Friends of GEO

Are Robots Keeping Wages Low?

It's Our Economy - June 22, 2017 - 7:01am
Above Photo: In this Aug. 21, 2015 photo, a man works amid orange robot arms at Rapoo Technology factory in southern Chinese industrial boomtown of Shenzhen. AP Photo/Vincent Yu It used to be the case that when employers had trouble hiring, wages would increase in places with low jobless rates. Then came the rise of machines. These days, employees aren’t being paid much more than they were in the past, a BMO economist said in a report released on Friday In a report titled “Wage Against the Machine,” economist Sal Guatieri looked at the effects of robots and automation on wages using data from the U.S. and the OECD. Hourly compensation per hour in the U.S. grew “smartly” in 2015, he wrote, but since then it has “barely kept pace with inflation.” Colorado and North Dakota, he noted, have “some of the lowest jobless rates and slowest wage gains in the country.” Wages could still grow, Guatieri said. But he went on to say that the national jobless rate only hit 4.3 per cent or less twice in the last 50 years: first, between 1965 and 1970, and second, between 1999 and 2001. The cost of labour went up in both of these periods. But now, “new automation is working its way up and down the skills’ chain,” and threatening more jobs than it used to. Previously, robots threatened jobs in industries such as manufacturing, transportation, office support and retail. Now, they’re inching into tasks that involve thinking. Artificial intelligence, he said, can analyze big data and write analytical reports – a skill that’s key in areas such as financial planning, economics and journalism. In this May 14, 2015 photo, Kuka robots work on Tesla Model S cars in the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif.AP Photo/Jeff Chiu And it may not be long before it costs less to have a machine do certain jobs than it would to pay a worker. A 2015 report titled “The Robotics Revolution” by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) pegged the hourly cost of a “generic” robotics system in manufacturing at around $28 per hour at the time. By 2020, just three years from now, that cost could fall to around $20 per hour, which is “below the average human worker’s wage,” the report said. READ MORE: Here are the Canadian towns and cities that could lose the most jobs to robots There are, of course, other factors that could be keeping wages from growing — some industries that aren’t as technology-intensive are also seeing modest pay increases. But “the adverse impact on wages could increase as more tasks are automated,” and labour shortages might “encourage U.S. companies to invest more in technology,” Guatieri wrote. What the OECD says The report came two days after the OECD released its 2017 Employment Outlook. The organization showed that the middle-skilled share of employment in all represented countries fell by 9.5 percentage points between 1995 and 2015, a trend that has been driven by technological changes, it said. This chart shows job polarization in OECD countries – meaning the change in shares of employment from 1995 to 2015.OECD It’s a trend that has led to increasing job polarization, or a larger gulf between middle-skilled, low-skilled and high-skilled occupations. As middle-skilled jobs have fallen, high-skilled jobs grew by 7.6 percentage points and low-skilled positions grew by 1.9 percentage points in the same time frame. The polarization is happening because jobs have shifted from manufacturing to service positions, a trend that has seen employees forced to take on lower-paying work. Canada lost middle-skilled jobs at a slower pace than the OECD average between 1995 and 2015; the only countries where it happened slower were the Czech Republic, Hungary, Japan and the Slovak Republic. Nevertheless, the quality of employment in Canada has been dropping as job growth has been concentrated in the service sector, according to some analysts.
Categories: Friends of GEO, SE News

