Archives for March 2014
This Sunday’s New York times had a story about worker owned cooperatives. The main example that they use is in San Francisco, but
If you happen to be looking for your morning coffee near Golden Gate Park and the bright red storefront of the Arizmendi Bakery attracts your attention, congratulations. You have found what the readers of The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a local alt-weekly, deem the city’s best bakery. But it has another, less obvious, distinction. Of the $3.50 you hand over for a latte (plus $2.75 for the signature sourdough croissant), not one penny ends up in the hands of a faraway investor. Nothing goes to anyone who might be tempted to sell out to a larger bakery chain or shutter the business if its quarterly sales lag.
Instead, your money will go more or less directly to its 20-odd bakers, who each make $24 an hour — more than double the national median wage for bakers. On top of that, they get health insurance, paid vacation and a share of the profits. “It’s not luxury, but I can sort of afford living in San Francisco,” says Edhi Rotandi, a baker at Arizmendi. He works four days a week and spends the other days with his 2-year-old son.
Arizmendi and its five sister bakeries in the Bay Area are worker-owned cooperatives, an age-old business model that has lately attracted renewed interest as a possible antidote to some of our most persistent economic ills. Most co-ops in the U.S. are smaller than Arizmendi, with around a dozen employees, but the largest, Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, has about 2,000. That’s hardly the organizational structure’s upper limit. In fact, Arizmendi was named for a Spanish priest and labor organizer in Basque country, José María Arizmendiarrieta. He founded what eventually became the Mondragon Corporation, now one of the region’s biggest employers, with more than 60,000 members and 14 billion euro in revenue. And it’s still a co-op.
Does anyone know about cooperatives in the Seattle area if people want to support them with their dollars? I was trying to think of any, and I couldn’t. I mean the advantages of capitalism without, you know, creating more capitalists (except their financiers, and I guess customers). If they make a decent coffee with good enough pastries, that’s really all I want out of a coffee shop.
If people know of local worker cooperatives, especially ones that provide good goods and services, please leave a comment.
It’s as if the editors at the Seattle Times live in a world entirely free of context:
The proposal now before the Seattle City Council is to double the existing property-tax levy devoted to parks, to $54 million a year, raising the annual cost for the owner of a $400,000 home from $76 to $168. It is not a backbreaking addition, but it would tighten the squeeze on middle-class families already struggling with Seattle’s cost of living.
And it furthers a trend of jumbo specialty property levies. The annual amount of dedicated “lid-lift levies” jumped over the past decade from $65 million to $146 million. The Families and Education Levy doubled in 2011 and the low-income housing levy jumped 50 percent in 2009.
Yeah, true. But you know what else has jumped over the past decade? The hundreds of millions of regular property tax levy dollars (those that don’t require a public vote) lost to Tim Eyman’s I-747, an initiative soundly defeated within Seattle. I-747 limits regular levy growth to an absurd 1 percent a year. So while voter-approved dedicated lid-lift levies may indeed be $81 million higher than they were a decade ago (if you can trust the Seattle Times editorial board’s numbers), I-747 will cost city coffers as much as $186 million in 2015 alone, the first year the proposed parks levy would take effect!
Is it great policy to move all this funding out of the general fund and into dedicated levies? No. It’s stupid. But thanks to I-747, the only other alternative would be to grow the $267 million parks maintenance backlog the editors already lament.
That is the context in which all these lid-lift levies have gone to the ballot. And unless we debate the parks district proposal within that context, it’s not really an honest debate at all.
– It’s the last day to get signed up for health care for the year, so if you haven’t yet, here’s the website for Washington.
– Not even really sure what a Chinese backed company would mean in that case.
– Congrats to Robert Cruickshank for being the new President of NPI.
– The only one of these proposed Constitutional amendments I’d support is number 5.
– If fantasy baseball was more like this, I could probably get more into it.
Just two Sunday’s ago I sowed my first planting of radishes. Today they’re ready to be thinned, the spicy seedlings making a delicious addition to tonight’s salad. Fourteen days from planting to harvest; can’t ask for a faster growing season than that.
It’s one of the reasons I love growing radishes and arugula, both of which are fast, vigorous and reliable. Arugula especially is a crazy thing to buy in the store, where supermarkets charge yuppy prices for a plant that is essentially a weed. The row of arugula in the foreground of the photo above was planted only last week. Next week I’ll enjoy my first thinning, and as long as I keep planting fresh sowings every couple weeks, I’ll be flush with arugula until the summer heat gets too intense. Then I’ll start sowing again in September, and enjoy frequent harvests until the first hard freeze.
