The More Things Change...

Got my Jan-Feb 2012 issue of the UMWA Journal recently and read this on page 2:

UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL

The time has come when all members of the working class must sink their petty differences and personal political opinions, and take a united and definite position. The great danger is… the capitalist class will, by means of their entrenched power in government, judiciary, the public press and financial organizations…obtain such a hold upon society that the work of redemption will be frustrated for generations to come. While the working class divide their energies and divide political parties…the capitalist class will move solidly along [its] well-defined purpose.

That's pretty much what I've been thinking lately.  I think that's at least part of what the "We are the 99%" protests have been trying to convey.

Depressingly enough, it appeared in the UMW Journal 100 years ago, on January 18, 1912. I think of all that my grandfathers struggled and fought for, and how much of it has been taken away from us.  Even the eight-hour day, which organized labor won as a right through years of difficult, dangerous, and deadly strikes and protests, is all but gone.

Let's say you work at a university or a company.  You have your "hourly wage" employees and your "salaried" employees.  Everybody knows it's much better to be a salaried employee, right?  More money, better career track, better benefits (well...as long as you can hang on to them),  and the cachet of being salaried.  No wage slave are you!  No mucking about with unions for your highly educated and trained self!  Unions are for the lower class of employees, the lesser skilled, the less important, the interchangeable parts.  You are a unique individual and you don't need a union to represent you!  You represent yourself!  You are your own brand! Just look at your web page!  People follow you on Twitter!  [Follow me @TSZuska ! For realz!] You aren't one of those nine-to-fivers who work just to live, you live for your work.  Every now and then you'll agree that a St. K3rn takes it a bit too far, but really, you've got to put in the long hours to get results and you need to show you are dedicated researcher/company person.  You're online, tuned in, available 24/7; work comes home with you, and you live with your work.  In 1848 French workers won a 12-hour workday. There are PIs today who would question those French workers' dedication.  Only 12 hours? "Science doesn't stop at 5 on Fridays," as my master's thesis advisor said.

But what good would a union do?  Science/industry/God demands the sacrifice of your time and no progress can be made without it.  However will the coal mines operate if we don't have the tiny hands of children to pick the slate out of the coal at the breakers? The main point is that you are an individual and you are going to make it to the top.  Remember, we don't talk about haves and have-nots in this country.  We speak of haves, and soon-to-haves.

 

Fifty years ago, Rep. Elmer Holland (D.-PA) was quoted in the pages of the February 1, 1962 UMW Journal as follows:

It’s all too easy to dream up reasons why the labor movement should be shackled even more. And if the labor movement is not alert that is precisely what will happen.

If you don't believe Elmer Holland, you just go ask Scott Walker and the Koch brothers!

Twenty-five years ago, UMWA members were being urged to buy American-made goods, even if they cost more, and to complain to stores if they could not find what they wanted made in America.  But WalMart is so cheap!  And now that our unions have been crushed, our wages curtailed, our benefits taken away, and job security just some vague dream we once heard about, who can afford to "buy American"?  If, indeed, there's anything left made in America after the orgy of right-sizing and down-sizing and out-sourcing moved most of our manufacturing base elsewhere.

The Philadelphia Inquirer business section yesterday explained how Dansko would love to move all its manufacturing back into the U.S.  The main reason it can't is not wages.

Even if the company were to offer U.S. workers wages similar to what it pays in Italy - $18 to $20 an hour - its founders say there would remain the fundamental issue of where to find people with the expertise, or the desire, to take those jobs, given how shoemaking as an industry has been decimated.

"It's really about there's no knowledge - no knowledge, no support structure," Kjellerup said. "Because if you had that, I think America could be competitive in manufacturing."

And so we have the conundrum of a company that would like to pay good wages to make its product in America, but can't, thanks to decades of outsourcing.

3 responses so far

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Let's say you work at a university or a company. You have your "hourly wage" employees and your "salaried" employees. Everybody knows it's much better to be a salaried employee, right?

    Tracy Kidder dealt with this more than 30 years ago in Soul of a New Machine. One of the elite top-tier engineers working on the new system design runs across a discarded paystub of a tech working under him. And finds that from working the same long hours as the engineer, the tech makes substantially more.

    And it's just gotten more so, except that the law has changed so that several "technician" jobs like system administrator that have required on-duty times have now been redefined as exempt.

    • greg says:

      I bet I could dig up a dozen posts on scienceblogs and scientopia about science-doesn't-stop-at-5pm crap, or how there are only so many people and everyone's depending on you and and blah blah. It's not like you couldn't do the exact same science with more people working for a bit shorter hours. It would just cost more than setting up a convincing system of fairy tales that gets people working longer hours for less $.

      BTW, re occupations are coming. I went to a planning meeting for one on thursday. Be ready, be there, no buts. The chance won't come again.

  • Cara says:

    Really, spambot? How marvelous. What kind of thoughts were boosted into your head? Are you going to buy American? Or are you someone to whom our good solid American spamwork has been outsourced?

    How much do you get paid to do this work? Are you a member of a union? Or is spamming piecework? I hope you're not in a sweatshop. 🙁