Today’s News & Commentary — November 24, 2017

Published November 24th, 2017 -  - 11.24.174


Retailers are expected to hire slightly fewer temporary workers this holiday shopping season.  Although Target plans to hire thousands, Wal-Mart plans to hire none, promising instead to increase existing workers’ hours to accommodate the anticipated surge in shoppers.  According to the Times, the decline in hiring versus last year is driven by e-commerce, low industry profit margins, and a tighter U.S. job market.

A recent Bloomberg report about the retail industry, which employs eight million workers, complicates this narrative of the “retail apocalypse,” blaming the industry’s woes — including slower job and wage growth than other industries — on the fact that “long-standing [retail] chains are overloaded with debt — often from leveraged buyouts led by private equity firms.”

The San Francisco Chronicle profiles Samaschool, a non-profit that tries to teach people how to be gig workers.  Its offerings include an online course offered for free through San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development and a weeks-long in-person course “cover[ing] topics such as personal branding, customer service, setting price, taxes and finances, and networking.”

In the New York Review of Books, Diane Ravitch reviews two recent books — Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America and Gordon Lafer’s The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time — about the alliance among business interests and conservative intellectuals and politicians.    Attacks on and the decline of labor unions are key to the story.  Lafer focuses on how the umbrella organization that coordinates business industry lobbying has been, in Ravitch’s words, “particularly interested in discrediting labor unions,” as the “only political bodies” that might be able to stymie corporate policy efforts.

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