Daily Digest - January 28: Raising Rates is a Rising Challenge

Jan 28, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Hard Choices on Easy Money Lie Ahead for Fed Chief (WSJ)

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Hard Choices on Easy Money Lie Ahead for Fed Chief (WSJ)

Janet Yellen's second year as Federal Reserve Chair begins with the difficult task of creating consensus on raising interest rates, write Jon Hilsenrath and Pedro da Costa.

U.S. Companies Cut More Than 1m Jobs a Month. When Did Workers Stop Mattering? (The Guardian)

Suzanne McGee points at large-scale layoffs at big name companies that seek to raise their stock prices as a sign that the U.S. economy no longer sees workers as a worthwhile investment.

You're Probably Richer Than You Think You Are: How Inequality Screws With Our Perspective (The Week)

Jeff Spross says that arguments over proposed changes to college savings accounts demonstrate just how easily some Americans lose sight of how high they sit within the economy.

How Bernie Sanders, In New Role, Could Make Wall Streeters Very, Very Unhappy (TAP)

Ari Rabin-Havt explains how Senator Sanders plans to use his new role as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee to take on too-big-to-fail and other financial regulatory issues.

Shutting Down New York’s Subways Is Very Expensive (NYT)

If only 10 percent of New York's workforce was unable to work because of the subway shutdown, Josh Barro estimates that the cost in lost labor would be around $160 million.

Al Franken’s Massive New Target: Why He’s Taking on Shady Credit Rating Agencies (Salon)

A major fine for Standard & Poor's shows that Senator Franken's proposal to base credit ratings agencies' compensation on the accuracy of their ratings is still needed, writes David Dayen.

Answering President Obama’s Call, House Introduces Paid Sick Leave Bill for Workers (In These Times)

Kevin Solari reports on the introduction of the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, one of many ways to expand paid leave in order to attract top talent to government jobs.

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Daily Digest - January 27: For Some Workers, A Snow Day Puts Jobs at Risk

Jan 27, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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No Snow Days for Low-Wage Workers (AJAM)

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No Snow Days for Low-Wage Workers (AJAM)

Most low-wage workers don't have the option of missing work during snowstorms, writes E. Tammy Kim, and may risk being fired if lack of public transit prevents them from getting there.

Supreme Court Rules Against Retirees in Union Health Benefits Case (NYT)

Adam Liptak reports on the Court's decision in M&G Polymers USA v. Tackett, which holds that a contract that doesn't specify whether retiree health benefits are for life shouldn't be assumed to do so.

The Dark Side of ‘Sharing Economy’ Jobs (WaPo)

Catherine Rampell points out that companies like Uber are shifting much of the risk inherent in their businesses to workers who are defined as independent contractors and lack protection.

A Staggeringly Lopsided Economic Recovery (The Nation)

Zoë Carpenter looks at a new study from the Economic Policy Institute about the 1 percent's gains during the recovery, which shows that group captured at least half of growth in most states.

Why de Blasio Was Right to Take on Criminal Justice Reform (Slate)

Jamelle Bouie says that since excessive policing caused economic problems, like job loss, in communities of color, Mayor de Blasio's criminal justice reform has also served as economic populism.

New on Next New Deal

Did Ending Unemployment Insurance Extensions Really Create 1.8 Million Jobs?

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says probably not, because the study making this claim has problematic models and technique, as well as "noisy" confusing data.

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Did Ending Unemployment Insurance Extensions Really Create 1.8 Million Jobs?

Jan 27, 2015Mike Konczal

According to a new study by Marcus Hagedorn, Iourii Manovskii and Kurt Mitman (HMM), Congress failing to reauthorized the extension of unemployment insurance (UI) resulted in 1.8 million additional people getting jobs. But wait, how does that happen when only 1.3 million people had their benefits expire?

The answer is by going off the normal path of these arguments in models, techniques and data. The paper has a nice write-up by Patrick Brennan here, but it’s one that doesn’t convey how different this paper is compared to the vast majority of the research. The authors made a well-criticized splash in 2013 by arguing that most of the rise in unemployment in the Great Recession was UI-driven; this new paper is a continuation of that approach.

