THIS WEEK IN AMERICA: July 11, 2013
National Nurses United, 7/11/13
The American jobs disaster is finally getting some media attention, finally, after the White House, Congress and Wall Street have combined to cast a dire crisis in employment as a moderate condition contributing to a well-anchored recovery. The Washington Post reminded that the latest jobs report included 322,000 new part-time jobs- “a number that comprises only part-timers who want full-time work but can’t find it.” Prominent among these very substantial numbers are Americans age 25 and under, forced to cobble together something of a living with part-time stints. Small wonder poverty and near-poverty continue a steady, ominous rise in the U.S.
Of the 195,000 jobs created in June, fully 75,000 came in “Leisure and Hospitality,” the Post explained, “Labor Department-speak for hotels, restaurants, fast-food joints and bars. Workers in this sector averaged just 26.1 hours a week.” Six thousand manufacturing jobs were eliminated in June.
“Worse yet,” chimed the Post, “the jobs being created paid a lot less than the jobs that were lost. While the average hourly wage of non-supervisory employees in manufacturing was $19.26 in June, it was $13.96 for retail employees and $11.75 for hotel and restaurant workers” According to the National Employment Law Project, the median hourly wages of all American workers declined 2.8 percent from 2009 to 2012.
Employers regularly use workers from temp agencies—10,000 were employed in this fashion in June, it was reported. “The advantages are clear: Employers are under no pressure to provide raises or benefits to temporary workers, nor are they legally liable if the workers turn out to be undocumented or are hurt on the job.”
Michael Grabell in ProPublica and reprinted on Alternet profiled the temp sector: “In cities all across the country, workers stand on street corners, line up in alleys or wait in a neon-lit beauty salon for rickety vans to whisk them off to warehouses miles away. Some vans are so packed that to get to work, people must squat on milk crates, sit on the laps of passengers they do not know or sometimes lie on the floor, the other workers’ feet on top of them….
“The people here are not day laborers looking for an odd job from a passing contractor. They are regular employees of temp agencies working in the supply chain of many of America’s largest companies – Walmart, Macy’s, Nike, Frito-Lay. They make our frozen pizzas, sort the recycling from our trash, cut our vegetables and clean our imported fish. They unload clothing and toys made overseas and pack them to fill our store shelves. They are as important to the global economy as shipping containers and Asian garment workers.”
“In June,” summed up ProPublica, “the nation had more temp workers than ever before. Overall, almost one-fifth of the total job growth since the recession ended in mid-2009 has been in the temp sector, federal data shows.
Low U.S. Wages Spell Demise. This same June data from the Labor Department showed that 3.6 million workers earned the minimum wage by 2012, a surge since 2007, when that number totaled 1.7 million, according to the New York Times.
When it comes to comparative median wealth among industrial countries, the U.S. has fallen to 27th—an indication of the gross inequality that’s come to define this nation. The Huffington Post reports that while “the U.S. is the richest country on Earth” – with “hedge fund managers who make in one hour as much as the average family in 21 years!” – “there are 26 other countries with a median wealth higher than ours….” Just ahead of us: Kuwait and Cyprus.
Not Much Equality in New Mexico. Writing in CounterPunch, Carol Miller outlines child poverty in that state, where the overall poverty rate hovers at 20 percent. “Since 2000 the number of poor children in the U.S. has increased by more than 5 million, wrote Miller. “Nearly half of these children live in extreme poverty, including two and a half million children under the age of five. In sparsely populated New Mexico, at least 150,000 children live in poverty and nearly 80,000 in extreme poverty.”
A mom and a child in New Mexico receive a maximum of $304 per month as cash assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). In New Mexico, Miller pointed out, a family needs to have five members to get over $500 per month.
“When adjusted for inflation, New Mexico ‘benefits’ have declined 31 percent in real dollars since President Clinton signed welfare reform in 1996,” she wrote.
“It is time to create jobs that pay a living wage and provide health care,” said Miller. “Jobs that build capacity and infrastructure throughout the state, like libraries, recycling centers, environmental clean-up, forest thinning and fuel use instead of controlled burns, sewer line construction and wastewater management, playgrounds – the list can go on and on.”
It is critical to note that nearly half of poor African-American children live in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty, defined as areas where 30 percent of the census tract population lives below the federal poverty threshold (on less than $18,000 for a family of three), according to The Nation.
A Very Soft Landing. For some, it is business as usual, as the plethora of low-wage and temp jobs translates to riches. “Golden Parachutes Are Still Very Much in Style,” headlined a recent New York Times article. “ Executives who choose to retire… often receive millions when they leave. And despite years of public outcry against such deals, multimillion-dollar severance packages are still common.” Take, for example, James J. Mulya, Conoco Phillips CEO, who exited with a packaged valued at $156 million-- the market value of stock gains he received plus payouts from a cash severance, a bonus and additional retirement distributions.
“In some cases,” the Times reported, “retiring chief executives will continue to receive millions years after their retirement. Edward D. Breen of Tyco International received deferred shares worth more than $55 million, added to “$30 million more as a lump-sum pension payment in 2016 as part of his employment agreement.”
John R. Charman, the former chairman and chief executive of Axis Capital Holdings, an insurer and reinsurer based in Bermuda, was forced out his top job. Still, “he received more than $26.5 million to walk away from the company.”
For Vikram S. Pandit, the former chief of Citigroup, who had to forego his agreed-upon parachute amidst revelations of that mega-bank’s misdeeds surrounding the financial collapse of 2008, the parachute was less-than-gilded, by comparison. But Citigroup’s board awarded Pandit $6.7 million as a 2012 bonus. Still makes for a very soft landing.
“Pandit” rhymes with…?
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