Help is on the way. Or so we've been told.
The stimulus legislation also extends the social safety net for those who are already unemployed by extending and improving unemployment benefits.
Under the terms of the deal, laid-off workers are eligible for as much as 33 weeks of extended unemployment benefits, including a $25 increase in weekly benefits.
At first glance, this looks like a significant victory. The extension of unemployment for more than 6 months takes the edge off of unemployment. It's ironic that for the mythology of the entrepreneur as risk taker, justifying high levels of compensation, both bankers and that government have sought to remove even a shred of uncertainty from the financial markets through the securitization of debts and government guarantees for the this system of securitization. Yet, at the same time that the specter of uncertainty has been removed from the financial sector, the American working class has been exposed to ever greater financial insecurity and uncertainty. Despite the mythology of risk-taking enterprenuers, the real risk takers are he millions of working Americans who have been forced to accept economic insecurity as a fact of live, and receive little compensation in return.
Case in point, despite the honorable intentions the Congress in extending unemployment benefits, this is of little use to the millions of Americans who have been denied access to the unemployment insurance subtracted bi-weekly from their paychecks. While it's become an assumption that the loss of a job guarantees one access to the unemployment benefits accrued via paycheck deductions, big business has decided that this should not be the
It's hard enough to lose a job. But for a growing proportion of U.S. workers, the troubles really set in when they apply for unemployment benefits.
More than a quarter of people applying for such claims have their rights to the benefit challenged as employers increasingly act to block payouts to former workers.
The proportion of claims disputed by former employers and state agencies has reached record levels in recent years, according to the Labor Department numbers tallied by the Urban Institute.
For millions of Americans, the social safety net has been removed at the same time they are bid by those who hold the Commanding Heights to take ever greater risk for shrinking compensation. And the basic assumption that because you've met your end of the bargain by paying taxes, you will be afforded access to unemployment insurance has been cast aside. Why?
With each successful claim raising a company's costs, many firms resist letting employees collect the benefit if they consider it undeserved.
"In some of these cases, employers feel like there's some matter of principle involved," said Coleman Walsh, chief administrative law judge in Virginia, who has handled many such disputes. But, he said, "nowadays it appears their motivation has more to do with the impact on their unemployment insurance tax rate. Employers by and large are more aware of unemployment as a cost of business."
Rick McHugh, a staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project who began handling such cases in the 1970s, said court rulings have slowly enlarged the definition of employee misconduct, making it easier for employers to say they rightfully fired a worker.
"The courts are just not showing as much sympathy for employees who get fired," he said. "There's a higher standard of behavior that is expected of employees."
In modern America, labor is treated as a commodity, something that can be bought and sold without concern for the fact that labor is people. It's Soylent Green economics. And it's deeply at odds with the understanding of the responsibilities of the employer held in the vast majority of industrialized democracies. And, ultimately, the truth of the matter is this.
In large part, our current financial crunch comes from the shifting of economic uncertainty from the Titans of industry whom are being compensated because they are supposed to be taking the risks to the millions of Americans who are struggling to get by.
It doesn't have to be this way. Despite he proclamations of the neo-liberal Right (and their erstwhile allies on the Left) that there is no alternative, there is an alternative. And that alternative is the recognition in employment law that the relationship between employer and employee is a contract, the enforcement of which is vital to the social interest. This has long been the position of most European states, as I wrote two years ago.
America is an at will country.
The employment-at-will doctrine avows that, when an employee does not have a written employment contract and the term of employment is of indefinite duration, the employer can terminate the employee for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all.
This understanding of employment law stands in stark contrast to that which prevails in most OECD countries. In most OECD countries a contractual relationship for which the employer most offer justification to break is assumed. This exists in a small number of states.
While it's good that the Congress has taken upon itself to extend unemployment benefits, this does little to no good when American employment law is tilted in favor of the employer.
It's time that the Congress work to pass a new employment law that recognizes that a contract is inherent in each employment relationship, and enforce the social obligations employers undertake when they choose to hire people to do work they benefit from.
Why is it that Congress is willing to spend trillions of dollars to remove risk from lives of people who are being paid to taken on uncertainty, yet have done nothing to provide certainty to the millions of Americans who work for wages?