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National Jobs for All Network
P.O. Box 96, Lynbrook, NY 11563 · · 
Newsletter Issue #9, December 2021
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NJFAN Takes Part in Global Forum on Democratizing Work Led by Board Member Pavlina Tcherneva

From October 5th-7th, over 3,000 scholars, activists, union representatives, and leaders from progressive private and public sector organizations, representing 85 countries, attended the Global Forum on Democratizing Work—a worldwide virtual conference sponsored by the  Economic Democracy Initiative (EDI) at Bard College, a project  of the Open Society University Network (OSUN).
Pavlina R. TchernevaBard College Economics Professor and NJFAC Board member Pavlina R. Tcherneva directs OSUN’s collaborative program focusing on economic democracy and basic economic rights as preconditions for economic stability, security, and opportunity in a global economy that works for all. The Urgency of Democratizing, Decommodifying, and Decarbonizing Work is the focus of this Global Forum.
Democratizing, Decommodifying, and Decarbonizing Work
This first-ever forum to focus on democratizing work took place one year after EDI’s Democratizing Work op-ed turned manifesto was published in over 40 newspapers, in 27 languages, and 36 countries. According to the EDI Manifesto, the central lesson of the COVID crisis is that working people are much more than resources destined to feed rapacious markets:
Human health and the care of the most vulnerable cannot be governed by
market forces alone. If we leave these things solely to the market, we run the risk of exacerbating inequalities to the point of forfeiting the very lives of the least advantaged. How to avoid this unacceptable situation?
The Global Forum provided the answer: by democratizing, decommodifying and decarbonizing work—by involving employees in workplace decision-making, by guaranteeing useful employment to all, and by marshaling our collective strength and efforts to preserve life on the planet.
The Global Forum, organized by eight prominent women scholars, featured  such leading economists,  as: Jayati Ghosh, Thomas Piketty, Dani Rodrick,  Jean Dréze, and OSUN EDI’s Director Pavlina R. Tcherneva. 

Proposals for a Job Guarantee were a central theme throughout all three days of the event.

“I think there’s a great opportunity now. Because judging from the discussions in this Forum there’s an enormous interest now in employment guarantees across the world that didn’t exist ten years — maybe even five years — ago, except in specialized circles. So I think that there is an opportunity now.”
-- Jean Dréze, Economist and Social Activist

“Tying the security of a Job Guarantee to the action that leads to hope amongst young people in tackling the climate and biodiversity crisis: we know this is excellent policy.” -- Cassy O'Connor MP, Australia
The Global Forum featured a conversation between Pavlina Tcherneva and Thomas Piketty, Professor of Economics at the University of Paris.  Piketty, who, according to Tcherneva, “perhaps single-handedly changed the global conversation on inequality,” considers the Job Guarantee “one of the key steps in reducing inequality.” Listen to the full interview:
NJFAN Panel at The Global Forum on the Democratization of Work: What Is Full Employment and Why Does It Matter?
On the third day of the Global Forum, Philip Harvey, Professor of Law and Economics, Rutgers Law and Board Member of NJFAN, summarized his paper, “What Is Full Employment -- and Why the Definition Matters.” 

According to Professor Harvey, an unemployment rate of 3.5% or 4%--the definition of “full employment” proposed in recent years by a growing number of progressive economists--constitutes a rejection of the conventionally understood meaning of full employment. Such a definition, he contends, is also at odds with the right to remunerative work promoted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt; the authoritatively recognized aspirational human right under international law; and the legal obligation under both international and domestic U.S. law. The definition of full employment that coincides with these conventional and legal conceptions of full employment is not a rate of unemployment but rather a guarantee of a job for everyone who wants to work.

Panelists, Professor Trudy Goldberg, NJFAN Chair; Logan Martinez, NJFAN’s Outreach Coordinator;  Historian Professor Frank Stricker; and Social Welfare Professor Stephen Monroe Tomczak discussed the definition of full employment or Jobs for All that guides our organization’s advocacy and our Network’s rejection of a rate of unemployment as a definition of full employment or a Job Guarantee.

Panelists emphasized that NJFAN’s signature, monthly “Full Count” of Unemployment demonstrates the wide disparity between 3.5% unemployment—and full employment. For example, in December 2019, before the Pandemic hit, the US unemployment rate was 3.5%, an unusually low rate.  At 3.5% unemployment, there were 5.8 million Americans deemed officially unemployed by the US Department of Labor—in itself a very large number of people. Further, 8.9 million more persons were either employed part-time but wanted full-time work or were jobless but not officially looking because they were discouraged, lacked child care, transportation—in total, 14.7 million people. In short, 3.5% unemployment is very far from “full employment.”

Each month, when the US Department of Labor announces the nation’s unemployment rate, NJFAN counters with the “Full Count,” and Professor Stricker highlights aspects of the full count and then adds a short essay on job topics in the news. Archived and available on the NJFAN  website ( are each monthly “Full Count” since 2009.

Panelists pointed out that NJFAN, in  addition to its Full Count, has an expanded conception of full employment, one that emphasizes living-wage work. The most recent estimate available in December 2019 was that 17.1 million year-round, full-time workers earned less than the four-person U.S. poverty standard, one that is low compared to poverty standards for other wealthy democratic nations.

To this international audience the NJFAN panel presented a brief history of our Network, emphasizing its commitment to the definition of full employment illuminated by Professor Harvey, one consonant with both aspirational international law and common perceptions.

In accord with the Global Forum’s theme of democratization and decommodification of work, the NJFAN panel concluded with the following statement by progressive economists who advocated full employment in the 1940s:

Our experience with periods of labor shortage indicates that its first effect is greatly to increase the bargaining power of labor, both individually and collectively. This results in steady improvement of wages and working conditions, which means that employers must seek to make employment attractive, since the workers are no longer motivated by the fear of losing their jobs. A shift of workers from the less pleasant and remunerative occupations occurs, so that standards are raised at the lower levels. The status of labor will improve, since employers can no longer rely upon the discipline of discharge to enforce authority. The tendency will be for labor to have some participation in industrial and economic policy.

---H. Eulau, M. Ezekiel, A. Hansen, A.H.Loeb, Jr., & R. Soule. (1945), The road to freedom: Full employment. New Republic, Special Section, September 24, 395-415.
Thanks to EDI Research Associate Kyle Mohr for facilitating NJFAN’s participation in the Forum.  

Videos from Global Forum will be available soon at

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2021 NJFAN Annual Appeal Letter

Dear Friends,

We hope this annual message finds you well, fully vaccinated, and getting back to normalcy. We only send you this appeal once a year, so if it seems long, it’s because we have a lot to tell you! NJFAN has redoubled its advocacy and actions during the Pandemic because:

Post-Pandemic America Needs a Job Guarantee -- to speed recovery, put millions of Americans back to work, improve wages and working conditions, strengthen the power of labor, and rebuild our nation.

The Voting Rights Challenge and Economic Justice. The current, severe challenge to democracy threatens the voting rights of the very groups that would gain most from economic justice policies like the Job Guarantee. The struggles for economic and social justice and for preserving and strengthening precious political rights are inseparable. We must join hands in solidarity—to preserve these inseparable rights.

The NJFAN Newsletter. Launched in December 2019, the NJFAN Newsletter is a major means of building support for a Job Guarantee and for unifying economic justice advocacy. The NJFAN Newsletter features the latest Job Guarantee initiatives--such as the lead story in March announcing Rep. Ayanna Pressley's (D-MA) Job Guarantee Resolution. NJFAN Board member Rohan Grey played a major part in that initiative, and NJFAN has given our support for the Job Guarantee Resolution. Other lead articles include the inseparability of preserving voting rights and achieving economic rights and NJFAN’s longstanding commitment to Green Jobs for All and environmental sustainability. We maintain that a Job Guarantee would remove a major barrier to a full attack on climate change: fear of job loss.

The Newsletter has reported on the campaign for an Infrastructure Bank that would create millions of jobs; welcomed the increased emphasis on job creation by the Poor People's Movement; and written about initiatives such as a WPA bill in the NY State Legislature and Civilian Conservation Corps bills at both federal and state levels. In Movement News we feature advocates like Jobs for All Network activist Bev Alves and Board member Tennessee State Rep. Barbara Cooper. A recent edition paid tribute to founding NJFAN member Professor David Gil.

In the Newsletter’s Book Nook we review recent works --such as Board Member Frank Stricker's The History of Unemployment: Past, Present, and Future. Philip Harvey’s review of Frank's book is one of seven NJFAN Newsletter articles reprinted by other publications--Dollars & Sense, Monthly Review, and Portside. Among the pieces picked up by other outlets is a review of William Darity’s and Kristen Mullen’s From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century which argues that a universal measure like the Job Guarantee should be paired with Reparations for Black Americans. (All issues of the NJFAN Newsletter are available on the NJFAN website,

A More Aggressive Communications Strategy. Part of this strategy is for NJFAN to become more involved in social media and to use multiple platforms for promulgating our work. As we work on the Newsletter, we send out some of the articles as email messages prior to publication. We feel increased communication and visibility help us to be the "go to" organization fighting for Living Wage Jobs for All and the Federal Job Guarantee. We encourage readers like you to share this material on Meta and Twitter as well as through personal correspondence.

