Sunday, February 17, 2019

See US Labor market from bottom up -- a syllogism in four parts

If America’s highest labor costs firms (low pay type – not medical) could afford to fork over $15/hr wages (practical example: fast food with 25% labor costs -- $15/hr minimum wage would pump prices about 10% in Chicago where I live – but gotta eat)
 -- and --
if no more than 10% of US labor force works for such highest labor costs businesses (I’d hazard a guess, substantially fewer)
-- and --
if 40% of US workers presently earn less than $15/hr (most, substantially less)
-- then --
at least 30% of our workforce (for sure, substantially more) are receiving punishingly lower wages than consumers would willingly support, were employees able to (collectively) withhold their labor for a better price.

Remedies for long (illegally) lost bargaining power?

EITC: Shifts 2% of overall income ($70 billion out of $13 trillion) while 40% or our workforce earns 11% of overall income ($1.4 trillion).

Minimum wage(s): If Americans of 1968 could have been foretold that the 2019 fed min wage would be shorter by $5/hr ($12/hr then), what catastrophe could they have conjured up that could lay such waste to future incomes (doubling per capita expected over 50 years, since the industrial revolution): a comet strike, a limited nuclear exchange, multiple world plagues?!   :-O

(Relatively) strong labor state, Illinois, just raised min wage to $15/hr by 2025.  AP report projects inflation to reduce to $13/hr.

Restoring (ever diminishing) labor union density (under 7% private now): One stop shopping: 
Why Not Hold Union Representation Elections on a Regular Schedule?  Andrew Strom — November 1st, 2017

"Republicans in Congress have already proposed a bill that would require a new election in each [private employer] unionized bargaining unit whenever, through turnover, expansion, or merger, a unit experiences at least 50 percent turnover.  While no union would be happy about expending limited resources on regular retention elections, I think it would be hard to turn down a trade that would allow the 93% of workers who are unrepresented to have a chance to opt for unionization on a regular schedule."

It only dawned on me while writing this, why Strom’s eminently sensible union certifying proposal – politically perfect, too, for repatriating prodigal blue collar Dems – failed to gain any traction.  Progressives have been looking at this whole inequality thing from the middle class, down – from top, down – where lost collective bargaining power appears but one component in a complex narrative.  Looking from bottom up, the story couldn’t look plainer and simpler, from McDonald’s (25% labor costs) to Target (15%) to Walmart (7%): zero haggling power.

40% -- 50%, 60%, 70% (?) – of our workforce unconscionably underpaid; that’s a helluva bottom.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Why the minimum wage must always be too minimal

It came to me, while eating at McDonald's, that the minimum wage can never be pushed higher than highest labor costs businesses can pay -- like McDonald's.  Meaning the minimum wage can never squeeze out all the pay that lower labor costs businesses can possibly pay -- like Walgreen's, Target or especially Walmart.  Like almost everywhere else.

McDonald's has 25% labor costs;
Walgreen's and Target have 15% labor costs;
Walmart has only 7% labor costs.

If Ronald can pay $15 an hour, then;
big retail stores could pay $20 an hour;
and super efficient Walmart should be able to pay $25 an hour.

Unions are the only way back and here is the only way back to unions that I've ever heard of:
Why Not Hold Union Representation Elections on a Regular Schedule?
Andrew Strom — November 1st, 2017
“Republicans in Congress have already proposed a bill that would require a new election in each [private employer] unionized bargaining unit whenever, through turnover, expansion, or merger, a unit experiences at least 50 percent turnover. While no union would be happy about expending limited resources on regular retention elections, I think it would be hard to turn down a trade that would allow the 93% of workers who are unrepresented to have a chance to opt for unionization on a regular schedule.”

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Where 10% income shift from 1% to 99% could come from

To restore equitable US income share, 10% of overall income needs to be snatched away from top 1% earners and restored to the lower 99% (1% takes 20% today): $13 trillion over a decade.

