Published Wednesday, December 28, 2018 at fortune.com
By Don Reisinger
Frustrated by little pay and better opportunities elsewhere, public school teachers and education employees in the United States are quitting their jobs at the fastest rate on record.
During the first 10 months of the year, public educators, including teachers, community college faculty members, and school psychologists, quit their positions at a rate of 83 per 10,000, Labor Department figures obtained by The Wall Street Journal show. That’s the highest rate since the government started collecting the data in 2001. It’s also nearly double the 48 per 10,000 educators who quit their positions in 2009, the year with the lowest number of departures.
According to the report, teachers are leaving for a variety of reasons. Unemployment is low, which means there are other, potentially more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. Better pay, coupled with tight budgets and, in some cases, little support from communities could also push educators to other positions.
In third quarter, public education workers saw their pay rise 2.2% compared to the prior year. However, that was still below the 3.1% pay hike those who work in the private sector earned, according to the Journal report.
But despite the challenges teachers and other education employees face, they’re still more dedicated to their positions and their students than most. So far this year, American workers left their positions at a rate of 231 per 10,000, or nearly four-times the rate at which teachers left their positions.
Published Wednesday, December 13, 2018 at MSN.com
Associated Press report
Boeing is buying a majority stake in Embraer’s commercial aircraft and services operations for $4.2 billion.
The joint venture, announced Monday, gives Boeing 80 percent ownership of those operations, with Embraer owning the remaining stake.
Boeing will have operational and management control of the company. Embraer will keep consent rights for some decisions, such as the transfer of operations from Brazil.
The deal still needs approval from the Brazilian government, as well as shareholders and regulators.
The companies also agreed to another joint venture to promote and develop new markets for the multi-mission, medium airlift KC-390. Embraer will own a 51 percent stake in the joint venture, with Boeing owning the remaining 49 percent. The transaction is targeted to close by the end of next year.
Published Wednesday, December 13, 2018 at MSN.com
By Rich Miller
A surprise shortage of blue collar workers is changing the contours of the U.S. labor market, boosting their pay, narrowing wage inequality and drawing more women into those jobs.
The shortfall is being driven by a shrinking supply of manual and low-pay service workers as the labor force becomes more educated and less willing to take on such jobs, according to a new Conference Board study.
“The divergence between blue collar and white collar supply is going to persist and even become bigger through 2030,” Gad Levanon, chief economist for North America at the New York-based research group and one of the authors of the report, said in an interview.
|Shortage of blue collar workers is boosting pay, drawing more women into those jobs.|
That is likely to keep upward pressure on labor costs in such industries as construction, transportation and accommodation and food services. It also has implications for inflation and for the Federal Reserve as Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues try to sustain the 9-1/2-year-old expansion without overheating the economy. Unemployment at 3.7 percent is the lowest since 1969 and running well below Fed estimates for its long-run sustainable rate.
“The acute shortage of talent in the blue collar space is very, very pronounced,” said Peter Quigley, executive vice president at Kelly Services Inc., a staffing company with branches in all 50 U.S. states.
Manufacturers and other companies with physically demanding jobs are finding it tough to fill those positions when baby boomers retire. “It’s harder and harder to attract younger people into those jobs, either because they’re pursuing education alternatives or the stigma associated with light industrial work,” Quigley said.
The supply of lower-skilled workers is also being squeezed by growth in the number of Americans who’ve claimed disability benefits and dropped out of the labor force. Exacerbated by the opioid epidemic, that’s much more concentrated in the population without a bachelor’s degree, the Conference Board report says.
Tighter restrictions on immigration are also playing a role and will continue to do so in the future, said Moody’s Analytics Inc.’s Chief Economist Mark Zandi. Many of those foreign workers are lower-skilled and in industries such as construction and farming.
Automation and off-shoring were widely expected to devastate demand for industrial workers and depress their pay, especially when compared with their more educated counterparts. But that hasn’t happened, at least so far, according to the Conference Board: Blue collar and low-pay services jobs have grown as rapidly as total employment since the economy began recovering in June 2009. Read entire article
Published Wednesday, December 12, 2018 at CBSnews.com
By Mark Strassmann
For the first time since the 1940s, Americans are reaching retirement age in worse financial shape than their parents. An estimated 10 million people older than 65 are still working — a number that has more than doubled since 1985.
"If I had planned harder when I was younger and if things had went better, I wouldn't be going to work this morning. I'd be going fishing or I'd be going hunting," said Tom Coomer. "Or I would be ... going on a little trip somewhere."