Companies Can Either Make Things Or Make CEOs Rich

It's Our Economy - June 22, 2017 - 7:00am
Above Photo: Funny Solution Studio / Shutterstock Making breakthroughs for consumers is hard, companies have found. But making fortunes for CEOs is easy. Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric since 2001, is retiring. The 61-year-old will be making a well-compensated exit. Fortune magazine estimates that Immelt will walk off with nearly $211 million, on top of his regular annual pay. Immelt’s annual pay hasn’t been too shabby either. He pulled down $21.3 million last year, after $37.25 million in 2014. But Immelt’s millions don’t come close to matching the haul that his predecessor Jack Welch collected. Welch’s annual compensation topped $144 million in 2000. He stepped down the next year with a retirement package valued at $417 million. What did Immelt and Welch actually do to merit their super-sized rewards? What did they add to a GE hall of fame that already included breakthroughs like the first high-altitude jet engine (1949) and the first laser lights (1962)? In simple truth, not much at all. “We bring good things to life,” the GE ad slogan used to proudly pronounce. Not lately. And not surprisingly either. Mature business enterprises, we’ve learned over recent decades, either make breakthroughs for consumers or grand fortunes for their top execs. They don’t do both. Why not? Making breakthroughs, for starters, takes time. Enterprises have to invest in research, training, and nurturing high-performance teams. Years can go by before any of these investments bear fruit. By that time, the executives who made the original investments might not even be around. Grand fortunes, by contrast, can come quick. CEOs can downsize here, cut a merger there, then sit back and watch short-term quarterly earnings — and the value of their stock options — soar. If those don’t do the trick, CEOs can always just slash worker pensions or R&D and put the resulting “savings” into dividends and “buybacks,” two slick corporate maneuvers that jack up company share prices and inflate executive paychecks. On any CEO slickness scale, Jack Welch would have to rank right near the top. In 1981, his first year as the GE chief, Welch quickly realized he was never going to get fabulously rich making toasters and irons. So Welch started selling off GE’s manufacturing assets. In his first two years, analyst Jeff Madrick notes, Welch “gutted or sold” businesses that employed 20 percent of GE’s workforce. By 2000, Welch himself was making about 3,500 times the income of a typical American family. By contrast, in 1975, Welch’s predecessor took home merely 36 times that year’s typical American family. As Welch’s successor, Jeffrey Immelt would give an apology of sorts in a 2009 address at West Point. Corporate America, he told the corps of cadets, had wrongfully “tilted toward the quicker profits of financial services” at the expense of manufacturing and R&D, leaving America’s poorest 25 percent “poorer than they were 25 years ago.” “Rewards became perverted,” Immelt went on. “The richest people made the most mistakes with the least accountability.” Unfortunately, and sadly, Immelt never took his own analysis to heart. As a rich CEO in his own right, he continued to make mistakes and suffer no particular consequences. One example: After the Great Recession, Immelt froze the GE worker pension system and offered workers a riskier, less generous 401(k). Within five years, notes the Institute for Policy Studies, the GE pension deficit widened from $18 billion to $23 billion — even as Immelt’s personal GE retirement assets were nearly doubling to $92 million. “If we want to slow — or better yet, reverse — accelerating income inequality,” the Harvard business historian Nancy Koehn noted a few years ago, “the most powerful lever we have to pull is that of outrageous executive compensation.” How many more outrageously compensated executives will retire off into lush sunsets, the Jeff Immelt story virtually begs us to ask, before we start yanking that lever? – See more at:
Categories: Friends of GEO, SE News

Move Your Money To The New Economy

It's Our Economy - June 22, 2017 - 7:00am
Above Photo: From In recent years we’ve seen enormous energy from movements working to divest the money of individuals, institutions, municipalities, pension, funds, and more out of the extractive economy of Wall St. banks, private prison corporations, and the fossil fuel industry, and reinvest those funds into the New Economy. NEC believes in divestment and reinvestment as powerful strategies for change and offers the following guide as a starting point in thinking about moving funds to support an economy that puts people and planet first. Banking Alternatives: Unlike Wall St. banks, which work to maximize profits for shareholders at the expense of communities and the environment, Community Development Credit Unions, as well as many other progressive credit unions, CDFIs, and community banks, offer a local alternative rooted in the well-being of their communities. Here are some places to learn more about values-aligned banking alternatives. Invest In the New Economy: Within NEC’s membership there are dozens of amazing organizations that can help you put your savings or investments to use in building the New Economy. Here are just a few. Reinvest in Our Power: Reinvest In Our Power is an emerging national network of reinvestment campaigns and grassroots organizations, that are working together to freeze dirty investments, move the money, and resource community-led solutions at the frontlines. Through a financial cooperative of regional loan funds, governed by the grassroots organizations, this project shifts both capital and decision-making out of corporate control, and puts it in service of people and the planet. Sachie, NEC staff organizer, serves as project coordinator for the network. Anchor organizations include The Working World, The Climate Justice Alliance, Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project, The Fund for Democratic Communities, and New Economy Coalition. Public Banking: Did you know that most government agencies, States, and municipalities invest their funds with Wall St. banks? Yuck! Luckily there’s a growing movement to create state and city-owned banks that put public funds to use in service of the public good. Two NEC members who have been leading the charge on public banking are CommonomicsUSA and the Public Banking Institute. Join The Movement: There is a long history of social movements using divestment campaigns as a strategy to undermine extractive and violent industries, when other pathways to change have been blocked. From South African apartheid, to present-day fights against prisons and pipelines, withdrawing money is a potent political tactic to build our movements for justice. Here are some of the organizations who are using divestment-reinvestment as a tool for transformative change.
Categories: Friends of GEO, SE News

Danish Energy Cooperative Lets Consumers Collectively Build Wind Turbines

Shareable - Commons - June 21, 2017 - 7:54pm

The establishment of a carbon-neutral energy system requires massive investments in infrastructure such as wind turbines. Because distributed energy systems do not fit the business models of the old energy utilities, they continue to invest far too little in this sector. Meanwhile, many individual electric power consumers are interested in investing in renewable power infrastructure, but these investments are too large and require a level of expertise too advanced for individual households to be able to support them. How can consumers take matters into their own hands?

