Morning Ed: Labor {2017.07.03.M}

[L1] Adam Ozimek argues that that the science is not settled on the minimum wage, and that both sides need to operate with a bit more humility. Case and point!

[L2] Minimum wage success? Wall Street is really excited about McDonald’s putting some service industry folks out of work.

[L3] Meanwhile, in Denmark, there are some clear effects of minimum wage for employment. That said, in this particular case degree of substitution availability in that case is pretty high.

[L4] Among other things, UBI reportedly lowers stress levels and encourages work.

[L5] Female LDS employees can now wear pants to work, and also get parental leave.

[L6] If you want to make some bank in Kanssas, get a degree as an electrical lineman.

[L7] Rebecca Knight has some tips on convincing your boss to let you work from home. In my observation, the job and the employer matter a lot more than your persuasiveness.

[L8] This isn’t the first time we have freaked out over automation.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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63 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Labor {2017.07.03.M}

  1. The Slate Money podcast presented a less black and white variant of the Seattle study. Some workers were earning less despite the pay raise but IIRC there was also evidence of hourly workers in the higher brackets increasing too.

    Gotta hand it to Mormons for being the most old-fashioned people out West

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    • It’s not particularly surprising that a minimum-wage worker who still had a job after the wage increase would be getting more money.

      The question is whether there were the same number of actual jobs after the wage increase. Which there weren’t. Which is what opponents of a wage increase said all along would happen.

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  2. L6- As someone who has done linesman work, that is not a job for everyone. Climbing a pole with belt and spikes, even in the best weather, is very physically challenging and it is interesting how being only 36 feet of the ground freaks people out.

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    • I briefly considered applying for a job doing maintenance on the top of rural cell towers. Then I really thought about what climbing 800 feet in the air with just a safety belt would be like. Nope.

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    • So you spent time searching in the sun for another overload?

      (And I’m sure nobody has ever asked you that question before ;)

      But the job always seemed pretty cool to me. I grew up around loggers, who also used the belt and spikes to do topping. Uhhh, tree topping.

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    • I worked three summers in college at a microclimatology field lab. There was a 16-meter mast with weather instruments and sampling inlets scattered up and down it. Each summer I managed to get used to climbing that to do repairs, but was never really comfortable. One of the PhD candidates was from the Philippines and had spent some of his childhood climbing palm trees with a foot strap instead of spurs. He complained about the rules that made him wear a safety belt.

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    • From various observations climbing poles with belt and spikes is still part of the job but less of the job than before with the bucket trucks, where the worker is in the bucket and the bucket hoists the worker to where the work needs to be done. (Safer also because the bucket is non conductive material) So yes it is still part of the job, but as with many things, machines are taking over parts of the job.

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      • Depends on where you are. An older place like Berkeley (or Oakland for that matter) has quite a bit of trees that you may or may not be able to work around with a bucket. Also, may of these areas have distribution poles on the rear property line, in other words not a place you can drive a truck into. Now, most phone company lines are at 18′, with cable directly above and power company above that. So the phone workers don’t generally have to do transitions, but you still need to qualify on them. On the other hand, linemen from the power companies have to go all the way up to work on transmission, a little less for distribution. And again, the pole might not be in a bucket accessible location.

        Also, some of the more oddball places that have service in areas like the Sierras might have poles that are quite a bit taller, as they need to transverse small valleys.

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  3. The minimum wage is a great Rightist Trick to pull the wool over the Liberal Left’s eyes, and have the Liberals congratulate themselves for putting the poor out of work.

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  4. The one thing we can be pretty sure about minimum wages is there is no one effect of minimum wages – it depends on how much the wage changes, how high it gets raised to, and a lot of details about the economy at the time the change occurs. This is a lot of the reason the empirics of the minimum wage are so inconsistent.

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    • Yeah I’m sympathetic but pretty pessimistic about Minneapolis’s minimum wage hike. It’s a pretty big jump and I have apprehensions that the city is merely going to displace its low wage work to the surrounding communities. The land around Minneapolis is flat and unobstructed by any significant barriers so there’re alternative locations as far as the eye can see in every direction. People aren’t penned in by mountains and oceans like they are in Seattle or California.

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      • Yeah. is quite right but we seem to have found the model for what we’re going to do, which is just raise it to a flat $15/hr in the cities and a few states. And we’re going to do this whether it’s a jurisdiction where it makes sense or not. So it’s important to take a *very* good look at what’s going on in Seattle. Not the least of which because it’s not done going up yet. If it’s already causing problems, those problems are about to get magnified.

        Which is to say nothing of places where such a minimum wage is less appropriate. I think it could work in Seattle, but a place like Minneapolis? You point to some of the potential problems (geographic substitution), but beyond that Minneapolis (in part because it is flat and unencumbered) is not one of those high-cost, high-wage cities where such an aggressive move can be absorbed into the economy. It’s going to be a real test!

