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. 

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Volume 8


Australia’s Wages Crisis: What it is and what to do about it.
Australian wage growth has decelerated in recent years to the slowest sustained pace since the 1930s. This new collection of 20 essays by leading labour market experts and commentators in Australia explores the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to this problem and is written for a general audience. Tim contributed the Chapter on Minimum Wages. The book is published by University of Adelaide Press as a free eBook and in paperback.

Anti-Macron Protests.
Good overview of the yellow vests protests in France. (MH)

How to Suck Money Back From Private Equity Vampires
Toys R Us died this year after being bankrupted by private equity firms leaving tens of thousands of workers unemployed and owed millions in entitlements. Worker activism supported by the Organisation United for Respect means there is now at least the beginning of a happ(ier) ending to this story of corporate greed. (MH)

An NUW activist writes about how to organise in environments like a call centre. (TL)

Brexit and who will pay the price
A blistering takedown of the men who led the UK into the Brexit mess by an eloquent and angry Scot. (MH)

When Janus Backfires: A Test Case In Labor Solidarity After Fair Share
A little glimpse into the emerging impact of the dismantling of closed shop remnants for US public sector unions. Not entirely encouraging. (TB)

The distribution of wealth is about power not productivity
Probably not something that comes as a surprise to our readers but an interesting article for opening up how others outside labour circles are thinking about the issue of income distribution. (KC)

Creating Confusion: Socmed, Fake News and Political Actors
New paper from Chris Edmond of Melbourne Uni develops a model that examines the rise of social media and the invectives for politicians to spread misinformation to voters. (Wonky) (TL)

The Suffocation of Democracy
A fine essay in the NYRB on Trump, the 30’s rise of European Fascism and the future of American Democracy. (TL)

Wonk Papers
Really interesting empirical work on labour market friction caused by workers lacking information about options other than their current job. (TL)

What happens we you increase the retirement age? It results in lower wages and less employment of younger workers in a firm (i.e. intra-firm bargaining). This in turn reduces some of the savings to Government of the measure. (TL)

Volume 7



I lost my job for shit-posting… 

I Lost My Job Over a Facebook Post – Was that Fair?’ Discipline and Dismissal for Social Media Activity. Wonky piece on the social media activity and what, if any, limitations there are on managerial prerogative. (TL)

The Third Way Isn’t Dead Yet
Die-hard opponents of Corbynism can look to the Australian Labor Party as a model of non-radical social democracy. That’s exactly why the party needs to change. Thoughtful piece (as usual) from Osmond Chiu. (TL)

How to build tech with, not for, movements
Good op ed from Action Network founder and developer Brian Young on the need for collaboration in developing technology for progressive movements. (MH)

Assessing the Quality of Reasons in Government Budget Documents

New IBP paper analyses the quality of reasons in Government budget documents. (TL)

The App as a Boss? Control and Autonomy in Application-Based Management

This research uses interviews with Deliveroo and Foodora delivery riders to investigate how the apps impact worker autonomy and indicate employment and the implications for collective mobilisation. (TL)

The spirit of the teacher walkouts lived on in the midterms
For anyone wondering what happened to all the teachers running for election in Red states after the US teacher walkouts earlier in the year. (MH)

Why am I unhappy? A new study explains America's unhappiness epidemic.
TL;DR: Log off and delete your account. (TL)

More on the Google walk-outs
Good explainer on background to and demands of #GoogleWalkout from the organisers. (TL) Also: The Google walkout is a watershed moment in 21st century labour activism (TB)

Lost in Translation: Rana Plaza, Loblaw, and the Disconnect Between Legal Formality and Corporate Social Responsibility 

How impressive sounding corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs utterly failed to protect supply chain workers. (TL)

Graduated Freedom of Association: Worker Voice Beyond the Wagner model

Interesting journal article by Canadian labour law academic David Doorey on organising rights in a non-majority support environment. (TL)

Tinkering can achieve a lot. Politics isn’t broken

ANU PhD’er Emily Millane on the value of gradualism. Très Fabian. (TL) 

A decade of collective bargaining under the Fair Work Act

RMIT Prof Anthony Forsyth posts about how bargaining has developed under the Fair Work Act and shouts out his new co-edited book on the subject. (TL)

More Bang for Your Buck: What Makes People Less Willing to Pay Tax? 

Fascinating article via ANU Tax and Transfer Policy Institute on cultural differences and willingness to pay tax: “Italians seem just as willing to pay taxes to abstract institutions as Americans, but are less willing to pay taxes when that money goes to their real public institutions” (TL)

Volume 6



Where Despots Rule: Workplaces

The American workplace is marked more by hierarchy and domination than democracy and freedom. Jacobin interview with Elizabeth Anderson, author of the terrific book Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don't Talk about It) (TL)

Can the Tech Industry Do What the Dems Can’t?

