Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Just A Reminder.....

In the 1920s Congress banned private ownership of the Thompson sub-machine gun, and no, Capone and the other gangsters didn't turn in their Tommy guns.  But, in time, the Thompson disappeared from the American scene.  The police seized some when they arrested criminals.  Some got turned in or destroyed by their owners.  Others just got old and unusable.  If we were to ban large capacity clips, at first it wouldn't make a difference.  But in time, those clips would go the way of the Tommy gun.  It might take twenty years for them to go away, but sooner or latter, the thirty, forty, fifty and sixty shot clips would no longer be part of American gun culture.

Monday, December 3, 2012

More News From the Labor Front

Last week, the clerical workers at the Port of Los Angeles went out on strike.  So far, the longshoremen have honored their picket line.  As I'm writing this, I'm listening to KNX all news radio.  The station is running an unscientific text poll.  "Who do you blame for the strike? The clerical workers or their employers?"  So far, 80% of respondents blame the clerical workers and 20% blame the employers.

For the new labor movement to make real progress in its fight for social justice, it has to convince the general public that it makes sense to support labor over management.  Most of us look at the world around us and ask,  "How does this affect me now?"  Fewer cheap Chinese toys for Christmas may make the kids unhappy, but in the long run, higher wages and job security is good for everyone.  And sooner or latter, those kids will be out looking for work.    

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Did the Revolution Begin At Walmart?

I thought Ronald Reagan had destroyed his presidency.  The air traffic controllers had gone out on strike and Reagan had fired them.  I just assumed  the teamsters would not cross a picket line and the nations air transport system would be crippled if Reagan didn't back down.  The teamsters crossed, the air traffic controllers lost their jobs, and organized labor has been on the defensive ever since.

On black Friday, the biggest day of the year for America's retailers, a small number of Walmart employees walked off the job.  They wanted better wages, more hours, better working conditions, medical benefits, and the right to unionize.  Their numbers were small, the public crossed their lines, and Walmart had a record day.  (At least according to Walmart management.)  Well, it's a start.

This week, a number of fast food workers in New York City walked off the job for a day.  The employers were McDonald's, Wendy's, Dominos, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Taco Bell.  In New York, the average wage of a fast food employee is a little under $9 an hour.  Most get no benefits, and many have their hours limited to 20 or 30 hours a week.  In New York City, as in most of the country, that's poverty wages.  Unlike many other parts of the country, there aren't many low cost housing alternatives in New York City.  They come to work sick, because they can't afford to take a day off, let alone pay for health care.  Many would make the argument that fast food is a low wage job because it doesn't take a college education, or any difficult to master skills.  Perhaps, but it's also true that fast food companies are some of the most profitable business in the world.  That profit is made on the back of low wage workers.  In NYC, workers are asking for $15 an hour, medical, and forty hour weeks.  The big chains can afford it, without significantly raising prices, and still make a very healthy return.

The cult of Steve Jobs.  The late Apple exec has been held up as the great American success story.  Both political parties hold him up as an example of the perfect CEO.  Let's look at the record.  Jobs outsourced manufacturing to Foxxcon, actually Hon Hai Precision Co, Ltd. of Taiwan.  His great innovation was in finding a manufacturing partner willing to pioneer a new form of industrial slavery at it's mainland Chinese plants.  The typical American Apple employee is an Apple Store worker, who makes around $10 an hour, toils at irregular hours that doesn't allow for a decent standard of living, and doesn't get medical benefits.  Mostly young, with less to loose than a typical Walmart worker, it's time for the Apple Store Geniuses to hit the street, picket signs in hand.

Building a union and fighting for labor rights is not easy.  A quick glance at labor history shows years of struggle and sacrifice.  We gave up our union base along with our manufacturing base when we changed our tax structure to favor financial services rather than manufacturing.  But it is a fight worth waging.  If not, we'll end up living under Steve Job's new industrial slavery.  It won't just be in China.