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Archive for July, 2012

Minimum Wage: Not Just for Kids

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
Credit: Joe Kekeris

Credit: Joe Kekeris

As Congress considers raising the nation’s minimum wage, it’s a good time to point out that it’s not just for teens earning pocket money. At $7.25 an hour, the current minimum wage hasn’t been raised for three years. Proposals in both the House and Senate would increase the federal minimum wage to $9.80 by July 1, 2014.

A report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) points out that

87.9 percent of those affected nationally by increasing the federal minimum wage to $9.80 are 20 years of age and older. The share of those affected who are 20 or older varies by state, from a low of 77.1 percent in Massachusetts to a high of 92.4 percent in Florida (and 93.9 percent in the District of Columbia).

That means people trying to support themselves and their families are being paid an hourly wage that right now has less buying power than in 1997. Further, writes Holly Sklar, director of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage:

At $7.25 an hour, today’s full-time minimum wage retail worker, security guard, child care worker or health aide makes just $15,080 a year. Last century’s 1968 minimum wage worker made $21,944 a year, adjusted for inflation.

Take note of which House and Senate members scream against raising the minimum wage. They’re likely the same ones funded by corporate giants whose CEOs last year got a 16 percent raise—with an average compensation of $10.5 million.

The AFL-CIO is urging Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012 (read letter here) as are noted economists.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on July 30, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee they were represented by a hotel and restaurant local union (the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism (covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia) she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.

Unemployed for even a month? You're likely to face hiring discrimination

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Laura ClawsonIf you’re unemployed and searching for a new job, you better hope your last employer went out of business. Otherwise, according to new research, you’re likely to be discriminated against even if you’ve been out of work for as little as a month.

In one study, Ho and his team asked 47 experienced HR professionals to review resumes that were identical except for one detail: Half said the candidate was currently employed, and half said the person had been out of work for a month. The “currently employed” candidate received better marks for competence and hireability. [...]

He noted that a third experiment found that job candidates whose previous employer went under received more sympathy. “What does allay people’s bias is some explicit indication that losing your job was not your fault — for example, that the company went bankrupt or suffered some specific setbacks that made layoffs inevitable,” Ho said.

This research just backs up what we already know is happening in real life: widespread discrimination against jobless people at a time when a lot of people are jobless. Staffing agencies even defend their discriminatory practices. Democrats have proposed a bill prohibiting discrimination against unemployed people, but with Republicans in control of the House, such legislation isn’t going anywhere.

This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on July 30, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

Making Health Care Reform Work: A Perspective from California Doctors

Friday, July 27th, 2012

kari-lydersenLOS ANGELES—At a conference convened by the organization Reporting on Health at the University of Southern California this week, doctors and health care experts shed light on labor-related aspects of the health care field as the sweeping health care reform legislation is set to take effect after being upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

They provided a window into the workplace stresses and challenges doctors themselves have faced in our tumultuous and trouble-plagued health care system, and also the health care needs and challenges of low-income workers.

Marcia Sablan, a doctor in the tiny northern California town of Firebaugh, embodies both of these narratives. Marcia is one of many doctors who depended on a federal program that helps people afford medical school in exchange for working in under-served rural districts. After her residency at the University of Hawaii, she was assigned to Firebaugh, in the agricultural valley of Fresno County, with a population then of just over 3,000. She was accompanied by her husband, also a doctor and the first native of Saipan to graduate from a U.S. medical school.

Panelists at the conference noted that such programs will be increasingly important if the government wants to encourage more doctors to go into general primary care rather than becoming specialists. Specialists make an estimated $3.5 million more over their lifetimes, yet there will be an estimated shortage of 30,000 primary care doctors in coming years especially as more people become insured under the new health care law.

Sablan arrived in Firebaugh in 1981 and eventually founded her own private practice there, where she primarily serves low-income Latino farmworkers, about half of them immigrants, including many uninsured people who may or may not end up insured under the health care bill reforms. Doctors and experts at the USC conference echoed the widespread concern that due to the way the health care reform bill and Supreme Court decision played out, people living under the poverty line may not get insurance under the new law. That’s because the insurance exchanges and subsidies the law mandates are designated for people who make more than the poverty line, while people making below the poverty line (including childless adults —a change from the past) are all supposed to be covered by Medicaid.

