Town Square

Celebrating Labor's Just Cause on Labor Day

Original post made by Oliver Towne, Another Pleasanton neighborhood, on Aug 31, 2013

As we move toward celebration of another Labor Day, Americans are faced with a number of distressing trends within the political economy as well as our political culture.

These are tough times for workers, and unionized workers in particular. Jobs are increasingly scarce as corporations continue to move their manufacturing outside of the United States. Manufacturing jobs have plummeted over the past several decades, retail jobs remain flat, and the only area where job growth is evident is in the fast-food service industry. In this situation, corporations have mopped up: a readily available reservoir of unemployed labor; those who have jobs being required to do more in order to keep those jobs; and record corporate profits of which workers have seen not a dime. Rather than put profits (surplus labor) back into the pockets of workers who create the profits, corporations have found it increasingly more profitable to invest in cheap labor abroad. With hundreds of job applicants lined up out the door, corporations have refrained from paying their workers a just wage and have 'budged' only when workers have organized. This is why the fast-food service workers' protests and strikes are so significant. For it is only through workers' demands that wages will be uplifted. Corporations won't budge unless they are pushed. And organized labor has learned that usually one workers isn't enough to push effectively; rather, a collective of workers is necessary.

The corporate media, which operates with the same values as most corporations, has been no friend to labor. The media's response to the media-manufactured 'public worker crisis' is a case in point. Profits are skyrocketing for corporations, yet they have city, local and state govts by the short and curlies. "Let us operate in your city/county/state virtually tax free," they tell us, "or we will move our operation to another city/county/state." So, without corporate taxes, govts don't have the revenue stream they need in order to pay their employees a fair wage. Public workers suffer as a consequence of this starvation policy, and thus so do all other workers. Look at stagnant earnings/assets among the working classes over the past 35 years; and then look at steep rise in corporate profits.

There are some soft-headed ones out there who claim that govts' declining revenue streams are a matter of public workers wanting too much. This is a laughable claim, and only a minority of Americans believe it; yet it gets played time and again on Fox, Rush, and the rest of corporate media. Meanwhile, corporate actions go largely unnoticed, out of sight, out of mind, as corporate media does not present news that sheds light on how America is in the extortionary grip of large capital. (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, Newscorp do not report critically on themselves; nor do they report critically on other corporations whose interests are interstitched with those of the corporate media.) Since a substantial minority of right wing dimwits believe reality is what is presented in the news, they're disinclined to view corporate capital with a critical eye. Corporations are only too happy to perpetuate 'dumb and dumber' amongst the populace.

Meanwhile, we become more and more like China. And what is really pretty pathetic is that there are members of the working class, Fox news worshippers, who think that what is good for corporations is good for America's working people. And this despite capital's movement from minimum wage states to states that have effectively abolished minimum wage; capital's movement from the US to foreign soil. Corporations do this for profit. All this makes it more difficult for govts to operate or for workers to earn the kinds of wages they deserve.

As an ideological ruse, capital has funneled tens of millions of dollars into the media propaganda machine, with some success. We see this with the Tea Party movement which consists inordinately of low-educated workers who are unable to sort notions of patriotism from justice. Following in lock-step with the corporate media, the soft-headed ones yack about America being founded and perpetuated by individuals. Poorly educated, these gripers seem to have no conception of this nation's history.

America is and always has been founded on the back of America's workers. Indentured servants in the Northeast, slaves in the South, children in the coalmines of Appalachia, Chinese immigrants in the Northwest, German immigrant migrant workers in the Southwest. America is America because it has been built by the laboring masses.

Many of these workers organized, formed unions, and agitated for substantial gains for the working classes: child labor laws; discrimination laws; minimum wage; health and safety laws. None of these would have occurred without labor's demands.

Today, capital continues to invest millions, if not billions, on keeping the labor movement weak and voiceless. Reputed studies show that the increase of Walmarts, (to name but one example, but probably corporate America's new prototype), comes with the high cost of numerous lost jobs wherever the new stores appear. And as hundreds of thousands find themselves in Walmart's employ, so America's workers are expected to pick up the tab as their taxes go to food stamps for Walmart's severely underpaid workers.

Today, as has always been the case, working Americans' best future hope lies with organized labor. Corporations will not pay a living wage unless they are forced to by wage-earners who demand the right to earn a wage that reflects the profits their work contributes to any and all companies. Next time you purchase something, whether it be an auto or a mere hamburger at one of the flourishing fast-food chains, try to remember that that item you've purchased is congealed labor; it contains American workers' labor, their sweat and blood. But this fails to be recognized by corporations; rather than giving to workers that which is justly owed to them, they siphon off ungodly profit that benefits no one except perhaps themselves and their own progeny.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 31, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Why are union members the only ones who labor? Why are jobs moving outside the US? Why can't Mike Cherry et al pick one fake name and stick to it rather than using multiple monikers to appear to be many people with the same ideas and writing style? Why is liberal media now corporate media? Why are there never any citations (from any source)? Please show the justification for $15/hour in the fast food industry in exchange for the services provided. Given other forum topics where postings showed how much unions spend on campaigns and other issues, please support the claim that unions have no voice. Please explain where union pensions are invested and how this is negative for members. Please explain why employees are entitled to more than the exchange of labor for wages (and many organizations provide profit sharing, the ability to invest in the company, free pensions, percentage contributions to 401k plans if an employee contributes, health benefits, life insurance, and other benefits like shortened work weeks and free ridership for life). And maybe you can wrap it all up with an explanation of why you keep starting new threads on the same subject matter.

