The Right Takes Aim at Public Sector Unions in a New Supreme Court Case

Jan 23, 2014Richard Kirsch

A dispute over whether home care workers in Illinois can be required to pay union dues is part of a much larger strategy to undermine the progressive power base.

A dispute over whether home care workers in Illinois can be required to pay union dues is part of a much larger strategy to undermine the progressive power base.

You have to hand it to the right wing: it understands the importance of institutional power more than much of the liberal establishment. It took down ACORN, the organization that registered the most low-income voters of color in the nation, and Democrats in Congress and many big liberal foundations went along with it. Its relentless, decades-long campaign against the labor law that protects private sector organizing has slashed the share of unionized private sector workers to less than 7 percent, while a succession of Democrats in the White House and Congress have stood by.

Since 2010, the right has been focusing its attacks on public sector workers, one-fourth of whom are represented by unions with collective-bargaining rights. It has aimed to weaken bargaining rights in Midwestern states with long histories of union representation and has had (too) much success. This week, it brought that fight to the Supreme Court, in a case that could destroy the financial base of the biggest remaining source of support for government and vital domestic services.

The case is Harris v. Quinn, in which a group of home care workers in Illinois is challenging the state's requirement that the workers pay union dues. The workers are employed by individual patients but are funded by Medicaid. Having unions, in this case SEIU, represent home care workers is part of an admirable strategy of extending collective bargaining to workers who are publicly funded even if they do not work directly for the government. Since federal law does not provide collective bargaining rights to either public employees or domestic home care workers, using state law to organize these workers, who typically get low pay with no benefits, is vitally important to their own well-being and to building a middle-class driven economy.

However, the debate among the Supreme Court justices yesterday did not focus on the narrow question of whether Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich had the power to categorize the home care workers as public employees. Instead, the justices debated whether, because issues of wages and benefits for public employees are inevitably and intrinsically matters of public policy, compelling workers to pay union dues would be an infringement on free speech and association.

The Illinois workers are represented by the National Right to Work Foundation, whose attorney, William Messenger, was eager to expand the case, which suggests it was developed as a political weapon, not a true complaint by a handful of workers about paying dues. Messenger argued, as Lyle Denniston explains at SCOTUSblog, that “anything a public employee union does is an attempt to shape matters of ‘public concern,’ and it should not be able to compel support — even for part of the monthly dues — from workers who oppose the union’s public policy ambitions.”

Just so nobody missed the ideological stakes at the heart of this legal argument, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that workers who favor shrinking the size of government would have their First Amendment rights trampled if the union argued to expand the workforce. The same logic would apply to the union defending the current size of the workforce or how much workers get paid.

Logically, it is impossible for a public sector union to represent its members’ interest in keeping their jobs or in how much they get paid without affecting public policy. This point was made by SEIU’s attorney Paul Smith, who said, “Any outcome of a negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement involving public employees will involve the expenditure of public money in a variety of ways.”

Of course, public employee unions' interest in defending their members is why those unions support increased taxes and funding of government programs. The union positions are not always progressive. Unions sometimes support regressive tax increases. Sometimes AFSCME, which represents corrections officers, lobbies for stricter sentencing or against closing of prisons. But on the whole, in advocating for their members, public employee unions support maintaining and expanding public services, oppose privatization, and are a major source of organizing, funding, and lobbying for those policies and an absolutely vital part of the progressive infrastructure. Hence they are a big target for the right.

When these issues have been debated in the past, the Supreme Court has recognized the legitimacy of required union dues for public employees while insisting that political contributions be voluntary. As Adam Liptak explains in the New York Times, “In 1977, in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court said that teachers who declined to join a union could nevertheless be required to help pay for the union’s collective bargaining efforts to prevent freeloading and ensure ‘labor peace.’ But workers may not be forced to help pay for a union’s purely political activities, the court said.”

That argument may explain why Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. agreed that advocating for increased Medicaid reimbursement would not be by itself a permissible union activity, but argued that the state’s interest in designating a union to maintain labor peace was the determining factor in supporting the mandatory dues. Verilli’s argument may be a good one before this Court, but it defies logic and avoids the real issue of the interwoven nature of public policy and public worker bargaining. The Court should recognize that the effective right of association in public employee unions depends on the unions engaging in public policy to improve their members’ working conditions.

