The genius of American politics has been to
marginalize and isolate people.
In fact, one of the main reasons behind the passionate effort to
destroy unions is that they are on of the few mechanisms by which
ordinary people can
get together and compensate for the concentration of capital and power.
That's why the United States has a very violent labor history, with
repeated efforts to destroy unions anytime they make any progress."
Imperial Ambitions pg198
Just about everywhere in the West except the United
States, where there is no mandatory paid time off, workers not only
get vacations but also short work weeks, government health care,
large pensions, high minimum wages, subsidized childcare, and so
forth. Why is the United States the exception?"
Claude S Fischer, Boston Review
Americans are drastically overworked and underpaid
compared to workers in other advanced countries, and our workers are
trapped in a rigid pattern of inequality that has ended a historic
claim to being the nation of upward mobility.
Jefferson Cowie: The Future of Fair Labor
...then Reagan came along and basically informed the
business world that you can do anything you like to break unions.
You can violate the law, and in fact, illegal firing of organizers
tripled in the Reagan years. Clinton came along and he added
another way of destroying unions. It's called NAFTA [North American
Free Trade Agreement]. He didn't bother saying it, but the business
world knew they could violate labor laws to break strikes by
threatening to transfer enterprises to Mexico. And the number of
illegal actions like that shot up again.
Noam Chomsky 12/13/2012
"The economist John Maynard Keynes once predicted
that the four hour workday was close at hand and that technical
improvements in manufacturing would alllow
ample time for people to focus on the " art of life itself"...Today the
citizen works longer hours for less money than he or she once did,
an extra four and a half weeks a year compared to 1979. Married couples
with children are on the job an extra 413 hours, or an extra ten weeks
a year combined. Adding salt to the wounds, the United States is the
only industrialized nation where employers are not required by law
to provide workers any paid vacation time." Astra
Taylor: the People's Platform,
Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age.
"The royalists of the economic order have conceded
that political freedom was the business of the government, but they
maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. They granted
that the government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but
they denied that the government could do anything to protect the
citizen in his right to work and his right to live." FDR
Second Bill of Rights.
“Article 23 (1) Everyone has the right to work, to
free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work
protection against unemployment. (2) Everyone, without any
discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. (3) Everyone
who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring
for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and
supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. (4)
Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the
protection of his interests.”
Declaration of Human Rights)
One of the reasons that the US has nonsensical social programs
is that Republicans with their corporate allies have made union busting a
Unions annoy management when they bargain for higher wages,
their dues may go to Democrats, their higher wages make
them 'unfriendly to business', and they may insist on shorter hours,
overtime, safe working
conditions, vacation time, sick time, pension plans, family leave, and
other 'unreasonable' benefits. Employer based health
coverage was very bad policy.
To satisfy the oligarchy, health care, sick leave,
vacation time, family time, long-term care, and other programs are
at the bottom of budget priorities, and,
unlike other developed
countries, do little to mitigate insecurity for Americans. Fast
track trade agreements
moved good paying manufacturing jobs offshore leaving behind crumbling
factories and depressed US wages. Workers, having maxed out their
cards, consumption is not likely to recover any time soon. The
Grim Truth (4/8/2010)
can produce most of what we need, but they only employ a small fraction
of the people.
There is always an unlimited amount of work that needs to be done,
but corporations can do a lot with just a few people. Automation has
enabled productivity increases, and shrunk the job market. Self-driving
vehicles could change conditions for truck drivers, taxi drivers, and
others. That's just the beginning.
Advancing technology should produce shorter work weeks, and a
better living standard for everyone, but productivity gains have
trickled to the top resulting in immoral income inequalitiy.
There is seemingly
inexorable consolidation within every industry, so that market
choices become limited, work force is reduced. Fewer workers
accompanied by declining wages result in a weak domestic market.
Increasingly,third-world sweat shops, prison labor, or advanced technology replace workers. Outsourcing to
poor countries is rampant. Overpopulation
has resulted in a global
surplus of labor.
Despite what Republican
think, the economy, right now, is reaching extremes of unfairness.
Our government, for the corporations,
will continue that, especially if the GOP gets its way.
