Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Companies Invest More In Machines Than In People—We’ve Got To Fight For Ourselves As Working People

The New York Times reports that companies are spending more on new computers and other machines than they are spending on hiring new people.

From the Times

“…Workers are getting more expensive while equipment is getting cheaper, and the combination is encouraging companies to spend on machines rather than people. “I want to have as few people touching our products as possible,” said Dan Mishek, managing director of Vista Technologies in Vadnais Heights, Minn. “Everything should be as automated as it can be. We just can’t afford to compete with countries like China on labor costs, especially when workers are getting even more expensive.” Vista, which makes plastic products for equipment manufacturers, spent $450,000 on new technology last year. During the same period, it hired just two new workers, whose combined annual salary and benefits are $160,000.”….with the rising costs of hiring, companies like Vista are finding ways to use capital to replace workers whose jobs are relatively routine. “If you’re doing something that can be written down in a programmatic, algorithmic manner, you’re going to be substituted for quickly,” said Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard. To add insult to injury, much of the equipment used to replace American workers is made by workers abroad, meaning that capital spending is going overseas. Of the four pieces of equipment Vista bought last year, one was made domestically…”

Could somebody please tell me where people are going to work and how they are going to get by as we move forward in this country?

Here is where we seem to be in our nation today—

* We’re cutting spending on education that would prepare young people for the job market.

* We won’t ask the most wealthy to pay more taxes.

* Employers won’t hire even at a time of record profits.

* Government is laying off thousands of workers.

* Many people who are working are unable to get a steady 40 hours a week.

* There is vehement opposition from the right to the extension of health insurance to all Americans.

* Unions are under assault. 

* Pensions are a thing of the past and people’s retirement—if they even have a 401K—is at the whims of the stock market.

* Social Security and Medicare are under constant attack.

* Poverty is rarely mentioned by leaders of either major political party.

* The unemployed don’t seem to be on the agenda at all as states cut back on unemployment benefits and the talk in Washington is about debt reduction.

It seems that the average person is being abandoned in America.

Given the direction we are headed, how are even the most hard-working people going to find steady work and good benefits?

The good news is that average people have the ability to fight back and to demand a fair return for the work they are willing to do. People are not helpless.

Here is a series of articles from The American Prospect Magazine about the problems facing middle class American and about some possible solutions.

The work of a better and more fair nation and society is up to each of us.  Every individual has the ability to attend a public meeting, attend or organize a protest, write or call an elected official, talk to friends and family, start a blog, donate money, write a letter to the editor, volunteer for candidates and causes, and even run for public office.

If you don’t take control of your future, somebody else will.

June 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 7 Comments

Have Respect For Your Fellow Working People Who Must Labor On A Holiday—So Many Ways To Ask If Burger King Is Open On Christmas

Last year I wrote a post about a Burger King in Houston being open on Christmas Day. The post was prompted by the picture you see above. I took that picture last December on a very rare snowy day in Houston.

(Picture copyright Neil Aquino.)

My feeling was that Burger King did not need to be open on Christmas Day. The employees would want to be at home with family and Burger King on Christmas Day seemed depressing. I realize  many folks eat at Burger King and I pass no judgment on that fact. I’m simply not certain that Burger King on Christmas Day is needed by anybody if only for the reason that the staff would be forced to be work.

I can recall growing up in New England in the 1970’s when many business places were not open on Sunday.  I don’t know if that was for the best or not, but it was at least a day of rest to a greater extent than we see today. On the other hand, more hours open means more hours for staff to be employed.

On the Christmas Day just past, I did in fact visit a local convenience store/gas station. So you can say I’m a hyprocrite. I walked over to the store to buy an early edition of the Sunday Houston Chronicle. I get the final edition delivered to my door. I did not need to buy the early edition.

However, I also bought two $1 instant lottery tickets and gave them to the clerk. I thanked him for working the holiday. It is up to you to judge if these facts exonerate me.

Burger King stays open on Christmas Day and on other holidays for a very good reason. Many people want to spend money to eat at Burger King on Christmas Day.  At the end of this post are just some of the search terms that internet users wrote on or around Christmas Day 2010 to see if Burger King would be open Christmas Day. There is something like 65 different versions of the question listed below. That is not all of the listings. My blog got more than 900 page views on this topic alone for a post over a year old. (I guess that is some assurance that Texas Liberal has at least a little pull on Google.)

(Above–A Whopper. Here is nutritional information on Whoppers. A Whopper will meet almost all your daily saturated fat needs. Here is nutritional infromation for all Burger King menu offerings.)

Business places have plenty of profit motive to be open on holidays. So I suppose the question is what can we do as working people to acknowledge the fact that some folks must work holidays for non-essential reasons. And ,of course, the same consideration must be accorded to people who must work for the public safety or in any type of business that cannot shut down for a day.

Here are some possibilities for us to act in a respectful way that asserts that value and dignity of all labor—

1. In jobs where tipping is customary, we could tip at the time-and-a-half rate that all workers should expect on a holiday.  If you normally tip 15% for good service, than you could tip 22.5% instead on holidays. If you normally tip close to 20%, as you should consider doing if you have the resources, than a tip near 30% would be fair. This may seem high, but the fact is that your waiter is working a holiday and working people should be mindful of the needs of other working people.

2. We could thank the person for working the holiday. How hard is that?

3. We could tip well and acknowledge the fact someone is working a holiday even if we feel somehow mistreated at our own work. Part of the respect we can show for fellow working people is not to spread around the misery we may feel simply because we lack the personal discipline to care about others.

4. We could advocate year-round for better treatment for working people. All work has value. It is a measure of our own self-respect that we see value and commonality in the circumstances of people who also give the hours of their lives to earn a living. All too often in our nation we have put aside our own best interests and the best interests of fellow working people so we can focus on hating people not like ourselves.

New Year’s Day 2011 is coming up. There is always some holiday on the horizon. Let’s treat people well.

Here is a series of articles from the public policy magazine The American Prospect dealing with how the rights of labor could be improved right now.

We all have the ability to make life better for ourselves and for others. This ability to make life better never takes a holiday.

Here are but some of many ways people inquired as to the availability of a Whopper on Christmas Day—

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December 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Houston Janitors Set-Up Facebook Page As Contract Expires In 2010

Houston’s commercial office janitors must negotiate a new contract for 2010. As part of the effort to gain public support for what will be a tough fight in a difficult economy, the janitors have set up a Facebook page.

Here is the link to that page.

Above is a picture from the Facebook page showing part of previous successful efforts for janitors to gain a contract in Houston.

Here is what the janitors say—-

“In the fall of 2006, low-wage janitors stood up for good jobs during an historic four-week strike for a better future for Houston’s families. Prior to the strike, most of Houston’s 5,300 commercial office janitors in Houston were paid just $20.00 per day and had no health insurance or any other benefits….By taking to the streets, these workers won a union contract that doubled their pay, gave them access to affordable health care, and created a path to prosperity, not only for their families, but for thousands of service workers. This contract expires in the spring of 2010…Today, the janitors are seeking a new agreement that will help Houston’s economy recover, building it stronger and fairer. The fight that Houston’s janitors are taking on is a campaign to preserve good jobs and health care for workers everywhere.”

Before she was Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker was a supporter of this cause. There is no reason to think she won’t be on-board with the janitors this time as well.

All work has merit and people deserve good pay and benefits for the work they do. We must work so that we can make money and live. Work is the hours of our lives.

We need to support the janitors and support all people fighting for the respect that hard work deserves.

February 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Martin Luther King Died Helping Working People

Above is a picture of a City of Houston garbage truck that I took at a Houston Martin Luther King parade two weeks ago.

The truck has a sign noting that Reverend King died while helping striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.

We should recall Reverend King died helping average working people just like you and me.

All work has value. All working people merit respect. When you don’t respect working people, it is as if you don’t respect yourself.

The fact that so many people don’t respect themselves helps explain in part why this society is so messed-up.

How can they respect others when they do not respect themselves?

Here is my Martin Luther King Reading  & Reference List. It is the best such resource on the web.

A book about Reverend King in Memphis is Going Down Jericho Road—The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign. This book is by Michael K. Honey.

I can’t include Jericho Road in my King list since I have not yet read the book, but it is well-reviewed.

Here is the Facebook page of the City of Houston Solid Waste Management division.

February 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tip Time-And-A-Half On New Year’s Day—Fellow Working People Merit Our Respect

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

If on New Year’s Day  you make use of the services of a person who normally would receive a tip,  please be certain to tip that person the same time-and-a-half rate you would expect to be paid for working a holiday.

