Tag: labor movement

Movements Are Visionary, Not Cautious

Craig Axford | Canada

Hearings, dialogue and debate are, or at least should be, means to an end in a functioning democratic society. Unfortunately, they’re too often ends unto themselves. Promising to study a problem or hold a hearing “to look into it” is what politicians do to make it appear as though they’re interested without ever having to risk their necks by endorsing a particular idea.

So when likely incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced plans to bring back a select committee on climate change that had been disbanded by the previous Republican majority, it was reasonable for some of the incoming freshmen Democrats to question its real purpose. If committee hearings are going to be held, they’re insisting the hearings be about meaningful climate legislation instead of even more learned testimony on science that’s was settled long ago. As Evan Weber of the Sunrise Movement put it to Politico, “We’ve been talking about the science for the past two decades.”

The incoming Democratic House majority will find it tempting to spend much of the next two years doing little more than poring over Donald Trump’s tax returns, which they will presumably issue a subpoena for early next year. Likewise, the current administration’s cabinet is full of individuals as venal as their chief. It will certainly be refreshing to finally see them all held accountable for their misconduct.

That said, governments don’t build and retain confidence among their citizens merely by diligently investigating corruption. People have proven over and over again that they are willing to tolerate a great deal of unethical behavior in their leaders if, in exchange, they feel they are receiving a reasonable degree of economic and physical security, or even just listened to.

The GOP has mastered the art of creating the illusion that people are getting something in return when they vote for them. Whether it’s so-called “tax relief” or protecting jobs by getting tough on immigration, the Republican Party has consistently been able to convince a significant number of Americans it’s looking out for them even as it stabs them in the back. The antidote to their misleading and often dangerous rhetoric isn’t hearings; it’s direct positive action that translates into real change people can actually see and feel in their lives.

The leadership of the Democratic Party would be wise, therefore, to embrace incoming Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s call for the creation of a select committee that instead of just talking about climate change is charged with drafting legislation to do something about it. She is calling it the “Select Committee on a Green New Deal”.

The select committee shall have authority to develop a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan (hereinafter in this section referred to as the “Plan for a Green New Deal” or the “Plan”) for the transition of the United States economy to become carbon neutral and to significantly draw down and capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality. ~ Section 2 A(i) of the Draft Text for Proposed Addendum to House Rules for 116TH Congress of The United States

 Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution is similar in its approach, if not yet in its level of detail, to Canada’s Leap Manifesto. That document translates the progressive principles that emerged from the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s into concrete proposals aimed at achieving both equality and sustainability.

We want a universal program to build energy efficient homes, and retrofit existing housing, ensuring that the lowest income communities and neighbourhoods will benefit first and receive job training and opportunities that reduce poverty over the long term…We declare that “austerity” — which has systematically attacked low-carbon sectors like education and healthcare, while starving public transit and forcing reckless energy privatizations — is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth.~ Leap Manifesto (Emphasis included in original)

I had the privilege of working as a DNC organizer for three years. I was hired as part of Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy following his election as Chair of the DNC in 2005. Dean’s vision for party-building paid off in 2006 when the Democrats took back Congress, and again in 2008 when Barack Obama won the presidency.

However, the organizing effort that arose from John Kerry’s defeat in 2004 took place in the context of growing opposition to the war in Iraq and a Democratic Party galvanized against the domestic policies of George W. Bush. Then as now, opposition was the driving unifying force on the left. The failure to clearly and consistently articulate what it was for quickly came back to haunt it in 2010.

Yes, there was the passage of Obamacare in 2009, but Democrats have traveled so far from the eloquence and clarity of leaders like JFK and RFK that even when debating universal healthcare they sound wonkish and inconsistent. As I learned upon my temporary return to the United States from Canada last year, even under Obamacare, plans with high premiums and deductibles are still the norm. Mandating the purchase of insurance that doesn’t really provide much coverage is a curious policy to emerge from a political party with a base that consistently argues healthcare is a right, not a privilege.

The Green New Deal and Leap Manifesto offer the left a way out of the political wilderness they’ve been wandering in since at least 1980. These initiatives provide something to be for. They can finally transform the left of the 21st century into a movement that wants to say YES! to something.

By uniting both labor and the environmental movement behind an effort that creates good paying jobs while providing the public with clean technologies that improve lives in both rural and urban communities, the Democratic Party could ensure itself decades of majority status not unlike the one it enjoyed from the 1930s through 1994. It seems like the obvious choice for them to make. So what’s taking Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Leadership so long?

