Sunday, August 05, 2012

Building an Economy for ALL

-- Invest $250 billion per year for the next six years to rebuild our nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, ports, airports and public transportation systems. -- Favor workers over Wall Street. Ensure the Federal Reserve’s policies and priorities promote full employment—jobs for all who want them. -- Implement a financial transaction tax to discourage short-term speculation and reduce the chance of financial crises. -- Free government from corporate interests by reinstating the firewalls between investment and banking. -- End the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. The Bush tax cuts are the largest single contributor to our current revenue shortfall. A NEW DOCUMENT, “Prosperity for All,” written for a leading think tank, contains the above policy recommendations, and dozens more. It is not for nothing that the introduction to the paper says the authors “present a bold new vision of our economy.” You can download the document from the Economic Policy Institute’s website ( On July 31, in its downtown Washington headquarters, the EPI hosted a special briefing by one of the co-authors, Professor Andrew Hacker. The event, including a discussion period, was moderated by EPI President Lawrence Mishel. Read more!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Now on the Spot: Mining Industry

Mining Industry, Laggard on Worker Rights Abuses, Moving to Fore

First it was the garment/shoe industry epitomized by Nike that was in the hot seat. More recently it was the electronic gadget industry headed by Apple.

Now it is the global mining industry’s turn to come under scrutiny for its serious violations of worker rights. On March 4 – March 7, the world’s largest annual gathering of people, companies and organizations connected with mineral exploration will take place in Toronto, when the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada will seek to put the industry’s social responsibility at the front and center of the agenda.

Many mining multinationals operate very differently in developing countries from their behavior in home countries in North America and Australia, writes Paul Klein, the CSR reporter in Forbes. Klein lists some
issues to be explored in his article on “Why the Future of Mining Depends on Social Change”:

 How can companies improve social services for people impacted by mining operations?
 How will doing this support business objectives, such as increasing access to qualified help and reducing the risk of work stoppages?

To buttress his point, Klein quotes R. Anthony Hodge, president of the International Council on Mining and Metals: “It’s leadership of a different sort, very powerful but collaborative and inclusive, not domineering.”

Hodge conceded that there is s “minority” that strongly resists. Applying consumer pressure faces difficulties since the industry is made up of producers almost unknown to the public with no brand name equivalent to Nike or Apple. Read more!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

New Era of Social Justice? It's Up To Us

“We must commit to a new era of social justice.” Juan Somavia, director general of the International Labor Organization, declared in a message this month marking February 20 as the World Day of Social Justice.

“The world has choices,” Somavia concluded. “We can continue to apply policies which produced the present crisis and wait for at least 88 years to eradicate extreme poverty at the present rate. Or we can begin to conceive and realize a vision of society and of growth based on the dignity of human beings capable of delivering economic efficiency, sustainability and decent work for all in a new era of social justice.”

While acknowledging the many problems in the global and national economies, Somavia sees hope in a positive trend:

“The motifs of injustice and indignity are woven into the protests on streets, squares, blogs and tweets, and in less public expressions. The root causes may differ. But there is a widespread feeling that too many people, economies and societies have been on a rigged course leaving them on the losing end. “

On the negative side, he cited these statistics:

-- one out of three workers in the world -- some 1.1 billion – are either unemployed or living below the US$2 a day poverty line
-- 75 million youth are unemployed and nearly three times as likely as adults to be jobless
-- half of total employment is some form of vulnerable employment where women are worse affected

The World Day of Social Justice is a relative newcomer on the UN list of annual observances, having been established by the UN General Assembly in 2007.

The full text od Somavia’s message can be found at Read more!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

e-Focus on Global Job Crisis

UN asks outside experts to join e-discussion
on global job crisis

“The world employment outlook is grim. Unemployment stands at more than 200,000,000 and is increasing. Two workers in five worldwide live below the poverty line of $2 per person per day and many do not take home wages for their work. . . .Women and young people are disproportionately affected with youth unemployment two to three times the adult rate worldwide. Without concerted action at the global and national levels to address these challenges, growing economic and social exclusion might lead to greater unrest and instability.”

That’s how the top officers of the three top world organizations sized up the global siiuation early this year. Grim assessments by the three are not new; a strong determination by the trio – the United Nations, the UN Development Program, and the International Labor Organization -- to work together in a concerted fashion is unprecedented.

So is their invitation to outside experts to join an “e-discussion on Jobs, Decent Work, and Inclusive Growth” from February 8 to March 14. By the half way mark in that six-week period, more than <330 >persons had registered as participants.

