Posts Tagged ‘workers’

Only in America

Posted: 29 September 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Maria Fernandes


From the New York Daily News:

A New Jersey woman who worked multiple jobs to support herself died Monday while snatching a few minutes of sleep in her car.

Maria Fernandes, 32, succumbed to a deadly combination of carbon monoxide and fumes from an overturned gas container that she kept in her 2001 Kia Sportage, cops say.

The woman worked shifts at Dunkin’ Donuts shops in Harrison, Newark and Linden.

“She used to work like three shifts every day,” Parth Patel, who worked with Fernandes at Newark Penn Station, told “Sometimes she wouldn’t sleep for five days.”

One of her managers, Sophia Paches, said that Fernandes had been an excellent employee during her four years at the Linden store. The woman would sometimes finish an overnight shift at 6 a.m., sleep in her car for a few hours, and then move on to her next shift.

Despite the grueling schedule, Monday was the first time Fernandes missed a day of work.

The woman had pulled into a Wawa parking lot on Route 1 & 9 in Elizabeth at about 8:30 a.m. She apparently left the car running, cops said. She was found dead about eight hours later.

A Hazmat team had to monitor the fumes for four hours before it became safe enough for rescuers to enter the Kia.

“This sounds like someone who tried desperately to work and make ends meet, and met with a tragic accident,” Elizabeth police Lt. Daniel Saulnier said.

Former boyfriend Richard Culhane said Fernandes was born in Massachusetts, but returned to her parents’ native Portugal when she was about 9 years old. She moved back to the U.S. some 14 years ago, taking classes at a Harrison school and bunking with a family friend.

“I told (her) she could get a better job, but she said she didn’t want to work in an office,” Culhane said.

Friends and co-workers remembered Fernandes as a “sweet” and “hardworking” person who was always ready to lend a hand to people and animals in need.

One coworker remembered how Fernandes would save food scaps to feed to the birds after work.

She also idolized Michael Jackson, singing his songs and attempting his dance moves during her shifts. She told friends she planned to take the entire day off Aug. 29 to celebrate the pop star’s birthday.

An exact cause of death has not yet been released.

“She was just a nice human being,” Patel said. “She was everywhere, she used to do everything. And the good thing was, she never called out.”


The folks who run the “Building Human Capital and Economic Potential” project [ht: db] are right: the current recovery has not been broadly shared. Far from it.

Low-income families are still dealing with job losses, benefit cuts, depressed wage growth, a lack of affordable child care, and a shift toward part-time, variable-hours jobs that hamper efforts to find full-time work.

But the idea that new training and education systems is a movement in the direction of economic self-sufficiency makes no sense. It merely accepts and reinforces the idea that wage-labor is the only “pathway out of poverty for most non-elderly adults.”

That’s not self-sufficiency. It’s merely a different kind of dependence—not on government regulations (like a higher minimum wage) and programs (such as food stamps and tax credits) but on the whims and wishes of private employers. And the entire program is built around making members of low-income families more attractive to those employers, by improving their “human capital.”

There is no such thing as self-sufficiency in an economic system based on private property. Private property (and, with it, markets and wage-labor) merely makes one large group of people dependent on the decisions of another, much smaller group. Economic self-sufficiency is therefore a myth. It’s a false, narrow and restricted, promise of freedom—the freedom to sell one’s ability to work to someone else, who then gets to walk away with the profits, thereby strengthening the continued dependence of workers on their employers.




Americans have no idea how unequal the distribution of income is. At the same time, they want a distribution of income that is much more equal than it currently is.

According to a new study by Sorapop Kiatpongsan and Michael I. Norton [pdf], where they looked at the estimated and ideal pay ratios of CEOs and unskilled workers, American respondents estimated the ratio of estimated incomes of CEOs to unskilled workers to be 29.6, whereas the actual ratio was about 354 (based on the fact that the average yearly compensation for CEOs of S&P 500 companies in 2012 was $12.3 million while the average worker received about $35,000). Their ideal pay ratio was only 7.

In other words, Americans think that CEOs should receive about 7 times what the average worker brings home, imagine that the actual ratio is much higher (by a factor of about four), while the actual ratio is far higher than either what they think it is (by a factor of twelve) and what the ideal would be (by a factor of over fifty).

As it turns out, Americans are not alone.

Using survey data from 40 countries (N = 55,238), we compare respondents’ estimates of the wages of people in different occupations – chief executive officers, cabinet ministers, and unskilled workers – to their ideals for what those wages should be. We show that ideal pay gaps between skilled and unskilled workers are significantly smaller than estimated pay gaps, and that there is consensus across countries, socioeconomic status, and political beliefs for ideal pay ratios. Moreover, data from 16 countries reveals that people dramatically underestimate actual pay inequality.

The task, of course, is to figure out how to close the enormous gap between the actual level of inequality and what people think the amount of inequality should be. We can start by giving workers more say in running the enterprises where they are employed.

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Special mention

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David Simonds Apple 14.09.14 sign



Neil King, Jr., for the Wall Street Journal, is perplexed:

It is in many ways both the ultimate economic puzzle and the great political challenge: Why have American incomes remained so flat, for so long, and what can be done to change that?

Uh, well. Maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that. King just can’t be bothered to figure it out.

So, let’s help him out: American incomes are flat precisely because of the anti-union, free-trade, decrease-taxes, cut-social-programs, don’t-raise-the-minimum-wage policies his newspaper has been promoting for the past three decades.


Special mention

Martin Rowson 15.09.14 Boots on the Ground