Since our founding NJFAN has published The Real Count —a monthly rate of real joblessness consistently at least twice the official government rate of unemployment. Since we are for the right to
living-wage work, we accompany the count with the millions of year-round, full-time workers who earn less than the paltry four-person poverty level—the working poor!

No longer confined to our website, the Real Count* goes out monthly with an analysis by Frank Stricker. Frank’s piece, “Inequities Persist Amidst Lower Unemployment,” accompanied our May jobs report. Another of his informal, highly informative analyses—also printed in Democratic Left--is “Will Not Work for Peanuts: September Employment Report Shows Worker Resistance.”

The Global Forum on the Democratization of Work. A worldwide virtual conference led by NJFAN Board member Pavlina Tcherneva and sponsored by the Economic Democracy Initiative at Bard College is the subject of a lead article in the December issue of the NJFAN Newsletter. From October 5th-7th, over 3,000 scholars, activists, union representatives, and leaders from progressive private and public sector organizations, representing 85 countries, attended this international Forum. “What Is Full Employment and Why the Definition Matters?” was the subject of a Panel at the Forum presented by NJFAN. Proposals for a Job Guarantee were a central theme all three days of this global forum.

Job Guarantee Legislation. For the last 10 years, NJFAN has taken a lead in designing and advocating federal Job Guarantee legislation. With the resignation of the late Rep. John Conyers, Jr., the chief sponsor of HR 1000, The Jobs for All Act, we lost a powerful Congressional sponsor.

NJFAN’s Philip Harvey served as the principal advisor for HR 1000 and is working on an update of The Jobs for All Act with a Member of Congress who is eager to introduce the new bill-- late in 2021 or early next year. With a strong Congressional advocate and an enthusiastic staff, we expect to win wide sponsorship for this new Jobs for All Act. A bill such as this is a major vehicle for increasing knowledge of what a Job Guarantee is and of building support for its enactment. We will keep you posted about the reintroduction of the Jobs for All Act.

NJFAN Town Meetings. Under the leadership of Outreach Coordinator Logan Martinez, NJFAN has led Jobs for All Town Meetings in four cities-- actions that bring together a wide range of economic justice and human rights advocates and encourage their concerted action with the Job Guarantee as centerpiece.

The latest NJFAN Town Meeting--“Good Jobs for All!”-- held in October in New Haven, Connecticut, was organized by NJFAN Board Member and Professor of Social Welfare, Stephen Monroe Tomczak and his graduate student intern, Sarianna Sabbarese. We intend to hold more Town Meetings in the near future and to seek funding for them. In addition to his leadership in the development of Town Meetings, Logan maintains a Jobs for All Network consisting of participants from a number of states that meets bi-weekly via Zoom. Logan invites you to join these Network meetings. To do so, contact him at loganmartinez [at]

Columbia University Seminar on Full Employment, Social Welfare, and Equity. Founded by Columbia University Professor Sumner Rosen, a co-founder of NJFAN, this Seminar has contributed
significantly to our thinking about analytical and policy issues pertaining to a Job Guarantee. The Columbia University Seminars has provided resources for conferences and public meetings co-sponsored by NJFAN and for publication of works pertaining to full employment that are influenced by Seminar presentations. “Keeping Alive the Dream,” an essay in a book about the Columbia University Seminars, emphasizes the role the Full Employment Seminar has played in supporting thinking and advocacy of the right to living-wage work. **

Resources Commensurate with Our Goals. In its 27 years NJFAN has been largely a volunteer organization with dedicated advocates of a Job Guarantee giving large amounts of their time to the cause. The expenses of part-time staff and costs for mailings and the website have been met through the contributions of people like you.

To achieve the human right to decent work, we must lift our organization and our advocacy to a new and much higher plane. For this we will need a great expansion of financial resources and staff. We are planning a drive for foundation support of our Town Meetings and our Media Campaign for public education. We invite your suggestions regarding this campaign and potential sources of support.

We appreciate the consistent support of friends like you. We ask you to dig deeper into your pockets--this year, particularly--so that we can expand our work and mount the drive for significantly greater resources.

You can make your tax-free contribution to NJFAN by sending a check in the enclosed envelope or by credit card through our website, If we don’t have your email address, please send it to us so that we can send you the NJFAN Newsletter.

Warm regards for the New Year,

Trudy Goldberg
Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, Chair, NJFAN

*NJFAN’S Unemployment Real Count, October 2021

Officially Unemployed 7.4 million 4.6% of the labor force
Employed part-time but
want full-time work 4.4 million
Want jobs but not
officially searching 6.0 million
17.8 million 10.6% of the labor force

**Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg and Sheila Collins with Helen Lachs Ginsburg, “Keeping Alive the
Dream: The Seminar on Full Employment, Social Welfare, and Equity,” in Thomas Vinciguerra, ed., A
Community of Scholars: The Columbia University Seminars, Columbia University Press, 2020

PDF Version of 2021 NJFAN Annual Appeal Letter >>

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Mayor-Elect Adams:  Create a Bold Program for Jobs for All for New York City

On December 10, Trudy Goldberg, Franklin D. Roosevelt, III and Noreen Connell of NJFAN wrote to newly-elected New York City Mayor-Elect Eric Adams, to urge him to embrace and implement a full-employment, Jobs For All program for New York City.  

NJFAN letter to Eric AdamsDear Mayor-Elect Eric Adams:

On behalf of the National Jobs for All Network (NJFAN), we wish to congratulate you on your victory in the election for Mayor. We admire your willingness to lead New York City during a period of severe climate and economic challenges.

We urge you to develop a much more assertive role for city government than you’ve outlined in your campaign’s proposals (100+ Steps Forward and Eric’s Economic Plan). A freeze in government hiring seems counterproductive in the face of the recent catastrophic flooding and other problems, including public safety, mental health, and homelessness. In past periods of hiring freezes, such as the city’s fiscal crisis in 1975, difficulties in predicting where retirements occurred damaged some agencies’ performance for over a decade. Why make city government dysfunctional at a time when key staff and institutional knowledge are needed?

Our major concern is that New York City has the highest unemployment rate among the nation’s ten largest cities. Three years’ ago, pre-pandemic, NJFAN helped draft legislation to be introduced into the NYC Council by Public Advocate Letitia James to create over 150,000 jobs that would have launched aggressive climate abatement efforts and community programs. It would have also expanded the effectiveness of city agencies in providing after-school activities, skills training, and community and arts programs.

There is ample documentation to disprove the assertion in Eric’s Economic Plan (pages 5 and 6) that “the biggest problem is not lack of jobs, it’s the lack of access to jobs.” On the contrary, the Community Service Society found that the problem of joblessness is particularly acute for low-income New Yorkers, who rank the lack of jobs just below Covid among their major concerns (The Unheard Third). The New School Center for New York City Affairs’ latest Covid-19  Economic Update (October 21st) reports that joblessness in New York City is “dramatically greater here than at the national level – in fact, nearly eight times greater than in the U.S. overall.” Most of the City’s loss of 485,000 jobs has been experienced by people of color. While community skills mapping and improved job posting may be marginally helpful, these efforts amount to a cruel game of musical chairs -- in the absence of an actual increase in the City’s number of jobs. Training does not create jobs. We urge you to focus on job creation.

