|[...] The economy has improved only slightly. Unemployment remains high, and the jobs that do exist are often low-wage and part-time. Since 2011, we've seen not only Occupy but the rise of a movement of Walmart and fast-food workers demanding better wages and, often, more hours, so they can take home a full-time paycheck. A shorter hours movement has not materialized, nor has a meaningful jobs program, despite the promises of a bipartisan clutch of politicians. The minimum wage has risen in some states and cities, but workers are still struggling, and the long-term unemployed have seen their benefits cut off by a Congress that continues to squabble about whether or not they deserve to be able to pay bills.
Jobs have not yet ended or become obsolete. Yet, without question, they are changing. Research from Kelly Services (which, being a temporary agency, certainly has a vested interest in the subject) finds that 44 percent of workers in the U.S. classify themselves as “free agents.” According to the Freelancers Union, 42 million people are freelancers. The full-time job itself is only a fairly recent development in human history, spanning a couple hundred years or so, and the attendant expectation that a job be “good,” paying a living wage and providing healthcare and retirement benefits, with a union and some security, is a peculiar historical development of the New Deal era in the United States—an era that is almost without question over.
Power created that era—the power of organized workers in unions demanding better conditions. But the bosses, it's worth noting, never stopped trying to dismantle the deal. Since the Taft-Hartley Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, conservatives have been pushing to limit the power workers were granted by the NLRA in 1935, and the conversion of decent jobs into no-security temp gigs should rightly be seen in that context. The port truck drivers at Pacific 9 and elsewhere realize that despite the promises of freedom and liberation, they have more power when their relationship with the boss is explicit and when they can come together as a union.
We should carefully consider what comes next, whether that be high-end freelancers hopping from gig to gig, disdaining a full-time job, or more likely, the further fragmentation into piecework that we see happening in digital spaces like Amazon's Mechanical Turk, and the conversion of formerly full-time union jobs such as port trucking or auto manufacturing into low-security independent contracting or temp labor. Moshe Marvit wrote at The Nation of Amazon's human “crowdworkers” who perform the tiny tasks that are “helping to power the parts of the Internet that most of us take for granted” and who are paid a pittance for their work.
Technology is often blamed for displacing workers and eliminating jobs. Those doing the blaming are sometimes correct, as when supermarkets move to automatic checkout or ports move to automated cargo hauling. And yet the story of the Mechanical Turkers is a good cautionary tale for those who assume that all jobs are disappearing into the mechanical ether. One doesn't have to be a Luddite to point out that many jobs—including ones, like those done by Turkers, that we think are fully automated—are still being done by people, either because we don't have the technology to do them yet, or because those people remain cheaper than machines. Whether jobs are disappearing for good reasons—because they simply aren't socially necessary anymore—or because they are being fragmented, made temporary or shifted to freelancers, these are not processes that are happening outside of human control, but rather because of it. [...]
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2011—What do all Scandinavians, Belgians and the Dutch have that 52 million Americans don't? Health care:
|That's the kind of headline that pisses off Republicans and their enablers. Comparing the good ol' USA with anything...ewwwwwww...European is barely short of treasonous. Of course, if they had an ounce of real pride in their country and compassion for their fellow Americans, they would be irked not by the headline but by its accuracy. What they have instead is an open spigot of cash from corporadoes keen on keeping a health-care system that costs more but delivers less than health-care systems in Europe and Canada.
During 2010, according to theCommonwealth Fund's Biennial Health Insurance Survey released last Tuesday, 52 million Americans—that's the total population of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands—had no health insurance in all or part of the year. In 2001, the number was 38 million. That's a 35 percent increase in a decade when the U.S. population rose only 10 percent. Not only did all the people in those six countries have health coverage, each of their health-care systems were rated better than America's. Bottom line: They cost less, provide more, cover everybody.
Unsurprisingly, one of the main reasons the number of uninsured soared to this record high is because the deep recession that put millions out of a job took their health coverage along with it. Nearly three of five who lost their jobs also wound up uninsured. […]
On today's Kagro in the Morning show, we begin by exploring the topic of how to stop talking about basketball brackets. Ten minutes later, we have come to no conclusion, and move on to McKay Coppins' look at the conservative book publishing racket, a favorite and long-running topic on the show. "Are You There God? It's Me, Hobby Lobby." The exciting conclusion of David Dayen's "Why the Justice Department Inspector General Report on Mortgage Fraud Matters." Justin Wolfers explains that "Most Americans Who Live Hand-to-Mouth Aren't Actually 'Poor.'" And Greg Sargent reminds us of "The real goal of all those anti-Obamacare ads."