Wage Weasels Ripped Your Flesh

If one is properly attuned, even the most innocuous seeming news story can be rife with outrage.

For instance. I do not usually have the time to read the USA Toady, which is delivered with the local newspaper each morning, but this morning was enjoying a leisurely breakfast out and so had time to do so. Front page, below the fold, the “newspaper” chirpily reports the following:

Pet insurance, at-your-desk meditation services, jewelry discounts and funeral planning — from the quirky to the somber, workplaces are providing a range of unique benefits in 2012.

The options come as many firms try to placate employees frustrated by pay cuts, heavy workloads, high health insurance costs and reduced 401(k) matches.

“Companies are trying to have it feel like it’s not one big take-away,” says John Bremen, a managing director at employer consultancy Towers Watson. “They are trying to find ways to appeal to the workforce.”

Here’s a crazy idea. Pay them money.

Many voluntary benefits — such as reduced-price computers and pet insurance due to group-buying discounts — won’t gouge a corporate budget.

“On the employer side, there’s a recognition that they can’t always add to the benefits program in a way they have in the past,” says Ronald Leopold, national medical director at MetLife. “But they want to offer employees different things and a broader set of (choices).”

Businesses are using these perks to make harried workers feel valued, as well as to help them balance personal and professional needs.

I have a crazy idea on how to make employees feel “valued.” PAY THEM MONEY.

The whole article is like this. Chirp, chirp, lookit the employers trying to get more chintzy, la, la, la. And, by the way, if you’re reading the article waiting for a quote from Dick Trumka or Leo Gerard, you’ll be reading a long time. Why would USA Toady bother to talk to union leadership about this?

This news story flat-out comes out and says, by the way, companies are doing everything they can to weasel out of paying people good wages, and there’s USA Toady, just chirping along as if they’re reporting about Russell Brand’s latest boob job. Isn’t this an issue that’s just screaming for deeper reporting? Hello? Employers in these Untied States cannot find enough ways to screw you out of better wages! And this pathetic waste of newsprint doesn’t have the time to get Dick Trumka on the line?

But that’s where it’s at in this country. Labor issues have been so minimized that “mainstream” news outlets don’t even think to report that side of the story anymore, and in fact these news outlets are so corporate that they wouldn’t dare if it even occurred to them to do so. As a favorite radio talker of mine is fond of saying often: The News Has Been Canceled.

Firms such as S.C. Johnson, TD Bank and Travelocity provide discounted health coverage for workers’ pets through Petplan Pet Insurance. Petplan “has seen tremendous growth in this area of voluntary benefits,”co-CEO Chris Ashton says. “In this struggling economy, employers are increasingly looking for low-cost options to keep their employees happy.”

Yet, it can be tough to meet the needs and wants of a diverse workforce. “No one strategy is going to necessarily impact all employees equally,” Leopold says. “What’s good for one (employee) isn’t necessarily good for the other.”

I know of a strategy that’s good for ALL employees, you weasel. PAY THEM MONEY, PAY THEM MONEY, PAY THEM MONEY.

Which Side Are You On?

I want to explain something to you about labor unions.

Labor unions didn’t fight for weekends and 40-hour work weeks because they were concerned with procuring you more leisure time. And they did not press for child labor laws because they believed that children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside.

Nope. Unions fought for these things specifically for one purpose and one purpose only: To restrict the availability of labor.

Why? Simple economics. If workers are available 168 hours a week, supply is up, and that labor comes way cheap. But, rule #4 of supply and demand sez this:

If supply decreases and demand remains the unchanged, then it leads to higher price and lower quantity.

Cut back on the amount of labor that is available, and labor costs more.

Child labor laws are not about children. They are about protecting the value of work. They are about wages. They are about helping to insure that your labor, yours, as an American laborer, is worth more.

Now. You might have heard, but Newt Gingrich, who is the current front-runner for the Republigoat nomination for the Presidency of these Untied States of America, thinks that child labor laws are stupid.

Promising “extraordinarily radical proposals to fundamentally change the culture of poverty in America,” Newt Gingrich said Friday that he would fire school janitors and pay students to clean schools instead.

Speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the Republican presidential candidate and former speaker of the House challenged laws that prevent children from working certain jobs before their mid-teens.

Gingrich blames “the core policies of protecting unionization and bureaucratization” for “crippling” children.

“It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, in child laws, which are truly stupid,” he said.

”I tried for years to have a very simple model,” he continued. “Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they’d have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.”

To the average person, Gingrich’s declaration sounds somewhat distasteful, or, perhaps even just plain batshit crazy. But. Remember what I shared with you in part A of this blog entry, you know, the part about child labor laws actualy being a way to limit the supply of labor and therefore to make labor cost more. Then realize for a moment that the forces that support ol’ Newtie would probably prefer it if labor didn’t cost so god-damned much.

Of course Gingrich thinks child labor laws are “stupid.”

