Tue Dec 11, 2012, 09:42 PM
nadinbrzezinski (131,100 posts)
Labor finds it's Fight
Recent labor strikes have shown a labor movement that is starting to flex it’s atrophied muscles after thirty years of mostly quiet in the Trenches.. Perhaps it’s taken more than a generation for organized labor to realize it was under a concerted attack from the Far Right. In reality we can’t know what was the specific trigger for the waking. After all, for the last few decades labor has been under constant and unrelenting attack with increasing ferocity.
One might consider Governor Scott Walker’s pointed attack on labor that moment organized labor realized it was now or never. Perhaps it was something else. It will be a few years before historians will sort this out. Regardless, we now live the Chinese curse, may you live in interesting times.
We live in an age when labor is starting to realize, they have no choice but to fight back.We are seeing things we have not seen in generations. We are seeing tens of thousands of workis a trend for more demands from workers for better labor conditions. Slowly there is an awareness rising, that the role of the union is to represent the interests of the working class.
According to Bill Fletcher and Fernando Gansin in Solidarity Divided “The U.S. Trade Union Movement finds itself on a global battlefield filled with land mines and littered with the remains of various social movements. it is engaged in a war for which it was entirely unprepared, having convinced itself that it had secured a permanent seat at the table of national authority.”
We must ask, is labor finally getting it? Like other Union movements around the world, it must fight for the workers, not the middle class, the workers.
This year there are signs that perhaps this is starting to make sense to American Labor that pretty much abandoned radical politics as early as Samuel Gompers and the American Federation of Labor over a hundred years ago. You might argue that his methods were successful, at least early on. But after the death of PATCO it should have woken Labor up.
So where are we?
Unrest at Walmart has been cooking for a few years. Walmart is the largest private employer in the United States. It employs 1.4 million people and it averages in pay at $8.08 per worker. This kind of pay and lack of benefits is subsidized by the rest of us, as workers have to apply to public assistance programs to barely make it.
This story from The Atlantic is quite an eye opener.
Could Walmart do better by raising pay? Yes, according to researchers at the Demos think tank:
The study estimated that if Walmart were to raise its employees’ average pay to $25,000 for a full-time, year-round employee would lift 734,075 people currently in poverty above the federal poverty line – including retail workers and the families they support. An additional 769,191 people hovering just above poverty would see their incomes rise to above 150 percent of the poverty line.
Raising these salaries would also help to prime the economy and actually create jobs. Here we are talking of a Gross Domestic Product increase in the range of $11.8 billion and 15.2 billion dollars in the coming year, as well as the creation of 100,000 to 132,000 additional jobs.
This is critical, since the companies, not just Walmart, make the so called common-sense argument that it would cost them. But if people have money in their pockets they spend it. Our economy relies on consumption and Walmart Workers are reaching the point where they need to fight back. Is this a majority? Hardly, but no movement, and this is one, starts being the popular kid on the block.
Walmart is also anti-labor. It will go out of it’s way in union activity suppression. This makes Walmart quite a foe since the National Labor Relations Board (NLBR) fines are seen as a “cost of doing business.” The great referee of the New Deal is truly a toothless arbitrator at this point, and it’s fines are nothing to a company that manages more money than the GDP of a few nations.
Like Walmart this is considered non-skilled work, and the pay is bellow poverty wages. Like Walmart workers in NYC are demanding better conditions, predictable hours and better pay. To this we must add the Corporation sets rates not the people who own the franchises, so the pressure most be put on the top. This is the way it works for most franchises as well, not just McDonalds.
What happened in New York, let’s use the right term, was a wild cat strike. It was very short lived and it was mostly a shot across the bow. These workers want the right to organize…into a Union and want a living wage of $15.00/hour. We can debate whether this is a living wage in New York City, but the current pay, which is not even half time, is well bellow poverty. Oh and these workers, like their Walmart counterparts, are working adults trying to feed families.
Now that Governor Rick Snyder is poised to sign the right to work for less legislation we are facing a frontal attack on labor which got the right to organize in 1937. Labor knows that it is fighting for it’s right to exist. This is existential, and the language of war, albeit political war, is accurate.
This is a body blow to the movement, creating a free loader problem. Why join and pay dues if I get the rights and the protection anyway? This is a common problem where this happens and the Union loses operating funds. It is a slow death, and one that allows for lower pay and benefits. It is an attack on the working class. It was also a power-grab.
Wisconsin is the same thing. It is an attack on workers period. It cannot be read in any other way. Workers are trying to fight back and relearning long forgotten lessons of radical politics. It will take some time for this to bear some significant fruit, but the battle has been joined.
Port of Los Angeles
This was a successful strike. The workers won concessions. But this is a rare event any longer. With globalization and automated tracking those jobs remain at risk. This was important, because success gives hope to workers.
We have had several labor actions this year alone. People here in San Diego are also near a breaking point. We had cleaning workers hold a rally outside a hotel in Fashion Valley and workers at Grossmont Hospital would like a 3% increase in pay. Some can’t even pay the rent. Over the Black Friday weekend workers here in San Diego also participated in the over fifteen hundred Walmart actions nationwide.
Labor here in San Diego is far from silent.
So what is going on? Labor may have to go back to strikes, and the era of pretty mild complacent labor is probably over. This is the calm before the storm. Especially in the Midwest where labor still has some force, things will get interesting. What is true is that a well compensated work force, which enjoys good pay and benefits has no reason to pick up the strike banner. One that is not, increasingly will become radicalized, and what is old, will become new again.
(I should know better, glutton and the rest)
15 replies, 1028 views
Labor finds it's Fight (Original post)
Response to nadinbrzezinski (Original post)
Tue Dec 11, 2012, 10:03 PM
Squinch (7,219 posts)
3. I see what you are saying, but it terrifies me that so many Americans are so anti union.
It's completely against their self interest, but there are so many of them out there who think "I don't get a pension, why should they?"
Response to Squinch (Reply #3)
Tue Dec 11, 2012, 10:10 PM
nadinbrzezinski (131,100 posts)
4. Even those will have a come to Jesus momemt.
We are in the same fight we have always been. American labor thought it would never have to do this again since t was loyal during the Cold War. What Cold War? As far as many are concerned. But serious, we had a wild cat strike in New York. That should tell us something.
Response to nadinbrzezinski (Reply #6)
Wed Jan 2, 2013, 01:46 PM
Raksha (6,919 posts)
12. I'm proud and happy to tell you my daughter contributed to that port shutdown
as part of Occupy Oakland.
First person: "Sundown at the Port"
Response to Raksha (Reply #14)
Wed Jan 2, 2013, 01:58 PM
nadinbrzezinski (131,100 posts)
15. It was in the middle of a Winter Storm
so it was cold, and it was raining... I got the best quote from a trucker, paraphrasing anybody out in this weather most have reason for it.