Category Archives: Labor & workforce

The Lies in “Hillbilly Elegy”

By Peter Galuszka

A 2016 memoir by J.D. Vance, a former Ohio resident, drew praise from conservatives for its laud of self-reliance and disciple and criticism from others for its long string of debunked clichés about people from the Central Appalachians.

The book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” was held up as being a great explainer as to why so many in the White lower classes voted for Trump.

Vance exalts the strength of self-discipline, family values and hard work. He complains that when he worked as a store clerk he resented it when people on welfare had cell phones but Vance couldn’t afford one. He ended up going to Yale Law School.

Vance also spends a lot of time complaining about his dysfunctional family including a nasty grandmother, a mother constantly stoned on alcohol and opioids and lots of divorce – in other words the “social rot” of the hillbilly lifestyle he so disdains.

His tie to Appalachia is a bit thin. He grew up in a suburb of Cincinnati but spent summers in Jackson in the mountains of East Kentucky.

Now director and child actor Ron Howard has made a feel-good movie from the book that stars Glenn Close and Amy Adams. It is getting lousy reviews. Continue reading

Behind Dominion’s Shift to Renewables

Image credit: Style Weekly

By Peter Galuszka

Ever wonder why Dominion Energy found religion and announced a major shift to renewable energy?

The answer is that modern, high technology businesses want it and the Richmond-based utility wants to respond to their desires.

This one of the themes in this recent cover story I did for Style Weekly that explores how Dominion’s major shift in direction is part of several dynamics that are pushing solar wind and other renewables instead of keeping on with fossil fuel.

Here’s the reporting in a nutshell:

  • Virginia’s economy is being driven more by data centers, giant box-like warehouses loaded with servers that can handle tremendous amounts of data. Northern Virginia, the incubator of the Internet, already handles about 70% to 80% of the global Net traffic and has a mature and still growing network of data centers.
  • The Northern Virginia experience is shifting downstate. Henrico County now has a partially construction data center run by social media giant Facebook. Centers have been announced or are being planned in Southside and Southwest Virginia.

Continue reading

Unemployment of Blacks Exceed that of Whites at Every Level of Educational Attainment

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Here is another salvo in the culture wars that have been reflected on this blog. An article in a newspaper today begins with this sentence: “From advanced-degree holders to high-school dropouts, Black workers have substantially higher unemployment rates at every level of educational attainment than white workers….”

And which woke newspaper with a critical race theory bias ran this article? Why, the Wall Street Journal, of course!

The article goes on to say that the disparity between Blacks and whites increased this year during the pandemic. (Black unemployment levels exceed those of Hispanics at every educational level, as well.) Finally, not only are Blacks more likely than whites to be unemployed, they are more likely to be underemployed. “Black employees with full-time jobs also earn less than similarly educated white workers.”  The article quotes one economist as saying, “Frequently, Black workers need to send additional signals about their qualifications to get the same job. That’s why you’ll see a Black person with a master’s degree in a job that only requires a bachelor’s.”

The article suggests several reasons for these discrepancies:

  • “Black Americans more frequently attend lower-quality elementary and high schools in racially segregated neighborhoods, which may leave them less prepared to succeed in college or at their first jobs.”
  • “Black workers also can lack access to better, more stable jobs because they may not have the network of contacts to know about them.”
  • “They may face challenges like lack of access to transportation or child care.”
  • Finally, the economists interviewed in the article suggest that old fashioned discrimination plays a part. “There are negative penalties in the labor market associated with gender and race that can’t be explained by anything else,” they contend.

Stewart Gets Last-Minute Gift From Trump

Corey Stewart

Peter Galuszka

Corey A. Stewart, a conservative firebrand from Prince William County, is getting a last-minute going-away present from President Donald Trump.

As Trump’s administration comes to an end, Trump has created a position on trade at the U.S. Commerce Department that is just for him. In 2016, Stewart headed Trump’s Virginia election campaign before being fired. Stewart said that he was Trump before Trump was Trump.

Stewart is an international trade lawyer and is expected to strong arm Trump’s tough and confusing trade policies.

A special target is China, which Trump has castigated, with some justification, for cheating on business deals, fiddling with its currency exchange rates, growing its armed forces and trampling on human rights.

Stewart will toughen enforcement of Trump’s hostile trade relations, according to news reports.

