Monday, September 01, 2014

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Labour Day reading.

- Andrew Jackson discusses the future of Canada's labour movement, while Gil McGowan highlights the fact that unionization can be no less important in Alberta and other booming areas than elsewhere. And Jerry Dias notes that there are some reasons for celebration this year.

- But Edward McClelland points out that far too many labourers who would benefit from organization are instead hostile to the idea of unions. And Timothy Noah finds another gap between labour and U.S. centrist liberals - which is mirrored by the relationship between unions and large-L Liberals in Canada.

- Speaking of which, Tracy Sherlock writes that disastrous past decade-plus for B.C.'s education system can be traced back to the Lib government's hostile response to the inclusion of special needs supports and other student priorities in teachers' collective bargaining agreements. 

- Kathy Tomlinson reports on how the Cons' efforts to undermine Canadian labour are leading to grossly unsafe working conditions for Canadian and imported workers alike. And Geoff Leo exposes yet another employer laying off qualified Canadian workers with help from the Cons' temporary foreign worker program.

- Steven Greenhouse addresses the epidemic of wage theft which is making living conditions all the worse for some of the U.S.' most vulnerable workers.

- Finally, Hedrick Smith (as adapted by Yes) documents how the spread of inequality in the U.S. is the result of deliberate policy choices. And Sean McElwee offers five reasons why politics haven't yet served to reduce inequality, particularly if voters have misplaced faith in upward mobility while ignoring its inevitable counterpart:
According to research from Carina Engelhardt and Andreas Wagner, around the world people overestimate the level of upward mobility in their society.

They find that redistribution is lower the when actual social mobility is [sic] but also lower where perceived mobility is higher. Even if voters perceive the level of inequality correctly, their tendency to overstate the level of mobility can undermine support for redistribution. In another study Alberto Alesina and Eliana La Ferrara find that, Americans who believe that American society offers equal opportunity (a mythology) are more likely to oppose redistribution. Using data from 33 democracies, Elvire Guillaud finds that those who believe they have experienced downward mobility in the past decade are  32% more likely to support redistribution. A relatively strong literature now supports this thesis.
[A] massive public education campaign about the extent of income inequality is neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve the kind of redistributive policies liberals favor. The real obstacles to policy action on inequality are more deeply ingrained in the structure of American politics, demographics, and interest group coalitions. Insofar as there is a role for better information to play, it likely relates not to inequality but to social mobility which remains widely misperceived and is a potent driver of feelings about the justice of economic policy. As John Steinbeck noted, "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." Stronger unions, more lower income voter turnout and policies to reduce the corrupting influence of money on the political process would all work to reduce inequality. It will take political mobilization, not simply voter education to achieve change.

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