Organized Labor in Retreat

So who is surprised construction workers are treated worse than dogs in the United Arab Emirates?

Who is surprised to find migrant workers from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh building skyscrapers for just 10% of the average UAE wage of $2,106 per month?

Who is surprised to read a Human Rights Watch(HRW) report showing employers’ illegally holding back wages for months, withholding passports as “security” so workers can’t quit, and allowing recruiters charge shyster fees?

Who is surprised a 1980 UAE minimum wage law has never been enforced?

Who is surprised HRW found “there is no public record of a single case where it (the government) has penalized an employer with fines or imprisonment for failing to pay wages, or any other breaches of the labor law?”

Who is surprised the bodies of 880 construction workers from the Indian sub-continent nations cited above were shipped home in caskets in 2004 alone? (That’s a death rate comparable to annual U.S. troop losses in Iraq.)

Absent labor laws with teeth, their “accidental” deaths might as well be deliberate.

And halfway around the world, in Colombia, the deaths are deliberate. In 2001, some 170 union workers were assassinated. The President of Colombia’s Food and Beverage Union, who picketed a Coca-Cola shareholder meeting in New York, said workers were murdered so they could be replaced with temps.

Everywhere you turn, organized labor is in retreat. Trade union membership during the 1990s plunged. In a 1997 statement, the International Labor Organization(ILO) found:

* “Union membership in the U.S. declined by 21.1% during the last decade, giving the US one of the lowest levels of unionization among industrialized countries.” (U.S. AFL-CIO membership is down to just 9-million today.)

* Union membership dropped 25% in the United Kingdom, 30% in Australia, 55% in New Zealand, and 76% in Israel.

* South Africa, Spain, Chile made gains but ILO said, “in all but about 20 (of 92 countries surveyed), membership levels declined during the last decade.”

Of 1.3-billion workers in the survey, only 164-million were union members, ILO said.

Of the total 2.8-billion employed, half of Earth’s toilers are wage-slaves earning less than $2 a day, 27-million are actual slaves, and 186-million more are jobless.

Globally, the race to the bottom is gathering momentum. U.S. corporations export jobs to Mexico to cash in on cheap labor. In no time at all, though, tens of thousands of Mexicans lose their jobs to Asians who will sweat for less.

Everywhere you look, the divide between “haves” and “have nots” widens. From 1980-88, the ratio of “Fortune 500” CEO to employee pay rose from 42 to one to 419 to one.

Writing in the “Observer,” the publication of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, John Evans pointed out, “A growing number of the young unemployed in OECD countries are concentrated in households where no one works — they are detached from the labour market and excluded from society.”

In sum, there are hundreds of millions of workers, such as the migrants who lost their lives building the skyscrapers in the UAE, such as the temps stepping into the boots of the murdered trade unionists in Colombia, who are desperate for a job.

For management lacking social conscience and vision, it’s a dream come true.

That’s why labor unions are needed more than ever. In the academic vernacular of OECD’s Evans, “Unions are institutions which counterbalance the centrifugal forces created by globalization and technological change. They can play a crucial role both in redressing imbalances of power in the process of change and in ensuring that productivity increases are used to raise living standards in an equitable way.”

Put another way, much of management hasn’t yet learned by increasing the wages of employees it not only increases corporate productivity but boost employee purchasing power. As workers spend their paychecks, they drive demand upwards. And profits.

Americans alarmed by illegal immigration haven’t learned it’s cheaper to export union organizers’ to Mexico to drive up wages than to build a new Great Wall along the southern border to keep out the desperate migrants who would stay home if only they could find a job that paid.

Without the spread of strong unions in an age of globalization you can forget about societal stability, decent living conditions, overcoming poverty and disease, and world peace. There won’t be any.

SHERWOOD ROSS is a reporter and publicist. Reach him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com.



More articles by:
March 22, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Italy, Germany and the EU’s Future
David Rosen
The Further Adventures of the President and the Porn Star
Gary Leupp
Trump, the Crown Prince and the Whole Ugly Big Picture
The Hudson Report
Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons and Debt in Antiquity
Steve Martinot
The Properties of Property
Binoy Kampmark
Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Surveillance Capitalism
Jeff Berg
Russian to Judgment
Gregory Barrett
POSSESSED! Europe’s American Demon Must Be Exorcised
Robby Sherwin
What Do We Do About Facebook?
Sam Husseini
Trump Spokesperson Commemorates Invading Iraq by Claiming U.S. Doesn’t Dictate to Other Countries; State Dept. Defends Invasion
Rob Okun
Students: Time is Ripe to Add Gender to Gun Debate
Michael Barker
Tory Profiteering in Russia and Putin’s Debt of Gratitude
March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am a Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us