Union density: yet another low

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/01/2020 - 9:25am in


statistics, unions

Preparing to write up the 2019 union density statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, I looked at last year’s and was tempted just to copy–paste. Here’s the lede, as we say in journalism:

Union density—the share of employed workers belonging to unions—fell to 10.5% in 2018, the lowest since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting the data in its modern form in 1964, down from 2017’s 10.7%.

The only edit I’d have to make in this bit is to change “10.5% in 2018” to “10.3% in 2019.” Similar things could be said for subsequent sentences. Union membership for private sector workers fell 0.2 point to 6.2% and 0.3 for the public sector, to 33.6%. (See graph below.) The private-sector number is an all-time low, and down almost 30 points from its 1953 peak, and below the level in 1900 (though that number must be taken with several grains of salt). The public figure is the lowest since 1978, which was at the tail end of a five-year surge in membership; it’s down over 5 points from its 1994 peak.

Union density long

Though public sector density drifted lower for years after that peak, the slide accelerated after 2011, the year Wisconsin governor Scott Walker launched his war on the state’s public sector unions by allowing members to opt out of membership. Other states followed suit, like Michigan in 2013 and Ohio in 2016. Then, in 2018, in the Janus case, the Supreme Court declared that public sector workers nationwide could not be required to pay union dues. These moves have achieved the desired results, and probably have a lot more to run.

Another bit I’m going to copy–paste from last year (click here and scroll down a screen or two to see the graph):

There’s an old lie that unions are good for white men and no one else. That’s the opposite of the case. As the graph below shows, black women, for example, earn 63% as much per week as white men overall; belonging to a union brings that up to 78%—still a large gap, but a much smaller one. Nonunion Latinas earn 60% as much as white men; a union brings that up to 83%. And, as a team of researchers from the Economic Policy Institute argues, unions can raise the level of nonunion workers if they’re prevalent enough in a geographical area or industrial sector. No wonder employers hate them.

As the map below shows, there are strong geographical patterns to union membership, with organized labor strongest in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and Pacific Coast, and weakest in the South and Mountain West. At the bottom are the Carolinas, where just over 2% of workers are unionized, a tenth the share of Hawaii and New York, the top states.

Union density by state 2019

Yearly changes in membership at the state level are pretty noisy, but a longer-term look is revealing (graph below). Only four states saw gains between 2000 and 2019, and those were tiny. Vermont, the champ, was up all of 0.9 percentage point (though that still didn’t reverse the decline between 2015 and 2018). By the time you get to number seven, you’re talking small declines. At the bottom of the ranking, losses were many times larger, with Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio among the biggest losers.

Union density by state 2000-19

And this is more than ten years into an economic expansion, during which the unemployment rate has been under 4% for 18 of the last 20 months. Yes, I know there’s a lot wrong with the job market, but this is about as good as it’s going to get. Come the next recession and the decline is likely to be worse as corporations and governments look to cut costs.

There are a lot of things wrong with American unions. Most organize poorly, if at all. Politically they function mainly as ATMs and free labor pools for the Democratic party without getting much in return. But there’s no way to end the 40-year war on the US working class without getting union membership up, so these density stats are nothing but bad news.

Outrage as Iain Duncan Smith Given Knighthood

This is a really sick joke, and shows the absolute contempt the Tories have for the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of the Tories welfare reforms, has been given a knighthood in the New Year’s honours. Smith is the pompous nonentity who was briefly the leader of the Tory party at the beginning of this century before David Cameron took over. It was a period of failure, in which the party utterly failed to challenge Blair’s Labour Party. He was, however, a close ally of his successor, and has also served Boris. He tried to stand up for Johnson when our farcical Prime Minister was denied the lectern in Luxembourg, claiming that the Luxembourgers should be grateful to us because we’d liberated them during the War. But we hadn’t. The Americans had. And under Tweezer he’d also peddled the line that there would be no legal divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

But what Smith is most notorious for is mass murder. As head of the Department of Work and Pensions, he was responsible for the welfare reforms, including the Work Capability Assessments and the system of benefit sanctions, that have seen hundreds of thousands denied the welfare payments they need and deserve. He is also responsible for Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments. UC is supposed to combine all the welfare payment into a single system. It has proven catastrophically flawed, with people waiting weeks or months for their payments, which have been significantly lower than the previous system. Mike in his article about it quotes statistics that some of those on UC are £1,000 a year worse off. But this jumped-up, odious little man boasted that Universal Credit would be as significant in lifting people out of poverty as the ending of slavery in the British Empire in 1837.

