New Score: Socialize Uber

Dec 17, 2014Mike Konczal

I have a new Score column at The Nation: Socialize Uber. It's about Uber and other sharing economy companies as worker cooperatives. Normally I eyeroll when people talk about cooperatives as an economic solution, but I think there's compelling stuff here. Given that the workers already own all the capital in the form of their cars, why aren’t they collecting all the profits? I'm particularly interested in the comparisons to the Populist movement in this new economy, as back then workers also were amazed by new technologies but also wanted fairness on the terms they could access them.

We've also revamped how the Score looks, particularly the online part of it, so I hope you check it out. There's some commentary already from Will Wilkinson and Brian Dominick. It's definitely a moment where people are thinking about this, as columns from Nathan Schneider and Trebor Scholz also came out at the same time making similar arguments about worker cooperatives.

Sure Pricing

Uber is also in the news because they turned on surge pricing during a terrorist hostage situation in Sydney, Australia. This has gotten people talking about surge pricing. I don't mind surge pricing, but the moralizing way journalists talk about it is really off-putting. Matt Bruenig has a good response to an example of this by Olivia Nuzzi ("How does the world owe you a private car, priced as you deem acceptable, that didn't exist five years ago? [...] you might consider meandering over to a country with a different economic system").

To expand on Matt, there's two reasons why people might want to avoid surge pricing that virtually never get discussed.

One is that people care about fairness. As Arin Dube wrote about the minimum wage, "the economists Colin F. Camerer and Ernst Fehr have documented in numerous experimental studies that the preference for fairness in transactions is strong: individuals are often willing to sacrifice their own payoffs to punish those who are seen as acting unfairly, and such punishments activate reward-related neural circuits." This is why you see high support for the minimum wage among people who otherwise support right-wing economic ideas, as we just saw in the 2014 elections.

People care about fairness; it's in their utility function if you prefer. It's a funny economic argument where markets are meant to serve what people want, and producers are meant to meet those needs at the lowest possible cost, but if people want fairness built into the cost model then it's all sneering all the time. It's almost as if the moment is about conditioning people to serve market needs, rather than markets to serve people needs. If people demanded a cola beveridge that, say, was less sweet, would we get Daily Beast articles about "how dare you, the world doesn't owe you a less sweet cola, move to North Korea if you want to see your market demands turn into products." And there's a long history of using moral persuasion to try and limit price-gouging - check out Little House on the Prairie.

But the first issue becomes more relevant with a second concern, however, and that's the increasingly negative view of Uber's tactics. People don't have perfect information, and it's reasonable that they might want to pool the risk that they'll be targeted for price discrimination. The obvious comparison here was that early moment Amazon turned out to be charging higher prices based on your browsing history, which it promptly shut down after public outcry. (Why don't you meander over to a different country if you don't want Amazon data-mining your browser to rip you off?)

Why were people offended? Because in that case the price discimination just transfered the surplus from the customers to the producers - there wasn't any allocative effect. And the same worry can carry over to surge pricing.

Without perfect information, customers don't really know if they are getting price surged based on supply-and-demand fundamentals or on their own individual characteristics. Imagine if the algorithm increased the liklihood of price surging based on people's past willingness to select price surging. Or because a neighborhood is more like to accept price surging. I assume we'd be mad, right? That wouldn't have an allocative effect - it would just be ripping off those people because the code can tell they'd be willing to pay more.

Are they doing this now, or will they do this in the future? Normally trust is what would help mitigate both these worries, but with stories about "God mode" and their take-no-prisoners approach to everything, trust is in increasingly low supply.

Follow or contact the Rortybomb blog:
 
  

 

I have a new Score column at The Nation: Socialize Uber. It's about Uber and other sharing economy companies as worker cooperatives. Normally I eyeroll when people talk about cooperatives as an economic solution, but I think there's compelling stuff here. Given that the workers already own all the capital in the form of their cars, why aren’t they collecting all the profits? I'm particularly interested in the comparisons to the Populist movement in this new economy, as back then workers also were amazed by new technologies but also wanted fairness on the terms they could access them.

We've also revamped how the Score looks, particularly the online part of it, so I hope you check it out. There's some commentary already from Will Wilkinson and Brian Dominick. It's definitely a moment where people are thinking about this, as columns from Nathan Schneider and Trebor Scholz also came out at the same time making similar arguments about worker cooperatives.

