On July 8 – 9 CPEG joined members of Congress, representatives of community groups and union members from around the country for a “Jobs Briefing” in Washington D.C. Bill Barclay was on the panel analyzing the current jobs situation, outlining policies to address continued high unemployment and assessing our experiences organizing the unemployed. His comments are below.
I’m pleased to be at this jobs briefing as both a founding member of, and representing, the Chicago Political Economy Group. CPEG developed and published a comprehensive jobs proposal in 2008, and we have worked with the staff of Rep. John Conyers to include many of the same ideas in HR 1000. I’m also here as a Democratic Socialists of America member, happy to say that DSA was one of the first national organizations to endorse the legislation proposed by Rep. Conyers.
I’m going to consider three points in my remarks. First, what is happening to the US labor market during this Long Depression, a more appropriate title for the period we are in than recovery from something called the “Great Recession”; second, what is the role and importance of a financial transaction tax in the financing of a jobs program sufficient to the problems we face; and third, why did the efforts of several of us in 2009-10 in Chicago to organize the unemployed failed but why the situation may be different today.
Let me get this right.
An association of people with an elected leadership with no direct authority over its members whose primary purpose (which its members get to vote on) is to benefit its members, is so potentially oppressive to its members that they have the right to not pay the association for any its benefits (like more than doubling their wages in the last 12 years even as the association is required by law to provide these benefits to them.
However, an association of people with unelected ownership-based leadership (some would say “class power”) that has direct authority over its members (in the sense that it can tell them – with some broad legal limits – what to do for 40 hours week, see for example : Economic Democracy by Robin Archer) whose primary purpose (in the U.S.) is to benefit its owner/leaders so that it is directly commanding its members to do things not in their interest but in the interest of the owner/leaders, has no oppressive power over its members but quite the opposite. The leader/owners of this association will be “oppressed” if they have to not discriminate in benefits that they are legally required to offer to their members.
The theme of this month’s jobs report ought to be ‘not enough.’ The latest disappointing numbers are far lower than the optimistic expectations voiced by many economists after ADP reported payroll growth of 238,000 in December 2013. CPEG has been arguing for years that what job growth the U.S. economy has seen since the official end of the ‘great recession’ has been inadequate. In fact, the total number of employed workers in the U.S. is still lower than it was before the start of the great recession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced this morning that the economy added 74,000 jobs in December 2013, falling far short of expectations. This anemic job growth brings the total employment in the country to less than what it was in November 2007, the month before the great recession started. It’s important to note that if the economy had added the 200,000+ jobs that many expected, we would still not have reached pre-recession employment levels. Even a ‘good’ jobs report would have been disappointing.
Every Month a CPEG member will be posting a brief issue analysis for discussion and comments. This month’s discussion piece was authored by CPEG member Ron Baiman, with additional commentary from CPEG member Mel Rothenberg. More information about both can be found in the “About Us” section of our site.
One of our premier cities, sitting at the center of the industrial heartland, once a symbol of democracy, upward mobility, racial integration, a growing and vibrant middle class, and opportunity and a better life for immigrants from all over the world, has gone bankrupt. The cause has been obvious for at least three decades: massive de-industrialization, free-trade, union busting, white flight and suburban sprawl, deregulation, and “Financialization.” Similarly, for the same reasons, the Illinois economy, the largest and most important in the Midwest, has been in a downward spiral for decades.
Members of the Chicago Political Economy Group recently gave several workshop presentations which are now available online.
At the NATO People’s Counter Summit in Chicago, CPEG’s Bill Barclay (along with Susan Hurley, Director of Chicago Jobs with Justice) conducted a workshop on a proposed Financial Transaction Tax for Illinois. His powerpoint, “A Speculation Sales Tax for Illinois” is now available for download here (.ppt).
Other CPEG members at the summit presented a seminar entitled “Confronting the Job Crisis“, focused on three issues: jobs, taxes and political mobilization. The workshop was covered nicely by the Red Line Project Blog.
At the Community Media Workshop, during a workshop on “The Great Wisconsin Resistance”, CPEG’s Mel Rothenberg presented his discussion paper “Labor and Occupy: Insights from Wisconsin“. The paper examines the role of contemporary trade unions in a revival of a mass political left versus their role as the center of a revived social movement. It is now available for download here (.pdf).