The Supreme Court reporters whom I read all agreed that the Court is unlikely to overturn Abood and outlaw mandatory dues by public employees, with one pointing out that the Court affirmed that position in 2007 in an opinion written by Justice Scalia. There is some reason to think that Chief Justice Roberts could avoid the issue by narrowing the ruling to the question of whether Illinois can designate the home care workers as public employees.

However, a decision to overturn mandatory dues collection by public employees would be a body blow to Americans who believe in establishing collective responsibility for common goods by raising taxes and spending public dollars on government. 

Public employee unions, and unions that are working to develop new ways to represent workers in the private sector who are paid with public dollars, are a leading force for creating opportunity and security in an America that works for all of us. They will continue to be a target of the right. Progressives at every level must support them and work to expand, not restrict, their reach.

Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a Senior Adviser to USAction, and the author of Fighting for Our Health. He was National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now during the legislative battle to pass reform.

 

Image via Thinkstock

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Daily Digest - January 23: Net Neutrality is Not Dead Yet

Jan 23, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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There Is Still Hope For Net Neutrality, Telecommunications Policy Expert Says (The Kathleen Dunn Show)

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There Is Still Hope For Net Neutrality, Telecommunications Policy Expert Says (The Kathleen Dunn Show)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford says that in order to save net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission needs political cover from advocacy groups that support reclassifying the Internet as a traditional telecommunications service.

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Raising the Minimum is the Bare Minimum (TAP)

Harold Meyerson argues that raising the minimum wage won't do enough to reverse the stagnation of wages for 90 percent of workers. That would only be the first step in reversing the redistribution of wealth from labor to capital and the growing problem of inequality.

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“Everything Amazon did had the underlying tone of fear” (Salon)

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Seth Masket considers this question using data on state-level public campaign financing systems, which offer incentives for candidates to forgo private fundraising. One of the biggest upsides is that candidates can spend more time with all voters, not just funders.

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The Right Takes Aim at Public Sector Unions in a New Supreme Court Case

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch writes that Harris v. Quinn is part of a larger effort by the right to undermine progressive power bases. The case challenges public sector unions' ability to collect dues, without which the unions can't do much to support workers.

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Daily Digest - January 17: Less Aid Won't Lead to Less Inequality

Jan 17, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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People Worried About Income Inequality (The Kudlow Report)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal explains that while it's true that income inequality isn't quite as bad if you account for programs that provide low-wage income support, the GOP's plans to reduce that support and lower taxes will make the problem worse.

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People Worried About Income Inequality (The Kudlow Report)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal explains that while it's true that income inequality isn't quite as bad if you account for programs that provide low-wage income support, the GOP's plans to reduce that support and lower taxes will make the problem worse.

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  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch interviewed Greg Asbed and two of his fellow organizers prior to the 2013 Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Awards, where the Roosevelt Institute awarded the CIW the Freedom from Want Medal.

How Walmart Organizers Turned the Internet Into a Shop Floor (In These Times)

Sarah Jaffe looks at the innovative ways that OUR Walmart has used social media to organize discussions, build leaders, and support protests. She writes that these online spaces are valuable ways for organizers to reach workers and activists alike.

Mayor, Speaker Reach Deal on Paid Sick Leave (Capital New York)

Sally Goldenberg reports that New York City's top elected officials have reached an agreement to expand the city's paid sick leave law, which currently only applies to companies with at least 20 workers. Lowering that threshold will give more workers access to paid sick leave.

Obama Weighing Executive Action on Minimum Wage? (WaPo)

Greg Sargent writes that according to Senator Bernie Sanders, the White House is seriously considering raising the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors. Unlike raising the federal minimum wage, this could be accomplished with an executive order.

All the Jobs Growth Last Month Went to Women. (And That's Not Necessarily Good News for Them.) (TNR)

Emma Roller considers some of the problems with current job growth, which is primarily low-wage, going so heavily to women. She points to this "sinking floor" rather than the glass ceiling as the issue that is affecting most women in the workplace.

New on Next New Deal

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Daily Digest - January 16: We (Almost) Have a Budget. What's Next?

Jan 16, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Join Roosevelt Institute Associate Director of Networked Initiatives Alan Smith for a Twitter discussion this afternoon at 2pm EST to discuss the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network's new project examining how anchor institutions can promote local economic development. Follow the discussion at #RethinkingCommunities.

House Passes Compromise $1.1 Trillion Budget for 2014 (CNN)

Deirdre Walsh and Lisa Desjardins report on the omnibus spending bill that will now move to the Senate. Earlier this week, the President signed a three-day extension on the current continuing resolution, which gives the Senate until Saturday to pass the new budget.

