Article 43


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Labor Laws No Longer Protect Workers Rights

American workers freedom to form unions, which has enabled millions of employees to make family-supportive wages and benefits, is under attack by employers - and the nation’s labor laws are not protecting against employer intimidation and harassment, according to both Reagan- and Clinton-appointed members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). [Why not organize the 300,000+ displaced telecom techies since 2001 now working as slaves for telecom staffing companies doing their former jobs for a fraction of the compensation.]

The laws remedies for labor law violations are weak and ineffective. Many underlying assumptions and doctrines of the law are out of synch with changing realities, especially the changing nature of the employment relationship, the workplace and communications,” said Wilma Liebman in her keynote address to the Robert Fuchs Labor Law Conference at Bostons Suffolk University Law School Oct. 27. [So get your big-talking charismatic loud-mouthed spokespeople and inform the global masses of the suppression of labor rights in America - and take a leadership role to educate the rest of the world why people in other countries can’t afford to buy the products they make.]

Liebman is the only Democratic member of the five-member NLRB, which currently has two vacant seats. The NLRB is a federal agency created by Congress in 1935 to administer the National Labor Relations Act, the primary law governing relations between unions and employers in the private sector.

Marshall Babson, a management attorney and former NLRB member appointed to the board by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, spoke in favor of majority sign-up agreements in which an employer voluntarily agrees to recognize the union after a majority of workers signs cards supporting the union. Currently, most workers seeking to join unions are forced to go through the cumbersome NLRB election process, which employers often drag out as a way to intimidate and discourage workers from joining unions. The majority sign-up process enables workers to join unions without fear of employer threats.

But according to Babson, the NLRB has announced it intends to review majority sign-up.

ӓWe should be long past questions about the right of employers and unions to enter into voluntary recognition agreements, Babson told the conference. Many employers see it as in their interest to sign a voluntary recognition agreement, and they are not rare or unusual,” said Babson.



Posted by Elvis on 11/30/05 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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Labor’s Lost Story

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Washington Post
November 29, 2005

Decades ago, Walter Reuther, the storied head of the United Auto Workers union, was taken on a tour of an automated factory by a Ford Motor Co. executive.

Somewhat gleefully, the Ford honcho told the legendary union leader: “You know, not one of these machines pays dues to the UAW.”

To which Reuther snapped: “And not one of them buys new Ford cars, either.”

The historian William L. O’Neill tells this story in “American High,” his fine and appropriately titled book about the 1950s, a time when “autoworkers were the best-paid production line operatives in the world.” It helps explain why General Motors’ layoffs of 30,000 workers, announced last week, have become a new litmus test in American politics.

Almost everybody right of center sees the job losses as inevitable, the result of the American auto industry’s failure to meet foreign competition and the “excessively” generous wages, health benefits and, especially, retirement programs negotiated by Reuther’s union.

The believers in inevitability inevitably cite the economist Joseph Schumpeter to the effect that capitalism “is by nature a form or method of economic change and not only never is, but never can be, stationary.” It is capitalism’s gift for “creative destruction,” Schumpeter argued, that guaranteed new consumer goods, new methods of production and new forms of organization.

A different story is told left of center, though it will come as no shock that progressives can’t quite agree on a single narrative. The left is united in talking about rising health care costs and the fact that most of our foreign competitors have government-run health insurance systems that take the burden of health care off employers. The iconic number: providing health care for workers and retirees accounts for $1,500 in the cost of each American-made car.

Critics of globalization tell an additional story of how free trade is sending many of our best-paying blue-collar jobs offshore. There is also the decline of union membership, a chicken-and-egg tale, since private-sector unions historically were strongest in the older manufacturing industries such as steel and cars. The UAW’s numbers tell the story: 1,619,000 members in 1970, 1,446,000 in 1980, 952,000 in 1990, 623,000 in 2004. Where have you gone, Walter Reuther?

The contrast between these two accounts explains why economic conservatives currently hold the upper hand in America’s political debate. The conservatives have a single, coherent story and stick to it: Economic change is good for everyone, especially for consumers, who get better stuff at lower prices. The fact that “producer groups” (such as those unions) are losing their “monopolies” and their capacity for “rent seeking” is cheered as progress.

The left’s narrative is less compelling not only because there is no single story but also because few on the left attack the current system with the same gusto the right brings to defending it. Gone, for good reason, is the time when significant parts of the left called for “government ownership of the means of production.” Much of the left accepts a certain amount of creative destruction because, in Margaret Thatcher’s famous phrase, there is no alternative.

But this muddle reflects a default on parts of the left and, especially, within the Democratic Party. Because so many Democrats fear that they might sound like—God forbid!—socialists, they are unwilling to challenge the right’s core story. Capitalism, all by itself, would never have achieved the rising living standards that were the pride of the United States in O’Neill’s 1950s and still are today. The rules enforced by the National Labor Relations Board made it possible for Reuther’s union to organize by protecting workers’ rights. Cheap 30-year mortgages, which became the norm because of Federal Housing Administration guarantees, created a nation of homeowners.

As medical costs rise, more Americans will need government help. More employers will need to offload the costs of medical insurance to avoid bankruptcy. Yes, that’s “socialized medicine,” just like Medicare. But don’t tell anyone. The phrase plays terribly in focus groups.

For 60 years New Dealers and social democrats, liberals and progressives, turned Schumpeter on his head. They insisted that few would embrace capitalism’s innovations if the system’s tendency toward creative destruction was not balanced by public innovations to spread the bounty and protect millions from being injured by change. It’s a compelling story. Walter Reuther knew it well. Too bad it isn’t told very often anymore.



Republicans target labor

By Scott Marshall
November 16, 2010

Before the dust had settled on the 2010 elections, the Chamber of Commerce, the corporate-secret-donor political action committees and the far right began to move into attack mode against the labor movement. After all, they expect a good return on the hundreds of millions of dollars they spent buying Congress.

First up comes an issue right out of the Republican’s second Contract on America, called Pledge to America. “We will fight for the rights of workers and oppose ‘card check’ schemes that put Washington union bosses before individuals’ right to a secret ballot.”

Big business and the corporate far right declared class war on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) from the day it was introduced. It was one of their worst nightmares going into the 2008 elections. Instead of the company, card check allows workers to make the choice of having a secret ballot or signing up a majority to form a union. Big business knows that workers would often choose card check because it speeds up the process of getting a union and curtails the ability of the companies to intimidate employees .

This is a credible threat now that Republicans control 20 state legislatures compared to 7 before the 2010 elections. In particular the right-wing blogs are crowing about the Republican take-over in the industrial states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. (They call them rust-belt states.) These are seen by the anti-union crowd as key states to take initiatives against card check. For those who have doubts about the right-wing’s intentions on this, keep in mind that already in the 2010 elections the states of Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah passed constitutional amendments banning card check even if the company agrees to the process. These ballot initiatives were used to help turn out the vote for Republican candidates and were well funded.

We can also expect this crowd to initiate the same anti-union campaigns that they unveil after every Republican election victory. Right-to-work (for less) laws are already moving in several states with more to come. And you can be sure that laws to take away prevailing wage provisions in public contracts will follow at both the state and federal level with the new Republican dominated House in Congress. These laws currently mandate that building projects financed by public tax dollars pay all workers on a project the union wage scale prevalent in the area. (Workers compensation laws are also a favorite corporate target.)

Perhaps the greatest threat to labor will be the efforts of big business to pass legislation requiring authorization from every union member to spend union money on political activities. The Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision allowed the free, undisclosed, flow of corporate money into the election process. It was argued as if this would equalize the money flow from corporations and labor. What a joke!

