Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Unions

What it’s Like to See Bernie Sanders in 2021

On August 27th, Bernie Sanders decided to come to West Lafayette, Indiana, to do a town hall. Indiana is my home state. Bernie is 79. This could be the last time he visits, for all I know. My girlfriend is a few years younger than me. She’d never seen Bernie in person. We decided to drive down. Let me tell you the story.

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The Southernization of the Midwest

Amidst the talk of House and Senate races in the midterms, there are a number of Midwestern states in which there is a significant chance that Democrats will take governorships. In 2008, Barack Obama won Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won only Illinois and Minnesota, and Minnesota was a close call, decided by just a single point. This is the region that has changed the most politically in the last decade. Most of these states have, at some point in the last 10 years, fallen under control of a Republican governor who has attempted to radically reform their labour laws and pension systems in bids to remodel these Midwestern states after the states of the deep south. Their strategy is simple–lower taxes, stifle wage growth, strangle unions, kill regulations, and pirate jobs and investment from the states that fail to do the same. It’s a great Midwestern race to the bottom. But at the midterms on Tuesday, there’s an opportunity to throw some sand in the Republican gears. Here follows the story of each of these states, to inspire you and your friends to do what you can to save each of them from southernization.

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The Supreme Court is Gripped by an Unsustainable Conception of Individual Freedom

Today the Supreme Court voted, 5-4, to enable public sector workers to unilaterally withhold contributions from their unions. Justices Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Thomas, and Kennedy were in the majority, with Kagan, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, and Breyer in dissent. The principle guiding the majority’s decision is simple and intuitively appealing. When workers pay unions dues, those unions use that money to fund political speech. Individual workers may not agree with the union’s speech acts, and therefore compelling them to pay dues ties their employment to their willingness to espouse a particular kind of political speech with their wallets. The court argues that requiring workers to make certain kinds of political speech acts with their wallets to retain employment violates their free speech rights. The argument is internally valid–it makes sense, given a particular conception of individual freedom. The trouble is that this conception of individual freedom is destabilising the labour market in a politically dangerous way, and in consistently choosing to interpret this principle in this way the court is threatening the legitimacy of the state.

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The British Academic Strike is a Crucial Struggle that Must Be Won: Part III, Union Strength

The University and College Union (UCU)–Britain’s trade union for academics–has gone on strike. The strike is about the University Superannuation Scheme (USS)’s decision to switch academics from “defined benefit” pension plans to “defined contribution” plans. As a PhD student at Cambridge I write this piece at home, having skipped a couple events I really wanted to go to today, because this strike is so important, both to academia and to the cause of working people more generally. My hope is that I can explain the strike to those who don’t know much about it and defend it to any who doubt its necessity.

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How to Read That Productivity/Wage Gap Chart We’re Always Seeing

You’ve probably seen this chart before. It’s everywhere now. I’ve used it more than a few times over the years. It’s the chart from the Economic Policy Institute that shows that while US productivity has continued to increased over the last few decades, real inflation-adjusted wages haven’t kept pace:

I’ve seen two bad misreadings of this chart lately, and I want to clear them up.

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