Tag Archive: labor


What’s labor supposed to do?

Facing setbacks in health care, a decreasing unionization rate (7.2% in the private workforce) , and the loss of the supermajority they would need to pass EFCA (as if the Democrats were doing something anyway), as well as decreasing public support (41%), unions are in pretty bad shape.  But then again, they had been for a long time.

What should labor do?

A number of things.

First of all, real people have little power in America.  Corporations and people of high means have a lot of pull, and individual politicians have some pull.  Democracy in America is democracy in name only. . . and most Americans know it.  They know that the government does nothing to pull together for everyday Americans and will drop anything to help out Wall Street.  Ironically, though such rabid corporatism comes as a result of the power wielded by corporations over our country, and such power is a natural consequence of capitalism, or the ‘free market,’ extreme right-wingers have built the Tea Party movement blaming government and claiming the ‘free market’ is the solution.  Let me reiterate. . . the people who are a huge part of the problem have grown stronger from the anger against the problems people like them have caused.  Why hasn’t the Left organized?  Why hasn’t labor organized in the face of layoffs?

What the people want–radical, liberal, and conservative–is democracy.  They rightly feel powerless against huge corporations and an unresponsive government–which, whatever head of our two-headed Republicrat Party beast is at the helm, does not seem to care about them.  Forget about business unionism–leaving corporations be, forgetting about ‘class issues,’ and demanding only wage increases.  BE A RABID FIGHTER FOR DEMOCRACY.  What the Obama election has taught us so far is that (1) people want change REALLY bad, and if you give them hope for it they will mobilize, and will carry the day, and (2) you can’t trust ANYONE in our bureaucratized government or the corporations that run it to actually do anything that is substantially good for you.

To reverse a paraphrased dictum from Machiavelli, politicians will do what we want if they love us or fear us. . . and their fearing us is more dependable than their love for us.  And by ‘fear us’ I don’t mean fear an uprising. . . I mean fear that we will impeach every single one, advance our own candidates, fill Congress and the Presidency with OUR PEOPLE.

We want Democracy.  Were unions to radicalize, democratize themselves, and democratize America, the people would love them.

Steps:

(1) Look inward.  Democratize yourself.  Make each union radically democratic–every single person has a change to make a real difference–no bureaucratized organizing body.  If people thought “I’d have a real say in my union!” that is a good part of what you need to do to change public perception.

(2) Support all workers, even the nonunion ones.  If you always look out for them, get them gains, workers not in a union will be more inclined to join, and more inclined to take your side and have a good perception of what you do.  It will help you organize, and help change public perception even more.

(3) Support even international workers and labor rights.  Corporations are international and organized and you should be, too.  Overseas workers are not your competition naturally. . . they are your allies.  If a corporation leaves American jobs here, and you argue ANYTHING that sounds like “they took our jobs”. . . you’re demonizing exploited workers who are suffering on their end from the actions of a corporation that is ALSO hurting YOU.  You create an “Us versus Them’ mentality against groups of people belonging to the “Us” group.  Remember, it is always corporations and globalization that hurts workers.  It’s really always capitalism, but you might not be willing to say that yet.  Not to mention that if millions of workers here oppose a company, it’s powerful, but if many millions of workers all over the world strike and boycott, it’s AMAZING, POWERFUL, and INSPIRING.

(4) Demand WAY MORE than just wage increases and REALLY COMMIT to it.  EFCA and Single Payer were great goals–you’re starting to see the need to advocate things that help the labor movement and ALL Americans, and that’s great.  But don’t depend on politicians.  Make noise, march, be rowdy and public, make YouTube videos and Facebook pages, have commercials during the superbowl, protest, strike, boycott! Fight the right-wing noise machine trying to make you look bad–make them, their lobbyists, corporations look bad instead!  They do it themselves, but no one calls them out on their tactics or their bullying, let alone their betrayal of America!  And never stop!  Buzz in their ears until they ring 24/7 whether you are there or not–and always let the public know what you’re doing for them.

(5)  Oppose pro-corporate bias everywhere.  You shouldn’t be afraid to call corporations out, to question their very essence and the system they are a part of.  Their bias hurts your true constituency. . . laborers and American citizens!  They have too much power in the workplace and in society.  Whose side are you on?  Oppose pro-corporate bias in the media, in the schools, in political campaigns. . . everywhere!  Stand for something!

(6) Organize! Organize! Organize! Find what industries have low unionization rates, and start there.  Find out what demographics, states, cities, and occupations unionize little, and reach out to them based on their situations, the uniqueness of their jobs, their histories, their values, their cultures.  Treat each group as its own, distinct population–it is!  Conduct studies and hire rhetoricians, psychologists, sociologists, and figure out what barriers to unionization exists in each group, and transcend them!  Your strength is in people.  And I repeat, DEMOCRATIZE and fight for REAL BENEFITS.  Let these people lead their own fight and represent to the people in their shoes once you’ve started organizing them, and let them determine what agendas are most important for them.

