If it's March, then it's Women's History Month, that time of the year when we hear the word "suffragette." But irony of ironies, "suffragette" was the label used by those who were the enemies of women's rights. They used the word "suffragette" to belittle those who worked for civil rights and equality.

There is a word for people who worked for American women's rights to vote. These activists called themselves "suffragists."

This year, to make matters more confusing, we are likely to hear the word "suffragette" more frequently because Meryl Streep is starring in a movie of that name. Streep is playing Emmeline Pankhurst, an English suffrage activist. 

The British woman suffragists were an "in your face" militant group, essentially the Pussy Riot of their day. They smashed windows and engaged in arson and hunger strikes. One woman died after she threw herself under the king's horse to protest his refusal to give women the right to vote.

The American suffragists were a tamer, more serious lot, many of whom were also active in the anti-slavery movement. Many of the suffragists were active in both causes and saw a deep connection with their causes.

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The privatization of public services isn't a new trend. In the period in which the Clinton-Gore administration was promoting privatizing the military's physical infrastructure, such as housing for the troops, it also was actively pursuing the privatization of jobs associated with the military. Its "theme song" seems to have been a parody of "My Fair Lady's" "Why Can't a Woman Be More like a Man?"

Yes, indeed, "Why Can't the Public Sector Be More like the Capitalist, Profit-Maximizing Private Sector?"

In fact, there are very good reasons why government cannot operate properly when it is run like a business, says Forbes contributing writer John T. Harvey. He notes, "We should no more want the government to be run like a business than a business to be run like the government. ... The problem in a nutshell, is that not everything that is profitable is of social value and not everything of social value is profitable."

First published online by Truthout. Used with permission.

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The future of work in America and the future of our social and economic well-being are interdependent.

Last spring, The Hitachi Foundation and the MIT Sloan School of Management's Institute for Work and Employment Research (IWER) hosted the "Great Companies, Great Jobs" Action Lab. Leaders from business, labor, community and labor market groups, academia, and government did something that seldom occurs today: They met both to exchange views on the current state of work and employment and to search for common ground in how to build “great companies” that provide and sustain “great jobs.”

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April 18, 2014 By Thomas A. Kochan

To prep the next generation of workers, getting the right skills is critical. And young people don't have to travel very far to get the training they need. (Second in a series of columns.) <Read more>

First published online by and on April 14, 2014. 

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One in seven Americans - that is 46.5 million of us - live in poverty. And in the wake of the Great Recession, there is more to poverty today than just a bad economy. We have an increasingly unequal society in which the top 1% holds 40% of the wealth. According to a Global Post study, the United States leads the trend toward greater inequality which is rising faster - and already greater - here than in nearly all other developed countries.

Until the Reagan Administration, the minimum wage was set at a level that allowed one wage earner to support a family. The minimum wage has never been required to keep up with inflation nor been benchmarked to ensure that a full-time worker's wages can keep a family above the poverty line. As a result, many workers' families have now become destitute.

Why has this happened? The causes of poverty are complex, but one important factor is the decline in union membership, starting in the 1980s, which has led to a decline in union bargaining power.

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The news is full of bad news about unions these days. Unions are blamed for holding up the bailout of GM and Chrysler with foot-dragging over wages and benefits. Teachers' unions are accused of protecting bad teachers and standing in the way of providing good education. Public employees are supposed to be overpaid and lazy. The bottom line seems to be that, at best, unions are dinosaurs and about to go extinct. At worst, they are a drag on our economy.

So, why have unions? Because the persistent problem of unlimited corporate power requires an effective counterbalance.

The need for such a counterbalance is clear. We saw the effect of increasing corporate power in the 2010 elections. We see it in virtually every law considered by Congress and state legislatures. And we saw it in the period leading up to the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression. As corporations grow mightier, they are able to amass even greater power. Then, just as now, Supreme Court decisions made corporations unaccountable to their societies by removing limits on corrupting and destructive power wielded by corporations.

Among other actions Congress took to limit irresponsible corporate power was to enact the National Labor Relations Act in 1935. Congress wanted to give unions power to act as a counterbalance to corporate power.

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January 29, 2014 By Ellen Dannin