Categories: Friends of GEO

How Residents of Hamburg Reclaimed the Power Grid

Shareable - Commons - June 21, 2017 - 3:00pm

From 2000 to 2014, the energy infrastructure of the city of Hamburg was mainly in the hands of private energy monopolies such as Vattenfall and E.On that controlled most of Germany's electric power infrastructure. These companies had a strong interest in utilizing their coal and nuclear power plants as long as possible, thereby obstructing a shift to renewable energy. Moreover, they were reluctant to provide equal access to small power providers and invest in a smart grid that allows more effective management of variable, distributed power inputs.

Categories: Friends of GEO

Involve Everyone In Production: Basic Principle Of The Economy In Rojava

It's Our Economy - June 21, 2017 - 7:00am
Above Photo: From in Rojava and Bakur This is an academic article translated from Abrstrakt Magazine, where it first appeared in Turkish on 5th October, 2016. The basic principle of the economic policies of the Assad regime in Rojava was to keep the people poor and deprived in order to maintain their dependence. The Jazira [Cizîrê? / Cezîre] and Kobanî [Kobanê] cantons served as the breadbasket of Syria. Before the revolution, forty percent of the wheat consumed in the country came from Rojava, and agriculture is still people’s primary source of income. From Derik [Dêrik / Al-Malikiyah] to the east of the Jazira Canton, to Serekaniye [Serê Kaniyê / Ras al-Ayn] in the west, fields stretch alongside the roads, along with the sources of petroleum in the Rmelan [Rumelan / Ramelan / Rimelan] region. Before the revolution, sixty percent of the petrol used in Syria came from the Jazira region. Rojava is a region left impoverished despite its riches. The first town I saw in the lands of the region was Afrin [Afrîn / Efrîn?]. The cantons had not yet been established when I visited in September, 2013. When I arrived at the city bus terminal after crossing the border from Kilis with smugglers, I stood and simply looked around for a while. I was struck by the level of poverty and deprivation. Not only in Afrin, but also in the towns of the Jazira Canton where I stayed for a long time, I felt as if I was watching an old movie. The flimsy houses and shops that lined the streets and avenues were far from modern. The Economic Academy of Rojava is the central institution for economic life in the autonomous enclave. The board members of the academy describe the politics of the Assad regime like this: “The Syrian regime saw the resources of Rojava as its warehouse. Wheat was cultivated here and purchased by the state, which then had them processed in a different region and only then sold to the people. No factories or workshops that would enable the processing of the agricultural goods that grow in the Jazira Canton were allowed. This is the basis of poverty and deprivation on which the Rojava Revolution sought to establish an economy. Of course, these were not just results of the economic policies of the Assad regime. It is also necessary to consider the war that has ensued since the first day of the revolution. According to regime sources, seventy percent of the budget is reserved for defence. A third factor is the embargo. The border is closed between Rojava and Turkey. Only the entry point at Nusaybin has been intermittently opened for humanitarian aid. The border to the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan near the town Semalka is only sporadically opened for a very short time and then closed down for months because of the politics of the KDP (the Kurdish Democratic Party) of Iraqi Kurdistan, which opposes the Rojava revolution. The economy of Rojava is geared towards providing for the poorest and those without possessions. Its basic principle is the participation of everyone in production. In the words of a minister of economics: “If a single loaf of bread is manufactured in Rojava, everyone will have contributed to it.” This model is defined as the communal, or social economy. Cooperatives represent the foundation of this model. These cooperatives were built on land that was previously nationalised by the regime, which was reclaimed since the start of the revolution. This makes up 80% of the autonomous territory. In fact, the economic domain was the last one to be organised in Rojava. As the administrators of the Academy say, the provision of security for the people has inevitably been the top priority. The first step was the foundation of the Rojava Centre for Economy. Units were created in every town with the participation of engineers and economists with relevant expertise, along with other volunteers. Seed companies were set up to improve the agrarian economy and enable the villagers to carry on cultivating the soil. The administrators at the Academy describe the model they want to create: “We reject the capitalist economy, but we are not adopting the economic model of real socialism either. Ours is a communal economy based on cooperatives. We do not block private initiatives but we are following a policy that prevents the formation of monopolies. What does the constitution say? The Rojava Social Contract states: “Everyone has the right to the use and enjoyment of his private property. No one shall be deprived of his property except upon payment of just compensation, for reasons of public utility or social interest, and in the cases and according to the forms established by law.” Article 42 defines the principles of economic organisation, alluding to the the socialist principle of ‘each according to his need’ as follows: The economic system in the provinces shall be directed at providing general welfare and in particular granting funding to science and technology. It shall be aimed at guaranteeing the daily needs of people and to ensure a dignified life. Monopoly is prohibited by law. Labor rights and sustainable development are guaranteed. In summary, the means of production in Rojava, with its factories, land, forests, water and underground and above ground resources, are the property of the Democratic Autonomous Administration. The Rojava Revolution is not opposed to private property. However, the political and ideological hegemony of the communes and cooperatives, which are regarded as the political, social and economic organisation of the people, and the main power of the revolution, the poor and the dispossessed, show today that the direction of development is towards expropriation. One of the economic goals of the revolution is to prevent monopolisation. How will this be achieved? This question is one I have asked both members of the economic academy as well as officials in the ministry of economy. They have stressed that, “The goal is to found cooperatives for everybody in all areas of life and to further spread the communal economy.” The board members of the academy added: Rojava is a place in which almost no monopolisation, industrialisation or even heavy industries ever existed. There are small investments, however. We strive not to...
Categories: Friends of GEO, SE News

