A central feature of the American economy in the three decades after World War II was a mass upward mobility in which each generation lived better than the last and workers experienced earnings gains through much of their careers. The central drivers of mass upward mobility were real wages that grew roughly in line with labor productivity.
Keynesianism apparently is winning converts among small business even though that sector seems to have been doing somewhat better than larger enterprises. The converts, however, are not in Congress and the only macro activism is coming from the Fed.
"Extra! Extra! Rich Corp Execs Shut Down the NLRB!" Believe it or not, that is today's news.
And believe it or not, shutting down the National Labor Relations Board was also big news from 1935-1937, when the American Liberty League (ALL), a collection of prominent corporate executives plus their wealthy allies, put their money where their mouths were to shut the NLRB down.
Right-Wing Obstructionism in the Great Recession
Shutting down the NLRB has also been in the news in recent years. A large part of the NLRB's work involves investigating violations of labor law. Yet just a few months ago, in the lead-up to the 2012 election, Boeing used its wealth and clout to marshal its army of elected federal officials to get out of a labor law violation and weaken the NLRB. Those officials fell in line by threatening to defund the Board for having done its work of enforcing the law, which, in this case, involved investigating charges that Boeing had violated the law and prosecuting Boeing when the investigation showed reasonable cause to believe that Boeing had violated the law.
Not to be outdone, House members set up a hearing to investigate the NLRB's investigation. In the hot seat was acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon. Why was Solomon in the role of only "acting" general counsel in 2011 - and still to this day? Solomon is one of the many people the Senate has refused to confirm to positions as federal judges or heads of agencies.
Mitchell’s Musings 6-10-13: Remarks on Getting LERA’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the St. Louis meetings, June 8, 2013. The uses of history are discussed.
The forces animating the debate over immigration policy seem similar today to what they were in the World War One era. But the political consequences and outcomes seem different.
So far, we have looked at judicial amendments one at a time. But in the real world of unions and collective bargaining, judicial amendments work together to weaken the employee rights Congress created.
When Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), it included a policy statement that shows it unequivocally valued collective bargaining. Section 1 says, "Experience has proved that protection by law of the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively safeguards commerce from injury, impairment, or interruption, and promotes the flow of commerce by removing certain recognized sources of industrial strife and unrest, by encouraging practices fundamental to the friendly adjustment of industrial disputes arising out of differences as to wages, hours, or other working conditions, and by restoring equality of bargaining power between employers and employees."
Congress also said, "It is declared to be the policy of the United States to eliminate the causes of certain substantial obstructions to the free flow of commerce and to mitigate and eliminate these obstructions when they have occurred by encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and by protecting the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection."
But instead of equality of bargaining power, the judicial amendments of lockouts, striker replacement, and employer implementation of workplace terms have increased employer power while weakening union bargaining power.
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.
Legend has it that Marie Antoinette, told of Parisians protesting the shortage of bread, impatiently exclaimed, “Let them eat cake.”
American Express’s chief executive, Kenneth I. Chenault, adopted a kinder tone in his commencement speech this year at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, but offered a similar message. Acknowledging that jobs are hard to find, he emphasized that new technology makes it easier to invent them.
Yes, and the price of cake may have fallen relative to bread, but that is slim consolation to college graduates who face weak demand for their hard-won skills either as workers or entrepreneurs. Their new diplomas may send them to the front of the employment line, but the jobs they find there don’t offer as much money or career potential as before. <Read more>
First published online in The New York Times on May 27, 2013.
Notions that "change is hard" and "no pain/no gain," can produce misleading conclusions in the context of organizations and in macroeconomic policy.
For many years, employee strikes were common and often in the news while lockouts by employers were rare. Today, lockouts have become far more common than in years past. There are reasons employers have become more willing to lock out their employees.
In both lockouts and strikes, an employer's workers are not working, so it may seem that the only difference between the two is who made the decision for the employees to be out of work. Employees strike when they think striking will put pressure on their employer to agree to the employees' demands. Employers lock out workers who want to continue working to pressure them to accept contract terms the employer wants.
But like the employer's ability to impose its proposal when the parties are at impasse, the lockout has become a powerful employer bargaining tool, while the strike has been declawed. What is most puzzling about these results is that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) says that the right to strike is to be protected, but says nothing about protecting the lockout. The explanation is that judges have judicially amended the NLRA to weaken strikes, while making lockouts far more powerful.
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.
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