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 “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s Slurs Against China
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail