Tag Archives: labor

One in four US workers are “guard labor” | Phil Ebersole’s Blog

26 Apr

One fourth of the American work force is employed in “guard labor”, not producing anything themselves, but keeping the actual workers in line, according to a studies by economists Samuel Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute and Arjun Jayadev of the University of Massachusetts.    Comparing nations, they reported that the greater the amount of inequality in a society, the higher the percentage employed in guard labor.

via One in four US workers are “guard labor” | Phil Ebersole’s Blog.


Fifty shades of capitalism – Salon.com

15 Jul

Drunk on the intoxicants of wealth and power, Fifty Shades of Grey hints at a sinister cultural shift that is unfolding in its pages before our eyes. The innocent Anastasias will no longer merely have their lifeblood slowly drained by capitalist predators. They’re going to be whipped, humiliated and forced to wear a butt-plug. The vampire in the night has given way to the dominating overlord of a hierarchical, sadomasochistic world in which everybody without money is a helpless submissive.

Welcome to late-stage capitalism.

Invisible Handcuffs

This has been coming for some time. Ever since the Reagan era, from the factory to the office tower, the American workplace has been morphing for many into a tightly-managed torture chamber of exploitation and domination. Bosses strut about making stupid commands. Employees trapped by ridiculous bureaucratic procedures censor themselves for fear of getting a pink slip. Inefficiencies are everywhere. Bad management and draconian policies prop up the system of command and control where the boss is God and the workers are so many expendable units in the great capitalist machine. The iron handmaidens of high unemployment and economic inequality keep the show going….

Much of the evil stems from the fact that free-market economists who still dominate the Ivy League and the policy circles have focused on markets at the expense of those inconvenient encumbrances known as “people.” Their fancy mathematical models make calculations about buying and selling, but they tend to leave out one important thing: production. In other words, they don’t give a hoot about the labor of those who sustain the economy. Their perverted religion may have something to say about unemployment or wages – keeping the former high and the latter low — but the conditions workers face receive nary a footnote.

via Fifty shades of capitalism – Salon.com.

‘When We Go Out, the Lights Go Out’: Workers Locked Out at Con Ed | The Nation

10 Jul

Hundreds of union members have descended on New York power utility Consolidated Edison’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan following the company’s decision to lock out 8,500 of its unionized workers in the midst of contract negotiations. Workers were sent home on July 1 after Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union refused to agree to give seven days’ notice before a strike. Only weeks after the debacle of the Wisconsin recall, and the subsequent consternation among many in the labor movement, it seems these boisterous union members missed the message that labor is on its way out.

About 500 union members, most of them from Local 1-2 but with contingents from SEIU Local 32BJ, CWA Local 1101 and TWU Local 100, among others, have been picketing outside Con Ed’s headquarters each day since the lockout began on July 1. Today, however, that number increased to more than a thousand, as Con Ed canceled healthcare coverage for Local 1-2 members as part of its effort to ramp up pressure on the union. Other pickets have been set up at Con Ed job sites around the region. The contract dispute centers on the fact that Con Ed wants to get rid of defined-benefit pensions and drastically increase union members’ healthcare contributions.

Lockouts have become increasingly common in recent years, as employers have become more and more proactive at trying to force givebacks on union members.

via ‘When We Go Out, the Lights Go Out’: Workers Locked Out at Con Ed | The Nation.

To Achieve Work-Family Balance, Americans Have to Work Less | The Nation

10 Jul

It seems the summer heat is making us think about how to escape work. Tim Kreider’s New York Timesop-ed on our overly busy lives made a huge splash, while Mitt Romney himself came out sort of for vacations for all. Meanwhile, the controversy continues to swirl over Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article about why women “can’t have it all,” meaning that they still struggle to balance family and career. What do these topics have to do with each other? Everything. If we truly want improved work-family balance for American families—mothers and fathers alike—then we have to address the fact that Americans are overworked. We have to work less. Period.

We work too long, for too little, and don’t have time for nurturing one another.

via To Achieve Work-Family Balance, Americans Have to Work Less | The Nation.

Occupy Activists Resurrect May Day for Americans | The Nation

2 May

In April, a coalition of unions, environmental groups, community organizing networks — including National People’s Action, PICO, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Jobs with Justice, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, SEIU, United Food and Commercial Workers, AFL-CIO, Communication Workers of America, MoveOn, Unite Here, Common Cause, the Steelworkers union Public Campaign, Public Citizen, Health Care for America Now, the United States Students Association, and others—began a series of protest actions major banks and corporations, and trained close to 100,000 new recruits in civil disobedience tactics.

In April they showed up (and some got arrested) at Cigna, General Electric and Wells Fargo shareholder meetings. In the next month, they plan to make their voices heard at Verizon, Bank of America, Hyatt, Tesoro, Sallie Mae, Walmart and other corporate annual meetings. They will commemorate May Day with actions at several corporate headquarters and stockholder meetings as part of this ongoing “99% Spring/99% Power” campaign that will continue throughout the summer and into the election season with demands that corporations pay their fair share of taxes, big banks end the epidemic of foreclosures and reduce “underwater” mortgages to their fair market values, and that banks and Congress unleash college students from unprecedented debt from student loans. By keeping the heat on, and gaining visibility, they hope to inject these issues into the upcoming election season.

via Occupy Activists Resurrect May Day for Americans | The Nation.

