Celebrating 129 years of American labor. Sort of.

Posted on September 5, 2011

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Labor Day was started in New York City in 1882 when 20,000 workers rallied and marched up Broadway demanding an 8 hour work day. After their rally, they disbursed to neighborhoods and parks city wide for barbeques, drinking and fireworks. It was so successful that two years later in 1884, the central labor union designated the first Monday in September “Labor Day” in celebration of those people whose hard work built this nation. It wasn’t until June 28, 1894 that congress made labor day an official national holiday.
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Today, America’s workforce is in crisis. More than sixteen million Americans are out of work. 4.5 million of those Americans have been looking for a job for a year or more. These figures mask the true numbers because the sixteen million number represents only those workers who have been looking for another job for six months or less.

In California, the official unemployment rate stands at 12.9%. The U6 unemployment rate, the more accurate measure of unemployment here in California is a more sobering 21%. More than 900,000 workers in California have been out of work for six months or longer and 1.5 million Californians are underemployed, working part time for 35 or less hours per week.

Nationally, the unemployment rate is measured at 9.7%, yet the U6 rate that includes people who have been looking for a job for six months or longer nearly doubles the reported rate of unemployment to 16.6%. More than 70% of unemployed workers returning to work do so at a wage substantially less than their previous job. In the civilian sector, large employers with significant layoffs give notice and resources to workers so that they might be able to find other employment. What the AOC has offered its workers to resign is a pittance and offers no resources. Various bargaining units of unions have (at least) provided generous continuing health benefits for some trial court workers, since healthcare expenditures can make one destitute faster than just about anything else.

What brought us here? Some prominent economists cite a combination of globalization and high energy costs as the culprits. Nowhere in America does energy cost more than in California – the state that issued bonds to pay thieves like Enron. The other part of the equation – globalization – is what created WalMart. Since the end of World War two, the U.S. has bought 5 trillion dollars worth of stuff from emerging economies. The United States is solely responsible for creating the middle class in Japan, throughout Europe and in India. We were up until recently creating a middle class in China as well.  Meanwhile, we’ve eroded our own manufacturing base to such a degree that our own national security is threatened.  Our own middle class is rapidly disappearing while government nationwide is forced to do more with less.

Today, there is still talk, despite all of the teabaggers who say no more bailouts that we need another round of economic stimulus from the government.  Even the economists are saying that government stimulus is a necessary evil and it is necessary right now. There is recognition that things are so bad in some areas of the country that there is talk of recreating an entity similar to FDR’s civilian conservation corps and expanding the job corps to give direct food, housing and clothing aid to individuals to either work or to train to work. There are discussions about forcing lower rates and forcing refinancing by banks on mortgagees of federally backed Fannie and Freddy loans to loosen up an estimated 81 billion dollars in the U.S. economy and encourage people to not walk away from their mortgages.

Most importantly, this talk in Washington will likely turn to action because neither party wishes to go into the 2012 election year with consumer confidence this low.  This proposed action might likely include additional public construction stimulus funds for things like courthouses.

The obvious solution to all of this from a judicial branch standpoint and from a legislative standpoint would be to get these projects shovel ready, then mothball the projects, moving all construction over to DGS early in 2012. The reason for this is because the AOC did not qualify for any direct stimulus funding last go-around because they had no laws imposing accountability and against fraud, waste, abuse and public corruption.  Similarly, California’s judicial branch will qualify for no direct federal stimulus funding for any construction projects in any next round of federal stimulus infrastructure funding without moving the projects over to DGS.

The money that could be saved by this prudent course of action could be utilized by California’s judicial branch for a few years to save every threatened court employee job statewide. Money does not grow on trees but uncle sam has the unique ability to print it whereas the California taxpayer doesn’t. The Judiciary already has an ample income in construction funds that can be redirected to save people – their own people- from financial ruin in this economy. What’s more attractive is that a shovel ready project might be paid for by the federal government instead of the Judicial Branch and California’s taxpayers.

Let us celebrate the day of the American worker, yet be mindful of the crisis facing every court employee created by judicial council and AOC mismanagement. Let us also not forget the one out of five people walking among us who have no job and no prospects of getting one anytime soon and insist our Chief Justice walk the talk and stop court layoffs and closures.

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