Fox hosts make it clear they are
simply against unions. When they insist that union bosses - not
employers - are intimidating workers, or when they declare that
unions that drive up wages and benefits are harmful for Big
Business, it's clear whose side they're on - and it's not the
"Labor, as a commodity, is subject to virtually no
regulation. In international commerce, labor is at the whim of
capitalism in its most rudimentary form. The labor component of
every product can be as cheap as the market wants it to be, and it
can be provided under inhumane conditions and with complete
disregard for all domestic standards from occupational hygiene to
equal rights for women to prohibitions on child labor - and yet no
one at the customs office is evenly remotely interested." The War
For Wealth, the True Story of Globalization, or why the flat World
is Broken: Gabor Steingart
US policy of Union Busting
The US is a signer of the UN
declaration of Human Rights that asserts that everyone has the
right to join a union. It just doesn't practice what it
preaches. (See International
In 1981 Ronald Reagan made an
assault in the Republican war on labor. "Reagan
gave dedicated union foes direct control of the federal
agencies that were designed originally to protect and further the
rights and interests of workers and their unions."
Continuing in the path set by his role-model Reagan, Bush was virulently anti-labor. He made vigorous
attempts to 'reform' Social
Security (remember when a Republican
says reform...he means shrink),
looks the other way while Corporations bust unions and outsource,
and otherwise promote regressive policies.
Automobile companies have bought
out their union workers, even while sending small car production to
Walmart, when faced
with a successful union drive in Canada, simply closed the store. It
no shame in sending its employees onto public services when they
need health care or other assistance. (About Walmart)
A new study recently released by John Logan, a lecturer at
the London School of Economics, points out that the intensity of
employer opposition and government hostility to collective
bargaining in the United States is unique among developed
This “repressive character of U.S. labor law, which allows
free rein to anti-union employers,” not only hurts workers in
the United States and in other nations, Logan said today.
There is growing evidence that consultants, employer groups
multinational corporations are exporting U.S.-originated anti-union
strategies to other developed countries such as the United Kingdom
and Ireland and to transforming countries such as China. They dodge taxes that way too.
Strengthening the right to organize and bargain collectively
Employee Free Choice Act would benefit not only American
workers, but also workers in other nations.
Feb. 21: The Attack on the Employee Free Choice
If U.S. workers could earn higher wages, benefits, and better
working conditions, who would be against them?
A powerful network of anti-union employers, conservative
business associations, industry lobbying groups, and right-wing
policy centers and policymakers seeks to shut down choice in the
American workplace. Get up-to-speed about the opponents of
Employee Free Choice Act by checking
out our new backgrounder.
"Not since the Great Depression has the American worker faced such
a bleak future. According to the National Alliance to End
Homelessness, incomes for the lowest income quintile have
declined during the past decade and the gap between the rich and
the poor grows bigger each year. In essence, the rich are getting
richer - and the poor are getting poorer. It's high time for a
change," says Jay Richards.
Capitol Hill Holds Hearing on Black Male Unemployment
The black male unemployment rate is unacceptably high and it is
time for the federal government to do something about it. That was
the conclusion of a March 5 hearing held by the Joint Economic
Committee, a bicameral, bipartisan committee of US representatives
and senators who are charged with studying the nation's economy and
making recommendations to the government for changes, if
"The owner of the means of production is in a position to
purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of
production, the worker produces new goods which become the property
of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the
relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both
measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is
“free,” what the worker receives is determined not by
the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs
and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in
relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is
important to understand that even in theory the payment of the
worker is not determined by the value of his product.
Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands,
partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly
because technological development and the increasing division of
labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the
expense of the smaller ones. The result of these developments is an
oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be
effectively checked even by a democratically organized political
society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are
selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise
influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes,
separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is
that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently
protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the
population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private
capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main
sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus
extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for
the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make
intelligent use of his political rights." Einstein on Politics,
Rowe and Schulmann. Monthly Review, May 1949
The asymmetry in liberalization of capital and labor flows
to a further inequity. With capital markets liberalized, countries
have to fight to keep capital by lowering taxes on corporations.
Because labor - especially unskilled labor is not as mobile, they
don't have to fight as hard to keep it. Hence asymmetric
liberalization leads to shifting the burden of taxes on to workers
- leading to reduced progressivity in the tax system. The same
thing happens in wage bargaining: workers are told that if they do
not accept lower wages and reduced protection, the capital (with
its jobs) will move overseas. Joseph Stiglitz. Making
Which Side Are You On?
Thomas Geoghegan - Union elections are rigged too, and this
excellent book describes why the Labor Department is part of the
Nickel and Dimed: Surviving in Low-Wage America, Barbara Ehrenreich
Throughout her three decades of journalism and activism, Ehrenreich
has been one of the most consistent chroniclers of class in