Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Wake Up! Globalization’s Coming



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

He can be reached at:


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:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”