(7) Look outward.  Democratize EVERYTHING–fight for greater self-determination and democracy in corporations, in their management, in their boardrooms, and between workers, communities, and shareholders.  Fight for a greater democracy in American political structures.  Be a force for democracy, and be SO PUBLIC ABOUT IT, so transparent, that no right-wing extremists can lie to the public about you.  Make everything you do about making the government and corporations more accountable to the people and no one will think of you as ‘just another big, selfish, scary organization’.  And unlike Obama, walk the walk AND talk the talk.

Do these things and I promise you the labor movement will turn around.  So will the country.  And we will all be better for it.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100228/ap_on_bi_ge/us_frustrated_labor_4

Good contemporary data: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm

Et Tu, Barack?

Awhile ago I posted on Hillary Clinton’s connections to Wal-Mart. The link to that post, and all the articles I mention, will be posted at the end of this discussion.

I concluded with: “Quite frankly, Hillary’s appeals to labor and claims to want to increase the American “middle class” are hollow, empty appeals towards an audience, the American labor force (not to mention Wal-Mart’s notorious international sweatshop labor force, local communities affected by Wal-Mart’s practices, etc), that Hillary seems perpetually intent on betraying. A vote for Hillary is a vote against the poor and the working class.”

At the time, I defended Obama, after Kucinich was systematically and undemocratically prevented by the powers-that-be from getting his message out. But a few things have come out that are changing my mind, and to be intellectually honest, I must post on Obama as well.

Obama, too, seems to have been co-opted by global capitalist class, if he had not been already. He claimed a desire to help the U.S. working class, and opposition to NAFTA. Let’s examine some important moves he’s made since becoming the nominee.

About his earlier aim to ‘renegotiate NAFTA’ . . .

Joe Nichols of “The Nation” reports the following:

“In her interview with the candidate, Fortune‘s Nina Easton reminded Obama that earlier this year he had called NAFTA “devastating” and “a big mistake” and suggested that he would use an opt-out clause in the trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico to demand changes that would be more favorable to workers and farmers in all three countries.”

Obama’s taking a stand for the working class in Canada, Mexico, and the United States . . . committed to saving American jobs, ending foreign exploitation, gaining some democratic ground over the hegemonic dominance of international capital . . . oh, wait. Never mind. That would be the result if he had taken a stand. He actually said:

“Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified . . . politicians are always guilty of that, and I don’t exempt myself.” In short, he doesn’t mean it, New World Order. So rest peacefully.

In his Fortune Interview, he says:

“”There’s a reason why the business community in Chicago as a whole has been very supportive of me . . . they know I am a pro-growth guy, and I’m a pro-market guy. And I always have been. What I do get frustrated with is an economy that is out of balance, that rewards a very few – with rewards that are all out of proportion to their actual success – while ordinary, hardworking Americans continue to get squeezed. Over the last decade or so, this economy grew substantially, and more than half of the total growth was captured by the top 1%.”

Is the economy out of balance? Do the top 1% capture most of the results of growth? Absolutely; Obama is correct. Had Obama been sincere, he would realize that this is an inherent consequence of ‘free markets’ and the laws of the capitalist system itself, yet he remains a ‘pro-market guy’. I think that Obama is trying to appease business while simulaneously looking objective. For example:

He simultaneously says that part of the economic causes of this are that “with globalization and with global capital being able to move everywhere it wants . . . it has meant a winner-take-all environment.” This is true. Capital flight gives international capital a huge bargaining tool over governments unwilling to impose sanctions or invest in capital itself. But yet, he says: ”

“I still believe that the business of America is business . . . but what I also think is that with all that power and talent, and all those resources at their disposal, comes some responsibilities – to not game the system, to not oppose increased transparency in the marketplace, to not oppose fiscally prudent measures to balance our budget.”

How does Obama plan on imposing responsibility with so much of the game rigged as a consequence of Market operations alone? Exactly. Obama has turned face, given in. Strike one.

Perhaps he can be redeemed. Who are his economic advisors? They will both reflect his ideology, his aims, and color the options he sees for the future.

David Sirota of the Creators’ Syndicate reports:

“For every loud speech Obama has given about making sure trade pacts “are good not just for Wall Street, but also for Main Street,” he has made a quiet move reassuring Wall Street that Main Street will be ignored. Last week, for example, he named Jason Furman as his top economic adviser. Furman has spent the last few years defending Wal-Mart and working closely with Bob Rubin, the Citigroup chairman who championed NAFTA as Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary.”

Furman, Wal-Mart defender and associate of a NAFTA champion?  Hmm . . .

Naomi Klein of “The Nation” further reports:

“Furman is one of Wal-Mart’s most prominent defenders, anointing the company a “progressive success story.” On the campaign trail, Obama blasted Clinton for sitting on the Wal-Mart board and pledged, “I won’t shop there.” For Furman, however, it’s Wal-Mart’s critics who are the real threat: the “efforts to get Wal-Mart to raise its wages and benefits” are creating “collateral damage” that is “way too enormous and damaging to working people and the economy more broadly for me to sit by idly and sing ‘Kum-Ba-Ya’ in the interests of progressive harmony.””  I won’t analyze that argument . . . it’s incoherent.  But besides Furman’s ridiculous, lie-filled, and callous attempt at defending Wal-Mart, it appears that Obama will, in fact, shop at Wal-Mart . . . but not for cheap-foreign-sweatshop-made goods, but for economic advisors.

