Category Archives: employment

Maybe This Is What Scares Them

I know I’m repeating myself, but just to build on this morning’s post, let me share this item out of North Carolina:

One dynamic that analysts are interesting in observing is whether the health exchange serves as a mechanism for encouraging workers to change employers even in a tight job market.

One traditional drawback for employees leaving a job has been concerns about losing health insurance coverage during a transition period or receiving reduced benefits. With the exchange, health insurance would be portable since it is based on 7 percent of an individual’s or a household’s income, and not tied to the employer’s choice of insurer and plan options.

Making health insurance portable is an Obamacare benefit you don’t hear talked about enough, in my opinion. But it’s a chink in the plutocrats’ control over the workforce. It cuts one of the puppeteer’s strings.

It will indeed be fascinating to watch from a social studies perspective. Will people feel freer to pursue their passions, be it at another career or even as an entrepreneur? Will people fee freer to leave their jobs and get new work skills by returning to school?

I predict this portability will be a subtle but over time increasingly important change for American workers. Surely most people will stay at their jobs but, over time, as the realization that this important area of a person’s life is no longer out of their control, the change will be profound.

Millennials have all the luck.

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Filed under employment, health insurance, healthcare

Job Creators

Imagine my shock to learn that the country’s second-oldest fast food chain, Krystal, is leaving its Tennessee home after 81 years and moving to Atlanta.

If you live anywhere in the South you’ve no doubt paid a late-night, booze-soaked visit to what we affectionately term “Krystal’s,” famous for its bite-sized burgers. It’s like White Castle, only it’s not. Actually, to be honest, I don’t eat that crap, okay? So don’t ask me to explain it because I’ve never eaten at Krystal’s in my life. But I understand it’s a thing with you college kids. I think it’s one of these deals where you love ‘em, hate ‘em, hate to love ‘em, or love to hate ‘em.

Anyway, Krystal was founded with one restaurant in Chattanooga in 1932, grew to have a presence in nearly a dozen (mostly Southern) states and employ 6,000 people, went public in 1992, went bankrupt in 1997, was purchased by a private equity firm in 2012, and is now leaving Tennessee for Atlanta. That’s about the typical trajectory of a modern capitalistic company, methinks.

What I found interesting is the reasons given for leaving Tennessee:

The company first announced it would leave Chattanooga in fall 2012, saying that it could not affordably and reliably support its 350 restaurants in 11 states from the Chattanooga Airport. Transporting executives to the company’s far-flung locations was simply too costly and time-consuming, officials said.

“The Chattanooga Airport has direct connections with three of Krystal’s cities, while Hartsfield has direct access to all of their markets,” Derryberry said.

Nearby access to the MARTA rapid transit system will enable employees to ride to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which is especially important as the company opens up 13 new restaurants in five states this year, said Pendergast. The long-term plan is to expand its footprint to 500 locations throughout the Southeast.

Wow, didja hear that, Gov. Haslam? Chattanooga’s crappy airport and lack of rapid transit — not gun laws, state tax rates, immigration laws, or the 10 Commandments on the courthouse walls — cost Tennessee an iconic, native employer. Imagine that.

Yep, we’re talking big, socialist, government-funded infrastructure projects like a larger airport and high speed rail. The kind of big-dollar projects that create tons of jobs when you’re doing them and keep employers in the state when you’re done. The kind of projects that build communities.

Apparently government doesn’t create jobs, but government inaction sure loses them.

But hey, they’re leaving behind a museum:

“Krystal has been gathering memorabilia over the past few months and making plans to showcase the company’s rich past,” she said. “Going through over 7,000 photographs and looking through 80 years of history has been time-consuming but extremely important.”

Bob Doak, president and chief executive officer of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, cheered the prospect of a new downtown museum.

“I believe something like this will pique the curiosity of visitors,” Doak said. “If Krystal wants to give back, to have a presence in this community, it would certainly be welcomed.”

That, my friends, is the quintessential silver linings CVB quote. A museum? Pfft. That’s the equivalent of a historic marker in front of the parking garage telling you about the fabulous building that used to stand on this spot. Nashville is full of them. And this is what happens when you wear blinders and are only looking two feet in front of you, instead thinking of the long term. This is the Tennessee disease: we’re incredibly short-sighted here, always have been. It’s only a miracle that things like Nashville’s now-awesome historic downtown were ever saved in the first place. But I digress.

We’ve been talking about the need for high-speed rail in Tennessee for years now. From the memory hole:

Tennessee could benefit from such a line, especially one linking Knoxville in the east with Memphis in the West. That 400-mile line could tie in to rail lines in other states.

