Because of the colossal impact that the coronavirus outbreak has had on the U.S. economy, less than half of Los Angeles County residents — 45% compared with 61% in mid-March — still hold a job, a decline of 16 percentage points, or an estimated 1.3 million jobs, according to findings from a national survey released Friday.
Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2020
Less than half of L.A. County residents still have jobs amid coronavirus crisis
Brown is a 33-year film veteran. He has seen many ups and downs in the industry, from the Writers Guild strike in 2007 to 2008 to the global financial crisis to natural disasters. This one is different. “Our income currently is zero dollars with no end in sight. It’s frightening,” he told CNN Business, “I am going to deplete all my savings.”
Brown is a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents roughly 145,000 entertainment workers working behind the scenes. In March, IATSE announced that more than 90% of its members are out of a job due to the pandemic — that’s roughly 120,000 craftspeople, technicians, and artisans.
Anna-Maja Rappard, CNN Business.
Hollywood Has Gone Dark, And It’s Crushing Thousands
In less than two decades, the share of income paid out in wages and benefits in the private sector shrank by 5.4 percentage points, a McKinsey Global Institute study found last year, reducing compensation on average by $3,000 a year, adjusted for inflation.
The result is that a job — once the guarantor of income security — no longer reliably plays that role.
“For many working families, wage growth has not been strong enough to allow them to meet their basic needs on their own,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston concluded in a report last year.
“Straggling In A Good Economy, And Now Struggling In A Crisis”
The coronavirus pandemic has brought big changes in how Americans work.
Some are fortunate to work from home, while others, including health care workers and delivery drivers, still have to go out in public.
Both women are also supporting children at home.
Humphreys, a single mother who is caring for her son and niece, says she is trying to save money by limiting the use of air conditioning, even though the temperatures in Austin have been in the mid-90s.
She’s also trying to hold off on grocery shopping.
“I started going through my freezer, we are eating everything that’s in the freezer before I have to buy groceries again,” she says. “I’m trying to go through all the canned foods.”
She will lose her health insurance next month, so her son’s father will put her son on his insurance. But for herself, things are uncertain. A survivor of thyroid cancer, Humphreys says she “can’t be without medication.”
“What I tried to do was refill all of my medications for 90 days for now,” she says. “I at least have that for now.”
Lee says she is barely getting by. She has three children and her husband was recently laid off from his job as a trucker. She says he’s receiving unemployment benefits, but combined with her income, that’s “barely” enough to support everyone.
“American Workers Confront Range Of Challenges During The Coronavirus Pandemic”. April 2020. Wbur.Org.
As he and many others discovered, the state’s archaic systems were woefully unprepared for the deluge of claims. In Mr. Islam’s case, he said it took him four days to reach someone who could explain what he had to do to complete the application process.
State officials admitted as recently as last summer that there were problems with the technology used for such applications, describing New York’s unemployment-insurance systems as relics from the heyday of mainframe computers.
Would-be applicants’ frustration grew as their computer screens froze repeatedly and their calls went unanswered for days. Some attempts to apply for benefits yielded a pop-up message that suggested using Netscape, a browser that effectively no longer exists.
He Needs Jobless Benefits. He Was Told to Find a Fax Machine.
Thousands of newly unemployed New Yorkers desperate to stay afloat are being frustrated by the state’s 1970s-era technology.
What do you want Instacart customers to know right now?
They need to understand where their groceries are actually coming from: the same stores that they would shop at. They’re being delivered in people’s personal cars. Shoppers are not paid an hourly wage. We’re paid a flat rate. Tips are very important. We’re considered independent contractors, but many states have already found that to be a misclassification. And I’d like customers to know that we’re doing the best we can. We’re trying to keep us safe, and we’re trying to keep them safe. We’re trying to save our families. We shouldn’t have to rely on tips in order to make it worth it. We should be paid fairly with tips on top of that, but we’re not, and that’s the reality.
Aaron Mak interviewing Heidi Carrico
What it’s like to lay off nearly 300 employees—and rethink unchecked capitalism
Now New York is facing another unthinkable catastrophe — this time, along with the entire world — and the restaurant industry is threatened as never before. Last week, Danny Meyer, Colicchio’s one-time partner, shut down all 19 of his storied establishments, laying off 2,000 people — some 80% of his workforce. Thomas Keller furloughed 1,200. And Colicchio has done the same, laying off all but a few of his 300 employees.