States are ordered to expand their Medicaid programs to cover people making up to 133 percent of the poverty line, but the mandate doesn’t have strong teeth since it is unclear if or how the federal government can punish states that don’t expand their Medicaid programs to cover the newly eligible people. Many states say they cannot afford their share of the expansion plus the extra costs expected when currently eligible but un-enrolled people “come out of the woodwork” thanks to the publicity around the reform law.

Sablan notes that she never asks her patients about immigration status—she is not required to under California’s Medicaid law—and she typically charges a $50 fee which most patients pay out of pocket.

“Undocumented workers know not to leave a trail, not to leave bills,” she said.

But when her patients need specialty care, the seasonal nature of farm work can cause serious problems. Many of them do have insurance during the months they are employed, but not during the off-months, she said. In her early years in Firebaugh, many of the locals were migrant workers living in labor camps who returned to Mexico or otherwise left Firebaugh for half the year. But the labor camps have been demolished and now many farmworkers have bought homes and live year-round in the town with their families, even as they continue to depend on seasonal agricultural wages. Hence an illness or injury that keeps them away from work for days or weeks during the crucial seasonal employment period is especially devastating financially.

“What does an agricultural-based seasonal economy mean to a doctor practicing there?” Sablan asked, noting that Firebaugh’s population now numbers 6,741: 88 percent Latino, 22 percent living below the poverty line, more than a third unemployed and almost two-thirds without a high school diploma. “It means people have insurance and Medi-Cal (California’s version of Medicaid) at certain seasons of the year. But we know diseases don’t work like that. So this is a huge problem for us—seasonal workers have a very difficult time keeping up with chronic diseases.”

From a health perspective, Sablan is glad to see the valley’s once-thriving cotton industry decline, she said, since it involves heavy pesticide use that raised serious health problems for workers and other residents. Once she treated victims of what was known as the worst pesticide-poisoning case in state history—28 workers critically poisoned after being ordered to return to a field too soon after it had been sprayed with phosphates. Now almonds and pistachios are the main crops in the area, grown mostly by huge industrial farms. (Meanwhile a sustainable cotton project has been in the works.)

Sablan hopes the health care reform law will indeed result in better preventative care for low-income and currently uninsured people. She cites the case of one patient, a 54-year-old farmworker who had a heart attack and was prescribed medication which, at $400 a week, he could never afford. Also suffering from diabetes and lacking medication, he eventually had another heart attack and ending up needing permanent dialysis by age 60.

“When you think about the Obama plan, think about [the farmworker] – do we want to be upstream or downstream?” in health care spending, she asked. “Someone paid for him to be in the hospital two times and on dialysis, which costs about a million dollars a year. He’s totally disabled now, unable to work, from what should have been a preventable situation.”

Despite such challenges, Sablan and her husband feel lucky to work in an environment where they have treated three generations of patients —it gives them a sense of personal connection and continuity that other doctors say they lack when forced to see up to 30 patients a day, in the common “fee for service” health care model.

Dr. Ken Kim described the challenges of working in a typical profit-driven, urban system. He and other internists were disgusted to see how badly many of their patients were faring under the standard health care model. He described multiple diabetic patients with legs amputated because they were shuffled between specialists, waiting for months for appointments, while a “pin-sized” wound became infected and festered. And he described elderly patients unable to comply with a doctor’s orders because they lacked a ride to the clinic or couldn’t open medicine bottles with arthritic hands or ate high-sodium meals as shut-ins. Doctors and nurses want to help such patients with personalized care, he indicated, but the fee-for-service model and other aspects of the traditional insurance system create so much time pressure that patients fall through the cracks.

So Kim and other doctors formed an “accountable care organization” (ACO) wherein insurance companies like Blue Cross pay the organization a flat fee to provide care for a certain group of the insurance companies’ enrollees. Kim said that after floundering at first, the company, CareMore, where he now serves as chief medical officer, was able to provide holistic, preventative care to a patient base of mostly ailing senior citizens by subverting the fee for service model, focusing on prevention and making sure the various nurses and doctors working with a given patient communicate and develop a cohesive plan. He said that under their organization rates of hospital readmissions, amputations, mortality and other indicators have decreased drastically. Many hope this type of accountable care organization will become more common under the health reform law.