“The year2012 will be an important turning point for addressing the worst consequences of the global jobs crisis,” Juan Somavia, director-general of the International Labor Organization, wrote in the February 2 letter also signed by the top officers of the UN Development Program and the United Nations.

In July, ministers from around the world will convene for the Annual Ministerial Review at the UN Economic and Social Council in New York, to asses their progress on the international development agenda.

“By interacting on-line with experts, practitioners, and scholars from around the world to formulate critical and concrete recommendations for the 2012 Annual Review,” the letter said, “you can help to ensure that the agreement reflects a diversity of contexts, experiences, and perspectives.”

If you want to join the e-discussion. you can register by writing Read more!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Would You Want To Be In The Top 1%. . .

...Who wouldn’t? Well, I wouldn’t. So what’s so strange about me?

The gross inequalities in income and wealth in the United States are so much in the limelight that they longer can be dismissed as a cause of only the “left.” How much to tax the ultra-rich remains ultra-controversial, but the gap itself is a fact.

It would be a comfortable life for me on the 1% side of the divides, where the average annual income stands at over $300,000 plus investment income. Still. . .

Once, decades ago, I goofed a great opportunity. I was offered a job with a major media corporation headquartered in New York City, and in my interview I displayed a reluctance about moving there. In the years since then, I often regretted passing up that opportunity.

Think of it! I could have moved up in that empire and become one of its TV stars. Maybe.

More likely, in my desire to succeed in that competitive environment, I would have absorbed its values and suppressed mine. It is a fantasy to think I would have
-- launched my Website, Human Rights for Workers, in 1998, as I did
-- maintained it as a blog starting five years ago,
-- published its best material in a book, Justice at Work,
-- participated in demonstrations against the suppression of worker rights in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

In short, I would not have been me.

I would have been someone else. As a One Percenter I would imbibe the social and political standards of that peculiar environment, and so why wish to be or to become one of them? Why? Read more!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thoughts for Food

Ah! For a freshly baked loaf of good rye bread! Two slices of one would make the most delicious sandwich you’d ever taste

So it was with some excitement that I looked forward to a day in January that the hospital menu item promised “ham and cheese on rye,” but let me down by producing something else – sliced whole wheat bread. I ate only the ham and cheese.

Funny how life in a hospital focuses the mind. mine at least, on alternatives available on the outside where free choice reigns Not that the food here is bad. But in mass preparation and distribution it does lose some of its savor.

Still, as I write I keep an ear open for food carts rattling down the corridor with trays of food, The menu promises stuffed cabbage rolls and mashed potatoes. Not quite a match for lunch, which was a tasty combination of tuna, rhree-bean, and pasta salads.

Hope I am not overweight when I am discharged from the Cameron Glenn Rehab Center on February 5. My lsarger concern: paying all my doctor and medical bills not covered by Medicare and Medicaid.
Anyone know of a private source that will come to the rescue of a worker rights advocate who in 25 or more years of campaigning has never made an appeal for funds? Read more!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Adventures on 2 Continents

While repairing my bleeding brain cells, my doctors fed my head so many medications that at times my mind soared far and wide. Most notably I went snowskiing in Belgium and water boating in Cambodia. Both adventures have lived on in my mind to make my hospital days, and especially nights, a bit more endurable.

The Cambodian episode had its own nightmarish wrinkles. There I was, floating down the Cambodian River, the lone occupant of a river boat that I did not control, nor own. I was peripherally concerned about getting it back to its owner, Scott, who happens (in real life) to be my speech therapist. My overriding concern was to avoid crashing into the colorful buildings that lined the river in downtown Phnom Phen, the country’s capital.

Suddenly, miraculously, the river hit a flat spot, where it bumped against a modern haven for boats in distress, at least for mine. Its sole occupant: my wife! She told me to stop dreaming and to step out of the boat to safety. I didn’t believe her. Eventually, I staggered into her arms and into the real world.

My out-of-the-world experience in the hills of Belgium was no less memorable, largely because of the presence of Abdulai, a hospital worker whom I had befriended earlier while recovering from surgery in Reston. The dirty tasks of cleaning up pants dirtied by my inability to reach a toilet in time –he handled these gladly. He even did so for me in the midst of a snowstorm before leading me to safety.

Now, happily, he still works at the Reston hospital where I am undergoing therapy. Thank God for his humane view of care –giving.

Having picked up word that I was a writer, Abdulai asked how many books I had written. “One? Where can I buy it? I want to read it.” His eagerness was such that I had only one option: to promise him one of the two copies of “Justice at Work: Globalization and the Human Rights of Workers” that I have with me.

Weirdly, it was in the Cambodian nightmare that I first learned that my book had been reprinted in a large quantities because of mass orders in the States and Asian countries. Read more!