FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

U.S. Lags Far Behind in Worker Protection

by DAVID MACARAY

If you were wondering where the United States ranks, relative to the rest of the world, in the general category of “worker protection,” there is now a precise answer available—one supplied by Professor Kenneth Thomas of the University of Missouri (St. Louis), who based his findings on statistics supplied by OECD members.

The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) is a group of 34 comparatively “rich” industrialized nations that was founded in 1961 and whose stated purpose, more or less, is to meet semi-regularly to discuss ways of increasing economic progress through world trade.  It might help to think of the OECD as an international version of the Chamber of Commerce.  Its headquarters are in Paris, France.

The following countries are members of the OECD:  Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

So what did Professor Thomas learn from his survey?  Where does the proud and accomplished United States rank?  Shockingly, the U.S. not only finishes dead last overall, but in many of the specific categories (maternity leaves, medical leaves, education, etc.) we’re not even within shouting distance of the rest of the pack.

Now a sharp-eyed realist might attempt to mitigate these findings by arguing that getting beaten in these categories by Denmark, Sweden and Norway is no disgrace and certainly no surprise.  After all, Scandinavia is/was known as a veritable “workers paradise.”  But Estonia and Mexico?  Chile and Slovenia?  Surely, someone is joking.

But it’s no joke.  Thomas shows that the U.S. not only lags well behind its fellow OECD members in worker protection, it even trails the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries in many areas.  Among the categories considered in the OECD study:  being fired unfairly, not receiving severance pay, not getting enough notice on mass layoffs, and the use of non-vested, non-permanent employees.

Arguably, the U.S. is undergoing a shift in self-identity.  Instead of seeing ourselves, collectively, as a “country”—a society, a culture, a national community—we now see ourselves as nothing more than an economic arena—a gladiatorial arena where it’s every man for himself, where there are only winners and losers.  And while no one knows how all of this will ultimately play out, it’s safe to say it will end badly for the majority (formerly known as “citizens”; now referred to as “losers”).

There are two (and only two) sources of worker protection:  federal and state labor laws, and union contracts.  In the absence of these two safeguards, it’s economic free-fall.  As for our laws, they’re being tested and challenged every day by predatory corporations looking for shortcuts and loopholes.  Making it worse, the courts and media reflexively defend these corporations.  Meanwhile, the Democrats—labor’s putative “friends”—are terrified of doing anything that will make them look pro-labor.

Which leaves only the unions to provide a modicum of worker protection and dignity.  And, as everyone knows, union membership now hovers at a mere 12.4%, down from a high of nearly 35% back in the glory days of the 1950s, when the middle-class was thriving and prosperous.  Who would’ve thought it possible?  Who would’ve dreamed the day would come when the American worker looked to Estonia for inspiration?

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail