Yves here. It’s hard to have much hope for the American labor movement, at least based on the shape it’s in now, and I hope readers outside the US can tell us about the status and cohesiveness of labor movements in their countries.
In the US, things we once took for granted (and are on their way out) like the 8 hour day and workplace safety rules, were won at considerable cost. The fact that labor activists were often killed in particularly brutal ways has been airbrushed out of US history.
And what is distressing about the labor movement in the US now is its inability to claim the moral high ground. There are some important exceptions, such as nurses’ unions, which have been politically active, savvy in their messaging, and are well respected. But in too many other cases, the strong feature of unions, that of their solidarity, has become a weakness as no one in the labor movement seems willing to call out corrupt or merely feckless leaders and local bosses. In keeping, a savvy and very much left leaning colleague said, “I wouldn’t trust anyone in the American labor movement as far as I can throw them.” It’s discouraging to recognize that reality in light of the list of the estimable and sensible goals set forth in the L20 below. I wonder if organizations oversea have had more success in self-policiing.
By Erinç Yeldan, Dean of the faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Yasar University. Originally published at Triple Crisis
The G20 Summit has met, convened, and dispersed for the next year after a massive show in the tourist heart of Turkey, Antalya. The meetings had convened under the shadow of massive social exclusion and terror overrunning the global political economy. the G20 communiqué that had been released on November 15 was little more than a simple wish-list for a stable and participatory global economy—the main motto of Turkey’s presidency over 2015.
But to billions of working families across the globe, there was more than the standard wish-list of the G20 communiqué: the Labour20 (L20). The L20 was founded by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the OECD’s Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) and was convened with the call coming from Turkish hosts, the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Türk-Iş), Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK), and Confederation of Turkish Right Trade Unions (Hak-Iş).
The call of L20 came, at a historical moment of the heightening of the global crisis, with appeals to:
- Move away from austerity policies, with their negative spill-over effects, and instead support for aggregate demand, investment, skills and innovation, public services, and progressive tax and redistributive systems.
- Reduce income inequality and informality as major drags on growth and social well-being. Raise low and middle incomes through living minimum wages and by supporting collective bargaining and, in doing so, injecting purchasing power into economies.
- Adopt the G20 Policy Priorities on Labour Income Share and Inequalities, and implement them at the national level including by strengthening labour market institutions, setting minimum wages, promoting the coverage of collective agreements and universal social protection, and integrating vulnerable groups into the formal economy.
- Pursue further work on financial reforms, including internationally harmonised measures to shield retail banking from volatile trading and investment banking activities, and consider a financial transaction tax (FTT).
- Raise and set targets for public infrastructure investment (physical and social) by at least 1% of GDP across the G20 as the primary route to growth and employment recovery.
- Link investment plans to the creation of clean energy and green jobs.
- Protect public services, ensure full financial transparency over risk arrangements, and grant leadership to independent public auditors. Greater labour law “flexibility” is not the right approach to promote PPPs.
- Recognise the finance gap to achieving a just transition to a low carbon economy and spur investments into climate-friendly infrastructure and energy, while ensuring transparency of climate finance flows.
- Commit to energy efficiency and renewable energy targets, including initiatives for training workers in these sectors.
- Put in place Just Transition strategies for workers, companies, and regions depending on the fossil fuel value chain, and include trade unions in their design.
- Promote social upgrading in supply chains and ensure that international labour standards and human rights are applied by G20 companies, including the UN Guiding Principles, ILO conventions, and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Strengthen the rule of law with cross-border legislation that mandates due diligence.
- Strengthen workers’ rights and social protection systems, and introduce social protection floors to support the transition from the informal economy in developing and middle-income countries.
- Ensure follow-up to the “integrated and comprehensive policy approach to foster strong, sustainable and inclusive growth … to tackle inequalities, promote inclusiveness and strengthen the links between employment and growth … with corresponding efforts in other work streams” as outlined in the “Ankara Declaration” of G20 Labour and Employment Ministers.
According to ILO data, open unemployment has reached to 200 million worldwide.
Under the pressures of the unemployment threat, more than 900 million workers are trapped in labour activities with less than $2 of income per day. ILO data reveal that most of these workers are young women and children.
Over 5 billion people on our planet lack social security protection and basic health services.
Despite all this evidence, the global economy has now entered a phase with the lowest fixed investment as a share of income. While the scarce resources of the global economy are being wasted at the speculation games of the global casino, the future of our planet’s well-being is increasingly put at risk from climate change driven by carbon dioxide emissions and urban pollution.
