Category Archives: Labor

Peña Nieto doubles down on Mexican ed ‘reforms’

Resistance to the neoliberal educational agenda of the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto has sent thousands of Mexican teachers and their supporters into the streets of Oaxaca cities and towns.

Violent repression by police has led to the deaths of at least nine protestors and injuries to scores more, leading physicians to join in with a strike of their own.

But all the activism has been met with a stone wall of resistance from the capital.

The latest development from teleSUR English:

Mexico “will continue to deepen” the controversial education reform that has resulted in violent repression of teacher protests, Education Minister Aurelio Nuño said on Thursday.

Nuño called the law, which was implemented by President Enrique Peña Nieto, a “central and essential project” that Mexico needs to be successful in the twenty-first century.

The minister gave these statements during a meeting with the head of the government-recognized teachers union, the SNTE.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osoio Chong met with leaders from the radical CNTE teachers union, who have been leading protests against the reform. No agreements resulted from talks, which followed the massacre of 12 people in the southern state of Oaxaca during CNTE-led protests against the reform.

Teachers have been protesting since 2013, when Peña Nieto presented the education reform as part of a set of 11 radical neoliberal reforms in key areas such as finance, health and energy sector.

Meanwhile, strike supporters have joined the protest in New York City.

From RT America:

Protesters gather outside NYC Mexican Consulate in solidarity with 9 killed in Oaxaca

Program notes:

For a second day, demonstrators gathered outside the New York City Mexican Consulate, outraged over the shooting of teachers in Nochixtlan, Oaxaca in southern Mexico. State and federal police are accused of opening fire Sunday on protesters who were expressing their dissent over government reforms to privatize education. Many of the people were teachers in their teens and early twenties. In the carnage nine people died; 100 were injured, including 45 who remain hospitalized; 21 were arrested, and 23 are disappeared. Video and reporting by @RebMyles.

IMF sounds an early U.S. economic warning signal

It’s not that things are really bad yet, says IMF chief Christine Lagarde, abut that storm clouds are visible on the horizon.

From her statement [emphasis added]:

At the outset, I would like to emphasize we think that the U.S. economy is in good shape, despite some setbacks in very recent months. Unemployment is well below 5 percent, in the past year an average of 200,000 new jobs were created every month, and household incomes are rising at a healthy clip.

Having said this, today we will look beyond the important recent achievements and look forward to what will be needed to ensure strong, sustained and balanced growth in the years ahead. I would highlight in particular “four forces” that pose a challenge to future growth.

What are those four forces? Declining labor force participation, falling productivity growth, polarization in the distribution of income and wealth, and high levels of poverty in the U.S. Let me elaborate.

First, labor force participation is declining.

  • The U.S. population is aging and, as a result, a smaller share of the population will be active in the labor force in the coming years.
  • The workforce makes up the backbone of the U.S. economy. Mitigating the effects of population aging on labor supply and demand should therefore be a priority – both here in the U.S. but also in many of the advanced economies.

Second, productivity growth has also declined.

  • It has fallen from 1.7 percent in the decade prior to 2007 to 0.4 percent in the past five years.
  • Much of the gains in average per capita incomes in the 20 years before the financial crisis were from gains in productivity, innovation, and efficiency.
  • The fall in productivity growth seems, at least in part, to be linked to falling dynamism both in the U.S. labor markets and in the formation of new and productive enterprises.

Third, the distribution of income and wealth has steadily become more and more polarized. This is a double edged sword.

  • On the one hand, since 2000 around one quarter of a percent of the population has moved from earning close to the median income to earning 1.5 or more times the median. This is a good thing and has raised living standards for those families.
  • On the other hand, though, more than 3 percent of the population has moved into the group that earns less than half of the median income. For that group, economic insecurity and flat real incomes have resulted in either a stagnation or decline in living standards.
  • Our calculations suggest that since 1999, this polarization of the income distribution has knocked around 3½ percent off of badly needed consumer demand. That is around one year’s consumption over a period of 15 years.

Fourth, the share of the population living in poverty is at very high levels.

  • The latest data shows almost 15 percent of Americans—or 46.7 million people—living in poverty.1 Poverty is even higher for certain minority groups; for single parent (and particularly female-headed) households; for children; and for those with disabilities.
  • With such a large share of the population living below the poverty line, this undoubtedly is an important macroeconomic issue.
  • Not only does poverty create significant social strains, it also eats into labor force participation, and undermines the ability to invest in education and improve health outcomes. By holding back economic and social mobility, it creates an inter-generational persistence of poverty.

All in all, our assessment is that, if left unchecked, these four forces—participation, productivity, polarization, and poverty—will corrode the underpinnings of growth (both potential and actual) and hold back gains in U.S. living standards.