Jeff Stein's Washington Post column suggests a road to half way there:
"1. $720 billion/decade: Ocasio-Cortez’s suggestion for nearly doubling taxes on people earning more than $10 million;"
"2. $3 trillion/decade: A wealth tax on the top 1 percent similar to those in Europe;"
"3. $3 trillion/decade: Doubling income taxes on the top 1 percent."  (multiple angles)

The other half of the lost 10% could be repatriateable via repairing atrophied labor union density (6.5% in private employment and dropping!) -- empowering employees to once again divvy up a decent share of the profit pie with ownership.  Illegal (in case we've forgotten) union busting has become so deeply embedded in our (not European) labor market DNA that we seem compelled to skip -- to forget about -- old fashioned organizing.  The road left: side-step to Congressionally mandated, regularly scheduled union certification elections?

 * * * * * *
[late note]  Constitutional question about fed tax on wealth?  Apparently we can get pretty much the same 2% of wealth revenue from roughly the same people with an income tax surcharge of 20% on income above $50 million.  Income tends to be pretty regularly 10% of wealth for this group.  (graph provided)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Gila Monster versus The Gilead Monster

Halting or seriously slowing the until now inexorable progression of Parkinson's disease may hopefully be in the offing.  Two  trials -- phase one, open label (2013) and phase two, double blind (2017) -- found no worsening of motor ability after one year for treated groups.

The potentially Parkinson's stabilizing drug, Exenatide (Byetta, Bydureon), along with similar GLP-1 drugs, has been widely used for managing Type II diabetes.  For diabetics, Exenatide increases insulin and cuts glucose proportionately to how much they eat (the smart drug) and slows digestion -- mimicking a hormone already existing in their bloodstreams (therefore tending to few side effects) but lasting hours or days instead of minutes.  And as the TV commercials say: they might even lose a little weight.

My personal experience with Byetta and Bydureon was losing 50 pounds in 50 weeks without effort -- needed to lose 100 -- keeping my A1C (blood sugar) level at 5.7 (very good) and, after five years, going into remission.  The latter is relatively unusual.

Exenatide was developed in the Bronx VA, by endocrinologist Dr. John Eng. The story of how he extracted the possibly twice-useful molecule from the saliva of a Gila monster (pronounced "Hila") is here:

Beautiful blow-up of a fat Gila monster pictured here:

Two miracles for the price of one.
  * * * * * *

From Gila Monster to Gilead monster: whence through the roof pricing of another miracle drug has a less happy ending.  Harvoni (Sovaldi + laedipasvir), a 95-99% cure for Hepatitis C, is kept out of patient circulation for all but the most sick by piratical pricing: starting out at $94,000 for a 12 week treatment -- that costs a few hundred dollars to manufacture -- dropping off maybe half as copy cat competition looms.

Sovaldi was developed by VA endocrinologist, Dr. Raymond Schinazi, working in labs of his own company that he founded, Pharmasset.  Dr. Schinazi had previously developed two front line HIV drugs, lamivudine and emtricitabine, in VA labs, one or the other of which is found in 90% of the combination anti-viral regimens taken by US HIV patients.

Dr. Schinazi worked on salary while leading the research on the two (unpronounceable) HVC prescriptions but profited $446 million (!) on Sovaldi, when his own firm was bought for $11 billion by Gilead.  He proclaims: "There is nothing better than saving lives."  He would exercise his genius for public or private coin.  He says he has nothing to do with Gilead's pricing.

Some least developed countries (LDCs) exercise TRIPS treaty rights to suspend patents in the face of widespread epidemics, such as AIDS or just plain critical public health needs and the impossibility of paying high patent premiums.  This practice is called "compulsory licensing."

Though not many countries have exercised this option with not many drugs -- South Africa, Brazil, Thailand (in 2007 for HIV, cancer, cardio), Ecuador, Indonesia -- so far, the US has not condoned a single instance.

