that Amazon fell way, way short of making employees their “number one priority.”

America’s middle class shrinks as poverty expands: Articles worth reading

America’s middle class is in sharp decline, and many people are falling into a state of poverty. For readers who have the time and inclination, it’s worth reading up on some of the commentary about the economic times in which we live.

I’ve gathered and excerpted news reports and analyses from assorted newspapers, periodicals, and online sites, representing varied economic and political perspectives. While they may not be in agreement on the solutions, they share a sense of alarm over jobs, the economy, and growing inequality.

“Soaring Poverty Casts Spotlight on ‘Lost Decade’,” Sabrina Tavernise for the New York Times

Sabrina Tavernise reports on the latest economic census data (link here):

Another 2.6 million people slipped into poverty in the United States last year, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, and the number of Americans living below the official poverty line, 46.2 million people, was the highest number in the 52 years the bureau has been publishing figures on it.

…Economists pointed to a telling statistic: It was the first time since the Great Depression that median household income, adjusted for inflation, had not risen over such a long period, said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard.

“This is truly a lost decade,” Mr. Katz said. “We think of America as a place where every generation is doing better, but we’re looking at a period when the median family is in worse shape than it was in the late 1990s.”

“Middle Class Death Watch — 33 Frightening Economic Developments,” David DeGraw for AlterNet

David DeGraw pulls together an assortment of economic trends and data (link here) that illustrate our perilous times. Here are 1o of them:

  • “More Americans ‘double up’ and share homes in tough economy”
  • “There’s No Bottom In Sight For Plummeting Home Prices”
  • “Unemployed face tough competition: underemployed”
  • “A smaller share of men have jobs today than at any time since World War II”
  • “U.S. Consumers’ Credit Card Debt Rapidly Increasing”
  • “Student Loan Default Rates Rise Sharply in Past Year”
  • “Food prices stay near record high”
  • “Median Male Worker Makes Less Now Than 43 Years Ago – Women Make 65% of what Median Male Makes”
  • “Analysis: $35 trillion pension funds in new crisis as deficit hole grows”
  • “Number of uninsured climbs to highest figure since passage of Medicare, Medicaid”

“Beyond the poverty numbers: real lives, real pain,” David Crary for the Associated Press

The AP’s David Crary brings together the work of a team of reporters who traveled the nation in search of stories depicting the impact of the economic meltdown (link here, via San Francisco Chronicle), and in the lede he opens with one of them:

At a food pantry in a Chicago suburb, a 38-year-old mother of two breaks into tears.

She and her husband have been out of work for nearly two years. Their house and car are gone. So is their foothold in the middle class and, at times, their self-esteem.

“It’s like there is no way out,” says Kris Fallon.

Unfortunately, hard times apparently aren’t making us a kinder, gentler nation:

The Pew Research Center said its recent polling shows that a majority of Americans — for the first time in 15 years of being surveyed on the question — oppose more government spending to help the poor.

“Can the Middle Class Be Saved?,” Don Peck for The Atlantic

Don Peck, author of Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Future & What We Can Do About It (2011), notes that, on the whole, America’s wealthiest have done OK during the meltdown (link here):

It’s hard to miss just how unevenly the Great Recession has affected different classes of people in different places. From 2009 to 2010, wages were essentially flat nationwide—but they grew by 11.9 percent in Manhattan and 8.7 percent in Silicon Valley. . . . In Miami and Detroit, by contrast, for every job posting, six people were unemployed. In March, the national unemployment rate was 12 percent for people with only a high-school diploma, 4.5 percent for college grads, and 2 percent for those with a professional degree.

Peck acknowledges that the “post-war decades of the 20th century were unusually hospitable to the American middle class.” That has changed significantly, he observes, especially for those whose education and experience place them outside of America’s professional ranks:

The strongest forces of our time are naturally divisive; absent a wide-ranging effort to constrain them, economic and cultural polarization will almost surely continue. Perhaps the nonprofessional middle class is rich enough today to absorb its blows with equanimity. Perhaps plutonomy, in the 21st century, will prove stable over the long run.