Reid Vows to Try UI Again (The Hill)

Ramsey Cox writes that despite the Republicans blocking the vote on extended unemployment insurance this week, Senator Reid wants to try again after the Senate passes the budget. It's been nearly three weeks since 1.3 million people lost their long-term unemployment benefits.

Seeking Ways to Help the Poor and Childless (NYT)

Eduardo Porter looks at an experiment in earned income tax credit-style support for workers without children. The test considers whether the labor market is doing enough to support the needs of all workers, and what government can do to make up the difference.

Workers At Food Court Owned By Federal Government Allege They’ve Been Cheated Out Of $3 Million (ThinkProgress)

Alan Pyke reports that Good Jobs Nation has filed a complaint with the Department of Labor, alleging that service workers in Washington, DC's Union Station have been subject to chronic wage theft. The complaint claims losses averaging $10,000 per worker per year.

Push Set to Wrest Minimum-Wage Control From Albany (Crain's New York)

Chris Bragg writes that liberal groups are launching a campaign to allow municipalities in New York to pass higher local minimum wages. New York City politicians are supporting this proposal, but it's unclear how the state legislature feels about giving up control of the minimum wage.

Why Banks Aren’t Lending to Homebuyers (Reuters)

Felix Salmon explains the drop in mortgage availability as a simple matter of profits. At current rates, a 30-year fixed rate mortgage won't make much money for a bank, and the possible solutions aren't very good for potential homeowners.

Regions Bank To Discontinue Payday Loan Program (NPR)

Robert Benincasa reports that the Alabama-based bank is discontinuing its payday loan offerings, likely in response to increased regulations that don't apply to this bank. This shows that sometimes, even the threat of regulation will eliminate the worst banking practices.

New on Next New Deal

Move Over, Shareholders: Let Workers Have a Say in Corporate Governance

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Economic Development Azi Hussain argues that we could change corporations so that they wouldn't have to put shareholder profits above all. A stakeholder corporate governance model would bring new priorities to the board room.

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Daily Digest - January 15: Nobel Winners Unite to Push for Higher Wages

Jan 15, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Seven Nobel Laureates Endorse Higher U.S. Minimum Wage (Bloomberg)

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Seven Nobel Laureates Endorse Higher U.S. Minimum Wage (Bloomberg)

Lorraine Woellert reports that the laureates are part of a group of 75 economists pushing for a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour by 2016, and for indexing the minimum wage to inflation. Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz is among the signatories of this letter.

Net Neutrality is Dead. Bow to Comcast and Verizon, Your Overlords (LA Times)

Michael Hiltzik explains yesterday's federal court decision, which struck down the FCC's net neutrality rules. He quotes Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford, who says big telecommunications companies aren't really competing, which makes regulation even more necessary.

Blue-Collar Wage-Grade Federal Workers Waiting on Pay Raise (WaPo)

Emily Wax-Thibodeaux writes about the federal employees who haven't gotten a 1 percent raise yet, despite President Obama's executive order ending a three-year pay freeze. Congress could finally enact that raise in the omnibus spending bill that's under consideration now.

Extension of Unemployment Benefits Dead in Senate For Now (CBS News)

Rebecca Kaplan explains how a fight over the rights of the minority party in the Senate subsumed the push to renew extended unemployment benefits. Senate Democrats are criticizing their Republican colleagues for putting politics ahead of the needs of the long-term unemployed.

Whose Side Are Progressives on: The Poor or the Upper Middle Class? (PolicyShop)

David Callahan points out that the coalition that elected President Obama twice and just elected Mayor de Blasio in New York City looks like a barbell: plenty of poor voters, and plenty of upper-middle class voters. But thus far, political priorities have greatly favored the wealthier part of this coalition.

Poverty Is Literally Making People Sick Because They Can't Afford Food (The Atlantic Cities)

Matthew O'Brien looks at a new study that determined that low-income patients who are living paycheck-to-paycheck experience an increase in health problems related to lack of food at the end of each month. The easiest solutions ensure that people have more money to buy food.

Democrats Concede to Curb Funds for Wall Street Regulators in Spending Bill (The Guardian)

Dan Roberts explains some of the bargains made for the sake of Congress's omnibus appropriations bill, expected to pass this week. Financial reform advocates are angered by the cuts to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission budgets.

