Why a Good Plumber Is Getting as Hard to Find as a Tenure-Track Position

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

We have all noticed how hard it is to find a reputable electrician or plumber. But almost no one ever asks, never mind addresses, why this shortage has developed.

The major reason that so few people are going into the trades is that, more often than not, doing so leads to just another kind of low-wage job.

Operating a small business as an independent contractor requires substantial operating monies up front, which completely eliminates it as a possibility for most young people from working-class, never mind even more economically disadvantaged, backgrounds. Such a business is also very difficult to sustain. To have any chance of succeeding in such a business, one needs not only vocational certification in the trade but also at least an associates degree in business. Because the demand for services always fluctuates, one inevitably needs at least a partner, if not employees, the cost of which will…

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A Posthumous Honor for Ted Kennedy for His Support of Labor

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez,
Induction of Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Into the Department of Labor Hall of Honor
Washington, D.C.,
March 12, 2015

[as prepared for delivery]

Thank you, Chris. Mrs. Kennedy, Teddy, Patrick, Secretary Brock, Secretary Herman, friends, colleagues, thank you so much for joining us today.

I looked it up, and in the history of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the all-time top vote-getter is Tom Seaver with 98.8 percent. With all due respect, I believe that Senator Kennedy was an even more effective advocate for workers than Mr. Seaver was a pitcher. And so I’m proud to say that we’re inducting him today thanks to a 100 percent unanimous vote.

It’s wonderful to look out into this audience and see so many old friends and familiar faces. The Kennedy diaspora is out in full force, that’s for sure. Just about everyone who…

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For All of Its Flaws, NAFTA Was Not Negotiated with This Level of Secrecy

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

The item below is from the Campaign for America’s Future. It is re-posted with the permission of its Co-Director, Roger Hickey.

The item provides a succinct description of how the agreement is being shaped to corporate priorities.

Although it does not address the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on academic institutions both here and abroad, higher education is becoming a major priority and, increasingly, “big business” in the nations of East Asia.

So, given the increasing corporatization of our institutions, the escalating efforts to privatize public education in the U.S., the relentless insistence that technology can be used to cut instructional allocations even farther than they have already been cut, and the concerns about the higher-ed-related provisions in the revised GATT agreements, it is difficult to imagine that this deal is going to be a largely good thing for higher education, either here or elsewhere.


The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)…

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The Numbers Support Patricia Arquette, Not Her Critics (And They Indicate a Truth about “Right to Work” as Well)

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Patricia Arquette is being slammed from both the Left and the Right for her comments during and after her acceptance speech for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

From the Left, the criticism has come largely from other disadvantaged groups who feel that her focus was too narrowly on women’s issues, especially in a year in which the nominees for the Academy Awards included almost no people of color.

But from the Right, the criticism was directed more at the basic validity of what she was saying. An item in the Los Angeles Times includes this illustration of that criticism: “On “Fox & Friends” on Monday morning, the actress and pundit Stacey Dash slammed Arquette for the issue, saying she was ‘appalled’ by the moment and admonished her for not ‘do[ing] her history’ on the 1963 Equal Pay Act.’” [The full article is available at: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-oscars-patricia-arquette-speech-equal-pay-20150223-story.html

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Major Attack on Public-Employee Unions in Illinois

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

The recently inaugurated Republican governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, has signed an executive order banning public-employee unions from collecting fair-share contributions from those employees who choose not to belong to the unions that represent them.

I very recently did a post on the very skewed logic behind “right to work” legislation—see http://academeblog.org/2015/02/07/right-to-work-provides-workers-with-many-rights/

Rauner, previously the CEO of a private-equity firm, would like to see Illinois become a “right to work” state and has advocated that local communities pass right-to-work ordinances that apply all public and private unions since the Democratic control of both houses of the legislature makes the passage of such legislation seemingly impossible on a statewide level.

Rauner has presented three main arguments for imposition of “right to work,” all of which have become as commonplace as they are misleading.