NJFAN has some additional comments on your economic agenda:
  • While we strongly support Hire Local provisions (also known as “Community Hiring”) in contracting and capital-funded projects as well as providing M/WBE special consideration for city contracting, there needs to be careful monitoring and penalties/claw backs for failure to meet agreed upon targets for jobs and wages.
  • We strongly oppose the state initiative to subsidize wages in the restaurant industry for several reasons. The NYS Department of Labor has failed to enforce minimum wage standards. This lack of monitoring subject’s restaurant wage subsidies to fraud and abuse. Secondly, restaurants tend to go bankrupt or change ownership with ease, so penalties and claw backs to recapture misused subsidies are not viable options.
  • We question whether tax relief to the private sector (including small businesses) is sufficient to encourage them to increase wages and staffing levels. Far more generous European wage subsidies to businesses during Covid-19 lockdowns have resulted in better job retention rates and prevented business bankruptcies, but they have not provided sufficient funds to increase staffing and wage levels. It is of interest that EU economies are not improving at the rate of the United States’ economy. We commend you for trying to help small businesses by improving city services, but city fines and taxes may not be a significant source of small business bankruptcies. We urge you to commission a university study group of real estate and tax professionals to investigate the impact of high retail leases on small businesses in the boroughs outside of Manhattan. In September 2020, the Center for an Urban Future reported on prepandemic business growth by different racial and ethnic groups and found that Hispanic-owned businesses have decreased, particularly in the Bronx, compared to Hispanic-owned businesses in the rest of the nation. Generous tax breaks to real estate owners for empty storefronts may be counterproductive in that they provide no incentive to offer affordable leases.
Another area where we believe that city tax relief will be insufficient is your proposal to help nearly a million New Yorkers who are unbanked or underbanked, resulting in further depletion of their limited incomes by check cashing or payday lending services. Ironically, access to banks can lead to further exploitation of low-income New Yorkers. Forbes reports that last year, nationally, banks charged mostly low-income clients $12.4 billion in overdraft fees. What is needed is a public bank which would be possible if the NY Public Banking Act passes the NYS Legislature. Public banks are common around the world, and several of them are leading efforts to combat climate change through loan-program incentives. Alternatively, Senators Edward Markey and Kirsten Gillibrand have introduced separate bills to restore U. S. Postal Service retail banking.
  • The return of urban agriculture is an exciting proposition, but we urge that it be limited to high-density vertical farming. In the past, low-density gardens and farms have been proposed as a way to eliminate manufacturing and low-income communities. In addition, city government should run its own pilot programs before contracting with larger agricultural firms or farming collectives.
  • Your objective of making New York City beautiful has our full support, but once again we believe that providing performance and studio space and creating murals is not enough. From 1935 to 1943, the federal government ran its own community art centers throughout the country to support over 10,000 visual artists and photographers and, during the 1930s, a four-year theater project to support another 10,000 individuals in all facets of live production. In New York City, the need to diversify the cultural workforce is as important as diversifying construction crews.
We want to briefly describe two concerns related to the climate crisis that were absent in your campaign materials:
  • Hunts Point Cooperative Market: We know from news reports that you visited European cities with functioning sea walls in order to begin capital projects in New York City to prevent flooding of the financial district and other below-sea-level areas in all five boroughs. We urge you to develop catastrophic planning for the wholesale food center on the banks of the Hudson River. Stores that purchase food at Hunts Point serve 25 million customers in the Tri-State area. Flooding of the market or access roads to the market could make food scarce throughout this region.
  • Cross Harbor Freight Program (CHFP): Congressperson Jerrold Nadler has pointed out that New York is the only major city in the world not connected to its national freight network. This means that city streets and highways are always congested with truck traffic and exhaust fumes. The possibility of sporadic shortages of fuel over the next decade makes it urgent that CHFP proceeds so that Brooklyn and Queens are connected to the national freight network. It should be noted that during 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy flooding, freight trains were the only surface transportation system that continued to function in our region. It is projected that from 28,000 to 41,000 jobs will be directly and indirectly created once the city is connected to the national freight network.
in closing, we extend our hopes that you will be a successful Mayor in the mold of Fiorello LaGuardia, who harnessed the federal New Deal resources to create hundreds of parks, schools, roads, libraries, wastewater treatment projects and public housing. We hope the Build Back Better program will inspire you to create bold plans to save our city by the sea and the lives of over eight million residents who live here.

Kind regards,

Gertrude Goldberg
Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, Chair, National Jobs for All Network

Franklin Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt, III, Advisory Committee, National Jobs for All Network

Noreen Connell
Noreen Connell, Executive Committee, National Jobs for All Network

cc: NYC Comptroller-Elect Brad Lander
NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams
U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Download the NJFAN Letter to Mayor-Elect Eric Adams (PDF)

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New Haven Town Hall Brings Together Activists from Across Connecticut to Work for a Federal Job Guarantee

by Stephen Monroe Tomczak and Sarianna Sabbarese
The National Jobs for All Network (NJFAN), in collaboration with numerous local organizations representing branches of the broader movement for social and economic justice, sponsored a Town Hall in New Haven Connecticut on September 29, 2021.  Among the co-sponsoring organizations were the Connecticut Chapter of the Social Welfare Action Alliance (SWAA); the Southern Connecticut State University Social Work Department; the Greater New Haven Peace Council; the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs; Medicare 4 All – CT; and Ice the Beef New Haven.

Organized by NJFAN Outreach Committee

The New Haven Town Hall was organized by the National Jobs for All Outreach Committee, led by NJFAN Outreach Coordinator Logan Martinez.  New Haven based Committee members Dr. Stephen Monroe Tomczak and graduate student Sarianna Sabbarese of the Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) Social Work and Women’s and Gender Studies Departments recruited speakers and organized publicity for the event. Dr. Tomczak, a faculty member at SCSU specializing in social policy, acted as the emcee for the event, and Ms. Sabbarese spoke as a representative of the SCSU SWAA student chapter, of which she is the chief organizer.  In her speech, Ms. Sabbarese described the event as having two purposes: first, to support and promote NJFAN in its efforts to establish a federal Job Guarantee.  She described the second and more long-range goal as an ongoing and intersectional conversation among groups, organizations, and institutions:

We tend to spend our limited time and other resources in one place in order to have as much focused impact as we can.  But with this event, we want to destroy the silos that keep us from engaging directly with one another.  It’s important that we hear from one another, celebrate each other’s work, and think about the ways everybody else’s efforts connect to our own…. We are all fighting together, in different ways, for equity and justice.

Speakers Emphasize Impact of a Job Guarantee on Wide Range of Economic Justice Goals

The Town Meeting kicked off with a warm welcome from NJFAN chairperson, Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, who contextualized the event in the broader history of the struggle for full employment. The keynote address by nationally known expert on employment policy, Professor Philip Harvey, Professor of Law and Economics at  Rutgers University, focused on the impact of a federal Job Guarantee on a variety of important measures of human wellbeing.

Professor Harvey’s address was followed by speakers representing various organizations, each of whom emphasized the importance of the achievement of a federal Job Guarantee to their advocacy of economic and social justice.  Among those who addressed the 50 or so attendees of this virtual event were Kim Hart of Mothers and Others for Justice who called attention to the intersections between the need for jobs and efforts to address food insecurity; Holly Hackett of Medicare 4 All – CT who showed single payer health care could be enhanced by a federal Job Guarantee; and Dr. Henry Lowendorf of the New Haven Peace Council who showed how full employment policies would support a shift away from the war economy.

Several speakers addressed the intersection of immigration and full employment policy, including Rosana G. Ferraro of the Social Welfare Action Alliance, Connecticut and Jonathan Gonzalez-Cruz of Husky 4 Immigrants.  Both noted how the situation of undocumented immigrants, in particular, would be improved by employment guarantees.

Manuel Camacho, a high school student and leader of Ice the Beef raised awareness of the importance of a Job Guarantee to young people.  And at several points in the program, attendees were entertained and enlightened by local labor troubadour, Frank Panzarella, who played some inspiring songs from the labor movement.

The Town Hall closed with a rousing address by State Senator Gary Winfield who exhorted the audience to become active in the policymaking process in order to promote policies that enhance economic security for the state’s population. 

Participants in Town Hall Continue to Meet and Strategize

Since the New Haven Town Hall, two follow -up meetings have been held to plan strategy to advance the cause of Living-Wage Jobs for All in Connecticut. Participants have included representatives of some of the sponsoring organizations, state legislators, and other advocates and community representatives.  The goal is to advance the cause of full employment at local and state levels as well as contribute to NFJAN’s efforts to enact a federal Job Guarantee at the federal level.

Videos of the New Haven Town Hall:
Part 1: 
Part 2:

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National Jobs for All Virtual Town Hall Part 1

National Jobs for All Network Virtual Town Hall Meeting Part 2

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The Columbia University Student Strike: Currently the Nation’s Largest

by Jack Hammond

Columbia Strike, photo from Twitter
Student workers at Columbia University in New York City have been on strike since November 3.
(@jeremychiuu / Student Workers of Columbia / Twitter) (Courtesy: Jacobin)

Editor’s Note:  The National Jobs for All Network is  committed to living-wage work for all and to strengthening workers’ bargaining rights.  We have a particular interest in the current strike of Columbia University Student Workers.  NJFAN has a close relationship to the Columbia University Seminar on Full Employment, Social Welfare, and Equity which has played a significant role in furthering our understanding and advocacy of what President Franklin D. Roosevelt considered the “fundamental” economic right to “a useful and remunerative job.” NJFAN leaders have been chairs of the Columbia Seminar since its founding.  In view of its values and commitments, the Columbia Seminar on Full Employment which currently meets via Zoom, has refused to cross a virtual picket line and has canceled its scheduled meetings until the strike is settled. Jack Hammond, Professor of Sociology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY and  an  Associate of  the  Full Employment Seminar, has joined the Columbia student strikers on the picket line and has contributed this article on the strike.


On November 3, 3000 graduate (and some undergraduate) student workers at Columbia University went on strike. When the John Deere strike was settled shortly thereafter, the Columbia strike became the biggest ongoing strike in the country in a season of widespread labor militancy across many sectors.

On December 2 the university administration sent emails to striking students threatening to fire them and hire scabs to replace them if they do not return to work by December 10. Apart from the unlikelihood of finding qualified replacements to teach courses requiring specific academic knowledge, the bargaining committee responded that the threat “is intended to cause panic within our ranks” but that it “shows that our strike is working and the university is desperate to end it.” They charge that the threat is illegal under NLRB rulings which prohibit hiring replacement workers in an unfair-labor-practices strike.

On December 8 the strikers escalated their daily picket line by attempting to close the University, asking people not to cross the picket line and enter the campus. (Your correspondent participated in this picket line.)

Organized in UAW Local 2110, students are demanding pay increases, to a minimum of $45,000 for 12-month appointments and $36,000 for 9-month appointments. They argue that the shortfall in their current pay scale relative to the high cost of living in New York City is much greater than at other major universities. Columbia’s annual tuition of $63,530 is the highest in the Ivy League.

Student workers also demand improvements in health care and child care subsidies and a neutral arbitration procedure to rule on complaints of harassment. They demand that any loss of pay be restored to students who have lost time due to their own illness, the need to care for family members, or closure of the facilities where they were working due to the COVID pandemic.

Graduate students are in an exceptionally vulnerable position compared to other workers. Their faculty advisors are often their bosses, and if they are working as research assistants, their paid job may also be their dissertation research. A student’s successful completion of a degree may depend on remaining in the advisor’s good graces. In the early days of graduate student unionization, faculty mentors often argued that the relationship was too close to be  governed  by the rigid rules of a contract. More recently, university administrations have turned to bare-knuckle bargaining tactics and often simply refused to negotiate seriously with their student workers.

The Columbia students first went on strike last spring. The strike was suspended when the union leadership negotiated a settlement with the administration, but it was turned down by a vote of the strikers. When negotiations resumed in the fall, lack of progress towards a settlement led to a new vote in September in which 89 percent of the students voted to resume the strike.

The University has insisted on mediation, but the strikers complain that the University has been unyielding with regard to their demands for improvements in compensation, health insurance, recognition, and neutral arbitration.

This is a season of burgeoning strike actions by graduate students and adjuncts (part-time teachers, many of whom are graduate students) around the country. Settlements have been reached at New York University and, after a brief strike, Harvard. The University of California system has negotiated a contract with 6,000 adjuncts, reaching what has been called the best contract for contingent university workers in the country.

At the City University of New York where I teach, full-time faculty and adjuncts are members of the same bargaining unit and covered by the same contract. We are all members of the Professional Staff Congress (American Federation of Teachers, AFT). Despite inevitable tensions, we believe that this unusual arrangement strengthens both groups.

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Poverty Rates Down in 2020--Miracle or Mirage?

by Frank Stricker

Did poverty rates rise or fall in 2020, the first year of the COVID pandemic? The answer to that question is somewhat complicated. On September 15th of this year the U.S. Census Bureau released its poverty estimates. For the last decade those estimates have appeared in two separate reports. Using relatively new poverty lines called the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), the Census Bureau concluded that the national poverty rate fell from 11.8% to 9.1%. Employing the traditional or Regular Poverty Measure (RPM), in use since the early 1960s, the national poverty rate increased from 10.5% to 11.4% of the population.

An important takeaway here is not the differences, but that even in the worse case, the poverty rate did not increase much. That’s surprising for a population that was slammed with mass unemployment. The main reason poverty rates did not soar is simple. The federal government sent trillions of dollars out to the people.

RPM vs. SPM: Is Either Useful Enough?

The Census Bureau has to determine people’s income levels in order to estimate how many fall below poverty lines. What counts as income? The newer SPM counts a lot of income and near-income that the older RPM omits. It includes stimulus payments and child tax credits, as well as food stamps (SNAP), subsidized housing, Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Including these as income makes more people appear to be “unpoor.” But the SPM also subtracts from people’s incomes such things as FICA, income taxes, and child-care expenses, and that makes people seem poorer than they are.

A lot of decisions go into counting income in both sets of poverty lines, but one thing needs to be emphasized. In either case, the poverty thresholds below which a household is considered poor are way too stingy. Here are three of the 48 lines in the traditional RPM.[1]

Sample RPM poverty thresholds for 2020. If your type of household had more annual income than the appropriate threshold, you were not counted as poor.

Two people in a household in which the head is 65 or older    $15,644

Four people in a family, two them under 18                                $26,246

One person, under 65                                                                    $13,465

Ponder these numbers. If you were a non-elderly singleton, and you had $14,000 of annual income, you were not deemed poor. A household of two headed by an older person that had $16,000 a year (including Social Security) would not be poor. And the four-person household would not be considered poor if its total pre-tax annual income were $27,000 a year.

My question is this: can anyone take these numbers seriously? Where would that non-poor family with only $27,000 live?  In tents on a mountain somewhere in Appalachia near a creek that provided free water and a large communal vegetable garden?

Several years ago the Economic Policy Institute calculated how much a family of four needed for a modest but adequate living standard. They used 2017 dollars, so the costs for 2020 would be a little higher, but the general point holds. If the family of four lived in Harlan County, Kentucky, they needed $66,715. In Los Angeles County, they required $93,295.

Poverty lines need to be much higher if we are to get real about how extensive poverty is. People shouldn’t be comfortable thinking that just a tenth of the population is poor. It is true that there are reasons to retain the old RPM. One is its historical value as an indicator of how far we have come since 1959 using stable poverty lines that have been revised only to reflect price changes. That’s important. So let’s have three lines. The old RPM, the SPM that experts like, and a new set of higher poverty lines.

There will be battles about how high the lines should be, but the mechanics of a broad change could be simple. We already have key facts in the annual poverty report. If poverty lines had been 50% higher last year, the national poverty rate would have been 19.4%, not 11%.

In revising the lines, the big battles will be political ones. Conservatives don’t want to know that poverty is more widespread than we thought. And the sitting president might not feel good about overseeing a jump in poverty rates even if there were no actual increase in the number of people who were suffering economically. These folks can adapt, and the results using the RPM and SPM could be released to show that poverty didn’t increase.

There’s an additional fact in favor of higher poverty lines. Except for price changes, the lines have not been revised substantially since the mid-1960s. Yet median household incomes have grown in real, purchasing power by 40% since 1967. Thus, people right at the poverty line today have the same total purchasing power they had in the 1960s, and they are much further below average incomes.[2]

There is nothing sacred about current poverty lines. Their creation involved scholarly and political choices. In the early 1960s, Mollie Orshansky, working in the Division of Research and Statistics in the Social Security Administration, used Department of Agriculture model food budgets to construct poverty lines. It was known that food budgets were, on average, a third of a family’s total spending, so Orshansky multiplied the two lowest budgets--the low-income and the emergency-economy budgets--by three to get two sets of poverty lines. She argued that the government should adopt the higher of the two--the low-income level--but the Bureau of the Budget ordered federal agencies to use the stingier of  the budgets, the emergency budget. That was three fourths as high as the low-income budget. Truly lower than low.[3]

Dimensions of Poverty Rates in 2020

In the rest of this essay I rely mostly on results using the traditional RPM poverty lines. RPM estimations normally include as household income such things as unemployment benefits, Social Security payments, and Supplemental Security income. But not the Child Tax Credit or pandemic stimulus payments. Also, the RPMs do not include in-kind programs like food stamps, nor benefits that occur as part of the taxation process, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Some people need assistance more than others. Many groups have been unfairly pushed down into poverty by warped social, political, and economic structures. In 2020, the poverty rate for black people rose to 19.5%, and was roughly twice the white (non-Hispanic) rate of 10.1%  and nearly 2 1/2 times the Asian rate of 8.1%. Observers wearing rose-colored glasses may point out that poverty rates for 2019 and 2020 were the lowest ever for black people. Realists can point out that there is something terribly wrong when a fifth of a particular population group is below even the subterranean official poverty lines. Ditto for Hispanics, whose 2020 rate was 17%. For disabled people in the working-age group of 18-to-64, pre-COVID poverty rates in 2019 were extremely high—22.5%. And they increased to 25% in 2020.


In terms of your income level, it is better to work--and to work full-time if you can. For those who worked full-time, year-round, the poverty rate fell from 2% to 1.6%.between 2019 and 2020.[4]  People who did not work at all had very high poverty rates: 26.4% in 2019 and 28.8% in 2020. From such numbers conservatives conclude that people need to work more. And get married. It is true that married-couple families have poverty rates below 5%.

But poverty reports say little about causality, and I don’t think conservatives want to think deeply about why some poor people are not working. Some people have a hard time finding affordable child care. Some are ill or disabled. Some poor people have had less schooling. Many have to deal with direct and structural discriminations. Some are ex-prisoners whom employers will not hire except during dire labor shortages. Also, lousy wages and lousy working conditions are work disincentives. Yet despite low pay and nasty bosses, millions of poor people do work a lot. June Zaccone of the National Jobs for All Network points out that in 2020, 12% of all full-time, year-round workers, earned less than the average poverty line for a family of four--$26,496. These people were being paid less than $13 an hour, though they were, presumably, serious workers.[5]

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, before substantial improvements in Social Security benefits, older people were poorer than younger people. Now people 65 and older have a poverty rate of 9%. That is slightly below the rate for people ages 18 through 64, and it is substantially below the 16% rate for people under 18. It is true that the rate for elderly blacks and Hispanics was 17% and the rate for elderly women in each group who are on their own must be very high. Social Security needs improvements, including higher minimums.