Podcast: Late Environmental Economist Robin Murray's Views on Creating a New Economy

Shareable - Commons - June 20, 2017 - 7:43pm

In this episode, we spoke with the late Robin Murray, a prolific sustainability and environmental economist, an advocate for a living economy, and a key player in the birth of the fair trade movement. Murray was named by The Guardian as one of the fifty people who could save the planet. He worked to establish the London Climate Change Agency with the Deputy Mayor of London, and alternated between working on innovative economic programs in local, regional, and national governments and in academia.

Categories: Friends of GEO

Seattle Mayor, 2 City Council Members Propose City Income Tax On The Rich

It's Our Economy - June 20, 2017 - 2:00pm
Above Photo: by Joe Raedle/Getty Images SEATTLE — Mayor Ed Murray and City Council members Kshama Sawant and Lisa Herbold on Monday proposed a new tax on high-income households. The proposal would place a 2 percent tax on joint filers’ income over $500,000 and single tax filers’ income over $250,000. They said the estimated $125 million in new annual revenue would allow the city to lower the burden associated with property taxes and other regressive taxes, replace federal funding potentially lost through President Donald Trump’s budget cuts and enhance public services such as housing, education and transit. Seattle income tax? “Washington state’s tax structure is the most regressive in the country, putting the burden on many of our most vulnerable residents,” Murray said. “Leaving cities with only regressive tax options puts the heaviest burden on working people, families and communities of color. By replacing a system that relies too heavily on property and sales taxes with a progressive income tax, we can ease that burden and generate revenue to invest in Seattle priorities…” Sawant said, “I ran for office four years ago on a program of a $15 per hour minimum wage, to tax the rich, and for rent control. We won $15 by building the 15 Now grassroots campaign. Now we’re on the cusp of taxing Seattle’s rich, because socialists, activists, and community organizers have tirelessly built up our movement over the years.” Herbold said, “People earning $20,000 a year devote two entire months of pay to their yearly tax bill; the 1 percent pay their annual tax bill in only six days. A tax on high incomes will give Seattle a more equitable revenue structure to fund affordable housing and services addressing homelessness, education, transit, and climate change, and it could also be dedicated to lowering other regressive taxes and replacing federal funding potentially lost to Trump budget cuts.” The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has found Washington state’s existing tax structure to be the most regressive in the nation, disproportionately hitting low-income households. ITEP found in 2015 that state and local taxes paid by the 20 percent of Washington families with the lowest incomes amounted to 16.8 percent of their income. In contrast, the tax burden for the 1 percent of families with the highest incomes was 2.4 percent of their income. The City Council will conduct an initial public hearing on the city income tax proposal on June 14. Final action is anticipated by mid-July.
Categories: Friends of GEO, SE News

Timeline: History of Rural Electricity Cooperatives in the US

Shareable - Commons - June 20, 2017 - 1:11pm

Most farms in the U.S. today have power, and many get their current from small, consumer-owned rural electric cooperatives. But in the 1930s, only 10 percent of these farms were connected to the electricity grid. During the New Deal era, a system of electricity cooperatives was established, and through the sharing of resources, the nation's rural communities were electrified. Within a few decades, roughly 90 percent of farms in the U.S. were connected to the electricity grid. The same grid exists today, but it is badly in need of an upgrade. 

Categories: Friends of GEO

Community Power Offers Fukushima a Brighter, Cleaner Future

Shareable - Commons - June 19, 2017 - 4:27pm

In 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami ravaged the Fukushima prefecture, in the Tohoku region of Japan's main island of Honshu.