The first of Rauner’s arguments is that workers should not have to be represented by unions to which…

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“Right to Work” Provides Workers with Many Rights

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

“Right to work” provides workers on the losing side in a vote to unionize a workplace with the right to decide that the results of that democratic vote do not apply to them.

“Right to work” provides workers with the right to benefit from unions to which they do not pay any dues.

“Right to work” provides workers in a unionized workplace with the right to receive the same negotiated wage increases and benefits as their colleagues who are paying union dues.

“Right to work” provides workers in a unionized workplace with the right to receive the same protections, grievance rights, and union representation as their colleagues who are paying union dues.

“Right to work” provides workers in a unionized workplace with the right to sue the union for inadequate representation even if they have refused to pay dues to that union.

“Right to work” provides individual workers with the…

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When Truthful Answers Are So Very Hard to Find

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

I received this somewhat lengthy item in my e-mail this evening; perhaps financial desperation is making people more amenable to reading the longer pieces that we have been repeatedly warned that no one bothers to read anymore:

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First, I am shocked that according to Moneynews.com, one-third of Baby Boomers will survive retirement. I am not sure what post-retirement life involves, but I am very interested in exploring the options, on the off-chance that my “clean living” doesn’t cut short my life prematurely.

Second, this sort of e-mail has actually become very commonplace among Far-Right media sources. Apparently, amid all the reports of the manifold ways in which President Obama is subverting the Constitution, conniving to eliminate the rights of real Americans, clandestinely imposing Sharia Law, and setting the stage for his political opponents to be eliminated by plagues, by terrorists, and by rampaging mobs of lawless illegal immigrants and…

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The Pie Is Getting Bigger . . . American Workers Helped Bake It . . . But Most of Them Aren’t Getting a Bigger Slice

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Remarks By 
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez,
AFL-CIO National Summit on Raising Wages,
Washington, D.C.,
January 7, 2015

[as prepared for delivery]

Good morning brothers and sisters! MaryBe, thank you so much for that generous introduction—and more importantly for your great work and leadership in North Carolina. Thank you, Rich Trumka, for this opportunity—and for your remarkable, unflinching devotion every single day to the interests of working families.

I’m honored to start the new year with all of you, with so many of the nation’s most passionate champions for economic justice and the dignity of work. And I’m especially pleased to talk about an issue that I believe represents the unfinished business of this recovery and one of the most urgent challenges facing the nation.

The Recovery

But I want to start today by pulling back for a wide shot. You can’t fully understand today’s economy without…

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Like It or Not, We Are All in This Together

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

On December 12, Myles Udland reported the following in an article for Business Insider:

“Consumer confidence is at an almost 8-year high.

“On Friday, the University of Michigan’s preliminary consumer confidence reading for December came in at 93.8, the best reading since January 2007 and a complete blowout of expectations.

“According to Paul Dales at Capital Economics, this data coupled with Thursday’s strong retail sales report indicates that we are looking at the best holiday shopping season in nine years.

“And there’s a big reason why: confidence among the lowest wage earners is roaring higher.

“In an email on Friday, Deutsche Bank economist Torsten Slok circulated the following chart showing that confidence among those in the bottom tercile of household incomes—the lowest third of households — surged to the highest since 2005.

“This is a far larger increase in confidence that the headline reading, and Slok attributed this…

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On This Labor Day

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Here are two items related to Labor Day that I thought might be of interest.

The first article is from Diane Ravitch’s blog and titled “Labor Day 2014.” Here is the opening of that post:

“I recently saw photographs of John F. Kennedy giving a Labor Day speech in New York City during his Presidential campaign in 1960. He spoke in the center of the Garment District, on the west side of Manhattan. He spoke to tens of thousands of garment workers. Today, the Garment District has been replaced by luxury high-rise residences. Following NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), the garment industry went to low-wage, non-union countries. The garment industry has few workers and no political power. The number of union members across the nation has dropped precipitously. The largest unions are public sector workers–especially, teachers–and they are under attack, as rightwing foundations, billionaires, and their favorite think…

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