Sunday, September 05, 2004
This is a sticky post written the day we first appeared on the internet: Welcome to article43.com - a memorial to the layed off workers of (PRE SBC MERGER) AT&T, and the disappearing MIDDLE CLASS citizens of America. It is NOT endorsed or affiliated with AT&T or the CWA in any way.
In addition to INFORMATION, resources and opinion for former AT&T workers DEALING WITH the EFFECTS OF LAYOFF and looking for meaningful employment, some articles here are meant to bring into awareness the LARGER PICTURE of corporate dominance of the UNITED STATES’ political and economic policies which brazenly DISREGARDS, disrespects and EXPLOITS worker, citizen and HUMAN RIGHTS under masks like FREE TRADE and the PATRIOT ACT - resulting in a return to a society of very rich and very poor dominated by a few very rich and powerful - whose voices are anything but - for the people. If left UNCHALLENGED, the self-serving interests of those in control may result in the end of DEMOCRACY, the end of the middle class, irreversible ENVIRONMENTAL damage to the planet, and widespread global poverty brought on by exploitation and supression of the voices of common people EVERYWHERE, while the United States turns into a REINCARNATION of the ROMAN EMPIRE. Author Thom Hartmann shares some history and outlines some basic steps to return our country to “The People” in his two articles TEN STEPS TO RETURN TO DEMOCRACY and SAVING THE MIDDLE CLASS. I support CERNIG’S idea for a new POLITICAL MOVEMENT - if not a revolution to cleanse our country of the filth ruling it - as we EVOLVE into a GLOBAL community - assuming we learn the THE LESSONS OF OUR TIME and don’t DESTROY CIVILIZATION first.
Everything here can be viewed anonymously. Inserting or commenting on articles requires a free user account (for former AT&T employees with a real, non throw-away, email address.) Requests to the new user registration page are redirected to BLOGGED DOT COM’S site because most new signups I get are from COMMENT SPAMMERS and their ilk, so if you want to contribute, contact me through email, phone, or some other way.
There’s no third-party scripts here like privacy-eroding WEB COUNTERS, hidden datamining widgets like Pay-Pal donation boxes, or AMAZON DOT COM tracking stuff. The RSS feeds are pulled by the server, and have no relation to anything you may be doing here. Standard Apache WEB LOGS of info like IP, and pages visited are rotated every few days, and used internally to check the web server’s performance. Logs of suspicious activity may be shared with law enforcement, or other ISPs, to deal with troublemakers. Nothing here is for sale, and donations are not solicited.
If you get an email that claims to be from somebody here that’s anything but a request to post your article, or report suspicious activity (like logs sent to an ISP to report an attack) - it’s SPAM. I do not, and will not - ever - join the junk mail sender community. There are no mechanisms to prevent anyone from forging anyone elses email address in a “from” or “reply-to” mail header. For those of us whose email addresses are fraudently used, the best we can do is filter out NDR REPORTS.
Per U.S.C. COPYRIGHT LAW - TITLE 17, SECTION 107, this not-for-profit site may reproduce copyrighted material not specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such articles will either have a web link to the source, home page, and/or show credit to the author. If yours is here and you have a problem with that, send me an EMAIL, and I’ll take it off. Stuff I wrote carries a CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE permitting non-commercial sharing. In addition, this site’s owner forbids insertion and injecting data of any kind - especially advertisements - into ours by any person or entity. Should you see a commercial ad that looks like it’s from here, please report it by sending me a tcpdump and/or screenshot in an EMAIL, then READ UP about how the PARTNERING OF INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS and companies like NEBUAD are DESTROYING INTERNET PRIVACY.
Resumes of layed off AT&T workers are posted for free HERE.
Links to some Telecom companies’ career pages are HERE.
Click HERE to learn a little about Article 43 and why I loathe the CWA.
Click HERE or HERE to learn what the CWA did when given a chance to do the right thing.
Click HERE for a glimpse of undemocratic and hypocritical CWA practices.
Click HERE for an article on Corporate Unionism.
Click HERE for an article of AFL-CIO’s undemocratic history.
This site can disappear anytime if I run out of money to pay for luxuries like food, health care, or internet service.
Discernment of truth is left to the reader - whose encouraged to seek as much information as possible, from as many different sources as possible - and pass them through his/her own filters - before believing anything.
...the Devil is just one man with a plan, but evil, true evil, is a collaboration of men…
- Fox Mulder, X Files
No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.
- John F. Kennedy
Today my country, your country and the Earth face a corporate holocaust against human and Earthly rights. I call their efforts a holocaust because when giant corporations wield human rights backed by constitutions and the law (and therefore enforced by police, the courts, and armed forces) and sanctioned by cultural norms, the rights of people, other species and the Earth are annihilated.
