Category: Allied Approaches

Philadelphia Domestic Workers Win a New Bill of Rights

By Cynthia Drayton
Nanny, Caregiver
 
I’ve been a domestic worker my whole life.
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Report Highlights U.S.-China Priorities for Congressional Action

Cathalijne Adams Digital Media Manager, AAM

It’s been a big year in U.S.-China relations, and the conclusion of 2019 may or may not see the end of a trade war between the nations. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, charged with monitoring and investigating the national security implications of this bilateral economic relationship, has had plenty to keep an eye on.

Among a number of recommendations for congressional action in the Commission’s just-released annual report, several stand out in particular.

The Commission calls for Congress to address U.S. dependence on Chinese pharmaceuticals – an issue to which we’ve been paying close attention to for some time. Just this past month, Michael Wessel, who sits on the U.S.-China Commission, laid out in testimony before a House committee China’s plans to dominate America’s drug supply as a means of securing economic supremacy but also to potentially “weaponize its supply chain should it so choose.”   

The Commission’s 2019 report recommends that Congress continue to hold hearings exploring U.S. dependence on China’s pharmaceuticals. However, the commission is clear on the goal of these hearings: Legislation that requires the Food and Drug Administration to identify pharmaceuticals that are manufactured exclusively in China or formulated with the active pharmaceutical ingredients made in China, as well as an investigation to determine whether those drugs are manufactured with as much regulation as pharmaceuticals produced in America.

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There’s a Lot of “Banned, Unsafe, Mislabeled” Stuff on Amazon That’s Imported From China

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

The Wall Street Journal has published a lengthy look at Amazon’s years-long effort to bring products directly from Chinese factories to me and you, the American consumer. How has this effort turned out?

Well, the title of the article is “Amazon’s Heavy Recruitment of Chinese Sellers Puts Consumers at Risk.” So … maybe good for The House That Jeff Built, but kinda bad for consumers!

This is another example of the Journal giving Amazon the business recently. Only a few weeks ago it reported that the company stubbornly lists for sale lots of clothing produced in Bangladeshi factories that even competitors like Walmart shun because of chronic violations of basic safety standards. And in August, the Journal detailed how little oversight the company has over the products sold on its platform, which results in “thousands of banned, unsafe or mislabeled products” floating around on there. The paper itself found more than 10,000 such items on the site between June and August.

And now comes today’s story. The paper reports that out of nearly 2,000 sellers of problematic items (whose addresses could be determined), more than half were based in China.

That’s the result of Amazon’s effort to “cut out the middleman” between Chinese manufacturers and America’s online shoppers.

That was the sales pitch an Amazon representative made this year at a trade event in Hong Kong … but it’s not an accurate description of what the company has been selling to the Chinese manufacturers it’s recruiting. The Journal cites another Amazonian who was much more on the nose in 2017 when she told a conference audience of Chinese business people: “We help factories directly open accounts on Amazon and sell to U.S. consumers directly. This is our value.”

These pitches appear to have been effective. Amazon doesn’t require its sellers to list where they’re located (or share that information), but the Journal cites an outside analysis of the 10,000 most-reviewed Amazon sellers that found approximately 38% of them are now located in China … a percentage that has increased steadily since Amazon began recruiting Chinese sellers in 2013.

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How holiday favorite Wendell August Forge rose from the ashes, stronger than ever

Jeffrey Bonior Researcher/Writer, AAM

The artisans and craftsmen at Wendell August Forge have been making holiday-ready hand-hammered metal gifts and ornaments in Mercer, Pa., for nearly 100 years.

But in 2010, it all went up in flames.

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Located about 40 miles north of downtown Pittsburgh — the capital of the American steel industry — America’s largest and oldest forge sits tucked away in an industrial part of Pennsylvania.

Forging is one of the oldest working techniques of artisans. It involves heating, hammering and shaping metal objects. Every Wendell August Forge piece follows this old school tradition, hand-shaped one at a time by the company’s craftsmen (who also are members of the United Steelworkers).

