FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What Goes Around, Comes Around

In his June, 2010, CounterPunch interview (which he expands upon in his excellent book “Aftershock”), former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich notes that the challenge facing the American economy isn’t simply to provide jobs, jobs, and more jobs.  The challenge will be to provide good jobs.

And after reading the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) latest report, Mr. Reich can’t be too optimistic.  According to the BLS, there were 1.1 million private sector jobs gained in the last year, and of those jobs, 650,000 (or about 60-percent) could be categorized as marginal.  They are jobs that neither create personal wealth nor offer real benefits.

Sixty-percent of these new jobs went to temporary help, leisure and hospitality, and retail sales.  The BLS cites the average rate of packers and packagers as $8.62 per hour.  Other than keeping families from starving or living on the street, how are $8.62/hour jobs?not for teenagers still living with their parents, but for heads of households?supposed to help the economy?

There’s a common phrase to describe the phenomenon where low-paying, low-benefit jobs drive out decent, well-paying jobs.  That phrase is “lowering the standard of living.”  Arguably, those words used to strike fear in the hearts of middle-class workers who believed that a high (if not the very highest) standard of living was more or less an American birth right.

Yet it’s obvious that as the influence of unions has declined, our standard of living has declined right along with it.  And why wouldn’t it?  With unions weaker and nothing (no government muscle, no media support) to resist the downward pressure on wages, corporations will continue grinding workers down until, in theory, they reach the federal minimum of $7.25/hour (which, no surprise, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce vehemently opposed).

Having once lived and worked in India, I try to keep abreast of Indian labor issues.  And one of the more alarming trends in Indian manufacturing these days can be seen in what’s happening in Gurgaon district?a region in the northern Indian state of Haryana that produces the majority of the country’s cars and motorcycles.

Union activists in Haryana (members of the AITUC?All India Trade Union Congress) tell me that companies are resorting to the same greedy, extortion tactics U.S. companies began using in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when they tried to squeeze out inferior contracts from unions by threatening to shut down their factories and move to the American South, Asia, or Latin America.

Gurgaon companies are now warning factory workers that if they don’t knock off their union activism, they’ll be forced to pull up stakes and move either to South India (their version of Mississippi and Alabama), or to Bangladesh or Vietnam, where workers are hungrier, wages are lower, and governments are far more accommodating.

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any more swinish or cutthroat, a country like India is in danger of pricing itself out of the manufacturing sector.  The irony is staggering.  Still resented as poachers?for having lured American jobs to the subcontinent?the Indians are now feeling their own economic pinch as international corporations troll the globe for cheaper labor.

Bangladesh and Vietnam certainly seem like logical targets.  They’re poor, hard-working, and eager to attract new industry.  But what happens when labor unions gain traction in these two countries?  What happens when these Bangladeshi and Vietnamese workers get fed up with the bullshit and demand a larger share of the pie?  Answer: “Goodbye, Bangladesh” and “Hello, Somalia.”

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
Jon Rynn
What a Green New Deal Should Look Like: Filling in the Details
David Swanson
Will the U.S. Senate Let the People of Yemen Live?
Dana E. Abizaid
On Candace Owens’s Praise of Hitler
Raouf Halaby
‘Tiz Kosher for Elected Jewish U.S. Officials to Malign
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Deceitful God-Talk at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast
W. T. Whitney
Caribbean Crosswinds: Revolutionary Turmoil and Social Change 
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Avoiding Authoritarian Socialism
Howard Lisnoff
Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Anti-immigrant Hate
Ralph Nader
The Realized Temptations of NPR and PBS
Cindy Garcia
Trump Pledged to Protect Families, Then He Deported My Husband
Thomas Knapp
Judicial Secrecy: Where Justice Goes to Die
Louis Proyect
The Revolutionary Films of Raymundo Gleyzer
Sarah Anderson
If You Hate Campaign Season, Blame Money in Politics
Victor Grossman
Contrary Creatures
Tamara Pearson
Children Battling Unhealthy Body Images Need a Different Narrative About Beauty
Peter Knutson
The Salmon Wars in the Pacific Northwest: Banning the Rough Customer
Binoy Kampmark
Means of Control: Russia’s Attempt to Hive Off the Internet
Robert Koehler
The Music That’s in All of Us
Norah Vawter
The Kids Might Save Us
Tracey L. Rogers
Freedom for All Begins With Freedom for the Most Marginalized
Paul Armentano
Marijuana Can Help Fight Opioid Abuse
Tom Clifford
Britain’s Return to the South China Sea
Graham Peebles
Young People Lead the Charge to Change the World
Matthew Stevenson
A Pacific Odyssey: Around General MacArthur’s Manila Stage Set
B. R. Gowani
Starbucks Guy Comes Out to Preserve Billionaire Species
David Yearsley
Bogart Weather
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail