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Forum Post: Is Labor Dead? By Gerald Friedman

Posted 2 years ago on June 6, 2012, 7:52 a.m. EST by PeterKropotkin (1050) from Oakland, CA
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

The Labor Movement has entered a crisis. Declining support for unions and for socialist political movements reflects the exhaustion of a reformist growth strategy where capitalists and state officials accepted unions in exchange for labor peace. While winning real gains for workers, this strategy undermined labor and its broader democratic aspirations by establishing unions and union and party leaders as authorities over the workers themselves. In the upheavals of the late-1960s and the 1970s, dissident movements, directed as much against reformist leaders as against employers and state officials, pushed protest beyond traditional limits toward demands for popular empowerment and democracy. Union decline began then, not because workers had lost interest in collective action but because employers and state officials abandoned collective bargaining to find alternative means of controlling unrest. Capitalism entered a new post-union era, when national leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan used policies of open trade and capital flows and high unemployment to discipline labor. Abandoned by their capitalist bargaining partners, reformist unions and political parties have withered. Now, without social space for reformist movements, the labor movement can only advance by openly avowing its original goals of popular empowerment and the establishment of economic democracy.

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=AE50C190430477E5D9999D0F6B74F6ED.journals?fromPage=online&aid=5466684

47 Comments

47 Comments


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[-] 4 points by turbocharger (1414) 1 week ago

Workers and the word organizing are not in much harmony these days, but there are a few groups working to change things. Socialist Alternative is an active one.

[-] 2 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

Workers who work for private companies are naturally going to be bitter about being forced through taxation to pay for union incomes of government workers.

Worker was pitted against worker.

A worker union will only be effective if we become a single worker union. One union that represents all workers. That is the only way to have true bargaining power.

If we organized into a single union, it would be game over for capitalism and its class based system where a few at the top unfairly take most of the income and wealth and force everyone else into poverty and financial struggle. As a single union, we would be able to reach a critical mass which would enable workers to demand and get 100% of the income which would result in democratic ownership of the means of production and democratic allocation of its income.

That was the game plan all along. That plan will work. And capitalists know it will work that is why they have been colluding with government the past 100 years to make sure that never happens by agreeing to incremental reforms.

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

Difficult to get one union representing all workers that doesn't have inherent conflicts of interest within it. Another problem is that most union leaders seem to become as corrupt as the corporate board members. Trading one set of crooks for another doesn't seem to be much of a solution.

[-] 2 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

Why would a single union have an inherent conflict of interest? Every worker has the same goal: to get paid their fair share of the available income. Nearly every worker would get a pay raise if they were represented by a single union that managed to get them democratic ownership of the means of production and democratic allocation of the income produced.

A union leader does not have say over how much income a worker gets paid. Workers vote directly on how income is allocated. It would be illegal for a union leader to secretly pay some workers differently than what the official pay plan allows. So your comparison of union leaders with a corporate board is not accurate. They have nothing in common.

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

As long as the public sector is paid by the private, there will be those that somehow feel cheated. Who is to say what the value of the intellectual work done by the diagnostician or teacher is worth compared to the factory worker or delivery man? Will a particular working group be denied a good wage because some other group has more members and therefore more votes? As long as there are different jobs there will be disagreement over what they are worth.

The fact that everyone gets a raise, assuming you could ever get a majority of the population to adopt your system, won't change the fact that people will see some jobs (probably their own) as worth more then other jobs. I don't see how conflict can be avoided as long as you're dealing with human beings.

I seriously doubt you could ever get rid of leaders, and if you don't there will be corruption of some type. As to your plan, it isn't going to happen in our lifetime. There are too many people that won't even look at anything involving the restructure of society along those lines. They simply don't believe it would work.

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

It is important to understand what I actually advocate. I advocate replacing capitalism with democracy.

Democracy is a Greek word. But it is not a Greek word for "voting" or "mob rule" or "majority wins". It is Greek for "people power". It means power rests with everyone equally. It is a society based on equal political power and equal freedom.

Since everything you do in society requires money, your income determines how much political power you have and determines how much freedom you have to live the way you want.