Even so, immediately the Chamber of Commerce and others like the infamous Union Facts group began a campaign to hamstring the unions with laws requiring permission from every union member. Now we can expect this campaign to intensify. The corporate right and the Republicans are very aware of the tremendous political action and get-out-the-vote efforts of labor. More than anything they fear the growing political independence of labor and its ability to turn out votes for candidates and issues.

Labor’s growing role in building mass coalitions is critical to the progressive movement. Labor has intensified its focus on concerns that go far beyond trade union problems. Labor increasingly leads fights on broader working-class and people’s issues. It is incumbent on the rest of the progressive movements to pay attention to these attacks on labor and rally in their defense. The rightwing cannot be allowed to separate out labor for special attack.

It’s time for all progressives to organize against these attacks on labor. If labor is weakened all movements for change will suffer and our coalitions will surely be diminished.



Republican attack on labor goes way beyond Congress

By Scott Marshall
November 24, 2010

After rereading last week’s article on this subject, I realized that the coming attacks on labor are much more than big business’s legislative program to roll back labor law. The Republican, tea party and corporate right-wing agenda is much broader than legislation.

During the height of the Great Depression, with millions unemployed, most of big business continued to rack up big profits. In this crisis we see and hear constant reports of record profits and record bonuses in the corporate suites and financial houses - while millions are unemployed and now threatened with the loss of even meager unemployment benefits. Another feature of the Great Depression was that big business used the crisis to attack workers’ wages and living standards directly, cutting wages even while turning big profits. And exactly the same thing is happening again.

Last week the New York Times ran a story that described how three industrial unions, the Machinists, the Autoworkers and the Steelworkers were recently forced to take concessionary contracts from some companies, even though the manufacturers were making good profits.

In some cases, recent concession contracts even include a two-tier wage and benefit scheme. In other words, new hires take pay and benefit cuts that mean they make less than those working right next to them doing the same job, sometimes a great deal less. In some cases this second tier pay cut is even imposed on workers when they are recalled from layoffs, regardless of how much seniority they have with the company.

Let’s face it: big business loves unemployment. They see unemployed workers as a reserve workforce that can be used as a club against the workers they employ. Don’t want to take a cut in pay? There are plenty of hungry people waiting to take your job, they say. Don’t want to pay big copays and deductibles for your health insurance? We can find plenty of people who will work without health care - and on and on.

This crisis has also seen a ramping up of union busting schemes, like the use of temporary workers to do union jobs. It’s and old practice. Most new hires, even in a union shop, have to work a 30 to 90 day “probation” period before they can join the union and receive even starting union scale and benefits. In this scheme most of the new hires are worked up until just a day or two before ending their probation period - and then fired. And a new batch of probation workers is hired, allowing the company to keep a steady flow of workers without union protection.

All of this not only affects union workers, but also puts great downward pressure on all workers. As union workers well know, their wages and benefits set upward standards in local job markets. So when the top wages and conditions are weakened then companies can pay even lower wages overall. Times like these, with millions desperate and unemployed, are when companies also use wage theft schemes: paying sub-minimum wages, getting illegal kickbacks from workers for jobs, scheduling unpaid work times before and after regular paid time, and on and on.

Again, this is why it is in the interest of all the working-class people and their progressive allies to defend labor and the unions. This is why growing the unions and wining passage of the Employee Free Choice Act are critical fights for us all. Labor is moving aggressively to defend the unemployed and the progressive movements. Building bigger, broader coalitions and bigger and stronger unions, including new forms like workers centers and union committees even in shops without formal union recognition, are critical for the fights ahead. We all have a stake in defending labor and stopping the big business, ultra-right Republican onslaught on unions.


Posted by Elvis on 11/30/05 •
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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Life After UNE-P

Recent Federal Communications Commission RULINGS are forcing nonfacilities-based CLECs to re-engineer their businesses. They have two major choices. One is to pay the higher rates to the ILEC with hopes of keeping customers while operating at thinner margins and charging higher retail prices. The second is to take on the capital-intensive and operationally complex facilities-based approach and migrate customers on-net.