The result of IDS’ reforms is that at least 130,000 people have died. The true figures may well be higher, as the DWP has been extremely reluctant to release the true figures, as Mike and other disability campaigners have found. His attempts to get the Department to release them under the Freedom of Information Act were refused, then stonewalled. Finally Smith’s Department released some figures, but interpreted his requested so that they weren’t quite the figures Mike had requested.

As well as the financial hardship there is the feelings of despair and humiliation that his reforms have also inflicted on the poor. Doctors and mental health professionals have reported a rise in depression and suicide. The Tories, naturally, have repeatedly denied that their policies have any connection to people taking their own lives, even when the person left a note explicitly stating that this was why they were.

Some sense of the despair IDS’ wretched reforms has produced in young people is given by the quotes from them in Emma Bond and Simon Hallworth’s chapter, ‘The Degradation and Humiliation of Young People’ in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity. ‘Julie’ said

The way that it feels walking into the JobCentre is that you are there to do what you are told to do and that’s it and then you leave. They are not there to actually help you it is just like, you have to do this and if you don’t do this or you won’t get no money. (p. 79).

And ‘Bridget’ described how she felt so low at one point she contemplated suicide.

I am ashamed to admit it but I did feel suicidal at one point. I felt so down after I was made redundant that I felt that there was no point. I had worked really hard at school and I got good grades but for what? I was happy when I got my job, it wasn’t that well paid but it had prospects and a career path – or so the recruitment agency told me – I had my flat and that and I thought I was OK. But when it [the redundancy] happened I felt like I had been hit by a brick wall. I got really down especially when I went to the JobCentre and they would not help me. I felt so depressed. I could not afford my rent. I lost my flat and the few things I had saved up for. I did not know where to turn. I took drugs for the first time in my life – I felt so wretched. I wanted to die. I was too ashamed to tell my parents that I had lost my job. (p. 80).

But IDS, as Zelo Street reminds us, is the man who laughed at a woman talking about her poverty in parliament. He’s also blubbed on television, describing how he met a young woman, who didn’t believe she’d ever have a job. ‘She could have been my daughter!’ he wailed. But this is just crocodile tears. He, like the rest of the Tory party, have no love whatsoever for their victims as the guffaws with Dodgy Dave Cameron in Parliament showed.

Mike in his piece about the wretched man’s ennoblement has put up a large number of Tweets by ordinary people expressing their outrage. One woman, Samanthab, states how rotten the honours system is when it rewards not just IDS, but other creeps and lowlifes, like the sex abusers Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris.

The outrage is so great that one NHS psychiatrist, Dr Mona Kamal Ahmad, has launched an online petition at Change.Org calling for the scumbag’s knighthood to be withdrawn. She describes him as responsible for some of the cruellest welfare reforms this country has ever seen and notes that Britain is the first country the United Nations has investigated for human rights abuses against the disabled. She states clearly that the suffering and impoverishment in Britain today is a direct result of Smith’s welfare reforms.

30,000 people, including myself, have already signed it. If you want to too, go to Mike’s article at: and follow the links.

See also:

Medical Stunt Tells BoJob his Hospital Visit is a Publicity Stunt

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/11/2019 - 7:06am in

As Mike posted a few days ago, BoJob was booed out of Addenbrook’s hospital in Cambridge, when he turned up for a visit. And one medical student, Julia Simons, was so disgusted by this blatant piece of electioneering that she confronted him with it. This video from the Groaniad shows her trying to question our disaster of a PM as he walks out of the hospital to his limo surrounded by his bodyguards and minders, pointedly refusing to answer her questions. She also gives a brief interview explaining her attempt to confront him to the Groan’s reporter afterward.

She asks him, ‘I’d also like to ask you about your awareness of the health crisis and the climate crisis? I won’t be working in a system like the one today … Have you read the IPCC report? Do you understand that? Have you read it? Do you understand the IPCC report?’

She gets no answer, and slams the car door shut.

She says to the reporter afterward:

Basically, I just came out of clinic and I was told that Boris Johnson was coming, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness’, like as a normal person you never get that opportunity to say something to someone like that. I really want to ask him, ‘What’s next?’ And I was told I wasn’t allowed to ask him any questions. Which is a really good sign, I think, that this is a PR stunt. People who work in this hospital know the reality of cuts, like I’m a medical student, I don’t know the cuts in the way these people do. They were all really angry to hear he’s coming here for a PR stunt, ’cause we know what cuts have done to our NHS. We know the NHS is being privatised even if it’s not explained in explicit terms.   