So in order to have democracy, a society where power rests with everyone equally, income must rest with everyone equally. But income is also used as an incentive to get people to do difficult work and give their maximum effort.

So the only way to have a society that is democratic and the only way to also have an economy that works well, is to have a system where differences in income are limited by law to just what is necessary to get people to do mentally or physically difficult work and to get people to give their maximum effort.

We employ more cashiers than any other job. So if they somehow got a plan passed where they were considered a difficult job and qualified for the pay of a difficult job, that would most likely get challenged in court. They would then have to provide evidence that there job is as physically difficult as, for example, a construction worker or as mentally difficult as, for example, an engineer. They wouldn't be able to to do that, so it would be overturned in court.

So not only is there a democratic check on the allocation of income, through approval by a worker vote, but there is also a legal check.

Although I am not claiming what job is considered mentally or physically difficult and how much more you need to pay them is an exact science, we can certainly make reasonable claims as to what jobs are difficult and can provide reasonable evidence of how much more you need to pay people to get them to do them.

We don't live in a black and white world. We have to make those kinds of reasonable legal judgements all the time. We can make them in devising our compensation system.

.

"There are too many people that won't even look at anything involving the restructure of society along those lines. They simply don't believe it would work."

That may be true. But that can be changed.

Making $115k for 20 hours is a deal that workers will not so easily dismiss. If this idea gets the support of credible and prominent public figures and intellectuals and the support of hundreds of thousands of people, then people will believe it is possible.

Nobody is going to believe me, I'm just some random guy posting on the internet. The biggest challenge will be in getting the ball rolling. But once the ball is rolling, it will be unstoppable because very few people are willing to potentially give up an extra $80k in income and 20 hours in free time each week merely because Sean Hannity said this is all just a plot to turn America into a totalitarian Stalin dictatorship.

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 2 years ago

Good luck, but as I said earlier, it isn't likely to happen in my lifetime. You have a lot of reeducation to do before you get everyone to believe that people are truly equal. You're describing something that very few would believe in, governed by groups of imperfect people.

We may, as a nation, be slowly moving to a more socialist form of society, but I honestly don't see even 1% of the population being ready to accept your premiss at this point in time.

[-] 2 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

I do not think people are equal and I'm not trying to convince anyone that they are.

I think people should have equal political power and nearly every American would agree.

Also, we are already governed by imperfect people. And I would say everyone believes in being governed by people. Only a very small minority wants to eliminate government and I don't know of anyone who thinks we should be governed by anything other than people.

I don't know what you mean by accepting my premise. But 31% are in favor of socialism despite the fact that socialism has been made into a curse word and nobody in the public advocates on its behalf. So most if not all of them would view this plan positively.

Also, most workers want to make more income and personal finances is the number one political issue for the public. Since this will more than quadruple the income of half the workers and increase the income of roughly 95% of workers, most of them will view this plan favorably.

Also, since this plan is based on very sound, peer reviewed, economic ideas (google Oskar Lange, Paul Cockshott, market socialism, and the economic calculation debate) that have a 100 year tradition (google democratic socialism), that will go a long way in selling the public knowing that it is a workable plan.

So I think your 1% claim is way off.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

incomes is a means of not starving to death or dying of exposure

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

There is nothing more important in society than how income is allocated. It determines your political power, your freedom, your quality of life and your standard of living.

[-] 1 points by friendlyopposition (574) 2 years ago

Conflict comes from differing opinions of what is a fair share. Imagine plumbers, programmers, sales people, mechanics, landscapers, factory workers, engineers, delivery drivers, planners, and accountants all coming together to figure out who should get paid what. Throw in a few egos - and you've got a real mess.

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

The only economic reason for paying one person more than another is to get them to do difficult work and to give their maximum effort. How much more you need to pay someone can be scientifically determined and the law would prevent anyone from getting paid more than that amount.

If, for example, drivers wanted to get paid 100 times more than engineers, they would need to provide evidence that demonstrates that without offering that much in extra pay we would not have enough drivers.