Tomatoes take commitment, and they are of course the pride of my backyard garden. But radishes and arugula provide a sense of immediate gratification that makes the wait for the summer bounty more bearable.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Yet another reminder that that the powers that be will do anything to avoid raising taxes on the wealthy, even if it means (gasp) spending money on educating preschoolers:
ALBANY — After weeks of closed-door negotiations, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders reached a deal on the next state budget that provides $300 million for prekindergarten in New York City and grants new protections for charter schools, officials said on Saturday.
The agreement, which followed exhausting but relatively peaceful negotiations, does not include a tax increase on high-earning city residents that Mayor Bill de Blasio had sought to pay for preschool classes and after-school programs.
Arguably, it was Mayor de Blasio’s threat to tax the super-wealthy that forced this money out of state coffers. Perhaps that’s a lesson Seattle politicians should take to heart in putting together the funding package for our universal preschool program?
WaPo: Who is Obamacare targeting?
ONN: The Onion Week in Review.
Sharpton: The GOP health care freakout.
Daily Show: Dating young.
More Proof Right Wingers Have Satire Deficit Disorder:
- Sam Seder with Film Guy Matthew Weiss: #CancelColbert and satire dies.
- Young Turks: Conservative idiots completely miss the point of satire.
David Pakman: Republican states take the most government handouts.
Chris Hayes: What ‘Redskin’ means to an American Indian.
Ann Telnaes: Secret Service needs to go on the wagon.
Most Incompetent Defense Secretary
of State Ever Babbles About Stuff:
- Sam Seder: Crazy old guy speaks about Afghanistan.
- Young Turks: Looser Donald Rumsfeld criticizes Obama over Afghanistan:
Robert Reich: WhatsApp with stagnant job growth?.
Mental Floss: 44 facts about the U.S. Presidents.
Just days left: Get covered!
Sam Seder: A ballsy political ad.
Daily Show: The Morning Joe Dysfunctional Family.
- Ed and Pap: The Hobby Lobby fraud.
- Mark Fiore: Religious liberty for corporations
- Abby Martin: How “corporate personhood” is restricting birth control.
- Factivists: Hobby Lobby
- Lawrence O’Donnell: Religious freedom and corporations.
- Pap and Thom: Hobby Lobby’s Anti Obamacare holy war
- Hobby Lobby Responds.
- Sam Seder and Dahlia Lithwick: Hobby Lobby at SCOTUS
- Thom: What god does Hobby Lobby pray to?
Liberal Viewer: Claim Edward Snowden is a Russian spy is entirely evidence-free.
Ari Melber: Fact-checking GOP’s ‘economics guru’ Rep. Paul Ryan.
David Pakman: George Zimmerman wants to be a civil rights attorney.
Stephen celebrates the morning shows.
Young Turks: Should college football players unionize?
Stealing the 2014 vote: Republicans ramping up vote-rigging laws for elections.
More Christie Minstrel Show:
- Pap and Thom: Christie clears self.
- Sam Seder: Chris Christie’s lawyer clears Chris Christie…blames women for bridge.
- Ed: Chris Christie is back to bullying tactics on health care
- Bridgegate: Why Gov. Christie really fired Bridget Kelly.
- Lawrence O’Donnell: Christie exonerates Christie!
White House: West Wing Week.
Richard Fowler: Obama to call for ending NSA phone data collection.
WaPo: Kochs’ latest misleading ad.
David Pakman: Georgia house passes “guns everywhere” bill.
Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.
So, my friend is holding a fundraiser for the American Red Cross for the Oso victims. If y’all are in Seattle on the 9th, you should probably go. And if you’re not able to go or don’t want to wait until the 9th, you should probably consider donating at the link.
When I was discussing the mayor’s race last year, I said that the thing that most worried me about a second McGinn term was his foot dragging on police reform in his first term. Since Ed Murray has come to office, he has been worse than foot dragging.
Nobody knows, of course, if this is a direct payback for the union endorsing Murray or if the Mayor’s Office actually believes this is the best way to police the city. Either way, it doesn’t bode well for people having interactions with the police.
Sometimes a question can be as revealing as the answer.
In between sessions at yesterday’s Income Inequality Symposium, I was drawn into a discussion with fellow attendees about the “total compensation” minimum wage that some in the business community are still pushing. Under total compensation, an employer’s obligation to pay a minimum of $15 an hour could be met by a combination of cash wages, tips, and the cost of providing certain benefits. For example, I explained, $10.50 an hour in cash wages, plus $2.50 an hour in tips, plus $2 an hour in benefits would amount to a legal $15 an hour wage.