US drug monopolies add up to tariffs for other countries -- and at 1,000 percent or 10,000 percent rates, not 25 percent.  In India Gilead prices Harvoni at just $999 a treatment --  perhaps afraid of what India might do if it tried to price it sky high. 
 * * * * * *

If India and or China (not a compulsory licensing issuer) or any group of countries would like to break American drug monopolies they can simply offer the American public the medicine to wipe out Hep C in a single stroke for a miserly $1 billion (earning themselves a nice hundreds of millions manufacturing profit, assuming similar production costs) -- but US drug patent laws would have to double-reverse their incentives to make it legal to accept the $299 billion saving, and miss out on the years of needlessly spreading disease.

One (of many?) possible revamps: replace US drug patent structure with government funded research on drugs and medical devices -- all new drugs becoming generic.  For already patented drugs, erect a regulated monopoly system similar to electric power distribution models.  Harvoni, for example, having long since paid off Gilead's (not very chancy) $11 billion dollar gamble could be immediately designated generic.

Secretive patent competition slows proliferation of new scientific knowledge -- leads to copy-cat research displacing real pioneering -- or to no effort at all to repurpose existing treatments as patent incentives run down and out.

The Phase Two Parkinson's trial was paid for by the Michael J. Fox Foundation -- AztraZeneca not being particularly interested as its patent was running down.  An effort is now being mounted to support a phase three trial which could lead to connecting this life liberating research with all Parkinson's sufferers.

"Taxpayers — not Big Pharma — have funded the research behind every new drug since 2010"  --   Alexander Zaitchik

Today the US government funds over $25 billion a year worth of drug research.  Private pharmaceutical firms puts up $50 billion.  Big pharma spends more on advertising than research -- justifying even higher prices to supply "incentive?" 

How could American politicians explain not taking an offer to one-shot, wipe out Hepatitis C, for a pittance (that it should cost here)?  Would Americans willing face paying Gilead and copy cats $10+ billion a year waiting out patent runs -- as more sufferers come down with Hepatitis and 20,000 a year die -- when there's something they can do about it?

Dr. Schinazi, whose family hails from Egypt says, "Today they have cured HVC from over 600,000 people using generic and proprietary drugs in Egypt; they are relatively cheap but in those days it was life and death. Everybody wanted that drug, the people lined up for miles trying to get it. Every family in Egypt was affected."

This could be a first-world story too.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Elizabeth Warren water balloons Fifth Avenue?

Donald Trump bragged he could go out on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any supporters.  Normal political humans, conversely, often have elections pulled out from under them over  some last minute revelations of fairly peripheral interest: Gary Hart having a girlfriend (aah!) to Hillary’s irresponsible email practices (ooh!).

President Trump now talks to the world on an unsecured cell phone – laughs off sex assault allegations.  Smoked but did not inhale: not his style.  Are these upside down politic outcomes due to differences in candidates – or differences in issues?
Ben Bradlee Jr.’s book The Forgotten, portrays the discontented Democrats’ decisive issues as: alienation, alienation, alienation.

Somebody needs to tell “the forgotten” (and everybody else) that even if their Donald were constructed of kind hearted presidential timber (even if he were another honest Abe) he could not turn their fortunes around as long as America remains denuded of labor unions.

I’ve been yelling lately for federally mandated union certification elections at every private (non-gov) workplace – one, three or five year cycles; local plurality rules.  (not my idea)

Been hollering that once routine labor organizing efforts are dead – forever – in the only modern economy I know of where employers are capable of (illegally) squashing every unionizing effort.  And have been pursuing that wholeheartedly for two generations -- to the point only the most militant or naturally robust 6% of American private employees remain union members.

Blockading labor union formation has become an inseparable part of our labor market DNA (our economic retrovirus).  Even if US law got around to making union busting a felony (not required in any other modern economy) and even if we hired (tens of) thousands of enforcement agents, anti-union employers could just laugh it all off.  What is the government going to do, lock up millions of owners and managers – the entrepreneurial heart of our economy?

