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

November 15, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Ukania: the Land Where the Queen’s Son Has His Shoelaces Ironed by His Valet
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Spraying Poisons, Chasing Ghosts
Anthony DiMaggio
In the Wake of the Blue Wave: the Midterms, Recounts, and the Future of Progressive Politics
Christopher Ketcham
Build in a Fire Plain, Get What You Deserve
Meena Miriam Yust
Today It’s Treasure Island, Tomorrow Your Neighborhood Store: Could Local Currencies Help?
Karl Grossman
Climate of Rage
Walter Clemens
How Two Demagogues Inspired Their Followers
Brandon Lee
Radical Idealism: Jesus and the Radical Tradition
Kim C. Domenico
An Anarchist Uprising Against the Liberal Ego
Elliot Sperber
Pythagoras in Queens
November 14, 2018
Charles Pierson
Unstoppable: The Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and NAFTA
Sam Bahour
Israel’s Mockery of Security: 101 Actions Israel Could Take
Cesar Chelala
How a Bad Environment Impacts Children’s Health
George Ochenski
What Tester’s Win Means
Louisa Willcox
Saving Romania’s Brown Bears, Sharing Lessons About Coxistence, Conservation
George Wuerthner
Alternatives to Wilderness?
Robert Fisk
Izzeldin Abuelaish’s Three Daughters were Killed in Gaza, But He Still Clings to Hope for the Middle East
Dennis Morgan
For What?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Government is Our Teacher
Bill Martin
The Trump Experiment: Liberals and Leftists Unhinged and Around the Bend
Rivera Sun
After the Vote: An Essay of the Man from the North
Jamie McConnell
Allowing Asbestos to Continue Killing
Thomas Knapp
Talkin’ Jim Acosta Hard Pass Blues: Is White House Press Access a Constitutional Right?
Bill Glahn
Snow Day
November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail