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The Week In Review, Sunday, January 11, 2004
A lot of talk about jobs this week.
Since the second round of Bush tax cuts for the rich the economy has surged. The GDP grew a remarkable 8.2 percent in the Third Quarter, a more modest but still respectable 3.9 percent in the Fourth.
Many employers did take advantage of tax breaks to invest in new equipment. The increased productivity flowing from these capital improvements generally results in less labor time needed and thus fewer workers required.
In addition many bosses have turned to massive overtime before doing any hiring. That saves on the cost of benefits new workers would require. The recent executive changes in federal overtime regulations—complete with helpful tips to employers for how to exploit these new rules to chisel more work for less pay—has made this a more attractive than ever option.
Bush promised there would be 510,000 new jobs created in the second half of last year. But the actual number was 221,000.
December was particularly alarming. The latest BLS jobs report released this past week showed the entire U.S, economy produced only a thousand new jobs last month. At the same time they announced December unemployment rate was only 5.7 percent, down from 5.9 in November.
Obviously our population grew by considerably more than a thousand last month so how could the rate go down?
Simple. The labor force "contracted" by 309,000. The percentage of the population calculated to be "actively participating" in the labor market sank to 66 percent—the lowest mark since 1991.
How is this contraction explained? Most of it is attributed to "discouraged" workers. In this case discouraged isn’t referring to a state of mind. You become labeled "discouraged" after you have exhausted your unemployment insurance benefits. Many in this growing category are middle-aged workers formerly employed in manufacturing. Too young to retire and too old to be hired they are condemned to a dismal economic purgatory until they can reach their "Golden Years."
Not Just Blue Collar Blues
A Commerce Department report last month said increasing numbers of technology jobs are moving from the United States to Canada, India, Ireland, Israel, the Philippines and China — and predicted that "many U.S. companies that are not already offshoring are planning to do so in the near future." With the exception of Canada, all of these countries of course have the allure of lower—in some cases drastically lower—labor costs.
"There is no job that is America's God-given right anymore," Carly Fiorina, chief executive for Hewlett-Packard Co., patriotically preached last Wednesday. "We have to compete for jobs."
She was just one IT big-shot last week justifying "offshoring" of professional and technical jobs. Intel chief executive Craig Barrett was another, saying the American worker "now has to compete for every job going forward. That has not been on the table before. It had been assumed we had a lock on white-collar jobs and high-tech jobs. That is no longer the case."
Are the Guests Stealing Our Jobs?
Many bosses respond by saying American citizens refuse to work the kinds of unpleasant, sometimes back breaking, jobs most undocumented workers hold.
Actually many jobs in manufacturing and mining highly sought by citizens with papers are no less unpleasant and backbreaking. The difference is the pay and benefits involved.
Workers fleeing from extreme poverty will work hard for minimum wage—sometimes even less. That’s why they are willing to take millions of jobs rejected by those who have other options.
The anti-immigrant bigots got a shock from an unexpected source this week—President Bush. Much has been made of the rather hazy in the details plan for loosening some restrictions on undocumented workers. It is in fact just another guest worker scheme to serve cockroach capitalists.
The Farmworker Justice Fund delivered a pretty good instant analysis:
"The President’s proposal in his immigration policy speech on Wednesday, January 7, 2004, was vague but is specific enough for us to know that he is essentially proposing a new era of indentured servants. This nation has experimented with indentured servitude and "guestworker" programs; they failed miserably and caused great misery. His proposal should be rejected as inconsistent with our nation’s democratic traditions and our history as a nation of immigrants."
To Survive Locally We Must Act Globally
Far from trying to build a wall around a Fortress America, we need to be as global in our outlook as Fiorina and Barrett. Only we need to be making alliances with offshore workers to win human rights and decent living standards for all workers everywhere. We cannot be secure until we do.
Worker rights Conference
Meeting On Miami Protests/Police Riot
the Greater Kansas City Fair Trade Coalition and Kansas City Peace and Justice, the event will begin at 7PM at Unity Temple in the Plaza (707 West 47th Street).
You can find information about this and other events on our KC Labor Event Calendar. The calendar is interactive so feel free to add your own labor movement related event. Or, if you are really technically challenged, send your information to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post it for you.
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