Gold Standard Model. Before we go further, let’s understand what the general standard in UI research looks like. The model here is that UI makes it easier for workers to pass up job offers. As a result they’ll take a longer time to find a job, which creates a larger pool of unemployed people, raising unemployment. In order to test this, researchers use longitudinal data for individuals to compare the length of job searches for individuals who receive UI with those who do not.

This is the standard in the two biggest UI studies from the Great Recession. Both essentially use individuals not receiving UI as a control group to see what getting UI does for people’s job searches over time. Jesse Rothstein (2011) found that UI raised unemployment “by only about 0.1 to 0.5 percentage point.” Using a similar approach, Farber and Valletta (2013) later found “UI increased the overall unemployment rate by only about 0.4 percentage points.” These are generally accepted estimated.

And though small, they are real numbers. The question then becomes an analysis of the trade-offs between this higher unemployment and the positive effects of unemployment insurance, including income support, increased aggregate demand and the increased efficiency of people taking enough time to get the best job for them.

This is not what HMM do in their research. Either in terms of their data, which doesn’t look at any individuals, or their model, which tells a much different story than what we traditionally understand, or their techniques, which add additional problems. Let’s start with the model.

Model Problems. The results HMM get are radically higher than these other studies. They argue that this is because they look at the “macro” effects of unemployment insurance. Instead of just people searching for a job, they argue that labor-search models show that employers must boost the wages of workers and create fewer job openings as a result of unemployment insurance tightening the labor market.

But in their study HMM only look at aggregate employment. If these labor search dynamics were the mechanism, there should be something in the paper about actual wage data or job openings moving in response to this change. There is not. Indeed, their argument hinges entirely on the idea that the labor market was too tight, with workers having too much bargaining power, in 2010-2013. The end of UI finally relaxed this. If that’s the case, then where are the wage declines and corporate profit gains in 2014?

This isn’t an esoteric discussion. They are, in effect, taking a residual and calling it the “macro” effect of UI. But we shouldn’t take it for granted that search models can confirm these predictions without a lot of different types of evidence; as Marshall Steinbaum wrote in his appreciation of these models, when it comes to business cycles and wages predictions they are “an empirical disaster.”

Technique Problems. The model’s vagueness is amplified by the control issue. One of the nice things about the standard model is that people without UI make a nice control group for contrast. Here, HMM simply compare high-UI and low-UI duration states and then counties, without looking at individuals. They argue that since the expiration was done by Congress, it is essentially a random change.

But a quick glance shows their high benefits states group had an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent in 2012, while their low benefits states had an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent. Not random. As the economy recovers, we’d naturally expect to see the states with a higher initial unemployment rate recover faster. But that would just be “recovery”, not an argument about UI, much less workers' bargaining power.

Data Problems. Their county-by-county analysis is meant to cover for this, but this data is problematic here. As Dean Baker notes in an excellent post, the local area data they use is noisy, confusing based on whether the state is where one works versus lives, and is largely model driven. The fact that much of it is model-driven is problematic for their cross-state county comparisons.

Baker replaces their employment data with the more reliable CES employment data (the headline job creation number you hear every month) and finds the opposite headline result:

It's not encouraging that you can get the opposite result by changing from one data source to another. Baker isn’t the first to question the robustness of these results to even minor changes in the data. The Cleveland Fed, on an earlier version of their argument, found their results collapsed with a longer timeframe and excluding outliers. The fact that the paper doesn’t have robustness tests to a variety of data sources and measures also isn’t encouraging.

So data problems, control problems, and the vague sense that this is just them finding a residual and attribute all of it to their “macro” element without enough supporting evidence. Rather than turning over the vast research already done, I think it’s best to conclude as Robert Hall of Stanford and the Hoover Institute did for their earlier paper with a similar argument: “This paper has attracted a huge amount of attention, much of it skeptical. I think it is an imaginative and potentially important contribution, but needs a lot of work to convince a fair-minded skeptic (like me).” This newest version is no different.