Some trade experts wonder what the Stewart story is all about. According to Reuters, William Reinsch, a former Commerce undersecretary, said he viewed hiring as “peculiar” since he is filling a position that does not exist. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Government, Race, and Poverty

Whites need not apply. The initial draft of a Loudoun County Public Schools “student equity ambassador program” barred white students from admission to the program. The selection guidelines said specifically, “This opportunity is open to all Students of Color,” reports The Virginia Star. The guideline was deleted after whistleblowers called public attention to it, but the draft reveals the mindset of the Critical Race Theorists running Loudoun public schools. “Anti-racism” is transmogrifying into anti-white racism before our very eyes.

Your tax dollars not at work. Virginia’s unemployment insurance program ranks worsts in the country for processing claims that require staff review. The backlog has increased to more than 90,000 cases, reports The Virginia Mercury. Additionally, Virginia was the second-to-last state in the country to issue $300 weekly supplements authorized by President Trump. State officials attribute the delays in a decision early in the COVID-19 epidemic to prioritize helping people submit and complete applications that can be automatically validated using state payroll data; 86% of routine applications have received their first payment within three weeks, the fifth best in the nation.

Testing the guaranteed-minimum-wage theory. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has announced a pilot program to give $500 a month to 18 families over the next two years. Recipients will be randomly selected from families that no longer qualify for public benefits programs. The Robins Foundation, a local nonprofit, is splitting the $480,000 bill for the test with the city. “Poverty is symptom of centuries of injustice, not a result of personal failure. Richmond must lead the way in lifting hard-working families up,” Stoney said. “This is part of something much bigger: a national movement toward economic stability and the fight for a living wage.” The program will test the theory that families will use the extra money to improve their situations or avoid spiraling further into poverty. Let’s hope the city is keeping close track of the results to determine if the program works as designed.

— JAB

Permanent COVID Reg Called “The Fifth Dragon”

By Steve Haner

Most Virginia employers probably have not read, let alone fully complied with, the emergency temporary standard on protecting their employees from COVID-19 adopted back in July. Yet the public comment period on the permanent version of the rules, which can carry major sanctions, closes this Friday.

Only twenty comments had been filed as of Monday morning, half of them anonymous. So far, the proposed permanent version is not generating the level of activity that surrounded the proposed temporary rule. The Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Code Board allowed no public hearing before adoption, only written comments.

File a comment on the proposed permanent standard here. You can read the comments to date here. The proposed permanent standard can be read here.

Continue reading

“Quarantine Leave” Bill Exempts State Employees

By Steve Haner

Employees caught in this pandemic with no paid time off for health issues have been in a deep bind, and many of those with reasonable leave available have probably burned it all. It is one of several problems exacerbated by this government-led economic crash.

Congress, in a bipartisan response supported by President Donald Trump, created a temporary mandate in one of its early COVID-19 relief bills. It can provide as much as 12 weeks of paid leave (more here). Some in the Virginia General Assembly think that is not good enough.  Continue reading

Job Recovery Is Not the Special Session’s Focus

This building remains boarded up, and legislators are not there (except the House Speaker and Clerk, pantomiming a real session on Zoom.)

By Steve Haner

With the Virginia General Assembly’s “Cops and COVID” special session moving into its third week, it seems likely to impede rather than assist the state’s economic recovery from the pandemic. It may also greatly expand COVID-19’s financial burdens in the years to come.

The highly publicized issues of unpaid rents and utility bills, threatening tens of thousands with choices between eviction, disconnection, or years of additional debt, are clearly related to un- and under-employment from the COVID-19 recession. But getting people back to work does not seem the top priority for legislators.

The original stated purposes for the session starting August 18 were to amend the state budget in response to the recession, and make other adjustments responding to the viral disease. Deadly confrontations between police and Black suspects in several American cities, and the violent response, added police and judicial reform issues to the agenda.  Continue reading

COVID-19’s Long-Term Changes in Virginia

by DJ Rippert

In the long run…  Over the past eight months COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the world, the United States and Virginia.  One hundred and twenty thousand cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Virginia  Over 2,500 people have died from COVID-19 . The cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to grow in the Old Dominion. One year ago unemployment in Virginia hovered at 3%. Today it is 8%. Protests and rioting, possibly catalyzed by the COVID-19 lockdowns, have occurred regularly in several Virginia cities as well as Washington, D.C. Schools in Virginia moved to virtual teaching last Spring and many schools will open this Fall with either fully or partially virtual teaching. Nobody doubts the short- and mid-term effects of COVID-19. But what of the long-term effects? What impacts of COVID-19 will be felt after this version of the Coronavirus is gone?