What could have been more important than these facts to be articulated at the Antalya meetings of the G20?
By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Readers, in my post-Thanksgiving Day meal haze, I set the timer for Links incorrectly, so I’ve delayed Water Cooler ’til 5:00PM. Readers from the East Coast, just pretend you’re on California time!
“The EU appears to have given the US oil company ExxonMobil access to confidential negotiating strategies considered too sensitive to be released to the European public during its negotiations with the US on the trade agreement TTIP, documents reveal” [Guardian].
Martina Römmelt-Fella of the Bavarian company FELLA Maschinenbau GmbH launched a business initiative against TTIP, KMU gegen TTIP (SMEs against TTIP) [Euractiv]. Römmelt-Fella: “We believe that they need to go back to the drawing board, reboot and everything that TTIP is going to regulate needs to be clearly defined. We’ve come up with a checklist of things that should be guaranteed, including transparency, standards and democratic processes…. When Herr Treier [of the German Chamber of Commerce] maintains that ‘European consumer, environmental and social standards will remain,’ that’s nothing more than a pious hope. We don’t have much faith in it. The EU delegation has already caved in, weakening the standards associated with the carcinogenic Captan pesticide. … The large companies want to benefit from TTIP, even if it is at the expense of SMEs, which are often based regionally and provide niche products to a specific market.” I read this as the mittelstand has concerns about TTIP, but I’m not well-versed in German politics. Readers?
“WTO Ruling on Dolphin-Safe Tuna Labeling Illustrates Supremacy of Trade Agreements” [David Dayen, The Intercept].
“Ted Cruz’s Protectionist Gamble” [National Review]. [I just read the word “protectionist,” so let me get my right knee under control before continuing to type… There!] Note how the editor sharpened the title over the original title, as seen in the URL. Cruz: ““I voted against TPA, and I intend to vote against TPP.”
“[T]he trend in economics [in Southeast Asia] as in diplomacy is towards parallel sets of institutions: the old ones, where America has a leading role; and the new, where it is absent and China dominates” [The Economist].
“Thailand is actively considering joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak told The Nikkei and other media Tuesday, going a step beyond the strong interest he had expressed in the past.” [Asia Nikkei Review]. Somkid, extraordinarily, was brought in from the previous government to direct economic policy. So his words carry weight, I would imagine especially with the Thai industrial and business sectors.
“Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton on Sunday is expected to propose a new tax cut for millions of middle-class families caring for ailing parents and grandparents” [The Hill]. This is so effing small-ball, school uniforms stuff I can’t believe it (although it does benefit a Clinton demographic, since such care falls disproportionately on women). First, it shows how the Democrats focus on ever-diminishing slices of the electorate, as opposed to thinking big and considering people as “the people.” (For example, would single payer help female care-givers, too? Of course it would!) Second, I hate “tax credits” as a policy with the hatred of a million burning suns. For one thing, I’ve got to lay out the money now, and I get the tax break later Second, how the tax credit nets out is indeterminate if your income, and your other costs, are precarious, like 80% or so of the people. Tax credits are beloved by liberals in the 20% on up, because (a) their incomes are not precarious, and they may even have accountants, and (b) because they don’t have to be honest about tax policy and confront those evil Republicans they’ve been cowering before, for a generation.
“Rubio: ‘God’s rules’ trump Supreme Court decisions” [The Hill]. So Rubio can’t take the oath of office, then? And please, please don’t tell me we’re going to play semantic games with “take Care that the Laws be executed.”
“Bernie Sanders Gets Immigration Policy Right” [Editorial, New York Times]. “Mr. Sanders, the Vermont senator seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, turns away from the insanity. His plan starts with the right premise: that immigrants should be welcomed and assimilated, not criminalized and exploited. His proposals seek to uphold American values, bolster the rule of law, bolster the economy and protect and honor families.” Sanders also plans to use executive authority. At some point, that’s Constitutional crisis material, though, for reals.
“The Democrats’ hopes of holding the White House rest on: a) remobilizing the Obama coalition of millennials, single women, and nonwhite voters; and b) hoping that Republicans nominate someone outside the mainstream, like Donald Trump. In short: If the Republican Party doesn’t split in two—which is a distinct possibility if Trump is either nominated or runs as a third-party candidate—Republicans have a clear advantage” [National Journal].
“Why did the Democrats Lose the South? Bringing New Data to an Old Debate” [NBER].