Democrats are notoriously bad at turning out for midterm elections. Silicon Valley is directing money and muscle to finding solutions outside the party structure. (TB)

What the West Virginia Teachers Can Teach Us!

Inside the Hard Road to Transform the Teacher’s Movement into Real Power. By labour journalist Sarah Jaffe (a good follow if you are on Twitter) (KC)

Enterprise bargaining is out of reach for most workers. 

Australia's workplace bargaining system is designed for workplaces that no longer exist. We need a better system. Suspect most of you have seen this great piece by @joshbborstein but just in case you haven’t. (TB)

Tech Employees, Pay Equity & Transparency,

Fascinating analysis on wages in Silicon Valley - fascinating in the sense that it acknowledges some of the problems of an unequal power dynamic between employees and employers, especially for women, posits some old solutions that Australians would be familiar with (Transparency through Awards) but ultimately holds onto a libertarian view of work! Tech progressives are a curious breed. (KC)

Free speech and Australia’s race debacles.

@mdavisqlder  one of our leading public intellectuals writes on how "Australia lurches from one race debacle to the next: Steve Bannon, Serena Williams, 'it’s okay to be white' … racism always justified in some way, prosecuted by implausible arguments under an incoherent theory of 'free speech'." (TL)

Why Companies Won’t Let Bad Projects Die.

On sunk cost and other fallacies. Business language, but interesting and relevant concepts for union leaders. Thanks to Beth Mohle of QNMU for pointing this out. (TB)

How Work Is No Longer a Pathway to a Better Life

A job that provides rising living standards is a thing of the past. Now the route to wealth is through property and pensions. (MH)

Domestic workers in one of the most interesting US mid-term races.

Insights into one of the most interesting election races in the US. Domestic workers in Georgia tap into their activist roots to provide the heart, soul and legs of the push to elect Stacy Abrams as the first black female Governor. (MH)

Twilight of the Racist Uncles: the “feculent holding tank” that is Facebook.

Very strong piece on what Facebook has become, and is doing to people. "It’s everything you could ever want, if you are old, white, and incoherently angry for no good goddamn reason at all." (TL)

Wave of worker activism in Philippines
Interesting piece on how strikes are up under the Duterte, who also plans to overhaul labour law. (MH)

Google Walkouts
@GoogleWalkout This Twitter feed is worth a look if you're interested in following the action as Google staff around the world walk out of their offices demanding action to address sexual harassment and pay inequity. (MH)

Volume 5


Tesla’s union battle is about the future of our planet
Good read for those tempted to confuse environment and class politics. (TB)

Count the pennies: Explaining a decade of lost pay growth
This paper gets to the bottom of why real wages are still 3 per cent below their level before the crisis. It both explains why the wage squeeze was so much worse in the UK compared to other advanced economies and why the recovery since 2014 has been so sluggish. (TL)

$15 Isn’t Enough to Empower Amazon’s Workers
Interesting take on the pay rise as less a destination victory for union campaigns, as much as an anti-union tactic. (TB)

Innovating Inequality?
Report analysing 20 years of data to show how tech’s business models concentrate wealth while short-changing workers. (TL)

Brazil’s far right wins a victory more sweeping and dangerous that anyone predicted. Its lessons are global.
Good overview of the deeply concerning current elections in Brazil and the implications of the far right sweeping into power. (MH)

What impact does the living wage have on poverty?
Article on why the UK’s Living Wage has had limited impact on poverty. (TL)

It comes as no shock that the powerful hate ‘identity politics’
Excellent response to the recent spate of articles on the supposed threat that ‘identity politics’ poses to democracy. (TL)

How big a problem are the growing worker strikes for Marriott?
Travel industry take on the Marriott Hotels strikes across the US. (MH)

Reforms for domestic workers in Singapore
Singapore has introduced new laws to prevent employers ‘safe-keeping’ domestic workers’ salaries. (Hat tip to Tim Dymond for this article)

I’m the Tech Venture Capitalist Giving You the Freedom to Barely Scrape
Short (Imagined) Monologue on the feel-good vibes that come from making huge amounts of money by creating terrible jobs. (TL)

Amazon training videos coach Whole Foods staff on how to discourage unions
Amazon-owned Whole Foods is stepping up its union-busting activities in response to worker discussions about organising with training videos and tips for managers to navigate labour laws to prevent unionisation. (KC)