Unions and Environmentalists: Get It Together! | The Nation

24 Apr

For over three decades Big Business has worked hard to keep environmentalists and unions at odds with one another and that have succeeded to an unsettling degree. This antagonism must stop. Unions and environmentalists must band together to create a sustainable world with jobs for all.

Fear at Work systematically debunks many of the myths still present in today’s debates. “The Reagan administration and its allies have been capitalizing on today’s economic crisis to widen the split between labor and environmentalists over ‘jobs,’ while cynically attacking rights and protections that have been won by both movements. The assault on labor and environmental protections will intensify. As in the past, ‘jobs’ will be the rationalization for new antiworker, anti-environmental policies.” Progressives in 2012 would do well to make Fear at Work a sort of reference guide for how we respond to these tactics. Some of today’s greens might be enlightened by its discussion of why job security is such a fundamental issue for unionists—especially construction unions. Unlike in other unions, construction union leaders represent their members whether or not they are employed. And unemployed members retain all the rights of membership, including voting in union elections for—or against—those leaders.

Kazis, reflecting recently on how the situation has evolved since the publication of Fear at Work, said, “It’s the same picture. The issues are the same, the use of job blackmail is the same, the way over-inflated arguments about job creation potential are the same, wild misestimates of the cost of clean-ups is the same, all the tried and true divide-and-conquer techniques are the same, but what has changed is the relative political power and salience of both movements we were talking about.” Unions and environmentalists, in other words, have lost ground, while industry has triumphed. Continue reading

America’s dream unravels – FT.com

7 Apr

Has the 1% already flushed the workforce down the tubes?

Far from being an afterthought, or a moral side issue, the fate of America’s labour force is its most pressing problem. Almost every elected American pays lip service to an economy of the future based on brain power. But it takes time to build a new generation of homegrown brains and the country is doing its best to deter foreign ones. Unsurprisingly, much of the action is therefore shifting with the IQs, whether that is to Singapore, Canada, Germany or China. Roughly three-quarters of US private R&D comes from manufacturing companies, which now account for barely a 10th of the US labour force. In spite of a recent shift towards “reshoring”, the trend is still eastwards.

via America’s dream unravels – FT.com.

A famous Chicago factory gets Occupied – Occupy Chicago – Salon.com

28 Feb

Working alongside the union, Occupy Chicago gets results, in one-day, in a labor action:

Whether because of the right’s overreach, the rise of Occupy, or both, struggles like the Serious occupation seem to resonate with the general public. Fried says the existence of a large, easily mobilized Occupy movement made their 2012 action different. . . .

It’s that kind of Occupier/union synergy that has caught on in a few locales and has been given partial credit for union victories in places like Washington state, as well as pushing the labor movement more generally to take risks leaders are usually uncomfortable with.

In the case of Serious, Fried says Occupy’s participation changed the tone of negotiations with the company’s management in California. “When they heard that Occupy Chicago had moved in outside their company, they were alarmed,” she says.

via A famous Chicago factory gets Occupied – Occupy Chicago – Salon.com.

This American Warehouse Sounds as Bad as Foxconn – Technology – The Atlantic Wire

27 Feb

It’s useful to be reminded that American can treat labor as badly as China does. The Atlantic Monthly compares conditions in an American fulfillment warehouse (the kind of place the delivers goods you order online)  with conditions at Foxconn in China:

After hearing all about the horrible working conditions it takes to make our electronics at Foxconn, Mother Jones‘ Mac McClelland shows us what it takes to ship those products. It sounds pretty awful. And not just by American standards, but, in comparison to what happens in China, a developing nation without our fancy American worker protections. McClelland spent a short time as a temp worker in a shipping warehouse called Amalgamated Product Giant Shipping Worldwide, during the busy Christmas season. After days of back-ache inducing labor, she confirms a scary reality happening right here in the good ole U.S. of A.

via This American Warehouse Sounds as Bad as Foxconn – Technology – The Atlantic Wire.

America’s last hope: A strong labor movement – The 99 Percent Plan – Salon.com

20 Feb

The labor movement is the critical anchor and enabler of democracy grounded on a notion of freedom. Most people have an intuitive understanding of what democracy means: rule by the people (as opposed to rule by the few or an elite). Yet, as Corey Robin so eloquently points out in his book on fear, Americans give up their individual freedom and democratic voice every single day they walk into work. The workplace is an authoritarian dictatorship, and we accept this as legitimate.

Now is the time to challenge that feudal relationship. We need to call into question the assumption that Americans believe democracy stops at the workplace door. If we would not stand for a despot to rule over us with impunity, why do we let the boss do so every day of the workweek? Any progressive advance needs a strong labor movement to achieve a fully free and democratic workplace and society. This vision of freedom and democracy manifests in two domains: the workplace and the southern region of the country.

via America’s last hope: A strong labor movement – The 99 Percent Plan – Salon.com.