I thought I had the killer economic argument for mandated union elections there.  I thought the killer political lock was that any proposal that tries to so deeply re-shape politics and economics could not be bumped aside by the latest over blown episode (think “George W. Bush regrets driving under the influence of alcohol 24 years ago.” WashPost; Nov. 3, 2000).

The (hopefully) killer insight of this essay is that Donald Trump got there first – on alienation, alienation, alienation – but Democrats can get there bestest, with the genuine mostest.

According to NY Times Nate Cohn: “[Mr. Obama] would have won Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin each time even if Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee had been severed from their states and cast adrift into the Great Lakes.”  Talking 2012 election v. Wall Street Romney -- same story 2008, v. blue collar McCain.  Mssrs Gephart and Dukakis took a nosedive in 1988 Michigan under Jesse Jackson’s 54%.

Offer “the forgotten” (and everybody else) non-subliminal, consciously directed relief to the specific roots of their powerlessness and Elizabeth Warren can water balloon folks on Fifth Avenue all day long and not lose a single vote.  :-O

Friday, September 14, 2018

Gov. Walker (partly) confused about Medicaid expansion?

Psychologists (and economists) tell us we feel twice as bad about losing $100 we had – than we feel good about finding $100 we didn’t have – even though the economic equation is exactly the same.

A similar psychological puzzlement may underlie 19 Republican governors’ refusal to accept Medicaid expansion – even though the Medicaid will put up $9 for every $1 states pony up for low income health coverage; or I should say $900 million for every $100 million.

Suppose the fed gov were someway able to penalize states $900 million for every $100 million the states did not pay in for low income health care or any other worthy enterprise – what governor, Republican or otherwise, would not come up with the pump primer?  Exact same equation … except Medicaid takes taxes the $900 million first and tries to hand it back later … exact.

Many or (more likely) most of those uninsured patients are going to show up in somebody’s medical offices and hospitals anyway (many by then sicker, requiring even more care) – ultimately uploading their costs into private insurance premiums and local gov spending -- at 100% share of costs.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is perhaps partly confused: keyhole-focused on the portion of every $100 million Wisconsin saves by keeping Medicaid income requirements higher than federal standards allow – all the while not accounting (what many Repubs seem to need are accountants) for the state losing exactly the same portion of the $900 million.

Almost forgot: aren’t those Repub govs forever hollering how tax cuts will pump their economies (not true if that just diverts purchasing power from public to private choices – true in recession)?  Wouldn’t dumping $900 million extra purchasing power into their states truly expand their economies -- or not shrink them?
Almost forgot: a billion dollars will cover health care for something like 140,000 needy patients for a year.  Almost forgot.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

US labor organizing declared dead -- skip that part

Quick reset of the American labor market:

FIRST, recognize that old fashioned union organizing as we knew it may safely be declared dead (forever!) in this country.  Even if we now make union busting a fed felony and hire (tens of?) thousands of fed investigators, what's to keep millions of business owners and managers from laughing it off, asking: "What are you going to do, lock up all the business know how of the country?"

SECOND, observe Repub: H.R.2723 (115th Congress) -- Employee Rights Act
"(2) require union recertification after a turnover in the workforce exceeding 50% of the bargaining unit"

THIRD, think blue wave Dem modification: H.R.2723 (1/2) -- 116th Congress -- All Employees Rights Act
"(1) Require union cert/recert/decert elections at all private workplaces -- option for one, three or five year cycles, local plurality rules."
  *  *  *  *  *  *

Remember; all those blue collar, swing states that have swung supposedly irretrievably into the Republican column voted for Obama -- not just over Wall Street Romney in 2012 -- but over Viet war hero, half-sensible Republican John McCain in 2008.  Looking for someone thought might finally hear out their complaints (no joy)

 (late note: just learned Jesse Jackson won 1988 Dem primary in Michigan with 54% over both Dem rivals, Dukakis and Gephardt)

Promise their own econ and pol power back any time they want to vote to cert and they can easily be persuaded to return to the party of their long belonging.