“Long the dominant group in American religious life, White Christians have fallen below a majority of the U.S. population—and they are moving to the right politically as they recede” [National Journal]. “The result is that, like race and age, religious affiliation marks a sharpening point of distinction between Republicans and Democrats, previously unpublished results from the Pew Research Center’s massive Religious Landscape survey show.”
“How Richard Nixon Created Hillary Clinton” [Bloomberg]. For those who came in late…
“The demise of Trump’s candidacy has been predicted by centrist Republicans and the media alike virtually since the day it began. But there is no empirical evidence at all to suggest it is happening” [The Hill]. Then again…
“Donald Trump has company on the Iowa GOP presidential podium, as Sen. Ted Cruz has moved within the margin of error at the top of a new Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday,” also from [The Hill].
“Who said it: Donald Trump or Mr. Burns from ‘The Simpsons’ ?” [WaPo]. I’m not sure that’s going to peel off many Trump voters, though.
“On ‘the Preponderance of the Evidence,’ Bernie Sanders Is a Democrat” [The Nation]. Meaning he’s on the Democratic ballot in New Hampshire. So I guess the DNC will have to come up with something more subtle.
“Before taking the speakership last month, Paul Ryan made a promise to fix a “broken” House of Representatives and return the chamber to “regular order,'” which means hearings and debates and amendments and stuff, all of which the Liberty Caucus (to their credit) had been
frothing and stamping for advocating [The Hill]. “In the wake of the Paris attacks, Ryan brought the American SAFE Act—a bill to rewrite refugee vetting rules—to the floor without committee hearings, without input from experts or agencies, and without opportunities for amendment from members of the House.” Bedwetting triumphs over principle, even among deeply principled Republicans. Amazing but true!
“Nutball climate deniers toss subpoenas like confetti” [Vox]. I rewrote the Vox headline to be more explanatory.
All the statisticians are still recovering from their Thanksgiving torpor, so no stats today. Except, of course, Fear and Greed.
Bobby Monks: “It’s really important to have a functional investment process in this country. If you don’t, it isn’t healthy for capitalism” [MarketWatch].
“U.S. e-commerce sales surged on Thanksgiving, raising questions about how many shoppers will show up for brick-and-mortar retailers’ promotions on Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the holiday season” [Bloomberg]. That would be the holiday shopping season, no?
“Corporate profits are contracting, and that’s a problem, for the stock market and the economy. It’s not quite as attention-grabbing as Black Friday, or even the monthly jobs report, but corporate profits are a key cog in the business cycle, and if they’ve fallen into an earnings recession, that’s a proeblem. So why aren’t more people worried?” [Wall Street Journal, “The Pressure on Corporate Profits May Last Longer Than Expected”] “Strip out [the collapse of commodities, especially oil, and the strong dollar], the argument goes, and everything looks fine. Moreover, people are betting that the collapse in oil prices has run its course, and the rise in the dollar is similarly over. The problem with those dismissals is that oil may not be done going down, and the dollar may not be done going up. … Why does all this matter? Because profits are a key tell of where we are in the economic cycle. Two signs of a downturn are a narrowing of corporate margins, and contraction in corporate profits. … Usually, this is about the time in an “average” cycle when the central bank starting thinking about lowering rates. But this most recent cycle is decidedly not average, which makes figuring out where everything is headed even trickier.”
Ag: “Brazil’s federal court is investigating state-backed loans to the world’s number one meat company” (JRS) [Agrimoney].
China: “China share prices slumped the most since Aug. 25 Friday with securities companies leading the falls on news of a widening government investigation into the country’s brokerages” [Market News]
Japan: “The labor market should be a bright spot for Japan’s economy, which suffered a mid-year recession. Yet while unemployment is low and jobs are plentiful, this hasn’t translated into strong wage gains that could help spur inflation. Kuroda has said wage gains have been “somewhat slow” considering strong corporate profits and the solid labor market” [Bloomberg].
Driverless cars: “Poll says buyers want self-driving cars from auto-tech company combo” [USA Today]. And why, you ask?
Driverless cars: “[W]hen autonomous cars materialize, so does autonomous car sex. There is no question about ‘if’ — there are only questions about logistics” [Inverse]. (I believe the author means sex between people in cars, rather than sex between autonomous cars (but then again, think about the upside…).
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 (-1); Greed [CNN]. Last week: 53 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed).
Our Famously Free Press
“NYT Should Explain How It Selects Which Articles Get Translated into Mandarin” [emptywheel]. Presumably somebody will write the Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, on this question.