This isn’t likely to happen, however, since there appears to be little interest among state officials or the state’s lawmakers.

The exception, fortunately, is Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, a longtime supporter and former consultant for the project that would link his city with Atlanta. Drive Interstate 75 between Atlanta and Chattanooga, and it won’t be difficult to understand the need for a high-speed train.

Tennessee was not among the two dozen states last month seeking a share of the $1.2 billion that became available after Florida and Wisconsin turned down federal funds for high-speed rail projects that previously were approved.

With Krystal’s exit, I think we know why ex-Mayor Littlefield saw the need for rail transit. It’s too bad we have so few people in state government with any vision. The problem is that we are living in a rapidly changing world and that requires people who want to spend the bulk of their time planning for the future.

Instead what we’re stuck with is a group of people firmly entrenched in the past, who spend the bulk of their time trying to figure out how we can all be forced to live in it.

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Filed under employment, Tennessee

The Question That Finally Is Asked

Finally someone (cough*cough*HIPPIE AT NPR*cough*cough) asks the question that no one has bothered to address during this whole Michigan right-to-work debacle. Which is, why does anyone think there’s a connection between “right-to-work” and employment? Why would anyone think that, when all you have to do is look at the unemployment figures from RTW states? Via ThinkProgress:

Pressed by Marketplace Morning Report host Jeremy Hobson to explain what proof Snyder had that Michigan would see a job boom as a result of the law, the Governor cited neighboring Indiana’s recent job numbers as his only evidence:

SNYDER: This is about more and better jobs coming to Michigan. If you look at Indiana, they did similar legislation in February. And literally, thousands of new jobs are coming to Indiana where this was a major consideration in companies’ decision to move to that state.

HOBSON: Are you saying then that companies decided to go to Indiana, for example, because there’s less union membership in Indiana?

SNYDER: No, and I don’t want to speak for the companies but it is very clear that companies are looking at Indiana that previously did not.

[...]

HOBSON: Well, make that connection though. You’re saying that, by not requiring workers to pay union dues, that therefore companies are going to be more attracted to the state. Why would that be?

SNYDER: Well, that’s a question for the companies but there is a strong sense, and companies do look at that. That’s something we’ve suffered here.

[...]

HOBSON: Union membership has fallen dramatically in Michigan and across the country and it’s not as though that has translated into some boom in employment. I see the point you’re making, but it hasn’t been borne out in the evidence, has it?

SNYDER: Well, it’s been borne out in the Indiana case.

Tennessee has been a right-to-work state since forever, and our unemployment rate has consistently been higher than the national average. In October, we saw a modest decrease to 8.2%, but that was still higher than the national average of 7.9%. Furthermore, many Tennessee counties are still struggling with unemployment at a rate well over 10%.

I don’t understand why, during the whole debate about Michigan ramming right-to-work down peoples’ throats, no one ever asked how RTW is supposed to fix unemployment, and if it indeed does so in states that have these laws. I keep hearing beltway pundits yammer on about stuff like Nissan and VW plants in Tennessee, but there’s just this grand assumption that right-to-work is the #1 reason. You know what else we’ve got? Really, super cheap energy (thank you, big, bad, quasi-government TVA), a moderate climate, and most important, a central location within a day’s drive of 75% of the U.S. From a transportation/get your products to market point of view, that is huge.

[UPDATE]:

Curious. Right to work for thee but not for me?

ALTO, MI – Michigan House Democrats are calling an assistant majority floor leader a hypocrite for proposing an amendment that would have exempted her husband from right-to-work bills that lawmakers passed, and Gov. Snyder then signed into law.

State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, was among right-to-work supporters quoted in The New York Times on Tuesday, Dec. 11, saying “this is the day that Michigan freed its workers.” But she also proposed to add corrections officers to the list of public employees – including police and fire – not covered by the right-to-work law.

The amendment was gaveled down and did not come up for a vote.

If right to work is so awesome, how come the GOP always want to exempt police and firefighters? And how come this Republiweasel tried to exempt her husband?

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Filed under employment, unions

Holding Workers Hostage

[UPDATE]:

Several folks have wondered what Melissa Brookstone’s small business might be, and if she’s planning on not hiring now. I can’t be sure (she worships at the altar of Ayn Rand and is promoting this “planetary bill of rights” project according to her Facebook page…)

I’m not certain but it appears she works as a process server in Denver. Hope none of her law firm clients are planning to Go Galt.

—————————————

Those Tea Party people, they’re such awesome patriots:

Tea Party Nation sent to their members today a message from activist Melissa Brookstone urging businesspeople to “not hire a single person” to protest the Obama administration’s supposed “war against business and my country.” Brookstone writes that business owners should stop hiring new employees in order to stand up to “this new dictator,” the “global Progressive socialist movement,” Hollywood, the media and Occupy Wall Street.