Quick debunk of neoliberal (or any) econ ideology:
The gears of the economic engine are all trying to take the vehicle in their own direction -- unlike the gears in your drive train which are working towards a common destination.  Ergo, any verbal maxim is useless -- if not matched to a specific set of facts.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Markets over machinery / Labor civil war -- or regulated peace

“Successful labor cartels benefit their members. But their gains come at the expense of other workers and consumers.”  James Sherk

Higher union wages turn into consumer dollars next payday – forming a new equilibrium.  Consumers of unionized firms do end up consuming less; unionized employees do get to consume more: but the market sees only the same number of dollars coming at it – it knows not from what direction.
The only difference the market may perceive is different preferences where to spend those dollars: some firms may see less demand and drop employment slots; others see more demand and add slots.
Nothing about this takes a dollar from non-union wage earners.
 * * * * * *

Know your markets before you know your machinery.  Two decades of looking at the dismal science has convinced me that learning your machinery before learning your markets is comparable to learning molecular biology and hoping you know how a bear works without looking inside.

For instance Mr. Sherk above will fill you ears with tears about labor union “monopolies” forcing unfair prices – OPEC like!  Knowing that lower 40% of households take only 10% of overall income while the rest take 90% tells you right away that the 40% are nowhere near sporting monopoly market power to cower everyone else.  :-O 

Ditto, even if (hopefully) the bottom 40% doubles their take from 10% to 20% by raising consumer prices (average firm labor cost 12%) through collective bargaining – they’d only be “muscling” their way into barely living wages.

No need to argue that union monopoly (one seller) offsets employer monopsony (one buyer).  No need even to state that consumers have millions of other choices and are always the ultimate arbiters (and limiters) of every labor/ownership contract – that it is always a three-sided deal with the ultimate consumer easily able to walk away from the other two (unless it’s the only restaurant in town).

No need; but nice to back yourself up with – once you know your labor market, first.
 * * * * * *
A multi-point labor market may be harder to labor organize but it is more long term survivable.  Retail firms may open and close but employees can shoot back and forth between.  Once the big steel mill or town factory shuts down employees may hit a dead end.  Medicine is another multi-point labor market – it is everywhere and becoming ever more evenly spread as government financing spreads.

Imagine the happy labor market if every employee could join a union any time she wanted to – and said free labor/consumer market balanced equal-equal welfare transactions among all (no race-to-the-bottom for the labor side).

I used to think that making (already illegal) union busting a felony – even at state level – was the way back to a free labor market.  I didn’t imagine the management/labor civil war that could be unleashed cross country as criminal justice systems grappled with the decades emboldened (illegal) union busting genie resisting with all its bloated might being squished back into the law abiding bottle:

Instituting a brand new enforcement arm to cover 160 million employees trying to retake collective bargaining rights?
New enforcement branch office buildings?
New courthouses?!
New prisons to put away losing managements – if this works?
Legions of lawyers dragging every last (criminal) case down to its last appeal within appeals?
Management with a million and one excuses for “easing out” organizers?
Billions of billionaire backing emboldening every last line of defense?
RICO prosecutions (plural) to begin when management excuses start to pile up and overlap – after the necessary years to qualify as a pattern?

Elliot Ness had it easy with Al Capone compared with corralling millions of “legit” business owners back into (lawful) collective bargaining ways with 160 million solidarity deprived employees.    

Imagine the happy labor market if:
Why Not Hold Union Representation Elections on a Regular Schedule?
Andrew Strom — November 1st, 2017
"Republicans in Congress have already proposed a bill [Repub amend] that would require a new election in each unionized bargaining unit whenever, through turnover, expansion, or merger, a unit experiences at least 50 percent turnover.  While no union would be happy about expending limited resources on regular retention elections, I think it would be hard to turn down a trade that would allow the 93% of workers who are unrepresented to have a chance to opt for unionization on a regular schedule."