Categories: Friends of GEO

Hawaii May Become First State With Guaranteed Income

It's Our Economy - June 19, 2017 - 3:00pm
Above Photo: A bill was recently passed in Hawaii through both the houses of the legislature in a unanimous vote that declares that all Hawaiians ‘deserve basic financial security’ and prompts state agencies to look over ‘universal basic income’ along with other policy. Getty Images Hawaii could become the first state to offer its citizens universal basic income after bill passes through both houses of state legislature   Hawaii is working to becoming the first state to offer guaranteed basic income The state’s cost of living – the highest in the country – motivated the passing of the resolution in May Next the state has to create a list of community leaders to determine whether universal basic income is feasible It may have been the last state to join the United States, but Hawaii may trail blaze and become the first to offer guaranteed basic income. A bill was recently passed through both the houses and state legislature in a unanimous vote that declares that all Hawaiians ‘deserve basic financial security’ and prompts state agencies to look over ‘universal basic income’ along with other policy. ‘As innovation and automation and inequality disrupt our economy, we want to make sure that everybody benefits and nobody is left behind,’ said state Representative Chris Lee of Kaliua to Mother Jones. ‘It’s past time that we had a serious talk about not just tweaking our economic policies but having a new discussion from the ground up about what our values and priorities are.’ ‘As innovation and automation and inequality disrupt our economy, we want to make sure that everybody benefits and nobody is left behind,’ said state Representative Chris Lee of Kaliua While Alaska has provided state residents a stipend funded by oil revenue since 1976, Hawaii is the first to consider the income to cover living expenses. Hawaii’s cost of living – the highest in the country – motivated the passing of the resolution in May along with the states reliance on low-paid service industry jobs. According to Lee, Hawaii has a very limited manufacturing and tech sector which puts the service-focused economy at risk. The text of the measure mentions the impact of technological advancements which have helped kill jobs in the state. ‘There has been a discussion for a long time about how do we build an economy where everybody can afford to live here and survive,’ Lee said. According to Lee, Hawaii has a very limited manufacturing and tech sector which puts the service-focused economy at risk. Next a collective of community leaders will need to come together to see if universal basic income is actually tangible. Next, Hawaii has to gather a ‘basic economic security workshop group’ comprised of leaders from various sects of public life. Silicon Valley in Northern California is also potentially looking into UBI with Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna (bottom right) proposing a $1 trillion earned income tax credit for working families They will be tasked with assessing the state’s exposure to ‘disruptive innovation’ and submit studies on universal basic income (UBI). Lee said: ‘There is definitely a recognition that beyond just talking about basic income that things need to change. ‘We need to take proactive action to chart a stable path forward for our economy and all of our residents.’ Other states have tossed about the idea of UBI for their residents. California’s Silicon Valley is looking to explore how working to address its displacement of blue-collar workers. Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna proposed a $1 trillion earned income tax credit for working families. This is seen as a huge step for the movement of UBI.  
Categories: Friends of GEO, SE News