During the first pandemic year, old and new federal programs gave people money that kept them out of poverty. Pandemic programs were crucial to people who are poorer, who live in female-headed households, who are Black, who live in the south, and who do not have a high school diploma. The same amount of money meant more to people with less of it to begin with. For example, between 2019 and 2020, households headed by someone with a B.A. or higher degree, increased their incomes by $2051; that raised their annual median income 2.3%. Those who lacked even a high school diploma received an extra $2052 and that raised their income 6.7%. Female heads of household increased their average incomes by 10.7%.[6]  Of the top three lifters, an old program, Social Security, led the way, raising 26.5 million people above poverty lines. New stimulus payments lifted 11.7 million out of poverty. New and enhanced unemployment benefits, lifted 5.5 million.[7]

A Partial To-Do List

  1. Federal poverty lines--RPMs and SPMs--are a poor measure of economic deprivation in America. New poverty lines should be at least 50% higher.
  2. New lines should count as income more federal benefits and highlight the anti-poverty effectiveness of various federal programs.
  3. The federal minimum wage, now $7.25 an hour, should be put on track to reach $20 soon. The Federal Government should create millions of good jobs and insure that low-income people and those frequently discriminated against get a fair share of new good jobs.
  4. Conservatives can stop stereotyping the poor as self-indulgent people who must not be coddled. Stop telling them to work for sub-poverty wages and start supporting a high-wage economy. Talk about the indulgences of the filthy rich. Think about $25 million for ten minutes in space.

Frank Stricker is on the board of the National Jobs for All Network, is a member of DSA, and is emeritus history professor, California State University, Dominguez Hills. He wrote American Unemployment: Past, Present, and Future (2020).


[1] These lines are from p. 51 of the regular poverty report, Emily A. Shrider, Melissa Kollar, Frances Chen, and Jessica Semega, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-273, Income and Poverty in the United States, 2020 (U.S. Government Publishing Office, Washington, DC, September, 2021). As far as I can tell, the poverty lines used in the newer SPM are close to the old lines. See Liana E. Fox and Kalee Burns, Current Population Reports, P60-275, The Supplemental Poverty Measure, 2020, (September, 2021), 29, for three SPM alternatives that take into account housing costs. One alternative is 12% higher, one is 6% lower, and another is 13% higher than the standard RPM poverty line for a two-adult, two-child household.

[2] It is good to remember that very few people in poverty are at or near the poverty line itself. Most are much poorer than that low line.

[3] The Orshansky story gets more detail in my book, Why America Lost the War on Poverty-and How to Win It (2007), 56-57. By the way, the Biden Administration was able to change a foundational living standard plan that had been in use for more than half a century. They increased Food Stamp benefits, which had not been increased, except for price changes, since the program started with the 1962 Thrifty Food Plan. The reform was made possible by legislation passed in 2018 by a Republican Congress which ordered the Department of Agriculture to review the basic plans behind benefit levels. As it turned out many Republicans and conservatives were not happy about the upgrades. I guess it was too soon--just 60 years.

[4] This decline may reflect a compositional effect. More low-income and poor workers dropped out of the work force than higher-income workers.

[5] The Bureau of Labor Statistics does its own estimates of the working poor. They are lower than June Zaccone’s. Some of the people in Zaccone's estimate live in households with other earners and that could bring them over the poverty line.

[6]  The source for this paragraph is 71-72 in Income and Poverty.

[7] The Supplemental Poverty Measure, 2020, pp. 2 and 12.

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Inflated Fears?

By Trudy Goldberg

(Author’s Note: Published works are cited. All other references are from personal communications with the experts between November 15th and December 15th ). These experts are either Board members of NJFAN or long associated with the Network.)

Inflation can be a serious problem. Even if wages rise, soaring prices can wipe out these gains. Efforts to control inflation can cause serious problems like the Volcker solution to the Great Inflation of the 1970s which tamed inflation by a precipitous rise in interest rates—at the cost of recession, business failures, and high unemployment. It is important that we understand the source of current price rises, how serious they are, and how government can prevent further increases and avoid solutions that jeopardize recovery from the COVID recession.

How does the rise in prices so far this year compare with recent periods of high inflation? In 1946, the rate of inflation was 14.36%, and the next highest since World War II was 11.35% in 1979. Compare these with the price rise of 6.8% from November 2020 to November 2021. Of course, we don’t know what the coming months and year will bring—whether the trend in prices will be steadily upward, cease or level off. With news of the omicron variant of COVID, there were reports of a drop in oil prices. This new variant could pose a threat to economic recovery, not to mention the human toll of increased contagion and illness.

Is Inflation Wiping Out Wage Gains?  

Drawing on the November employment report of the Department of Labor, economist Dean Baker observed that the real average hourly wage (wage increase in excess of price increases) for production and non-supervisory workers has risen by 2.1 percent over the last two years, and for the lowest-paid workers, the increase has been even larger. “After decades of wage stagnation, for those at the middle and the bottom of the wage ladder,” Baker wrote, “it’s good to see some real progress for at least some low-paid workers.” (1)

Historian of unemployment Frank Stricker comments: "That the real hourly wages of non-supervisory and production workers grew by 2.1% over the last two years is good news. But in recent months real wages have fallen a bit--1% since April of 2021. That they are falling at all is a danger signal. If employees could keep getting hefty increases in their nominal pay and if we could control inflation without laying off millions of workers, then we would really have something to cheer about."

What Recent History Teaches Us about Current Price Rises

In his New York Times column, “History Says Don’t Panic about Inflation,” Paul Krugman referred to a “thoughtful article” written in July by members of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.(2) These economists examined six periods of heightened inflation since World War II and drew the following conclusion:

No single historical episode is a perfect template for current events. But when looking for historical parallels, it is useful to concentrate on inflationary episodes that contained supply chain disruptions and a spike in consumer demand after a period of temporary suppression. The inflationary period after World War II is likely a better comparison for the current economic situation than the 1970s and suggests that inflation could quickly decline once supply chains are fully online and pent-up demand levels off. (3)

A difference between the cause of inflation in 1946 and 2021, the White House team observed, is that instead of having redirected resources to support a war effort, manufacturing capabilities were temporarily shut down or reduced to avoid COVID contagion. One might add that pent-up demand was over a much longer period in the earlier example—a decade of Depression and five years of war when peacetime production was severely curtailed. Yet, even that period or rising prices was relatively short compared to the decade-long episode in the 1970s.

Supply or Demand Side Inflation?

Some high-profile economists attribute current price rises to the American Rescue Plan (ARC) which they say directed too much money to US households, causing demand to rise much faster than supply.  In this camp, according to Paul Krugman, are chief economic advisers to President Barack Obama Jason Furman and Larry Summers and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund Olivier Blanchard.(4) Taking issue with this view, Dean Baker points out that “There is no clear relationship between the size of the rescue and recovery packages and current inflation. For example, the size of the packages in France and Japan were considerably larger than the packages put in place in Germany, but both countries have considerably lower inflation.”(5) June Zaccone, Associate Professor Emerita of Economics, Hofstra University, points out that “It would have been impossible to prevent an even worse epidemic without a program that paid workers to stay home—consider the infections in meat-packing plants.” Thus the package was a means of preventing the spread of COVID. Not necessarily disagreeing with those who point a finger at the ARC, Franklin D. Roosevelt, III (Economics Professor Emeritus, Sarah Lawrence College), said, in an interview with the author, “Yes, the ARC can be blamed as excessive, but tell that to all the people who were then in distress.”

Economists Paul Krugman and James Galbraith maintain that the problem is not inflated demand. Galbraith holds that there is no shortage of goods to meet consumer demands and that the real problem is a bottleneck in the movement of goods to market. “Ships bearing the supply – 30 million tons of it – are sitting right now outside US ports, with more on the way (his emphasis).”(6) In analyzing the shipping tie-ups that contribute to shortages, despite the availability of goods, Galbraith takes on the free market “jibe” that the problem in global supply chains is the inefficiency of central planning. The point about “efficiency,” he writes, gets closer to reality, except that the problem is not too little efficiency, but too much. A period of idleness interrupted the very tightly and efficiently run supply chains, and it will take time to regain efficient operations.

Professor Zaccone observes that a shortage of truckers is a major contributor to the delivery problem. Many truck drivers have quit because of long hours and difficult working conditions, a problem that predated the epidemic. A New York Times article, “The Biggest Kink in America’s Supply Chain, Not Enough Truckers,” called attention to the arduous working conditions of truck drivers and cited a report by the American Trucking Association that the industry is short 80,000 drivers.”(7) Professor Roosevelt points to another supply-chain hold-up--the hesitancy of dock workers to go back to work. “But who can blame them for being afraid of going back into close contact with other workers who may not have been vaccinated?” 