Mexico police kill teachers protesting reforms

The ongoing violence in Oaxaca, where teachers are imposing a set of neoliberal education “reforms” imposed by the national government, has erupted in deadly violence.

From teleSUR English, a report on a violent confrontation Sunday:

Mexican police attacked teachers striking against neoliberal education reforms in the southern state of Oaxaca, killing at least eight people and leaving dozens more injured.

Police were attempting to evict teachers from a road blockade on the Oaxaca-Puebla highway in the municipality of Nochixtlan when gunfire erupted, leading to violent clashes that lasted approximately four hours. teleSUR Mexico correspondent Aissa Garcia reported that as many as 12 people may have been killed by the state violence.

Teachers from the dissident CNTE union, also known as Section 22, had set up the blockade as part of protests over an education reform implemented by President Enrique Peña Nieto and the arrest of several of the unions’ leaders over the past week.

More from El País:

Local residents complained on social media that police officers were firing live ammunition at the protesters. The Oaxaca police department said that its officers “were wounded by firearms” and the National Security Commission (CNS) stated in a release that federal police were unarmed.

“We are aware that the gunshots originated from individuals not connected to the roadblocks, who began shooting at the population and the federal police in order to create a confrontation,” said the government.

Photographs of the event published by international agencies show several federal police officers holding weapons and pointing rifles from a trench. In a second release, the CNS said that those photographs are “phony.”

But later, at an evening press conference with Governor Gabino Cué Monteagudo, Federal Police Chief Enrique Galindo admitted that a group of officers did use weapons.

Journalist covering protests assassinated

From teleSUR English, a report on another lethal attack:

A journalist in Oaxaca was shot dead Sunday afternoon after covering the teacher’s blockade of a main highway.

Eligio Ramos Zarate, reporter at El Sur that went by the pseudonym Guillermo Parie, was shot in the neck by two motorcyclists who are still unidentified as he was photographing the holdup of a convenient store nearby.

Raul Cano Lopez, brother of the director of Hechos, another newspaper in Juchitan, Oaxaca, was also killed in gunfire. His brother said that he was just sitting at the bus stop. One unidentified person was injured.

The state agency for investigations said it has not confirmed any motive, but that Ramos Zarate had connections to someone who “supposedly committed illegal acts,” reported El Proceso.

Two Oaxaca state ministers resign in protest    

And from teleSUR English once again, one response to the lethal state violence:

Two local ministers have presented their resignation to Oaxaca Governor Gabino Cue following the violent repression against protesting teachers, which left at least 12 dead people and dozens of injured.

The Minister of Indigenous Affairs in Oaxaca, Adelfo Regino Montes, resigned after expressing disappointment for having worked for a government that he described as “repressive” and called for dialogue to solve the conflict with teachers from the CNTE union.

On Tuesday, Secretary of Labor Daniel Gutierrez became the second top official to quit his post, saying he was quitting in protest against the “authoritarian actions that repress and kill Oaxacan people who defend their rights and the government’s negligence to any possibility of dialogue.”

Doctors join in the strike

Finally, another response, also from teleSUR English:

As protests led by the militant CNTE teachers’ union in Mexico continue, the country’s doctors are set to join in the job action, calling for a national strike on June 22 to protest a neoliberal reform to the health system imposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The group #YoSoyMedico17, which is comprised of doctors, pediatricians, surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses, has been joined by more than 200,000 physicians from 32 states in opposing the so-called Universal Health System reform by Peña Nieto. The medical professionals say the measure is a “disguised way of privatizing health in Mexico,” and said doctors were not consulted on the reform, according to Animal Politico.

The doctors’ protest will join the ongoing national general strike by teachers.

Chart of the day: Oldest Americans working more

BLOG Elders

The only group of Americans with employment levels recovered from and surpassing those reached before the start of the Great Recession are folks who have passed the normal retirement age.

And more elders, the largest growing sector of the population, are working full-time, meaning few job openings for younger workers.

We suspect part of the reason is that price increases in basic staples, including housing, have surpassed fixed income pensions and Social Security payments:

From the Pew Research Center:

More older Americans – those ages 65 and older – are working than at any time since the turn of the century, and today’s older workers are spending more time on the job than did their peers in previous years, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of employment data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In May, 18.8% of Americans ages 65 and older, or nearly 9 million people, reported being employed full- or part-time, continuing a steady increase that dates to at least 2000 (which is as far back as we took our analysis). In May of that year, just 12.8% of 65-and-older Americans, or about 4 million people, said they were working.

We used the employment-population ratio – the employed percentage of a given group’s total population (including those not actively looking for work) – to measure employment among different age groups. The steady increase in the share of working older Americans contrasts with the adult population as a whole, whose employment-population ratio fell sharply during the Great Recession and has yet to recover to pre-slump levels. In May 2000, according to the BLS’ seasonally unadjusted data, 64.4% of all adults had jobs, a figure that had drifted down to 62.5% by May 2008 as the recession took hold. The ratio bottomed out at 57.6% in January 2011, and as of last month stood at 59.9%.