Veteran Organizer Gives Inside Look At The First $15 Minimum Wage Campaign

It's Our Economy - June 19, 2017 - 3:00pm
Above Photo: As the labor movement finds itself in a state of crisis, Jonathan Rosenblum’s new book is both a timely history of a bold campaign’s unlikely victory and an inspiring call for a flexible, progressive and power-building vision of labor organizing. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images) Back in 2011, as the Occupy Wall Street movement was still spreading through the country, a smaller standoff was unfolding at Sea-Tac, the international airport in the small, eponymous town between Seattle and Tacoma that serves both cities. Along with some of her coworkers, Zainab Aweis, a Somali Muslim shuttle driver for Hertz car rental, was on her way to take a break for prayer, when her manager stepped in front of the doorway. “If you guys pray, you go home,” the manager said. As devout Muslims, Aweis and her fellow staff were dedicated to praying five times a day. Because it only takes a few minutes, their employer had previously treated the prayers like smoke breaks—nothing to worry about. Suddenly, the workers were forced to choose between their faith and their jobs. “I like the job,” Aweis thought, “but if I can’t pray, I don’t see the benefit.” As she and others continued to pray, managers started suspending each Muslim worker who prayed on the clock, totaling 34. The ensuing battle marked a flashpoint in what would eventually be the first successful $15 minimum wage campaign in the country. The story of these Hertz workers, and the many others who came together to improve their working conditions, is recounted in Beyond $15: Immigrant Workers, Faith Activists, and the Revival of the Labor Movement, a new book by Jonathan Rosenblum, a leading organizer of the campaign. As the labor movement finds itself in a state of crisis, Beyond $15 is both a timely history of a bold campaign’s unlikely victory and an inspiring call for a flexible, progressive and power-building vision of labor organizing. The decades-long decline of union power and the recent rise of anti-union legislation have made organizing workers in even the best of conditions an uphill battle. At Sea-Tac, one might have thought it impossible. While organizing even a single workplace is a challenge, Rosenblum and others were hoping to organize many. Decades of restructuring and union busting in the airline industry meant that many low-wage workers at Sea-Tac worked for various contractors rather than the airlines themselves. Though many of the employees worked alongside each other and shared grievances, they did not necessarily have the same boss. Worse than that, Sea-Tac airport workers weren’t guaranteed most federal rights to union activity because those rights do not fully cover contractors or transportation workers. Due to an antiquated law called the Railway Labor Act (RLA), airport workers are all but prohibited from striking and so-called disruptive activity in the workplace. And, if all of that wasn’t bad enough, many of the workers wanted nothing to do with a union. Some had already had bad experiences with unions and did not trust them, while others were refugees who wanted no part in anything that might attract the government’s attention. That Rosenblum and his colleagues were able to achieve victory under such circumstances, alone, makes Beyond $15 an instructive read. The book’s detailed portraits of organizers, workers and their actions are a testament to bold and creative maneuvers, which were executed so well that they made a seemingly invincible corporation feel threatened by a united front of cabin cleaners and shuttle drivers. Rosenblum’s coalition of faith leaders and a team of worker organizers, closely tied to the community, led picket drives on luggage carts, co-opted shareholder meetings with defiant prayers and songs, made a successful bid to demand union recognition and launched a citywide ballot initiative that narrowly beat its concerted conservative opposition (and I mean narrowly–the initiative passed by 77 votes, a 1 percent margin). But more than just a collection of war stories, Rosenblum’s purpose in Beyond $15 is to persuade other advocates to follow his lead. The book uses Sea-Tac’s success to argue for a “social movement union” approach to organizing that grounds labor advocacy in moral terms, challenges the existing economic and political order and broadens the definition of union organizing to include a wide swath of community groups and faith leaders rather than union members alone. “Today’s expectation among most union leaders …. is that the organization providing the most dollars and staff get to call the shots,” Rosenblum writes. “But community allies bring other assets, like relationships, credibility, or cultural competence, which can’t be measured monetarily but are just as vital.” To be sure, Rosenblum’s vision for labor organizing is not exactly new. Many progressive union leaders, particularly younger ones, would find his recommended principles obvious. Even the most powerful and ostensibly hierarchical union leaders would likely agree with many of his points. And while this kind of progressive vision is important, there are practical conundrums that cannot be resolved by Rosenblum’s call to “aim higher, reach wider, build deeper”—namely, a history of industrial segmentation, automation and the large number of workers in sectors where traditional models of union organizing simply aren’t feasible. Even when union heads fully prioritize grassroots organizing, coalition building and collaborating with faith leaders, as AFL-CIO head John Sweeney did in the 1990s, this strategy is not a panacea. With Republican control of every branch of government, the rising popularity of “right-to-work” legislation and the increasing number of preemption bills that allow conservative states to nullify laws like the one passed at Sea-Tac, these challenges are only multiplying. It’s with that in mind that Beyond $15 may be exactly the inspirational fodder that organizers need. There may not be an easy fix for the tensions between grassroots organizing and newer forms of worker advocacy, but Rosenblum can attest that the problem need not be resolved to plod ahead. As he shows in his book, progressive organizing and coalition building can work alongside ballot initiatives and big unions, and victories can still be won—now.  
Categories: Friends of GEO, SE News

The Case for Local, Community-led Sustainable Energy Programs

Shareable - Commons - June 19, 2017 - 1:06pm

The energy infrastructure that we inherited from the 20th century is one dominated by fossil fuels and uranium, mined in relatively few localities in the world. The distribution and refining of these fuels is tightly held by a few large corporations. Electricity generation typically occurs in plants that hold local or regional monopolies, with vast profit potential. While gasoline is burned in millions of vehicles, the distribution system remains within the control of a few corporations, which often have regional or national oligopoly or monopoly control.

Categories: Friends of GEO

Massachusetts To Vote On Taxing The Wealthy

It's Our Economy - June 19, 2017 - 8:00am
Above Photo: From The Massachusetts Legislature, meeting in a Constitutional Convention, has approved sending the proposed Fair Share Amendment to the November 2018 state ballot. The legislators’ vote of 134-55 on Wednesday, June 14, was the second by a Constitutional Convention on the measure, as is required for amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution. The citizens’ initiative would create an additional 4 percent tax on annual income over $1 million. The tax would raise almost $2 billion a year for public education and transportation. To ensure that the tax would be applied only to the highest-income residents, the $1 million threshold would be adjusted each year to reflect cost-of-living increases. MTA President Barbara Madeloni said that the amendment is needed because “our public schools and colleges are drastically underfunded.” “We have many communities in need of free high-quality prekindergarten,” she continued. “We need to make sure that arts, athletics and cultural activities are available to students no matter where they live — and we cannot let cost be a hurdle to students looking to pursue higher education in our public colleges and universities. It’s time to give the voters public education funding that is sufficient to meet the needs of all of our students.” Lew Finfer, co-chair of Raise Up Massachusetts, the grassroots coalition behind the Fair Share Amendment, thanked the Legislature “for advancing the Fair Share Amendment in support of the public’s right to vote.” “It’s time to ask millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share — the same share as the rest of us — to make those investments and generate equitable economic growth across Massachusetts.” — Raise Up MA Chair Deb Fastino “Now our grassroots coalition will work to reach every voter in the state and propel the Fair Share Amendment to victory,” he said. In 2015, the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions of which the MTA is a member collected more than 157,000 signatures to begin the process of amending the Massachusetts Constitution, all without using paid signature-gathering companies. In May 2016, the House and Senate, meeting jointly in their first Constitutional Convention on the matter, voted 135-57 to advance the initiative. No legislator who voted for the Fair Share Amendment lost his or her seat in the November 2016 General Election, demonstrating the high level of support among voters for the amendment. “Massachusetts voters and their elected leaders understand that if we want an economy that works for all of us, we desperately need new investments in quality public schools for our children, affordable high-quality public higher education, and a reliable transportation system that lets people get to school, work, and around their communities,” said Deb Fastino, executive director of the community-based Coalition for Social Justice and co-chair of Raise Up Massachusetts. Fastino continued, “It’s time to ask millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share — the same share as the rest of us — to make those investments and generate equitable economic growth across Massachusetts.” Related Resources MTA President Barbara Madeloni, SEIU’s Harris Gruman make the case for the Fair Share Amendment on NECN
Categories: Friends of GEO, SE News