Sure Pricing

Uber is also in the news because they turned on surge pricing during a terrorist hostage situation in Sydney, Australia. This has gotten people talking about surge pricing. I don't mind surge pricing, but the moralizing way journalists talk about it is really off-putting. Matt Bruenig has a good response to an example of this by Olivia Nuzzi ("How does the world owe you a private car, priced as you deem acceptable, that didn't exist five years ago? [...] you might consider meandering over to a country with a different economic system").

To expand on Matt, there's two reasons why people might want to avoid surge pricing that virtually never get discussed.

One is that people care about fairness. As Arin Dube wrote about the minimum wage, "the economists Colin F. Camerer and Ernst Fehr have documented in numerous experimental studies that the preference for fairness in transactions is strong: individuals are often willing to sacrifice their own payoffs to punish those who are seen as acting unfairly, and such punishments activate reward-related neural circuits." This is why you see high support for the minimum wage among people who otherwise support right-wing economic ideas, as we just saw in the 2014 elections.

People care about fairness; it's in their utility function if you prefer. It's a funny economic argument where markets are meant to serve what people want, and producers are meant to meet those needs at the lowest possible cost, but if people want fairness built into the cost model then it's all sneering all the time. It's almost as if the moment is about conditioning people to serve market needs, rather than markets to serve people needs. If people demanded a cola beveridge that, say, was less sweet, would we get Daily Beast articles about "how dare you, the world doesn't owe you a less sweet cola, move to North Korea if you want to see your market demands turn into products." And there's a long history of using moral persuasion to try and limit price-gouging - check out Little House on the Prairie.

But the first issue becomes more relevant with a second concern, however, and that's the increasingly negative view of Uber's tactics. People don't have perfect information, and it's reasonable that they might want to pool the risk that they'll be targeted for price discrimination. The obvious comparison here was that early moment Amazon turned out to be charging higher prices based on your browsing history, which it promptly shut down after public outcry. (Why don't you meander over to a different country if you don't want Amazon data-mining your browser to rip you off?)

Why were people offended? Because in that case the price discimination just transfered the surplus from the customers to the producers - there wasn't any allocative effect. And the same worry can carry over to surge pricing.

Without perfect information, customers don't really know if they are getting price surged based on supply-and-demand fundamentals or on their own individual characteristics. Imagine if the algorithm increased the liklihood of price surging based on people's past willingness to select price surging. Or because a neighborhood is more like to accept price surging. I assume we'd be mad, right? That wouldn't have an allocative effect - it would just be ripping off those people because the code can tell they'd be willing to pay more.

Are they doing this now, or will they do this in the future? Normally trust is what would help mitigate both these worries, but with stories about "God mode" and their take-no-prisoners approach to everything, trust is in increasingly low supply.

Follow or contact the Rortybomb blog:
 
  

 

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Daily Digest - December 15: An Uber That Really Is Sharing

Dec 15, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Socialize Uber (The Nation)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert present a way to transform Uber into a company that would truly be part of a "sharing economy": make it a worker cooperative.

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Socialize Uber (The Nation)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert present a way to transform Uber into a company that would truly be part of a "sharing economy": make it a worker cooperative.

My Talk to the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network (On The Economy)

Jared Bernstein gave the keynote at the Campus Network's 10th anniversary party. He's published his talk, which was on the need to combine head and heart in economic policy-making.

Wall Street’s Revenge (NYT)

Paul Krugman says that Wall Street has so heavily funded the Republican party in order to get back on Democrats for Dodd-Frank financial reform, and this spending bill is only the first step.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch and Fellow Mike Konczal each wrote about the rollback of Dodd-Frank in the cromnibus last week.

Pension Bill Seen as Model for Further Cuts (WSJ)

John D. McKinnon says some on the left worry that the pension-cutting measure in the spending bill could create precedent for even more pension cuts, possibly even to Social Security.

Obama's Left-Side Headache (Bloomberg Politics)

Margaret Talev and Michael C. Binder suggest that one of the biggest challenges the president will face from the incoming Congress will be from progressives like Senator Warren.