- Richard L. Grossman
Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
- Albert Einstein
He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
- Bishop Desmond Tutu
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King Jr
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
- Benjamin Franklin
If we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately.
- Benjamin Franklin
We must be prepared to make heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war.
- Albert Einstein
Solidarity has always been key to political and economic advance by working families, and it is key to mastering the politics of globalization.
- Thomas Palley
The impending credit crisis cant be avoided, but it could be mitigated by taking radical steps to soften the blow. Emergency changes to the federal tax code could put more money in the hands of maxed-out consumers and keep the economy sputtering along while efforts are made to curtail the ruinous trade deficit. We should eliminate the Social Security tax for any couple making under $60, 000 per year and restore the 1953 tax-brackets for Americans highest earners so that the upper 1%-- who have benefited the most from the years of prosperity---will be required to pay 93% of all earnings above the first $1 million income. At the same time, corporate profits should be taxed at a flat 35%, while capital gains should be locked in at 35%. No loopholes. No exceptions.
Congress should initiate a program of incentives for reopening American factories and provide generous subsidies to rebuild US manufacturing. The emphasis should be on reestablishing a competitive market for US exports while developing the new technologies which will address the imminent problems of environmental degradation, global warming, peak oil, overpopulation, resource scarcity, disease and food production. Off-shoring of American jobs should be penalized by tariffs levied against the offending industries.
The oil and natural gas industries should be nationalized with the profits earmarked for vocational training, free college tuition, universal health care and improvements to then nations infrastructure.
Saturday, March 08, 2014
Cant Find A Qualified US Worker Redux 4
The “Skills Gap” Is a Convenient Myth
By Toni Gilpin
February 14, 2014
Haven’t seen too many “Help Wanted” signs lately? You haven’t been looking hard enough. At factories across the country, thousands of good jobs are going begging.
If that doesnt sound quite right to you, take it up with the National Association of Manufacturers. NAM and other industry groups insist at least 600,000 FACORY POSITIONS REMAIN OPEN.
These vacancies are supposed to be the result of a “skills gap” - a shortage of workers with the right stuff for today’s high-tech factories. The gap looms large in high-level discussions of what ails the American economyand it drives much public policy.
"America wants a country that builds things,” SAYS CATERPILLAR CEO DOUG OBERMAN, industry’s leading skills gap spokesman (and board chair of the NAM), “but we have a problem. We dont have the people we need.”
“Politicians of both parties echo this refrain. Businesses cannot find workers with the right skills,” SAYS DEMOCRATIC SENATOR RICK DURBIN, and REPUBLICAN SENATOR BOB PORTMAN AGREES: “Let’s close the skills gap and get Americans working again.”
PRESIDENT OBAMA TOO, MAINTAINS that America’s “manufacturers cannot find enough workers with the proper skills.”
Such bipartisan agreement is reflected in budget priorities. RETRAINING TOO IS A TOUCHSTONE FOR THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE, and since the president took office more than 18 BILLION FEDERAL DOLLARS have gone to job training programs. Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin recently committed $8.5 million TO TRAINING.
Although unemployment remains high, the political focus has shifted away from creating new jobs. Instead its on retooling our education system to align with the skilled positions said to be already out there.
Just one hitch: there’s little evidence a “skills gap” exists.
WHY ARE WAGES STAGNANT?
“It’s hard not to break out laughing,” ONE ECONOMIST NOTED recently. “If there’s a skills shortage, there has to be rises in wages [for skilled workers]. It’s basic economics.”
Yet wages in manufacturing - even for skilled workers - are STAGNANT AT BEST.
Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School of Business, hears frequent complaints from MANUFACTURERS CLAIMING THEY CAN’T FIND ENOUGH MACHINISTS. “Yet,” CAPPELLI NOTES, “the pay for those positions has dropped 20 percent in real terms over the past 20 years, while skill requirements for many of those jobs have indeed risen.”
Studies from ILLINOIS and WISCONSIN on welding jobs - where employers often cite shortages of available workers - demonstrate that welders wages, as well, have decreased over the past decade, and there are thousands more unemployed welders looking for work than there are projected openings.
When skilled slots do go unfilled, it’s because EMPLOYERS SEEK HIGH-VALUE WORKERS AT DISCOUNT RATES.
“We’ve probably all seen the TV shows where new homebuyers go out to look for a new house,” CAPPELLI SAYS, “and they always are shocked to discover they cannot get what they wanted at the price they want to pay. The real estate agent never concludes the problem is a housing shortage. The buyers have to learn either to pay more or expect less. Is that happening with employers? It does not appear to be.”
When pressed, ONE MANUFACTURING CEO ACKNOWLEDGED that for him, “the skills gap meant an inability to find enough highly qualified applicants, with no union-type experience, willing to start at $10 an hour.”