Are You Unable To Afford Decent Housing? Welcome To The Club

It's Our Economy - June 19, 2017 - 7:00am
Above Photo:  ‘By the time I was seven, I had already moved four times.’ Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images The affordable housing crisis is becoming inescapable. We have now reached the point where a minimum-wage worker can only afford to live in about a dozen counties in the entire nation. Even those with college degrees and wages above minimum wage struggle. This problem doesn’t just impact countless poor Americans any more. Now it hits middle class families, too. For many, it’s outrageous that this crisis is no longer is confined to the bottom of the income ladder. ‘What do you mean that someone earning $20 an hour in LA wouldn’t be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment?’ gasp those in the middle class. When it was in the news that you’d have to earn $24 an hour in order to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle, where I live, I finally saw community members talking more seriously about housing density and rent controls. But for those of us who have been locked into a housing crisis for generations because of race, gender, class or disability, we are left wondering why so many are just now paying attention to an issue that has already destroyed countless lives. By the time I was seven, I had already moved four times. My mom, a single mother of three, moved from apartment to apartment almost yearly. She couldn’t afford any of them on her minimum wage salary. As money became tight, the phone would be the first to go, then the electricity. I remember showering at neighbor’s apartments, or borrowing a key to a vacant apartment from a generous maintenance worker. I remember getting the hazardous gas lamps out of the closet, by the age nine an expert at not spilling the fuel on the carpet while I set the lamps out and lit them in order to do my homework at night. Eventually, even with no phone or electricity, there wouldn’t be enough money to make rent and eat, so we’d move again. A few times, if another affordable place couldn’t be found by the time next month’s rent was due, we’d sleep in our car for a few days. If my mom couldn’t find an affordable place to live in the area, she’d have to look for another job somewhere more affordable, giving up any chance at promotion or pay raise. Every year a new school, new friends, new routine. Every time we had to move, whatever money my mother had managed to save went to rental deposits that often equaled more than two months of her pay. As a single mother earning minimum wage, my mom was trapped in the cycle of unlivable wages and unaffordable rents that stymied any attempts she made stability for her family. Stable housing – both in prices and residential permanency – are one of the most important indicators of social and economic success in this country. Studies have shown that housing instability and frequent moves dramatically increase a child’s likelihood of suffering from social, behavioral and educational issues and housing stability is one of the greatest indicators of childhood success. Children who move two or more times due to eviction or being priced out are 13 to 15% less likely to graduate high school by age 20, and even less likely to attend or graduate from college – further trapping them in the low-wage jobs that led to the same housing insecurity that they grew up with. Children who lack stable housing are more likely to be forced into environmentally hazardous living environments and are therefore more likely to suffer from asthma, lead poisoning, fatigue and headache from mold, dust, cockroaches, rodents and other environmental factors. People of all ages who don’t have stable and affordable housing also have a harder time accessing healthy food, building a consistent relationship with a family doctor, or getting regular refills on needed prescription medications. Adults who lack stable housing are more likely to report lower levels of mental and physical health than those who are stably housed. People of color, disabled people, and single mothers are more likely to work low- and minimum-wage jobs or be unemployed than the rest of the population, and because of this, many people in these groups have found themselves locked in generations of poverty. The average black household in the US has one sixteenth of the net financial worth of the average white household. That is a disparity that creates a hole that is almost impossible to climb out of. Newer generations of black Americans are highly likely to enter the workforce with less access to advanced education, no financial support from family, and far fewer employment contacts from community members and a lack of reliable transportation – making the chances that they too will find themselves in the same poverty of their parents incredibly high. These outcomes look just as bleak for Native American families, Hispanic families, and disabled people. This is a cycle that keeps marginalized groups marginalized, while landowners who are rapidly increasing rents in order to take advantage of an ever-shrinking rental market profit off of our poverty. And while it is now become so large of an issue that it is starting to affect a noticeable amount of the population that was once known as middle class, it has been a disaster for poor communities – especially poor communities of color – for the entirety of this nation’s history. As the black child of a poor single mother, I have finally been able, in these last three years, to break the cycle of poverty and housing instability that has plagued my family. I was one of the few black people in America who was able to secure a loan for a small home I could afford. I cling to my mortgage like my life depends on it, because in some ways it does. My nine-year old son has been able to go to the same school for the last three years, and he is flourishing. But the scars of...
Categories: Friends of GEO, SE News