While the general public is obviously confused about the implications of the health care reform bill, doctors and health care experts are also uncertain about how the law will play out and what it will mean for their own work lives and those of their patients.

This blog originally appeared in Working In These Times on July 26, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Kari Lydersen, an In These Times contributing editor, is a Chicago-based journalist writing for publications including The Washington Post, the Chicago Reader and The Progressive. Her most recent book is Revolt on Goose Island.

Corporation Pushes Six-Year Pay Freeze On Workers While Making Record Profits, Paying CEO $17 Million

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Image: Pat GarofaloBack in June, ThinkProgress noted that the manufacturing giant Caterpillar was seeking major concessions during contract negotiations with striking workers, even as it was making billions in profits and giving its CEO a 60 percent pay boost. The New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse added more details today, noting that the company wants to implement a six-year pay freeze and a pension freeze, at a time when it is making record profits:

Despite earning a record $4.9 billion profit last year and projecting even better results for 2012, the company is insisting on a six-year wage freeze and a pension freeze for most of the 780 production workers at its factory here. Caterpillar says it needs to keep its labor costs down to ensure its future competitiveness. [...]

Caterpillar, which has significantly raised its executives’ compensation because of its strong profits, defended its demands, saying many unionized workers were paid well above market rates.

“A company that earned a record $4.9 billion in 2011 and $1.586 billion in the first quarter of this year should be willing to help the workers who made those profits for them,” said Timothy O’Brien, president of Machinists Local Lodge 851. “Caterpillar believes in helping the very rich, but what they’re doing would help eliminate the middle class.” Several labor experts told the Times that Caterpillar is a pioneer in tough labor negotiations meant to drive down workers’ wages.

Last year, Caterpillar’s CEO made nearly $17 million in total compensation. At the moment in the U.S., the typical worker would have to work 244 years in order to earn what the average CEO makes in one year.

This blog originally appeared in Think Progress on July 23, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Pat Garofalo is Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Pat’s work has also appeared in The Nation, U.S. News & World Report, The Guardian, the Washington Examiner, and In These Times. He has been a guest on MSNBC and Al-Jazeera television, as well as many radio shows. Pat graduated from Brandeis University, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Brandeis Hoot, Brandeis’ community newspaper, and worked for the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.

10 Facts About the Minimum Wage

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Jackie TortoraToday marks the third year minimum wage workers haven’t seen a raise. While the price of just about everything else has skyrocketed (milk, eggs, health care, college), full-time minimum wage workers are barely making more than $15,000 a year.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) is encouraging workers, advocates and community members to take action today by rallying to support a minimum wage increase. Events are taking place all over the country, and NELP has an online petition you can sign here.

Here are 10 facts you need to know from NELP about the minimum wage:

$10.55
How much the federal minimum wage would be if it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years. Instead, it’s $7.25. Learn more.

$15,080
The annual income for a full-time employee working the entire year at the federal minimum wage.

0
The number of states where a minimum wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment working a 40-hour week. Learn more.

3
The number of times Congress passed legislation to increase the minimum wage in the past 30 years.

19
The number of states (including the District of Columbia) that have raised their minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25.

10
The number of states that annually increase their state minimum to keep up with the rising cost of living.

67
The percentage of Americans who support gradually raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to at least $10.00 an hour, according to an October 2010 poll.

64 in 100 vs. 4 in 100
What are the chances an adult minimum wage worker is a woman vs. the chances a Fortune 500 CEO is a woman? Learn more.

76
The percentage of Missouri voters that voted to increase and index the Missouri minimum wage in the 2006 ballot initiative.

$2.13
The federal minimum wage for tipped employees, such as waiters and waitresses, nail salon workers or parking attendants.

Learn more about the National Day of Action to Raise the Minimum Wage here.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on July 24, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jackie Tortora recently joined the AFL-CIO as the blog/social Media editor. Before that, she was a Social Security and Medicare advocate for a national seniors’ organization.