Click on the link and read the insane wackadoodle this Melissa Brookstone person has cooked up in her “manifesto”: Obama has seized “dictatorial powers” to “bypass Congress,” congress is ” controlled by a Progressive socialist Senate,” and best of all, those all-powerful Democrats and their minions in Hollywood and the liberal news media are promoting an “anti-business, an anti-free market, and an anti-capitalist (anti-individual rights and property ownership) agenda.”

Okie dokie. Sounds like someone forgot to take her medication this month. So yeah, she wants all small business owners to stop hiring because if things get even worse in this country, that’ll show ‘em! Or something.

Let’s just imagine what kind of backlash such America-hating rhetoric would generate if it came from the left. But it’s perfectly fine for the Tea Party to call for businesses to hold American workers hostage until there’s a Republican in the White House. Isn’t that what we call economic terrorism? IOKIYAR.

Honestly, this isn’t much different from Mitch McConnell’s grand plan to make Obama a one-term president by obstructing any legislative effort to fix the economy.

I wonder how many small businesses would be interested in taking Brookstone up on her offer? Can you imagine? “I really need to expand my business right now so I can increase my profits but I can’t because making sure Obama fails is just too important.”

Hilarious. What a bunch of morans!

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Filed under economy, employment, Tea Party

Tone Deaf

With the protests against corporate greed spreading not just nationally but internationally, the Republicans in Congress have decided now is the perfect time to revamp our corporate taxes and move toward a territorial system:

The idea behind the system is to encourage multinational companies to bring back their money to the U.S., where supporters of the change say the money could be invested. Proponents also argue the move would make U.S. companies more globally competitive, particularly since most industrialized countries have tax systems in which companies are only taxed in the country where it is earned.

The Ways and Means proposal would not be a fully drafted bill, but instead a proposal that would allow business groups and other stakeholders to offer suggestions. As of now, it’s unclear when the panel might release the proposal.

Well, that’s nice of them to let the corporations write their own laws. Why even bother with an expensive, unwieldy institution like Congress? Just let the corporations do what they want, right? Dispense with the middle men/women!

Now, would someone please explain to me how taxing American corporations only on profits made within U.S. borders encourages them to bring their money back to the U.S.? Near as I can tell, the territorial idea simply encourages multinationals to move more of their operations offshore (and Citizens For Tax Justice seems to agree with me). It’s basically the same as our present “deferral” system. In theory, under “deferral” corporate profits generated overseas are not taxed but “deferred” until they’re brought back to the U.S., but in practice that never happens because multinational corporations have all sorts of overseas subsidiaries and tax havens where they park these funds. That’s the whole point of “repatriation” — letting corporations bring that money home at temporarily reduced tax rates.

Shouldn’t we do away with the “deferral” loophole, not cement it in place? I guess Republicans are trying to pretend that overseas profits will flood back to the U.S. like a mighty river of tax-free revenue — kind of like the “repatriation” scheme, but set in stone in the corporate tax code. It’s that same Republican fairy tale: lower taxes create jobs! That’s what they keep telling us, isn’t it?

Well let’s see how that worked last time we offered multinationals a chance to repatriate their offshore funds at low, low tax rates. We did that under Bush The Lesser in 2004. So, guess what the participating companies did with their tax savings?

…in fact, the corporations who took most advantage of the holiday enacted in 2004 shed jobs in the ensuing years and did not increase their rate of spending on research and development.

On the flip side, the study found those corporations also appear to have used the holiday for stock buybacks and to boost executive pay, which was not allowed under the legislation authorizing the holiday.

Oh noes! And Republicans want to make this permanent? Egads.

But Republicans are still drinking the “lower taxes creates jobs” Kool-Aid, despite the continued failure of these ideas. We’ve been cutting taxes on wealthy “job creators” for years, and we still aren’t seeing the magic. And now they want to permanently cut corporate taxes with this “territorial” scheme because hey, if they’re doing it in the UK and Japan, then we have to, right? To be “competitive”?

You know what they have in the UK and Japan that makes them competitive? A functioning healthcare distribution system that doesn’t place the burden of our overpriced, for-profit healthcare system on the backs of employers. But I digress.

Citizens For Tax Justice thinks we need to go in the complete opposite direction, which means keep our worldwide tax system but remove the “deferral” loophole. That removes the incentive corporations have to offshore their operations and move jobs away from the U.S. That makes absolute perfect sense to me, but our debate is so muddied with the fairy tales, I’m sure we’ll keep hearing about how lower taxes creates jobs over and over again. Yet no one can ever point to a time when that was true.