True Food Systems Change From The Bottom Up

It's Our Economy - June 18, 2017 - 10:00am
Above image: By David Beacon. We are very excited to announce that at 1pm on Friday, June 16th Familias Unidas por La Justicia signed a historic collective bargaining agreement with Sakuma Bros. Berry Farm!! On June 15th FUJ members turned out to overwhelmingly ratify the tentative collective bargaining agreement presented by their negotiations committee. After an overview of the contract the Mixteco and Triqui hand harvesters, men and women, lined up to cast their ballots. Official vote counters Jeff Johnson President of the WA State Labor Council and Steve Garey former President of the Steelworkers Local 12-591 tallied the vote and announced it was over 85% in favor of ratifying the tentative agreement. The harvesting season will begin soon with contractual benefits for members of FUJ hand harvesting the berries. Among the benefits union members will receive is an average $15 an hour wage. “This is a historic victory for all our members that harvest berries, they are happy to be working at Sakuma Farms with a union contract, everybody is ready to get to work, there will soon be union berries in the marketplace!” — Ramon Torres, President of Familias Unidas por La Justicia To read a summary of the contract, you can visit FUJ’s website: As the news starts to spread about this historic victory, we want to take a moment and express our profound gratitude to all the supporters, volunteers, and members of Community to Community Development who enabled us to walk in solidarity with FUJ these last 4 years. While this contract is truly a great victory, C2C’s vision for a better food system stretches far beyond this moment. Farmworker justice is also being cultivated through our cooperative development work—empowering workers to define economic relationships for themselves, our organizing fellowship program—training the next generation of food justice leaders, and our commitment to farmworker voices at the table in the fight for climate justice. As we step up and into this next phase of our organizing work, we are counting on your support. Please consider making a donation to C2C to empower our vision for a better world into reality. DONATE TODAY!
Categories: Friends of GEO, SE News

Renewable Record: Wind And Solar Supplied 10% Of US Electricity In March

It's Our Economy - June 16, 2017 - 3:00pm
Above Photo: Joshua Wiese/IPS March produced the highest share of wind and solar generation the U.S. has ever seen. The saying about March — “in like a lion, out like a lamb” — plays extremely well for renewable generation. Wind and solar together crossed the 10 percent mark of total U.S. electricity production in March, reports the Energy Information Administration. That’s the first time they’ve reached double-digit market share for a month, marking an important milestone in the growth of renewables nationwide. Wind supplied 8 percent of U.S. electricity and solar produced 2 percent. Overall for 2016, wind supplied 5.6 percent of generation, utility-scale solar contributed 0.9 percent, and small-scale solar about 0.5 percent, for a cumulative total of 7 percent.   Why did the record occur in March, when the days haven’t reached their sunny summer maximum? Most of the electricity is still coming from wind, for one thing. And more of that wind comes from Texas than any other state, by a long shot. The winds blow more forcefully in Texas and surrounding states in the spring. White Papers DNV GL Releases The 2017 PV Module Reliability Scorecard DOWNLOAD NOW Could Renewables Be The Majors’ Next Big Thing? DOWNLOAD NOW Renewables typically produce the most in absolute terms during the shoulder months of spring and fall. That’s when much of the nation experiences mild weather and lower electricity demand. With less demand for generation, the sources that don’t require any fuel cost can compete more effectively and play a bigger role as a share of total production. Meanwhile, the installed base of wind and solar has been increasing since last March. Solar installations nearly doubled in 2016 compared to the year before. Wind and solar collectively accounted for more than 60 percent of new generating capacityadded in 2016, with 8.7 gigawatts and 7.7 gigawatts, respectively. That growth will continue this year, although it’s not expected to be as strong. EIA predicts that renewables will beat 10 percent generation share again in April (the experts are still crunching those numbers), before slipping back down for the summer months. In individual states, though, renewables are well past that number. Iowa leads with 37 percent generation from wind.   One month of 10 percent wind and solar power doesn’t mean the grid is yet on a path toward deep decarbonization. This data point, though, is meaningful. If wind and solar continue to dominate new capacity additions as they did last year, we can expect these new records to become a regular springtime tradition.
Categories: Friends of GEO, SE News
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