Tag: Workers

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: The Fast Food Workers Movement – The Ants on the Elephant by Geminijen

“We are the Workers, the Mighty, Mighty Workers

Everywhere We Go,

The People Want to Know

Who We Are, So We Tell Them…
.”

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As I walked toward the demo of the Fast Food Workers in Union Square, I heard the words and sounds of this song and couldn’t help but grin.  We were back!  The workers that is – not the “middle class,” not the “deserving poor”, not “the 99%.” As a working class kid from a union factory family, I got it.  Not only because you can’t really go around shouting “Middle Class of the World Unite” or “We are the Mighty Mighty Middle Class” – let’s face, it, it just doesn’t resonate – but because the very concept of “worker” which this movement seems to grasp intuitively changes the very nature of the struggle.  

“The Middle Class,” “the poor” and even “the 99%” define us in terms of how much wealth we have or do not have, regardless of how we got it, in the upwardly mobile mantra of Capitalism. As workers we are defined, instead, by what we do, how we appropriate the materials and provide the services necessary for the survival and comfort of the human species. And that is a pretty important difference.



Obama’s “middle class” framing of all that is good and important in society (and god know we all want a better lifestyle) is no more than the standard capitalist divide and conquer, the promise of individual upward mobility for the few at the expense of the many.  You too can be one of the chosen. And we often buy into it. We want to see ourselves as “better” because we have been able to buy our own home, or send our children to “private” or “charter” schools.  And we rationalize that it is because we deserve it – we’re smarter, more industrious, stronger, our skills are more necessary–not due to the whim of the time and place we were born into or that our skills and success are built on the back of the skills and hard work of others.

All of us have known an aunt who raised kids, worked outside the home all her life, carried on intelligent conversations about the world’s problems, worked for the community and has ended up relatively destitute.  What is her value? Is she poor because she deserved it?  How about many of our young people today who bought the American Dream, worked hard, even went to college if they could afford it and now, through the vagaries of capitalism are jobless or working in low paying jobs that will not allow them to get that middle class dream (unless they can still inherit it from their parents)?

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The term “workers” reunites the labor movement by removing the distinction between the mostly white, working middle class (who usually got their middle class lifestyle through union benefits that their grandfathers fought for) and the less affluent workers who are often people of color, single mothers, immigrants, and increasingly young college educated workers who missed out on the brass ring due to the recent failing economy. As one worker put it:

“I don’t care if you’re blue collar, white, collar, pink collar or no collar — all of us have value.  Have you ever stopped to think how hard people work?  The people who cook for you, the bus driver who drives you to work in the morning?  The people who clean your house and your clothes?  Have you ever stopped to say ‘thank you’?  If you don’t know how to do that job, or if you don’t want to do that job, the best way to say thank you, no matter how much you make, is to stand in solidarity with us and RAISE THE MINIMUM wage!”

Who Can Live on Today’s Minimum Wage?

If you're stuck working minimum wage jobs like I am, you know what everyone else who earns the lowest pay allowed by law knows: You can't live on minimum wage, certainly not on the part-time hours employers give.

That's why it's heartening to see fast food workers across the nation going on strike to demand better pay.  I pull in $8.30 an hour at around twenty hours a week.  I can't afford even the cheapest of apartments on that.  As a single white male with no dependents, I am ineligible for most public assistance, including welfare, housing assistance, and medical assistance (Medicaid).  I get a pittance in food stamps every month, but it's not enough to keep me fed on a regular basis.  I'm lucky if I can eat once a day.

My entire paycheck is spent paying bills before I even get it deposited to my bank account, which is typically at or near empty.  That is the reality for me and for everyone else who works a minimum wage job.

Some stupid motherfucker was posting on a friend's Facebook page yesterday about how unfair it would be if fast food workers got an increase in wages to earn the same amount as he does in his construction job, because he doesn't expect that an increase in the minimum wage would necessarily bring an increase in his own pay.  According to him, we minimum wage monkeys don't do any real labor, and therefore don't deserve to make anywhere near the same amount of money as someone whose job involves backbreaking physical labor.  This same stupid asshole thinks that we can get higher paying jobs if we wanted to, and that we don't want to.  Bullshit.  If I could get a job working construction, I'd be working it right now.  I've applied for those jobs and they haven't even granted so much as one interview.  Most require that I have my own transportation, which I can't afford because I don't make enough to afford my own vehicle.  Those that don't haven't deigned to give me an interview either.

