Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 23rd, 2012

Interesting if management overreach provokes new wave of unionization

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Read in Sarah Jaffe’s AlterNet report the conditions that led to the union effort:

Last month, 60 workers at a Brooklyn Cablevision contractor, Falcon Data Com, went on a wildcat strike after one of their colleagues was fired for union organizing.

“I was one of the primary organizers and I was in the shop handing out union cards and the manager saw me, called me in the office and they said that my ID had expired and they were choosing not to renew it and to have a nice life, basically,” Kirk Collins explained.

He quickly reached out to the Communications Workers of America local he’d been organizing with and his colleagues at Falcon, and 60 of them went out on strike. The strike lasted just a couple of hours, as management quickly caved and rehired not just Collins, but two other Falcon techs who’d been fired for union activity in previous weeks. “We banded together, and we were able to shut the shop down,” Collins said. “It shows the strength of unity and having a common cause.”

On Friday, the workers at Falcon voted 53 to 5 to join CWA Local 1109, joining 282 Cablevision workers who voted for a union in January; Bronx Falcon workers have a vote coming this week, and another Cablevision contractor, Vision Pro, is also expected to have a union election soon.

The technicians were working 12 to 14 hours a day, according to Collins, with no overtime, no holiday pay, and getting paid piece work rather than an hourly wage. But it’s not just wages that drove him to start agitating for a union at his workplace. “We were being made to fuel up the company’s trucks every morning with our own money,” he said, and they had no running water (during a heat wave, no water fountain) and only a porta-potty rather than a real bathroom.

“We’ll be looking for some quality now, and a decent living wage in this economy,” Collins said.

As always, I highly recommend Thomas Geoghegan’s book Which Side Are You On?: Trying to Be for Labor When It’s Flaton Its Backan entertaining and informative book by a labor lawyer. It’s also available from in inexpensive secondhand editions.

With government now primarily in support of big business, the only counterbalance that I see to the power of corporations over employees is a strong union, but over the past several decades the labor movement in the US has been greatly disempowered.


Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2012 at 1:02 pm

Posted in Books, Business, Daily life

Pruning dead branches to allow new growth

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I’ve been in this apartment for 20 years and recently I have looked around me and seen on every hand things that I have acquired but that have long since fallen into disuse as interests have shifted and grown in the new directions. These possessions, once the tools of active interests, are now clutter, and I have allowed them to accumulate to almost unmanageable proportions. “Almost” unmanageable because I perforce must manage them. I am doing a lot of sorting, discarding, donating, and selling to get back to a reasonable balance.

The point of this post is to encourage those of you who have become settled to undertake something like this annually so you don’t have to do 20 years’ worth at one fell swoop. (Those who still are living lives of transition generally already enjoy a pruned existence.) It’s probably especially bad for my generation, whose adult years were spent in a time of prosperity and strong consumerist currents: we tended to overbuy, much more so than our parents (who lived through the Great Depression).

I don’t mean to whine, simply to warn. Be careful, and prune regularly.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2012 at 10:37 am

Posted in Daily life

Dean Baker points out a tilt in how economists view things

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The tilt is definitely slanted toward the wealthy—and Baker (an economist himself) refers to pushing such a view as “corrupt economics,” just as corruption in public office consists of using the power of the office for private ends. This blog post deals with how economists are opposing China’s one-child policy because it threatens the supply of “cheap labor” (that is, it means that with fewer workers, their pay would improve, something the wealthy and corporations strongly oppose).

Given the failure of the economics profession to see the economic crisis coming or to devise an effective path forward, many people have come to question its competence and/or integrity. Somehow its assessments often seem to favor the rich.

For example, economists can be counted on to get really hot under the collar over a 20-30 percent tariff barrier that is designed to temporarily protect manufacturing workers, but don’t even notice that patent protection for prescription drugs raises their price by tens of thousands percent. Economists can’t even seem to remember that in a system of floating exchange rates, like the one we have, a decline in the value of the dollar is supposed to be the remedy for a trade deficit.

