Libraries Under Capitalism: The Enclosure of the Literary Commons

Source: Gus Bagakis, Truthout, January 3, 2018

….Increased budget cuts are leading to the end of our literary commons. How can advocates help public libraries survive and promote real democratic values and critical thinking? First, by understanding the fate of public libraries in the context of the history of capitalism. Second, by organizing and acting to protect public libraries as locations of community connection and potential action, the bane of the disempowering, oligopolistic capitalist system……

How to Jump-Start a Weak Union to Fight Open-Shop Attacks

Source: Ellen David Friedman, Labor Notes, January 2, 2018

Hostile forces are poised to encourage public sector workers to ditch their unions as soon as the Supreme Court rules on the Janus v. AFSCME case in 2018. To stave off a big exodus, many unions are asking workers to commit to keep paying dues. If you’re active in your union, leaders may even be asking you to “sell” membership to your co-workers.

But what if you’re caught in a union that hasn’t been doing a good enough job? What if your union doesn’t communicate much with members, or is mostly invisible, or only reaches out to you when there’s a crisis, or doesn’t fight hard for good contracts, or is too cozy with the boss?

Tragically, there are many union locals like this. If the leadership of your union isn’t open, inclusive, and fighting on behalf of your co-workers, this could present a kind of crisis for you. Perhaps when some representative comes around asking you to recommit to the union, you and your co-workers are saying, “Really? Why should we?” You might even be tempted to stop paying dues yourself, as a form of protest.

This is a tough moment, but one also filled with great possibility. If you know that workers are better off with a union, then of course you have to fight to keep the union no matter what. If you’re asked to sign a “Recommitment Card” it makes sense to do that; your frustrations are with the way the union is run, not with being a member, and the only way to change things is to keep organizing.

So let’s consider what you can do to improve the union you’re in, while helping to keep it alive during the “post-Janus” era. …..

The Effectiveness of Guided Imagery in Treating Compassion Fatigue and Anxiety of Mental Health Workers

Source: Kimberly A Kiley, Ashwini R Sehgal, Susan Neth, Jacqueline Dolata, Earl Pike, James C Spilsbury, Jeffrey M Albert, Social Work Research, Advance Articles, Published: January 4, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Mental health professionals’ exposure to clients’ traumatic experiences can result in elevated stress, including compassion fatigue and burnout. Experiencing symptoms of these types of stress can hinder workers’ ability to provide effective services. If a tool can reduce these symptoms, there is potential benefit for workers as well as those receiving their services. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of prerecorded guided imagery (GI) on compassion fatigue and state anxiety. A total of 69 employees of a mental health nonprofit organization participated in this two-arm randomized controlled trial. Participants completed the Professional Quality of Life Scale, the Perceived Stress Scale, and question 6 from the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index at baseline and follow-up, and completed State Trait Anxiety Inventory short form before and after each activity (GI or taking a break). Results revealed statistically significant differences in change scores between the control and experimental groups for state anxiety and sleep quality. The results suggest that GI may be useful for reducing stress for mental health professionals, which could have positive implications for quality of service delivery.

Order in the Court: How Firm Status and Reputation Shape the Outcomes of Employment Discrimination Suits

Source: Mary-Hunter McDonnell, Brayden G King, American Sociological Review, First Published December 21, 2017

From the abstract:
This article explores the mechanisms by which corporate prestige produces distorted legal outcomes. Drawing on social psychological theories of status, we suggest that prestige influences audience evaluations by shaping expectations, and that its effect will differ depending on whether a firm’s blameworthiness has been firmly established. We empirically analyze a unique database of more than 500 employment discrimination suits brought between 1998 and 2008. We find that prestige is associated with a decreased likelihood of being found liable (suggesting a halo effect in assessments of blameworthiness), but with more severe punishments among organizations that are found liable (suggesting a halo tax in administrations of punishment). Our analysis allows us to reconcile two ostensibly contradictory bodies of work on how organizational prestige affects audience evaluations by showing that prestige can be both a benefit and a liability, depending on whether an organization’s blameworthiness has been firmly established.