Regulators Ease Volcker Rule Provision on Smaller Banks (NYT)

Matthew Goldstein reports that regulators gave in to pressures from the banking industry and revised the Volcker Rule, supposedly to reduce its effects on smaller community banks. However, the revised rule will allow big banks to keep certain investments that could be seen as proprietary trading.

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Daily Digest - January 14: Big Money Isn't Beaten Yet

Jan 14, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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How Big Money Keeps Populism at Bay (AlterNet)

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How Big Money Keeps Populism at Bay (AlterNet)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Thomas Ferguson writes with Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen about how both parties' reliance on large donations from the wealthy to keep campaigns afloat limits the influence of populist movements on elections.

  • Roosevelt Take: Ferguson pulls from his working paper with Jorgensen and Chen to discuss political spending in the 2012 campaign.

'Mom did it, we can do it': Two-Generation Programs Help Lift Families Out of Poverty (NBC News)

Former Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz writes about a highly successful anti-poverty program in Amarillo, TX. The program works with single mothers and their children simultaneously to promote academic achievement.

How the Rise of Women in Labor Could Save the Movement (The Nation)

Bryce Covert draws on research from Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren as she argues that encouraging the rise of female leadership in both traditional and alt-labor groups will help to reinvigorate the labor movement and lead it to success.

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Nelson Lichtenstein considers two paths for a revival of the labor movement, one based in singular events of mass upheaval, and the other in a slow drift to the left in American politics. These options aren't mutually exclusive, so he says labor should prepare for both.

Blaming Poverty on Single Parents Is Win-Win for Republicans, Evidence Be Damned (The Wire)

Philip Bump says that when Senator Marco Rubio tries to link marriage rates and poverty, progressives should remember that correlation is not causation. Sadly, the GOP would rather talk about marriage as a solution than fund real anti-poverty programs.

It Is Expensive to Be Poor (The Atlantic)

Barbara Ehrenreich discusses poverty as a shortage of money, as opposed to the moral failure that many politicians spin it to be. She argues that Americans need to stop blaming poverty on the poor and start fixing the economic and social institutions that perpetuate it.

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Yalman Onaran reports that bankers have filed a lawsuit arguing that the Volcker Rule's definition of ownership with regard to hedge funds and private-equity funds is too broad. The rule was written that way to keep banks from skirting the ban on proprietary trading.

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Daily Digest - January 9: Celebrating the War on Poverty's Successes

Jan 8, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Materially Richer Today Than 50 Years Ago (The Kudlow Report)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal discusses the War on Poverty on CNBC, where he focuses on some of its successes. Mike says that War on Poverty programs have drastically reduced poverty among children and the elderly, which should be celebrated.

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Materially Richer Today Than 50 Years Ago (The Kudlow Report)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal discusses the War on Poverty on CNBC, where he focuses on some of its successes. Mike says that War on Poverty programs have drastically reduced poverty among children and the elderly, which should be celebrated.

A Dismal New Year for the Global Economy (The Guardian)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Joseph Stiglitz says that despite a few signs of economic improvement around the world, we should still be concerned about the ways that market economies across the globe are failing to create opportunity for most citizens.

Obama to Name 5 'Promise Zones' for Assistance (USA Today)

David Jackson reports on the creation of "Promise Zones," troubled neighborhoods that will receive targeted assistance to improve education, housing, and public safety. The plan involves working with government and businesses to attack poverty on a local level.

Connecticut Sick-Leave Law Has Little Impact on Employers: Study (WSJ)

Joseph de Avila looks at a study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research examining the effects of the CT law, which was the first paid-sick leave measure in the U.S. Preliminary findings show that only 10% of employers had payroll costs increase by 3% or more.

Rauner Wants to Roll Back Minimum Wage (NBC Chicago)

Mark W. Anderson writes that Bruce Rauner, the Republican candidate for Governor in Illinois, thinks that the state's $9.25 per hour minimum wage isn't "competitive." While many politicians are discussing raising minimum wages, he wants to return Illinois's to $7.25.

Investors Are Chastened. That’s A Good Thing. (ProPublica)

Jesse Eisinger says that the lack of enthusiasm for the stock market's record highs are a sign that the public has learned not to trust the stock market as a measure of the economy's success. Instead, it's a reminder that the recovery hasn't reached most Americans.

Warren, Coburn Push for Increased Transparency on Settlements (The Nation)

George Zornick reports on a new bill from Senators Warren and Coburn that would require federal agencies to provide full disclosures of how much corporations are actually paying in fines. Corporations write off large amounts in their taxes, and the Senators think the public should know how much.