”THAT’S NOT A SKILLS MISMATCH OR EVEN A LABOR SHORTAGE PROBLEM in any meaningful sense,” Marc Levine, professor of history and economic development at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee, makes clear. “That’s an EFFORT to secure cheap and docile labor."</b>
“National data on wages, hours, the ‘job gap’ (the ratio of job seekers to available openings), and the skills requirements of projected job openings reveal no evidence of a skills mismatch in national labor markets,” LEVINE SAYS.
In fact, the real deficit we face is a jobs gap. There are still many more unemployed Americans, across every sector of our economy, than there are positions to put them in. “Unemployment is high,” one analyst notes, “not because workers lack the right education or skills, but because employers have not seen demand for their goods and services pick up enough to need to significantly ramp up hiring.”
It is not the right workers we are lacking, it is work.
“TRAINING DOESN’T CREATE JOBS,” says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “Jobs create training. And people get that backwards all the time.”
Economist PAUL KURGMAN STATES BLUNTLY that “claims of a skills gap provide cover for those powerful forces [that] are ideologically opposed to the whole idea of government action on a sufficient scale to jump-start the economy.”
Cat CEO Oberhelman CASTIGATED THE COUNTRY’S “FAILING” SCHOOLS for not turning out fully employable products” and FAULTS AMERICANS not pursuing the rewarding careers he says are available in today’s factories.
STORIES LIKE THIS ONE, from a Wisconsin professor, don’t make it into Oberhelman’s script:
Take my former student, John. He did everything we ask young workers to do, earning two journeyman cards while working and attending Milwaukee Area Technical College full-time.
John left Briggs when it began moving jobs to low-wage states and Mexico. But his new employer, Rockwell, began outsourcing to nonunion, low-wage plants even before it eliminated all hourly workers last year.
So John started over again at Harley-Davidson. But, a year and a half ago, Harley laid John off.
CEOs like Oberhelman create the hype about a skills gap and then use it to duck responsibility for the joblessness they are responsible for.
The blame and the costs are offloaded onto workers, obliged to bankroll their own training, or onto taxpayers, as public schools and community colleges scramble to make their graduates more employable.
MIND THE OTHER GAP
It’s hypocritical, to put it mildly, for employers to bemoan the shortage of skilled labor while they lay off workers (including skilled ones) and pay less to those they retain. But their whining deflects attention from record profits and lavish executive compensation.
A recent example comes courtesy of BOEING CEO JIM McNERNEY HAS SAD the U.S. faces an acute “competitive gap” brought on by “insufficient numbers of capable workers.”
Nonetheless, BOEING recently threatened its highly skilled (and unionized) workforce in Everett, Washington, that the company would move its new 777X plane out of state if workers didnt take concessions. THEY GAVE IN.
Capable workers were not Boeing’s goal. Cheap and compliant ones are what the company was after. Reflect for a moment about which sort of people you prefer to build the airplanes you travel in.
So, while the fictional skills gap provides a distraction useful to CEOs and politicians, workers (and taxpayers) should keep focused on what matters most: our EVER-RISING LEVEL OF INCOME INEQUALITY.
That’s the gap that needs minding.
Who Foots the Bill?
While employers bemoan a skills gap, they’re not putting up their own money to close it. Just the opposite. Manufacturers provide far less on-the-job training than they once did.
APPRENTICESHIPS - which oblige employers to assume the lions share of training costs - have fallen 40 percent since 2008. The decline of America’s machine-tool industry, for instance, can be attributed to the collapse of the apprenticeship system.
There’s just one time when companies do eagerly foot the bill for job training: when it serves to undermine the position of union labor.
Last summer, anticipating a possible strike, Caterpillar placed 25 of its non-union employees into the welding program at a Milwaukee community college. Protests by the Steelworkers, who represent workers at Cats South Milwaukee plant, were brushed off.
Just before contract negotiations began, Cat laid off some 300 Milwaukee workers - including skilled welders.
Cat’s hardball tactics resulted in a six-year agreement with frozen pay and way lower wages for new hires.
NO UAW NEED APPLY
Employers have also used state-funded training programs to ensure that workers with the wrong kind of experienceגthat is, a union backgroundare kept out of their plants.
In Georgia, taxpayer dollars were used to build a training center for the plant where the Kia Optima is built. Instruction there is provided through the state’s Quick Start program, designed to meet the demand for skilled manufacturing workers.
Jobseekers at the non-union Kia plant are required to go through the centers pre-employment process, and nearly all of Kia’s more than 3,000 employees were trained in robotics, welding, and electronics.
In the process, though, workers already skilled in exactly those areas - members of the United Auto Workers - were evidently weeded out.
When Kia began production in 2010, not one of its employees came from among the pool of thousands of experienced auto workers, all UAW members, whod lost their jobs when Georgia’s GM and Ford plants closed a few years earlier.
