FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Wake Up! Globalization’s Coming

by DAVE LINDORFF

 

Get to work, Americans! Globalization is coming home to roost, and you’re going to be getting very, very busy, with no rest in your dotage.

That’s the message from United Airlines and Old Europe this past week.

First Old Europe, where workers at a company at the Bosch car parts plant in France resignedly voted to accept a management demand that they increase their workweek (but not their pay) by an hour from the state mandated 35-hour week because of increased competition from abroad. That was followed by DaimlerChrysler in Germany, where workers agreed to return from a 35 to a 40-hour week, again with no increase in pay, under the threat of seeing plants outsourced to South Africa.

Other workers in France and Germany have been giving up two weeks of paid vacation and agreeing to increased workweeks after similar threats.

It appears that the 35-hour workweek, introduced only a few years ago as a pioneering reform in France, is on its deathbed, a victim of globalization. In the U.S., of course, the 40-hour week, once hailed generations ago as a great reform by the labor movement, died so long ago-sometime back in the Reagan years, I believe-that it is in severe rigor mortis at this point, with the average workweek hovering in the 42-hour range and rising.

Meanwhile, people in America aren’t just having to work longer to make ends meet–and increasingly just to keep their jobs; they can also forget about retiring at 65-and even about getting a pension.

Virtually all American employers long ago did away with so-called defined benefit pension plans-the ones that established a certain level of monthly benefits and then paid those benefits based on the number of years a worker was employed-and replaced them with so-called defined payment plans, where workers (and sometimes employers) paid into a plan and then the pension, upon retirement, would be based on how much was paid in, and on how well the company managed to invest those paid-in moneys.

Now many companies are trying to weasel out of those meager pension plans too. One way has always been to drop workers before their plans are “vested”, usually after five years of employment. If that happens, the worker keeps what she or he has invested in a plan, but the company can keep what it contributed. Many workers, particularly at the lower end of the pay scale, but increasingly in higher paying white-collar jobs too, shuttle through a series of short-term jobs and never manage to get vested, in the process getting robbed of a lifetime’s worth of employee contributions to their never earned pensions. Corporate lobbyists have managed to prevent Congress from ever passing legislation making pensions fully portable from job to job-an obvious bit of basic decency that seems to elude even Democratic politicians. Another way of avoiding pensions, growing in popularity in management suites, is to hire contract workers and temps to do jobs once done by employees, since the outsourced jobs don’t get any benefits.

But it gets worse. United Airlines just announced that it wants to terminate its pension payments, and going forward, possibly cancel its pension program altogether. The company claims it needs to take this drastic step to remain competitive. Of course, to “remain competitive” with United, other airlines will argue that they have to do the same thing. (Did anyone say collusion?)

As this screw-the-worker movement spreads, as inevitably it will, like a wildfire, what we can expect to wind up with is American workers putting in 9-hour days, maybe adding a sixth day to the work week, and an end to retirement, since people will have to stay on the job until they die to keep paying for rent, food and medical care.

Welcome to the 19th Century.

Can child labor be far behind? Actually, they’ve actually been tinkering with the law here in Pennsylvania, where you’ll find children under 16 working in supermarkets and fast food joints under new “liberalized” labor laws (no doubt this is going on in other enlightened states too). Adding factory jobs and coal mining is just a matter of degree.

And yet they keep saying globalization is good, because “free trade” brings us cheaper goods and services.

Now, finally, we are seeing the seamy downside of all this. Corporations do just fine with globalization. They get to produce where it’s cheapest, sell the same goods back to us at huge mark-ups, and extort us into surrendering hard-won gains in pay, working hours, and retirement benefits, just to stay employed.

For the people though, globalization is just a form of governmentally sanctioned extortion, and until the working people of America massively return to trade unions, and insist that politicians respond to human, instead of corporate needs, it will only get worse.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 28, 2017
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
A Paradigm Shift in the Middle East: Iran as the Solution, Not the Problem
stclair
Big Brother Capitalism Strikes Back
Stephen Cooper
Trump’s Pusillanimous Immigration Policy Imperils the Public and the Police
Vincent Emanuele
The Madness of U.S. Empire
Michael Sainato and Chelsea Skojec
We Need the Endangered Species Act Now More Than Ever
David Underhill
Oops, They Did It Again: Crowd Bowls Over Rep in Beery Alley
John Eskow
Jimmy Kimmel is a Total Dick and Other Reflections on the Oscars
Steve Horn
Trump’s Top Energy Aide, Mike Catanzaro Peddled Climate Change Denial
Jack Random
The Trump Diaries: Week Five
Robert Fisk
The Education of Marine Le Pen
Pauline Murphy
Felicia Browne’s Fight Against Fascism
Mary Lynn Cramer
Fearing the Trump Impeachment
Mel Gurtov
While Our Attention is Elsewhere, Climate Change Worsens
Dan Bacher
Extinction 2017: California Edition
Abel Cohen
The Trojan President: America Never Saw It Coming
February 27, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Media Ban! Making Sense of the War Between Trump and the Press
Dave Lindorff
Resume Inflation at the NSC: Lt. General McMaster’s Silver Star Was Essentially Earned for Target Practice
Conn Hallinan
Is Trump Moderating US Foreign Policy? Hardly
Norman Pollack
Political Castration of State: Militarization of Government
Kenneth Surin
Inside Dharavi, a Mumbai Slum
Lawrence Davidson
Truth vs. Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Extradition Saga of Kim Dotcom
Robert Fisk
Why a Victory Over ISIS in Mosul Might Spell Defeat in Deir Ezzor
David Swanson
Open Guantanamo!
Ted Rall
The Republicans May Impeach Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Why Should Trump―or Anyone―Be Able to Launch a Nuclear War?
Andrew Stewart
Down with Obamacare, Up with Single Payer!
Colin Todhunter
Message to John Beddington and the Oxford Martin Commission
David Macaray
UFOs: The Myth That Won’t Die?
Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail