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It’s Opening Day! No, Not Baseball

May 18, 2020 Economy, Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on It’s Opening Day! No, Not Baseball
Source: Food & Drug Administration

Every year opening day in the St. Louis region is a big deal, Cardinals baseball fans celebrate every year. But baseball isn’t starting today — some businesses in St. Louis City & County are being permitted to reopen, with restrictions. Not all businesses that can open, will open. Others that want to reopen aren’t yet permitted to do so, such as gyms.

Many will still be celebrating today. In contrast, others think reopening businesses now is a huge mistake. As businesses reopen today it’ll be impossible to enforce new reduced occupancy and other rules.

As someone that hasn’t been able to work for over a decade I understand getting bored at home, money running out, etc. I wanted to get back to normal, but I had to accept that my stroke meant I had to adjust to a new normal. This took me over two years.

The normal that everyone had at the start of 2020 will not be returning. Ever. Anyone who thinks otherwise will struggle to adapt.

This is not a democratic hoax, Coronavirus won’t just “disappear”. In fact, it may “never go away”.  A mass-produced vaccine won’t be ready to distribute this year, that won’t happen until at least the 2nd quarter of 2021. It could well take more than a year from now.  When it does arrive we don’t know if it’ll be free.

In the meantime we’re going to see repeated waves of infections, deaths will continue to escalate. Our economy will be stopped again with each wave. Until at least 70% of the population is vaccinated social  distancing, face masks, etc need to continue — 2021 or after.

Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong, but I don’t think I need to worry about that happening.

— Steve Patterson

 

Labor Unions Needed More Than Ever

September 4, 2019 Economy, Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Labor Unions Needed More Than Ever
One of the many cute dogs in Monday’s Labor Day Parade

The few at the top have been using the masses to pass laws designed to diminish unions — increasing their profits. As income inequality gets worse, labor unions are needed more than ever.

Collective bargaining is an important force in reducing inequality and ensuring that low- and middle-wage workers are given a fair return on their work. As productivity has risen over the last several decades, wages have remained flat for the majority of working people, while skyrocketing for those at the top. Union decline can explain one-third of the rise in wage inequality among men and one-fifth of the rise in wage inequality among women from 1973 to 2007. Among men, the erosion of collective bargaining has been the largest single factor driving a wedge between the middle class and the top 1 percent.

Working people in unions use their power in numbers to secure a fairer share of the income they create. On average, a worker covered by a union contract earns 13.2 percent more in wages than a peer with similar education, occupation, and experience in a nonunionized workplace in the same sector. But importantly, collective bargaining also raise wages for nonunion workers—as an economic sector becomes more unionized, nonunion employers pay more to retain qualified workers, and norms of higher pay and better conditions become standard. If union density had remained at its 1979 level, weekly wages of nonunion men in the private sector would be 5 percent higher today. (Economic Policy Institute)

Given the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll it’s clear a majority of participants agree.with me.

Q: Agree or disagree: Labor unions are no longer necessary because laws protect worker’s health & safety.

  • Strongly agree: 4 [9.09%]
  • Agree: 4 [9.09%]
  • Somewhat agree: 1 [2.27%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [6.82%]
  • Disagree: 3 [6.82%]
  • Strongly disagree: 29 [65.91%]
  • Unsure/No Answer:  0 [0%]

As usual, about 20% take the conservative viewpoint.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Should We Invest In Expansion of Our Convention Center Complex?

October 7, 2018 Downtown, Economy, Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should We Invest In Expansion of Our Convention Center Complex?
Please vote below

Last week a plan to expand our convention center, aka America’s Center, was unveiled by Convention & Visitors Commission President Kitty Ratcliffe, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger:

The expansion comes as some downtown restaurateurs and hoteliers complain that their businesses have taken a hit from fewer conventions. The CVC said last month that hotel room night bookings associated with America’s Center were down 30 percent year-to-date, to 230,554 from 327,578 in 2017.

Several big conventions, such as the O’Reilly Auto Parts and FIRST Robotics, did not return this year because they had outgrown America’s Center’s facilities. Ratcliffe said that some national associations, which book several years in advance, had removed St. Louis from consideration after the unrest that began in Ferguson in 2014, and that those decisions were starting to have an effect this year.

