Friday, January 18, 2013

21st Century Work: Low-Wage, Part-Time, and Without Voice

Majia here: The new economy that is emerging is non-union, low-wage, and part-time

As manufacturing bounces back from recession, unions are left behind By Jim Tankersley, Published: January 16 The Washington Post

[Excerpted] U.S. manufacturers have added a half-million new workers since the end of 2009, making the sector one of the few bright spots in an otherwise weak recovery. And yet there were 4 percent fewer union factory workers in 2012 than there were in 2010, according to federal survey data. On balance, all of the job gains in manufacturing have been non-union....

...It used to be that factory jobs paid substantially better than other jobs in the private sector, particularly for workers who didn’t go to college. That’s less true today, especially for non-union workers in the industry, who earn salaries that are about 7 percent lower than similar workers who are represented by a union...

...There were 12.5 million non-union manufacturing workers in America last year, the same number there were in 1977. In contrast, there were 1.5 million employees represented by a union in 2012 — 6 million fewer than 1977.... 

Majia here: Whatever you think of unions, the fact is that unions command higher wages and better benefits than non-union jobs. Unions also offer workers some level of protection from arbitrary organizational power.

The loss of union jobs is part of a growing trend of low-wage, part-time work in the US service economy;

A Part-Time, Low-Wage Epidemic: The jobs gained recently by the U.S. economy are disproportionately low-paying, insecure ones. By Mortimer Zuckerman. The Wall Street Journal November 5, 2012
[Excerpted] The number of Americans now working part time has soared to 8.3 million—up 313,000 in the past two months alone. With economic growth declining or stagnant for quarter after quarter, many companies feel it is too risky to take on people full time.
This has created an army of "underutilized labor." America's narrow unemployment rate is 7.9%, but it is 14.6% when accounting for involuntary part-time workers. The number of Americans working full time has declined by 5.9 million since September 2007, while the number working part time has jumped by 2.6 million....
By contrast, mid-wage occupations were 60% of recession losses but have been only 22% of recovery growth. Higher-wage occupations were 19% of jobs lost and have been 20% of jobs recovered.... [end excerpt]

Majia here: This is a compelling opinion piece by Zuckerman. The data I've been collecting for my book on neofeudal dispossession indicate dramatic declines in household income, particularly among young people (including college graduates) and minorities
The Obama health legislation (which I did not support because I think government should offer a tax-based program akin to medicare and deal directly with providers) did initially seem to slow the loss of health insurance, but new data indicate that companies employing lower-wage employees are cutting hours so as to avoid paying for health care:

Jargon, J., Radnofsky, L., & Berzon A. (2012, November 5) Health Law Spurs Shift in Hours. The Wall Street Journal, B1, B2.  
[Excerpted] Some low-wage employers are moving toward hiring part-time workers instead of full-time ones to mitigate the health-care overhaul's requirement that large companies provide health insurance for full-time workers or pay a fee..."  

Majia here: Welcome to the 21s century.

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