I can tell you right now that this ignoramus wouldn't last even one full shift working at McDonald's.  He couldn't keep up with the fast pace, and he certainly couldn't deal with impatient, often angry customers, standing on his feet for eight hours or more.  I've done that and it's exhausting.  My back is still screwed up from nearly three years of bending over a work table marinating, trussing, and spitting chicken carcasses for roasting, and I left that job in 2005 — eight years ago.  These days I grind lenses for an eyewear company for barely above my state's minimum wage.  I have to clock out for lunch if I work over six hours, costing me a half hour's pay, because the corporation for which I work doesn't want to pay me for a shift that's long enough to necessitate taking a few minutes to restore my energy levels.

News articles about the fast food strike state that the demand for fifteen dollars per hour would raise pay for full-time workers to thirty-one thousand annually, more than double the current annual average of fifteen thousand.  Some, however, quote workers pointing out that most minimum wage jobs don't provide full time hours.  They allow twenty or under, meaning someone like me might make $7,500 a year or less, and very often it's a lot less.

In an article on NBC Washington, it's revealed that financial woes actually have a negative impact on a person's IQ.  That is, the sheer stress of not being able to afford even the basics, like adequate food and drink, is literally making people dumber.  Starvation wages lead to actual starvation, so the body can't get the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy brain.  Financial worries force people to devote more of their mental power to worrying over how they'll afford to live, leaving much less time and energy for other matters.

Who the hell can live on the current minimum wage?  No one, not without public assistance, which is already slashed to the bone with Republicans and Democrats cutting the social safety net even further.  Many of us are either homeless or soon shall be (myself included).  No one is out there advocating for us.  No one is doing a damned thing to lighten our financial burden.  The vast majority of our tax dollars (yes, we poor folk do pay taxes) go to fund wars and Wall Street, with things like education, housing, food, and Social Security getting less and less.  Yet we're told by ignorant assholes to “suck it up”, stop asking for “handouts”, to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and make do or die.  If we could do that on what we get paid, we would.  But we can't, and even though we work and pay taxes (unlike the obscenely rich), we aren't allowed to have a say in how our tax dollars are spent.

So what's to be done?  Well, I don't know about you, but I for one have no intention of crossing any picket lines, and neither should you.  Don't let striking fast food workers do this all by themselves.  Support them in whatever way you can.  Join them, in fact.  If you know in your heart that everyone has the right to work “a useful and remunerative job” that pays enough to live on, then join them in solidarity and demand an increase in the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour.  Call and write members of Congress in both houses, call and write the White House, march on Washington in the millions and shut the place down, join striking workers on the picket line, donate whatever money and food you can afford to help people who are starving.

This country and this planet are going to hell in a hand basket, but only if We the people let them.  Don't let them.

World-Inferno Politrix Social Club

(Cross-dressed from The Free Speech Zone)

Goldman Rejects Claims Made by Outgoing Executive

Goldman Sachs Exec Resignation

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is wasting no time fighting back against a disgruntled executive who lit up the Internet Wednesday morning by tendering his resignation via the op-ed pages of the New York Times.

The executive, Greg Smith, blasted Goldman for betraying its historic culture and putting profits ahead of client interests. He said Goldman executives talk openly about ripping off their clients, who sometimes are referred to internally as “muppets.”  His incendiary take on Goldman culture quickly became a flashpoint on Twitter and elsewhere. It doesn’t exactly jibe with doing “God’s work.”

A Goldman official confirmed that Mr. Smith, who worked for the Wall Street firm for nearly 12 years, most recently in London, resigned from Goldman this morning.

http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/201…

Mondragon Miracle Part 3 of 3: Lessons Learned

“Nothing differentiates people as much as their respective attitudes to the circumstances in which they live. Those who opt to make history and change the course of events themselves have an advantage over those who decide to wait passively for the results of the change.”

SisyphusOver and over, I see commentary asserting we are stuck with our current cultural norms. The “rational” people of the world patiently explain to me how I am too idealistic. I am na├»ve and believe too deeply in the good nature of most people. Yet, the rational people only have their assertions to stand on. History is fraught with examples of people who fought for and won real change. People like the Basques in Mondragon. They created lasting change under deplorable conditions. Even a cursory review of history shows change occurs when and where people decide to change. You don’t live in a feudal monarchy rife with slaves and infanticide-all well ingrained institutions the Ancient Greeks considered necessary evils of civilization-because people decided to change.