The NYT tells us that China’s economists are equally incompetent and/or corrupt. It tells us that they are worried that the Chinese are not having enough kids:

“Pressure to alter the policy [the one child policy] is building on other fronts as well, as economists say that China’s aging population and dwindling pool of young, cheap labor will be a significant factor in slowing the nation’s economic growth rate.”

Yes, that sounds like a real problem: “a dwindling pool of cheap labor.” Any economist who complains about this is working for the people who want to employ cheap labor, he/she does not give a damn about the economy.

Insofar as growth is a measure of anything, it is per capita growth that matters. Why would anyone be happier if the economy grew 20 percent, but population grew 50 percent? This is unambiguously bad for the country as a whole, even if there are some people who might benefit from being able to hire cheaper labor.

Economists who are not employed by rich people understand that “cheap labor” means that lots of people are working for little money. This should not be a goal of any honest economist.

The numbers presented later in the article show how utterly absurd the supposed demographic problem in China is. We are told: . . .

Continue reading.

He also points out in separate posts how Bill Keller in the NY Times is calling for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and how Steve Pearlstein is doing the same at the Washington Post. It seems as though the mass media are on-board with the 1% to divert Federal dollars from the elderly and needy to the 1% via bailouts and subsidies. From the first of the two links:

I guess it’s childish name-calling time at the NYT. Hence Bill Keller tells readers that if you ask any “credible economist” you will get Keller’s preferred solution to the budget. At the top of the list is “entitlement reforms.”

For those who don’t know, “entitlement reforms” is Washington elite speak for cuts to Social Security and Medicare. They know that these programs are hugely popular, so the Washington elite crew use their little code word “entitlements,” since they know that “entitlements” don’t have nearly as much support. They also use “reform” since it sounds much nicer than “cuts.” Of course the point is to cut Social Security and Medicare; Keller is simply not honest enough to say this to readers.

Anyhow, let me just briefly explain why at least one non-credible economist doesn’t support the cuts to Social Security and Medicare that former Senator Alan Simpson and Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles proposed. (Keller wrongly referred to their plan as a being a plan approved by their commission. This is not true, to be approved as a commission proposal a plan would have required the support of 14 of the 18 members of the commission.)

The Bowles-Simpson plan would impose substantial cuts to Social Security benefits that would hit people already getting benefits. . . .

And from the second link:

Steven Pearlstein, the Washington Post business columnist, often writes insightful pieces on the economy, not today. The thrust of his piece is that we all should be hopeful that a group of incredibly rich CEOs can engineer a coup.

While the rest of us are wasting our time worrying about whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney are sitting in the White House the next four years, Pearlstein tells us (approvingly) that these honchos are scurrying through back rooms in Washington trying to carve out a deficit deal.

The plan is that we will get the rich folks’ deal regardless of who wins the election. It is difficult to imagine a more contemptuous attitude toward democracy.

The deal that this gang (led by Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles) is hatching will inevitably include some amount of tax increases and also large budget cuts. At the top of the list, as Pearlstein proudly tells us, are cuts to Social Security and Medicare. At a time when we have seen an unprecedented transfer of income to the top one percent, these deficit warriors are placing a top priority on snatching away a portion of Social Security checks that average $1,200 a month. Yes, the country needs this. . . .

The gloves have come off and the 1% are grabbing everything in sight.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2012 at 9:41 am

QED and the bakelite Slant

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Patchouli, Tea Tree, and Peppermint is a great combination for an early morning wake-up fragrance. The Vie-Long flat-top make a fine lather from it, and the bakelite Slant, which I increasingly like, did a good job though this may be this Swedish Gillette blade’s last shave—I’ll see how the first pass of the next shave goes. Of course, poor prep and dull blades have the same effect, but the prep was good—the usual pre-shave shower and beard wash, and I took my time with the lather. I don’t count shaves on a blade, simply using them until dull, but this seems like early retirement for this blade. But blades do vary occasionally, so we’ll check it on the next shave.

A splash of Floris JF, and I’m ready for the start of a new week.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2012 at 8:36 am

Posted in Shaving

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