Ratcliffe has long argued that upgraded facilities were needed to compete for conventions in cities such as Nashville, Tenn., and Indianapolis, which have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to revamp their tourism infrastructure. She said getting the two regional leaders on board was key to the project’s success. (Post-Dispatch)

Here’s a 3-minute promotional video:

However, not everyone is on board with the expansion. Are you?

This poll will close at 8pm tonight. On Wednesday I’ll share my thoughts and the non-scientific results.

— Steve Patterson

 

Please Vote Yes on Prop B to Raise Missouri’s Minimum Wage

September 5, 2018 Economy, Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Please Vote Yes on Prop B to Raise Missouri’s Minimum Wage

A lot of people fear increasing minimum wages, but where it has increased the dire predictions have not come true.

As the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found in a 2011 study, every dollar increase in the minimum wage corresponds with an annual increase in consumer spending per minimum wage household by $2,800. It makes sense. Elevating wages strengthens consumers’ buying power. Workers with more money in their pockets are also consumers who support local businesses, creating a virtuous cycle of growth and opportunity for our residents and our local economy.

There will always be Chicken Littles who are sure the sky is falling in the face of progress, but Chicago has proven them wrong. The city that works has clearly shown fair pay and a strong business climate can go hand-in-hand. (Crain’s Chicago Business)

When those at the bottom get a raise the money gets spent immediately. It often gets spent locally. This is true for big cities, and in rural communities. Yes, some businesses will have higher wage costs but they’ll likely see higher revenues as people have more money to spent.

Will raising the minimum wage have an effect on taxes and taxpayers?

Because people who earn minimum wage are those most likely to spend their income and spend it with local small businesses for basic necessities like food and clothing, it is estimated by the state of Missouri that state and local government tax revenue could increase by as much as $214 million dollars.

Additionally, the extra money spent by low-wage workers gets funneled back to businesses large and small that need to hire more workers to keep up with the increased demand, helping to create even more economic growth. That’s great for those small, local businesses and it’s great for Missouri taxpayers. (Raise Up Missouri FAQ)

In November Missouri voters will consider a slow graduated increase of the minimum wage, here’s the ballot language for Proposition B:

Do you want to amend Missouri law to:

  • Increase the state minimum wage to $8.60 per hour with 85 cents per hour increase each year until 2023, when the state minimum wage would be $12.00 per hour;
  • Exempt government employers from the above increase; and
  • Increase the penalty for paying employees less than the minimum wage?

State and local governments estimate no direct costs or savings from the proposal, but operating costs could increase by an unknown annual amount that could be significant. State and local government tax revenue could change by an unknown annual amount ranging from a $2.9 million decrease to a $214 million increase depending on business decisions. (Raise Up Missouri)

The full detailed language can be viewed here.

Missouri’s current minimum wage is $7.85/hour.  Three border states (Oklahoma, Kansas, & Iowa) have a lower minimum wage than Missouri — all are the same, $7.25. The three other border states (Arkansas, Nebraska, & Illinois) have higher minimum wages than Missouri. Of the three that are higher, they range from $8.25 (Illinois) to $9 (Nebraska).

Hourly workers aren’t just teens, they include all sorts — including Yale-educated actors like Geoffrey Owens:

He went on to say that he took the job at the grocery store because it allowed him the “flexibility” he needed to stay in the entertainment business.

Owens still acts and has been teaching acting classes for several years. He has a net worth of $300,000. In addition to his work on The Cosby Show over the years, Owens has appeared on episodes of Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, That’s So Raven, Boston Legal, Las Vegas, Medium, Without a Trace, Flashforward, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The Affair.

Owens worked at Trader Joe’s for 15 months but had to quit because of the unwanted attention, however, the company said that he is welcome to come back anytime. (Source)

Owens is the son of a former librarian turned congressman (since retired, deceased).  Hourly workers might be 17…or 57, but they’re working and their earnings will likely be spent — going back into the economy.

Here are the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: How do you plan to vote on Proposition B in the November 2018 midterm election?