In the first part of this series, I described how a Jesuit priest named Don Jose created a Basque cooperative–Mondragon. He could hardly have started from a more impossible position. Basque was severely oppressed, poor and under a harsh dictatorship. His Church considered him a pariah, and he was a poor speaker and sermon writer. Yet, he refused to dwell on his disadvantages, concentrating on finding Basque strengths, instead.

In part two, we examined Don Jose’s unique genius in organizing his local society. He felt it was never necessary for someone to win while someone else lost. That scenario showed a lack of ingenuity. He examined problems until he saw a solution allowing the common good for everyone.

Some argue Mondragon arose from Basque because a specific set of non-reproducible circumstances existed. To me, that sounds like rationalization to let ourselves off the hook for not seeking to better our world. While I agree Mondragon originated in Basque due to a specific set of circumstances, clearly those factors are not needed to reproduce cooperative society.

What may be necessary is a certain environment in order to affect positive change. This post will look at some of the factors influencing people’s willingness to change during the creation of Mondragon and how to use those factors to enable change in our own culture.

People to Remember on Labor Day

A diary from 2007, cross-posted at Daily Kos and Progressive Blue.

On this holiday there are so many Americans who deserve a moment of our time, the people who fought and died for the simplest benefits in an attempt to end a new form of American slavery. This relentless oppression is nothing new but it does seem to thrive in a country with the bloodiest history of labor of any industrialized nation. The Matewan Journals places the whole present day struggle in perspective.

Those of us at the bottom of the income scale are involved in a war. It is not a war of bullets, mortar shells, bombs and tanks, but it is a war just the same, and people are dying. We didn’t start this war. It is not a war with us but a war on us. We didn’t ask for it, we don’t want it, and if we could we’d sue for peace. It is not a war we can win in any final way, ever. We are outgunned, overmatched, and trapped in a swamp. The enemy controls our food, our shelter, our health, and our livelihoods. He rarely shows pity, breaks every truce within hours, and chips away at us every day as if we were emotionless blocks of ice he is hoping to whittle down until we just melt away.

The only advantage we the workers ever had was our numbers, there are far more of us then them. Most of the other advantages that Americans fought for seem to be gone now.

Mondragon Miracle Part II of III: The Genius of Don Jose

It’s been a rather tough week for capitalists. With people waking up from the illusion of money and riots erupting in otherwise reserved England, I almost feel a little sorry for the advocates of Milton Friedman. Almost.

As you scrape together your last dollars to exchange for gold and throw another bucket of water on your burning London flat, have you considered abandoning this system? There is a choice, you know. We choose to have this system and all the pain that comes with it. Not offering opposition to a bad system is making a choice to continue with the dysfunction.

What’s that? You didn’t know you had choices? No one has explained to you the alternatives? Well, if you don’t feel obligated to ride this sinking ship to the bottom of the ocean, come along with us as we start talking solutions.

In Part I of this three part series, we discussed the history of a little known cooperative venture called Mondragon. This company went from a twelve-man paraffin stove manufacturing plant to a conglomerate that holds Wal-mart at bay in miniscule country of Basque, and employs 130,000 people. The cooperative has a remarkable 80% success rate in business ventures, far outstripping the typical success rate of 20% (less in this market). It has consistently helped the Basque people strengthen their communities with education, health care, housing and a robust social safety net.  It creates jobs where none existed before, stabilizing their economy while nearby Spain and Portugal flounder.

How could this one company achieve such miraculous results? Well, it may actually be a divine intervention–through a Jesuit priest named Don Jose. In this segment, I delve deeper into Don Jose’s unique genius in devising the Mondragon system.

The Big ‘trickle down’ Con!

Everyone seems focused on this comment answer to a regular folk:

“Corporations are people, my friend.”

And to a degree they should be no matter what the corporate controlled supreme’s say. But it’s the Con phrase following that should also raise the ire:

“Of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people.”

Mondragon Miracle, Part 1 of 3: Building the Road We Travel

1941, Office of the Archbishop of Spain:

“They just released you?” Archbishop Balbino Oliver eyed the priest standing before his desk with suspicion. Something about the young man unsettled him.

“I believe it was in error. They did not realize I had written so much against Franco. When God spared my life, I enrolled in the seminary.”

He possessed humility. Good. Yet something about the eyes… “Even under the care of the church, Franco may not let you go so easily.”