Recognizing an existential crisis for his industry — with many other sectors of the economy sure to follow — Colicchio has turned his attention to defending independent restaurants and their 11 million employees around the country from total devastation.
Aaron Gell talking with Tom Colicchio, March 27 2020
YANG: Now, I studied economics. And according to my economics textbook, those displaced workers would get retrained, re-skilled, move for new opportunities, find higher-productivity work, the economy would grow. So everyone wins. The market, invisible hand has done its thing. So then I said, “Okay, what actually happened to these four-million manufacturing workers?” And it turns out that almost half of them left the workforce and never worked again. And then half of those that left the workforce then filed for disability, where there are now more Americans on disability than work in construction, over 20 percent of working-age adults in some parts of the country.
DUBNER: So the former manufacturing workers, a lot of them are on disability, a lot of them are also — especially if they’re younger men — they’re spending 25 to 40 hours a week playing video games.
YANG: Yeah so it did not say in my textbook, half of them will leave the workforce never to be heard from again. Half of them will file for disability and then another significant percentage will start drinking themselves to death, start committing suicide at record levels, get addicted to opiates to a point where now eight Americans die of opiates every hour. When you say, “Am I for automation and artificial intelligence and all these fantastic things?” of course I am. I mean, we might be able to do things like cure cancer or help manage climate change more effectively. But we also have to be real that it is going to displace millions of Americans.
People are not infinitely adaptable or resilient or eager to become software engineers, or whatever ridiculous solution is being proposed. And it’s already tearing our country apart by the numbers, where our life expectancy has declined for the last two years because of a surge in suicides and drug overdoses around the country. None of this was in my textbook. But if you look at it, that’s exactly what’s happening. The fantasists — and they are so lazy and it makes me so angry, because people who are otherwise educated are literally wave their hands and be like, “Industrial Revolution, 120 years ago. Been through it before,” and, man, if someone came into your office and pitched you in an investment in a company based on a fact pattern from 120 years ago, you’d freakin’ throw them out of your office so fast.
The halls of academe are known to be hospitable to people with radical views on power relationships between capital and labor, but colleges themselves are often merciless actors in the labor market. Many adjuncts earn only a few thousand dollars per course, with no health insurance or retirement benefits. Twenty-five percent of part-time faculty receive some form of public assistance.
But there’s a crucial difference between schoolteachers and college professors. Elementary, middle, and high school teachers all have versions of the same job. They sink and swim and bargain together. The academy is a two-tier caste system, split between those who won the tenure tournament and those who lost.
From the comments:
I had a philosophy professor in college who said “if you’re thinking about a PhD in Philosophy, let me talk you out of it.” Great advice.
The Bleak Job Landscape of Adjunctopia for Ph.D.s
Ruthless labor exploitation? Generational betrayal? Understanding the job crisis in academia requires a look at recent history.
Kevin Carey, NYTIMES
The New Red Scare
“The winter round of the presidential race goes to Bernie Sanders, not so much for winning the most votes from Democrats as for coining the key word, the big theme for 2020, which is: billionaires! Not just the billionaires on the ballot and billionaires backstage, it’s billionaire-ism coming to be the argument of this election in a country at odds more and more about money. We’re used to anger, right and left, but suddenly there’s alarm in the air – at MSNBC, the Democrats’ TV network, the bold march of Bernie’s anti-billionaire army reminded Hardball‘s Chris Matthews of the Fall of France to Hitler in 1940. It’s scary, and there’s a pick of scarecrows in this race: the Plutocrat; the Democratic Socialist, and the President.
This was wake-up week among the Democrats nominating a presidential candidate. Some woke up cheering that Bernie Sanders looks like the choice of the people. Some woke up screaming in horror that the rebellion against the Clinton era is real, that their party has been dying for four years, that the end is near. The sound of battle has gone raw, with survival at stake, not just egos.”