With the deadline for transitioning off legacy UNE-P contracts looming in March 2006, local resellers must have a plan in place that may include one or both of these strategies as short- and long-term solutions for serving commercial and residential customers.

December 15, 2004


New Network Unbundling Rules Preserve Access to Incumbents Networks by Facilities-Based Competitors Seeking to Enter the Local Telecommunications Market

Washington, D.C. - The Federal Communications Commission today adopted rules concerning incumbent local exchange carriers (incumbent LECs) obligations to make elements of their network available to other carriers seeking to enter the local telecommunications market. The new framework builds on actions by the Commission to limit unbundling to provide incentives for both incumbent carriers and new entrants to invest in the telecommunications market in a way that best allows for innovation and sustainable competition.

The rules directly respond to the March 2004 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit which overturned portions of the Commissions Unbundled Network Element (UNE) rules in its Triennial Review Order.Ғ We provide a brief summary of the key issues resolved in todays decision below.

Unbundling Framework. We clarify the impairment standard adopted in the Triennial Review Order in one respect and modify its application in three respects.’ First, we clarify that we evaluate impairment with regard to the capabilities of a reasonably efficient competitor.  Second, we set aside the Triennial Review Orders ’qualifying service interpretation of section 251(d)(2), but prohibit the use of UNEs for the provision of telecommunications services in the mobile wireless and long-distance markets, which we previously have found to be competitive.Ӕ Third, in applying our impairment test, we draw reasonable inferences regarding the prospects for competition in one geographic market based on the state of competition in other, similar markets.  Fourth, we consider the appropriate role of tariffed incumbent LEC services in our unbundling framework, and determine that in the context of the local exchange markets, a general rule prohibiting access to UNEs whenever a requesting carrier is able to compete using an incumbent LEC‚s tariffed offering would be inappropriate.

Dedicated Interoffice Transport. Competing carriers are impaired without access to DS1 transport except on routes connecting a pair of wire centers, where both wire centers contain at least four fiber-based collocators or at least 38,000 business access lines.  Competing carriers are impaired without access to DS3 or dark fiber transport except on routes connecting a pair of wire centers, each of which contains at least three fiber-based collocators or at least 24,000 business lines.҂ Finally, competing carriers are not impaired without access to entrance facilities connecting an incumbent LECs network with a competitive LEC’s network in any instance.  We adopt a 12-month plan for competing carriers to transition away from use of DS1- and DS3-capacity dedicated transport where they are not impaired, and an 18-month plan to govern transitions away from dark fiber transport.҂ These transition plans apply only to the embedded customer base, and do not permit competitive LECs to add new dedicated transport UNEs in the absence of impairment.  During the transition periods, competitive carriers will retain access to unbundled dedicated transport at a rate equal to the higher of (1) 115% of the rate the requesting carrier paid for the transport element on June 15, 2004, or (2) 115% of the rate the state commission has established or establishes, if any, between June 16, 2004 and the effective date of this Order.

High-Capacity Loops. Competitive LECs are impaired without access to DS3-capacity loops except in any building within the service area of a wire center containing 38,000 or more business lines and 4 or more fiber-based collocators.  Competitive LECs are impaired without access to DS1-capacity loops except in any building within the service area of a wire center containing 60,000 or more business lines and 4 or more fiber-based collocators.  Competitive LECs are not impaired without access to dark fiber loops in any instance.‚ We adopt a 12-month plan for competing carriers to transition away from use of DS1- and DS3-capacity loops where they are not impaired, and an 18-month plan to govern transitions away from dark fiber loops.  These transition plans apply only to the embedded customer base, and do not permit competitive LECs to add new high-capacity loop UNEs in the absence of impairment.‚ During the transition periods, competitive carriers will retain access to unbundled facilities at a rate equal to the higher of (1) 115% of the rate the requesting carrier paid for the transport element on June 15, 2004, or (2) 115% of the rate the state commission has established or establishes, if any, between June 16, 2004 and the effective date of this Order.

