Though I deal with economic issues all day, I am not an economist and I have no formal economic training. That’s one of the reasons that I really like NPR’s Planet Money podcast. Yes, it has a little too much of a free-market bent for my tastes, but it does a very good job of explaining basic economic issues in lay language and, even more important, it is intellectually honest (which you can’t say about some key business media).
Planet Money recently aired a provocative episode called “Will economic growth destroy the planet?” Their jumping-off point was ostensibly the (purported) trade-off between economic and environmental health, but I found the real lesson in an important insight about how economists think and talk.
Let’s assume that we all agree that economic growth is a good thing. Almost every day, we see some headline or another touting the promise of a government policy or tax incentive or corporate investment to create jobs,
A Notch on Our Bedpost: NCAA “Non-Employees” Make Progress
Through their union, the National College Players Association, some players have been demanding reform, seeking modest changes in the ridiculous NCAA rules. Their list includes allowing schools to cover books and other expenses as part of scholarship offers (something non-sports scholarships can include), and allowing schools to offer multi-year scholarships, rather than have to renew each year—a rule that is particularly onerous, since if a player transfers, he generally must sit out a year.
Apparently the NCAP (and Taylor Branch and, of course, the Frying Pan) is making headway, because yesterday the NCAA announced several rule changes, addressing both of those points.
Hollywood’s luxurious W Hotel was struck and picketed early this morning by more than 100 union members. The housekeepers, bellmen and servers, who belong to Unite Here Local 11, walked off their jobs at 6 a.m. to protest what they say is management’s refusal to let them take scheduled breaks.
“We are on strike today to show the W Hollywood that we deserve the right to take breaks,” Mildred Velasquez, a W housekeeper, was quoted in a statement prepared by the union. “The W Hollywood Hotel needs to respect the limits of our bodies. Managers put too much pressure on us. I hurt my back deep cleaning-rooms at the W. Now I take prescription and over-the-counter pain medicine every day.”
When contacted by the Frying Pan, a management spokesman for the hotel, who requested anonymity, claimed no hotel employees were participating in the walkout.
The one-day action,
A couple of weeks ago, at a community meeting with other members of the Alliance for Healthy and Responsible Grocery Stores, I got to hear some testimony about working conditions at Walmart from a group of women who work at the retail giant’s stores around Los Angeles County. Our alliance is dedicated to making sure that grocery stores have the best impact they can on our city. After Walmart’s announcement that they were expanding into urban markets with smaller-scale grocery stores, we invited some workers to tell us about life as Walmart “Associates.” I will respect their anonymity here, so as not to cause them problems on the job.
I didn’t expect to hear much that was shocking, but what I heard that day threw me for a loop. I couldn’t stop talking about it to my wife when I got home.
As someone who works on food justice and economic issues,
I’ll call him Alex. We work together at the RH restaurant at the Hyatt Andaz hotel on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. We are uneasy around each other now, since the strike. He chose one side. I chose another.
For the better part of a week in September, I watched him from outside the window. I held my Unite Here picket sign and wailed on the drum as he poured drinks for distraught customers. My blood boiled when I found out he crossed the picket line, and I’m sure he wasn’t happy that I was at least partially responsible for his lack of business in the restaurant. We made uncomfortable eye contact through the window far too many times.
Going on a strike and living its aftermath are like going through a divorce, where the children are told to pick a side. Some of us journey all the way through with one parent,