Predatory industries — making millions by helping billionaires squeeze pennies out of working class people — are a tragic indicator of our having reached what I call “the cancer stage of capitalism”
OK, folks, the old-timer speaks.
I was born in 1933 (don't do the math) and represent the last generation to enjoy the middle class prosperity Thom writes about. Also the last generation for which the American Dream of upward mobility was real and achievable. Our children have not and cannot do as well as my wife and I have managed. (Good education, hard work, a comfortable retirement. [Hell, we live like kings: our paid-for home, generous pension income, nutritious food, Medicare, no real worries.]) Our children are still working, already past the age of my retirement. Our grandchildren's futures are bleak, our great-granddaughter's future is hopeless.
The "morbidly rich" (love that term) predators who busted unions, exported manufacturing jobs, offloaded defined-benefit pension plans, etc., did far more than decimate the middle class. They sentenced the American economy to a slow death, because their actions are strangling the stupendous buying power the vibrant middle class represented. Consumer buying drives the economy, and the middle class was by far the greatest source of that.
In the early 1900's Henry Ford had a real epiphany: intuitively he recognized the importance of middle-class purchases to the survival of his company. He also recognized he wasn't paying his workers middle class wages. So, long before the United Auto Workers Union was organized, he unilaterally doubled those wages. The company flourished, and the American economy benefited, too.
Many decades later Henry's successors at Ford closed some plants in Michigan and built some in Mexico, to exploit the dirt-cheap labor there. The American autoworkers left behind lost their incomes--and hence their ability to buy cars. The Mexican workers weren't paid enought to buy cars, either.
Who was left, still earning enough to buy the cars? I was. I was by now a tenured full professor at a small university in the west: a product of the American Dream. So Ford kept selling cars to people like me--people in my generation who could easily afford them.
My generation has a life-expectancy probably in single digits. Who will buy Fords when we're gone?
The American economy is headed directly for a cliff. The buying power to support it has dwindled. The morbidly rich will prosper, transnationalizing their manufacturing corporations (and markets, notably in China), while the rest of you will live in squalor. (Not me: I will escape in the only certain way possible.)
"If something doesn't change," a wise friend once observed, "we're going to get where we're headed."
That looks to me like the Hunger Games scenario.
Thanks once again, Thom, for another heads-up.
Make something change, folks.
Thank you Thom for once again pointing out how important unions are in helping people enjoy a middle class life. Many times you have told the important story of your childhood and about your dad working in a union tool and die shop. I have never heard you say witch union until todays RANT. I have been a VERY PROUD member of the Machinists Union for 57 years. I have been retired since 2008 but continue to pay my dues. I was a Grand Lodge Representative for nineteen plus years and negotiated dozens of good union contracts. I handled all the National Labor Relations Board work in the Southern Territory for the IAMAW during the Reagan years. In many cases a member would have a legitimate Board charge and I would file a claim with the Board. In the same breath I had to tell them that the Board would more than likely render a decision in favor of the employer. Most of these charges came during organizing campaigns. Reagan's Secretary Of Labor; Ray Donavan; began removing Board Members- many forced to retire- and replacing them with corporate attorney's. It was pure hell dealing with this bunch of union busting hatful people. Thom I truly appreciate all that you do for our great nation. UNION YES; UNION STRONG. Just a PS to let you know that I will share your RANT with all my Facebook friends, mostly union. Also I will intend to ask them to listen to your show, let them know your phone number, and encourage them to subscribe to your daily Rant, Hartman Report.
As one of your frequent guests has promoted, democracy at work goes beyond unions. Employees must own the means of production. Employees must decide how the profit they create is used. Employees as owners would not polute their communities. Employees as owners won't send their jobs overseas. Employees as owners won't allow profit to accumulate with and empower oligarch employers. Employees as owners bring real democracy to the workplace. Capitalism is authoritarian system and we need a democratic economic system.
If you’re looking at the issues and policies that confront labor from the perspective of a public sector decision-maker who has pledged to do her best to promote our general welfare and protect us from the bad guys using best practices, the questions become, what’s the best way for our government to manage the relationship between labor and capital? Which country is already doing it better than the rest, (i.e., the country which is the role model for other democracies to manage the relationship)? How can America transition to becoming a role model for the rest of the world? Of course, today’s corporate citizenship will likely control any regulatory, legislative, and judicial decisions to dump all over things, so great unions (that do all those things Thom listed) are an essential source of countervailing power against the morbidly rich. We need a bunch more progressives in decision-making positions to fight back, because, as John Mack said of his peers on Wall Street, “Regulators have to be much more involved. We cannot control ourselves.” No shit.