Wendell August Forge makes a variety of items, including holiday gifts — the company is well-known for its one-of-a-kind Christmas tree ornaments — and just launched a new line of NFL-themed coasters and keychains. The company also creates home décor items including bowls, dishes, cutting boards, glassware, and other tabletop pieces. Wendell August Forge has a gift for nearly every special occasion, including wedding gifts, commemorative gifts, baby gifts, Mother’s and Father’s days gifts and patriotic holidays. 

Will Knecht owns Wendell August Forge with his sister. His mother and father bought the company in 1978, and Knecht continues to take pride in the time-tested traditions of its past.

“We really believe in this thing called American craftsmanship. We get calls two or three times a quarter with people saying there is this factory in China that you guys should really consider, and it is no way,” Knecht said. “We were Made in America before it was cool to be Made in America, and we will continue to be Made in America.”

But the future of the tough-as-metal company looked grim in 2010, when a fire caused the factory, corporate offices and flagship retail store to burn to the ground. This was just after the company had gotten its largest order ever from the Pittsburgh Penguins National Hockey League team.

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Where can Trump find a good farm policy?

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Donald Trump’s idea of a good farm program seems to be “Hee Haw.” On a recent trip to Wisconsin, he drew guffaws from the state’s hard-hit dairy farmers by proclaiming that – thanks to his policies – the farm economy was looking good. “We’re over the hump,” he gloated.

Perhaps The Donald thought that farmers are rubes, unable to do simple math. But those dairy farmers were painfully aware that it costs them $1.90 to produce a gallon of milk, but the processing giants that control the milk market are paying them only $1.35 a gallon. That 55-cent-a-gallon loss quickly adds up to a huge loss of income, and a devastating loss of farm families – Wisconsin lost 638 dairy farms last year and another 551 so far this year.

Far from “over the hump,” farm prices have been further depressed by Trump’s tariff clash with China – US dairy sales to China fell by 54 percent in just the first half of this year. Meanwhile, monopoly power is crushing prices – an $8 billion behemoth named Dean Foods now controls 90 percent of Wisconsin’s milk market, empowering it to commit daylight robbery, blatantly stealing farmers’ product… and farms.

Yet, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue – the one national official who’s supposed to stand up for farmers – nonchalantly kissed them off, smugly declaring it natural that the big devour the small. So, he professes, there’s nothing he can do for family operators except tell them to “go out” of agriculture.

Perdue and Trump are simply inept stewards of America’s farm economy. Time for a change. One who is offering a path to a revitalized, family-farm-based food system that’ll break the corporate stranglehold over US agriculture is Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Download a summary of her comprehensive proposal for “A New Farm Economy” at ElizabethWarren.com/Plans/New-Farm-Economy.

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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act isn’t working and there’s no reason to think that will change

Hunter Blair

Hunter Blair Budget Analyst, EPI

Proponents of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) made bold claims about the effects that the TCJA’s corporate rate cuts would have on the paychecks of U.S. households. The economic theory rests on corporate rate cuts bringing forth enough additional savings to finance new investment spending. Specifically, higher after-tax corporate profits are passed down to shareholders in the form of higher dividends. These higher dividends attract more savings from abroad and incentivize U.S. households to save more. These extra savings finance new investments in plants and equipment, which boost the productivity of workers, and eventually that increased productivity boosts workers’ wages.

We pointed out at the time that in practice, this theory wasn’t likely to hold. After the TCJA passed, we indicated that by increasing deficits, the specifics of the TCJA didn’t even conform to the economic theory that was supposed to support it.

But that wasn’t enough to stop the TCJA’s proponents from making disingenuous arguments about the effects it was having on the economy. Proponents pointed to corporate claims that they were giving out bonuses or raising wages in the wake of the TCJA. The economic theory above shows clearly how this was nothing but a corporate PR ploy. Even in theory, it takes time for corporate profits to trickle down into worker wages, and we weren’t the only ones pointing this out. Unsurprisingly, data since then show those bonuses didn’t materialize for workers.