“Yes, it is best if I left Spain. I could continue my writing in Belgium. I think I can…”

“God granted you a precious gift, my son.” The Bishop leaned back, considering. His left eye. That was it. “It would be unwise to waste the gift with further agitation of forces beyond your control.” Yes, his left eye stared back slightly wider, giving him a permanently quizzical expression. Father Bertolli had mentioned him losing his eye in an accident.

“But the work I’ve been doing…”

“Is against Church official policy.” The Archbishop leaned forward to study the documents the priest had presented him. “You are Basque, no?”

“Yes, but in Belgium…”

“Father Tillous requested an assistant in Mondragon, only 50 miles from where you grew up. Franco is unlikely to bother you, there.”

“Out there, he is unlikely to need to.” The young man bowed his head curtly, murmuring the obligatory goodbye.

The bishop’s gaze followed his receding figure. Even with his back turned, the young man disturbed him. Perhaps something other than his eye then…

Balbino had no way to know, he had just set Don Jose on course to change the world.

Do Washington State Democrats Have A Labor Problem? Let’s Ask Jay Inslee

OK: so I’ve been working what is, on one level, a Jay Inslee story (Inslee is the Congressman from Washington’s 1st District, now running for Governor in ’12), and, on another level, a story of why Democrats are having all kinds of problems with what should be “natural” constituencies – and why those problems might not be going away anytime soon.

I thought the two elements of this narrative would come together last Monday, when I attended the “announcement event” that marked the beginning of the Inslee Gubernatorial Campaign, and in fact they did…but it wasn’t in a way I would have expected, and that’s why we have something to talk about today.

I reached out to some helpful outside voices, including Inslee himself; all of that will be brought to the discussion – and as another news organization famously offers to do, I’ll report, and leave you to decide.

Sen. Mike Enzi’s ‘Pack of Lies’ vs. 9/11 Victims

The best people America has to offer have been getting sick and dying from their heroic efforts at the World Trad Center. As you can see from this recent Daily News front page, Mike Enzi is not the only Republican to tell the 9/11 first responders and heroes to drop dead.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act that provides $3.2 billion for long-term health care for rescue and construction workers at Ground Zero, plus another $4.2 billion in compensation for others who were exposed to airborne toxins will be out of time once the Republicans control the House.

These heroes who answered the call for help on September 11, 2001 and the horrible weeks that followed have been pushing hard for justice before it is too late. After a barrage of local media coverage, multiple visits to Washington from Ground Zero worker, victim’s family members pleading with the Senate and a huge bipartisan effort from tri-state politicians, one Republican has signed on. The rest have voices disagreement with Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand’s method of financing healthcare for heroes. The cloture count is now at 59 and their big day in the Senate is tomorrow.  

Now that there is some hope for a bill named after an NYPD detective who died at age 34 of a respiratory disease attributed to participation in the rescue and recovery operations at the World Trade Center, Mike Enzi is working hard to stop the bill from going forward. His reasoning is that the nation has already given enough.

Gulf Coast Residents are NOT the Problem. So What is?

Even though many of us have Disaster Fatigue, for scores of hundreds of local Gulf Residents, this BP Crisis is very much their recurring daily Nightmare.

BP Oil Spill Compensation Fund Not Living Up to Promise

NewsInferno.com, News that matters! — Sep 10, 2010

In an interview with USA Today, Feinberg promised a better response times as his staff weeds through old claims. “I’ve inherited a huge number of claims that have never been processed that need to be processed, especially business claims,” he said. Such claims, he said, were placed on a “side track” by BP when it was handling the process.

According to USA Today, more than 46,000 people have filed claims since Feinberg took charge. By September 8, his staff had paid 10,252 claims for nearly $80 million. Most claims paid are small, with payouts of $5,000 or less, USA Today said.

So Ken Feinberg has inherited an extensive paper trail of bureaucratic procrastination;

While the Gulf Coast Residents, simply keep reaping the BP whirlwind …

“Where America Stands”

With the construction industry in the toilet across all aspects and across the country believe me I know what this country has been ignoring, we have a big problem with doing that on a whole host of issues {like sending military into invading then long occupations and not listening to them thus not caring for many when they return}, for decades should have been at least more than just started to be taken care of {some states and communities did use stimulus monies for just that but once no money preventive maintenance, or replacement, once again stops} as the collapsed economy started and those with the wealth {that’s how most of theirs is made with breaks given on taxes enhanced development packages just to attract companies and much much more} should be main contributors to upgrading our Deteriorating Infrastructure, and it ain’t just bridges and roads!!

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