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Economists ‘Can’t Understand’ Why Workers Can’t Get Paid More in a ‘Booming’ Economy

Mystery of the underpaid American worker

The guy who came wandering down the road looking for work, saw you pulling weeds out of your yard along the edge of the street and who asked if he could be hired to help, and whom you then paid $10 to assist you with an hour’s worth of weeding assistance, would be classified as part of the labor force under this definition, but the struggling mother who, unable to find a job to support her two kids, enrolled in a community college half-time to qualify for childcare and foodstamp benefits, would not be classified as “in the labor force.” Neither would a convicted felon who had done his jail time on conviction for stealing a car to sell to a crooked “chop shop” for parts, who can no longer be hired now because of his criminal record, be considered as “in the labor force.”

Meanwhile the adjunct professor with a master’s degree in English literature who struggles to get by teaching two freshman English classes a semester at the local community college for $2000 per class is considered employed.

No wonder America is at “full employment”! We’ve got tens of millions of people classified as “working” who are actually under-employed and would like a full-time job but cannot find one — many of whom had such a job before 2008 and lost it to discover it would never come back —and millions more who have spent months or years trying to land a job and because they couldn’t move to a better job-hunting area for one reason or other (family needs, a court probation order, lack of experience living anywhere except where they were born and raised, a house they can’t sell, kids finishing high school, a join-custody agreement for children following a divorce, etc.), but because they’ve just given up trying to find work after discovering there are none, are not counted as being part of the labor force at all.

Then there’s another thing that economists don’t really consider, and that is how incredibly much weaker workers have become in their bargaining position with employers. Aa unions have been systematically weakened over the past few decades by both political parties — primarily Republicans, who have been on a jihad to destroy unions, but also Democrats who have ranged from lackluster to treacherous in their lack of support for labor unions and worker organizing rights, workers, both unionized and not unionized, have been losing ground economically.

Consider our last Democratic president, Barack Obama, and the Democratic Congress he had during the first two years of his first term. Obama ran on a campaign in 2008 in which he promised organized labor that one of his first acts on taking office would be to end all the totally legal delays employers have been able to avail themselves of to stall off, for years, a workplace vote by their employees on joining a union, and then if the workers win, to refuse to bargain in good faith for a first contract. He vowed to win passage for a new “card check” rule where once union organizers had received signed cards calling for a union representation vote from a majority of workers on a job location, a secret-ballot election supervised by the Labor Relations Board would have to be held there. The law would also have imposed a contract if an employer failed over some specified length of time to reach a negotiated contract agreement.



story | by Dr. Radut