News from the Daily Kos Labor
- Unemployment aid cutoffs show who has the ear of Republican governors—and it’s not regular people
June, 7 2021
Republican governors don’t need a personal reason to cut off $300 a week in added unemployment aid for 4 million people. Making life harder for people struggling to get by is the Republican way. But some of the Republican governors who’ve announced they’re opting their states out of the federal unemployment supplement do have that personal reason, in the form of business interests.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is a major business owner in his state, and an executive at the Greenbrier, a historic resort he owns. Justice attributed an uptick in job applications to the planned cutoff of benefits, as well as to rising vaccination rates. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s family includes investors in a resort which he ran until he became governor. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is on the board of a family agricultural company. All of these businesses are advertising jobs.
- Are you giving workers reason to feel they’re ‘sitting ducks’? This week in the war on workers
June, 5 2021
A couple months ago I was in line at the grocery store when the cashier snapped at me to keep a 6-foot distance between myself and the people around me. My first reaction was irritation and a sense of being unjustly accused—I was literally standing directly on top of the social distancing marker the store had on the floor, and I wasn’t moving. But a breath later I was able to remind myself that a grocery store worker probably has plenty of reason to be suspicious of the people in her line, thanks to people who do exactly the things she warned me against, and probably worse.
Now those workers have a new reason to be concerned with the relaxing of masking rules on an honor system that we know for certain that unvaccinated people will dishonor, as this story about retail workers freaked out by their employers relaxing mask policies with lots of people still unvaccinated makes clear.
“We just feel like we’re sitting ducks,” Virginia grocery worker Janet Wainwright told The New York Times’ Noam Scheiber. “Now it’s just a free-for-all.”
- U.S. added 559,000 jobs in May and unemployment dropped to 5.8%
June, 4 2021
After a disappointing April jobs report, May looked significantly better with 559,000 new jobs added to the economy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s still a little short of the 650,000 jobs analysts predicted, but unemployment ticked down from 6.1% to 5.8%, the lowest since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020. “America is on the move again,” President Joe Biden declared in response to the report. “No other major economy is gaining jobs as quickly as ours, and none of this success is an accident,” he said, crediting the American Rescue Plan with boosting the recovery.
The Economic Policy Institute’s Elise Gould described the overall report as “a promising sign that the recovery is on track.” Gould continued, ”If this pace continues over the next year, we will likely get down to 4% unemployment by mid-2022 and will be fully recovered before the end of 2022, fully absorbing losses plus population growth.”
- Amazon is crushing Walmart in one metric: The rate of serious injuries in its warehouses
June, 2 2021
Immediately following a report that Amazon’s workplace injury rates were significantly higher than those of its top rivals, the online retail giant announced a tweak to its notorious “time off task” metric, which workers and advocates say is responsible for the punishing pace that leads to many injuries. The Washington Post looked at Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) data and found that Amazon warehouses have a rate of 5.9 serious injury incidents per 100 workers, which is nearly double the rate of other retail warehouses and more than double the rate for Walmart warehouses. This despite a decrease in serious injury rates at Amazon warehouses after the company paused performance tracking to allow workers time to wash their hands and sanitize work areas during the pandemic.
In response to the Post’s questions, Amazon detailed an array of efforts to improve injury rates at its warehouses, including “ergonomics programs, guided exercises at employees’ workstations, mechanical assistance equipment, workstation setup and design, and forklift telematics and guardrails—to name a few,” a company spokeswoman told the newspaper. What those efforts notably did not include was relaxing the speed requirements placed on workers that lead to so many of those injuries, at least outside of pandemic safety measures.
- CEO pay rises, average worker pay stagnates, this week, year, decade in the war on workers
May, 29 2021
The pandemic did not change rising economic inequality in the United States—go figure. We’ve seen again and again how existing inequalities instead were exacerbated as people who could work remotely did so and stayed relatively safe while others had to put their health and safety on the line to keep scraping by, as women have been forced out of the workforce, as racial inequalities were heightened both in the economy and in the question of who was likeliest to get sick and to die.
And the pandemic did not disrupt the growing gulf between CEO pay and average worker pay, a preliminary analysis by the Economic Policy Institute finds. According to early data from 281 firms, “The offer by CEOs to forgo salary increases during the pandemic was largely symbolic. Salaries were stable, but many CEOs pocketed a windfall by cashing in stock options and obtaining vested stock awards, compounding income inequalities laid bare during the past year,” Lawrence Mishel and Jori Kandra report. “CEO compensation, including realized stock options and vested stock awards, rose 15.9% from 2019 to 2020 among early reporting firms. Growth in CEO compensation was slightly faster than last year’s strong growth—14.0% between 2018 and 2019—while the annual compensation of the average worker increased just 1.8% in 2020.”
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