A group of UAW members sued to obtain records on the states involvement in Kia’s hiring practices, but their request was rejected by the Georgia Supreme Court.
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Sunday, March 02, 2014
Desperate Times, Desperate People III - Kiss Education Good Bye
Chomsky: How America’s Great University System Is Getting Destroyed
Faculty are increasingly hired on the Wal-Mart model as temps.
The following is an edited transcriptof remarks given by Noam Chomsky via Skype on 4 February 2014 to a gathering of members and allies of the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers in Pittsburgh, PA. The transcriptwas prepared by Robin J. Sowards and edited by Prof. Chomsky.
Februry 27, 2014
On hiring faculty off the tenure track
That’s part of the business model. It’s the SAME AS hiring TEMPS in industry or what they call “associates” at Wal-Mart, employees that arent owed benefits. It’s a part of a corporate business model designed to reduce labor costs and to increase labor servility. When universities become corporatized, as has been happening quite systematically over the last generation as part of the general neoliberal assault on the population, their business model means that what matters is the bottom line. The effective owners are the trustees (or the legislature, in the case of state universities), and they want to keep costs down and make sure that labor is docile and obedient. The way to do that is, essentially, temps. Just as the hiring of temps has gone way up in the neoliberal period, you’re getting the same phenomenon in the universities. The idea is to DIVIDE SOCIETY into TWO GROUPS. One group is sometimes called the “plutonomy” (a term used by Citibank when they were advising their investors on where to invest their funds), the top sector of wealth, globally but concentrated mostly in places like the United States. The other group, the rest of the population, is a “precariat,” living a precarious existence.
This idea is sometimes made quite overt. So when Alan Greenspan was testifying before Congress in 1997 on the marvels of the economy he was running, he said straight out that one of the bases for its economic success was imposing what he called “greater worker insecurity”. “If workers are more insecure, that’s very healthy for the society, because if workers are insecure they wont ask for wages, they won’t go on strike, they won’t call for benefits; they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively”. And thats optimal for corporations’ economic health. At the time, everyone regarded Greenspans comment as very reasonable, judging by the lack of reaction and the great acclaim he enjoyed. Well, transfer that to the universities: how do you ensure “greater worker insecurity?” Crucially, by not guaranteeing employment, by keeping people hanging on a limb than can be sawed off at any time, so that they’d better shut up, take tiny salaries, and do their work; and if they get the gift of being allowed to serve under miserable conditions for another year, they should welcome it and not ask for any more. Thats the way you keep societies efficient and healthy from the point of view of the corporations. And as universities move towards a corporate business model, precarity is exactly what is being imposed. And we’ll see more and more of it.
That’s one aspect, but there are other aspects which are also quite familiar from private industry, namely a large increase in layers of administration and bureaucracy. If you have to control people, you have to have an administrative force that does it. So in US industry even more than elsewhere, there’s layer after layer of management - a kind of economic waste, but useful for control and domination. And the same is true in universities. In the past 30 or 40 years, there’s been a very sharp increase in the proportion of administrators to faculty and students; faculty and students levels have stayed fairly level relative to one another, but the proportion of administrators have gone way up. There’s a very good book on it by a well-known sociologist, Benjamin Ginsberg, called The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters (Oxford University Press, 2011), which describes in detail the business style of massive administration and levels of administration - and of course, very highly-paid administrators. This includes professional administrators like deans, for example, who used to be faculty members who took off for a couple of years to serve in an administrative capacity and then go back to the faculty; now theyre mostly professionals, who then have to hire sub-deans, and secretaries, and so on and so forth, a whole proliferation of structure that goes along with administrators. All of that is another aspect of the business model.
But using cheap labor - and vulnerable labor - is a business practice that goes as far back as you can trace private enterprise, and unions emerged in response. In the universities, cheap, vulnerable labor means adjuncts and graduate students. Graduate students are even more vulnerable, for obvious reasons. The idea is to transfer instruction to precarious workers, which improves discipline and control but also enables the transfer of funds to other purposes apart from education. The costs, of course, are borne by the students and by the people who are being drawn into these vulnerable occupations. But itҗs a standard feature of a business-run society to transfer costs to the people. In fact, economists tacitly cooperate in this. So, for example, suppose you find a mistake in your checking account and you call the bank to try to fix it. Well, you know what happens. You call them up, and you get a recorded message saying “We love you, here’s a menu.” Maybe the menu has what you’re looking for, maybe it doesn’t. If you happen to find the right option, you listen to some music, and every once and a while a voice comes in and says “Please stand by, we really appreciate your business,” and so on. Finally, after some period of time, you may get a human being, who you can ask a short question to. That’s what economists call “efficiency.” By economic measures, that system reduces labor costs to the bank; of course it imposes costs on you, and those costs are multiplied by the number of users, which can be enormousbut that’s not counted as a cost in economic calculation. And if you look over the way the society works, you find this everywhere. So the university imposes costs on students and on faculty who are not only untenured but are maintained on a path that guarantees that they will have no security. All of this is perfectly natural within corporate business models. Its harmful to education, but education is not their goal.