In addition to the legal check on the allocation of income, we will also have a democratic check. Workers have to approve the pay plan through a vote. It is going to be difficult to get workers to approve a plan that pays any one job unreasonably more.

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 2 years ago

So we could end up with people feeling that if only they had been able to express themselves better they would have gotten the money they deserve. I think you'll end up with entire professions simply going through the motions.

[-] 0 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

If you don't perform at your job, you will get fired by the manager who is getting paid based on the financial performance of the company they manage.

If you don't like your job because you want to earn more, change professions. You will get paid to go to school, so people will have the freedom and means to do whatever job they want.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

you can be fired for any reason

and good luck finding work

[-] 0 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

In the system I advocate, you would be guaranteed a job.

However, if you were fired for performance reasons, there would need to be some financial penalty that you need to pay otherwise getting fired would be meaningless.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

I can't pay my student loan let alone penalties

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

Yet another reason why we should change the system. Students should get paid to go to school, not have to pay to attend. School is training for work. It is work. And we should pay people to work.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

school is for the enlightenment and enrichment of the people

the work ethic comes from America's protestant roots

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 2 years ago

Free education sounds nice, I hope everyone has realistic professional goals. Or doesn't simply decide to be a life long student. I've taught school for a number of years and know that we are not all equal. We all may have talents, just not the same talents.

There is also an obvious truth in the entire biologic world. All Life gets the most benefit for the least effort. Most people will work, but there will always be some that will game the system. It then becomes a question of time before this little corruption seeps through a workforce. I see your concept as a very difficult thing to sell to the public though.

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

You would get paid to learn whatever it is you need to learn to do your job. So you can't make a career out of being a student.

I believe a liberal arts education is worthwhile and everyone should be encouraged to get one. But I don't think it should be a part of the education you are paid to get. Engineers do not need to take English or sociology in order to be an engineer.

Instead, we should have an online university that is free or close to it that gives degrees in liberal arts to people who want it.

I do not claim a democratic society will be a perfect society. We have terrible workers today and we will continue to have terrible workers in a democratic system.

I don't think selling a system that pays you at least $115k for working 20 hours will be a difficult sell. Convincing people to work for poverty wages for 40 hours per week with no insurance is a difficult sell.

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 2 years ago

You said earlier that if I didn't like the pay I'd get training for another job (I don't take schooling to mean simply a liberal arts education). What's to stop me from changing occupations if I find the training programs easier to do the the actual jobs?

I don't mean to be difficult, but I see it as a fact of life that there will be people taking advantage of any system. The more rules you come up with, the more likely you are to have people using them to coast through life on the efforts of others. There is an element of socialism in your plan that I see the typical American rejecting. I think it also requires people to be somewhat altruistic and I don't believe we are.

I know you probably have a truck load of statistics to back up your claim that we can all earn $115K a year on a 20 hour work week. The problem you have is that there aren't going to be many people that will believe them.

[-] 2 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

"What's to stop me from changing occupations if I find the training programs easier to do the the actual jobs?"

We would have rules that prevent people from doing that.

.

"I see it as a fact of life that there will be people taking advantage of any system"

Yes, people take advantage of our current system. And they will continue to take advantage of any new system. I am not claiming we are producing the perfect society, just a much better one.

.

"There is an element of socialism in your plan that I see the typical American rejecting"

The economy is already 20% socialist (NASA, military, schools, police, fire, hospitals, universities, garbage, etc.). Many will find socialism easier to accept when they learn it doesn't mean a totalitarian Stalin dictatorship like Rush Limbaugh told them, but instead means an increase in income to $115k or $230k, depending on what you do, a work week of 20 hours, and a 100% mortgage at 0% interest which would cut their house payment in half.

.

"I think it also requires people to be somewhat altruistic and I don't believe we are."

According to science, as written about in this paper, people are naturally altruistic, cooperative and social. People only resort to being aggressive, selfish and antagonistic when they are stressed, abused, neglected or mentally ill.

But what I advocate does not require people to be altruistic. People work because they are getting paid. They also work because they have a passion for what they are doing and because they are doing something they find important as opposed to our current system which requires half the workforce to do pointless jobs that machines should be doing.

