Why Are Postal Workers Boycotting Staples?

Why Are Postal Workers Boycotting Staples? (The Nation)

“You might not consider your local post office to be a hotbed of political foment. But last Tuesday, the nation’s window clerks and other mail service staff assembled in Chicago to declare that, despite efforts in Washington to privatize and downsize the Postal Service, nothing would keep these workers from their appointed rounds.

Rallying with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) under the banner of ‘The US Mail is Not For Sale,’ post office workers marched to protest recent moves by the office superstore Staples. The chain is at the center of a highly controversial ‘public-private partnership’ deal to turn its store counters into quasi-post offices. At the APWU convention, the union amped up its call for a nationwide boycott of Staples to oppose plans to pilot the so-called ‘Retail Expansion Plan’ at eighty-two stores in California, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, and potentially expand nationwide.

Following weeks of postal workers’ campaigning, with support from the AFL-CIO and numerous public and private service-worker unions, Staples has apparently pulled back and announced that the expansion plan would be ended and incorporated into the existing ‘Approved Shipper’ program, which more generally allows private retailers to market certain postal products. In an e-mail to The Nation, Staples states the company has ended the pilot for now, but ‘will continue to explore and test products and services that meet our customers’ needs.’

Calling the move a ‘ruse’—merely a name-change to deflect bad publicity—union leaders vowed to keep up the resistance. They remain wary of the potential expansion of the Approved Shipper program, seeing it as part of the USPS administration’s agenda of selling out postal infrastructure and union jobs to the Big Box retail industry.”

This is not just about post offices. This is about public vs. private, about two different ideas of how our government should work. The outcome of this particular battle about our nation’s post offices will be a good indicator of things to come. Fascinating read.

Building a Better College Ranking System. Wait, Babson Beats Harvard?

Building a Better College Ranking System. Wait, Babson Beats Harvard?

“On Monday, Money magazine took its shot, releasing a new best colleges list focused on, unsurprisingly, money. While some elements of the rankings are familiar, the list is distinguished by the depth of its attention to a pair of questions on the minds of many students and parents. First, how much money will I actually have to pay — and, probably, borrow — to earn a diploma? Second, how much money will my diploma be worth in the job market when the time comes to pay my loans back?

The mark of a good new college rankings system — or, at least, an interesting one — is a deft combination of familiarity and surprise. Publish a list of nothing but unknown colleges and you lose credibility. Simply replicate the U.S. News hierarchy and you haven’t done anything worthy of attention. By this measure, the Money rankings are successful.

M.I.T., Stanford and the California Institute of Technology are all in the top 10. But so are Brigham Young, Harvey Mudd College and Babson College. Babson is a business-focused institution in Massachusetts that most people have probably never heard of. According to Money, it’s the No. 1 college in America.”

Anything to shake up the broken college rankings system is a good thing. In my heart of hearts, it hurts me that a classic liberal arts education is held in such a low regard in our society. Realistically, I want less people in debt, and a practical degree will help students pay off their horribly inflated loans.

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

“…Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.”

This is your must-read article for the week. I don’t care if you don’t read anything else today; read this. Read this, and let it sink in.

Because the pitchforks are coming.

(Seriously. READ IT.)

Ikea To Raise Minimum Wage For U.S. Workers With Tie To Living Wage Calculator

Ikea To Raise Minimum Wage For U.S. Workers With Tie To Living Wage Calculator

The Swedish furniture giant Ikea is raising the minimum wage in all of its U.S. stores, and it’s doing so in a way that may raise the bar for American retailers. The famous seller of ready-to-assemble home goods will base the wage floor for each of its stores on the MIT Living Wage Calculator, which estimates what salary a worker would need in order to get by in a particular geographic area.

According to Ikea, the move will boost the average store minimum wage to $10.76, a 17 percent increase, and bring raises to approximately half of the company’s 13,650 U.S. employees. The new rates will go into effect on Jan. 1, according to Rob Olson, chief financial officer and acting president of Ikea U.S.

Brilliant move by IKEA, especially since they’ve been criticized in the past for treating their American workers differently than their European workers. Considering the company isn’t planning on passing the cost along to its consumers, this whole decision really flies in the face of the American corporate status quo. It’s going to be harder for businesses to keep saying they can’t afford to pay their workers a living wage or even their health insurance.

Kudos.

The Secret Life of a Food Stamp

The Secret Life of a Food Stamp [via Marketplace]

In politics and in the news, a lot of focus is put on the many Yolanda Ballards of America. Whether they deserve the food stamp money they get. What they spend it on. Whether they abuse the system. Those were the kinds of questions clinging to recent debates in Congress over funding for food stamps. But throughout those debates, which resulted in more than $8 billion in cuts to the program over the next decade, one subject got relatively little attention: what happens to those food stamp dollars after people like Yolanda Ballard swipe their EBT cards and the money becomes store revenue.

Last year $76 billion flowed from the U.S. Treasury to people’s food stamp cards. That money then flowed into the revenue streams of about 240,000 stores across the country, all of which have been approved by the federal government to accept food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. You can look at SNAP as a government subsidy with two lives. First, low-income people enrolled in the program get financial help to buy food. Then, when they swipe their EBT cards at the checkout counters, the government pays those stores for that food—which is, of course, being sold at a profit.

So it seems worthwhile to pay attention to how this “second life” of a food stamp subsidy works. There’s just one problem: A lot of the information about how stores benefit from food stamps is confidential.

SO FASCINATING. However you feel about food stamps and government aid, you should read this article. I learned a lot listening to the segments on NPR and I’m so glad I am able to share them to you via Slate.

You can – and should! – also read (or listen to) Part 2, “Save Money. Live Better.” Part 3 is yet to come.