In fact, if you look back farther, it goes even deeper than that. If you go back to the early 1970s when a lot of this began, there was a lot of concern pretty much across the political spectrum over the activism of the 1960s; it’s commonly called “the time of troubles.” It was a time of “troubles” because the country was getting civilized, and that’s dangerous. People were becoming politically engaged and were trying to gain rights for groups that are called “special interests,” like women, working people, farmers, the young, the old, and so on. That led to a serious backlash, which was pretty overt. At the liberal end of the spectrum, there’s a book called THE CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY: REPORT ON THE GOVERNABILITY OF DEMOCRACIES TO THE TRILATERAL COMMISSION, Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, Joji Watanuki (New York University Press, 1975), produced by the Trilateral Commission, an organization of liberal internationalists. The Carter administration was drawn almost entirely from their ranks. They were concerned with what they called the crisis of democracy,ғ namely that theres too much democracy. In the 1960s there were pressures from the population, these Ԓspecial interests, to try to gain rights within the political arena, and that put too much pressure on the stateӔyou cant do that. There was one special interest that they left out, namely the corporate sector, because its interests are the גnational interest; the corporate sector is supposed to control the state, so we donӔt talk about them. But the special interestsғ were causing problems and they said we have to have more moderation in democracy,ԓ the public has to go back to being passive and apathetic. And they were particularly concerned with schools and universities, which they said were not properly doing their job of indoctrinating the young.ԓ You can see from student activism (the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the feminist movement, the environmental movements) that the young are just not being indoctrinated properly.
Well how do you indoctrinate the young? There are a number of ways. One way is to burden them with hopelessly heavy tuition debt. Debt is a trap, especially student debt, which is enormous, far larger than credit card debt. Its a trap for the rest of your life because the laws are designed so that you canԒt get out of it. If a business, say, gets in too much debt it can declare bankruptcy, but individuals can almost never be relieved of student debt through bankruptcy. They can even garnish social security if you default. Thats a disciplinary technique. I donҒt say that it was consciously introduced for the purpose, but it certainly has that effect. And its hard to argue that thereҒs any economic basis for it. Just take a look around the world: higher education is mostly free. In the countries with the highest education standards, lets say Finland, which is at the top all the time, higher education is free. And in a rich, successful capitalist country like Germany, itҒs free. In Mexico, a poor country, which has pretty decent education standards, considering the economic difficulties they face, its free. In fact, look at the United States: if you go back to the 1940s and 50s, higher education was pretty close to free. The GI Bill gave free education to vast numbers of people who would never have been able to go to college. It was very good for them and it was very good for the economy and the society; it was part of the reason for the high economic growth rate. Even in private colleges, education was pretty close to free. Take me: I went to college in 1945 at an Ivy League university, University of Pennsylvania, and tuition was $100. That would be maybe $800 in todayҒs dollars. And it was very easy to get a scholarship, so you could live at home, work, and go to school and it didnt cost you anything. Now itҒs outrageous. I have grandchildren in college, who have to pay for their tuition and work and its almost impossible. For the students that is a disciplinary technique.
And another technique of indoctrination is to cut back faculty-student contact: large classes, temporary teachers who are overburdened, who can barely survive on an adjunct salary. And since you donҒt have any job security you cant build up a career, you canҒt move on and get more. These are all techniques of discipline, indoctrination, and control. And its very similar to what youҒd expect in a factory, where factory workers have to be disciplined, to be obedient; theyre not supposed to play a role in, say, organizing production or determining how the workplace functionsҒthats the job of management. This is now carried over to the universities. And I think it shouldnגt surprise anyone who has any experience in private enterprise, in industry; thats the way they work.
On how higher education ought to be
First of all, we should put aside any idea that there was once a Ғgolden age. Things were different and in some ways better in the past, but far from perfect. The traditional universities were, for example, extremely hierarchical, with very little democratic participation in decision-making. One part of the activism of the 1960s was to try to democratize the universities, to bring in, say, student representatives to faculty committees, to bring in staff to participate. These efforts were carried forward under student initiatives, with some degree of success. Most universities now have some degree of student participation in faculty decisions. And I think those are the kinds of things we should be moving towards: a democratic institution, in which the people involved in the institution, whoever they may be (faculty, students, staff), participate in determining the nature of the institution and how it runs; and the same should go for a factory.
