Labor Under the Radar

Rather, a labor reform bill making its way (too slowly, IMHO) in the House.  The bill has some interesting items in it:

  • require unions to obtain permission from workers to spend their dues on purposes other than collective bargaining
  • mandate a recertification election upon the expiration of a collective-bargaining agreement if a workforce has turned over by more than 50%
  • take card-check off the menu of options for holding a union election
  • allow employees to withhold their personal contact information from unions

What’s not to like?

What’s holding up the bill?

Minimum Wage and Automation

Is technology—automation—really going to kill jobs?  No.  As many, including me, have written before, automation is only going to shift the nature of jobs.  Minimum wage laws are killing jobs, and will continue to and at increasing rates, by making robots cost effective despite their high up-front costs.

Wal-Mart, for instance, used to employ humans to track individual stores’ cash and manage their books.  Now at roughly 4,700 Wal-Marts, roughly 4,700 of those employees have been replaced by a machine that can track the books and while counting bills and coins at rates of 480 and 3,000 per minute, respectively.  Because it’s Wal-Mart, those folks, where they’ve wanted to, have taken jobs elsewhere in their store at the same pay, but those jobs are at risk, too.  Cashiers are being replaced by automated check-out stands, for instance.

EPA Jobs?

The Environmental Protection Agency has sent out more than 1,000 buy-out notices to its employees….

The positions are being eliminated, and the incumbents aren’t being offered positions elsewhere on the government’s teat payroll.  The horror.  The union-demanded, if not God-given, sinecures are not sinecures, after all.  American Federation of Government Employees Local 704 President Michael Mikulka is quite vocal with his dismay.

EPA wants over 1,200 of us to leave, purportedly to save money going forward and claiming that they no longer need the positions occupied by staff that in some cases worked at EPA for over 30 years[.]

A Union

doesn’t like Amazon buying Whole Foods.

[United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President, Marc] Perrone plans to file a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, arguing that letting Amazon buy Whole Foods would trigger a wave of store closures and eventually quash customer choice.

With a straight face, he argued in his complaint (which somehow fell into The Washington Post‘s hands before the filing) that

Regardless of whether Amazon has an actual Whole Foods grocery store near a competitor, their online model and size allows them to unfairly compete with every single grocery store in the nation.

Grievances

Thousands of State Department and US Agency for International Development employees indicated in a survey they are worried about the future of their agencies, with some expressing particular concern about lack of support from the Trump administration and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

And

Many of the more than 35,000 State Department and USAID employees responding to the survey indicated longtime frustration with the way the agencies function, including poor technology and duplicative and redundant processes that make frequent workarounds necessary. They also cited pet projects created by ambassadors and Congress, according to the report reviewed by the [Wall Street] Journal.

Food Stamps and Work

Now that the Obama administration’s waiver of work requirements for families without dependent children in order to be eligible to obtain food stamps has been rescinded, the vast numbers of recipients are being greatly reduced.  Alabama, for instance, this year resumed the work or work training requirement in a pilot program involving 13 of its counties and has seen its food stamp enrollment fall by 85%.  Georgia is running a similar program, and it’s seen a 58% drop.

The Specialness of Snowflakes

The New York Times newsroom is going to walk out (as I write this) on Thursday because they don’t like the cutbacks in editors (an understandable concern, even if the newsroom denizens offered no alternative) and other personnel reductions the paper is being forced to make in an effort to reduce costs to a survivable level.  It’s their plaints, though, that drew my attention.  The copy editors group wrote a letter to Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joseph Kahn in which they said in part,

When Were They Not?

All IT Jobs Are Cybersecurity Jobs Now goes the headline on a recent Wall Street Journal article, and the subhead reads The rise of cyberthreats means that the people once assigned to setting up computers and email servers must now treat security as top priority.

It’s like these folks—both in the IT arena and in the reporting media—have just had an epiphany.

The global “WannaCry” ransomware attack that peaked last week, and has affected at least 200,000 computers in 150 countries, as well as the growing threat of Adylkuzz, another new piece of malware, illustrate a basic problem that will only become more pressing as ever more of our systems become connected: the internet wasn’t designed with security in mind, and dealing with that reality isn’t cheap or easy.

“We pay a lot to feed the civil servants”

That’s what Zhou Dewen, Zhejiang Private Investment Enterprise Association Director, a business lobbying group in the People’s Republic of China has said.  He, like business representatives anywhere—including here in the US—is right to be concerned.  That concern is compounded by President Donald Trump’s tax proposal.

Now, Chinese officials and executives worry that the tax proposal Mr Trump announced last week will set back China’s global competitiveness and spur companies to invest in America instead of China.

Which is one of the points of Trump’s proposal that, among other things, seeks to drastically lower our usurious business tax rates.

Shrinking the Federal Government

…is more than just reducing spending; although that’s a major component of the necessary shrinkage.  Shrinking also must include reducing the physical size of the government, reducing its payroll.  To that end, the moves by President Donald Trump and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney will prove valuable if Congress will cooperate.