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Posted by Listen up !
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2013 at 11:17 pm

TEN paragraphs? of more diatribe??(barf) that can only be Mike Cherry. Oliver, You Union members would know about all those CORP profits better than the rest of us !! Majority of us without jobs and multi financial issues haven't had pensions for years. We wouldn't know about about corp. 'profits' ! ! I do know those 'profits' fund your union penions quite handsomely.
Few of us have your security from those profits you apparently enjoy without appreciation, and 'demand' more...sick greed.

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Oliver, your argument contains two fundamental, fatal flaws.

First, your assertion that wages are determined solely by business owners is incorrect. Just like the products that those business owners produce, wager are determined by the broader market.

Let me ask you a few questions. If you were a business owner, would you be willing to sell your product at a price lower than its value to the consumer? I think not. Next - would you be willing to pay more for your raw materials than you had to? Again I think not. Finally, would you be willing to pay your workers a wage higher than the value they bring to your business? Probably not. In this forum you might answer "yes" to one or more of these questions, and set up arguments why you're answering so. In the real world, bad business decisions will only lead to business failure, with one result being that the workers in your employ will be looking for other jobs.

Second, the other flaw is that America's best hopes lie not with organized labor, but with the exact opposite of organized labor. The hopes lie with a skilled workforce driven by and rewarded by merit. Today, the American services economy is doing well, expanding each year, with American businesses leading the way. (Just to be clear - by "services" I'm referring to skilled design, engineering, financial, consulting, and information technology services.) Services industry jobs mow account for 80 percent of all US employment.

Take a look at the workers that comprise the services industry and tell me how many are represented by unions. The answer is nil. Times have changed, the demand for labor has shifted, and despite unions' best efforts, union membership is declining and will eventually go down to the level of insignificance. The services industry doesn't need it.

Happy Labor Day, and all hail to the workers, it's just that four of five workers these days rely on their own skills to make a living; they aren't in, and don't need, a union to do that for them.

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Posted by Daveg
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 31, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Daveg is a registered user.

It is getting rather tiresome with Mike Cherry's continued postings under different monikers crying "wolf" about unions with absolutely nothing to substantiate his ramblings. It would be helpful if he answered any of Kathleen's question, however I would really like to know why he does continue to post under all these fictitious names. Perhaps PW could limit this posting to only registered members thereby eliminating yet another of these ridiculous ramblings by Mike Cherry, et el.

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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Sep 1, 2013 at 7:57 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Well, yes, I suppose you see all nonunion workers as potential members.

No mention of all the jobs that left because of high cost and demands of unions.

Liberal media is a term that's been around longer than Faux News.

Your term: "Today, capital continues to invest millions, if not billions, on keeping the labor movement weak and voiceless."

I asked you to justify $15 an hour for fast food workers. And try to do it without raising prices for the consumer or lowering the value of the stocks (remember your pension counts on high value and growth).

It is all the same--organized labor.

You have mentioned books that support your personal biases. But where you offer "facts" there is no citation.

Why would anyone attempt to find you (other than a potential law suit)?

And then you finish with the usual name calling. "Reverting to name calling suggests you are defensive and, therefore, find my opinion valid." --Spock

There's a rather large world outside your door (which includes entertainment to lift your spirit or to just entertain). I hope you spend some of the rest of the weekend taking it in.

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Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2013 at 9:12 am

BobB is a registered user.


BART strikers might have gotten a little more sympathy if many (not all) BART workers weren't so unfriendly and unhelpful.


I don't think a lot of jobs left the country "high cost and demands of unions." A lot more jobs left the US because countries like China and India were so poor.

You also seem to think or imply that a large portion of our country's current financial troubles are in some way caused by or related to union activity or influence. If I'm right in assuming that, and don't see how you can justify it. The current trouble (at least for the last decade) -- the great recession, financial panic, high unemployment, slow recovery -- seems to have been mainly caused by reckless and unregulated speculation in swaps markets by a relatively small number of well connected investment banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and the like. It wasn't union demands, high blue collar wages, or even too many home loans being given to people who couldn't afford them that caused this mess. It was unregulated derivatives speculation and inadequate supervision of the financial markets that caused this.

Why the obsession with unions?


You said "...American businesses leading the way..., financial,...". I can agree with most of what you said in those sentences, except for the bit about "financial services". I think the American financial services industry was, and is currently leading the world toward more financial chaos and turmoil, and fixing that situation is the greatest problem we face. Sadly, Obama and the current congress haven't done much anything to address it.

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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Sep 1, 2013 at 10:54 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

BobB, Certainly there are many factors that take corporations out of the US. My point was that, in this case, Oliver makes no acknowledgement of how demands for benefits and high wages contributed to those moves (Example: denim industries in the South were organized, and then the businesses were shuttered). My comments otherwise are a push back to the insistence that "working Americans' best future hope lies with organized labor." I haven't looked for data that might indicate whether $15 for working in the fast food industry is justifiable. I don't agree that BART unions should get a 20+% raise given their current rates of pay and many benefits. Essentially, there is a correlation between services rendered and the income you can expect to earn. The obsession about unions is actually that of the author.

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Posted by pleasanton joe
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2013 at 5:13 pm

pleasanton joe is a registered user.

BobB, you're spot-on regarding the US financial services industry. I was referring to the rank-and-file workers making up the industry, not the financial services industry itself.

As much as I disdain the "extra help" that various government agencies provide to unions, I equally disdain the help provided to the Big Banks.