The Spanish Flu (1918), Polio (1916 – 1955), H2N2 (1957), HIV/AIDS (1980s -), Swine flu (2009), COVID-19 (2020 -). Epidemics have broken out in the United States since the colonial days. Smallpox, yellow fever and cholera outbreaks plagued the country for centuries. The Spanish Flu pandemic was far worse than COVID-19 (to date). That flu struck in four waves and is estimated to have killed up to 50 million people worldwide. However, most Americans today would say that the Spanish Flu didn’t create major long-term changes in the United States. Some would disagree. Academics like Andrew Price-Smith believe that flu tipped the balance toward the allies in World War I. The growth of predominantly female-led nursing in the US may have been a consequence. In utero exposure to the pandemic may have negatively affected the health and prosperity of those exposed. Some survivors of the Spanish Flu never fully recovered. Despite all that, the Spanish Flu was called “the forgotten pandemic” until COVID resurrected interest. Economically speaking, the end of the Spanish Flu coincided with the start of the Roaring Twenties, making it hard to find long -term negative economic impacts from that pandemic. Continue reading

Voters Oppose Contracts That Protect Bad Cops

By Steve Haner

As yet another bitter conflict over a police officer’s use of deadly force divides America, this time a case in Wisconsin, Virginia’s General Assembly forges ahead with opening up the state to the police unions that usually rush to protect their members from discipline or dismissal.

The Kenosha Professional Police Association was quick with its call for everybody to step back and let that investigation proceed. That is a fairly balanced statement, but then it put out a statement defending the officers’ behavior that ended with an entire clip emptied into somebody’s back.  Unions advocate for their members.

Among all the bills introduced in the General Assembly’s special session response to these cases are a handful seeking to prevent some of the worst problems seen when unions stand up for bad cops. One is already defeated, but two are languishing in a House committee, where they may or may not be heard. All three have Republican sponsors.

A poll conducted for the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy two weeks ago indicates they would have public and bipartisan support. The poll over-sampled Black Virginians, to be sure enough were called to give credence to that cross tabulation. Their support was in line with all Virginians.

To be specific:

Continue reading

UVa Grad Students Want to Unionize

by James A. Bacon

A group of University of Virginia employees comprised mainly of graduate students want to form a union, reports the Daily Progress. If successful, the workers would be affiliated with the Campus Workers of America.

UVa last year committed to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, so economic issues don’t appear to be at the top of the list. The unionists’ main concern at the moment is safety and health during the COVID-19 virus as students return to the grounds.

“With students coming in, everybody is worried about getting coronavirus,” said Evan Brown, a biology department doctoral student and member of the union steering committee. The group “demands” that the University abandon its hybrid in-person/remote learning model for the fall and cancel undergraduate move-in, according to a statement released two days ago.

But the demands of United Campus Workers-Virginia members extend beyond working conditions. The union also admonishes the administration “to end its relationship with Charlottesville police and cut funding for its own police department as part of its stated mission to address pervasive racial inequality at the University.” Continue reading

COVID Workers Comp On House Democrat Bill List

By Steve Haner

The coming Special Session of the General Assembly will be narrowly focused but filled with controversy, based on the legislative wish list just released by House of Delegates Democrats. Only two bills listed fall outside of the major categories of “COVID-19 Relief” or “Criminal Justice and Police Reform.”

Under the heading “COVID Relief,” the Democrats wish to reopen their drive for employee paid leave and. as predicted. want to designate COVID-19 as a workplace disease.

The Senate Democrats have their own list, released in June and reiterated in a more recent news release. The release claims that one of the bills is ready for public viewing, but provides no link and the bill mentioned is not yet available through Legislative Information Services. Neither caucus has yet revealed any thoughts on how to amend the state budget, a task where Governor Ralph Northam naturally takes the lead.