Anyway, this idea was first floated back in the spring but now the GOP is supposedly moving forward with it. I’m just trying to imagine how a corporate tax idea that permanently encourages outsourcing jobs while offering corporations lower tax rates will go over with the masses protesting corporate greed. I’m thinking not too well.

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Filed under corporations, economy, employment, taxes

We’re Doomed

I don’t know if this is spin, wishful thinking or just plain stupidity, but any way you slice it, it’s just plain wrong:

President Obama’s senior political adviser David Plouffe said Wednesday that people won’t vote in 2012 based on the unemployment rate.

[...]

“The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers,” Plouffe said, according to Bloomberg. “People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on: ‘How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?’”

God I miss those days when Democrats were the party of “it’s the economy, stupid.” Some folks have worried that we’ve reached a place in our politics where unemployment of 7% and higher is “the new normal.” All of this talk about deficits has had diddly to do with jobs, and now with Plouffe spouting this nonsense it appears those folks may be right.

The very last thing President Obama and the Democrats need to be projecting right now is that they don’t care about jobs.

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Filed under economy, employment

Good Question, Bad Answer

Much is being made of John Boehner’s Tweet to President Obama in yesterday’s “town hall,” which read:

“After embarking on a record spending binge that’s left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs? #AskObama”

President Obama gave a long, rambling semi-answer instead of doing what he should have done, which is take on the fucking question. Democrats can’t seem to stand by their record to save their lives, and it costs us every time.

Had Obama actually answered the question, he might have pointed out what Salon’s Andrew Leonard wrote, which is that we’ve had “trickle down” economics for years and, well, to quote John Boehner: where are the jobs?

Wages are moribund, unemployment is stuck at 9 percent, and the corporate bottom line is doing just fine. You could be excused for thinking that if ever there was time to put the stake through supply-side economics, it would be now. Wall Street and big corporations are doing just fine, but absolutely nothing is trickling down. And yet Republicans are still pushing the same old song and dance, passionately holding the entire creditworthiness of the United States hostage in return for even lower taxes on corporations, adamantly refusing to countenance even the slightest revenue increase to help cushion the hard times for the Americans who are getting a raw deal out of the current recovery.

Where are the jobs? You tell us, John Boehner. We got the first round of “Bush tax cuts” in 2001, the second round in 2003. The recession officially began in December 2007, and Bush and the GOP’s brilliant plan to save the economy was to send everyone a check for $600. But Bush’s job creation record was dismal, and not just after the real estate bubble burst; during his entire eight years in office, President Bush had “the worst track record for job creation since the government began keeping records,” according to the Wall Street Journal:

The Bush administration created about three million jobs (net) over its eight years, a fraction of the 23 million jobs created under President Bill Clinton‘s administration and only slightly better than President George H.W. Bush did in his four years in office.

So, where were the jobs?

And then in stunningly stupid concession to Republicans, Democrats caved and filled the stimulus with tax cuts and tax credits, which we already know don’t work! And then in another stunningly stupid concession to Republican fantasies, last December we renewed the Bush tax cuts for two years.

So, where are the damn jobs? For the past 10 years we’ve had a steady stream of tax cuts and more tax cuts and individual “tax rebates.” This shit doesn’t work, people. They haven’t worked. If anyone wants to know where the jobs are, then look in a fucking mirror. Republicans keep selling their tax cut snake oil, Democrats keep falling for it, and where are the damn jobs?

As Ed at Gin And Tacos observes (and correcting Leonard):

Cutting the income tax is a demand-side solution. And that – far moreso than actual supply side ideas – has proven useless in spectacular fashion as a driver of economic growth. The theory is to give wage-earners more money to spend, which is great except that A) most wage-earners are already paying so little in Federal income tax that the cuts have little substantive impact, B) cuts are always lavished on a small population of high earners who are more likely to save than spend, and C) the civil religion of debt repayment, coupled with staggering levels of household debt, ensure that income tax cuts are just a way to funnel some money to banks and mortgage lenders.

Look, this is the same stuff we keep saying, over and over again. Asking where the jobs are is a logical question, it’s one Americans are asking too. Democrats need to start answering it directly. How about this:

“Where are the jobs? We’ve implemented billions of dollars of tax cuts for the past 10 years. We conceded to Republican demands and made tax cuts a major part of the economic stimulus. Taxes are lower now than at any time since Harry Truman was president — and that’s including federal, state and local income taxes. So where are the jobs? You tell me. We’ve been following Republican policies for a decade and it hasn’t worked.”