"That's in my mind a lot and I blame myself for it."
|Tom Coomer, 80, worries he'll never be able to afford retirement.|
At 80 years old, Coomer is still working as a part-time greeter five days a week at a Walmart in Oklahoma. Coomer is one of the nearly 10 million Americans over 65 who are still working.
Coomer is a kidder, but why he's still working is no joke.
"When you lose your retirement at a big place like McDonnell Douglas, you need a job," he said.
In 1994, aerospace manufacturer McDonnell Douglas closed its plant in nearby Tulsa. Coomer, a machinist, had worked there for 29 years.
"All of a sudden, the loudspeaker come on and it said, 'Attention, McDonnell Douglas will close in 60 days.' And I mean, we stopped and looked at each other and thought, 'What in the world?' And to me, that was just like you had walked up and slapped me in the face," Coomer said.
He was 56 years old with an eighth-grade education and one year shy of a full pension. Financially, the Coomers have never recovered. Over the years, they burned through retirement savings and downsized their house and lifestyle, but still have a mortgage they can never pay off.
The average American over 65 lives on about $4,125 a month. With his Walmart checks, their Social Security, and his partial pension, Tom and Ellen Coomer live on around $3,100 a month.
Tom's wife of 63 years has four heart blockages and diabetes. He checks on her every work break. Read entire article
Published Thursday, December 5, 2018 in The Stand
An estimated 584,000 Washington state residents belonged to labor unions in 2017, a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows, an increase of 45,000 from the previous year and 84,000 since 2015. National union membership levels, which have dropped in recent years as Republican lawmakers passed more union-busting “right-to-work” laws, held steady at 10.7 percent in 2017. But unions gained members in many free-bargaining states like Washington, where the union membership level increased from to 17.4 percent in 2016 to 18.8 percent last year.
“Union growth in Washington state is good for everyone,” said Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “Union members earn more, spend more in their communities, and lift working standards for all of us. Polls and surveys show that people want to join unions. These numbers demonstrate that, unless they are hindered by outdated or hostile labor laws, people will stand together and form unions.”
Union members earn higher wages, with median weekly earnings of $1,041 compared to $829 for nonunion, according to the new BLS report. With union wages averaging 25 percent higher than nonunion wages, full-time union members make more than $54,000 per year on average, which is $11,000 more than nonunion workers.
If you don’t have a union at your job, learn more about how to organize one. Today’s economy is so out of balance — with all the economic gains going to the top — forming a union is how workers can stand together and demand better wages, working conditions, and a voice on the job. You can make it happen at your workplace!
With its 18.8 percent union membership rate, Washington rises to the 3rd most unionized state in the nation, after being 5th highest last year. Only New York (23.8) and Hawaii (21.3) have a higher percentage of their workforce unionized. Although unions grew by 262,000 members nationally in 2017, the national membership rate remains just 10.7 percent, driven down by so-called “right-to-work” states like South Carolina (2.6), North Carolina (3.4), Arkansas (4.0), and Louisiana (4.4).
Right-to-work laws take away workers’ freedom to join together and negotiate a fair return on their work. These laws ban unions and employers from agreeing to union-security clauses that require everyone covered by the contract to pay a fair-share representation fee. These laws, which have racist origins, require unions to represent everyone, regardless of whether they pay any dues or representation fees. (It’s like allowing people to opt out of paying taxes but still getting to benefit from government services.) Right-to-work laws weaken unions financially, make it much harder to organize workplaces and negotiate contracts, and result in those states having lower wages.
In addition to earning higher wages, another federal report recently showed that union members are far more likely to have employer-provided retirement and health care benefits than their nonunion counterparts. Read entire article
Published December 5, 2018 at www.governing.com
by Graham Vyse
When Mark Janus was introduced at the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference in Washington, D.C., last week, he was hailed as a conquering hero.
Lisa Nelson, the group’s CEO, called him “the successful plaintiff of one of the most consequential Supreme Court decisions of the year” -- a man who helped achieve “a Herculean feat for employees' rights.” Tennessee Republican state Sen. Brian Kelsey later told the crowd that the Janus v. AFSCME decision, which ruled that non-union employees can opt out of paying fees to unions representing them in budget negotiations, was “the biggest win for workers’ rights and workers’ freedom in over a generation.”
But when Janus took the stage, soft-spoken and unassuming in his glasses and white mustache, the former Illinois state worker stressed that the fight was just beginning.