Here is the list from the House Democratic Caucus, with some thoughts following:

COVID-19 Relief:

  • Requiring businesses to grant paid sick leave for Virginia workers.
  • Prohibiting garnishments of stimulus relief checks. (Office of Attorney General bill)
  • Establishing a presumption of workers’ compensation for first responders, teachers, and other high-risk essential workers.
  • Providing immunity from civil claims related to COVID-19 for complying with health guidance.
  • Combating price gouging for Personal Protective Equipment. (Office of Attorney General bill)
  • Protecting Virginians from eviction during a public health emergency.
  • Creating a Commonwealth Marketplace for PPE Acquisition.
  • Mandating transparency requirements for congregate-care facilities during a public health emergency.

Continue reading

BE HEARD Act Could Cripple Virginia Small Businesses

How about a law banning government harassment and hostile business climates?

by Hans Bader

Small businesses in Virginia could face a very different business climate next year due to Joe Biden’s support for laws like the BE HEARD Act. It could easily become law if Democrats take control of Congress and the presidency (as most pollsters expect).

Under the BE HEARD Act, even the tiniest employers with only one or two employees will face unlimited liability in lawsuits, for things like discrimination, or harassment committed by an employee. It would also redefine sexual harassment in an overly broad and confusing way that could lead to small businesses being liable for trivial acts or comments by an employee. These small businesses would also be liable for attorneys fees that could dwarf what they end up paying workers who sue them.

Right now, small businesses in Virginia aren’t covered by most federal discrimination laws like Title VII, unless they have at least 15 employees. This doesn’t mean they can get away with being racist. If they intentionally discriminate based on race, they can be sued under a federal race discrimination law that covers even the smallest employers, 42 U.S.C. 1981. And if they fire someone for a non-race-based reason — such as their sex, age, or religion — they can be sued under Virginia state law, if they have more than five employees (although punitive damages in such lawsuits are limited to $350,000.) Continue reading

School Teachers Get Virus? Too Damned Bad!

By Peter Galuszka

Here at Bacons Rebellion, a favorite blood sport of late has been tearing apart school teachers by ripping up their “values,” their personal courage, their honesty, their intellects and their mindless lapdog following of their commissars at teachers’ unions

The same is true for college professors and administrators (Golly Darn, Reed Fawell just discovered the 1960s!”)

The issue is a deadly one, the COVID-19 pandemic that has so far killed more Americans – twice more U.S. military in fact – than were killed in the Vietnam War. Today, there is an understandably complicated and confusing exercise that will try to come up with the safest ways to go back to school.

I won’t get into that because I am no expert, but I cringe when I read the likes of Kerry Dougherty and James A. Bacon Jr. in their endless attacks on the teaching profession.

She opines: “Odds that elected representatives will have the courage to  stand up to the teachers and reopen schools? Zero. It seems that some teachers want guarantees that there is no risk. Preposterous. There can never be a risk free environment.” Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Pigskins, COVID, Unemployment

Hail the to Pigskins. The football team formerly known as the Washington Redskins has punted on adopting a new permanent name this season, and will refer to itself for the time being as the Washington Football Team. The pause allows the team to “undertake an in-depth branding process” that incorporates player, alumni, fan, community and sponsor input. the team announced. What a cop-out. I’m still holding out hope for the team to rename itself the Washington Pigskins.

COVID risk metrics for school districts. The Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Department of Education are collaborating on a new COVID-19 dashboard to guide local education officials when deciding how to reopen schools this fall. The dashboard likely will include eight to 10 local metrics such as confirmed cases, percent-positive rates on tests, hospitalizations, and the number of local emergency room visits for COVID-19-like illnesses. School divisions will be flagged, red, yellow and green to indicate whether they should reopen, adopt a hybrid model, or adopt a distance-learning model, reports the Prince William Times.

One suggestion: The dashboard should include the number of people testing positive in the age ranges corresponding to elementary, middle, and high school.  Given the different risk profiles for younger and older children, it makes no sense to impose a uniform policy. School boards might consider keeping elementary schools open while going online with high schools.

Economic health metrics. Meanwhile, another 37,946 Virginians have filed for unemployment claims, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. That’s up 17.5% from the previous week. All told, more than one million Virginians have filed for unemployment benefits for the first time since March. “Virginia’s preliminary weekly change — up 7,896 on a seasonally adjusted basis — was the largest increase among the states,” reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.