But few Americans, no matter their class, will be eager for that outcome.

“The President’s Bold Jobs Bill (Maybe),” Robert Reich on 

In August, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich called for an ambitious jobs program to revive the economy and get people back to work (link here). He summarized recent developments this way:

Combine the budget cuts state and local governments continue to make with the slowdown in consumer spending, the reluctance of businesses to expand or hire, and the magnitude of unemployment and under-employment, and you need a big new booster rocket.

He offered a list of recommendations that included the following, some of which have appeared, more or less, in the President’s “American Jobs Act”:

1. Exempt first $20K of income from payroll taxes for two years. Make up shortfall by raising ceiling on income subject to payroll taxes.

2. Recreate the WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps to put long-term unemployed directly to work.

3. Create an infrastructure bank authorized to borrow $300 billion a year to repair and upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, school buildings, and water and sewer systems.

“The great mismatch: Special report on the future of jobs,” Matthew Bishop for The Economist

Matthew Bishop, in a wide-ranging survey linking jobs and the economy (link here), closes by identifying responses that mix education & training, less government regulation, direct subsidies & health care for workers:

The mismatch between the skills demanded by employers and those available in the market is a reflection both of bad choices by students, who have not thought hard enough about what will help them find a good job, and of education systems that are too often indifferent to the needs of the labour market and too slow to change even if they try.


A second challenge is for governments to create the right conditions for businesses to create more jobs. That means running sustainable macroeconomic policies…; sensible regulation; and a tax system that is both competitive, with low marginal rates, and does not distort business decisions in arbitrary ways.


Long-term unemployment often turns into permanent unemployment, so governments should aim to keep people in work, even if that sometimes means continuing to pay them benefits as they work. Health care and pension systems should be (re-)designed to allow workers as much flexibility as possible, not least in deciding when to retire.

“Does Retraining Give the Unemployed a Second Chance?,” Drake Bennett for Business Week 

Drake Bennett examines the role of retraining programs in matching unemployed workers with available jobs (link here):

Even with 14 million Americans looking for work—and at least 2.6 million wanting work but not actively searching—jobs are going unfilled. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the total number of openings at 3.2 million, and despite the flood of applicants, companies sometimes struggle to find candidates that fit.

Some claim that job training puts the onus on the individual worker for not having the right skills or education. However, notes Bennett:

The response to this, from the teachers, companies, and politicians who run and support training programs—and from some of the job seekers who put their faith in them—is that the case for training is only partly about the current bleak employment picture. It’s also about preparing for the sort of jobs the economy will add when it finally recovers and equipping students with skills that are rarely, if ever, taught in today’s classrooms.

Rank-and-file economics: Fighting for a wage- and jobs-led economy,” Katherine Sciacchitano for Dollars & Sense 

Labor educator and lawyer Katherine Sciacchitano (link here) introduces her piece with a short Q&A:

Riddle 1: When is a recovery not a recovery?
Answer: When profits are at record levels, corporations are sitting on $1.7 trillion in cash, and unemployment is still at 9.2% and rising.

Riddle 2: When is a stimulus not a stimulus?
Answer: When it’s less than one-fourth the size of the hole in the economy it is intended to fill.

Riddle 3: When will it be possible to rebuild the economy?
Answer: When the U.S. labor movement joins with community and international labor allies to demand global economic development, jobs, and rising wages.

She posits that in order to forge a resurgent labor movement, we need to unlearn what we have been taught about free market economic policies:

The hard part will be unlearning the indoctrination we’ve received about the crisis, the role of government in the economy, and the free market. Once we do that, we can build successful movements at home and abroad. We’re closer than we think to the army of rank-and-file economists that we need.


Related posts

New jobs, new economy: Envisioning better ways to work and earn a living

Plutocracy in America: A term for our times

When Boomers retire (or try to): America’s coming train wreck

Jobs, Unemployment, and the Great Recession: Articles Worth Reading

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