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com

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Labor Unions Destroyed the Sanctity of the Worker

By Dylan Anders | @realdylananders

In a society abundant with lies, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, what makes us ‘free’ is what keeps us in chains. This goes for many facets of society; we believe we are strengthened by numbers, and as such, we collectivize each other. We are placed in a group from birth, depending on class, among others. Society fails to realize that the smallest minority in the world is in fact the individual. We orient ourselves to think in a way as to how legislation will affect a group based upon the supposed traits that may or may not be true.

This disposition is also found in labor unions that follow a range of circumstances where workers are put into a collectivist pool that does not care of the troubles of each and every individual. There is a financial struggle placed on the common worker and the inability to escape it that leads to their demise in the work field. In current iterations of labor unions, the laborer will, more times than not, find greater destruction of his or her economic freedom than benefits.

Labor Unions and the Free Market

Some creations from years and years ago may now be obsolete; 8 track tapes, payphones, and Congress are all cases of this. Labor unions are another such example. A free market, with only voluntary unions (not involved in government), in the current economy with superb job mobility may provide what labor unions had originally promised. The labor movement of many years ago, as put by History.com,  “…grew out of the need to protect the common interest of workers. For those in the industrial sector, organized labor unions fought for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions.” 

Coercion and Freedom

The vision in this is a concept of individual worker rights through voluntary bargaining. Simply put, these goals of worker freedom are not present today, as were before. The key contrast from then and now is worker choice. Randall G. Holcombe illustrated the difference between coercive association and voluntarism in labor unions. He emphasized that the hand of “labor law has given unions the power to dictate to employees collective bargaining conditions, and has deprived employees of the right to bargain for themselves regarding their conditions of employment.”

The lack of voluntarism in unions clearly should be counter-intuitive, but this has been the reality for a very long time. Sanctions are given for failure to comply with obligatory rules of labor laws regarding unions. In current, modern forms of unions, the worker simply is not satisfied and is disregarded in his or her rights of freedom of association in their compulsory activities with such unions.

The financial goals of early unions dealt with the idea of “livable wages,” a phrase often heard even to this day. The workers of the Industrial Revolution faced the hardships of more than humble pay, which was not enough to support a family. This time period, in the absence of unions, is often used to counter the argument against such unions, due to the severity of the time of industrialization. The push to fix this turned into a monster after economists realized the detrimental effects to the economy by way of minimum wage increases.

A Forced Living Wage Hurts Consumers

James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation recognized that if employers must raise wages for the sake of the law, they compensate for a profit loss when they “…pass on those higher wages to consumers through higher prices, and often they also earn lower profits. Economic research finds that unions… hurt consumers generally, and especially workers who are denied job opportunities.” The blow an economy of a certain market takes in this does not come unnoticed.

Consumers (which include the common worker as well) pay more for their goods. This is only a part of the equation; once employers are involuntarily forced to pay their employees more, they are left to fire workers, thus increasing unemployment. Increased wages will undoubtedly seem like a positive to all, but, throughout the last few decades, as Mises explained, “wherever and whenever the unions succeeded in raising wage rates above the potential market rate, i.e., above the amount the workers would have earned without union interference, ‘institutional’ unemployment developed as a lasting phenomenon.”

Many Left in the Dark

Sure, unions have raised wages, but these institutions are giving a smaller percentage of workers these wages, leaving plenty of unemployed union workers to starve. Evidently, labor unions fail their members financially, leaving the average laborer in a worse position financially with higher market prices and reduced employment rates.

Many wonderful concepts from brilliant minds may be useless in practice, where its flaws become ever so clear. Labor unions, institutions promising to help the worker, disappoint rather than support. In fact, unions have hit the polar opposite of the mark. Research findings regarding union worker satisfaction show “…when it comes to job satisfaction, the economic advantages of union jobs are not sufficient to compensate for job content and work environment factors.

It comes as no surprise to the job satisfaction researcher that job content — the nature of the tasks people are given to do — weighs heavily in overall job satisfaction scores.” Union workers find themselves trapped in a coercive group that causes unemployment and increased prices of goods, all due to the push for increased wages. Serious reform to the current system must occur before labor unions are considered to be a viable benefit to the worker.

A Never-Ending Game of Failure

The workers of America go to work everyday, in constant hopes of success. They wonder if it may be a never-ending game they are forced to play, with no real end, only a struggle. Workers may look for the escape from their troubles they cannot fight, though they try. It is sometimes a saddening spectacle to observe.

Even the strongest of us humans may fall victim to those in power. A god among men, Sisyphus, of Greek mythology was forced to push a boulder up a mountain perpetually, but “at the very end of his long effort measured by skyless space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward that lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit.” The common man and women face this same dilemma. He or she may look, as any would, to escape what enslaves them. The labor force, unionized, is what will leave them in chains. And they may never know it.


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