Krugman, in rejecting the excessive demand explanation for rising prices, points out that overall demand in the United States “doesn’t look all that high.”(8) Real gross domestic production which is equal to real spending on U.S. produced goods and services, is still about 2 percent below expected economic capacity if the pandemic hadn’t occurred. The demand, he writes, has been “skewed,” with consumers buying fewer services but more goods than previously with the resultant strain on the supply chain.

High Energy Costs and Inflation

Galbraith, putting the i-word in quotation marks, writes that “Most of ‘inflation’ so far has been in energy (driven partly by a rebound from the pandemic slump) and in used cars and trucks….”(9) Compared to the overall rise in prices of 6.8%, gasoline of all types rose 58.1%; fuel, 59.3%; utility (piped) gas service, 25.1%; and used cars and trucks, 31.4%. (U.S. Department of Labor figures.) The demand for used vehicles or previously produced goods, Galbraith points out, is the result of the semiconductor shortage that affects automakers. This, he holds, is not a matter of excess demand but rather that “during the pandemic, chipmakers predicted a bigger shift in the composition of demand: toward household gizmos and away from cars—than actually occurred. Now they have too much of one kind of chip and not enough of another.”  

Randall Wray, Senior Scholar at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, points to causes such as the ARC and shipping tie-ups related to increased concentration among shipping magnates but most strongly emphasizes the inflationary impact of the very high rise in oil prices—stemming from OPEC’s refusal to expand the supply. Wray compares the current situation—not to the post-war inflation—but to the role of the OPEC cartel in the 1970s. Wray proposed the intervention to combat high energy prices that President Biden subsequently took: releasing some of the nation’s emergency oil reserves into the market. Interestingly, some other economists did not propose this intervention--despite recognition of the disproportionate contribution of energy costs to price rises. At the same time, Wray adds, “We must boost spending on alternative energy as fast as we can and transition out of oil. That means no more leasing, no more drilling. Alternative energy is already cheaper—we just need to buy some time to get it in place.”

In announcing the decision to release 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve President Biden held that this “will not solve the problem of gas prices overnight.” “It will take time,” the President said, “but before long you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank.”(10) In announcing a policy that could lead to more consumption of fossil fuels, the President also referred to controlling climate change: "And in the longer term, we will reduce our reliance on oil as we shift to clean energy."

Missing from the Inflation Dialogue

In an insightful article, “Six Things They’re Not Telling You about Inflation,” Julia Rock and Alex Sirota call attention to contributions to inflation omitted by mainstream media and even progressive economists: “… soaring salaries of corporate executives?”  and “…medicine, health insurance, and housing prices that have been skyrocketing for years?” Stories about expensive essential goods, they point out, “don’t mention the record profits of the companies selling them.”(11) And, one might add, how about the military budget which Congress just raised over the already bloated expenditures proposed by the President?

Inflation Control

Current “inflation” is partly related to some long-term problems in the U.S. economy such as the trucker shortage that were exacerbated by the shutdown. But inflation was not a problem before the Pandemic struck. Attention to those problems is nonetheless important, along with less reliance on off-shoring. “Solutions for the Shortage of Truck Drivers” is the title of a New York Times Letters Section--a response to a November 10th article: “Lack of Truckers Is Choking U.S. Supply Chain.” Among the suggestions are reducing sweatshop conditions imposed by the trucking industry; changing the arduous model for long-haul trucking; increasing the number of women truck drivers by reducing sexual harassment; and more reliance on trains.”(12) Some of the supply-side problems need time for recovery. In announcing the release of oil reserves, the President said the effects would not show up immediately at the pump, but Professor Wray observes that crude oil prices have already peaked and are coming down. Infrastructure repair and upgrading, he adds, is another intervention that will increase efficiency but will take time. In any case, as Professor Zaccone emphasizes, “Usually, it makes more sense to address supply problems directly, as happened with releasing oil from the national reserve. Such targeted interventions to address supply-side problems are much preferable to monetary policy—tightening credit and increasing interest rates—when overall excessive demand is not the problem.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has signaled monetary interventions on the part of the Fed that would raise interest rates three times in 2022. While not the Volker-type shock treatment, the move is poorly targeted-- to reduce consumer demand when the problem is on the supply side. We must avoid policies that could create a recession with all its harmful sequelae—especially unemployment.

COVID Control Is Essential

Control of the virus is critical to taming current price rises and preventing another COVID recession that would increase hesitancy to return to work on the part of workers who stay home to avoid contagion or tend children shut out of school. It goes without saying that we must prevent needless illness and death. Professor Roosevelt is only half joking with this prescription: “…draft the unvaccinated into the Army, vaccinate them via the chain of command, then discharge them after they have had at least two shots!” “Crushing the virus,” he explains, “is like fighting a war and people are dying (as you know, more than 800,000 so far).” 

COVID prevention must be all out. It looks like the Biden Administration is stepping up its anti-viral war—recommending boosters for everyone 18 and over and making frequent testing more affordable and accessible: “We are going to fight COVID-19 not with shutdowns or lockdowns – but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more.”(13) “More” should include more attention and resources to increase ventilation, particularly in schools and other places where people congregate.

A global pandemic requires global intervention. No country will be COVID free without sufficient intervention in every country. The Biden Administration is increasing its efforts—pledging to send more than 200 million vaccines abroad in 100 days. According to Jeffrey Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, “If we want to protect the American people and our economy, we must defeat the virus everywhere. That means we must ensure the rest of the world gets vaccinated.”(14) Whether stepped-up global intervention will be sufficient remains to be seen.

1. Dean Baker, “The High-Paid Media Types Are Unhappy Workers Are Demanding Fair Wages,” Center on Economic and Policy Research, Washington, DC, November 25, 2021.
2. Paul Krugman, “History Says Don’t Panic about Inflation, New York Times, November 11, 2021.
3. Cecilia Rouse, Jeffrey Zhang, and Ernie Tedeschi, “Historical Parallels to Today’s Inflationary Episode,” The White House blog, July 6, 2121.
4. Paul Krugman, “Wonking Out: Going Beyond the Headlines, New York Times,  December 6, 2021.
5. Dean Baker, “Getting High on Inflation,”Center on Economic and Policy Research, Washington, DC, November 11, 2021.
6. James K. Galbraith, “The Choking of  the Global Minotaur,” Project Syndicate, November 11, 2021.
7. Madeline Ngo and Ana Swanson,  The Biggest Kink in America’s Supply Chain: Not Enough Truckers,” New York Times, November 6, 2021.
8. Krugman, “Wonking Out.”
9. Galbraith, “The Choking of the Global Minotaur.”
10. Kate Sullivan, Betsy Klein, and Devan Cole, “Biden announces release of oil reserves, but says gas prices will not drop overnight, CNN, updated November 23, 2021.
11. Julia Rock and David Sirota, “Six Things They’re Not Telling You about Inflation,” The Daily Poster, 12/6/2021,
12. “Solutions for the Shortage of Truck Drivers" is the title of a New York Times Letters Section, November 20, 2021, a response to a November 10 article, "Lack of Truckers is Choking U.S. Supply Chain," New York Times, November 10, 2021.
13. President Biden: My winter plan fights COVID with testing and vaccines and without lockdowns (, December 3, 2021.
14. Arlette Saenz  “Biden Administration shipping 9 million vaccine doses to Africa and another 2 million worldwide, CNN. December 4, 2021.

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Book Review: The Case for a Job Guarantee (1)

Pavlina R. Tcherneva (2020), The Case for a Job Guarantee, Cambridge: Polity Press, ₤9.99, pp. 140, pbk. doi:10.1017/S0047279421000568

Review by Martin Watts, University of New Castle, Australia

Reprinted with permission, Journal of Social Policy. (2021), 50, 4, 891-901
© The Author, 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.

Monetary policy has been the dominant strand of macroeconomic policy since the 1970s and remains so within the New Monetary Consensus, yet the macroeconomic performance of developed economies, including USA, UK and Australia, has been inferior to the immediate post-war experience of close to full employment.

The Covid-19 pandemic deprived many workers of their livelihoods, either permanently through job loss or temporarily through lockdown, and threatened the sustainability of thousands of businesses. Governments rapidly recognized that stimulatory fiscal measures were essential as opposed to further interest rate manipulation, to provide households and firms with the means to spend through government transfers.

However there has not been a paradigm shift to fiscal dominance. The OECD and other international institutions argue that high fiscal deficits and growing debt can only continue, while interest rates remain low, yet independent Central Banks through their bond buying programs have kept rates low, not the markets (Mitchell, 2021). Thus, the restoration of genuine full employment, as opposed to the achievement of a NAIRU, is unlikely.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), which has received considerable scrutiny in the last decade, including ill-informed motions in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, incorporates a Job Guarantee (JG), a full employment macroeconomic stabilization policy, within its analytical framework. (I should acknowledge that my academic writing over more than 20 years has been informed by MMT principles).

