On the News With Thom Hartmann: Children Are the Most Enduring Victims of the Recession, and More

In today’s On the News segment: According to UNICEF, even in the world’s richest countires, children remain “the most enduring victims” of the recession; you are probably aware that the NSA could be spying on your online communication, but did you know that your “snail mail” may be being tracked too?; the average retail worker only makes about $20,000 dollars per year; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News…

You need to know this. According to UNICEF, even in the world’s richest countires, children remain “the most enduring victims” of the recession. In the last six years, 2.6 million more kids have fallen below the poverty line, and more than half of them live right here in the United States. Last week, UNICEF released their annual study, “Children of the Recession,” which found that more than 76 million children are living in poverty in the 41 wealthiest nations on Earth. The authors of that study say they were not intending to “comment on austerity,” but their analysis made clear that the slashing of public services has fueled this rise in child poverty. Nations hit with extreme austerity measures, like Greece and Iceland, saw the number of kids living in poverty increase by more than 50 percent. In comparison, the report states, “Governments that bolstered existing public institutions and programs helped to buffer countless children from the crisis – a strategy that others may consider adopting.” Enacting huge budget cuts has left many parents out of work in these counties, and the social programs that once kept their families out of poverty have been slashed as well. The stark increase in the number of struggling families is the end result of lawmakers worrying more about budgets than about their citizens – both young and old. This recession, and the harsh austerity measures that followed, have turned our kids into “a generation cast aside,” and that is simply not acceptable. We must continue to fight for the end of austerity, and demand that lawmakers invest in their nations and their people. The children of the world are depending on us.

When Congress returns to work this month, they’ll see some strong messages at their local subway stop. The AFL-CIO has blanketed the Capital South Metro stop with ads demanding that our lawmakers say “no” to “Fast Track.” With several massive trade agreements in the works, lobbyists have been working hard to convince legislators to take trade negotiation out of the hands of anyone who has to answer to the voters. These industry schills want trade arbitrators to have the final say on the secret details of the TPP and other deals, instead of the lawmakers who are supposed to represent We The People. So, the AFL-CIO is running a four-week ad campaign against these job-killing trade agreements, and against Congress giving up their power to negotiate. Corporate lobbyists should not be negotiating deals that effect our economy, our enivornment, and our jobs. As AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka, explained, “America’s workers simply can’t afford more Fask Track,” and it’s time for Congress to remember that important point.

Too many American workers don’t get any paid vacation, and those who do often skip out on taking the time off that they’re allotted. To fix that problem, one company is trying something different. The job search website company, Authentic Jobs, is now requiring employees to take at least 27 days off every year. When Cameron Moll founded the company, he instituted an unlimited vacation policy, but many of his workers didn’t take off enough time to rest. He found that employees who did not take that vacation time were less productive, and less healthy, than workers who utilized the paid time off. So, he flipped his policy, and instituted the mandatory vacation. He explained, “We’re saying you need to take off at least 27 days per year, and then beyond that, if you need additional time, feel free to do it.” Mr. Moll explained that having a small company with only a few workers allowed him to institue the mandatory vacation time, but he hopes his policy will spread to larger companies. Having rested, healthy employees is a benefit to any business, even if they have to force workers to take that much-needed time to relax.

You are probably aware that the NSA could be spying on your online communication, but did you know that your “snail mail” may be being tracked too? According to a recent investigation by the New York Times, state and federal agenices are monitoring our mail way more than they have previously disclosed. The Times reveiwed a 2014 Inspector General audit, along with documents obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, and found that in 2013 alone, the Post Office approved almost 50,000 requests to image and store the information on the outside of our letters and packages. In comparison, agenices only made about 8,000 requests per year between 2001 and 2012. Although the authorites need a warrant to open mail, the audit revelaed that “in many cases the Postal Servce approved requests to monitor an individual’s mail without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization.” Just like the tracking of who and when we’re emailing, the data on the outside of our mail can provide authorities with a wealth of information about us. And, just like our email, it shouldn’t be tracked without a warrant.

And finally… The average retail worker only makes about $20,000 dollars per year, but employees at The Container Store earn more than twice that amount. According to CEO Kip Tindell, his company pays workers an average of $48,000 a year, and they offer annual raises of as much as eight percent. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Tindell explained his theory is that “one equals three.” He said, “one great person can easily do the business productivity of three good people,” which means his business gets three times the productivity by paying twice the industry average. The Container Store’s high wages actually save the company money in the long run, and their low turnover helps them hang on to great employees. In addition to the cost savings and employee productivity, Kip Tindell said he believes paying more is his responsibility. He said, “If you’re lucky enough to be an employer, you have a moral obligation to create a great work environment.” He’s helping to show other retailers that paying workers well actually pays off for businesses, and he’s working to encourage more companies to pay a living wage. Now, imagine what our economy would look like if more business leaders thought like Mr. Tindell…

And that’s the way it is – for the week of November 3, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.