These are not radical ideas, I should say. They come straight out of classical liberalism. So if you read, for example, John Stuart Mill, a major figure in the classical liberal tradition, he took it for granted that workplaces ought to be managed and controlled by the people who work in them - that’s freedom and democracy (see, e.g., John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, book 4, ch. 7). We see the same ideas in the United States. Let’s say you go back to the Knights of Labor; one of their stated aims was To establish co-operative institutions such as will tend to supersede the wage-system, by the introduction of a co-operative industrial system (Founding Ceremony) for newly-organized Local Associations). Or take someone like, John Dewey, a mainstream 20th-century social philosopher, who called not only for education directed at creative independence in schools, but also worker control in industry, what he called “industrial democracy.” He says that as long as the crucial institutions of the society (like production, commerce, transportation, media) are not under democratic control, then politics [will be] the shadow cast on society by big business (John Dewey, The Need for a New Party ). This idea is almost elementary, it has deep roots in American history and in classical liberalism, it should be second nature to working people, and it should apply the same way to universities. There are some decisions in a university where you don’t want to have [democratic transparency because] you have to preserve student privacy, say, and there are various kinds of sensitive issues, but on much of the normal activity of the university, there is no reason why direct participation can’t be not only legitimate but helpful. In my department, for example, for 40 years we’ve had student representatives helpfully participating in department meetings.
On “shared governance” and worker control
The university is probably the social institution in our society that comes closest to democratic worker control. Within a department, for example, it’s pretty normal for at least the tenured faculty to be able to determine a substantial amount of what their work is like: what theyre going to teach, when they’re going to teach, what the curriculum will be. And most of the decisions about the actual work that the faculty is doing are pretty much under tenured faculty control. Now of course there is a higher level of administrators that you can’t overrule or control. The faculty can recommend somebody for tenure, let’s say, and be turned down by the deans, or the president, or even the trustees or legislators. It doesn’t happen all that often, but it can happen and it does. And that’s always a part of the background structure, which, although it always existed, was much less of a problem in the days when the administration was drawn from the faculty and in principle recallable. Under representative systems, you have to have someone doing administrative work but they should be recallable at some point under the authority of the people they administer. Thats less and less true. There are more and more professional administrators, layer after layer of them, with more and more positions being taken remote from the faculty controls. I mentioned before The Fall of the Faculty by Benjamin Ginsberg, which goes into a lot of detail as to how this works in the several universities he looks at closely: Johns Hopkins, Cornell, and a couple of others.
Meanwhile, the faculty are increasingly reduced to a category of temporary workers who are assured a precarious existence with no path to the tenure track. I have personal acquaintances who are effectively permanent lecturers; they’re not given real faculty status; they have to apply every year so that they can get appointed again. These things shouldnt be allowed to happen. And in the case of adjuncts, it’s been institutionalized: they’re not permitted to be a part of the decision-making apparatus, and they’re excluded from job security, which merely amplifies the problem. I think staff ought to also be integrated into decision-making, since theyre also a part of the university. So there’s plenty to do, but I think we can easily understand why these tendencies are developing. They are all part of imposing a business model on just about every aspect of life. Thats the neoliberal ideology that most of the world has been living under for 40 years. It’s very harmful to people, and there has been resistance to it. And its worth noticing that two parts of the world, at least, have pretty much escaped from it, namely East Asia, where they never really accepted it, and South America in the past 15 years.
On the alleged need for “flexibility”
“Flexibility” is a term that’s very familiar to workers in industry. Part of whats called “labor reform” is to make labor more “flexible,” make it easier to hire and fire people. That’s, again, a way to ensure maximization of profit and control. Flexibility is supposed to be a good thing, like greater worker insecurity. Putting aside industry where the same is true, in universities there’s no justification. So take a case where there’s under-enrollment somewhere. That’s not a big problem. One of my daughters teaches at a university; she just called me the other night and told me that her teaching load is being shifted because one of the courses that was being offered was under-enrolled. Okay, the world didn’t to an end, they just shifted around the teaching arrangementsyou teach a different course, or an extra section, or something like that. People don’t have to be thrown out or be insecure because of the variation in the number of students enrolling in courses. There are all sorts of ways of adjusting for that variation. The idea that labor should meet the conditions of flexibility is just another standard technique of control and domination. Why not say that administrators should be thrown out if theres nothing for them to do that semester, or trustees - what do they have to be there for? The situation is the same with top management in industry: if labor has to be flexible, how about management? Most of them are pretty useless or even harmful anyway, so lets get rid of them. And you can go on like this. Just to take the news from the last couple of days, take, say, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase bank: he just got a pretty substantial raise, almost double his salary, out of gratitude because he had saved the bank from criminal charges that would have sent the management to jail; he got away with only $20 billion in fines for criminal activities. Well I can imagine that getting rid of somebody like that might be helpful to the economy. But that’s not what people are talking about when they talk about labor reform. It’s the working people who have to suffer, and they have to suffer by insecurity, by not knowing where tomorrow’s piece of bread is going to come from, and therefore be disciplined and obedient and not raise questions or ask for their rights. That’s the way that tyrannical systems operate. And the business world is a tyrannical system. When it’s imposed on the universities, you find it reflects the same ideas. This shouldnt be any secret.