Radio Open Source
Hospital and healthcare workers across the US are launching union drives and organizing protests in order to win higher wages and better working conditions, saying their industry exploits them and leaves them often unable to afford healthcare, despite working in the sector.
According to the SEIU, there are about 50,000 low-wage hospital workers throughout the Chicago metro area and about 10,000 are currently represented by the union.
LeChrisha Pearson, a single mother and certified nursing assistant for eight years at Chicago’s Mount Sinai hospital, was one of about 400 workers at the hospital who organized a union in June 2019, and threatened to strike in November 2019 before winning a contract that would raise wages for all workers to $15 an hour.
She works two to three jobs, including as a delivery driver for Uber Eats, to make ends meet while working full-time at the hospital.
Michael Sainato, February 17 2020, Guardian
Despite unemployment at a near 50-year low, a soaring stock market and the longest expansion in US history, the recovery hasn’t yet reached these millions in economic hard times, say these analysts.
Even as wages overall are rising, about 50 percent of US workers received no pay raises last year, according to Bankrate. And in real terms, some say average salaries are stagnant.
“Today’s average inflation-adjusted wage in America has the same purchasing power that it did in 1978,” Liam Hunt, a market analyst at SophisticatedInvestor.com, told The Post. “That’s despite macroeconomic growth in terms of GDP, salary increases for the highest bracket of income earners and rapidly rising home costs,” he added. “In a growing economy, we should see real wage growth, though we haven’t.”
John Aidan Byrne, February 22, 2020, NY POST
Lancaster, Ohio, the home of the Fortune 500 company Anchor Hocking, was once a bustling center of industry and employment. At its peak following World War II, Lancaster’s hometown company was the world’s largest maker of glassware and employed more than 5,000 town residents.
Though Anchor Hocking remains in Lancaster today, it is a shell of its former self, and the once thriving town is beset by underemployment and drug abuse. Lancaster native Brian Alexander chronicles the rise and fall of his hometown in his new book, Glass House.
“People are genuinely struggling,” he tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies. “The economy of the town is struggling, not because there’s high unemployment, [but] because the employment that there is all minimum wage, or even lower than minimum wage.”
Fresh Air, February 6, 2017. NPR
ORLANDO, Fla. — The employees who kept the data systems humming in the vast Walt Disney fantasy fief did not suspect trouble when they were suddenly summoned to meetings with their boss.
While families rode the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and searched for Nemo on clamobiles in the theme parks, these workers monitored computers in industrial buildings nearby, making sure millions of Walt Disney World ticket sales, store purchases and hotel reservations went through without a hitch. Some were performing so well that they thought they had been called in for bonuses.
Instead, about 250 Disney employees were told in late October that they would be laid off. Many of their jobs were transferred to immigrants on temporary visas for highly skilled technical workers, who were brought in by an outsourcing firm based in India. Over the next three months, some Disney employees were required to train their replacements to do the jobs they had lost.
“I just couldn’t believe they could fly people in to sit at our desks and take over our jobs exactly”
Pink Slips at Disney. But First, Training Foreign Replacements. NYTIMES
Julia Preston, June 3, 2015
And here’s the corollary: over here, Ford, GM, Boeing, Caterpillar, and others want us to be lower skilled. Wait, they prefer low-skilled workers? Yes. Now that’s contrary to what you and I are told; it’s contrary to what President Obama, the pundits, and even the companies are saying. It’s the world turned upside down. I know it’s hard to believe. After all, if it’s true that corporations don’t want us to be higher skilled, then it’s pretty demoralizing for those of us who would like to push for more education, more job training. What’s the point, right?
But before you dismiss the claim, listen to what David has to say about how things have changed over time at Ford. “They have a system there,” he said. “I like to call it ‘Simplicity.’ It’s to break everything down into the simplest possible tasks.” Indeed, he claims that both the hourly and the salaried positions are being simplified. By that David means that there used to be skill sets, or different levels of work. In the old labor contracts these skill sets had names, “classifications.” It might be General Utility or Repair. The newbies would say, “Hey, I see that guy over there. How can I do what he’s doing?” It used to mean more pay. One went to Ford to move up and develop higher skills in order to get more pay.
Well, that’s gone.
