June 28, 2017 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 186

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Bill interviews returning guest Emily Robinson (@see_em_play), a Socialist organizer in Scottish Labour from the US, about the June 2017 UK election results and aftermath. Produced: June 25th, 2017.

Episode 186 (53 min):
AFD 186

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May 31, 2017 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 182

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: The upcoming UK election and the Labour Party campaign manifesto, as well as recent developments in Central African Republic. People: Bill and Nate Produced: May 29th, 2017.

Episode 182 (51 min):
AFD 182

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Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership race easily

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

Jeremy-Corbyn

BBC News – Jeremy Corbyn wins Labour leadership contest

The victory message:

We don’t have to be unequal. It does not have to be unfair, poverty isn’t inevitable. Things can, and they will change”
[…]
He said the leadership campaign “showed our party and our movement, passionate, democratic, diverse, united and absolutely determined in our quest for a decent and better society that is possible for all”.

“They are fed up with the inequality, the injustice, the unnecessary poverty. All those issues have brought people in, in a spirit of hope and optimism.”

He said his campaign had given the lie to claims that young Britons were apathetic about politics, showing instead that they were “a very political generation that were turned off by the way in which politics was being conducted – we have to, and must, change that”.

 
The breakdown:

The veteran left-winger got almost 60% of more than 400,000 votes cast, trouncing his rivals Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.
[…]
The Islington North MP won on the first round of voting in the leadership contest, taking 251,417 of the 422,664 votes cast – against 19% for Mr Burnham, 17% for Ms Cooper and 4.5% for Ms Kendall.
[…]
An overwhelming 85% of people who signed up as affiliated supporters for £3 voted for Mr Corbyn – but he also topped the ballot among party members and trade unionists.

 

The origin story of minimum wage laws, part 2

Part 2: Why did some industrialized nations wait so long to get a minimum wage? When did the UK, Germany, and France get minimum wage laws? Why do some industrialized nations still not have legal minimum wages? || This original research was produced for The Globalist Research Center and Arsenal For Democracy.

Why did some industrialized nations wait so long to get a minimum wage?

From a historical perspective, minimum wage laws were implemented first in countries where trade union movements were not strong. Countries such as the UK that traditionally had strong labor unions have tended to be late adopters on minimum wage laws.

In those countries, powerful unions were able to bargain collectively with employers to set wage floors, without needing legislative minimums.

The early gold standard guideline for government participation in wage setting was the International Labor Organization’s Convention No. 26 from 1928 – although many industrialized countries never adopted it.

The convention said that governments should create regulatory systems to set wages, unless “collective agreement” could ensure fair effective wages. This distinction acknowledged that, by 1928, there was already a major split in approaches to creating effective wage floors: leaving it to labor organizers versus using statutes and regulators.

When did the UK, Germany, and France get minimum wage laws?

Much like pioneers New Zealander and Australia, the United Kingdom did adopt “Trade Boards” as early as 1909 to try to oversee and arbitrate bargaining between labor and management. However, its coverage was far less comprehensive than Australian and New Zealand counterparts and cannot be considered a true minimum wage system. Instead, UK workers counted on labor unions to negotiate their wages for most of the 20th century.

The Labour Party introduced the UK’s first statutory minimum wage less than two decades ago, in 1998, when it took over the government following 18 years of a Conservative government that had focused on weakening British unions. The country’s current hourly minimum wage for workers aged 21 and up is £6.50 (i.e. about $8.40 in purchasing power parity terms), or about 45% of median UK wages.

Despite opposition to minimum wages in some quarters, The Economist magazine noted recently that studies consistently show that there is little impact on hiring decisions when the minimum wage level is set below 50% of median pay. Above that level, some economists believe low-level jobs would be shed or automated, but this is also not definitively proven either.

In fact, not all countries with minimum wages above that supposed 50% threshold — a list which includes at least 13 industrialized economies, according to the OECD — seem to have those hypothesized problems. True, some of them do, but that may indicate other economic factors at work.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, only adopted a minimum wage law after the 2013 federal elections. Previously, wages had generally been set by collective bargaining between workers’ unions and companies.

As a result of the postwar occupation in the western sectors, Germany also uses the “codetermination” system of corporate management, which puts unions on the company boards directly. This too encourages amicable negotiations in wage setting, to ensure the company’s long-term health, which benefits the workers and owners alike.