The Devalued American Worker (WaPo)

Jim Tankersley explains how the past three recessions, by breaking previous patterns of post-recession job growth, have cut middle-skill jobs and lowered wages for many.

Thanks to Labor Board Ruling, You Can Now Use Company Email to Organize a Union (In These Times)

Overriding a 2007 decision, the National Labor Relations Board has decided that email functions more like the water cooler than as high-cost company equipment, reports Moshe Z. Marvit.

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 66: How Do We Make the Promise a Reality?

Dec 10, 2014Ariel SmilowitzMonika Johnson

Full implementation of the UDHR isn't a pipe dream, but it will require us to look beyond governments and international institutions.

Sixty-six years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, who is responsible for upholding our most basic rights as humans? And are rights truly universal, or are they relative?

Full implementation of the UDHR isn't a pipe dream, but it will require us to look beyond governments and international institutions.

Sixty-six years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, who is responsible for upholding our most basic rights as humans? And are rights truly universal, or are they relative?

These questions are indelibly inked into the fabric of our economy, society, and political system. Following World War II and the creation of the United Nations, the UDHR represented “the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled.” Championed by Eleanor Roosevelt, the widely accepted manifesto built upon the work of her husband, who famously declared that worldwide democracy should be founded upon four essential freedoms.

This primordial soup of rights-based ideology and dialogue resulted in the birth of the United Nations, and subsequently a handful of substantial treaties, frameworks, and guiding principles for our quest to define and maintain human rights globally.  

However, after decades of debate, we have yet to answer the ultimate question: who is responsible for ensuring this productive discourse is transformed into tangible action? Earlier this year, political scientist Stephen Hopgood proclaimed that we have reached “the end of human rights.” Hopgood argued that despite successful recognition of all human beings’ moral equivalence (no minor feat), little has been done to meld regional differences in interpretation and practice. In other words, our attempts to answer the critical question of implementation -- whether through international declarations like the UDHR, conventions like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or the creation of the UN Human Rights Council -- have fallen short.

As we reflect on the anniversary of the UDHR, perhaps it is time for us to reconsider and expand our approach toward human rights. Leaders of the classical human rights movement envisioned a world in which governments agreed on and multilaterally implemented a set of principles. Since that time, we have witnessed immense globalization, putting civil and political rights at odds with economic and social ones while introducing a set of new players, including multinational enterprise.

Consequently, these conventions, declarations, and institutions are not fully equipped to enforce human rights at every level of society. It is necessary for us to be inclusive of all influencers, including the private sector, non-state actors, and other organizations and groups, in order to truly realize a society in which every person can fulfill his or her full potential -- the dream of FDR’s progressivism and Eleanor’s Declaration of Human Rights.

Beyond Institutions: Global Enterprise and Human Rights

If governments and international institutions are unable to police human rights at every level, non-state actors must accept responsibility for integrating dignity into their practices. While vast ground remains to be covered, many companies are taking the lead on assessing their spheres of influence and ensuring their profits do not come at the expense of the choices and livelihoods of others.

One such company is Carlson, a corporation in the hotel and travel industries that works to stop human trafficking crimes. According to the International Labor Organization, 14.2 million people are victims of forced labor exploitation in economic activities worldwide. Despite 90 percent of countries enacting legislation criminalizing human trafficking under the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, it persists as tragic but preventable collateral damage of everyday economic and social activity.

Upon realizing that traffickers regularly use the hospitality industry to transport victims, Carlson used the valuable information provided by UNODC to be part of a solution. Now, they train their employees to recognize and report trafficking and have partnered with the State Department to educate travelers on the sexual exploitation of children.

For Ford Motor Company, being a more responsible business wasn’t as simple. Forced labor was buried deep in its supply chain, far from Detroit in Brazil’s charcoal mines, which provide an ingredient in steel production. When slave labor was exposed there in 2006, Ford was purchasing pig iron made from refined charcoal and using it in Cleveland to manufacture cars sold nationwide. The company took action to halt the use of pig iron and ensure its supply chain procured materials responsibly. Today, it collaborates with the State Department, the ILO, and the Brazilian National Pact to eradicate forced labor and improve transparency in manufacturing.

Like Ford’s model, supply chain innovation offers an opportunity for rising leaders to use the economic influence of private business to impact human rights. Both of these companies leveraged their own success to help solve a global problem. They confronted their spheres of influence and were willing to work with partners to develop solutions.