Paid-Sick-Leave Fight Escalates in New York City, Expands Across the Nation

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

eidelson-headshotNEW YORK CITY—Flanked by a hundred-some supporters at a press conference on Wednesday, labor leaders and feminist activists announced a new initiative to push a longtime goal: passage of a citywide paid-sick-leave mandate. Wednesday’s event, held at noon on the steps of City Hall, marked supporters’ latest effort to move City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who will decide the bill’s fate. It comes amid increased organized labor support for similar campaigns around the country—including a recently announced effort in Portland.

All eyes are on Quinn because the law is already backed by a large enough majority of the council to pass and override a promised veto by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The question is whether Quinn will allow the bill to come up for a vote. As I’ve reported for Working In These Times, paid sick leave poses a crucial test for Quinn, a former liberal activist now viewed as the candidate of the city’s business establishment, and Bloomberg’s heir apparent.

Rev. Jennifer Kottler opened the rally with a prayer asking, “Oh holy one…please temper [Quinn’s] strength with compassion and justice so that she is moved to do the right thing…Give her the courage to do what is right.” Rhonda Nelson, the Chair of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Women’s Network, said that Speaker Quinn “has been a champion for women who work in supermarkets across this great city. … Today we ask her to continue to fight for fairness for supermarket workers and the thousands of other workers in this great city who need paid-sick-leave legislation.”

In 2010, Quinn stymied a stronger paid-sick-leave bill by preventing a vote. At the time, Quinn said she supported the goal but had to “help small business stay alive in a fragile economy.” By winter, Quinn will have to disappoint a constituency whose support she’s counting on in next year’s election: either liberals or the business lobby.

Wednesday’s rally marked the launch of a new Women for Paid Sick Days Initiative. Ai-Jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, emceed the event, which drew contingents from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Restaurant Opportunities Center, Make the Road New York and other organizations. Restaurant worker Ai Elo, restaurant owner Barbara Sibley and Gay Men’s Health Crisis head Marjorie Hill all spoke at the event, amidst signs reading, “Here are the Germs You Ordered” and “Our Health = Clean Food.”

In an e-mail to The New York Times this week, Quinn maintained her opposition. Echoing her past comments, Quinn said that she supported the goal, but “with the current state of the economy and so many businesses struggling to stay alive, I do not believe it would be wise to implement this policy, in this way, at this time.” Quinn also wrote, “I stand by the commitment I made more than a year ago—to continue to meet and discuss the legislation, in the context of the evolving economy, with council leaders” and supporters. Quinn’s comments came in the Times’ report on a letter from 200 prominent women calling for the speaker to allow a vote. Signatories included current and former New York politicians, union leaders and feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

“I challenge these celebrities,” Manhattan Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Ploeger told Crain’s New York Business. “What do these women really know about running a small business and what the costs of this bill will be?”

The Times noted that Steinem had introduced Quinn at a fall fundraiser, but reported that in an e-mail to the paper, “Steinem said that before she gave her support to Ms. Quinn, she had told her that it was conditional on Ms. Quinn’s bringing the paid-sick-day bill to a vote.” Steinem told the Times that Quinn had told her that “discussions were under way about the size of businesses to be covered.”

“Everyday people want to see that they can both care for their families and keep their jobs,” says Carol Joyner, the national policy director for the Labor Project for Working Families. By not calling the vote, she notes, “Chris Quinn is standing between a healthy workforce…and the will of the people.”

In 2007, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to pass a law requiring most employers to provide paid sick leave to employees. As I’ve reported, paid sick days laws have since passed citywide in San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC, and statewide in Connecticut. A ballot initiative failed in Denver. Philadelphia Mayor Nutter vetoed a paid sick days bill but subsequently allowed a narrower one covering city contractors and subsidized companies to pass. Milwaukee passed a law, but it was over-ridden by a state law signed by Governor Scott Walker. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal similarly signed a law preemptively barring cities from mandating paid sick leave. Along with New York City, campaigns are underway for bills covering Orange County, the state of Massachusetts and now the city of Portland.

Joyner says that what last year was “a group of different campaigns” is now “becoming a movement. There have been some wins along the win, some losses – losses we have learned from. There’s a growing momentum.”

“Over the last year the engagement of labor has been ratcheted up,” Joyner adds. “Some of the larger international unions have been paying closer attention to the issue…we’ve seen a dramatic increase in unions getting involved in this issue on a state and a local level.”