In addition to Furman, “He chose as his chief economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist on the left side of a spectrum that stops at the center-right. Goolsbee, unlike his more Friedmanite colleagues, sees inequality as a problem. His primary solution, however, is more education — a line you can also get from Alan Greenspan. In their hometown, Goolsbee has been eager to link Obama to the Chicago School. “If you look at his platform, at his advisers, at his temperament, the guy’s got a healthy respect for markets,” he told Chicago magazine. “It’s in the ethos of the [University of Chicago], which is something different from saying he is laissez-faire.””

Perhaps I should go into why no one supportive of the Chicago School of Economics should ever touch anything that affects human beings due to their irrationality, poor economics, and more importantly, complete and utter heartlessness and shameless classism . . . but I won’t for now.  What is more important is that Obama seems to be in bed with these people.

It appears that, until he shows otherwise, Obama seems committed to handing American domestic policy to the forces that oppress people in this country and abroad, betraying the working class and the suffering.  I suppose that his message of ‘change’ still can hold, perhaps: he simply doesn’t seem to want the changes that would actually help America, or its poor and suffering.

In the paraphrased words of Julius Caesar: Et tu Barack?

Hillary Clinton and Wal-Mart: https://practicalutopian.wordpress.com/2008/05/07/wal-mart-hilary-clinton-and-unions/

Sirota’s Article: “Obama’s Clearest Path to the Presidency: Talk About Wages” : http://www.alternet.org/story/88791/

Nichols’ Article: “Obama Goes Soft on Free Trade”: http://www.alternet.org/election08/88754/

The Fortune Interview: http://money.cnn.com/2008/06/20/magazines/fortune/easton_obama.fortune/?postversion=2008062308

Naomi Klein’s article: “What Does Obama’s ‘Love of Markets’ Mean for Our Economic Future?”:

http://www.alternet.org/election08/88093/

Prices of food, and most specifically necessary foods like rice and grains (generally) have been skyrocketing http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSL2464117420080424?sp=true.  More broadly, food prices have risen over the last few years, this last one in particular, to the point where riots are occurring internationally http://www.reuters.com/news/globalcoverage/agflation.  “World food prices rose by 39 percent in the last year. Rice alone rose to a 19-year high in March — an increase of 50 per cent in two weeks alone — while the real price of wheat has hit a 28-year high” (http://www.alternet.org/workplace/83457/).   Some countries in Latin America have responded with a recent pact to increase food production http://uk.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idUKN2344733220080423.  This food price crisis has affected most if not all of the global South, including most of Africa, Latin America, much of Asia, etc.  Consequently, global poverty has increased and, in many places, riots either have occurred, are occurring, or are a constant threat.

Moscow News Weekly summarizes: “Large-scale poverty is fraught with social explosions. A wave of massive unrest caused by the growth of food prices has swept Egypt, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Madagas­car, and Ethiopia in Africa alone. There are hunger riots on Haiti in the Caribbean, and in the Philippines in South-East Asia. Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Jacques Diouf, predicts new hunger riots in many Asian countries as well, including food producers. ”

If riots continue and governments are overthrown, the emerging governments would likely be geared towards the satisfaction of needs an some egalitarian principles of distribution.  Oftentimes this is the response to a crisis of the people such as this current food crisis.  Additionally, this tends to promote a swing of Leftist movements (and strengthening of existing ones).  But in light of history, Leftist and populist movements need to be cautious and look out for (1) U.S. intervention, and (2) IMF penalties. 

The United States has a history of interfering with and opposing any Leftist or populist movements, foreign or domestic, either democratically elected or emergent from a revolution.  A few notable examples of CIA-backed coups and coup attempts (from a rather large list) see http://theinsurgent.net/index.php?volnum=13.2&article=usterror.  Chomsky also writes heavily on this topic, and Naomi Klein’s recent The Shock Doctrine goes into detail over at least a few notable examples.  Historically famous examples are the attempt to overthrow Casto in the Bay of Pigs Invasion (1963), the socialist Indonesian president Sukarno (1965), the assasination of democratically elected Marxist president Salvadore Allende in Chile (1973), CIA training of the Contras to oppose the Leftist Sandanista government in Nicaragua (throughout Reagan’s presidency), etc.  Domestically, suppression of populist, Leftist, and labor movements has been widely documented throughout US history (look at the early history of the American labor movement, the period of McCarthyism throughout the late ’40’s and 50’s, or the Reaganite war on labor (http://www.dickmeister.com/id89.html).  America has a strong history of destroying Leftist, populist, and labor movements internationally and domestically, and consequently, whatever governmental situations these revolting countries end with, they need to be ever watchful.