Journalists demand Digital First Media disclosure

Digital First Media is a giant of the dying world of American newspapers, controlling most of the newspapers read by Californians, an boasting sizeable circulation in other states as well.

But the company is now owned by a hedge fund, an outfit that views its newspapers as “properties,” with assets to be stripped and sold off whenever quick bucks are needed.

The company has gutted what was once one of California’s most politically powerful newspapers, the Oakland Tribune, reduced an editorial staff that was 125 when we first first moved to California a number that can be counted on the fingers of one hand, then merged it into an amorphous entity now called the East Bay Times, a paper that represents a merger of the Trib, the Contra Costa Times, the Hayward Daily Review and the Fremont Argus.

The merger followed waves of layoffs at each of the other papers, office closings, and the selloff of properties.

And now for the announcement from the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America:

Digital First Media workers and advocates for responsible and quality journalism are launching a campaign to demand investor transparency by Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that purchased Digital First Media newspapers and properties beginning in 2009.

The campaign was announced today by The NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America, which represents DFM workers.

Alden has been seizing the assets of Digital First Media newspapers: selling real estate, slashing newsroom staff, and outsourcing work to drive up profits for privileged investors. Alden’s actions are affecting local and community coverage and diversity in newsrooms and on the newspapers’ editorial pages.

Alden Global Capital is known as a vulture fund, and is secretive even by hedge fund standards, with money stashed in notorious tax havens around the world. Its actions are not only hurting newspaper employees but are limiting coverage of community issues and harming long-established editorial voices. Alden’s founder, Randall Smith, is a major donor to right-wing candidates and to the Republican Party.

Hundreds of prominent journalists, newspaper workers, and advocates for quality journalism are petitioning Alden, demanding full transparency about the hedge fund’s investments and investors, as well as its political donations.

“Alden is one of the largest newspaper owners in the United States, yet it operates as a dark web of complex business structures to hide itself from public view,” said Bernie Lunzer, president of The NewsGuild-CWA.  “Alden is laying off the very journalists who’d be reporting this kind of vital information to the public. We believe the public has a right to demand complete transparency about Alden.”

The campaign is using the hashtag #NewsMatters to spotlight the vital role that journalism plays in our democracy and to build more public support. The campaign also is using the hashtag #AldenExposed as part of its demand for investor transparency.

“Alden can’t and shouldn’t operate in the shadows while it’s strip mining its newspapers,” said Sara Steffens, secretary-treasurer of the Communications Workers of America, and a former DFM employee who was laid off from her reporting position at the Contra Costa Times. “Alden should invest in these highly profitable papers so that they can properly serve their communities.”

The NewsGuild-CWA represents 870 workers at 12 DFM newspaper bargaining units nationwide, 11 of which have expired contracts.  Many workers haven’t had a raise for seven to 10 years.

The newspapers include the Denver Post, Mercury News, East Bay Times, Monterey Herald, St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Macomb Daily and the Daily Tribune, Kingston Freeman, Pottstown Mercury, The Delaware County Times, The Trentonian, and the Norristown Times-Herald.

Quote of the day: Bernie, the S-word, & unions

From labor lawyer and union negotiator Joe Burns, writing in Jacobin:

The Bernie Sanders campaign has injected socialism into the mainstream discourse for the first time in decades. Young Sanderistas have rallied behind social-democratic demands that fly in the face of forty years of neoliberal policy, and polls show that millennials are surprisingly receptive to socialist ideas.

The positive response to Sanders’s avowed democratic socialism — and to his call for a political revolution — opens the door for a discussion all but absent from today’s labor movement: the importance of socialist ideas to a successful trade union movement.

For most of the labor movement’s history, a broad socialist-minded wing fused its vision of society with a practical program for labor’s future. Whether it was the industrial unionism of the early 1900s, the CIO unions of the 1930s, or the rank-and-file anti-concession movement of the 1970s and 1980s, labor’s left offered an alternative to union decline and stagnation.

Today, however, labor unions rarely discuss class issues. Disputes are particularized, transformed into individual battles between an employer and its workers rather than a larger struggle between opposing classes.

Typically, only bitter and prolonged strikes expose workers to the class bias of the corporate media, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the courts. With industrial action at historic lows, class consciousness has been blocked from spreading throughout labor as a whole.

What’s been remarkable about Sanders has been his ability to use a presidential campaign to bring class front and center. Like Occupy’s targeting of the 1 percent, his campaign has spotlighted and lambasted those who are the true enemies of working people.

Map of the day II: Living wages in the 50 states

From Zippia, a career counseling service, using data from MIT’s Living Wage Calculator:

BLOG Wages