Welcome to Reads for Radicals

Every two weeks, Reveille Strategy (@picketer, @KristynCrossf, @troy_burton & @madeleine_holme) send out a summary and links to books, articles and papers that have caught our eye.

The topics are mainly organising, work, unions, technology, economics, superannuation and tax. 

Volume 2


Thanks to everyone who subscribed and gave us feedback on the first edition.

A Reverse ABCC in BC, Canada

British Columbia’s new rules around hiring for taxpayer-funded construction projects challenged in court. Contractors claim the provincial government's new model means only members of building trade unions will be hired. A reminder what an outlier the laws facing Australia’s construction unions are.  (TB)

The irredeemable in pursuit of the insatiable

A bit of a sift through the broad economic policy issues behind the finance industry mess. (TB)

Digital Writers Union Explained

A bit wordy, and at times trite, but interesting concept - and framing - of a union. (TB)

The Gig Economy & Labour Law

It’s no secret that traditional employment law has struggled to deal with the development of platform services like Uber and Deliveroo, whose business model is reliant on the workers being “independent contractors” rather than employees. Unions have also struggled. This piece by Australian academics tells the stories of some of these workers. But there are signs of law adapting, particularly in Europe.

Meanwhile in Australia the Fair Work Ombudsman has announced legal action against Deliveroo. But the platforms are pushing back. In France, there is a proposal to permanently exempt platforms from ordinary labour laws in return for some very modest worker protections. Not coincidently, the companies have proposed the same here: a charter to “make workers’ rights issues go away.” (TL)

What do unions do?

Two new US studies have confirmed that Unions reduce inequality and raise wages. The firstuses 80 years of data and finds that union households enjoy a significant wage premium and that “unions have had a significant, equalising effect on the income distribution" over this long period. The second uses a data set similar to Australia’s HILDA that begins in the late 1960s  and finds that, at a macro level, unions raise wages by 20%. 

Unions also raise wages for non-union workers with the decline of unions being a key cause of sclerotic wage growth generally. More evidence, IMHO, that significant wage growth will require major successful organising. (TL)

IMF research on employment protections and the labour share

After decades of telling countries to deregulate labour markets, more recent research published by the IMF has pushed in a different direction. A new paper examines labour market deregulation in 26 advanced economies since the 1970s and finds a “statistically significant, economically large and robust negative effect of deregulation on the labor share.” That is, weak labour law and weak union rights means capital does better. Who would thunk it? (TL)

The role of worker collectives in demanding safety at work

This is really good articulation of the legitimacy and importance of genuine worker collective representative roles from a politician. It was sparked by the death of a great mate of mine, after he was killed on the job fighting for worker safety. That was 22 years ago today. It hits me hard every year. The role collective voice plays in giving working people the means to demand a safe workplace mattered then and matters now. (TB)

Capitalism as we know it is over

So says a new report by scientists to the UN. The reason? We’re transitioning rapidly to a radically different global economy due to our increasingly unsustainable exploitation of the planet’s resources. While generally being wary of the “limits to growth” stuff that was so fashionable in the 70’s, this makes a compelling case. Full report here. (TL)

Yet another study confirms higher minimum wages boost pay without reducing jobs

A study looking at the impact of significant minimum wage increases won by the Fight for $15 movement in six US cities has found no negative impact on employment figures as a result. (TB)

Executive Pay in the Public (& Semi-Public) Sector

There is periodic coverage of high wages for public sector and related Executive roles in Australia, the latest being focused on the enormous salaries paid to university Vice Chancellors, a significant number of whom are on packages that are orders of magnitude greater than far more prestigious schools overseas. 

An interesting policy approach to this issue can be found in The Netherlands, where an act of Parliament proscribes the maximum level of senior government officials’ salaries (which cannot exceed those of government ministers). The current level is €181,000.

This also applies to public broadcasters which would cause a bit of angst at the ABC. The Netherlands is a well-run place, suggesting that the argument often advanced in Australia that million-dollar packages are needed in the public sector doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. (TL)

The Juicero and the internet of shit

Some of you may remember the Juicero: a US$700 Wi-Fi-connected juice machine that only took proprietary bags of fruit and veg sludge. It raised US$400 million in capital and went spectacularly bust. This piece dunking on it, and other Silicon Valley idiocies, is very good. (TL)

Volume 1


Co‑op Comeback?
A worker-owned trust could transform agricultural labour in California. Great story of farm workers banding together to supply their own labour to farms (and pay themselves higher wages and benefits with the 10% margin usually taken by a labour hire company). Interesting modern take on the union hiring hall, and serious potential for model to be replicated in other sectors (and countries). (TL)

The science of what makes people care
A thought provoking analysis of communicating for engagement.

TL;DR: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (TB)

The after effects of the teachers strikes
This is a New York Times take on one of the more interesting ways the organic organising of teachers in West Virginia is seeping into politics. The social conservative and economic radical mix resonating in Trump land. (TB)

Messaging race and class
Given the past fortnight in Australian politics, new research on effective progressive messaging on race and class is particularly well-timed. Messaging expert Anat Shenker Osorio led a team of researchers in an in-depth study looking at how people think about race, class and government.The full report is available here, a recent presentation on the Australian context for this research can be viewed here and an excellent op ed by the researchers discussing the implications for Democrats running for office is here.
TL;DR: talking about race is essential to progressive victories. (MH)

Who gets what? Who pays for it?
How incomes, taxes and benefits work out for Australians. Professor Peter Whiteford of ANU uses ABS Data to explain how Australians pay taxes, receive transfers (welfare payments) and benefit from Government services (mainly health and education). The piece provides a picture of how government spending and taxes affect inequality and household economic well-being. (TL)

Politicians can’t ignore the organised
Union density changes the behaviour of elected officials. An academic paper from the US finds compelling evidence that higher union membership in a Congressional district makes representatives less likely to adopt policies favoured by higher income voters and more likely to adopt the policy preferences of low income voters. One for the wonks.
TL;DR: The voices of organised workers are heard and acted on by politicians. (TL)

The purpose of integrity
Paper from legal scholars at UNSW on designing a Federal anti-corruption body. The authors develop a theory on the purpose of such a body and use that to define the choices that need to be made in relation to its jurisdiction, powers and procedures.
TL;DR: An anti-corruption body is about more than money in brown paper bags, but extends to broader fidelity and standards of behaviour and governance. (TL)

Farmers union reclaiming a progressive legacy in rural US
Rural Wisconsin farmers are organising and reclaiming their legacy as a key part of progressive politics in the US. They’re linking issues like the milk price crisis to progressive economic issues across the US and developing their skills to engage politicians and voters (including running workshops on progressive messaging using Anat Shenker Osorio’s recent research on Race-Class Narrative). (MH)