  • Definitely no 4 [19.05%]
  • No 0 [0%]
  • Leaning no  0 [0%]
  • Unsure 2 [9.52%]
  • Leaning yes  4 [19.05%]
  • Yes 1 [4.76%]
  • Definitely yes 9 [42.86%]
  • I’m not a Missouri voter 1 [4.76%]

Please vote YES on Prop B on November 6th.

— Steve Patterson

 

Labor Day 2018 Will Celebrate Recent Defeat of Right-To-Work

September 3, 2018 Economy, Featured Comments Off on Labor Day 2018 Will Celebrate Recent Defeat of Right-To-Work
Labor Day Parade in downtown St. Louis, 2009

I imagine the Labor Day parade today will be a celebration of the recent defeat of “right to work” in Missouri.

Voters in Missouri have overwhelmingly rejected a right-to-work law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature that would have banned compulsory union fees — a resounding victory for organized labor that spent millions of dollars to defeat the measure.

With about 98 percent of the precincts reporting, the “no” vote on Missouri’s Proposition A, which supported the law, was running about 67 percent, with nearly 33 percent voting “yes.”

In 2017, the right-to-work law passed Missouri’s Republican Legislature and was signed by then-Gov. Eric Greitens. However, union organizers gathered enough signatures to keep it from going into effect pending the results of a statewide referendum. The rejection of Proposition A effectively kills the law. (NPR)

I thought our deep-red state would support Prop A and approve right-to-work. This seems to show a good campaign can sway enough rural voters.

This ballot box win got national attention, here’s partly why:

The rejection of this law stands in direct opposition to the Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME earlier this summer that declared workers have a constitutional right not to pay union dues. That ruling applies to public-sector unions in the 22 states that did not have right-to-work laws—Missouri is now the 23rd state to which that ruling applies. As the first major fight over unions since the Janus decision, some see Missouri’s referendum as an indication of the public’s support for unions beyond the state’s borders. (Fortune)

Growing up with conservative parents in highly conservative Oklahoma meant I had a low opinion of unions growing up, but living in St. Louis for 28+ years has given me an appreciation for the important role of unions.  From the summary of a report by the Economic Policy Institute:

Unions have a substantial impact on the compensation and work lives of both unionized and non-unionized workers. This report presents current data on unions’ effect on wages, fringe benefits, total compensation, pay inequality, and workplace protections.

Some of the conclusions are:

  • Unions raise wages of unionized workers by roughly 20% and raise compensation, including both wages and benefits, by about 28%.
  • Unions reduce wage inequality because they raise wages more for low- and middle-wage workers than for higher-wage workers, more for blue-collar than for white-collar workers, and more for workers who do not have a college degree.
  • Strong unions set a pay standard that nonunion employers follow. For example, a high school graduate whose workplace is not unionized but whose industry is 25% unionized is paid 5% more than similar workers in less unionized industries.
  • The impact of unions on total nonunion wages is almost as large as the impact on total union wages. The most sweeping advantage for unionized workers is in fringe benefits. Unionized workers are more likely than their nonunionized counterparts to receive paid leave, are approximately 18% to 28% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and are 23% to 54% more likely to be in employer-provided pension plans.
  • Unionized workers receive more generous health benefits than nonunionized workers. They also pay 18% lower health care deductibles and a smaller share of the costs for family coverage. In retirement, unionized workers are 24% more likely to be covered by health insurance paid for by their employer.
  • Unionized workers receive better pension plans. Not only are they more likely to have a guaranteed benefit in retirement, their employers contribute 28% more toward pensions.
  • Unionized workers receive 26% more vacation time and 14% more total paid leave (vacations and holidays).

Like many people, my husband is working today. OK, a half day. I might check out pre-parade events:

  • 6 a.m. protest at the McDonald’s on 1119 N. Tucker to protest cutting back the current $10 an hour wage to $7.65 more than 30,000 workers;
  • 7 a.m. – march from McDonalds to a public rally.
  • 8 a.m.- rally at 18th and Olive to urge more St. Louis’ businesses to maintain the $10 an hour wage that been already agreed to by over 100 firms.

The parade begins at 9:15am, 15th & Olive.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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