Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Beth Gutelius writes that any discussion about the future of work can draw important lessons from the past, with most of the issues facing workers today echoing or arising out of ones which have surfaced before:
The set of structural forces that has converged over the last forty years has shaped the economy and produced an uneven distribution of benefits, especially along lines of race, gender, immigration status, disability, and other markers of social difference. These are the ghosts of work, forces which include:
  • Structural racism and gender discrimination that disadvantages people of color, especially African Americans, and women;
  • Immigration policy that has resulted in a secondary labor market for undocumented immigrants and immigrants with certain visas;
  • Industry reorganization that has led to an increasingly fissured economy and increasing reliance on outsourcing and worker subcontracting;
  • Decline in union density, due to explicit and well-funded attacks on workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively, which has reduced the wage-setting capacity and political influence of unions;
  • Shifts in corporate governance that have lead to increased shareholder power and CEO pay, and curtailed shared prosperity;
  • Globalization and trade policy which produced a new set of low-road competitive dynamics, including offshoring;
  • Attacks on the public sector which have resulted in policies skewed toward financial and private sector deregulation, privatization, and the overall shrinking of the role of government;
  • Tax policy reform that has favored the wealthy and corporations, and has lead to a redistribution of gains toward the top of the income spectrum; and
  • Financialization, which has bloated the role of the financial sector in the economy.
What a list! Taken as a whole, these major trends have shifted power and resources away from workers, and allowed or even incentivized employers to pursue a range of low-road approaches to profitability. These root causes may be shifting somewhat, but they are not going away.
  1. The future of economic justice is a just transition to what will involve more technologically-mediated labor markets and jobs. A just transition should mitigate the costs and share the benefits of new technologies.
  2. Change is certain, but its path is not, and giving in to inevitability will stifle our imagination. There are many alternatives, and it is our collective duty to create and promote them.
  3. Efforts to confront the changing nature of work should strengthen the role of the public sector in setting and enforcing workplace standards and delivering a social safety net.
  4. Those workers most affected by an issue should be involved in shaping any proposal or campaign to address it, and the process should help build workers’ voice and capacity to act.
- Meanwhile, the New York Times editorial board examines the long-haul trucking industry as a damning example of the combination of longer hours, greater demands and stagnant wages faced by so many workers in the U.S. over recent decades.

- The New York Times editorial board also points out how the Trump tax giveaway served only to further enrich the wealthy. And Thomas Piketty discusses the dangers of burgeoning inequality.

- The Economist offers a useful set of principles and proposals to make tax systems more fair and effective. 

- Finally, Don Lenihan writes about Canada's telecommunications oligopoly - and the need to treat access to the world as an essential service to ensure access is available in areas which won't receive equitable services based on profit motives. And Sarah Fischer discusses the dangers of increased concentration of local television broadcasting and other media.

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