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Income inequality is at an 80 year high.
As long as this is the big picture, working people are still in trouble.
Losing ground is the status quo for workers in America. That's the sad fact. From Congress failing to extend emergency unemployment insurance with long-term unemployment at double what it's been when such aid has expired after previous recessions to labor laws that make it all too easy for employers to intimidate and retaliate against worker organizing to wage stagnation to gaping income and wealth inequality, the deck is radically stacked against lower-income (and, for that matter, middle-income) Americans.

But with 2014 beginning, let's look at some retrospectives on victories of 2013. In this context, working people fighting back at all can count as a victory—after all, for a lot of years we've seen far too little of that. But there were also some concrete victories, even if some of them were defensive and none of them were enough—yet—to turn the tide.

Writing at Working In These Times, Amien Essif hails the 10 biggest wins for labor in 2013 as including the first union contract won by carwasheros outside of California, North Carolina's Moral Mondays protests, and a surprise entry at number one. At Alternet, meanwhile, Owen Davis has 10 big wins for public education in 2013, including local rebellions against high-stakes testing, growing dissent among Teach for America alums, and local electoral victories against pro-corporate education policy forces.

A few other entries: At Social Policy, Clara Wheatley-Schaller takes an in-depth look at a win that doesn't appear on either of those top 10 lists: How California's unions beat back paycheck protection. Working America's Doug Foote details how the "right to work" movement fell flat on its face in 2013. It may be stalled at the federal level, but the minimum wage went up in many states.

So wins are possible. But as long as they come in a context in which, for instance, Wisconsin education unions are being decertified because union members who don't vote at all are being counted as having voted against the union, thanks to Gov. Scott Walker's notorious Act 10, working people are still going to be on the losing end. Over the past two years or so, we've seen the beginnings of a fight back. But we need to build a lot more power if workers are going to stop losing ground, let alone gain it.

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's labor and education news.

  • The Department of Labor is seeking $2 million in back pay from a Chinese buffet in Georgia for employee misclassification.
  • Beginning "I speak as a student that has taken the tests and jumped through the hoops," Tennessee high school senior Kenneth Ye told his local school board:
    However, as our schools take another step to becoming the next big bureaucracy in America, I would like to call for a conference of concern. With the new Common Core system, I see us shifting even further into a "one size fits all" factory of education, where we churn out students seen as "proficient" through testing. [...]

    My largest concern is the influx of high stakes testing and the effect it is having on our students, along with the flaws in its establishment. We need to understand that setting high standards and helping students work towards achieving them is drastically different from mandating all students to achieve them.

  • The Los Angeles schools paid how much for iPads? (Via Diane Ravitch)
  • Yet again, a judge has ruled against Florida's drug-tests-for-welfare law.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Jan 04, 2014 at 10:55 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  individualism (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, a2nite, johnnygunn

    In a nation of individuals workers will be treated as liabilities not assets. I have seen a worker laid off after 25 years of service due to a new manager wanting his own people     on his "team".

    I still remember being fired/laid off/ whatever on my first job because the manger wanted to give his  son in law a job.

    Individualism is nothing more than code for ego centered behavior given an accepted name.

    The problem is not corporations or the rich "coke" brothers or the rich, or the tea party folks, or the politicians; the problem is the America worker/voter that keeps electing the same two lobbyist controlled political parties into power and expecting change. insanity.

    America is a christian nation that has yet to realize the cause and effect relationship of karma. Jesus is looked upon as a free gift to heaven.

    Karma shows no favoritism not even to Americans.

  •  Until we elect Democrats that raise income tax... (7+ / 0-)

    ...on the rich this will continue.

    Raising the minimum wage helps, the ACA helps, cutting down the military/industrial budget helps but the rich must contribute more to the general welfare.

    And it's not just the tax rate, it's the innumerable tax loopholes that the rich can take advantage of.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Sat Jan 04, 2014 at 11:39:45 AM PST

  •  And College Bowl Games? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elizabeth 44, jbsoul

    I notice the threads for all the bowls and think - -

    "Isn't what is going on in universities with outrageous coaching salaries and part-time, no-benefits adjuncts teaching more and more courses precisely the same as the McDonaldization of so many other jobs?"

    Everyone can make a "But, but" exception for their favorite team, yet the implications of the sports/industrial complex at universities are quite similar.

    •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      In many European countries, sports teams are separate from schools.  While some PE type classes which teach a culture of lifelong physical activities are important, this heavy emphasis on what is professional sports is not the mission of our colleges,

  •  We all, including Nature, will keep losing ground (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elizabeth 44, johnnygunn, jbsoul

    until we break into, and break up, the mass-reach Media narrative-making monopoly.

    Something to that effect was my sig for a long time, starting about 7 years ago, along the lines 'until we break up the monopoly on what we hear and see we'll keep losing, no matter what we do.'

    True then. True today. True tomorrow. There is no more important task before us than breaking the agitation/propaganda apparatus of the 1% into thousands of locally-controlled entities.

    Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

    by Jim P on Sat Jan 04, 2014 at 11:50:15 AM PST

  •  How 'bout the biggest loss for labor this week (5+ / 0-)

    the Boeing Machinists vote?

    Boeing terrorized the Machinists into accepting a contract extension which cuts their long term pension from a defined pension plan to a 401K by threatening to take the work elsewhere if they didn't accept it.

    Politicians supported Boeing.  The International wing of the Union overrode the local leadership who was refusing the vote based on the new offer not being substantially different than the one voted down 2-1 just a few weeks ago.

    All this despite Boeing having record profits, 80% increase in their stock in the last year, and largest orders ever for a new plane on the 777X.

    If you took the greed out of Wall Street all you’d have left is pavement ~Robert Reich

    by k8dd8d on Sat Jan 04, 2014 at 11:52:59 AM PST

    •  a very sad day (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      johnnygunn, k8dd8d

      Companies continue to get away with extortion while the workers continue to lose ground.  I don't blame the local, even the national machinists were against them.  The national group was afraid the contract would go to a "right to work" state, and they would lose members.

  •  until america has (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnnygunn, White Buffalo

    a real opposition to the corporate whores from the gop & dems workers will continue to lose ground and be at best second class citizens.

  •  Mayor 1% rigged rating agencies (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jbsoul justify cutting public pensions. Politicians & financial institutions are corrupt from top to bottom.

  •  Thanks for featuring Kenneth Ye! (0+ / 0-)

    He's a Knoxville hero!

  •  flag (0+ / 1-)
    Recommended by:
    Hidden by:

    my buddy's step-aunt makes $82/hr on the computer. She has been out of work for 10 months but last month her paycheck was $18010 just working on the computer for a few hours. read this...http://WWW.dub30.COM

  •  One more positive development (0+ / 0-)

    Portland Oregon's sick-leave law takes effect this month, joining other cities such as Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., & the state of Connecticut.


    After all, wouldn't you rather have the people handling your food at restaurants & the people tending to the elderly & infirm -- you know, many of the folks who earn minimum wage or less -- staying home when they're sick than being at their workplaces exposing you -- & others -- to their illnesses?

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