Volume 4


Amazon to raise wages to $15
The world’s wealthiest person this week announced that Amazon will raise its minimum wage for all staff to $15 an hour. Bezos acknowledged that the company ‘listened to its critics’ and will now advocate for a rise to the national US minimum wage. (TB)

Eyes are now on Walmart and other retailers to follow suit. (MH)

Amazon’s anti-union propaganda video leaked
Amazon certainly hasn’t had a total change of heart when it comes to workers’ rights as its leaked 45 minute union-busting video shows. (TL)

Technology and the future of work
The impact of technology on the future of work and workers from the RBA - another structural shakedown. (KC)

Governments binge on consultants goes ballistic
Government spending on Big 4 consulting firms has sky-rocketed in recent years, meanwhile they continue to advise their clients on how to avoid tax and minimise wage growth. (TL)

Google’s former CEO asked for ways to raise low-income workers’ wages: Twitter had answers
This is a good read, primarily because it is ridiculously fun. It also gives hope that "inequality is the problem, union is the solution" is starting to resonate. (TB)

What the stoush between the federal government and the CFMMEU is really about
Spoiler: there’s an election coming. David Peetz on Scott Morrison and the Liberal’s most recent attempt to deregister the CFMMEU. (TL)

UN U-turn on unpaid internships
A campaign led by a former intern has forced the WHO to offer paid internships to boost applications from developing countries. For 50 years, the WHO has required interns to relocate to Geneva and work unpaid without travel expenses. (TL)

The new aristocracy
The 9.9% is the new aristocracy. An article for those of us who may not be the 1% but we’ve nonetheless done well. (KC)

Jobs are no longer the solution to poverty
This article charts the rise of the working impoverished to bust the myth of US economic mobility. Poverty wages and spiralling inequality mean a job is no longer a way out of poverty. (MH)

Fast food workers on strike
Fast food workers in a number of countries are striking this week in protest at poverty wages. In the UK Uber Eats drivers will join McDonald’s, Wetherspoon and TGI Friday workers striking together over ‘poverty pay’.

Meanwhile Fast food workers have been striking in cities across the US.
Actions were also planned in Japan, Chile, the Philippines, Germany and Italy.
This follows McDonald’s workers in the US striking over sexual harassment last month. (TL)

Volume 3


Rebuilding worker voice in today’s economy
A reasonably academic look at ideas for US Labor Law reform without much power analysis, but which offers a simple reform framework that resonates. i.e. rights for all workers, protect and promote unionisation, sector-level bargaining, right to industrial action. (TB)

What does the wave of US teacher strikes mean?
Good piece on the insurgent teacher strikes in red states that have occurred over 2018. Digital organising and rank and file leadership have been features. (TB)

The science behind the Brexit vote and Trump’s rise
Interesting take on the cultural dimensions of the rise of right wing populism. (KC)

Obama era rules being rolled back
Fight at the National Labor Relations Board (a deeply partisan body) to repeal rules allowing workers to use company email to organise. Given the pervasive nature of email at work, an important issue. Australian workers, like Americans, have no basic right to free speech at work or a right to communicate with other workers about unionising. (TL)

Workers, labor markets, & inequality archives
Workers are the backbone of the American economy. But the growth of monopolies intensifies income inequality, suppresses wages, and erodes the political and economic well-being of workers. (TL)

The radical Sabbath and “total work”
Bringing back the Sabbath as a radical act against the dominance of work over life. (TL)

How powerful conversations won abortion rights in Ireland
An Irish campaigner explains how the campaign to repeal Ireland's 8th Amendment supported people to have the difficult conversations that won the vote. (MH)

Amazon brings it’s hellscape work model to Australia
In Amazon's 'hellscape', workers face insecurity and crushing targets. The National Union of Workers is pushing to organise workers in Amazon’s new Australian facilities. (TL)

White fragility
In a week when an Australian Senator gave notice of a motion about “anti-white racism” it is worth revisiting this superb essay on white fragility. White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. The same is true in Australia. (TL)

Views from the other side
This report from Accenture as always, provides valuable insight into how corporations are thinking and unsurprisingly it is pretty ethic-free. Attempts in this report to contemplate how the demands of community need to be factored into social contracts or how data should be managed or the progression of AI seem remarkably free of basic values that recognise the rights of workers, communities and the climate! (KC)

UK Labour to empower workers through company "ownership funds"
Article on the UK Labour Party's announcement of a policy to give workers a financial stake and a say in how their companies are run via mandatory "ownership funds" for large companies. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell's speech to the TUC outlines the scheme in more detail as well as talking more broadly about their plans to restore trade union rights. (MH)

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)