Mass Market Local Circuit Switching. Incumbent LECs have no obligation to provide competitive LECs with unbundled access to mass market local circuit switching.  We adopt a 12-month plan for competing carriers to transition away from use of unbundled mass market local circuit switching.  This transition plan applies only to the embedded customer base, and does not permit competitive LECs to add new switching UNEs.  During the transition period, competitive carriers will retain access to the UNE platform (i.e., the combination of an unbundled loop, unbundled local circuit switching, and shared transport) at a rate equal to the higher of (1) the rate at which the requesting carrier leased that combination of elements on June 15, 2004, plus one dollar, or (2) the rate the state public utility commission establishes, if any, between June 16, 2004, and the effective date of this Order, for this combination of elements, plus one dollar.

Action by the Commission, December 15, 2004 by Order on Remand (F.C.C 04-290). Chairman Powell, Commissioners Abernathy and Martin, with Commissioners Copps and Adelstein dissenting. Chairman Powell, Commissioners Abernathy, Copps and Adelstein issuing separate statements.

Wireline Competition Bureau Staff Contact: Jeremy Miller, 418-1507

Posted by Elvis on 11/29/05 •
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Puzzling Out Bush

A Strange Man Of Contradictions
By: Dorothy Anne Seese
March 10, 2003

The president of the United States is a puzzling man in many ways.  It’s easy to brush him off as a “bonesman” or elitist, globalist, man of phony faith or a wartime president.  He is all of these and some of these and at times, none of these.

George W. Bush is not a strong man.  He is determined to be his own man while at the same time realizing that he is totally dependent on his handlers for direction and his family for moral support.  He truly is alone at the top as a human being ... a man desperate to find the man inside.

Gone from the news clips are these things we used to see when his presidency was new:

· Bush in cowboy clothes, having fun driving his ultra-expensive pickup truck;

· Bush strolling hand in hand with his wife and dog in various locales;

· Bush meeting with various members of the Congress with smiles and confidence;

· Bush meeting with foreign leaders in relaxed settings;

· Bush mingling with the people, military or civilian, acting like a confident leader.

One might say that the George W. Bush who was elected president is gone.  The job was too much for him, the weight of the world was too heavy and the obsessions of the Bush dynasty have taken over his personality and all that is left is a man searching for his faith ... whatever it really is ... and leading the world into an apocalypse that he fears as much as we do.

This might sound like I am sympathetic toward the president.  As another human, I am.  As the leader of this nation, I am not.  He is in over his head, and his head is full of imperial notions that came from expecting too much of himself in a situation where he was far from equal to the task, even if there was prior knowledge of the events of September 11, 2001.  The almost folksy president who was reading to school children in Florida when the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon was attacked had to be whisked away for several hours before he was able to return to Washington, D.C.  Since that time, the George W. Bush who had been president has disappeared, and a man who is nearly always photographed alone, the imperialist, the man obsessed with a war that looms large in his own mind and causes the world to shake its collective head, has emerged as the American president.

This vaguely reminds me of the movie “Dave” in which the real president suffers a stroke and his double was obliged to fill in for him, fooling everyone except the few who were accomplices to the scheme.

However, the present situation isn’t scripted in Hollywood and we’re dealing with very real people, very real situations, and the prelude to a very real war.  This movie doesn’t have a happy ending.