In this persuasive, timely and accessible book by Pavlina Tcherneva, she makes a convincing case for the adoption of the JG in conjunction with a Green New Deal in the USA. Her arguments are equally applicable to other advanced economies, that are currency sovereign, such as the UK and Australia. These countries operate with their own fiat currencies which float on foreign exchange markets and issue little or no foreign currency denominated debt.

Under a JG, any individual of working age can secure an ongoing minimum wage job with all the usual benefits of employment including annual leave. The JG is federally funded but locally administered. The payment of the minimum wage is the means by which rising private sector employment can be accommodated by JG workers shifting into better paid jobs without wage inflation being instigated.

Tcherneva notes how unemployment and casualized work is considered appropriate for macro stabilization, even though their incidence is uneven across gender and ‘race' and people with disabilities. Even at a cyclical peak, the level of unemployment exceeds the number of vacancies.

She convincingly argues that, when account is taken of the social and economic costs of unemployment, it is imperative that full employment is restored. She notes that some socioeconomic are taken for granted including access to public education and retirement income but not the right to a job. A robust wage floor, and hence the end of wage theft, requires both a statutory minimum wage and the guarantee of employment.

Unemployment tends to rise quickly in a downturn but falls slowly in an upturn. A well-administered JG means that both the economic and social consequences of job loss are mitigated, along with the dangers of workers being scarred by long-term unemployment.

Tcherneva cogently argues against a tiered JG, pointing out that securing the living wage floor is the prime objective and that competing for labor with the private sector across the wage spectrum will generate inflation. She also dispels the myth that unemployment is somehow superior to low productivity work

Finally, she makes the important point that to achieve an inclusive and sustainable macroeconomy requires the implementation of both the Green New Deal and the Job Guarantee.

This brief review cannot do justice to the impressive range of arguments put forward by Tcherneva in favor of the JG but let me finish with some issues that a second edition(!) could address.

First, many critics would argue that sustained fill employment would promote inflation and the intense opposition of the captains of industry. More discussion of the two counter-inflation mechanisms embedded in the JG would be useful. These would be as follows: i) the job readiness of JG workers means that the private sector can readily recruit in an upturn without incurring high costs of training; ii) the buffer employment ratio (the JG share of total employment) can be raised if undesirably high inflation is anticipated via contractionary fiscal policy which should dampen inflationary pressure. Also, the labor market is segmented, so that job security for the low paid is unlikely to increase the bargaining power of the more highly paid. A stable inflation, full employment environment is very good for business in terms of stable demand for goods and services.

Second, a long list of potential paid jobs which meet social, economic and environmental needs is provided in Chapter 5, but it is administratively and politically challenging to identify ones which operate as JG jobs that can be scaled up or down counter-cyclically. Given the desirability of providing local jobs for local residents to reduce commuting, this becomes more challenging (pp. 109-110). Without this focus, JG would be wrongly perceived as a major job creation program rather than a macro stabilization strategy.

Third, Tcherneva recommends that the US Federal Minimum Wage (FMW) of$7.25 per hour be raised to $15 per hour, but 12 states currently have same minimum wage of$7.25 per hour and some workers in a further 6 states receive less than the FMW. The States would have to surrender responsibility for setting minimum wages to achieve complete coverage. While many orthodox economists in the USA now accept that modest increases in minimum wages have minimal effects on employment, such a huge increase in the minimum wage is certain to cause huge uncertainty and disruption in the private sector. Thus, the implementation of a JG would be very difficult, given the unknown level of worker displacement from the private sector. Two adjustments — the first to, say, $10 per hour — would be less disruptive. She suggests that the FMW would be reviewed every few years and increased in lockstep with increases in productivity, but not indexed to inflation (pp. 89-90): which would reduce wage share of national income. Finally, minimum wages are reviewed and adjusted annually in the UK and Australia with limited, if any impact on employment, which would avoid the larger, but less frequent increases, under Tcherneva’s proposal.


Mitchell W. F. (2021), 'OECD is apparently now anti austerity — warning, the leopard hasn't changed its spots', Billy Blog, 12 January,

Martin Watts, The University of Newcastle, Australia
Martin.Watts [at]

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Book Review: The Case for a Job Guarantee (2)

by Pavlina R. Tcherneva, Polity. 2020.  
Reprinted from LSE Review of Books Blog
By Anupama Kumar

The Case for A Job Guarantee by Pavlina R. Tcherneva (book cover)In The Case for a Job Guarantee, Pavlina R. Tcherneva argues that a job guarantee that provides an employment opportunity to anyone looking for work, regardless of their personal circumstances or the state of the economy, not only makes good economic sense, but is vital for people’s wellbeing. As discussions of a universal job guarantee have never been timelier, The Case for a Job Guarantee is a deeply thought-provoking book and deserves serious consideration, writes Anupama Kumar.

In The Case for a Job Guarantee, Pavlina R. Tcherneva argues that not only does a job guarantee make good economic sense, it is also necessary to people’s wellbeing.

Tcherneva defines a job guarantee as ‘a public policy that provides an employment opportunity on standby to anyone looking for work, no matter their personal circumstances or the state of the economy’. Such jobs provide a living wage and decent working conditions. In her vision, a job guarantee is universal and voluntary – available to all people who wish to make use of it. For Tcherneva, a job guarantee is an end in and of itself, and governments should ensure that jobs are available to their citizens.

The first part of the book argues that a job guarantee makes good economic sense for governments. Tcherneva begins by pointing out that while the US economy may have grown, this has not translated into benefits for ordinary workers. She notes that in 2017, real incomes for the bottom 90 per cent of families were lower than they were twenty years earlier, while those of the top 0.01% had risen by a staggering 60.5%. Unemployment rises dramatically during economic downturns, but recovery is anemic. For the most part, economic recovery does not create more jobs.

Governments have responded to economic downturns with fiscal stimuli, but these have tended to protect investments rather than jobs. Loan guarantees and bailouts help preserve corporate profits, rather than jobs for citizens. Instead, Tcherneva argues that a job guarantee ought to be treated as a countercyclical measure. A job guarantee would function like a buffer stock program in agriculture, where the government ‘purchases’ surplus labor at a fixed price. Such a program would address both in inflationary and deflationary pressures from fluctuations in employment. Moreover, by providing steady employment, a job guarantee program would soften the demand on other countercyclical social protection measures, such as unemployment insurance or food assistance. Finally, unemployment is expensive. According to one estimate, unemployment during the Great Recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis cost the United States $10 billion in output each day.
The more compelling argument, however, is that all persons have the right to decent work. This has been recognized as far back as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There ought to be no ‘natural’ level of unemployment, any more than there is a natural level of starvation or illiteracy. Tcherneva reasons that the inflationary effects of unemployment are vastly overstated, and that instead there are real costs to joblessness for individuals and communities. Unemployed individuals have shorter lives and more chronic illnesses than those who are not unemployed. These have effects not only for individuals, but on families dependent on them. Further, unemployment is contagious – mass layoffs in one area lead to chronic unemployment, which spreads to surrounding communities.

The author argues that the responsibility to hire workers cannot lie solely with the private sector. The private sector is in the business of making profits and not in providing jobs to those most in need of them. Nor are labor laws enough to ensure that workers receive a living wage and decent working conditions. At any time, there are more jobseekers than employers. In the absence of a job guarantee, workers will lack the ability to refuse unsafe, poorly paying jobs, as employers will always have the upper hand.

A job guarantee program that assesses the needs of communities locally, and provides adults with employment within that community, can provide a solution to this. A bottom-up approach, which encourages people to participate in job creation, can work better than a top-down, bailout-led model. Moreover, a locally administered job program can provide valuable services to the community, including preserving the local environment.

In proposing this theory of job guarantees, Tcherneva argues that most jobs today are not in manufacturing, but in services such as care work or education. These are jobs that cannot easily be replaced by automation – there is no substitute for a human touch in hospice care. In Tcherneva’s vision, the types of work a job guarantee would involve relate to services at the local level, in building community goods and public services and enabling environmental conservation (a Green New Deal). People making use of this program would also acquire skills that would enable them to take up employment outside the job guarantee program, thereby contributing to the economy. The job guarantee would, however, continue to hire people who do not move to private sector employment. The services provided by these jobs would also lead to a net bene t for the community around them.

While the book makes a convincing case, a deeper analysis of some questions would have been welcome. First, why is a job guarantee a better proposal than a universal basic income? While not explicitly stated in the book, the reasons for this seem to be that job guarantee programs generate productive assets, reduce the burden of unemployment (psychological and otherwise) and create a sense of dignity for workers receiving a living wage for an honest day’s work. Would a UBI be able to perform some of these functions better, especially for those too ill or too old to work?