On the purpose of education
These are debates that go back to the Enlightenment, when issues of higher education and mass education were really being raised, not just education for the clergy and aristocracy. And there were basically two models discussed in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were discussed with pretty evocative imagery. One image of education was that it should be like a vessel that is filled with, say, water. That’s what we call these days “teaching to test”: you pour water into the vessel and then the vessel returns the water. But its a pretty leaky vessel, as all of us who went through school experienced, since you could memorize something for an exam that you had no interest in to pass an exam and a week later you forgot what the course was about. The vessel model these days is called “no child left behind,” “teaching to test,” “race to top,” whatever the name may be, and similar things in universities. Enlightenment thinkers opposed that model.
The other model was described as laying out a string along which the student progresses in his or her own way under his or her own initiative, maybe moving the string, maybe deciding to go somewhere else, maybe raising questions. Laying out the string means imposing some degree of structure. So an educational program, whatever it may be, a course on physics or something, isn’t going to be just anything goes; it has a certain structure. But the goal of it is for the student to acquire the capacity to inquire, to create, to innovate, to challenge - that’s education. One world-famous physicist, in his freshman courses if he was asked what are we going to cover this semester?, his answer was it doesn’t matter what we cover, it matters what you discover. You have gain the capacity and the self-confidence for that matter to challenge and create and innovate, and that way you learn; that way you’ve internalized the material and you can go on. It’s not a matter of accumulating some fixed array of facts which then you can writedown on a test and forget about tomorrow.
These are two quite distinct models of education. The Enlightenment ideal was the second one, and I think that’s the one that we ought to be striving towards. Thats what real education is, from kindergarten to graduate school. In fact there are programs of that kind for kindergarten, pretty good ones.
On the love of teaching
We certainly want people, both faculty and students, to be engaged in activity that’s satisfying, enjoyable, challenging, exciting - and I don’t really think that’s hard. Even young children are creative, inquisitive, they want to know things, they want to understand things, and unless that’s beaten out of your head it stays with you the rest of your life. If you have opportunities to pursue those commitments and concerns, its one of the most satisfying things in life. That’s true if youre a research physicist, it’s true if you’re a carpenter; you’re trying to create something of value and deal with a difficult problem and solve it. I think that’s what makes work the kind of thing you want to do; you do it even if you don’t have to do it. In a reasonably functioning university, you find people working all the time because they love it; thats what they want to do; they’re given the opportunity, they have the resources, they’re encouraged to be free and independent and creative - what’s better? That’s what they love to do. And that, again, can be done at any level.
It’s worth thinking about some of the imaginative and creative educational programs that are being developed at different levels. So, for example, somebody just described to me the other day a program they’re using in high schools, a science program where the students are asked an interesting question: “How can a mosquito fly in the rain?” That’s a hard question when you think about it. If something hit a human being with the force of a raindrop hitting a mosquito it would absolutely flatten them immediately. So how come the mosquito isn’t crushed instantly? And how can the mosquito keep flying? If you pursue that question - and it’s a pretty hard question - you get into questions of mathematics, physics, and biology, questions that are challenging enough that you want to find an answer to them.
That’s what education should be like at every level, all the way down to kindergarten, literally. There are kindergarten programs in which, say, each child is given a collection of little items: pebbles, shells, seeds, and things like that. Then the class is given the task of finding out which ones are the seeds. It begins with what they call a scientific conference: the kids talk to each other and they try to figure out which ones are seeds. And of course theres some teacher guidance, but the idea is to have the children think it through. After a while, they try various experiments and they figure out which ones are the seeds. At that point, each child is given a magnifying glass and, with the teacher’s help, cracks a seed and looks inside and finds the embryo that makes the seed grow. These children learn something - really, not only something about seeds and what makes things grow; but also about how to discover. They’re learning the joy of discovery and creation, and that’s what carries you on independently, outside the classroom, outside the course.
The same goes for all education up through graduate school. In a reasonable graduate seminar, you don’t expect students to copy it down and repeat whatever you say; you expect them to tell you when youre wrong or to come up with new ideas, to challenge, to pursue some direction that hadn’t been thought of before. That’s what real education is at every level, and that’s what ought to be encouraged. That ought to be the purpose of education. It’s not to pour information into somebody’s head which will then leak out but to enable them to become creative, independent people who can find excitement in discovery and creation and creativity at whatever level or in whatever domain their interests carry them.