(Photo above–The Di Costanzo family on New Year’s Eve 1942 at the restaurant they owned in New York City.)

This is only fair.

Cab drivers and waiters are working people just as you are.

If you are not paid extra for working a holiday, please do not take it out on others.

The rights and status of working people in this country are tenuous enough as it is.

If we do not respect each other as fellow working people, we are all screwed.

Please respect the labor of others just as you would hope others would respect the hours of your life that you spend at work.

And, also, please don’t drink and drive on New Year’s Eve.

December 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Are American Workers Overpaid?—We Need To Find A Viable Economic Future

A recent New York Times story suggests that the wages Americans earn for manufacturing work may have to decline as much as 20% to remain competitive with global rivals.

From the story—

“Of course, workers in the United States should earn more than their peers in China, Moldova or Vietnam. Americans take advantage of the higher productivity that makes their country rich: better education and infrastructure, abundant capital and a strong work ethic. But how much higher should American wages be? The answer depends in large part on two measures: the difference in productivity in making goods that can be traded across borders, and the quantity of such goods. Both measures point to a narrowing wage gap. Many factors are raising productivity in poor countries. Fast development, cheap capital and more efficient shipping all help. Cheap communication via the Internet reduces costs and makes it easy to trade many more goods and especially services.The global wage gap has been narrowing, but recent labor market statistics in the United States suggest the adjustment has not gone far enough.

One indicator is unemployment, which has risen unexpectedly rapidly. The 7.3 million jobs lost are more than triple the 2 million during the 1980-82 recession. Some of that huge increase reflects the sharp decline in gross domestic product, but there could be another factor: the recession shows that many workers are paid more than they’re worth. Another possible sign is the huge surge in reported productivity, which has begun while output is declining. That suggests that some production is being outsourced, often to lower-paid foreign workers.

The big trade deficit is another sign of excessive pay for Americans. One explanation for the attractive prices of imported goods is that American workers are paid too much relative to their foreign peers.

Global wage convergence is great for the poor but tough on the overpaid. It’s possible to run the numbers to show that American manufacturing workers should take average real wage cuts of as much as 20 percent to get into global balance. The required cut may be smaller. But if American wages get stuck above global market-clearing levels, as in the 1930s, the result could well be something approaching Depression-era levels of unemployment. Anything would be better than that. Both moderate inflation to cut real wages and a further drop in the dollar’s real trade-weighted value might be acceptable.”

It is hard to look at the future and see good prospects for the average American worker. Most folks are never going to be able to find jobs in “knowledge industries” or whatever term is used at the moment to denote jobs for the relative articulate and skilled few in a country that has no real interest in educating all people. Why would our elite pay the taxes needed to create competitors for their children for the shrinking supply of good jobs? Where would a fully educated workforce find jobs?

This fact of a hard-pressed American labor force is one of many reasons the health care reform “debate” is so maddening. Where do people think they are going to find good benefits in the future? If government does not help provide good health insurance, where do people think it will come from as employers cut back?

The American Prospect, a liberal magazine of politics and views, has a series of articles that discuss the role regulation,  organizing by workers, and sound public policy can play in helping maintain a supply of good jobs in our country.

Regardless of one’s politics, how can anybody in this country look at the economic future and feel hopeful about the path ahead? The issue is not people in other countries who have a right to decent lives no different from anyone in the United States. The issue is what we do as working people here in America to make sure that we have  a viable future in a changing world.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hyatt Hotels In Boston Outsource Housekeeping Staff For Much Lower-Paid Replacements—Governor Threatens Boycott

Hyatt Hotels in Boston have fired longstanding housekeeping employees and replaced them with outsourced and lower paid staff.

( Above–Boston is a great place to visit. But please do not stay at a Hyatt in Boston until they do right by the people who have worked hard for the company.)

