April 2013 Employment Report: “The Economy is Not Working for Most People” Says Chicago Political Economy Group

On April 24 two groups of young people met up on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, and it wasn’t for the shopping. One group was striking retail and fast food workers who had walked off the job to protest low wages and demand a $15 minimum wage for downtown workers. The other group was students protesting Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s school closings. Many of the striking workers were only a few years older than the students.

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Inequitable education policies like those of the Chicago Public Schools fall most heavily on low-income communities. Dictates from above that disrupt neighborhoods — closing schools, firing school staff, reducing education to performance on high stakes testing — with no voice from those affected don’t produce schools or encourage low-income students to assert themselves and demand a better life for themselves and their families. Last Wednesday the youth of Chicago taught us what we should already know: the economy is not working for most people in the U.S.

April’s employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is less exciting than strikes and street action, but we should learn the same lesson. The report beat expectations, but the unemployment rate barely changed at 7.5 percent, labor force participation is actually down slightly, remaining stubbornly low at 63.3 percent, and more workers who need full-time work are employed part time.

The labor force participation rate and high rate of involuntary part-time workers show once again that the economy is not able to create adequate jobs for our growing population, to truly recover from the Lesser Depression, or to provide workers with the income they need to meet their basic needs.  The rise in involuntary part-time employment helped bump the broader measure of unemployment that includes those workers as well as discouraged workers (“U-6”) up to 13.9 percent.

What job growth we did see in April is welcome, but troublingly concentrated in low-wage sectors or unstable temporary work. In April, 19 percent of the new jobs were in temporary help services and 18 percent were in retail, the sector that includes the same employers that workers struck in Chicago because they can’t survive on the low wages. A cruel side of conventional wisdom would say they should be happy just to have a job. Certainly that could be the lesson African-American and Latino workers and students could have learned from the disproportionately high unemployment rates in their communities. The unemployment rate for African Americans is 13.2 percent and a shocking 40.5 percent for teenagers. For Latinos the rate is 9 percent, 28 percent for teenagers .Compare that to unemployment for white workers at 6.7 percent overall and 21.8 percent for teenagers.

But all workers are feeling the squeeze. The April BLS report shows average hourly wages for workers increased by only two cents, which doesn’t even make up for the decline in wages in March. Thankfully, workers and students have learned that jobs, income, and education are all serious problems and are all part of the same struggle for economic justice. We hope policy makers will heed that lesson and act to implement a jobs program with living wages instead of tinkering with the details of sequestration and planning the next round of budget cuts.

The April report may still be greeted with relief because it is not as bad as anticipated, and because February and March employment numbers were revised upwards. This is a privileged view. For the 11.7 million unemployed workers, the 7.9 million workers making ends meet with part-time jobs, and the millions of workers whose low wages show little sign of rising, “beating expectations” still sounds like a bad joke.

The Chicago Political Economy Group continues to support comprehensive job creation proposals, such as Rep. John Conyers' HR 1000, “The 21st Century Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act.”

Sharon Post is Research Director at SEIU Health Care Illinois/Indiana, a union of home care, hospital, nursing home, and child care workers, and a member of the Chicago Political Economy Group.

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 46 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 55 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 52 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 18 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.