Wheels within wheels of justice: the Democratic market-make-over amendment to the NLRA would corral a lot of blue collar voters (former Obama voters, remember?) back into the Democratic win column – so we could pass said amendment in the first place.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Fast food ordering kiosks cause no job loss -- really

Fast food ordering kiosks shouldn’t cause loss of jobs overall.

Say kiosks allow my local McDonald’s to lay off five, thirty thousand dollar a year ($15/hr) workers. Assuming the consumer prices are held the same that comes to one hundred thousand dollars a year for the owner and the workers who are still working there to split (the latter much more likely if they have a union).

Newly flush employer and employees in turn spend that money causing in turn (the equivalent of) employing five thirty thousand dollar a year workers somewhere else. Money never stops moving.

But, you say, labor advocates are forever emphasizing that wages are only a fraction of the price of products – ergo, you always claim a small price increase can feed a large wage increase (more dollars for fewer hours even happens). So, how many jobs can that hundred fifty thousand worth of purchases really create?

Let’s take a kid’s lemonade stand. One kid spends all his time hawking his wares; he buys his drink from another kid who spends all his time making lemonade with lemons he buys from a kid who raises and delivers lemons.  Most purchase dollars ultimately funnel their way into wages. Think of a pin factory.  :-)

Monday, May 28, 2018

Ask the 40%

Democrats cannot “guarantee” (tens of?) millions of $15/hr jobs anymore than Republicans can tax-cut their way to massive "job creating."  The flaw in both schemes is that an economy is like a living organism and utilizes pretty much all available resources at something all the time (when not in recession).  You can't just go around planting all the jobs you want like seeds on a farm.

40% of US labor force earns $15/hr or less – possibly 60 million hanging on for dear life.  Do Bernie and Cory envision a separate “shadow” economy employing many tens of millions of Americans at $20/hr --  $20/hr, not $15/hr?

$20/hr jobs barely edge you into the middle class.

Annual Minimum Needs Budget Without Employment Health Benefits -- two adults, one child
2001 Ms. Foundation book Raise the Floor, p. 44, table 2-3 (1999 dollars converted to 2018 dollars)

  11,792  *  Housing
    9,722  *  Health Care
    7,089  *  Food
    6,987  *  Child Care
             0  *  School Age Care
    3,135  *  Transportation
     1,741  *  Clothing and Personal Expenses
        745  *  Household Expenses
        836  *  Telephone
 42,052  *  Subtotal Before Taxes

  3,217  *   Payroll Tax
  1,759  *   Federal Tax (including credits)
      631  *   State Tax (including credits)
47,661  *   Total
  *  *  *  *  *  *

Bernie supports a $15/hr min wage by 2024 – by 2024 $15 may be worth $14 – by 2024 per capita income may grow 10%.  1968 fed min wage: $11.76/hr -- per capita up something like 100% since.
  *  *  *  *  *  *

Bernie Sanders union restoration plan “ … would allow employees to form a union by a majority sign-up … require companies to negotiate with a new union within 10 days [of request] … mandate that workers in every state pay some dues … expand the law’s definition of ‘employer’ … .” (I worry why it specifies "new union" -- any word on old, long ignored unions?)

Today’s toothless, 80-year-old NLRA is the most flouted law since federal prohibition -- while being the law that the average person's ability/inability to make their weight felt economically and politically most rises or falls with.  Bernie’s bill makes an honest effort to shore up the long un-shoreupable. 

Milton Friedman said in essence that either 100% unions or 0% unions works out best for most labor –- not any percentage in between -- because unionized workers automatically scoop a proportionately larger share of the wage divide.  A hole in Uncle Miltie's vision was that any percentage of unions automatically captures a proportionately greater share of the wage/profit divide with (monopsony) ownership -- and for some reason he wasn't okay with that.

We are down to almost 0% unions: only 6% now surviving in private (non-gov) employment.  Are American workers uniquely anti-union?  Ask the 40% (there's a way).  No; US unions have been subjected to a decades long onslaught of (illegal) union busting.