I mean, come on, Democrats. Stand up and fight back, for chrissakes. I simply don’t understand why you guys can’t seem to make a case — ever. What the fuck is wrong with you?

[UPDATE]:

Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has more. And before anyone sends me links to their Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation white papers, I just want to remind everyone that our side has Nobel Prize winners. When Stiglitz says right-wing ideologues “seek to repeal the basic laws of math and economics,” I’m going to believe him.

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Filed under economic stimulus, economy, employment, taxes

Cheap Labor Update

Well this is interesting:

According to UC Berkeley’s report, Walmart employees earn 14.5 percent less than other workers in large retail companies. Depressing stuff, but there is any easy enough fix: If Walmart implemented a $12 per hour minimum wage for all employees, it would cost the company $3.2 billion. That is a lot of money, unless you’re Walmart, in which case it’s just 1% of your overall annual $305 billion in sales. Even if Walmart passed on the entire burden of the wage increase to customers, it would only average out to a cost increase of 46 cents per shopping trip. That’s surely something that most Walmart shoppers can afford.

But they wouldn’t even have to. Remember Walmart’s exceptional energy-saving plans? Perhaps it could take some of the money it will inevitably save from energy and materials efficiency and pass it on to workers.

Heh. Yeah don’t hold your breath.

Last month the New York Times looked at WalMart’s accelerated campaign to enter the New York market. They’ve been foiled for years and now that WalMart is all green and socially responsible they’re asking New Yorkers for another chance. But with WalMart depressing wages everywhere it sets up shop, can you blame people for being wary?

Here’s a thought for WalMart: Instead of spending so much money on elaborate TV and print ads, glossy brochures, polls, and hiring Michael Bloomberg’s ex-campaign manager, why not just pay people a living wage and be done with it?

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Filed under employment, Wal-Mart

>Get A Job! If You Can!

>Today David Sirota was on the Bill Press Show discussing the heinous practice of employers checking job applicants’ credit history as a condition for hiring. It was an interesting discussion and one which has been long overdue; I have never, ever understood why this practice is done, or why it’s even allowed. Indeed, this is just another reason why my blood boils when Republican politicians talk about the unemployed as “lazy” or luxuriating in the welfare state hammock and unmotivated to work because they’re supposedly living large on unemployment benefits — laughable claims in and of themselves, as anyone who collects unemployment knows. But even more ludicrous when one realizes how the deck is stacked against those trying to find a job to begin with.

I first heard about this practice a few years ago. An acquaintance had her credit ruined after she suffered cardiac arrest and actually momentarily died during a very minor surgical procedure. Unable to work during recovery, she lost her job — and with a medical malpractice lawsuit pending, the medical bills piled up. She was forced to declare bankruptcy, which haunted her during her subsequent job search. I was astonished that something like this was even going on.

Dear employers: why in God’s name do you think it’s okay to, a) search someone’s credit history before you will hire them and, b) not hire someone because of bad credit or a bankruptcy? Doesn’t it seem obvious that people work because they need to? How are people supposed to climb out of the debt hole if you won’t give them a freaking job because they’re in debt? Hello?

This is reprehensible and just another example of the way business dicks working people around. We hear about the war on working people, well this is Exhibit A. How adversarial is it to assume someone with a bad credit history is going to steal from you, for example? If that’s the case, do you check the credit histories of those whom you currently employ? No? Well why not, then? It’s not like only unemployed people get into debt.

It’s like there’s a conspiracy of business interests trying to get as many people in desperate straights as possible so they’ll take the crappiest deals thrown their way. Get people desperate enough and they’ll work for peanuts and no benefits. And while we’re at it, let’s make sure they can’t unionize and try to level the playing field. No, what this country needs is a permanent underclass, amiright? We need some really desperately poor folks to do our dirty work for nothing — especially since that whole illegal immigrant well is starting to run dry. Hey, too bad we abolished slavery, maybe we can have de facto slave labor, how about that? “Right to work,” my ass.

Seriously, that’s how it looks from where I sit. It’s almost like they planned it or something.

I was happy to see that our own Tennesseee Rep. Steve Cohen filed a bill back in January to outlaw this practice. I’m sure the Republican-controlled House will get right on that [/sarcasm]. I also understand several states are looking to ban the practice as well. Tennessee should be one of them.

Come on, Tennessee Democrats: show the working people of this state you understand the issues they face. While Tennessee’s Republicans are more interested in peeping inside women’s vaginas and battling the non-existent threat of Sharia Law, here’s an issue where you can really stand apart from the do-nothing opposition and show you stand for helping people get back to work.

Just a thought.

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Filed under bankruptcy, employment, Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee, TNDP