Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Ben Casselman writes that rather than looking to manufacturing jobs alone as a precondition to gains for workers, we should instead focus on the unions which helped to make the manufacturing sector the source of stable, higher-wage work:
Why do factory workers make more in Michigan? In a word: unions. The Midwest was, at least until recently, a bastion of union strength. Southern states, by contrast, are mostly “right-to-work” states where unions never gained a strong foothold. Private-sector unions have been shrinking across the country for decades, but they are stronger in the Midwest than in most other parts of the country. In Michigan, 23 percent of manufacturing production workers were union members in 2015; in South Carolina, less than 2 percent were.

Unions also help explain why the middle class is healthier in the Midwest than in the Southeast, where manufacturing jobs have been growing rapidly in recent decades. A new analysis from the Pew Research Center this week explored the state of the middle class in different parts of the country by looking at the share of households making between two-thirds and double the national median income, after controlling for the local cost of living. In many Midwestern cities, 60 percent or more of households are considered “middle-income” by this definition; in some Southern cities, even those with large manufacturing bases, middle-income households are now in the minority.
For all of the glow that surrounds manufacturing jobs in political rhetoric, there is nothing inherently special about them. Some pay well; others don’t. They are not immune from the forces that have led to slow wage growth in other sectors of the economy. When politicians pledge to protect manufacturing jobs, they really mean a certain kind of job: well-paid, long-lasting, with opportunities for advancement. Those aren’t qualities associated with working on a factory floor; they’re qualities associated with being a member of a union.
- Meanwhile, Hanna Brooks Olsen writes that we should be looking to recognize that service work is skilled work which should be compensated accordingly - a point which is emphasized by Canada's high demand for labour in areas where employers expect to get away with paying less. Christine Saulnier points out how a fair minimum wage represents a broad, bottom-up solution to both inequality and economic stagnation.

- But Nadia Prupis writes that economic trends are headed in the wrong direction, with workers falling further behind both past standards of living and (especially) the current upper class. And Jim Hightower offers his take on how the gig economy makes matters worse for workers.

- Jeff Spross highlights how a housing first system represents a simple starting point in combating both homelessness and numerous other related problems. And Carol Off interviews Marni Brownell about the effectiveness of small cash investments in improving child health.

- Finally, Linda McQuaig makes the case for postal banking to improve both the sustainability of Canada Post, and public access to needed financial services.

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