From a September 18th post in the USA Today blog Hotel Check-In— 

It all started on Aug. 31 after the morning shift, when Hyatt Hotels’ corporate headquarters laid off the entire housekeeping staffs at the Hyatt Regency Boston, Hyatt Regency Cambridge and Hyatt Harborside Hotel, according to the Globe. Citing the tough economy, the existing housekeepers – some of whom at worked at the hotels for years – were fired. Hyatt then hired new workers from an out-of-state staffing firm, according to the story. And in a point now being disputed by Hyatt, the Globe also said that the housekeepers had to train their replacements after being told they would fill in for vacations…. Fast forward to this past Thursday. Several hundred hotel workers came out to rally against the firings in front of the Hyatt Regency Boston, chanting “Hyatt, shame on you,” according to the Globe..US Representative Michael Capuano and state Senator Anthony Galluccio called for a boycott of Hyatt, according to the Globe’s piece. “Maybe they should have just taken the chocolates off the pillows, I don’t know,’’ Capuano told the people assembled, according to the story. “If we let them do this, another hotel will do it, and then another business, and on and on.’’… The controversy kept snowballing today, with even the Harvard Business Review scolding Hyatt in its blog post headlined, “Lessons From Hyatt: Simple Ways to Damage Your Brand.”

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has threatened a boycott of Hyatt Hotels  by state employees on official business. 

Hyatt provides jobs for people and most of us need jobs. But we can’t get by in a nation where loyalty and good work has no value. Hyatt should bring back the dismissed workers. If wage cuts must be made, then deal with the people who have had a hand in making Hyatt a successful hotel chain.

When will American business places realize that if they hope to make money, that there are going to have to be workers and consumers who have good paychecks and steady work?

When will American consumers realize that a focus on price at the expense of everything else will lead only to a downward spiral of wages and benefits?

September 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Please Tip Time-And-A-Half On Labor Day—We Should Respect Our Fellow Working People

Labor Day is Monday, September 7. Here is a Texas Liberal post on the history of Labor Day with links to other facts about Labor Day.

Please remember that someone working on Labor Day is working a holiday. If you make use of the services of a waiter or a cab driver or anyone how normally gets a tip, please consider a tip at a time-and-a-half rate from what you would normally offer. If you normally tip 20%, tip 30% for the holiday.

People who work a holiday should get paid time-and-a-half. This is the rate of pay you would expect for working a holiday. If you are not paid that rate, please do not take out your frustration with this fact on a fellow working person.

Please treat working people with respect. Please do so all the time, but please be certain to do so on Labor Day and over Labor Day weekend.  How we treat other working people is a measure of the extent to which we respect ourselves.

September 4, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Women Working In Chicago In 1906

Image, Source: original negative

The photo above is of women working at the Cook County Recorder’s office in Chicago in 1906.

The photo is from the American Memory project of Library of Congress. The Chicago Historical Society owns the picture.

Here are a number of links about the history of a Labor Day, the history of labor and other issues impacting working people.

September 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Labor Day History & Links—All Work Merits Respect

Labor Day for 2009 is Monday, September 7.

All work merits respect. We should treat other working people with respect. How we treat other working people is a mirror of the extent to which we respect ourselves.

( The picture above was taken by Danny Cornelissen for the portpictures.nl website.)

Here is a history of Labor Day from the U.S. Department of Labor. 

From that history–

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

File:Construction worker.jpeg

Here is the web home of the AFL-CIO.

Here is an American labor movement history timeline from the AFL-CIO.  

Here are a number of women’s labor history links from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. It is a very good list.

Here are black labor history links from AFSCME.

The history of labor in the United States is your history. Work is the time and effort of their lives. We need the wages we earn at work to be able to live decent lives. 

There is also an International Labor Day.  International Labor Day, or May Day, marks the Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886. Please click here to learn more about the Haymarket Riots and the Haymarket Trial. 

Respect for working people involves understanding that the goods you buy must be sold for a fair price if the people who make and sell those goods are to receive a fair wage and good benefits. Selling these goods at a fair price also helps your employer stay in business.

Respect for working people does not stop at the American border. Cheap goods we purchase in America are often produced by underpaid and poorly treated workers in other nations.

Labor Day is, for many at least, a time to get a break from work.  It is also a time to reflect upon what it means to be a working person in a nation and a world where the rights of workers—to they extent they exist at all—are under ceaseless strain.   

( Photo above by Holger Hubbs.)

September 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Painting Of People At Work

The painting above is called “Kitchen.” It was painted in the 1580’s by Vincenco Campi.

I enjoy blogging, hopefully I have some skills in expressing ideas, but I wish sometimes that I could paint. Among other things, I’d paint people at work and people as they are in life.

Along these same lines, I wish we had a greater respect for the labor of others. We need to recall that all work has value and dignity.

December 10, 2008 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , | 2 Comments