Joyner also cites the prominent role of labor leaders, including AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry, at a national paid sick leave summit this month. She says that “real heavy-hitters who always have been supportive” are now “speaking up publicly and saying these are issues that the labor movement has to take on, so that everyone can have a minimum standard.”

“Most of the hard-working men and women that we represent get paid sick leave as part of their negotiated contracts,” SEIU District 1199 Secretary-Treasurer Maria Castaneda told the crowd Wednesday. “But we believe that workers deserve a paid day off to care for their self or their loved one, without the risk of losing wages or being terminated. Paid sick days should be a basic workplace standard for all New Yorkers.” UFCW’s Nelson also noted that most of her union’s members have paid sick leave, but said, “All these other employers that do not provide paid sick days are trying to drag the responsible employers and their workers down into the gutter, where profit matters more than fairness.”

Paid sick leave has also become a focus for some chapters of Working America, the AFL-CIO affiliate for non-union workers. Tara Murphy, a senior member coordinator in Portland, says that Working America canvassers have collected 2,000 letters to the city’s mayor and city council calling for a bill.

“Working families are saying to our organizers that this something that they really need right now,” Murphy says. The coalition backing a bill includes several local unions and the state Working Families Party. According to Murphy, organizers had originally hoped to push for an August vote, but may need to wait until just after the November election. “We’re hoping to get this done sooner rather than later,” she adds. “People really can’t wait any longer.”

This blog originally appeared in Working In These Times on July 23, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Josh Eidelson is a freelance writer and a contributor at In These Times, The American Prospect, Dissent, and Alternet. After receiving his MA in Political Science, he worked as a union organizer for five years. His website is http://www.josheidelson.com.

Profile of Minimum Wage Workers Isn’t What You Think

Monday, July 23rd, 2012
Credit: Joe Kekeris

Credit: Joe Kekeris

Opponents of increasing the nation’s minimum wage always fall back on the argument that it doesn’t need to be raised because it’s mostly teenagers working part-time for extra pocket money who are getting that hourly figure (which right now is $7.25).

A new study shows that stereotype isn’t true. In fact, the majority of minimum wage workers have completed some college, live in families making less than $40,000 a year and so are contributing to the family income, and are working full-time.

Economic Policy Institute (EPI) economist Doug Hall blows up the myths behind the minimum wage at EPI’s Working Economics blog, where he also shows that the vast majority of minimum wage earners are white and only 15 percent are part-time workers.

Hall argues that now is the ideal time for Congress to raise the minimum wage.

As my colleague David Cooper wrote in April, increasing the federal minimum wage to $9.80 by July 1, 2014, would benefit more than 28 million workers and increase national GDP by over $25 million, in the process creating more than 100,000 jobs. Given the lackluster recovery that continues to cast a pall over the nation, this positive step should be embraced by all those who care about the well-being of working families.

Minimum-Wage-Workers-Aren-t-Part-Time-TeensHall writes that Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin (D) introduced the Rebuild America Act, a bill that contains important provisions to strengthen the economy and improve the well-being of working Americans.

Among the many worthy elements of this bill is a proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $9.80 by July 1, 2014.

Next week marks the third year since the federal minimum wage was increased. But it’s a good bet for many members of Congress, the only way they would raise the minimum wage is if they actually had to live on $7.25 an hour.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) just released a new report that also provides unexpected facts about minimum wage workers, including the fact that the majority (66 percent) of low-wage workers are not employed by small businesses, but rather by large corporations with more than 100 employees. Read the report summary here.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on July 20, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee they were represented by a hotel and restaurant local union (the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism (covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia) she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.

Volatility is the Word for It: First-Time Enemployment Claims Jump to 386,000

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Laura ClawsonFirst-time unemployment claims jumped to 386,000 from last week’s revised total of 352,000, the Department of Labor reports. Last week, first-time claims were initially reported at 350,000, the lowest since March 2008. However, analysts cautioned that the drop was likely a result, at least in part, of auto manufacturers not shutting down as many plants as they usually do at this time of year; seasonal adjustments to the jobless claims numbers were thrown off by that.