Similarly, Unilever, the maker of products including Dove soap and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, partnered with Oxfam in 2013 on a supply chain analysis of its operations in Vietnam. The partners sought to better understand the implications of the UN Framework for Business and Human Rights and Global Compact Principles on global companies, and to improve conditions for thousands of workers along their manufacturing chain. Oxfam discovered that while Unilever was committed to high labor standards, policies ran only skin deep; Vietnamese managers were not equipped to implement them and lacked internal reporting mechanisms for violations.

Oxfam dissected Unilever’s business practices and concluded that while Unilever still had a long way to go, its positive corporate culture and long-term relationships with suppliers make it well positioned to confront the root causes of labor problems and authentically attempt to solve them.

Unilever, Ford, and Carlson did not sacrifice profits or shareholder obligations. Instead, they participated in a global conversation on human rights -- one aggregated by the UN Global Compact -- and underscored the importance of effective, cross-sector collaboration to reform their own practices.

A New Legacy for Our Generation

Each of these entities demonstrates the many spheres of influence at play in the pursuit of full human rights and dignity for all. What if every company took the same initiative to understand the social repercussions of its actions?

We need to rethink human rights by recognizing the power of our own choices upon others. Everyone is responsible for upholding human rights, whether as a part of your day job or as a member of a community. Seemingly benign actions -- how much you pay your employees or which charities you support -- are manifestations of your own unique interpretation of what dignity and rights mean.  

The UN, NGOs, and other global institutions have provided a priceless platform for dialogue on human rights. Without the consensus-building mechanisms they provide, there would be no Universal Declaration of Human Rights, no “naming and shaming” of human rights abusers, and no coordinated effort to stop the world’s cruelest atrocities.

And yet, as we continue our efforts to avert the "end of human rights," what will our own generation's legacy of implementation be? As this generation rises to power in public and private leadership roles, those at decision-making tables across the spectrum will have an opportunity to think critically about their own actions. The foundation and forums, from the UDHR to the UN Global Compact, certainly exist. Now, it’s up to us to ensure a future in which human rights are celebrated not only at the institutional level, but at a more personal, human level as well.

Ariel Smilowitz is a senior at Cornell University majoring in Government and the Northeast Regional Policy Coordinator for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network.

Monika Johnson is a member of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's Alumni Advisory Committee.

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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)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

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 3: What If We Could Wave a Magic Wand Over the Economy?

Dec 3, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Steps Toward the “Good Economy” (Cato Institute)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Bo Cutter presents "magic wand" solutions to two problems holding back the economy: declining business formation and an unprepared labor force.

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Steps Toward the “Good Economy” (Cato Institute)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Bo Cutter presents "magic wand" solutions to two problems holding back the economy: declining business formation and an unprepared labor force.

Pregnant and Forced Off the Job (MSNBC)

In light of today's oral arguments in Young vs. UPS, which asks whether pregnant workers must be permitted reasonable accommodations, Irin Carmon profiles a similar pregnancy discrimination case.

Chicago Council Strongly Approves $13 Minimum Wage (NPR)

Bill Chappell reports on the overwhelming vote in favor of a $13-per-hour minimum wage. The legislation works incrementally, though, so Chicagoans won't see that wage until 2019.

Republicans Back to Raising Taxes on the Poor (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait suggests that Republicans' new desire to end a set of tax breaks for low-income workers is tied to the president's new plans on immigration.

The Cycle of Republican Radicalization (TAP)

Paul Waldman points out that over the past few years, Republicans in Congress have pushed back so strongly on anything from the president that it's actually shifted voters rightward as well.

A Government Shutdown Can't Stop Obama's Immigration Plan—and John Boehner Knows It (TNR)

Refusing to fund the departments that deal with immigration won't stop the coming changes, writes Brian Beutler, which makes a shutdown threat pretty toothless.

Converting a Union Skeptic (The Atlantic)

Alana Semuels profiles Audra Rondeau, a Vermont home health care aide who was convinced to join a union not just for better wages and benefits, but for the good of her clients.

