Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Paul Krugman comments on the role of fear in boosting employers' authority over workers:
The fact is that employment generally involves a power relationship: you have a boss, who tells you what to do, and if you refuse, you may be fired. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If employers value their workers, they won’t make unreasonable demands. But it’s not a simple transaction. There’s a country music classic titled “Take This Job and Shove It.” There isn’t and won’t be a song titled “Take This Consumer Durable and Shove It.”

So employment is a power relationship, and high unemployment has greatly weakened workers’ already weak position in that relationship. 
Now think about what this means for workers’ bargaining power. When the economy is strong, workers are empowered. They can leave if they’re unhappy with the way they’re being treated and know that they can quickly find a new job if they are let go. When the economy is weak, however, workers have a very weak hand, and employers are in a position to work them harder, pay them less, or both.

Is there any evidence that this is happening? And how. The economic recovery has, as I said, been weak and inadequate, but all the burden of that weakness is being borne by workers. Corporate profits plunged during the financial crisis, but quickly bounced back, and they continued to soar. Indeed, at this point, after-tax profits are more than 60 percent higher than they were in 2007, before the recession began. We don’t know how much of this profit surge can be explained by the fear factor — the ability to squeeze workers who know that they have no place to go. But it must be at least part of the explanation.
- And Robyn Benson points out that temporary foreign workers serve as particularly vulnerable sources of cheap, disposable labour. 

- Meanwhile, Michael Adams and Robin Brown recognize that while the Cons may have managed to turn a few pools of new Canadians into useful voting blocs, plenty more immigrants place a high value on the economic security and cultural diversity which the Cons are eagerly shredding in the name of higher immediate profits for a few preferred industries.

- Katie Valentine expands on Alberta's replacement of public regulation of oil sands environmental issues with an industry-funded and -dominated body. And lest there be any doubt who the Alberta Energy Regulator is intended to serve, a quick look at the background of its board - complete with zero references to environmental knowledge or experience on the part of even a single member - should put that to rest.

- Finally, both David Atkins and Dartagnan ask what it means for the global financial system if it's impossible to prosecute major fraud which helped to cause the 2008 economic meltdown because the results of that fraud are seen as necessary to the continued operation of the economy as we know it.

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