Unions have got a bad reputation in North America for reasons I don’t understand. Counterintuitively, large corporations have convinced millions of workers that their jobs are negatively impacted by workers helping each other. It’s been proven that when CEOs talk about how much they make their average wage goes up; those same CEOs don’t want their own workers doing the same. Indeed, silicon valley CEOs went out of their way to ensure that the people they hire cannot even get paid more at other companies.
Today is May Day and a good chance to think about the history and value of the labour movement. We still need to work together today for a better tomorrow and this is a chance to celebrate our successes.
Top executives of leading tech companies secretly agreed among themselves not to hire each other’s employees, thereby restricting wages and job opportunities of the very people to whom they owed their success.
Government investigators discovered the conspiracy and brought charges against the companies, using antitrust law to protect labor rights.
Underemployment runs rampant in too many sectors of our economy; and this contributes to a long-term unsustainable economic system. For example, people born in the 1980s are now the brokest generation since the Depression (for reasons why see this post). With these problems in mind, some thinkers are calling for a radical solution by providing jobs to anybody who wants one. It’s like universal income but for work.
To advocates, the payoff from this kind of program would be immense: In a single stroke, the government could not only eliminate involuntary unemployment but also alter the private job market. The wages and benefits at guaranteed public jobs would effectively set a floor for private employment. With more workers fully employed at higher wages, there’d be less demand for social services like food stamps. And although the program would require a significant initial investment, it would ultimately spur economic growth, as workers go out and spend their new paychecks.
Advocates of a jobs guarantee are clear on the need for on-the-ground leadership. The CBPP plan calls for federal administrators of a jobs guarantee program to work closely with state and local governments, and it advises that project proposals be developed “in conjunction with community leaders, local government officials, labor organizations, and local residents.”
The tar sands in Alberta is killing a Canadian climate-friendly future and the people who work there have also realized that jobs in the tar sands isn’t their future. A new not-for profit, Iron and Earth, is building a sustainable future for the climate and for workers. The worker led cooperative takes people who want out of the unstable oil economy into the growing field of renewable energy installations.
Iron and Earth is now running short solar training programs for oil and gas workers who want new options. “Our approach is really that so many of the tradespeople that work in the oil sands are highly skilled, and really require only a few days of specialized training for solar energy and potentially other renewable energy technologies as well,” Hildebrand says.
In the first five-day course, in October, 15 trainees installed solar panels at a community daycare on tribal land in Alberta. A similar course happened in November. The organization plans to train 1,000 oil and gas workers in its first campaign.
For years Germany’s transition from coal to sustainable energy has impacted communities. Many feared that jobs would be lost during this transition so plans were put in place to help workers and communities transition too. Throughout the Rhine valley coal plants have been closed down and their place new sustainable energy jobs have popped up alongside new places for arts and culture. The removal of coal power has brought a tourism boom amongst other successes.
The mines themselves have even become a cultural stage. A museum and gallery at Zollverein attracts over 250,000 visitors a year, and several other mines host music concerts, food and cultural festivals. In the nearby city of Bochum, an old industrial plant — now the site of the German Mining Museum — is surrounded with stately homes flanked by lush gardens. The change hasn’t gone unnoticed; the Ruhr was officially named Europe’s cultural capital in 2010.
The Ruhr also has become attractive for businesses to invest, say Switala. Zollverein, like many former mines, is now also home to several businesses. Artists, jewelry designers, choreographers, design firms and tourism companies are just a sampling of those who have made the trendy industrial space their home.
Americans like to think of themselves living in the land of the free, ironically the country has the highest incarceration rate on the planet (and the greatest number of people behind bars). The laws in the USA are quite strict with zero tolerance and minimum jail time for offenders, this leads to a lot of people having criminal records. Once a person has been labelled a criminal in the states it can be very hard to find work after being released from prison. A new website called 70 Million Jobs has launched to help people released from prison get employment opportunities.
The founder of the site explained why he built it on Hacker News:
I’m something of a domain expert in this area because I myself have a criminal record. In the early 1990s, I worked on Wall Street and some of what I did was illegal. For a time I was a partner at the infamous Wolf of Wall Street firm, Stratton Oakmont (Scorcese film). I ended up with a 2 year Federal prison sentence. I was guilty.
I experienced first hand how difficult it was to get on with life after going through the “system.” I served as Director at Defy Ventures, a great non-profit in the reentry space, but was interested in a scalable solution to ex-offender unemployment and resultant recidivism. I felt a new, for-profit, tech-based approach was necessary, so I launched 70MillionJobs. We’re seeking “double bottom-line” returns: make money and do social good.
Like most job boards, our business model is based upon employers paying to advertise their jobs. We expect additional revenue to come from municipalities, who spend tens of billions of dollars annually, when someone is rearrested.
You might not be surprised to learn that most formerly incarcerated men and women are petrified to discuss their background with prospective employers. So we created a “safe haven” where all parties knew the score, and applicants could relax knowing that jobs being offered were with companies that accepted their pasts.