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Daily Digest - January 8: The Long War on Poverty Continues

Jan 7, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The War on Poverty Turns 50: Three Lessons for Liberals Today (TNR)

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The War on Poverty Turns 50: Three Lessons for Liberals Today (TNR)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal looks at new research from the Russell Sage Foundation on the successes of the War on Poverty, and considers how those accomplishments should guide liberals as poverty takes center stage in the lead-up to the midterm elections.

Millennial Perspective: How to Strengthen Social Security (National Priorities Project)

Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline member Tarsi Dunlop argues that Millennials should advocate for reforms that will ensure the future of Social Security. Most Millennials agree with her, with two-thirds supporting changes like raising the earnings cap on Social Security taxes.

Vote in Senate Starts Talks on Extending Unemployment Benefits (NYT)

Jonathan Weisman reports on the negotiations over extending emergency unemployment benefits, which expired at the end of December. Yesterday's vote advanced that cause in the Senate, but it's still entirely unclear if anything will come of it in the House.

Forever Temp? (In These Times)

Sarah Jaffe reports that even in industries that used to be known for good jobs, like auto manufacturing, temps are becoming the new norm. Temp jobs in factories pay less and lack benefits, and when workers come from multiple agencies, they're harder to organize.

A Blueprint for Labor’s Engagement With Southern Communities (The Blog of the Century)

Douglas Williams suggests that the Tompkins County Worker Center in upstate New York could provide a model for communities where labor has struggled. The key is the TCWC's strong engagement with the entire community, not just organized labor.

Will Elizabeth Warren Oppose Obama's Pick for Banking Watchdog? (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger writes that Sharon Bowen, the President's newest nominee for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, might be too close to Wall Street for some senators' tastes, and Democrats like Warren could derail the nomination.

The Quest to Improve America’s Financial Literacy Is Both a Failure and a Sham (Pacific Standard)

Helaine Olen says that the call for expanding financial literacy education in the U.S. carries little meaning, because the real problem is low wages. The financial literacy movement falsely implies that economic insecurity is always caused by bad choices instead of structural problems.

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Do Economists Understand How Power Shapes the Labor Market?

Jan 6, 2014Jeff Madrick

Even liberal mainstream economists often overlook the role of coercion in setting wages.

It was a great pleasure to read one of Paul Krugman’s columns over the holidays, entitled "The Fear Economy." I’d say it’s my favorite of 2013 because he took a decided step away from standard orthodox theory. Even Krugman rarely does that. His welcome and thankfully influential liberal ideas usually fall well within the scope of mainstream theory.

Even liberal mainstream economists often overlook the role of coercion in setting wages.

It was a great pleasure to read one of Paul Krugman’s columns over the holidays, entitled "The Fear Economy." I’d say it’s my favorite of 2013 because he took a decided step away from standard orthodox theory. Even Krugman rarely does that. His welcome and thankfully influential liberal ideas usually fall well within the scope of mainstream theory.

This was not the case in his December 27 column, or so I interpret it. Krugman talked about “power” in the labor market. When there aren’t enough jobs around, workers lose their bargaining power, he wrote, and they can’t maintain decent wages. This was a major statement by a Nobel winner.

Why? Well, the typical reader might say, “Of course there is power in the labor market. And unless there are labor unions or a low unemployment rate, the power belongs to the employer to set wages and hire and fire. What else is new?" But if you were an economist, odds are you wouldn’t say this. Power plays a peripheral role, if any at all, in conventional economics.

The invisible hand, remember, is, as Milton Friedman defined it, “coordination without coercion.” And the invisible hand, the mainstream believes, rules the labor market as it does most others. That is to say, no coercion. This is just not a view of Chicago School conservatives.

What does Krugman think? “Now, you may believe that employment is a market relationship like any other — there’s a buyer and a seller, and it’s just a matter of mutual consent,” he wrote in a blog post a few days earlier on the same subject (in which he nicely referenced the Roosevelt Institute’s Mike Konczal). “You may also believe in Santa Claus.”

Apparently most orthodox economists believe in Santa Claus. They claim workers are paid what they deserve, just as businesses pay the going price for copper or software. That price is reached fair and square through competition. If more workers are needed to produce the goods and services demanded in the economy, their price—that is, their wage-- goes up. But if fewer workers are needed, their price goes down.

That labor is paid what it deserves is a central tenet of modern capitalism. It is partly why economists believe that if you raise productivity, or output per hour of work, wages will follow. But productivity has been rising moderately strongly for a couple of decades and wages simply haven’t kept up.