From the outset, many of us were distressed at “Dubya’s” preoccupation with Mexico.  It is one thing to feel sympathetic toward the Mexican people who live in a tyrannical feudal system regardless of who is president. Vicente Fox has made no more changes than his predecessors, other than to give more surplus bodies to the U.S. as illegal immigrants.  Fox is well-named ... he is a fox.  He is cunning and ruthless, and gloating over running U.S. immigration policy.  If the naive, newly-inaugurated W. Bush thought he could make friends with Vicente, he soon found out the price of Fox’s friendship was to turn over the keys to the henhouse.  There can never be friendship between the U.S. and Mexico as long as there are conflicts of interest the size of those being thrust at the United States via illegal invaders.  Friendship would have to be based on mutual respect, perhaps something Bush thought he could achieve, only to find that Mexico still has nothing but contempt for the U.S. and always will unless a total change in the socio-economic and political structure of Mexico occurs.  That is not likely under a feudal system.  It would require a “revolucion” and so far, Chiapas hasn’t been very successful at any revolutionary aspirations.  The more likely area for a revolutionary effort is on American soil by the adherents to the Nation of Aztlan, something we Arizonans have to live with and for which we must be prepared.

While the nation’s economy staggers toward the precipice, W. Bush strides around like he knew what war is all about, flanked by his immediate advisors and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  There isn’t much if any doubt that Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, and even Rice see this war as a way to play toward the great new world order of globalist rule.  But why the Congress is so willing to go along is a puzzlement. Is it no longer effective?  Has the legislative branch of government given way to the elitist rule?  Do those who disagree fear to do so publicly (other than Reps. Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo) because it risks their own careers?

Such has been the historical theme of people whose leader is a madman, inadequate to the task of leadership but driven by pride and fear to obliterate all those who oppose his plans.

There is probably no more dangerous leader than a weak man who has suddenly been thrust into a position requiring maturity and strength.  I’ve met men who seem to have a compulsion to “show daddy I’m a man” and they will break their necks and risk everything to prove themselves.  (The same applies to women who can’t get mama’s approval.) Not only does George W. Bush have his daddy’s approval to seek, but he is surrounded by a pack of warhawks that would be difficult for the strongest man to keep on a short leash.

At this point, we can wonder who and what is running the country and driving it toward this war.

We hear a lot now about W. Bush’s faith-based White House and all the Bible studies going on there.  No court is going to challenge it or accept a challenge, but the church should. Instead, the president seems to have courted high-profile church leaders and convinced them of his righteous position, a sad commentary on the church in America. 

A pre-emptive strike against anything less than what the USSR was in 1951 is unconscionable, and the U.S. made no such pre-emptive strike. Now no single nation-state is the seat of all terrorism, nor is one petty dictator the cause of all the world’s evils.  Anyone who perceives Hussein as such has a warped view of Saddam’s abilities, making him far larger than he is.  If oil interests are the backers of the war, then the United States is being used, through the weakness of its president and his family mania against Iraq, as the world’s hit-man.  This is a totally immoral, unjust and untenable position that will eventually bring down the United States.  War for the sake of commercial interests is not uncommon but it is always unjust, immoral and unconscionable.  That is the blood spot that will never wash out of human history, and to which the once-free United States seems now doomed to repeat as an aggressor nation.

Perhaps the soon-to-be demise of the U.S. is the reason that many corporations, including Microsoft, are moving large segments of their operations to India and China.  It is a sad day indeed when the once-leader of the free world is considered by its own corporate interests to be less desirable than Communist China and poverty-ridden India (with all due respect to the outstanding talent of the peoples of those nations).

And where is George W. Bush?  Is he calling the heads of corporations to discuss the revitalization of America’s sinking economy?  Or is he merely rehearsing his next “war against evil” speech?  What is his faith?  How does he understand the teachings of the Bible—the Christian New Testament in particular—with regard to slaughtering masses of human collateral damage? 

Only weak people are afraid to make or admit a mistake.  Strong people will find satisfaction in admitting error or at least in finding alternative courses to disasters in the making.