The four-week moving average, a measure preferred because it reduces volatility, was 375,500. This is a drop of 1,500 from the previous week’s revised figure of 377,000. Volatility as a result of the auto industry’s summer shutdowns, however reduced they are this year, is expected to continue making it difficult to suggest any trends in the labor market.

For all unemployment benefit programs, including federal emergency extensions, the total number of people claiming benefits for the week ending June 30 was 5,752,116, a decrease of 121,985 from the previous week. This number is dropping in part because people are exhausting their eligibility for weeks of benefits being reduced by Congress and some states.

Chart showing weekly initial unemployment claims from 2007 through the present.

(The Maddow Blog)

This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on July 19, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

Scranton Firefighters Risking Lives for Minimum Wage

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
Credit: Joe Kekeris

Credit: Joe Kekeris

When you think of minimum wage workers, it’s a good bet firefighters don’t come to mind.

Yet in Scranton, Pa., firefighters are risking their lives rushing into burning buildings, all for $7.25 an hour.

A fight between Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty and the City Council over the city budget has resulted in a pay slash for all 400 city employees—including police officers and firefighters—to the minimum wage.

Firefighter Andy Polansky tells Current.com he and his wife don’t live beyond their means. Their only luxury? Putting their two kids in day care.

Polansky says:

With the $7.25 an hour it makes it questionable to put them in day care. Putting them in day care is $70 a day, which means I work 10 hours before I can start paying other bills. We will cut back on everything we can, but we live a fairly simple lifestyle, so there isn’t much to cut from.

Trying to live—indefinitely—on up to 75 percent less pay means using up all your savings to pay bills, says firefighter John Judge, president of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 60.

We can’t keep going back to the bank for a loan. When I tell them I make $7.25 an hour, they’re not going to give me a loan.

Doherty and Council President Janet Evans say they’re trying to reach a deal by an Aug. 1 deadline set to get $2.25 million in financial assistance offered by the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development.

Until then, firefighters and other public employees are sinking into debt for doing their jobs.

This blog originally appeared on AFL-CIO Now on July 18, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee they were represented by a hotel and restaurant local union (the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism (covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia) she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.

Your applications go unanswered because 'job creators' aren't really trying to fill job openings

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Laura ClawsonThe business owner’s version of “the dog ate my homework” these days is “we’re not hiring because we can’t find workers with the skills we need.” Various business lobby groups like the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Association of Manufacturers are pushing that line hard, trying to pin continuing high unemployment on the alleged suckitude of American workers and justify continuing to refer to themselves as job creators even as they create damn few actual jobs. But the facts just don’t support it.

Mike Konczal rounds up research showing that job recruitment intensity on the part of businesses is low. During the recession, businesses didn’t have to try much at all to get a slew of ridiculously overqualified applicants for any job, and they got used to that. Now that things are picking up a little, employers are still spoiled, expecting to be able to snap their fingers and get what they want. And if that’s not the way it works out, they’re content to just sit around waiting and lamenting the lack of qualified applicants, rather than actually making an effort to recruit workers:

What does it mean for recruitment intensity to fall? This recruitment intensity, according to the research, “is shorthand for the other instruments employers use to influence the pace of new hires – e.g., advertising expenditures, screening methods, hiring standards, and the attractiveness of compensation packages. These instruments affect the number and quality of applicants per vacancy, the speed of applicant processing, and the acceptance rate of job offers.” This margin for trying to fill jobs is ignored, or assumed away, in most of the major economic models of unemployment and hiring.

So basically, it’s like this: business puts up a couple halfhearted ads offering $10 an hour and no benefits for a job requiring substantial skill and training, then waits for the applications to pour in. Only now, there are some applications but not thousands of desperate people begging for the job. The business takes its sweet time looking through those applications and getting back to people, some of whom may by now have found equivalently good jobs. Business then complains to reporters that there just aren’t enough qualified applicants for the jobs it’s trying so hard to fill. Reporter dutifully publishes article blaming unemployment on unemployed people.

Meanwhile, people who really do need jobs are left hanging, waiting for interviews, waiting to hear about jobs for which they’ve interviewed, wondering why the jobs that are out there pay so little considering the qualifications required. They’re waiting, struggling, hoping to hear. But the owners of the companies are too busy explaining that their homework was eaten by dogs to actually hire anyone.

This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on July 17, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

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