The reporter asks ‘What’s the mood among the staff at the hospital having had Boris Johnson come in?’

She replies

Oooh, we weren’t told he was coming, which is a really big sign. As a Prime Minister you should be proud of how you’re leading your country. We were told that we weren’t allowed to know he was here. But I think it’s one of frustration because, as doctors we practice evidence-based medicine and politics should be evidence-based too. And yet the health outcomes from his policy changes evidence-wise, that doesn’t work and we shouldn’t keep doing that. And he’s too much of a coward to talk to any real members of staff rather than some random medical student, who happened to get in front of some cameras about the reality of those cuts.

Very well said!

Of course it was a publicity stunt, just as all the Tories’ visits to hospitals and doctors’ surgeries have been. And I’m not surprised that the staff were told to keep schtumm. They know perfectly well that the Health Service is being privatised, and that it is all driven by ideology. The neurosurgeon, Humanist and philosopher Ray Tallis and Jackie Davis make this absolutely clear in their book, NHS-SOS. Despite all the verbiage about introducing private sector discipline and skills into the NHS, the reality is that private medicine and hospitals actually provide a poorer service than state medicine. But Tory ideology, plus their class interest as people with private business interests themselves mean that they are promoting the privatisation of the NHS for all they and their backers in private healthcare companies can get.

When Simons talks about evidence-based medicine, she means, of course, treatment that has been subject to thorough scientific testing and proper statistical analysis. But these are alien to the Tories, who lie through their teeth and won’t release proper statistics on anything whatsoever, because in healthcare, and so often generally, the proper stats flatly contradict their lies. See Mike’s experience of how Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP tried everything they could to refuse him the stats for the number of people, who had died after being declared fit for work by Atos, then handling the fitness to work tests.

Julie Simons is obviously an extremely conscientious student, who cares deeply for the NHS and the care it provides. She should make an extremely good doctor. She also joins a long line of other doctors, surgeons and medical professionals, who’ve also tried to confront the Tories about the catastrophic effect their vile policies are having.

But I am also afraid that, by daring to confront BoJob, she will also have her card marked as a troublemaker and will be subject to some of the appalling harassment and abuse that the Tories and their troll army have inflicted on others, who have confronted them like this.

The only politician and party that will keep the NHS publicly owned, providing free medicine at the point of use, is Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. Vote for them, and get the Tories and Lib Dems out.

Formal Methods in Philosophy: Initial Thoughts and an Interactive Event (guest post by Liam Kofi Bright)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/09/2019 - 9:21pm in

Plausible answers as to the nature of our mission as philosophy educators gives us no unique reason to focus on logic as the mathematical tool of interest to philosophers.

The following is a guest post* by Liam Kofi Bright (London School of Economics) about the justifications philosophers offer for requiring their students to have instruction in logic, over other formal methods, and about his role facilitating worldwide participation in an upcoming event on this topic.

Mario Merz, Untitled (A Real Sum is a Sum of People)

Formal Methods in Philosophy
by Liam Kofi Bright

Every year a great many philosophy departments force both graduate and undergraduate students to learn at least some mathematical logic. For these departments, some basic ability to deploy mathematical reasoning is part of the normatively expected skill set of the philosopher. What is more, we do not tend to insist on knowledge of other formal theories in the same way—logic is picked out as an especially relevant branch of mathematics. Why is that? There are two things I want to suggest about this. First, the justifications I have heard of for this would mandate making instruction in other formal tools or theories besides just logic obligatory. Second, the available justifications for this reflect deep and abiding disagreements concerning what constitutes good philosophy.

The first and most frequent justification one hears for our logic teaching is that we are bound to carry on the philosophical tradition wherein logic has played a big role. What’s more, given the realities of bureaucratic institutional inertia, probably this tradition does indeed have an outsized causal role in ensuring logic still gets taught. It is certainly true that logic has a long and storied history in philosophy, with logical traditions found not just among the Aristotelians and the Stoics but also sophisticated theories of argumentation developed in classical Indian and ancient Mohist philosophy.

However, the philosophical tradition also contains much reasoning in and about geometry (at least since the Meno!) and—since developments in early modern European philosophy—has contained plenty of probabilistic theorizing, too. If we are willing to bring the boundaries of the tradition closer to the present, then at least in the analytic tradition one may say that decision theory can fairly be traced back to pioneers of that tradition. Even setting that aside, if we assume that Plato and Pascal are firmly established in the philosophical tradition, it is not obvious that logic should get pride of place above these other mathematical fields. At the least, our focus on teaching logic as the one expected formal field of training in philosophy represents an elevation of some aspects of our tradition over others, and we might reasonably wonder why this is.

