I’m working from home today, so I’m able to listen to the radio more than on a typical. What am I hearing? More and more about the royal baby and Anthony’s wiener. What’s the news on Detroit? It's bankrupt and there’s no other choice but to cut worker’s pensions. What’s the news in Chicago, a city that had its bond rating slashed? The city’s broke, and we must cut workers’ pensions. Meanwhile, here’s the latest on the royal baby and Anthony’s wiener.
The corporate media, better defined as the info-tainment industry, doesn’t focus on important matters and go below the surface. The budget problems in Detroit and Chicago have resolutions that are not discussed by shallow reporter who look like models. There is also no examination of the real winners and losers. When pensioners are asked to take reduced benefits, who wins? Investors and the bankers who care for their money as if it were a royal baby.
Retired workers and current employees that paid into pension plans expected to have security in retirement. They worked thinking that retirement was part of their compensation, not a resource owned by the city that could used to pay its debts. The problem here is not simply a matter of “resources,” as the Emergency Manager of Detroit put it. People’s lives are on the line, and we need to understand these stories with that in mind.
Government officials, bankers, and the investor class do not care about these people. They only know Return on Investment. They also know that most people will not pay attention to this story. They want the sensational story that’s easy to understand. Working people and the middle class need to wake up, or their wages – present and future – will be the next target.
P.S., Economist Dean Baker compares Detroit to an organization that the government bailed out, Goldman Sachs. Needless to say, the rich get richer.
The corporate media is nothing but a PR firm for big business. Every story I read or heard about the Hostess Strike pushed the same line: The workers are to blame. We heard the same story when teachers went on strike in Chicago. The corporate media hates workers.
Let’s look at this story in more detail. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos reports that the company is owned by a private equity firm. When the company went into bankruptcy a few years ago, workers took concessions. This time the bakers’ union refused to take concessions. According to Clawson, it wouldn’t matter anyway, since the company planned to close some plants and sell off the rest at a profit. She quotes the union president who says that the company has had six CEOs in the last eight years – none of them had a background in the baking industry.
Speaking of Hostess executives: Annie-Rose Strasser of Think Progress has found that the company’s CEO had his pay tripled (from $750,000 to $2.25 million) at the same time that the company was filing for bankruptcy and blaming the workers for its problems. Other executives received pay increases of as much as 80%. This seems a fitting reward for the executives who drove the company into the ground through debt restructuring.
Don’t blame the workers or the union. Blame the vultures that are eating the carcass of the working class. Blame the vampires that need more blood, so they break contracts and steal pensions. Blame the corporate media. It’s lying to you.
Writing in the New York Times, Susan Lambert, a Professor is the Social Work Program at the University of Chicago, explores the issue of women who work low wages and work “flexible” schedules. Flexible sounds warm and fuzzy. Everybody likes things that are flexible. The problem is that employers are using this word to mask the fact that employees will only work when there is work – on call.
Once upon a time, I managed a phone center that offered on call positions. My bosses called the position flexible. After about six months of lying to people, I put my foot down and started telling prospective employees the truth. An on call position can be a good thing for someone who’s working full time and looking for supplemental income. For someone relying on a job to pay their bills, an on call position doesn’t work. You can’t tell from week to week how many hours will be available. It is impossible to budget for rent, food, and other essentials.
As Professor Lambert attests, more hourly employees today are given no option. Their schedules are flexible. She suggests that the government must legislate a solution. I’d like to agree, but the idea seems beyond utopian given our current political climate.
What we need is real solidarity. When a company treats workers like dogs, it needs to be called out and boycotted. As long as consumers want cheap at whatever cost, the cost will be the exploitation of their fellow workers. We need to stop blaming the employer and the government. Look in the mirror. If you shop at a company that pays its workers wages that force them to use food stamps, you are supporting exploitation. Worse than that, you are saying its o.k. for your tax dollars to supplement what the employer pays workers, which is nothing more than corporate welfare.
American workers need to wake up. It’s not the fault of big corporations. We know their games, and we have to put an end to them. Solidarity.
[On Sundays, this blog explores intersections of life and work in “Sabbath.”]
Bill Moyers retired from his PBS show Bill Moyers Journal a couple of years ago. However, Moyers, now 77, has not retired. He is back with a new venture called Moyers & Company. Over the past years, he has also continued to write and give interviews.
Many on the right and some in the mushy middle condemn Moyers as a “liberal,” as if that label made someone not worth listening or respecting. Moyers, on the other hand, presents his ideas without insult or name-calling. If someone disagrees with his position, he listens and engages them in dialogue, a quality lacking in American politics and society today.
Moyers criticizes a political model of “winner take all” and argues that inequality is not simply the result of market forces, but political scheming. Are these positions liberal? Yes. But, unlike many of his critics, Moyers and his guests lay out ideas in clear language, not talking points and phony statistics. In another video essay, Moyers ponders the contemporary relevance of the folk singer Woody Guthrie.
In a time of simplified ideas and political campaigns based on finger-pointing TV commercials, Bill Moyers is a welcome antidote to the poison that threatens our democracy. He wants his audience to think about an issue and understand its full complexity. Agree with him or disagree, love him or hate him, Moyers offers his viewers real news, something we don’t get from corporate news readers.
When Bill Moyers left PBS, American lost an important voice. Now that he is back on TV and the Internet, we have more ways to engage with this interesting thinker. That’s a good thing to do on the Sabbath – Think about how to make life better for others and how to live a better life.
According to an article posted on MSNBC, the UAW is taking on its biggest challenge in years. The union will attempt to organize auto plants in the U.S.owned by non-American manufacturers. It’s about time that the union reaches out to these workers. The article tries to claim that the workers might not want to be organized. That’s a great assumption, but it’s based on no evidence. The union will also have to fight laws that limit workers’ rights to organize. However, that’s a fight that should have been going on for several years now.
How do we know this article was posted on a corporate media website (“Lean Forward” Really?)? The subhead reads: “It’s a battle the union cannot afford to lose.” Sheer nonsense and fear mongering. What the union and working people cannot afford to do is lie down like a welcome mat as it has for decades. When we look at the way wealth has been distributed over the past 30 years, the message of the 99% should be pretty obvious: It’s our turn.
Related: In Huffington Post, Laura Clawson provides a chart comparing hourly wages of manufacturing workers throughout the world. U.S. manufacturing workers make an average of $34.74. German manufacturing workers make $43.76. In Norway the average rate is $57.53. These numbers tell an interesting story, and they have nothing to do with tax cuts or unicorn-like “job creators.”