“Global warming will be faster than expected” [Science Daily]. “[G]reenhouse gas emissions that arise naturally are also affected by increased temperatures.” For example, methane.
“One of the world’s largest insurers, Allianz, has announced it will begin divesting from coal in favor of investing in renewable energy” [Clean Technica (PT)]. From the same source, see on renewables.
“As dams empty, Thailand is facing a severe water crisis” [Asian Correspondent].
“[Barbara Mikulski,] the Maryland Democrat is known as a progressive champion, but on this issue, she is siding with employers, spurred by a desire to protect her state’s seafood companies at a time when pollution, warming water and competition from companies in Southeast Asia have taken a toll” [WaPo].
“Panama: Thousands of Canal workers strike to demand union rights, clean water” [Longshore & Shipping News].
News of the Wired
“An Israeli foundation is first in the world to research mass production of cultured chicken breast, a real meat product starting from a single cell of a real bird” [Israel21c]. Exactly like “Chicken Little” in Pohl and Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants:
Skum-skimming wasn’t hard to learn. You got up at dawn. You gulped a breakfast sliced not long ago from Chicken Little and washed it down with Coffiest. You put on your coveralls and took the cargo net up to your tier. In blazing noon from sunrise to sunset you walked your acres of shallow tanks crusted with algae. If you walked slowly, every thirty seconds or so you spotted a patch at maturity, bursting with yummy carbohydrates. You skimmed the patch with your skimmer and slung it down the well, where it would be baled, or processed into glucose to feed Chicken Little, who would be sliced and packed to feed people from Baffinland to Little America. Every hour you could drink from your canteen and take a salt tablet. Every two hours you could take five minutes. At sunset you turned in your coveralls and went to dinner — more slices from Chicken Little — and then you were on your own. You could talk, you could read, you could go into trance before the dayroom hypnoteleset, you could shop, you could pick fights, you could drive yourself crazy thinking of what might have been, you could go to sleep.
“What really drives you crazy about waiting in line (it actually isn’t the wait at all)” [WaPo].
“Study Finds Sarcasm Is Good For You. Yeah, Right” [Wonkette].
“How to argue better, according to science” [Vox].
“The Origins of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk: Vintage Footage of Cab Calloway, Sammy Davis Jr., Fred Astaire & More” [Open Culture]. Really great dancers!
Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant (Marise):
Herbal Teachers Garden, Mullingar, Ireland. Another inviting path!
If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. Winter has come, I need to buy fuel, and I need to keep my server up, too.
Retailers, especially big-box retailers will be blue if light shopping carries over for the rest of the season. The Wall Street Journal reports Thinner Crowds on Black Friday.
Subdued Start to Shopping Season
Millions of Americans left their Thanksgiving meals to hit stores across the country in an annual shopping ritual, but the crowds on early Black Friday morning were thinner than years past at some malls and shopping districts.
Thinner crowds could spell problems for retailers, some of whom entered the holidays warning of uneven consumer demand and elevated levels of inventory. But the smaller crowds could also reflect deeper changes in how Americans shop: Increasingly, they are spending more online and making fewer visits to stores.
Driving up to a nearly empty parking lot at a Wal-Mart in Houston on Friday morning, Dora Rodriguez, 39 years old, stopped her silver hatchback in surprise and called out her window to another shopper: “Excuse me, the Black Friday sale—it’s ended already?”
Thirty-six percent of consumers said they planned to shop online only during this year’s holiday season, up from 19% who said so last year, according to the investment bank Jefferies. By comparison, just 18% of consumers said they planned to shop only in physical stores this year, down from 35% who said so a year ago.
“The competition is led by Amazon and that factors into how other retailers set their prices,” said Paul Trussell, a Deutsche Bank analyst.
Reuters reports Black Friday Crowds Thin in Subdued Start to U.S. Holiday Shopping.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
Crowds were thin at U.S. stores and shopping malls in the early hours of Black Friday and on Thanksgiving evening as shoppers responded to early holiday discounts with caution and bad weather hurt turnout.
"We believe Thanksgiving shopping was a bust," analysts at Suntrust Robinson Humphrey said in a research note. "Members of our team who went to the malls first had no problem finding parking or navigating stores."
Scott Tuhy, vice-president at Moody's who tracks companies like Macy's Inc (M.N), said crowds on Thursday evening in New Jersey were steady but not busy. He said some stores saw a fair amount of activity around orders that were placed online and picked up in stores.