This was deeply instructional, so thank you. But as for the Reagan part - I knew that about him and REVILED him then and still call him THE WORST president we've ever had. Sure, Trump was and is deeply criminal and still creates chaos. But Reagan ROBBED us blind - of democracy, of our middle class - which has had a longer and more chilling effect than the blatantly idiotically criminal Donald Trump. Hands down - Reagan THE WORST.
IF I go into a Starbucks (I'm not likely to - I was sick for a very long time, had an organ transplant at the end of it, and am just surviving on Social Security). Healthy but poor. I will order as "Union Strong" or some other aid to the baristas there.
BUT what we are in Very Deep Peril now of completely losing our democracy. And the Democrats somehow have not caught on! My hair is on fire - but they seem to be just "chillin'". I don't understand when all the red flags are flying high as warning signs. What ARE we going to do??? I get pleas by text daily to DONATE. I'm POOR - I can't donate to your asses! YOU - hit the bricks. Speak out. DO MORE. Scary times. Indeed
Thank you, Thom. I was off to college also in ‘67.
What about boycotting? In addition to paying higher gas prices to support the Ukraine efforts, also adding profits to the gas companies unfortunately, I hear, would it not be a powerful contribution to boycott these companies? Wouldn’t that hit them at their core?
I am tempted to do what I did in the very recent past, that being to put words such as, then, “Humane treatment for immigrants“ on the back window of my car, when children were being taken away from their parents. (OMGosh, just remembering, now it’s more greatly known that indigenous children were taken away from their parents between the early 1800’s up to early, mid 1900, to Native-de-culutralize them.)
But, putting a sign now in my window about boycotting would nearly undoubtedly draw very unfortunate repercussions. How spread resistance nowadays? I guess, by word of mouth to each other, those of us low on the media totem pole.
But, you are getting away with saying a lot, Thom; what do you think about suggesting boycotting?
"stock distributions as compensation were illegal then"
Funny how this is seen as completely normal by most people now. 30-50% of compensation in the upper echelons is via equity.
My grandpa was a big advocate of unions. One of the last things he told me was of the importance of organized labor. This was in ~1995 when I was just starting working as an auto mechanic at a lube shop. He saw the Reagan revolution and the harm it was causing to industrial and rural Pennsylvania.
Unions are always popular with educated people.
Educated workers know that they will have a more fair and safer workplace if it's union.
Educated employers know that they will have a more profitable workplace if it's union.
The only issue is getting both to understand unions help everyone.
When I was a shop steward, I found that MOST of my coworkers didn't understand the history of our union.
Our union had been formed after employers got royally P.O.ed at strikes shutting them down.
Long story short, owners and workers agreed on a 100% union work place, with employer reps sitting on the union board and union reps sitting on the employer board, and pay determined by productivity. If productivity increased, employees got half. If productivity decreased, employees gave up half. All employees were represented so no employee was allowed to call a strike without the union.
At the time I worked there, the last strike was SIXTY YEARS AGO, thanks to the union.
I quit the union when the majority voted to make sure 40 hour employees made more than part time. Until then, pay was based on service hours, after so many hours working, you got the pay. Teachers and other dependable adults could work evenings for full pay after about 5 years. Department heads like me could work less during summer's slower sales season, and enjoy camping and fishing more, then work 60 hour weeks during busy season.
When the employees voted, against the advice of union management, to make full time pay peak at 20% higher than anyone else, the result was obvious. The employers never hired another full time employee from that moment on. Now, I go into stores and it's 100% part time employees. Service is quite a bit worse when NOBODY has 5 years, much less 35.
Covid was definitely a wake-up call for America's workforce. Unions had been telling this country they were essential long before the pandemic. They are also experts on work safety, much more so than any owner or managers. Unions have saved countless lives.
I have been union and later management over my work-life and have seen the best and worst of both. All of it can be chalked-up to human nature. The unions are necessary for the sake of everyone. Just the threat that they can be formed has driven wages up, even for managers.
We were forced to attend those despicable union busting/prevention meetings---so many lies. There should be legislation to make attendance on a voluntary basis only.