Only God knows what George W. Bush is praying for, but the rest of the Christian church would do well to pray that God would mercifully heal his mind and give him the strength and courage for the job he has, until he can be replaced by the people.  This nation has had a continually diminishing stature of men in charge since Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the presidency.  It shows no sign of improvement unless some men of real integrity are willing to gather around them others who will effect a quiet revolution by sealing our borders, using diplomacy where necessary, unchaining the American citizens who thus far are already the first victims of this war on “terror” and returning to the Constitution as the rule of law.

Will all the congressmen who have joined Rep. Ron Paul’s Liberty Caucus please stand up and identify? We need you to lead this peaceful revolution back to America.

Otherwise, you will all be jobless and living in a land with no identity.



Posted by Elvis on 11/29/05 •
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Why Corporations are Winning and Workers are Losing

Domestic political economy has historically been constructed around the divide between capital and labor, with firms and workers being at odds over the division of the economic pie. Within this construction labor is usually represented as a monolithic interest, yet the reality is that labor has always suffered from internal divisions. Globalization sharpens these divisions, which helps explain why corporations have been winning and workers losing.

A core problem for labor is that workers are also consumers, thereby creating a divide between desires for higher wages and desires for lower prices. Historically, this identity split has been exploited to divide union and non-union workers. Globalization amplifies the worker consumer identity split through its promise of lower prices, a problem that is exemplified in the debate over Wal-Mart.

This problem is worsened by the fact that globalization impacts the economy unevenly, hitting some sectors first and others later. The process can be understood in terms of the hands of a clock. At one o֒clock is the apparel sector; at two oclock the textile sector; at three the steel sector; at six the auto sector. Workers in the apparel sector are the first to be impacted, but all other workers get price reductions. Thereafter, the process picks off textile sector workers at two oҒclock. Meanwhile, workers from three oclock onward get price cuts, as do the apparel workers at one oҒclock. Each time that the hands of the clock move, the impacted workers are isolated. In this fashion, globalization moves around the clock with labor perennially divided.

Manufacturing was first to experience this process, but technological innovations associated with the internet are putting service and knowledge workers in the firing line as services become tradable. Even retail workers are vulnerable as shown by the viability of the business model. Public sector wages are also indirectly in play since declining wages mean declining tax revenues. The problem is that at each moment in time workers are divided, with the majority being made slightly better off while the few are made much worse off.

Globalization also divides capital, creating a new division between bigger internationalized firms and smaller firms that remain nationally centered. This division has been brought into sharp focus with the debate over the trade deficit and the over-valued dollar. In previous decades manufacturing as whole opposed trade deficits and an over-valued dollar because of the adverse impact of increased imports. The one major business sector outlier was retailing, which benefited from cheap imports. However, the spread of multi-national production and out-sourcing has divided manufacturing into two camps. In one camp are larger businesses that have gone global and benefit from cheap imports: in the other are smaller businesses which remain nationally centered in terms of sales, production and input sourcing.

This division opens the possibility of a new alliance between labor and those manufacturers and businesses that remain nationally based. This is a potentially potent alliance since in the U.S. there are approximately seven million enterprises with sales of less than ten million dollars, versus two hundred thousand with sales greater than ten million dollars. However, such an alliance will always be unstable since traditional labor capital conflict over income distribution can always reassert itself. Indeed, this pattern is already evident in the internal politics of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). The NAM has been significantly divided regarding the over-valued dollar, and one way to address these divisions is a domestic competitiveness agenda aimed at weakening regulation, reducing legal liability and lowering employee benefit costs.

Solidarity has always been key to political and economic advance by working families, and it is key to mastering the politics of globalization. Developing a coherent story about the economics of globalization around which working families can coalesce is a key ingredient for solidarity. So too is understanding how globalization divides labor. Such understandings can help counter deep cultural proclivities to individualism, as well as other historic divides such as racism. However, as if this were not difficult enough, globalization creates additional challenges. National political solutions that worked in the past are not adequate to the task of controlling degenerate international competition. That means the solidarity bar is further raised, calling for international solidarity that supports new forms of international economic regulation.


Posted by Elvis on 11/29/05 •
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