 
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According to a new study by Marcus Hagedorn, Iourii Manovskii and Kurt Mitman (HMM), Congress failing to reauthorized the extension of unemployment insurance (UI) resulted in 1.8 million additional people getting jobs. But wait, how does that happen when only 1.3 million people had their benefits expire?

The answer is by going off the normal path of these arguments in models, techniques and data. The paper has a nice write-up by Patrick Brennan here, but it’s one that doesn’t convey how different this paper is compared to the vast majority of the research. The authors made a well-criticized splash in 2013 by arguing that most of the rise in unemployment in the Great Recession was UI-driven; this new paper is a continuation of that approach.

Gold Standard Model. Before we go further, let’s understand what the general standard in UI research looks like. The model here is that UI makes it easier for workers to pass up job offers. As a result they’ll take a longer time to find a job, which creates a larger pool of unemployed people, raising unemployment. In order to test this, researchers use longitudinal data for individuals to compare the length of job searches for individuals who receive UI with those who do not.

This is the standard in the two biggest UI studies from the Great Recession. Both essentially use individuals not receiving UI as a control group to see what getting UI does for people’s job searches over time. Jesse Rothstein (2011) found that UI raised unemployment “by only about 0.1 to 0.5 percentage point.” Using a similar approach, Farber and Valletta (2013) later found “UI increased the overall unemployment rate by only about 0.4 percentage points.” These are generally accepted estimated.

And though small, they are real numbers. The question then becomes an analysis of the trade-offs between this higher unemployment and the positive effects of unemployment insurance, including income support, increased aggregate demand and the increased efficiency of people taking enough time to get the best job for them.

This is not what HMM do in their research. Either in terms of their data, which doesn’t look at any individuals, or their model, which tells a much different story than what we traditionally understand, or their techniques, which add additional problems. Let’s start with the model.

Model Problems. The results HMM get are radically higher than these other studies. They argue that this is because they look at the “macro” effects of unemployment insurance. Instead of just people searching for a job, they argue that labor-search models show that employers must boost the wages of workers and create fewer job openings as a result of unemployment insurance tightening the labor market.

But in their study HMM only look at aggregate employment. If these labor search dynamics were the mechanism, there should be something in the paper about actual wage data or job openings moving in response to this change. There is not. Indeed, their argument hinges entirely on the idea that the labor market was too tight, with workers having too much bargaining power, in 2010-2013. The end of UI finally relaxed this. If that’s the case, then where are the wage declines and corporate profit gains in 2014?

This isn’t an esoteric discussion. They are, in effect, taking a residual and calling it the “macro” effect of UI. But we shouldn’t take it for granted that search models can confirm these predictions without a lot of different types of evidence; as Marshall Steinbaum wrote in his appreciation of these models, when it comes to business cycles and wages predictions they are “an empirical disaster.”

Technique Problems. The model’s vagueness is amplified by the control issue. One of the nice things about the standard model is that people without UI make a nice control group for contrast. Here, HMM simply compare high-UI and low-UI duration states and then counties, without looking at individuals. They argue that since the expiration was done by Congress, it is essentially a random change.

But a quick glance shows their high benefits states group had an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent in 2012, while their low benefits states had an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent. Not random. As the economy recovers, we’d naturally expect to see the states with a higher initial unemployment rate recover faster. But that would just be “recovery”, not an argument about UI, much less workers' bargaining power.

Data Problems. Their county-by-county analysis is meant to cover for this, but this data is problematic here. As Dean Baker notes in an excellent post, the local area data they use is noisy, confusing based on whether the state is where one works versus lives, and is largely model driven. The fact that much of it is model-driven is problematic for their cross-state county comparisons.

Baker replaces their employment data with the more reliable CES employment data (the headline job creation number you hear every month) and finds the opposite headline result:

It's not encouraging that you can get the opposite result by changing from one data source to another. Baker isn’t the first to question the robustness of these results to even minor changes in the data. The Cleveland Fed, on an earlier version of their argument, found their results collapsed with a longer timeframe and excluding outliers. The fact that the paper doesn’t have robustness tests to a variety of data sources and measures also isn’t encouraging.