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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)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

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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Daily Digest - December 1: Low Consumer Confidence is Boosting the Minimum Wage Fight

Dec 1, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Consumer Confidence Down Despite Economic Upswing (Melissa Harris-Perry)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

Consumer Confidence Down Despite Economic Upswing (Melissa Harris-Perry)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren ties business support for a higher minimum wage to the drop in consumer confidence: business owners know people need money to spend.

Five Economic Trends to Be Thankful For (NYT)

In the spirit of the holiday, Neil Irwin looks on the bright side of this year's economic news, highlighting trends like lower gas prices and increases in people voluntarily quitting their jobs.

The Big Business of Small Wage Gains (WSJ)

Justin Lahart suggests that the growth of large employers lessens worker's bargaining power over wages by giving them fewer options to choose from.

U.S. Cities Making It Harder to Feed the Homeless (The Guardian)

Suzanne McGee questions why 22 cities have passed ordinances that make it more difficult to feed the homeless in public places, seemingly motivated by downtown "revitalization."

An Udderly Bad Job (In These Times)

Joseph Sorrentino reports on the exceedingly poor labor practices that characterize the dairy industry. The sometimes-dangerous work includes low pay, no overtime, and no worker's comp.

Real World Contradicts Right-Wing Tax Theories (AJAM)

With California raising taxes and seeing higher job growth than Kansas, which cut taxes, David Cay Johnston says the real-world data disproves Republican theories.

New on Next New Deal

There Will Be Another Michael Brown: Millennial Perspectives on Ferguson

Campus Network members and staff respond to last week's news that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will not stand trial for the shooting of Michael Brown.

Universities Can Prevent the Race to the Bottom for Labor Standards

Roosevelt Institute Associate Director of Networked Initiatives Alan Smith and Campus Network Midwest Regional Coordinator Julius Goldberg-Lewis argue that universities must set better standards for doing business in a tech-driven era.

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Universities Can Prevent the Race to the Bottom for Labor Standards

Dec 1, 2014Alan SmithJulius Goldberg-Lewis

Some of the negative changes in the workplace brought on by new technologies can be countered by institutions like universities setting higher standards.

Some of the negative changes in the workplace brought on by new technologies can be countered by institutions like universities setting higher standards.

The past 30 years have seen a revolution in communication and analytic technology, one that has begun to shape the nature of firms and the types of work that exist in the labor market. Internet communication technology (ICT) allows firms to share information across the world at speeds that are nearly instantaneous and practically for free. With this explosion of information has been a concerted effort on the parts of firms, governments, and individuals to capture and analyze the torrent of information being produced every second.

ICT is driving transaction costs to zero, and with it comes a hollowing out of traditional corporate infrastructure. Tasks that were once cheaper to do in-house can now be outsourced to private contractors in the U.S. or around the world. The firms that are most heralded as ‘the next big thing’ are no longer producers of widgets, but platforms that connect individuals. Facebook and Twitter do not provide content, but provide access; Uber and Lyft are not taxi companies, but rather platforms that connect individual demanders and suppliers. On the other side, incumbent firms are using ICT to develop to-the-minute data on sales patterns, allowing them to track exactly when and where their workers are needed. Whether it’s in the form of surge pricing‘just-in-time’ scheduling, or contracting out nearly every function of a company, the use of ICT has profound and evolving implications for consumers and workers.

With the explosion of technology has come a scramble to achieve maximum efficiency and minimal cost. As production expands horizontally, as opposed to vertically, Millennials are discovering that a life-long career simply can’t exist in a market that’s trending towards more and more freelance and contract work. One result of all this is that Millennials have begun to look to the stories of retirement parties and 30-year Rolexes as anachronistic Mad Men-style stories of an age long gone. We don't think of ourselves as working for the same place for long periods of time, and any notion of a pension or a retirement plan is hard to imagine. 

The second troubling effect of this is a lack of accountability of the largest and most powerful corporations. The old economic model of in-house labor allowed labor disputes, liability, and accountability to be tracked to a single corporate entity. As firms increasingly turn to specialized contractors to build their websites, staff their calling centers and warehouses, drive their taxis, and run their cafeterias, corporate responsibility becomes similarly defuse. When workers lose overtime pay at an Amazon fulfillment center, should the contractor or the parent company be at fault? Should the private contractor hold all the accountability, or should Amazon accept some responsibility? There is no sense that this new wave of "sharing economy" businesses is doing anything other then creating structured marketplaces, and skimming money off the top. This leaves the people doing the work – as Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts – without anything to hold on to. As firms continue to contract, and subcontract, the economic befits to workers shrink dramatically, and there is an increased incentive to cut costs and corners. These cases are just coming to the surface, and no doubt will shape the labor landscape immensely.