So if an employer were to offer a matching 401K contribution up to a maximum of one percent of an employee’s salary, I was asked, what would be the maximum benefit a minimum wage worker could receive? Would it be $0.15 an hour—one percent of the putative $15 an hour minimum wage? Would it be, using the example above, $0.105 an hour—one percent of the employee’s cash wages? Or would it be some more difficult to calculate number?
It took me a moment to wrap my mind around the question, but the answer I arrived at surprised even me. It doesn’t matter on which figure the employer chooses to calculate the maximum 401K match: under total compensation a matching 401K contribution is worth absolutely nothing to a minimum wage employee. Zero. Bupkes. Zilch.
And the same is true of the value of every other benefit.
Think about it. If you are earning a $15 total compensation minimum wage, and your employer generously matches your 401K contribution up to one percent of that higher number, you would receive $0.15 an hour in additional benefits. But that higher benefit could then be used to reduce the wage portion of your compensation by an equal amount. The benefit ends up costing the employer nothing, and the net result is that the “matching” contribution comes directly out of the employee’s paycheck. The employer gives with one hand and takes away with the other.
Likewise for other benefits like health insurance premiums and “paid” vacation days, the cost of which may also be used to decrease the wage component of your total compensation by an equal and offsetting amount. It’s as if minimum wage employees were purchasing these benefits through paycheck deductions; the employer bears none of the costs.
Some business owners argue that without total compensation they will be forced to eliminate benefits in order to shave costs. That may or may not be true. But from the minimum wage employee’s perspective, total compensation virtually guarantees the equivalent outcome. For when a benefit is transformed into a line item to be deducted from your take-home pay, it becomes nothing more than just another monthly expense. “Benefits” are no longer additive to one’s total compensation—eliminate them and your cash wages go up by a corresponding amount.
Of course, the caveat holds that all this analysis is only true of full-time employees. Lacking the cost of benefits to subtract from total compensation, low-wage part-timers and temporary workers could see their effective wage floor rise substantially.
But as a policy for raising the incomes of all low-wage workers, total compensation fails to deliver on its promise, while (for reasons I’ve explained previously) eroding the effective wage floor over time. A $15 total compensation minimum wage simply does not guarantee a $15 minimum wage. And to insist otherwise would be a lie.
I know, I was late to the party with my original post. And then only an update of that post and a link in an open thread when they reversed their policy. Still, I was glad that this former World Vision employee [h/t] was so blunt about what’s wrong with the reversal.
“The effect is going to be the children and those that we serve,” former World Vision financial analyst David Tobias said.
Tobias is disappointed in his former employer, which he says is as financially complex as any major corporation.
On Monday, the Christian nonprofit announced it would open employment to people in same-sex marriages. After an uproar from conservative donors, it reversed the decision just two days later.
“It was challenging for me to accept that my gay friends at work couldn’t be who they were,” Tobias said. “Really breaking their back and putting their heart and soul into World Vision, then being told publicly they weren’t good enough to do it.”
Unfortunately, King 5 felt the need to balance it with people who think World Vision should actively discriminate against gay people, and double unfortunately the person willing to criticize them is a former employee. I suspect that there are a lot of people inside the organization, probably people who were pushing for the policy change in the first place, who agree.
Because I’m too stupid to get it through my thick skull that nobody cares what I have to say about the minimum wage anymore, now that I don’t have a media outlet to say it through, I’m spending my day at Seattle’s Income Inequality Symposium listening to people discuss a lot of things I already know. I’m nothing if not stubborn.
“The most pro-business thing you can do in a capitalist economy is invest in the middle class,” billionaire(ish) keynote speaker Nick Hanauer stressed to the crowed. Can’t get much more unequal income-wise at the moment than me and Hanauer, but it sounds like we’re mostly on the same side of this issue.
Balky web site and balky Internet connection permitting, I’ll post some updates throughout the day. Or, follow me on Twitter for more frequent and reliable updates.
UPDATE: Lot’s of informative Tweets from me today, but also this:
— David Goldstein (@GoldyHA) March 27, 2014
– So, yeah. More on World Vision.
– Glad to see that Oregonians care about climate change. Hopefully that will lead to real action.
– Olympia has ducks
– If you’re interested in the memorial service for Jim Compton, it’s Saturday at Town Hall 10:00 to Noon.