So data problems, control problems, and the vague sense that this is just them finding a residual and attribute all of it to their “macro” element without enough supporting evidence. Rather than turning over the vast research already done, I think it’s best to conclude as Robert Hall of Stanford and the Hoover Institute did for their earlier paper with a similar argument: “This paper has attracted a huge amount of attention, much of it skeptical. I think it is an imaginative and potentially important contribution, but needs a lot of work to convince a fair-minded skeptic (like me).” This newest version is no different.

 
Follow or contact the Rortybomb blog:
 
  

 

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Daily Digest - January 12: Free Community College is Simpler Than Financial Aid

Jan 12, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Did Obama Just Introduce a ‘Public Option’ for Higher Education? (The Nation)

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Did Obama Just Introduce a ‘Public Option’ for Higher Education? (The Nation)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal says free community college for all would be easier to run and more popular than means-tested financial aid models like Pell Grants.

Why Is the Financial Industry So Afraid of This Man? (Salon)

Sean McElwee and Lenore Palladino say blocking Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz from an advisory panel is just one sign of the financial industry's influence over its regulators.

December Caps Off a Year of Strong Job Growth But Stagnant Wages (Working Economics)

Elise Gould looks at the 2014 data and says that while the numbers are mostly positive, it's concerning that at this rate, we won't reach pre-recession labor market health until August 2017.

There's An Awful Side to the Jobs Report (Business Insider)

Shane Ferro says that while the December jobs report was largely good, the drop in average hourly earnings is a sign of trouble, especially with basically flat wage growth since early 2010.

Kicking Dodd-Frank in the Teeth (NYT)

Gretchen Morgenson breaks down the details of a Republican bill that claims to make "technical corrections" to Dodd-Frank, but would actually seriously weaken financial reform.

As White House Defends Unions, States Go on the Attack (AJAM)

Republican midterm victories at the state level will mean more anti-union "right to work" laws and other policies that weaken the labor movement, writes Ned Resnikoff.

New on Next New Deal

Can Community College Systems and Infrastructure Handle Free Tuition?

Rachel Kanakaole, New Chapters Coordinator for the Western Region of the Campus Network, questions whether community colleges can handle the increased enrollment that will come with free tuition.

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Daily Digest - January 8: A Limited Internet? That's No Internet at All.

Jan 8, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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Zero for Conduct (Medium)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford says "zero rating," a practice of allowing mobile users to access a limited network of apps without data charges, is monopolistic and anti-innovation.

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Zero for Conduct (Medium)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford says "zero rating," a practice of allowing mobile users to access a limited network of apps without data charges, is monopolistic and anti-innovation.

Food Stamp Benefit Cut May Force a Million People Into 'Serious Hardship' (AJAM)

As some states end their waiver allowing unemployed childless adults access to food stamps, Ned Resnikoff reports that food banks and other charities don't feel able to fill the gap.

America is Optimistic About Jobs in 2015 Despite Stubbornly Low Wages (The Guardian)

Jana Kasperkevic looks at the wide range of data available about the economy and especially the labor market to explain why Americans should perhaps be more cautious in their optimism.

Why the Republican Congress’s First Act Was to Declare War on Math (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait accuses the GOP of destroying the Congressional Budget Office's greatest power – its ideological neutrality – for the sake of passing tax cuts that won't fix the economy.

Soaring Bond Prices May Sound an Economic Warning (NYT)

Peter Eavis cautions that incredibly low yield rates on U.S. Treasury notes could indicate a coming economic stall or downturn, according to historic patterns.

Workers' Wages Have Barely Grown in Decades. Here's What Obama's Doing About It. (TNR)

Danny Vinik speaks to Lawrence Mishel and Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute, who suggest the "Obama wage initiative" package of executive actions are making a difference.

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Daily Digest - January 7: Dynamic Scoring Comes to Washington

Jan 7, 2015Rachel Goldfarb

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U.S. House Votes to Adopt Contentious Changes to Cost Estimates (Reuters)

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U.S. House Votes to Adopt Contentious Changes to Cost Estimates (Reuters)

Under new rules passed by the House, cost estimates on fiscal legislation will be measured using dynamic scoring, which could mask the impact of tax cuts, reports David Lawder.