        The flipside is that if it works in Minneapolis, my anxiety level goes down for much of the country. The number of places a national minimum wage of $15/hr would be disastrous may be fewer than I had supposed.

        Are we finally at the point where we can say “A $15/hr minimum wage isn’t a strawman argument”?

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        • Agreed generally. Minneapolis is really nice affordability wise so this is going to be quite a dramatic test (though it does phase in gradually).

          How is Min wage a straw man argument? Do people argue now that it isn’t a part of the general liberal policy platform?

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            • Can you rephrase your question? Of course depending on how the unemployment vs. raised incomes equation factors out the impact on city taxes might be relevant though AFAIK Minneapolis doesn’t have a city level income tax.

              Minneapolis also doesn’t have any substantive UBI movement though in my experience everyone but the Looney Toons socialists agree that if you implemented a UBI then minimum wage rates would be one of the things that’d be eliminated by that.

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              • A parameter needed to typically do away with minimum wage in other countries is some type of union. Maybe that doesnt happen in the US so there is a chance that minimum wage continues.
                I’m not interested in Minneapolis in particular, just in largish cities.

                The tax I am interested in is city income tax. That creates a case where a person could be paying federal, state, and city income tax. With that in place a UBI within the city is a much easier sell. Maybe even inevitable.

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    • The issue, I think, is that everyone is fixating on raising the minimum wage and forgetting why they want the wage to be raised.

      Because what they want is for people to recognize–or maybe to accept, or agree–that the jobs which were originally “starter” or “second family income” jobs are now some families’ primary-breadwinner jobs. Like, it’s now the case that someone will work at McDonalds’ for forty years and then retire, or that someone would make a career out of shelf-stocking at Safeway. There’s no expectation that these people will move on from that position, that they’ll graduate from high school and open up a spot for the next kid; that guy back in the kitchen folding tacos is gonna be folding tacos for the forseeable future.

      So they want the pay scales for these jobs to be set up with the idea that they’re a family’s sole source of income. Which, y’know, you can *do*, but not for forty part-time workers at a fast-food restaurant.

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      • DD,
        Anyone who wants the minimum wage to be raised based on those grounds is a motherfucking moron.
        REAL analysts who want the minimum wage to be raised want it so in order to usher in our age of Robotic Overlords more quickly. (By which I mean Carnegie Mellon University, which makes the robots).

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  5. Oh Lord(lady?), Trump has put his oak in on the Carlie Gard case. I don’t understand why some administrative level somewhere in the UK/EU didn’t just go “This is a no win scenario to fight and won’t cost us a dime. Release the kid to his parents and let them blow their charitably contributed dukats on as much expensive American medicine as they can afford to buy.”

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    • I have a post on Gard that should go up later in the week. I am putting the finishing touches on it now. I don’t mention Trump, though, so I can probably say here that his intervention probably doesn’t help Gard’s case. Well, Charlie’s going to die any which way, but future Charlies I mean.

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      • I probably should waIt until your post (but obviously I’m not doing that :-))

        Most US based reporting I’ve seen on the case (mostly from conservative sources) present this as an example of Illiberal Godless Deah-Loving Europeans trampling over the Gard’s parental rights. Which goes in line with North’s comment on blowing all their available dukats on a vain attempt to save Charlie’s life.

        The reality is that the process, and the rulings, pits Charlie against their parents. The (UK and European) law does not accept that parents have unlimited power to make decisions for their children, and the best evidence is that (a) treatment is in vain; and (b) Charlie is suffering. And thus, the best thing you can do is let him die with dignity. The fact that the Gards are doing this out of love doesn’t make it less true.

        And, assuming the Gards prevail, then what? What limit can be put to parental power?

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    • It is the same issue that occurs every so often in the US when the Physicians decide that a case is hopeless and the family won’t come to that conclusion believing there is a medical miracle hiding around the corner. Several states have laws that say that hospitals and physicians can apply to the court to discontinue support.
      On a larger question, is supporting such a person the best use of limited medical resources? Given that there are limits to these someone has to decide what is futile treatment.

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      • Agreed entirely and if the Gard’s hadn’t accumulated the bucks to pay for treatments themselves this whole conversation would have been over ages ago and the public would give not even a fraction of a fig. It’s when the resources aren’t a factor that everyone gets exercised.

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      • On a larger question, is supporting such a person the best use of limited medical resources? Given that there are limits to these someone has to decide what is futile treatment.

        Ignoring for a moment the issue of limited resources, we have already arrived to a point where people can be maintained alive for An almost unlimited amount of time, at great cost of physical and mental suffering, people that only decades ago would have died in a matter of days.

        What would be the ethical response to this new situation? I hope some doctor will agree to comment, here or in Will’s post

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        • Well the most sensible thing to do would be to discuss the matter with all very ill or elderly individuals on admittance, make sure they understand the implications and have their informed wishes on record but death panels. Le sigh.

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