And as Krugman notes, the rate at which workers quit their jobs has stayed very low. In other words, they are afraid to do so.

In conventional economics, the efficient and fair workings of the invisible hand are only disrupted when competition is artificially restrained by monopolistic or oligopolistic practices. In the labor market, that would mean there are too few businesses, so they don’t compete for workers. In practice, many and probably most economists rarely worry about that. They do worry about how labor unions might reduce competition on the other side of the equation, “coercing” wages up.

And it explains why so few economists have urged a substantial increase in the minimum wage until recently. If labor markets set the wage fairly, an artificial increase would reduce jobs. But if power is involved, a minimum wage regulation can offset the coercion from the top.

When Alan Greenspan was chairman of the Federal Reserve, he watched the quit rate mentioned by Krugman closely. If it got too high, he worried that pressures to ask for wage increases would build and lead to inflation, so he would have to step on the monetary brakes to get the unemployment rate back up.

I think Greenspan, an orthodox if highly ideological economist, probably believed fully in the invisible hand. So why did he worry about worker bargaining power? Maybe he thought that if the market were working properly, without help from unions, the quit rate would always be low. He seemed delighted when the quit rate remained low.

This is not to say there are no intelligent ways to talk about power within the orthodox conventions. One noted problem is a lack of adequate information to bargain and choose fairly, for example. Another is a famous theorem of Ronald Coase that differences can be negotiated, but I think that falls under the same principle of power.

Maybe the neglect of power is changing now, however. An economist calculated that in the Journal of Economic Issues -- granted, a left-wing journal -- there had been 44 articles with “power” in the headline since 2008, more than in the previous 16 years.

What is power? I’d call it the ability to make someone do what they don’t want to do. It's coercion by any other name, and it exists in modern labor markets. That’s a good start, anyway. And maybe soon we’ll start shedding some other myths of mainstream economics.

Jeff Madrick is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative.

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Daily Digest - January 6: Putting Policies That Help Workers Back on the Agenda

Jan 6, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Economists Agree: Raising the Minimum Wage Reduces Poverty (WaPo)

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Economists Agree: Raising the Minimum Wage Reduces Poverty (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal looks at a new paper from economist Arin Dube, which finds that regardless of other effects, a higher minimum wage would pull people out of poverty. That, Mike argues, should be enough reason to consider an increase.

Jobless Left in Cold on Benefits (Melissa Harris-Perry)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren discusses whether emergency unemployment benefits will be addressed even though they're not on House Republicans' agenda. He thinks that the GOP will be forced to deal with this issue whether it wants to or not.

The Gap in Medical Education (LA Times)

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network alum Rahul Rekhi argues that medical school curricula should be changed to include health policy. Doctors who are better informed about the basics of policy, he argues, are more able to serve as advisors to patients and lawmakers.

The Group That Got Health Reform Passed is Declaring Victory and Going Home (WaPo)

Harold Pollack interviews Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch on the work of Health Care for America Now, which closed shop at the end of 2013. Richard discusses how this model of health reform came to prominence, and the political missteps that happened along the way.

US Economy Losing 'up to a $1bn a week' After Jobless Benefits Cut (The Guardian)

Paul Lewis reports on the assessment of Harvard economist Lawrence Katz, who based his calculation on the "multiplier effect" caused when people on unemployment insurance spend that money. Katz calls the cut "irresponsible" in the still-recovering economy.

H&M Plans to Pay Garment Workers Fair Wages. Here's Why That's Probably BS. (MoJo)

Dana Liebelson critiques the low-priced retailer's announcement, pointing out some flaws in its plan for fair wages. H&M isn't releasing any real wage numbers, and the fair-wage promise isn't extended to subcontractors along the supply chain.

Local Labor Influence Takes Hit in Boeing Contract (ABC News)

Phuong Le reports on a union vote by the Machinists Local 751 in Seattle, which narrowly accepted a new contract with Boeing. The contract had previously been rejected for cuts to pensions, but national leadership urged a second vote when it looked like Boeing would move jobs out of Seattle.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch praised the union for its initial pushback against the Boeing contract.

The Year of the Great Redistribution (Robert Reich)

Robert Reich argues that the stock market's all-time high at the end of 2013 represents a massive redistribution of wealth from workers to the wealthiest Americans. Those profits have come, in large part, by pushing down wages, and government has permitted this instead of fighting back for labor.

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