Jobs = Labor. Labor = Jobs.

I have just heard new congressional candidate Alan Grayson (yes, he’s running again, I shall have to see if I can get a few scheckels behind him, and I mean literally, where I work now they pay in scheckels) say something on the radio as a guest of Mr. Thom Hartmann, that we have been saying here on this Web space for quite a while. Why in bloody hell are we talking about the debt ceiling and stuff?

(A: Because the Republigoats want us to.)

Grayson’s point was, and I am paraphrasing, that all of this stuff is somewhat cerebral because, while we are up against a deadline about the “debt ceiling,” the little stupid stuff they’re sniping about is over a budget that takes effect in like 2021.

Meanwhile, remember them job numbers? Yeah, that shit is happening right now.

This conversation should be about jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. And you don’t get to talk about that if you aren’t talking about labor, labor, labor, labor, labor. They are one and the same. When you see stories about these governors attacking labor, you’re seeing stories about governors attacking jobs. Labor = jobs. Hell, labor == jobs*. Take away collective bargaining from employees, and you take away their power to preserve and create JOBS.

Sorry to be Maddow-redundant about this. I just don’t understand how you can expect a country that doesn’t respect and revere labor to produce jobs.

*In formal logic, this means it is “exactly equal to.”

Get A Job

I logged on this morning thinking I was about to be redundant. I’m still going to be redundant. Just not so much so.

Because I went first to enjoy a little news. And as it happens, today’s news dovetails exactly with what I wanted to write about. I love it when that happens.

Though, I hate to say how bad the news is:

The Labor Department said today that the jobless rate increased from 9.1% to 9.2% in June, which saw a rise of only 18,000 jobs.

Yep. That jobs thing. It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse.

And while we’re busy adding fewer jobs to this economy, Democrats and Republigoats are busy whining about this nebulous “debt ceiling” thing, and taxes, and much of Washington is clearly busy figuring out how to give more of your hard-earned tax dollar back to the millionaires and billionaires.

And what they’re not talking about? Jobs.

The thing is, there was this thing that happened a few months ago that would have been a great platform from which to have changed the conversation’s vector to jobs. See, in these heartland states, these governors sponsored laws that would strip public workers’ rights to collectively bargain. And this pissed a lot of people off, so these people poured out into the streets of their state capitals with signs and bullhorns. And no, I’m not making this up. This actually happened.

And then the President of the United states showed up, and he spoke to the people with his shirtsleeves rolled up, and he gave a STIRRING speech or two about the vital nature of labor in this country and how he would do everything in his power to stand up for labor and to bring jobs to America. And he outlined a four-part policy proposal by which to do this, many of the ideas drawn directly from Alexander Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures. And then everybody cheered and clapped and felt happy, and everyone in America decided that jobs were very important, and they called their congressmen and told them to stop fucking around with the debt crap and get back to putting America back to work.

Oh. Wait. Right. That part actually didn’t happen.

Oh, well.

Get Your Minimum Daily Allowance at Workers Independent News

Nobody else is covering this story.

House Republicans once again thumbed their noses at American workers last week by voting to give $310 million of taxpayer dollars to reward the owners of the Avondale (La.) shipyard for shutting down and putting nearly 5,000 people out of work. The House rejected by a margin of 246-177 an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act offered by Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) that would have prevented the government from refunding $310 million to Huntington Ingalls Industries for closure costs at Avondale. Nineteen Republicans voted to support the measure.

That is astonishing. Fiscally responsible my ass.

Visit Workers Independent News every day. Or just listen to Proper Modulation.


Cheers to PB for an excellent post regarding the seeming anti-nexus of bottom-line worship and the interest of safety. An addendum to his observation that may or may not come back at a later date to bite me in the ass: When’s the last time you heard of a horrific nuclear accident in France? The entire country runs on nukes, ya know. But it’s entirely a public enterprise. Run by the government. Yep. PART OF THE COMMONS.

So I look forward to the day when we hear about the next French nu-kyoo-lar accident. Because then I can be proven wrong. Until that day, it stands as some of the finest evidence of the effectiveness of a vigorous support of a commons. So screw.

We’d be remiss on this tear if we didn’t mention the recent commemoration of 100 years since the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

See, on March 25, 1911, there was this blouse factory on floors 8 to 10 in this building in New York City. The factory employed about 500 people, mostly immigrant women, who worked nine hours a day during the week and seven hours on Sunday. (How’s that labor movement looking to you now?) There was a fire, likely started in a bin of scrap textile, where like two months’ of scrap had been allowed to pile up.

There was no audible fire alarm. And the only plausible escape route for the workers was locked to prevent the workers from stealing these shitty blouses.