Where Working Women Are Most Common (NYT)

Gregor Aisch, Josh Katz, and David Leonhardt examine data on women's employment rates throughout the country, considering the differing circumstances that lead women to work or not work.

Obama to Pick Former Bank of Hawaii CEO to Be Fed Governor (Bloomberg News)

Cheyenne Hopkins and Jesse Hamilton report that the President will soon announce the nomination of Allan Landon, who has worked at a firm that invests in community banks since 2010.

The Next Big Fight Among Democrats? (WaPo)

Greg Sargent says the next economic fight between populist Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration will be about how much to raise the salary threshold for overtime pay.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch says these fights between populists and the administration are about the soul of the Democratic party.

Why Is Wage Growth So Slow? The San Francisco Fed Has an Answer (WSJ)

Michael S. Derby looks at new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, which suggests that since employers fired workers rather than cut wages in the recession, hiring will increase before wages do.

The Mortgage Mistake (New Yorker)

James Surowiecki considers the costs of the American emphasis on homeownership and corresponding tax breaks, noting that homeowners' tax breaks don't really help low-income families.

Fair Value Accounting: The Obscure Rule Change That Could Make Student Loans More Expensive (Vox)

Matthew Yglesias explains how changing the method by which government accounts for federal credit programs could have difficult consequences for those seeking student loans and mortgages.

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Daily Digest - December 8: What Changes When China is the Largest Economy?

Dec 8, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Chinese Century (Vanity Fair)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz considers the implications of China becoming the world's largest economy, particularly as the U.S. system perpetuates so much inequality.

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The Chinese Century (Vanity Fair)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz considers the implications of China becoming the world's largest economy, particularly as the U.S. system perpetuates so much inequality.

U.S. Jobs Report Beats Forecasts as 321,000 Positions Added in November (The Guardian)

Heidi Moore looks at the November jobs report, which surprised many economists with its strength. She emphasizes that many of the jobs created are low-wage.

Even at 321,000 Jobs a Month, It Will Be Nearly Two Years Before the Economy Looks Like 2007 (Working Economics)

Charting out scenarios for catching up with the jobs shortfall, Elise Gould points out that even a "good" jobs report like this one isn't indicative of a speedy recovery.

Recovery at Last? (NYT)

Paul Krugman considers what recent positive economic news means for our understanding of this recession. He thinks it's proof that government paralysis slowed the recovery.

Wall Street to Workers: Give Us Your Retirement Savings and Stop Asking Questions (In These Times)

David Sirota looks at current cases in which public officials have refused to release information about the fees paid to investment firms by public pension funds.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Fellow Saqib Bhatti explains how predatory municipal finance deals are harming taxpayers in his recent report.

Labor's New Reality -- It's Easier to Raise Wages for 100,000 Than to Unionize 4,000 (LA Times)

Harold Meyerson looks at the labor movement's shift toward focusing on issues that impact many workers who are not members, a project in which Los Angeles is at the center.

Elizabeth Warren Doesn't Like This Treasury Nominee. Here's Why. (Mother Jones)

Erika Eichelberger explains Senator Warren's opposition to Antonio Weiss's nomination, which is based on his lack of experience in banking regulation and coziness with the financial sector.

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Daily Digest - December 5: Policy Created This Economy – And Policy Can Fix It

Dec 5, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Poor Used to Have the Most Opportunity in America. Now the Rich Do. (WaPo)

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The Poor Used to Have the Most Opportunity in America. Now the Rich Do. (WaPo)

In the 1960s, the bottom 10 percent saw faster growth than the top 1 percent, but Matt O'Brien says policy has since promoted fundamental economic shifts that benefit the rich.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz says that policy, in the form of tax reform, can fix the inequality in the U.S. economy.

Strong Voice in ‘Fight for 15’ Fast-Food Wage Campaign (NYT)

Steven Greenhouse profiles Terrance Wise, who works at a Burger King in Kansas City, MO and has become a leader in the fast food workers' movement over the past two years.

