• Tag Archives unions
  • Late-Stage or Last Stage Capitalism

    Winter                              Garden Planning Moon


    Back to late-stage industrial capitalism.  (see a couple of posts down)  In that article from the Atlantic Monthly that I referenced earlier it points out the collapse of middle class wage  manufacturing jobs in the US.  At the same time I heard yesterday that in spite of the fact that wages have increased slightly, consumers seem to be saving the money instead of spending it.

    Then, the radio reporter went on to say, 70% of our economy is driven by consumer spending.  Do you see the problem here?  We challenge old-age benefits like social security and medicare, demand people take responsibility for their own retirement (which, if successful, will increase savings–which makes sense).  We also have an economy, a pillar of which, manufacturing, that used to provided millions of middle-class wage level jobs–think auto workers, steel workers, rubber (tire) workers and their like–is now dominated by robotic machinery.  This is done to reduced the work force and hold down wages, both to compete with international manufacturers, such as the ones in China and other parts of Asia.

    So, if the economy is driven by consumers (70% is a big chunk!), and the trend in hiring is to use more machines and less workers, and a further trend is to bust unions (see all the right to work laws under consideration in state legislatures) and chip away at employee benefits, then who will be left with money to prop up the economy.

    Unemployed people or people employed at below living standard wages don’t line up at Target or Best Buy or head out to restaurants.  Not because they don’t want to.  Because they can’t.

    The big contradiction then is this:  our economic engine requires more and more economies on the part of industry and business to stay competitive in global and local trade.  Many of these economies come at the expense of income and benefits for American citizens (read:  consumers), the very ones who drive our economy.  So?


  • Brother and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

    Lughnasa                                                                         New Harvest Moon

    Took Mark over to Walmart where he shopped for work clothes, slacks and button down shirts.  He bought 5 of each, a set for each day of the week.  Here’s the weirdness.  Bangladeshis made the clothing.  They came, most likely, by container ship to California, then by truck to a Walmart regional distribution center.  At some point, again on a truck, these shirts and pants completed their journey to Coon Rapids, Minnesota.

    Mark walked in and bought them.  He now has them here in Andover.  In less than a month he will pack up those same new clothes and carry them, via plane, to Saudi Arabia.  If he takes them on a subsequent trip to Southeast Asia, they will have traveled around the world plus a little.  Strange.

    There is an interesting counter argument to local boy Thomas Friedman (grew up in St. Louis Park) and his flat earth model of globalization.  It suggests that the world has actually grown more local, with only a tiny percentage of the world’s population ever leaving their home country and a large percentage of those who stay in their home country rarely or never leave their own locale.  Globalization, in this view, is a veneer of corporate profit taking spread over the world, a sort of cheap plywood globe on top of which the elite travel by jet, work in several different time zones and consider themselves transnationals.  Under this veneer toil the sweatshop workers who make the elite’s transnational world possible.

    The world they make possible though, as in all times, lies as far from them as the earth lies from the sun.  No Bangladeshi textile worker could ever hope to duplicate the trip the slacks he or she made have already taken.  Never.  The vast majority of Chinese who work in export related manufacturing could never follow their products to America or Europe or even to Shanghai or Beijing.  Travel to any region of the world where globalization functions to shift resources or cheaply made goods to developed markets.  There you will find sugar cane workers or miners or electronics assemblers or athletic shoe makers paid poorly so that we might buy cheaply.

    Attacking this kind of global disparity seems to be a job for trade unionists, but they’ve not been up to the task.  Not sure how you push against it with any success.

    When the whole thing crashes though, that cheap plywood globe will make a hell of a skateboard park.


  • Union, Yes

    Imbolc                                                              Waning Bridgit Moon

    This week had a lot of Latin time.  I made it through ten lines of Diana and Actaeon which Greg and I discussed at length during my tutoring session today.  I need to pay more attention to the verb and its object; when I get that, I get the translation; when I don’t, I make it fit anyhow, the Procrustean bed of my mind.  The work of translation, at least in Latin, lies within my competency level, I can see that now.  All it will require is ongoing attention.  All.  Well.  Good thing there’s a lot in Latin that interests me.

    Madison, Wisconsin.  Politics, the way they work in our country, allow this mercurial swing from one perspective to another in the course of one election.  Republicans seem to need two things in the public arena:  enemies they can flog and to be the enemy themselves.  It’s a peculiar combination, like group sado/masochism with both aspects of S&M in action at the same time.  Enemies right now:  public sector unions, bloated budgets and those that love them, perverters of the constitution–at least they one they read, environmentalists, the environment.  Being the enemy right now:  ruling with a peculiar maliciousness–witness the Wisconsin Governor’s “conversation” with billionaire David Koch,  acting as if the nation were a one party system, theirs, with a pesky group of liberals who act like horseflies and insist on inhabiting seats in their government, choosing a mainstream way of interpreting the constitution, the living document school, and pushing it, in their minds, to the dustbin of history as if it had never existed.

    We need parties that represent different communities and different interests, that’s what politics is for, the mediation of disputes, but our politics don’t work unless respect for the others existence stands as a given. Continue reading  Post ID 12899