The new minimum wage amounts to €8.50 per hour ($10.20 in PPP-adjusted terms), or more than 45% of median German pay.

However, in some areas of Germany, the local median is much lower. There, the minimum wage affords significantly more purchasing power. In eastern Germany, the minimum is about 60% of median wages.

In France, where unions have long had a more antagonistic relationship with management, a minimum wage law was adopted much earlier – in 1950. It is now €9.61 per hour (about $10.90 in PPP-adjusted terms), or more than 60% of median French pay.

N.B. Purchasing-power currency conversions are from 2012 local currency to 2012 international dollars rounded from UN data.

Why do some industrialized nations still not have legal minimum wages?

Because of their generous social welfare systems, one might assume that the Nordic countries were early adopters of minimum wage laws. In fact, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland all lack a minimum wage, even today.

Instead, wages in these countries are virtually all set by collective bargaining in every sector – conducted between workers’ unions, corporations, and the state. (This is known as tripartism.) Non-union workers generally receive the same pay negotiated by the unions.

A prevailing minimum or average lower-end wage can usually be estimated, but there is no law. In U.S. dollar terms, Denmark’s approximate lowest wage level is higher than almost every minimum wage in the world. Mid-level wages are even higher. Even McDonald’s workers in Denmark reportedly make the equivalent of $20/hour.

 
Missed part one? New Zealand, Australia, Massachusetts, the New Deal, and China: How governments took an active role initially, and how they balance economic variability now.

UK unofficially participating in Syria airstrikes

The UK government appears to have covered up unauthorized participation in airstrikes in Syria (not just Iraq where it was approved in September 2014).

It did so by assigning personnel to fly under the command and flag of other countries — reportedly most likely the United States, but possibly also Canada. (Canada began participating in “coalition” airstrikes in Syria this past spring.)

Supposedly it’s just routinely part of a longstanding (early Cold War era) program to embed UK military observers into allied military forces, but this seems like quite a stretch for the intentions of such programs.

The UK parliament made it pretty damn clear under the last term that they didn’t want a Syria bombing campaign, effectively establishing a precedent requiring parliament to sign off on future military actions. Prime Minister David Cameron does have a Conservative majority now (unlike in 2013 or last September), but he hasn’t asked the new term’s members yet. So it seems fairly illegal to deploy UK armed forces members to participate in combat missions in an active warzone,
– with a hostile government (with air defenses and aircraft it could potentially use),
– and no UN support,
– where parliament had explicitly refused to authorize their actions.

Or at least it seems fairly illegal for now. He is widely expected to seek a new vote in parliament on Syrian airstrikes several months from now.

Aircraft participating in U.S.-led coalition airstrike missions in Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS. (Credit: Dept. of Defense via Wikimedia)

Aircraft participating in U.S.-led coalition airstrike missions in Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS. (Credit: Dept. of Defense via Wikimedia)

Good ways to ensure Brexit

Pardon the Tory-friendly sourcing, but I stumbled across this news and was startled enough to remark upon it.

The Telegraph: “EU demands Britain joins Greek rescue fund”

Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president, discards David Cameron’s deal that spares Britain from Eurozone bailouts

 
Is the European Commission entirely filled with fools? The Conservatives in Britain just got re-elected on a platform bragging about how they had legally firewalled UK from liability for eurozone bailouts (which makes sense since the UK isn’t part of the eurozone and doesn’t have any major connection to crises there), and they’ve got a difficult referendum coming up on whether or not to leave altogether.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker screwing over Prime Minister Cameron and using UK funds for bailouts (against the written agreement) is an excellent way to ensure the Conservative Party’s voting base goes very hard against continued EU membership, whether or not Cameron tries to campaign in favor of remaining inside the EU.

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May 13, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 127

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Marco Rubio’s close ties to billionaire Norman Braman; UK election results discussion. People: Bill, Nate. Produced: May 11th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Has presidential candidate and US Senator Marco Rubio crossed an ethics line with his billionaire patron, Norman Braman?
– What if anything does the 2015 UK election outcome mean for Labour’s future? Should US Democrats take any lessons one way or the other?

Episode 127 (49 min):
AFD 127

Related Links

Guardian: “2015 UK general election results in full”
AFD: “Marco Rubio’s Miami Vice”
NYT: “Billionaire Lifts Marco Rubio, Politically and Personally”

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