Second, is a short-term guaranteed job at living wage – but no more – enough to provide the skills to move to employment in the private sector? As Tcherneva notes, the private sector is not in the business of hiring people who need jobs, but in making pro ts. The types of services provided by the private sector reflect this.

Today’s gig economy players such as Uber or Deliveroo essentially enable private contracts between individuals, and do not create the kinds of public goods a job guarantee program might. Will private players now shift to sectors for which the skills acquired in a job guarantee program will be useful? If not, will the public sector need to continue to provide jobs for workers? In Tcherneva’s argument, this is not a problem – providing jobs is a valid goal in and of itself.

Finally, Tcherneva’s analysis is specific to the United States. It would be interesting to examine the differences between job guarantees in the Global North, where there are well-established social security programs, and those in the Global South. Tcherneva cites Plan Jefes in Argentina and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in India as instances of ‘successful’ job guarantees, but does not elaborate on how these are different from the circumstances in the United States.

In sum, discussions on a universal job guarantee have never been timelier. The Case for a Job Guarantee is a deeply thought-provoking book and deserves serious consideration.

About the reviewer
Anupama Kumar – Dvara Research, Chennai
Anupama Kumar is a research associate at the Social Protection Initiative, Dvara Research, Chennai. She studies how social protection systems are designed in India with an emphasis on social security for workers in the informal economy.
Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.

This review originally appeared at the LSE Review of Books.Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of USAPP– American Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics.

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Jobs Report Analysis
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Unemployment in November 2021: Jobs Report Analysis

by Frank Stricker

The Counts

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) job report for November 2021 showed that unemployment was just 4.2%. That looks pretty good, but we in the National Jobs for All Network (NJFAN) believe this official number is an undercount. We add part-timers who want full-time work and people who say they want a job but have not recently searched for one. Our unemployment rate for November was 9.9%.

Just so you know, there are two government job surveys. In the household (CPS) survey which yields the unemployment rates, 1.1 million jobs were added to the total job number. That’s big. In the payroll (CES) survey, whose data come from government and business organizations, just 210,000 jobs were added. The 210,000 number is supposed to be more credible because it derives from about 700,000 worksites. The unemployment rate is created from a survey of 60,000 households. But this household survey includes essentially all occupations. The payroll survey excludes the self-employed, independent contractors, and the farm sector. If, for example, there were a surge in the number of gig workers at Uber and a thousand other companies, it would not show up in the payroll number, but it could affect the household job totals. I do not know what happened to gig jobs in November.
In general, the fact that the official unemployment rate is down to 4.2% is good news. It’s a plus for workers. But that rate is not real full employment. There are millions of people out there who are essentially unemployed but are not actively searching for work and so aren’t included among the unemployed. And job totals in the payroll count are about 8 million below where they would be if we had not had a COVID recession.

It’s a Most Unusual Labor Market

Here are three of the key factors that affect current employment trends.

1. Workplace re-openings mean more job options. Re-openings are made possible by fairly widespread vaccinations, the wearing of masks, and other cautionary measures. Those measures cannot bring a fuller job recovery because millions of people refuse to get their shots and are determined to behave imprudently. Also, partly due to the high number of unvaccinated people, COVID sometimes morphs into more dangerous forms. That means re-openings are problematic and reversible. Dangerous variants are one reason some people do not want to return to work .

2. The job recovery has been better than we might have expected last year and the main reason is massive federal spending. Trillions of dollars went out to businesses, governments, and individuals starting in the spring of 2020. This year we’ve had President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and the infrastructure bill. We’ll need much more federal spending to get real full employment and more good jobs.

3. The official unemployment rate may also be rather low because a fair number of people who would normally be searching for jobs aren’t actively looking. Some of these people make up the BLS’s 5.9 million people who say they want a job but aren’t currently searching for one. I believe there are even more of these wanters-not-searchers. Some quit bad jobs and are looking for better ones. They are on the sidelines but alert to good job opportunities. They may not even tell government surveyors that they want a job, but they do. Just not yet and not any job. We are in a period of pause and reflection. It has been called the Big Rethink, the Great Resignation, and even the Great Escape.

Turning Points?

In a variety of media there are thousands of testimonies from people fed up with their bosses and their crappy jobs. These feelings are nothing new, but the massive layoffs last spring, the COVID plague itself, and the lack of concern among many employers for worker safety have combined to blow the lid off the volcano of worker resentments. So many jobs are really terrible jobs: poverty-level pay, no-to-low benefits, authoritarian supervisors, ruthless owners, erratic schedules, and on and on. Perhaps a third to a half of U.S. jobs are bad ones. So workers are quitting in record numbers--4 million a month in July through October. They want something better than they had. And federal stimulus checks and richer unemployment benefits have supported more time for reflection. Some people still have benefit money in their bank accounts.

Because of the high rate of quits and the reluctance of people to go back to lousy jobs, there are a record number of job openings--10 to 11million a month. And that number of vacancies means, I think, people must have some confidence they can get jobs when they must work.

As savings shrink, more will have to work. Older people are retiring at higher rates. But others will need jobs. Will most of them return to work with focused anger and a willingness to help reset power relations in the work place?

In a way, it is refreshing to listen to people who feel comfortable discussing the fact that their jobs stink and that they want something better than what they’ve had for years. People who stay home mean more job vacancies and that is why some employers have offered signing bonuses, educational subsidies, and other enticements. Even higher wages! Average pay is rising at 5 to 6% a year, and faster in such low-wage sectors as restaurant and hotel work. Of course,  special enticements will disappear when employers want them to. And inflation is now rising faster than the money in workers’ paychecks. Real pay, after inflation, has fallen a bit in recent months.

We are seeing a little more worker power and leverage than we have seen in decades. There have been a few more strikes and there is now at least one Starbucks outlet with a union. But we need many, many more union members, more collective action on the job, and wide support for an attack on obscene levels of economic inequality and exploitation. Building organizations is hard work, but it is one essential step toward making the Great Resignation more than a brief episode in working-class history.
Frank Stricker is on the board of the National Jobs for All Network, is a member of DSA, and is emeritus history professor, California State University, Dominguez Hills. He wrote American Unemployment: Past, Present, and Future (2020).

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The Full Count: November 2021
Unemployment Data


Officially unemployed: 6.9 million (4.2%)

Hidden unemployment: 10.2 million

(Includes 4.3 million people working part-time

because they can't find a full-time job;
and 5.9 million people who want jobs,
but are not actively looking)

Total: 17.1 million (10.2% of the labor force)

There are 1.6 job-wanters for each available job!

For more information and analysis, visit:

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Employment Statistics: NJFAN Tells the Whole Story 

Since its founding in 1994, the National Jobs for All Network (previously Coalition) has been “telling the whole story” about unemployment.*

Our founders recognized that the official unemployment  rate reported monthly by the Labor Department leaves out more jobless and job short workers than it includes.  To be counted as unemployed, one must work less than one hour a week in paid employment and be actively seeking employment..  As the above figures show, more than half the unemployed or underemployed are left out of the official count. Consider the political consequences of this undercount—of a problem perceived by the public as less than half as widespread as it really is.

*See “Unemployment Statistics: Let’s Tell the Whole Story” by NJFAC founders Helen Lachs Ginsburg, Bill Ayres, and June Zaccone, Employment Statistics: Let's Tell the Whole Story - NJFAC

Get Involved!

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The National Jobs for All Network is dedicated to the proposition that meaningful employment is a precondition for a fulfilling life and that every person capable of working should have the right to a job. As part of our mission, the NJFAN promotes discussion, encourages networking, and disseminates information concerning the problem of unemployment, the struggle for workers’ rights, and the goal of guaranteeing decent work for everyone who wants it.

NJFAN relies on your support. If you find our material useful, please make a tax-deductible donation. We are all volunteers, except for a part-time coordinator and a part-time administrator.

We are publishing this newsletter to provide a public forum where the multiple groups and countless individuals interested in promoting this goal can learn what others are doing to promote the jobs guarantee idea, build public support for it, and pursue legislative initiatives to implement it.

We invite our readers to:
  • Help us establish a Jobs for All Action clearinghouse by informing us of publications, actions, and events that promote a jobs guarantee and related economic justice goals to share the information with other readers
  • Comment on the contents of this issue of the Jobs for All Newsletter
  • Submit ideas for articles in coming issues of the Jobs for All Newsletter
  • Provide names and email addresses of individuals to whom we may send subsequent issues of the Jobs for All Newsletter.
Please send your updates and contact suggestions to Thanks so much in advance for your help in building this important social movement.

Newsletter Committee
Trudy Goldberg (Newsletter Editor); Chuck Bell and Charlotte Wilhelm (production managers); Philip Harvey; Stephen Monroe Tomczak (Movement News); Logan Martinez (Action Updates), June Zaccone (Full Count and NJFAN website); Frank Stricker (Full Count Analysis) and Noreen Connell.

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Lynbrook, NY 11563
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