He urged legislators at the conference to champion ALEC’s “very, very positive” model bills that would further restrict public and private unions' power in their states. The Supreme Court's ruling gives the conservative group and others new momentum when pursuing that mission in state capitals.
“Get girded for a fight,” former U.S. Education Secretary Bill Bennett told state lawmakers at the conference, “because it’s gonna take place. ... It will now be fought out on the ground, in the places you know best.”
ALEC's “Public Employee Rights and Authorization Act,” for instance, would codify the Janus decision at the state level, establishing a “right to work” for public employees and declaring that these employees have to give “affirmative consent” for their union to collect payments from them. More than half the states already have similar laws. Read entire article
Published November 6, 2018 at NBC News
by Erik Sherman
The new wireless checkout that Walmart, Target, and other retailers are rolling out for the holiday season may lower stress for shoppers — but tension may be building among the roughly 3.6 million people nationwide who work as cashiers.
It's another nail in the occupational coffin. Amazon opened its first store with checkout-free shopping and automatic billing almost two years ago, and self-checkout at Walmart, Target, grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and some department stores is further reducing the need for people manning registers.
Technology continues to race ahead. The question is whether artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, and other developments will cut job opportunities for people who may have few alternatives.
Cashier jobs are hardly the only ones eyed for replacement. Short squat robots in Washington, D.C. roam the city, delivering take-out food to customers. Self-driving cars could eventually replace cab drivers and people moonlighting for Uber or Lyft.
"Walmart is embracing the technology of a company called Bossa Nova Robotics," said Howie Choset, a professor at The Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. The company, started by a former graduate student of Choset, makes inventory robots. "It's a tall, skinny robot with lots of cameras and bright lights," Choset said. The device roams up and down the aisles late at night, taking count of products on the shelves. Inventory counts at retail stores have long been a staple activity of regular employees or temp workers.
Those who support various forms of automation point to historical patterns back to the Industrial Revolution. "I do think there are going to be jobs that are going to be created that are net new," said Todd Lohr, a KPMG principal in the consulting firm's digital enablement practice. "I think there's opportunity for organization to do right by the workforce."
The theory is that people will shift into new types of work. Drones that make deliveries will need specialized maintenance personnel. Computerized manufacturing equipment requires people to run, program, and monitor it. Read entire article
Published November 5, 2018 in Bloomberg News
by Leslie Patton
The sullen teenager grinding through a restaurant shift after school was once a pop culture cliche—as American as curly fries.
Nowadays, Brad Hamilton, the teen played by Judge Reinhold in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” would probably be too young to work at the fictional Captain Hook Fish and Chips. That’s because senior citizens are taking his place—donning polyester, flipping patties and taking orders. They’re showing up at casual dining chains such as Bob Evans and fast-food operators like McDonald’s Corp., which says it plans to make senior citizens one hiring focus in the coming year.
Restaurants are recruiting in senior centers and churches. They’re placing want ads on the website of AARP, an advocacy group for Americans over 50. Recruiters say older workers have soft skills—a friendly demeanor, punctuality—that their younger cohorts sometimes lack.
Two powerful trends are at work: a labor shortage amid the tightest job market in almost five decades, and the propensity for longer-living Americans to keep working—even part-time—to supplement often-meager retirement savings. Between 2014 and 2024, the number of working Americans aged 65 to 74 is expected to grow 4.5 percent, while those aged 16 to 24 is expected to shrink 1.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Stevenson Williams, 63, manages a Church’s Chicken in North Charleston, South Carolina. He’s in charge of 13 employees, having worked his way up from a cleaning and dishwashing job he started about four years ago and sometimes works as many as 70 hours a week when it’s busy. Williams is a retired construction worker and had never worked at a restaurant before, but was bored staying at home.
“It’s fun for a while, not getting up, not having to punch a clock, not having to get out of bed and grind every day,” he says. “But after working all your life, sitting around got old. There’s only so many trips to Walmart you can take. I just enjoy Church’s Chicken. I enjoy the atmosphere, I enjoy the people.” Read entire article
Published November 1, 2018 at www.CNN.com
by Jill Filipovic
Amazon loves playing hard to get. First, they made cities across the country grovel -- and throw tax breaks and other benefits their way -- for the opportunity to be the company's second headquarters. Now, it seems HQ2 may instead be a pair of satellite offices in near-to-DC Virginia and New York City.