It is precisely because of this complex and rapidly changing social situation that anchor institutions like colleges and universities need to take the lead in providing wages and careers that make sense. Anchor institutions, which are generating more attention in the post-recession economy, are those mission-driven institutions that are large sources of capital, purchasing, and employment, and which are tied to their communities. Unlike traditional firms, an anchor cannot move to another country for lower taxes, and they are often public or receive large amounts of public investment. Anchors hold a special place in our society: they are not corporations governed by a single-bottom line reality, and their missions are often directed toward and even mandate the promotion of the social good.

They also have real economic clout: One classic anchor type, universities, account for approximately 3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, and they employ more than 3 million people. The hospital industry has an even larger impact with some 5 million employees. And these anchor institutions, tied as they are to location, are perfectly positioned to end the race to the bottom that is happening in other sectors. They will be able to reap the benefits from more money being injected in a local community, and they will grow as the social safety net continues to grow around them.

Anchors, working together, can do more than create a few hundred jobs at good wages with a real retirement plan. Anchors working together can set strong city-wide baselines for wages, and serve as a driving factor for economic development, public safety, local purchasing, and quality-of-life initiatives. Further, anchors actually have a values-based, mission-driven call to this work. As Millennials become a greater share of the workforce, it is on us to ensure that the economy of the future is one that promotes responsibility, accountability, growth, and equality. The technological strides of the past few decades have been enormous, and while they have allowed businesses to continue on a race to the bottom, they have also connected and mobilized a generation. In order to shift the national dialogue, the Campus Network has always believed that one must start at the local level. In order to ensure that the businesses of the future work for everyone, it must be shown that they can. The global brand of anchor institutions, from top tier universities to pioneering hospitals, have the soapbox, the moral imperative, and the means to drive this change, and a more democratic economy can begin to grow based on the successes of anchor reinvestment.

Alan Smith is the Associate Director of Networked Initiatives at the Roosevelt Institute.

Julius Goldberg-Lewis is the Midwestern Regional Coordinator for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and a senior at the University of Michigan.

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Daily Digest - November 26: What Are One-Day Strikes Achieving?

Nov 26, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

The Daily Digest is taking a short break for Thankgiving. It will return on Monday, December 1.

Why Wal-Mart Workers Keep Using One-Day Strikes (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

The Daily Digest is taking a short break for Thankgiving. It will return on Monday, December 1.

Why Wal-Mart Workers Keep Using One-Day Strikes (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Josh Eidelson explains that one-day strikes are on the rise because, while they don't shut down workplaces, they embarrass employers and engage the public just like work-stopping strikes of the past.

Exclusive: Kmart Workers Say They Risk Being Fired If They Don’t Come In On Thanksgiving (ThinkProgress)

Bryce Covert reports on the scheduling practices of some major retailers that will open on Thanksgiving. One Kmart employee she spoke to is quitting rather than miss Thanksgiving with her husband, who has cancer.

The Rich Are Getting Richer, But It Has Nothing To Do With Their Paychecks (Vox)

Salaries and wages of the top 400 taxpayers have fallen in recent years, reports Danielle Kurtzleben, but their incomes continue to rise, and their tax rates drop, thanks to capital gains.

San Francisco Passes First-In-Nation Limits on Worker Schedules (Politico)

Marianne Levine writes about the city's new restrictions on how chain stores can alter their employees' schedules. Changes within two weeks will require additional "predictability pay."

Obama Threatens Veto of Emerging Tax-Break Agreement in Congress (Bloomberg)

Richard Rubin reports on the president's opposition to this deal, which extends a set of corporate tax cuts but doesn't extend lapsing expansions of the child tax credit and earned income tax credit.

Why Living-Wage Laws Are Not Enough—and Minimum-Wage Laws Aren’t Either (The Nation)

Jonathan Lange, who led the first living wage campaign in Baltimore, says that without building worker power more generally, these laws fall short.

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