Kevin Hassett, then the chair of the Trump administration’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), went so far as to bless the truly economically absurd notion that “retroactive tax cuts” are a way to boost long-term growth, claiming that businesses invested more before the TCJA was passed because they somehow knew that some of the TCJA’s corporate provisions would be made retroactive.

But if you want to know if the TCJA is working as advertised, investment really is the key economic indicator to watch. If the TCJA’s corporate rate cuts are to even have a chance at reaching your paycheck, first investment has to boom. The results have been abysmal for the TCJA.

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Amazon's Major Money Dump in Seattle's City Council Election Seen as 'Dangerous and Ominous Development'

Eoin Higgins Staff Writer, Common Dreams

An attempt by Amazon to fill the Seattle city council with members more supportive of the company than the current progressive slate was called a chilling development for city government by critics of the move after Tuesday's election.

Socialist councilor Kshama Sawant, one of the company's top targets, told The Guardian that her race had been uphill and that the power of a massive corporation like Amazon stacked against her campaign had been difficult to overcome.

"We have run a historic grassroots campaign, with working people, community members rejecting Amazon and billionaires' attempt to buy this election, and that doesn't mean we're going to win every battle against the billionaires," said Sawant. "What matters is the political clarity that the billionaires are not on our side and that this is going to be a struggle."

Seattle is still waiting for the final results in the race—Washington has a mail-in voting system that makes final counts unavailable for days after voting—but as of Wednesday, it looked likely that Sawant and fellow socialist Shaun Scott were headed for defeat against Amazon-backed candidates Egan Orion and Alex Pederson, respectively. Neither Scott nor Sawant had conceded at press time. 

Amazon dumped cash into the race via a super PAC, according to Bloomberg:

Amazon, the biggest employer in Seattle, contributed $1.45 million to a business-backed political-action committee to help elect council members Amazon views as more favorable to its interests and those of the business community.

The group, called the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, backed six new candidates for seven open council seats. Three of them are trailing in early results. It also backed one incumbent, who is leading her race. Two positions were not up for election this year.

In a Medium post from November 1, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), whose district includes much of Seattle, said she was unsettled by the company's involvement in the election.

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Counting on Class: The Continuing Appeal of Meritocracy

Tim Strangleman Professor, University of Kent

Neither faith in nor critiques of the idea of meritocracy is new. Michael Young’s famous 1958 book The Rise of Meritocracy argued that class privilege and advantage were likely to be amplified as financial and cultural capital passed across generations in families. Each new generation would benefit from existing structural advantage created by their parents and even grandparents. They might be talented individuals, hardworking and driven to succeed, but they would owe their achievements in part to a myriad of inherited class advantages. Young intended the title of his book as a satire, but for many, it seems to promote the ideal of egalitarian opportunity.

A recent rash of books critically revisit the ideas in Young’s now six-decade-old book. In The Class Ceiling: Why it ays to be Privileged, Sam Friendman and Daniel Laurison provide a wonderfully accessible account of contemporary class analysis in the UK, examining the complex ways in which class influences life chances. The authors leaven the numbers with fascinating vignettes from the field showing how successful middle-class professionals are sometimes aware of their own class privilege. As one put it, “I was lucky to have a following wind”. The book does not offer a crude demonization of privilege. Instead, the study gets to the heart of how talent and hard work don’t sufficiently explain how good jobs get allocated. Often times, as The Class Ceiling shows, it’s the lucky breaks that already privileged people enjoy that allow them to achieve yet more success.

Take ‘Mark’ for example, a successful TV executive in his late thirties. Mark relates to Friedman and Laurison his own ‘following wind’. The son of successful educated professionals, he was privately educated before gaining a place at Oxford. While he was at Oxford, Mark’s parents paid for him to go on a holiday to New York to do research for his undergraduate dissertation. He stayed in Manhattan for free in an apartment owned by a contact his father had met on the side-lines of a rugby match.  This same contact then provided Mark with an introduction to the television industry. The upside of the anecdote is that Mark is full aware of his privilege and luck.