Another argument one often hears is that logic is an unusually useful field. Sometimes the claim is that logic is marketable in some broad sense: it looks good to employers, or draws in students from other departments, or trains people to recognize fallacies and so makes them better citizens. But sometimes the claim is that it is useful to philosophy more particularly: in philosophy we must offer arguments, and logic trains the mind to do this well.

With all such purported pragmatic benefits of logic, I see them more often asserted than proven; but even setting that aside, it is not clear why an emphasis on usefulness picks out logic in particular, for either philosophical specifically or broader marketability. Actual arguments one encounters in both philosophy and broader life, and the sort of mathematical skills which it is useful to have both as citizen and employee, are frequently probabilistic or inductive rather than strictly deductive. It is very rare thing indeed that philosophers establish arguments which are sufficiently complex that formal logical training might be useful for understanding them, yet which at the same time even purport to be deductively valid arguments. Much more often we are in the business of offering suggestive considerations, or amalgamating assorted facts which together render plausible one’s conclusion. These are more naturally read as probabilistic or inductive arguments than deductive ones, and where they suggest some practical course of action they are perhaps most naturally analyzed with the tools of decision theory. In life beyond academic philosophy, it will frequently be claims couched in statistical garb that one will encounter in the newspapers and the workplace. If we want to help students understand and construct the sort of arguments we actually make and encounter, they need to know more than just deductive logic.

Finally, people sometimes pick out logic as being especially generative of deep philosophical issues. It connects up naturally to questions about the nature of truth and rationality, for instance, as well as coming with a host of paradoxes to sink one’s teeth into. While there might inevitably be a subjective element to such judgments of interestingness, it is once again not clear that logic is alone in this. Probability theory may claim a similar intellectual worthiness, given the connection to deep philosophical questions mentioned above, and has its own paradoxes (e.g.) to play around with.

What is more, on reflection each of these answers hooks up rather naturally to a theory of what it is we are trying to do as philosophy educators. Maybe you think we are custodians of a tradition seeking to pass on knowledge of a canon; in that case, logic’s place in the tradition will seem salient to you. Or if what you instead think we do is provide people with intellectual tools, the utility of logic will seem the more natural thing to emphasize. Or finally maybe you think we are just folk with some interesting or deep issues that we can encourage students to think through and maybe even point towards good answers thereto. Then logic being a source of such questions will be what one wishes to highlight. Of course there is no suggestion that these are exhaustive options; I only wish to point out that these are not merely ad hoc claims about what we might do with logic. They tie in to deep theories about what it is we are doing in philosophy. Hence it seems that some plausible answers as to the nature of our mission as philosophy educators gives us no unique reason to focus on logic as the mathematical tool of interest to philosophers.

These are only hastily sketched answers to some difficult questions about the place and role of formal methods in philosophy. What raised them to salience for me is an upcoming event. Samuel C. Fletcher (University of Minnesota) has organized a two-day workshop that will “bring together diverse philosophers into conversation about the present and future status of formal and mathematical methods in philosophy, their institutionalization in graduate (and undergraduate) pedagogy, and how these changes now reflect and will engender evolving relationships between philosophy and other disciplines”.  You can check out the details here.

At this workshop, which begins tomorrow, September 20th, participants will be going into far greater depth about what it is we hope to achieve with formal methods and what their role is or should be in philosophy. My part in all this will be to play the hype man, with live tweets on my feed and retrospective blog posts to continue the discussion. In fact, my hope is that if anybody finds the topics interesting as I live tweet them, they can suggest questions to me on Twitter that I will ask the speaker and on which they can give real-time feedback! So if you would like to know just why it is we teach logic, and whether we ought perhaps to update or augment this focus with other formal tools, then I hope you will join in the conversation over the next few days, and check out the forthcoming blog posts.

Related: “Formal Methods Training for Philosophy Graduate Students“, “Stats Courses For Philosophers“, “What Should Philosophers Teach in Quantitative Reasoning Courses?“, “New Open Access Text On Probability & Decision

The post Formal Methods in Philosophy: Initial Thoughts and an Interactive Event (guest post by Liam Kofi Bright) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Cultural Donations on the Rise

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/02/2015 - 10:17am in