The “classifications” in general may soon disappear. Or let’s put it this way: entry level will be the classification, and people will stay there. Even if people learn higher skills, which used to lead to more money, they will stay at the entry level, at entry-level pay. And here I’d add that in nonunion places it is even harder to move up. People start at welder at $17 an hour, and they stay at welder at $17 an hour.
There is a puzzle about welder pay, which lately has received comment in the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times. The puzzle is that there is a shortage of welders, and employers moan about it. But the pay is stuck at $17 an hour, where it’s been for years. That means the real inflation-adjusted wage is dropping. Even with a shortage of labor, the wage drops. But worse, after the welder starts and gains experience, the pay does not go up.
Geoghegan, Thomas. Only One Thing Can Save Us
Is labor’s day over or is labor the only real answer for our time? In this new book, National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan argues that even as organized labor seems to be crumbling, a revived—but different—labor movement is now more relevant than ever in our increasingly unequal society.
The population of the U.S. on April 1, 2000 was 281,421,906
The nation’s population was 328,239,523 in 2019, growing by 0.5% between 2018 and 2019, or 1,552,022 people.
Labor force participation rate
January 2000 – 67.3
January 2019 – 63.2
Housing units (thousands of units)
April 1, 2000 – 116,047
October 1, 2019 – 140,074
2000 – $5.15
2019 – $7.25
Federal Debt: Total Public Debt as Percent of Gross Domestic Product
Q1 2000 – 57.72
Q1 2019 – 104.40
In fact, the college graduates who are now the base of the party have moved working people out of the old neighborhoods. I think here of my own city—Chicago—where the members of the City Council whom columnists from Ben Hecht to Mike Royko used to mock now have more degrees than reporters of Hecht’s generation had. Here’s the finding of a new study from the University of Illinois at Chicago: In 1970, one half of Chicago by census tract was “middle-income”—that is to say, the people who made up the old working-class machine vote, most of them without four-year college degrees. Now that “middle-income” group is just 16 percent. The bungalows in those formerly middle-income neighborhoods teeming with high school graduates now belong to high-tech entrepreneurs and investors in hedge funds.
Thomas Geoghegan, New Republic
The Mississippi Department of Corrections runs the modern-day debtors prisons it calls restitution centers. But not very well.
The agency doesn’t keep close track of how much people sentenced to the program earn and owe, according to dozens of current and former inmates interviewed by Mississippi Today. That makes it hard for them to figure out how long they need to work at mostly low-wage jobs to make enough money to earn their freedom.
Mississippi prohibits the workers from handling their own earnings and gives them little documentation of their debts. Where their money goes and whether it reaches the victims of their crimes remains a mystery to most inmates we talked to.
Anna Wolfe And Michelle Liu, ‘Something seems fishy’: Bad bookkeeping and poor oversight plague a Mississippi inmate labor program, Mississippi Today
During a campaign event on Monday, U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden “suggested coal miners could simply learn to code to transition to ‘jobs of the future,'” reports Newsweek:
“Anybody who can go down 300 to 3,000 feet in a mine, sure in hell can learn to program as well, but we don’t think of it that way,” he said… “Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program for God’s sake…”
Many Twitter users criticized Biden’s comments as reductive. “Telling people to find other work without a firm plan to help them succeed will never be popular,” communications professional Frank Lutz wrote… Congressional candidate Brianna Wu tweeted that she was “glad to see the recognition that you don’t need to be in your 20s to do this as a profession,” but also called Biden’s suggestion “tone-deaf and unhelpful.”
Long-time Slashdot reader theodp notes the response this speech got from New York magazine’s Sarah Jones: “Please Stop Telling Miners To Learn To Code.” And in comments on the original submission, at least two Slashdot readers seemed to agree. “Not everyone can code and certainly not every coal miner or coal worker,” wrote Slashdot reader I75BJC. “Vastly different skills.”
Slashdot reader Iwastheone even shared a Fox News article in which rival presidential candidate Andrew Yang argued “Maybe Americans don’t all want to learn how to code… Let them do the kind of work they actually want to do, instead of saying to a group of people that you all need to become coders.”
But is there something elitist in thinking that coal miners couldn’t learn to do what coders learned to do? It seems like an interesting question for discussion