Bernie’s repair bill might turn out to be Bernie’s Band-Aids on such a toxic battlefield (think McDonald's).  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  We can take our direction from Wisconsin governor Scott Walker –- and his Republican free-to-decert (sorry, Miltie) flatterers.

Scott forces his unionized employees to recertify every year (private employees more protected from same by the First Amendment and federal preemption) –- affirmation by majority of all members required, not merely of those who vote (Scott wants to make really, really sure his union members are united).

One of Scott’s admirers, the Republican Party of Iowa, fancied the same deal for their public employees in 2017: 93% voted pro union (under same not-to-vote is a "no" vote).  “Of the 33,252 eligible voters statewide, 28,448 voted to retain their unions and only 624 cast ballots in opposition.”

I wonder how union certification votes would play out across the land if our incoming blue Congress (2019) requires union cert/recert/decert-ification elections (not just decert) at every private workplace (one, three or five year cycles; local plurality rules).

Why Not Hold Union Representation Elections on a Regular Schedule?
Andrew Strom — November 1st, 2017
"Republicans in Congress have already proposed a bill that would require a new election in each [private employer] unionized bargaining unit whenever, through turnover, expansion, or merger, a unit experiences at least 50 percent turnover.  While no union would be happy about expending limited resources on regular retention elections, I think it would be hard to turn down a trade that would allow the 93% of workers who are unrepresented to have a chance to opt for unionization on a regular schedule."

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Knock out multiple Scott Walker anti-labor regs with a single constitutional punch

Knock out multiple Scott Walker anti-labor regs with a single constitutional punch.

"Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law on Monday that [besides shrinking other local labor protections] ... [f]orbids local governments from using labor peace agreements where employers agree not to interfere with attempts by labor unions to organize workers."

This section sounds very vulnerable to a First Amendment challenge.  Here the state is interfering with freedom of association of private sector workers -- whose organizing is fully constitutionally protected unlike government workers whom courts hold less fully covered."

Previously, Walker foisted rules forcing state employee unions to re-certify annually -- requiring a ratifying majority of all members, not only those who voted.  Republican intentions to crowd out even state employees' lesser association rights were only too obvious but maybe a bit too shadowy to score a clean constitutional sock on.

The union busting intention of Walker's latest scheme is palpable -- is spelled out in so many words.  Providing possibly a chance to piggyback challenges to his old  sneaky First Amendment infringements onto the back of a challenge to the new open breach -- to knock out both with a single constitutional punch.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Labor unions transform “price takers” into “price negotiators”

Labor unions transform “price takers” into “price negotiators.” About 20% of our labor force thrives under what could be described as perfect competition. Perfect simply
defined as ability to extract pretty much the max consumers are willing to pay for their inputs to products and services — never mind that long winded academic definition, right?

To raise most our workforce to "price negotiators" our coming blue wave Congress simply need mandate union certification and re-certification elections at every private workplace; every one, three or five years, plurality rules on the latter.

Should have done decades ago — been only way to hold on to democracy in America's unique in all the first world, anti-union labor market. Much of second and third world not fanatically anti-union culture either: Argentina and Indonesia do sector-wide labor contracts for instance.

Bottom 40% of US workforce takes about 10% share of overall income. Mid 40% plus upper-mid 19% (total 59%) take near 67.5%. Top 1% take the 22.5% — up from 10% over last two generations. See where this is going?

Newly unionized employees to take back 10% overall share through higher prices for their labor — or they won’t show up for work …

… if McDonald’s can pay $15/hr with 33% labor costs, Target can pay $20/hr with 10-15% labor costs and Walmart (bless it’s efficient heart) could pay $25/hr with 7% labor costs.

Bobby Kennedy’s son Chris was running for governor in the Democratic primary in Illinois. His father wanted to fight poverty — I remember something called "Model Cities" — but with only half today’s per capita income I’m not sure what he was thinking. Now, with doubled per capita income it should mostly be a matter of sloshing it all around better.