Apple and Camp Bow Wow: Sharing Strategies to Keep Wages Low (Working Economics)

Ross Eisenbrey ties non-compete clauses at low-wage jobs to tech companies' refusal to "poach" each other's workers: in both cases, corporate entitlement keeps wages down.

Chicago Raises Minimum Wage to $13 by 2019, But Strikers Say It’s Not Enough (In These Times)

Those who have been fighting for a $15-per-hour minimum wage are sticking to that number and accusing Mayor Emanuel of political opportunism, writes Will Craft.

Does the Media Care About Labor Anymore? (Politico)

Timothy Noah argues that strong labor reporting, taking a close look at workers and the labor movement's ideas, will be needed to get the economy back on track.

JPMorgan Said to Put Mortgage-Bond Trader on Leave Amid Scrutiny (Bloomberg)

Jody Shenn reports on the latest in a string of suspensions at JPMorgan, which is currently under strong regulatory scrutiny due to recent mortgage securities fraud cases.

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Daily Digest - December 4: Fixing Overtime Will Boost the Economy

Dec 4, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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An Overdue Fix to Overtime (Other Words)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch argues that raising the salary limit for mandatory overtime pay would help the underemployed, too, as they would likely get more hours.

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An Overdue Fix to Overtime (Other Words)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch argues that raising the salary limit for mandatory overtime pay would help the underemployed, too, as they would likely get more hours.

Study Finds Violations of Wage Law in New York and California (NYT)

Steven Greenhouse reports on a new Department of Labor study that finds that in 2011, between 3.5 and 6.5 percent of workers in New York and California were paid less than the minimum wage.

Even the Night Owls Need to Go Home Eventually (Pacific Standard)

Jake Blumgart looks at the Philadelphia subway system's shift to 24-hour weekend service, which was advertised as a nightlife service but has been heavily used by workers who get off late.

Legislator to Introduce Right-to-Work Legislation (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Todd Richmond reports on the Wisconsin GOP Assembly member who plans to introduce the legislation despite warnings from Democrats that it could lead to protests like Wisconsin saw in 2011.

Are Cities the Next Front in the Right’s War on Labor? (The Nation)

Moshe Marvit looks at anti-union groups' plans to push right-to-work laws on a local level, which has no legal precedent but is likely to be attempted anyway in labor-friendly states.

Democrats, It’s Time to Move On (WSJ)

Focusing on the could'ves and should'ves of the midterms won't deliver the economic momentum that American voters want, writes William Galston. Democrats need to instead focus on these next two years.

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Daily Digest - December 2: When Union Organizers Fight on Two Fronts

Dec 2, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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What a Housekeeper at Harvard’s Hotel Tells Us About Inequality (WaPo)

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What a Housekeeper at Harvard’s Hotel Tells Us About Inequality (WaPo)

Lydia DePillis speaks to one of the housekeepers fighting for a union at a DoubleTree owned by Harvard and operated by Hilton. DePillis says that split makes organizing more difficult.

It Is Time for a Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights (The Nation)

John Nichols says San Francisco's model for "jobs with just hours" should be brought to a national scale, though he doubts legislative action will be possible with this Congress.

Illinois, Chicago Could Be on Track for Separate Minimum Wages (Chicago Tribune)

Hal Dardick and Monique Garcia report on the current push for a $13-per-hour minimum wage in Chicago by Mayor Emanuel and a $10-per-hour minimum wage for the state.

The Paid Vacation Route to Full Employment (HuffPo)

Dean Baker suggests that policies that reduce the average number of hours worked would increase demand for labor – and paid vacation and sick leave is an important step.

Underinsurance Remains Big Problem Under Obama Health Law (NYT)

Aaron E. Carroll says underinsurance, in which out-of-pocket costs or deductibles are unaffordably high, is still causing people to skip needed care, which means they aren't really covered.

Janet Yellen, the Most Important Person in DC in 2015 (CNBC)

If Republicans push through their "Audit the Fed" bill, Ben White says Yellen's challenging role in communicating complicated policy changes to the markets will only get harder.

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