Escalating Moral Obligation in the Wisconsin Uprising of 2011

Source: Matthew Kearney, Social Forces, Advance Access, December 28, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study uses insider ethnographic and interview data to examine one of the largest sustained collective actions in the history of the United States—the Wisconsin Uprising of 2011. It finds that this event took a highly unusual form due to a social relation that I term escalating moral obligation, a sense of solidaristic duty that grows increasingly fervent as others struggle on behalf of a shared cause. Each of three active groups within the movement engaged in arduous and unconventional resistance to controversial legislation, and did so in a manner that induced moral debt among the other groups. Fervency of commitment to the cause increased as a result of allies taking risky or self-sacrificial actions. Each group felt obligated to continue difficult mobilization as long as others continued theirs. Escalating moral obligation develops a simultaneously emergent, endogenous, and cognitive dimension of social movements. It is a relational mechanism linking political opportunity with actual mobilization. The political opportunity in this case was a combination of several conditions: an elite cleavage over the desirability of public unions, a more local balance of power allowing dissident legislators to obstruct but not defeat legislation, and an immediate severe popular reaction. This mechanism is potentially generalizable to other risky or arduous protests. When activists are motivated by the sacrifice or risk-taking of allied activists, escalating moral obligation is present. The concept links group-level imperatives with individual-level motivations. Escalating moral obligation shows one way that individual subjectivities can change through group interrelations and emotionally intense interactions.

Can Unions Stop the Far Right?

Source: Vauhini Vara, The Atlantic, December 2017

If it weren’t for working-class voters, Germany’s recent election could have had a different outcome. …. Can the United States learn from Germany’s example? The German system is a product of the country’s culture and history as well as its economic structure, and it may not be possible to replicate in the United States. In fact, some evidence suggests that Germany is moving in America’s direction, not the other way around. In recent decades, the German government has cut back on social benefits that were seen as hampering growth and keeping able-bodied people from working, and unions agreed to slow down wage increases in order to minimize layoffs. Unemployment fell, but inequality rose—a fact that, in the postelection analysis, was cited as one reason for the AfD’s surprising showing. ….

Who Moves Up the Job Ladder?

Source: John Haltiwanger, Henry Hyatt, Erika McEntarfer, Journal of Labor Economics, Volume 36, Number S1, January 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In this paper, we use linked employer-employee data to study the reallocation of heterogeneous workers between heterogeneous firms. We build on recent evidence of a cyclical job ladder that reallocates workers from low-productivity to high-productivity firms through job-to-job moves. In this paper, we turn to the question of who moves up this job ladder and the implications for worker sorting across firms. Not surprisingly, we find that job-to-job moves reallocate younger workers disproportionately from less productive to more productive firms. More surprisingly, especially in the context of the recent literature on assortative matching with on-the-job search, we find that job-to-job moves disproportionately reallocate less educated workers up the job ladder. This finding holds even though we find that more educated workers are more likely to work with more productive firms. We find that while highly educated workers are less likely to match to low-productivity firms, they are also less likely to separate from them, with less educated workers more likely to separate to a better employer in expansions and to be shaken off the ladder (separate to nonemployment) in contractions. Our findings underscore the cyclical role job-to-job moves play in matching workers to better-paying employers.

Earnings Inequality and Mobility Trends in the United States: Nationally Representative Estimates from Longitudinally Linked Employer-Employee Data

Source: John M. Abowd, Kevin L. McKinney, Nellie L. Zhao, Journal of Labor Economics, Volume 36, Number S1, January 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Decomposing the year-to-year changes in the earnings distribution from 2004 to 2013, we analyze the role of the employer in explaining earnings inequality in the United States. Movements between the bottom, middle, and top involve 20.5 million workers each year. Another 19.9 million move between employment and nonemployment. There are large gains from working at a top-paying firm for all skill types. Working for a high-paying firm produces benefits today, through higher earnings, that persist through an increase in the probability of upward mobility. High-paying firms facilitate moving workers to the top of the distribution and keeping them there.

Who Gets Hired? The Importance of Competition among Applicants

Source: Edward P. Lazear, Kathryn L. Shaw, Christopher T. Stanton, Journal of Labor Economics, Volume 36, Number S1, January 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Being hired into a job depends not only on one’s own skill but also on that of other applicants. When another able applicant applies, a well-suited worker may be forced into unemployment or into accepting an inferior job. A model of this process defines over- and underqualification and provides predictions on its prevalence and on the wages of mismatched workers. It also implies that unemployment is concentrated among the least skilled workers, while vacancies are concentrated among high-skilled jobs. Four data sets are used to confirm the implications and establish that the hiring probability is low when competing applicants are able.