The prospect of this decision, first reported by The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and the process they have taken to get there tell us two things: First, Republicans can no longer lay claim to being a pro-business party, successful as they've been at making the states they control increasingly undesirable to modern businesses and workers. And second, Amazon -- and any big company -- isn't going to save American workers. They're going take what they can, and many will exploit where they can. Which is exactly why we need robust protections in place now to make sure that formidable companies work for the American public as much as their employees work for them.
Amazon declined to comment to the Wall Street Journal report and didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on The New York Times report. The company has said it will complete its search for an HQ2 by the end of the year. And while a lot remains uncertain, and Amazon may yet come to a different decision, certain aspects of this still-TBD expansion are undeniable.
Amazon has spent all year milling about ostensibly searching for an HQ2, looking at cities including Dallas, Miami, Nashville, Boston, Atlanta and Raleigh. After the company's boom laid waste to affordable housing in my hometown of Seattle, the company is looking to expand beyond the Pacific Northwest.
Amazon has given generously to local Seattle homeless shelters. However, when the Seattle City Council initially passed a new tax to fund affordable housing and homelessness initiatives, Amazon and other Seattle-based corporations helped fund a campaign for a ballot measure to repeal it. Shortly thereafter, the council voted to reverse its vote on the new tax.
What's telling, though, is how quickly most of the potential locations in red states fell out of the running. On the one hand, there's a compelling social and political argument for bringing a young, technologically adept workforce to a red or purple state (or keeps them there), while also expanding opportunities for blue-collar warehouse jobs. Read entire article
Published October 22, 2018 at www.governing.com
by Mike Maciag
By many indicators, the U.S. economy is humming right along. Unemployment is at the lowest level in nearly two decades, and job growth hasn't slowed. But workers mostly haven't reaped the benefits of this growth in the form of higher paychecks. Following years of stagnant wages, real median earnings started climbing slowly in 2014. They peaked around mid-2017 and have since dipped slightly.
Some groups of workers over the past year have actually sustained notable wage declines when the numbers are adjusted for inflation. Governing identified several struggling demographic groups, using the latest quarterly median earnings estimates from the Labor Department's Current Population Survey. These groups include women with low educational attainment, older black women, black men and those with bachelor's degrees. But they also include the much broader category of employees in the prime of their working years.
Stagnant wages are partly due to inflation, which has ticked up in recent months. Inflation over the first half of the year was up 2.5 percent from 2017 and is now rising at the fastest rate since 2011-2012.
There are other plausible reasons for long-term wage stagnation. The higher wages that labor unions used to command are reaching far fewer private-sector workers than they once did. Nationally, workers are less likely to relocate for work, limiting job-movement pay raises. Some research further suggests that with big businesses employing a larger portion of the labor force, and with fewer startup companies coming on the scene, suppressed wages could be a result.
In particular, wages for many groups of women are failing to keep pace with inflation. Their real seasonally adjusted median earnings as a whole have declined or remained essentially unchanged for three consecutive quarters. Read entire article
Published October 15, 2018 at www.alternet.org
By Matthew Smith / Salon
Once considered a trifle (at best) or an escapist vice (at worst), video games are in fact big business. Huge, really: the video game industry was worth $108 billion in 2017, according to Superdata Research — around one-quarter of the value of the overall software industry. The creators of the video game hits today have little in common with their forebears: Myst, the best-selling video game of the 1990s, was created by the brothers Rand and Robyn Miller with help from five friends. Grand Theft Auto V, one of the most popular games of the 2010s, cost $265 million and took a team of over 1,000 workers to create it. Yet despite the vast armies of coders and designers involved in production of games, there is little to no labor organizing of the oft-exploited and overworked employees.
At least, there wasn’t until recently. The tech sector generally has a reputation for being fairly libertarian culturally — in other words, not particularly ripe for a labor movement. Yet the spectacular rise and crash of a once-renowned studio, Telltale Games, has shed a light on the plight of abused developers in a difficult industry. And the fate of Telltale and its workers has a shot at catalyzing unionization across the entire industry.
If you’ve never met someone who works in the game industry, their lifestyles are not glamorous. Well-being of employees is a huge issue: video game makers routinely suffer, terrible working conditions, long work-weeks, sudden layoffs with no severance. Mattias Lehman, a former developer, wrote an essay documenting the situation he witnessed in his four years in the industry: “If you work in the industry, I probably don’t need to explain how we workers are exploited by companies, only to turn around and be abused by the very communities we want to make games for,” he writes. Lehman describes witnessing rampant sexism, a horrible lack of diversity, constant overwork and “abuse of contractors” as norms in the industry.