And since you are guaranteed a job that pays enough to make you wealthy, charity and welfare are no longer needed. So capitalism requires more altruism since most are broke and need help.

.

"I know you probably have a truck load of statistics to back up your claim that we can all earn $115K a year on a 20 hour work week"

Here is how the $115k was calculated; it is based on credible government statistics. Here is what the 20 hour work week is based on.

.

"The problem you have is that there aren't going to be many people that will believe them."

Some random guy posting on an internet forum is not very persuasive. In order to sell the public, it needs the support of credible public and intellectual people and people need to see that it is a real movement with lots of people supporting it. There are a lot of components to selling people on an idea. But it certainly can be done.

We won't convince everyone, but we don't need to. Just 35% support in a 3-person race can win every election. And a little more than that participating in a general strike will put an end to capitalism and change the system in a matter of days.

[-] 2 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 2 years ago

"Capitalism requires more altruism since most are broke and need help"

LMAO. So true.

[-] 0 points by friendlyopposition (574) 2 years ago

You are talking about economic reasons, not practical reasons. If this is going to be democratically approved, then you will end up with situations where the computer programming group thinks they should be paid more than the plumbers because their craft requires a high level of technical skill. The plumbers are going to counter by saying their skill provides a foundation of life, i.e. water. The group that wins is the group that garners the greatest support from the rest of the union.

Otherwise, you are talking about is a body of people that make the rules for everyone - people that dictate how much each person's time, education, experience, etc are worth. And that is not democratic.

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

Democracy means equal political power and equal freedom. Since your income determines your political power and freedom, what makes society democratic is paying everyone an equal income.

However, income is also used as an incentive. So the only way to have a society that is democratic and the only way to also have an economy that works well, is to have a system where differences in income are limited by law to just what is necessary to get people to do mentally or physically difficult work and to get people to give their maximum effort.

Plumbers cannot get paid more than programmers because they would never be able to establish in a court of law that their job is difficult and programming is not. And they would never be able to provide evidence that you need to pay plumbers more income to get people to do that job but you don't need to pay programmers more to get people to do that job.

Programming is mentally difficult and plumbing is physically difficult. So they would both get paid twice the amount as workers who did not do difficult work (in keeping with the example in my post).

[-] 0 points by friendlyopposition (574) 2 years ago

Who decides the law? - if you say the people (and I think you will), then we are back to where we were before. The sub-sets of each union vying to get their pay increased by trying to get votes. Otherwise you have a group of judges making that call - and judges who are trained in the letter of the law are going to have a difficult time making these calls on economics.

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

Although I am not claiming what job is considered mentally or physically difficult and how much more you need to pay them is an exact science, we can certainly make reasonable claims as to what jobs are difficult and can provide reasonable evidence of how much more you need to pay people to get them to do them.

We don't live in a black and white world. We have to make those kinds of reasonable legal judgements all the time. We can make them in devising our compensation system.

If someone challenges the legality of the compensation plan, they will present their case as to why a job should qualify or not qualify as a physically difficult or mentally difficult job. A judge will listen to the evidence presented and make a reasonable judgement. That is the way society works currently. Economic issues are not different.

[-] 0 points by friendlyopposition (574) 2 years ago

Once again, it seems very cumbersome that now we have to include a hearing to discuss compensation packages for each different occupation that wants to challenge the rate assigned by the government.

[-] 2 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

Having to live in poverty or close to it, which 50% of the population is forced to do, is cumbersome. Trying to survive when you can't even get a full-time job, which 18% of workers are subjected to, is cumbersome. Having to waste your life working a pointless job which a machine can easily do, which 55% of the working population have to do, is cumbersome. Having to figure out how to live for 4 years without an income and come up with $50k - $100k+ just to get an education is cumbersome.

Having a legal dispute hearing, even if it was for every single one of the several hundred different job categories, in order to ensure that all those problems above are solved and all 310 million Americans are wealthy, is not cumbersome.