The bottom 40% will gently (and persistently) nudge the mid 59% to take back 12.5% of overall income from the top 1% through confiscatory taxation — of the kind we had in the Eisenhower years; and nobody gave it much thought either. With twenty times the personal income going to the same top 1% jobs, this time around we are going to get really serious about confiscation -- obviously leaving all the incentive the economy needs.

Top paid 1968 NFLer, Joe Namath made $600,000/yr in today’s money. Quarterback pays more like $12 million now. Sorry Colin (I’m sure you’re not greedy).  :-) 

 Why Not Hold Union Representation Elections on a Regular Schedule?
Andrew Strom — November 1st, 2017

Bonus: federally mandated certification and re-certification elections automatically move up to hottest issue (maybe in a hundred years) because transformative in some way for almost every household.  Dreadful for Republicans to defend against the directed-cert-election page from their own anti-local-government-union playbook.   

Friday, March 2, 2018

Natural Rate of Collective Bargaining -- 100%? -- not 6%!

I'm trying to come up with an abstraction that is able to alert progressive academics that a 94% de-unionized labor market is AUTOMATICALLY a 94% defective market.  Something akin to the so-called natural rate of unemployment -- which has a certain bar that mostly everybody recognizes.  A "natural rate of collective bargaining" (NRCB)? 

Let's look a the US.  Let's say 20% of our workforce is in what could be called perfect competition condition -- meaning they get paid about the max the ultimate consumer of their services would be willing to pay (near the top 1% a lot more).  _Equal-gratification_ equilibrium.  I would expect the natural collective bargaining rate should be close to 100% of those outside this perfect competition zone (effectively moving them into the perfect zone).

94% of the other 80% of the US labor force cannot bargain effectively without collective bargaining.  I call that _split equilibrium_: labor takes whatever price it can get along the subsistence-plus/race-to-the-bottom market scale.

A high NRCB looks a lot like a lot of continental Europe -- a lot like Germany or Canada.  The NRCB measure could even point out something deficient in the latter.  And expose the Grand Canyon wide gap between other modern economy's moderate NRCB deficiencies and the almost 100% defective American rate.
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AUTOMATIC solution: our coming Dem Congress can mandate union certification and re-certification elections in every private workplace; one, three or five years, plurality rules on the latter.  Labor in other counties does not have to run the kind of almost impossible gauntlet that American employees do (unique in all the first world -- and a lot of the second and third; Argentina and Indonesia even have sector-wide bargaining). 

Mandated elections would AUTOMATICALLY become the hottest issue (maybe in a hundred years) by simple logistics, not even by merit, for the simple reason that it would impact nearly every single household and most to the core.

Why Not Hold Union Representation Elections on a Regular Schedule?
Andrew Strom — November 1st, 2017

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


After reading Rachel Cohen’s article in the Intercept describing how the right wing went wild to fend off any pro-union legislation in Obama years …

 … "The business community hated EFCA, correctly recognizing that it would have shifted power relations between workers and employers. “This will be Armageddon,” the vice president for labor policy at the Chamber of Commerce complained." …

… while the public never really awoke that anything ambitious for the average person was in the works …

 … "To do something that will significantly shift power relations in the U.S. cannot be done quietly as a negotiated deal, it cannot happen without a loud clamor for it. It needs to be big enough and presented in ways people can understand." …

… it occurred to me (with my usual eighth-grade math approach) that with only 6% union members now in non-gov work — that is 94% not — any union issue inherently heavily tends to appear to one and all like a marginal issue — concerning only a “small circle of friends” — it’s just the natural human imaging issue.

OTH, proposing mandatory union cert/re-cert elections (one, three or five years — plurality rules) at every non-gov workplace speeds the labor organizing issue crashing into the lives of every worker in the country and powerfully so — the perfect “Madison Avenue” solution.