The recent downfall of Telltale Games epitomizes Lehman’s observations. The once-great company was responsible for a rejuvenating the adventure game genre, including remaking the classic game “Escape to Monkey Island.” But it was its popular zombie franchise, 2012’s “The Walking Dead,” that launched the company into growth mode. The game tasked the player with building relationships and making tough choices in a zombie apocalypse, set in the world of the graphic novel series-turned-TV show. By releasing “The Walking Dead” in an episodic format, Telltale hoped to reap more in sales than it would have had it sold it as a one-off. That plan worked: the game was a huge financial success, and after only eight months, sold over 8 million copies of multiple episodes with $40 million in sales.
Telltale grew and acquired more licenses to make games over time; properties like the HBO show “Game of Thrones,” a spinoff of hugely popular video game “Minecraft,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and even Batman. Yet the company grew too quickly, too fast and struggled to recreate the critical and financial success of “The Walking Dead.” Read entire article
Published October 5, 2018 in The Wall Street Journal
By Paul Ziobro
Teamsters members voted down a new contract with United Parcel Service Inc., UPS +0.70% sending both sides back to the negotiating table ahead of the holiday season.
Preliminary voting results showed that 54.3% of votes cast opposed the five-year deal that represents 243,000 drivers, package sorters and other workers, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters disclosed Friday evening. Another pact representing 11,000 UPS Freight workers was also rejected, with 62.1% of votes cast opposing that deal.
A number of other regional and local agreements were also rejected, dealing a blow to the Teamsters leadership and UPS that tried to sell its rank-and-file on the contracts.
Union leaders said they would reopen talks with the company. “We will be going back to the company to talk to them about some additional changes,” said Denis Taylor, co-chair of the Teamsters negotiating committee.
The Teamsters, however, issued a statement saying the union considered the contract ratified even though it had been defeated. Under the union’s rules, a contract needs to be rejected by two-thirds of ballots when less than 50% of members cast a vote. The final tally was 42,356 in favor and 50,248 opposed.
A UPS spokesman said that the company was disappointed with the results and will meet with the Teamsters to discuss next steps. A contract extension is in place for the previous deal that expired in July and the company expects business to operate as usual.
“The Teamsters’ negotiating committee and UPS developed fair agreements that reward UPS employees for their contributions to the company’s success, including improved wages, benefits and job creation,” company spokesman Steve Gaut said.
The vote adds a layer of uncertainty to UPS operations as it heads into the critical peak period, when the amount of packages flowing through its network spikes.
The tentative deal, reached between the company and union leaders in July, faced a persistent campaign from a Teamster faction that objected to a two-tier wage system for drivers and starting wages that will soon trail those offered at Amazon.com Inc. Read entire article
Published Wednesday, April 6, 2018 in the Everett Herald
By Kari Bray
ARLINGTON — Lunch arrived at 11:30 a.m. and 28 teens in bright yellow safety vests filed into the break room.
They set their hard hats on the tables and tucked into plates of enchiladas, rice and beans.
The meal marked the halfway point in a day of job sampling. The teens sprayed a firehose across a field, chipped away at a cement block with a pavement breaker, poured cement from a cement truck and sat in the driver's seat of a Community Transit bus. They also handled packages in the back of a UPS truck and learned how to connect and disconnect power lines on a replica of the top of a utility pole.
Students between the ages of 16 and 18 came from around the county to Tuesday's Trade UP event at the Arlington Municipal Airport. It was the second Trade UP event ever in Snohomish County and the first of two happening this month. The next one is at the Sno-Isle Skills Center in Everett on April 12. It's full, said Erin Monroe, president of Workforce Snohomish. They're expecting about 60 students.
Stanwood Mayor Leonard Kelley came up with the idea for Trade UP and worked with Workforce Snohomish, the Snohomish County Labor Council and local businesses to put it together.
“College isn't for everyone,” he said. “We need to find a way to reach these kids.”
Their eyes light up when they use a power tool or firehose, Monroe said.
“One thing I love about this is it allows kids to have a hands-on experience in a very brief way,” she said. “Unlike a career fair where you get handed a brochure, here you get handed a jackhammer.”
Students were divided into groups of four to six and went around to six stations, spending about 40 minutes at each. The stations had equipment and trainers from Community Transit, North County Fire & EMS, Snohomish PUD, Stanwood Redi-Mix, UPS and the Northwest Laborers-Employers Training and Apprenticeship Program.