[-] 0 points by friendlyopposition (574) 2 years ago

That is very poetic, and touching.

Doesn't make it workable.

[-] 2 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

We can put a man on the moon, we can split an atom, we can transplant a heart, but we can't work out a reasonable assessment of what jobs are physically or mentally difficult and which ones are not so half the population has to remain broke? That is ridiculous and you know it.

[-] 1 points by friendlyopposition (574) 2 years ago

There were relatively small teams of highly motivated individuals that accomplished those feats. You are talking about getting a consensus among hundreds of millions of people and the pay of countless different jobs, and using the already over burdened justice system to make it happen.

You'll have to show me where this has worked on a smaller scale before we could even start discussing this as an option for the country.

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

Your claim that it is easier to put a man on the moon and split an atom and transplant a heart than it is to adjudicate a few hundred claims is absurd and I know you were not able to keep a straight face when you wrote that.

The federal government has employed up to 6.6 million people in nearly every job category and, shockingly, they manage to come up with a pay plan.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

unions need to be democratic

[-] 1 points by DemandTheGoodLifeDotCom (3213) from New York, NY 2 years ago

That pretty much sums it up. Democracy is the solution.

Governments need to be democratically owned and controlled. The economy needs to be democratically owned and controlled. The allocation of income needs to be democratically owned and controlled.

And if we have a union that is representing the interests of workers, that union needs to be democratically owned and controlled.

[-] 2 points by beautifulworld (21374) 2 years ago

This is so true. The Walker vote appears on the surface to be about unions, but it is fundamentally about workers' rights. The unions have failed miserably by co-opting power from labor and as Friedman says becoming authorities over workers. There is a real opening here for labor to take a different kind of path. A labor party, perhaps?

[-] -1 points by RealityTime2 (-25) 2 years ago

It's about ending a terrible conflict of interest. People are sick of their government services being held hostage by a special interest group. They're sick of them setting the negotiating table at the ballot box where they elect politicians that then return the favor and sell out everyone else.

When did liberals stop caring about what government does and only about piling on the protections and insulation for the employees?

Unions are fine, just not in government.

[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (21374) 2 years ago

Unions have failed miserably in both the public and private sector. Labor needs to rally around another method altogether. American workers deserve better and need to wake up from the dream and shun the decades of brainwashing.

[-] 1 points by AlwaysIntoSomething (42) 9 months ago

" by establishing unions and union and party leaders as authorities over the workers themselves."

Good point.

[-] 1 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 2 years ago

One would think in the servive economy-whatever the hell that is- unions would be on the rise.

[-] 1 points by writerconsidered123 (344) 2 years ago

envy is the real problem. Insteady of people say gee we all should have those union benefits, they say hey I don't get those benefits why should they get them?

[-] 1 points by stevebol (1269) from Milwaukee, WI 2 years ago

After recent events in WI it should be obvious that someone needs to start a labor party and unions should lead the way. The union that has discussed this possibilty-the Teamsters- is not held in high regard by other unions but in fact they're the most forward thinking of all the unions. They aren't stuck in the Stalin era like these other unions.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

congress seems to sitting on their hands

[-] 0 points by DKAtoday (26518) from Coon Rapids, MN 2 years ago

Because they are.

[-] -3 points by peacup (-44) from Murray, KY 2 years ago

Unions need to be shutdown. They violate the Constitution, specifically Freedom of Association (or freedom FROM association, because it cuts both ways). You cannot fundamentally force people into a group they don't want to belong to against their will. That's why mandatory union membership and dues confiscation needs to be outlawed.

Give individuals the right to choose their own destiny. If they want to belong to a union, they can. If they don't, don't force them.

[-] 0 points by factsrfun (6616) from Phoenix, AZ 2 years ago

“Right to work” is about helping out the 1% during wages discussions it is also the government getting involved in private contracts.

The reason this is so important to the 1% is that if there are union shops and non-union shops, people will go to the union shops because the quality of work will be much better there.

Business owners will have to be union shops to get business, and people will earn fair wages.

This is not so good for the people who own things and want to keep as much of the money for themselves as they can.