The Class Ceiling is peppered with similar tales of advantage and their mirror image, such as the pairing of Nathan and Jim. Nathan’s CV is littered with prestigious roles in TV and film.  He attributes his success to “just working incredibly hard” and “making good decisions” like turning down jobs he didn’t believe in.  As he explains, “No job is worth sacrificing yourself for”. Jim, by contrast, has decided to leave the acting profession after ‘sacrificing’ himself and his career by taking the kind of parts Nathan can afford to avoid. Jim’s working-class origins still constrain him in his forties.  He struggled so hard to get into the acting profession, but the typecast jobs he has to take ultimately end up damaging his career and lead to offers drying up altogether. Class both constrains and enables after all.

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Global Steel Industry Groups Unite for Action on Steel Excess Capacity Crisis

Monique Mansfield

Monique Mansfield Press Secretary, AAM

Steel industry associations in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia are urging their governments to intensify efforts to confront and solve the issue of excess capacity in the global steel sector.

Apparently, current methods just don’t seem to be working effectively!

The 19 associations involved released a statement, urging their various governments into action including implementing “strong rules and remedies that reduce excess capacity, its impact and causes.”

Just get some strong rules going! Sounds like a simple fix, right?

The solution becomes more complicated as the unexpected growth of new steelmaking facilities have contributed to trade tensions and have aroused some concern. Wherever could those be? The steel industries concurrently agree that the systems in place aren’t working and that “efforts by the governments to eliminate practices that lead to excess capacity should be doubled.” And they also praised a September statement from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that expressed concern over the recent capacity expansions.

In the statement the associations said they’re “hopeful that the diligent efforts of Japan, the current G20 Chair, are successful in extending the G20 Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity beyond 2019.” That means these industries want these global organizations to keep talking about fixes to the overcapacity problem.

But let’s be clear about where the overcapacity problem starts and stops: In China.  

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The racial wealth divide hurts the entire middle class

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad Chief of Race, Wealth, and Community, National Community Reinvestment Coalition

Americans are more aware than ever that America has a race problem — and, more specifically, a racial wealth divide problem. As researchers from the Institute for Policy Studies and I found earlier this year, median white families are 41 times wealthier than median Black families in the United States.

As our country becomes more diverse, this shocking racial wealth divide is no longer a challenge for disenfranchised minorities alone. It’s a threat to the entire American middle class.

Let me show you how.

Since the early 1980s, median wealth among Black and Latino families has been stuck at less than $10,000, while median white wealth has grown to $140,000. Yet in spite of this growing white wealth, this huge divide means that national median wealth has actually declined.

The racial wealth divide, in short, is weakening our country as a whole.

Contributing to this divide is ongoing racial inequality in the two largest assets in most Americans’ portfolios: business ownership and homeownership.

For the last 40 years, Black and Latino homeownership rates have stayed below 50 percent, while white homeownership has remained steady at about 70 percent.

And although 13 percent of the U.S. population is Black, only 2 percent of U.S. businesses employing more than one person are Black-owned. Hispanics are 17 percent of the population but own just 6 percent of these businesses.

How do we fix this? By making smart investments.

The white middle class was built by major investments promoting education and homeownership, among other things, after World War II. But African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans were almost entirely left out of these programs. Now these groups deserve significant investments of their own.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work

Union Matters

Labor Wins

From the AFL-CIO

On Tuesday, the labor movement drove historic wins for pro-worker candidates like Governor-Elect Andy Beshear in Kentucky and new legislative majorities in Virginia. Not only did union members come out to vote in droves, 270 union member candidates were elected to public office last night and counting. This adds to the total of more than 900 union members elected up and down the ballot in last year’s midterms, a product of the Union Member Candidate Program launched by the AFL-CIO just two years ago. The share of union members who won in the 2018 midterms is two-thirds. The program will continue through 2020 and beyond, electing even more union members to public office. 

“Our efforts recruiting, training and supporting labor candidates have led to the passage of pro-worker legislation from coast to coast and everywhere in between,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.

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