From the Wiki:

Within three minutes, the Greene Street stairway became unusable in both directions.[16] Terrified employees crowded onto the single exterior fire escape, a flimsy and poorly-anchored iron structure which may have been broken before the fire. It soon twisted and collapsed from the heat and overload, spilling victims nearly 100 feet (30 m) to their deaths on the concrete pavement below. Elevator operators Joseph Zito[17] and Gaspar Mortillalo saved many lives by traveling three times up to the ninth floor for passengers, but Mortillalo was eventually forced to give up when the rails of his elevator buckled under the heat. Some victims pried the elevator doors open and jumped down the empty shaft. The weight of these bodies made it impossible for Zito to make another attempt.

129 women and 17 men died. Owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris were indicted on charges of manslaughter.

They were acquitted.

To many people, 100 years seems like a long time. But it ain’t. In terms of history, in terms of geology, in terms of generations, it’s a morsel of time. And the awesome progress that was made as a result of this tragedy is now being brutally attacked by our landed gentry.

These workers were in that factory 52 hours a week. Do you like your 40 hours? Your weekend? Not to mention, do you like not getting locked in on the ninth floor and having to choose between asphyxiation or leaping to your doom like a fucking 9/11 victim?



A teabagger, a union member, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a dozen cookies.

The CEO immediately takes 11 cookies for himself, and then turns to the teabagger and says, “Watch out for that union guy. He wants part of your cookie.”

Today We Are All Wisconsinites

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
(Abraham Lincoln, from his message to the U.S. Congress of Dec. 3, 1861)

Are you aware that today Madison, Wis., looks sort of like Cairo did last week?

Thousands and thousands—estimates run from 10,000 to 30,000—of people are in the streets this week in protest of a proposed bill to elminate most collective bargaining rights for public sector unions.

Have you seen a bunch of press coverage on this wonderful mess? Noes?

Labor in these Untied States of America has been so successfully marginalized that you don’t even hear about it unless you specifically go out to look for it. Lookit your local newspaper sometime. Here’s the “business” section. Where’s the “labor” section? Why don’t major strikes make the news here anymore?

Even the Huffington Post has remained mum on this story. In fact, the only media guy who’s spent any kind of time on Wisconsin is Ed Schultz. Matter of fact, Eddie will report from Madison on his show this evening (10 p.m. eastern on MSNBC).

Labor has been so marginalized that it isn’t even newsworthy anymore. Believe it or not, once upon a time if there was a major strike here in these Untied States, it was in the newspaper and on the TV. This thing in Wisconsin has been going on a week, and it’s barely registered a blip.

Allow me for a moment to explain something to you about organized labor: The primary objective of organized labor is to tighten supply.

You think labor fought for a 40-hour work week because labor likes puppies and really gives a crap about you having a weekend? You think they wanted child labor laws because they cared whether Johnny was free to go study his algebra? No. They wanted these things because organized labor’s primary objective is to tighten the labor market.

Why? Because a tighter labor market boosts the value of labor and drives wages.

If Wisconsin blows up the right of its public sector employees to bargain collectively, it also blows their ability to tighten supply. Wages can freeze and shrink; 40-hour weeks can become a thing of the past. The net result of whatever comes of such a combustion is that the value of work takes a hit.

Unless you can go longer than a year without a paycheck, you should have your antenna trained on Madison, and you should be rooting for those people in the streets. They are not just fighting for their own jobs. They’re fighting for yours, too.

President Underpants Gnome

From last evening’s State Of The Union speech…

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.

I like President Obama. I voted for the guy and was in fact an early supporter. Even given that, when I examine Obama’s record as objectively as I can, I still find his list of accomplishments to be astonishing. He will be remembered, I think, as one of the most effective presidents evar…why do you think Republigoats hate the guy so completely?

But. When President Obama starts talking about things like new technologies and green technologies and blah blah blah, it kind of reminds me of these guys:

South Park fans will recognize these fellows as the “underpants gnomes.” This merry band of industrious workers has established a focused business plan:

Phase 1: Collect Underpants
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit

Research. Development. Information. Technology. Green, green, green. Electric cars. Flibbity flobbity floo.

How does any of that mean squat in the same speech where you’re touting pending trade agreements? What is being done to ensure that these efforts rebuild our domestic manufacturing infrastructure? That the train cars, that the electric cars, at all of these new products coming out of this new, tech-driven economy aren’t manufactured elsewhere employing folks who are not Americans? What do these niceties mean for a nation led by a Democratic administration that’s already bent over backward for business, only to have business fold its arms and harumph, so we bend over even more backward? Yet, any effort to stand beside labor seems to be mostly lip service?

It’s wonderful to talk about R&D and new-fangled products and green tech and junk. But if the American manufacturing infrastructure is as weakened as it seems to be, if we are perpetually driven to allow global free trade to tramp all over our rose garden, isn’t such talk just talk?

South Park won’t let me embed any underpants gnomes footage, by the way. So instead here’s a commercial with a kid making a wish sandwich. With peanut butter and jelly.

P.S. Trying to name that tune? “Age of Consent” by New Order.