On using corporate rhetoric against corporatization
This is kind of like asking how you should justify to the slave owner that people shouldnt be slaves. You’re at a level of moral inquiry where its probably pretty hard to find answers. We are human beings with human rights. It’s good for the individual, its good for the society, it’s even good for the economy, in the narrow sense, if people are creative and independent and free. Everyone benefits if people are able to participate, to control their fate, to work with each other - that may not maximize profit and domination, but why should we take those to be values to be concerned about?
Advice for adjunct faculty organizing unions
You know better than I do what has to be done, the kind of problems you face. Just got ahead and do what has to be done. Don’t be intimidated, don’t be frightened, and recognize that the future can be in our hands if we’re willing to grasp it.
Prof. Chomskys remark’s in this transcriptwere elicited by questions from Robin Clarke, Adam Davis, David Hoinski, Maria Somma, Robin J. Sowards, Matthew Ussia, and Joshua Zelesnick. Noam Chomsky’s OCCUPY: Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity is published by Zuccotti Park Press.
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Tuesday, February 25, 2014
The Theft of Jobs 2014
American Workers Are the Victims of Legalized Theft
By Patrick Kellen
February 18, 2014
The key to better living standards is productivity, i.e., the ability to produce more over the same period of time. It was greater productivity that allowed humanity to rise up out of the jungle and eventually create the societies and the wealth we often take for granted today. A problem arises, however, when a society becomes more productive but the extra wealth accrues only in the hands a few.
Due to hard work and capital investment, American workers are more productive than ever. This does not mean everything is fine; productivity only applies to those with a job and 23% of American workers don’t have one. However, those workers who do find themselves employed are producing more than anyone in history.
This sort of thing used to mean the workers would see a commensurate increase in their own salaries. Sadly, this has not been the case for the last few decades. American workers today are not earning any more than their parents were, despite outproducing them all across the board.
It is estimated that if the minimum wage had kept pace with gains in productivity, it would be nearly $22 dollars per hour today. Just imagine how many families would be lifted out of poverty. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Where has all the extra wealth gone? Some of it at least is lining the pockets of CEOs, who used to earn about 20 times what a worker earned, but now earn many hundreds of times a typical workerҒs salary.
How is this possible? The main ingredient is free trade, which is unrestricted and unregulated access to our economy for goods made in foreign lands for $2 per hour or less. When it is so cheap to manufacture abroad, what incentive do entrepreneurs have to make things here in America? And therefore, what incentive do they have to increase wages and allow the workers to enjoy the benefits of their increased productivity?
What has happened to the American worker is nothing short of theft. For someone who produces so much to be paid so little is an outrage and the time has come to put an end to it.
Call your representative and demand action! Demand a fair salary for hard working Americans. Send this article to five of your friends, and have them do the same.
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Sunday, February 16, 2014
Cant Find A Qualified US Worker Redux 3
I Cant Find Enough Skilled Workers! (At the Crappy Wage I’m Offering)
By Jared Bernstein
February 12, 2014
I thought THIS WSJ ARTICLE on starting pay levels for airplane pilots of regional carriers provided an excellent microcosm of a point that is widely underappreciated. And that point is this:
A widening shortage of U.S. airline pilots is spotlighting the structure of an industry built on starting salaries for regional-airline pilots that are roughly equivalent to fast-food wages.
The shortages toll rose Tuesday, as Republic Airways Holdings Inc said it would remove 27 of its 243 aircraft from operation because it couldn’t find enough qualified pilots.
Starting PILOT SALARIES at 14 U.S. regional carriers average $22,400 a year, according to the largest U.S. pilots union. Some smaller carriers pay as little as $15,000 a year. The latter is about what a full-time worker would earn annually at the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage.
As the piece points out, it takes a significant investment to become a certified pilot and the cost recently went up due to new requirements that increase the minimum levels of flight experience. It’s also the case that the pay structure in the industry has much higher salary tiers for experienced pilots at the big airlines. But the magnitude of the mismatch between what it costs to become a pilot and starting salaries will look to any economist as a recipe for a labor shortage.
In a market economy, such shortages should push wages up, but current arrangements between the majors and the regionals appear to preclude such adjustments. The major carriers outsource regional flights to small carriers, who contract with the majors for unrealistically low costs. They then can’t find the pilots they need yet are unable to raise wage offers and stay within the constraints of the under-priced contracts.
Far too often, labor shortages of skilled workers get blamed on the low quality of our workforce or our education system. And of course serious barriers to quality education do loom large for many in our economy. But there are, I suspect, an ample supply of Americans who would like to be airplane pilots. The problem is, if you want a skilled worker you cant expect to pay them something close to the minimum wage. Or at least if you do, do the rest of us a favor and don’t go around complaining about how no matter how hard you look, you just cant find the workers you need.
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