Now these moral ciphers want permanent wage cuts

Well, thanks to NAFTA, we don’t have a lot of options left, do we? Unless people decide to finally go all Fight Club on their asses, that is. (Have you ever noticed they never show it on TV anymore? I wonder why. Wouldn’t want people getting ideas!)

The only thing that has ever made the upper classes behave is fear. It’s time we put some thought into how to achieve that.

It won’t be the increasing street crime, because these amoral bastards have so successfully insulated themselves from the rest of society, it will never get close enough to touch them. The only thing that seems to have worked in the 30s was the rising tide of the Communist party. We need a similar political movement:

The outlines of a massive new structural downshift in wages are emerging more and more clearly.

The largest wage-cutting wave since the Great Depression has already been sweeping the United States for the last couple years in response to the Great Recession. At small firms, many of these pay cuts have been viewed as a temporary means of reducing costs until the recession is fully ended.

The pervasiveness of this trend undoubtedly leads much of the public to assume large corporations are merely seeking the same temporary relief as small firms when they demand concessions in high-profile negotiations. The workers’ pay will surely rise back to previous levels when the situation improves for the company, as occurred during the 1980s, right?

Not this time around.The recession camouflages a far more insidious and long-lasting corporate strategy: Instead of temporary pay cuts to get through a few tough months, major corporations have something very, very different in mind.

As NY Times economics reporter and The Disposable American author Louis Uchitelle wrote on Sunday, major firms are on the verge of consolidating a long-sought goal with a two-tier wage system:

The managers of some marquee companies are aiming to make this concession permanent. If they are successful, their contracts could become blueprints for other companies in other cities, extending a wage system that would be a startling retreat for labor.

Though union officials said they could not readily supply data on the practice, managers have been trying to achieve this for 30 years, with limited results.

These firms are systematically implementing a major strategy to permanently drive down wages far below anything considered “middle class.” The key tool for corporations: forcing acceptance of permanent two-tier wage structures and the insertion of nonunion casual workers into union plants to drive down union pay to levels unimaginable a couple years back. Big business is essentially trying to take back the hard-won gains of working people won over generations.

As I reported on this site in various articles, the two-tier trend has emerged this year in Wisconsin at Mercury Marine (see herehere, and here) and Harley-Davidson (here,here, and here) and was demanded at the Kohler Corp. (here and here.) In each case, the powerful threat of relocating jobs provides the corporations overwhelming leverage to impose their low-wage vision of the future for working people.

According to Uchitelle,

The Kohler Company, another manufacturing giant in southeastern Wisconsin, famed for its gleaming bathroom fixtures, is negotiating a contract using Harley’s pact as a template and, so far, getting much of its way.

No doubt other corporations will find the “template” appealing because of the sharp cuts in labor costs it will permanently deliver. Kohler, for example, has been demanding a reshaping of the labor force along these lines:

  • Tier A would be composed of currently employed workers—would face a five-year wage freeze, with current wages averaging $22.54 an hour.
  • Tier B would be comprised by new hires and those on layoff for
    more than 90 days, and they would earn 35% less (about $14.70 an
    hour) and be burdened with a high-deductible healthcare plan
    offering minimal coverage.
  • When a Tier A worker retires, his or her place would be taken by a Tier B worker—who would remain stuck in Tier B.
  • The lowest-caste of “casuals” could work up to 25% of total hours in the plant under the company’s demands. They would also receive $14.70. Ineligible for union membership, they could be discarded at any time. They would also receive no healthcare benefits.

7 thoughts on “Now these moral ciphers want permanent wage cuts

  1. looks like the plutocracy is never-ending, these guys want to fuck the poor REAL GOOD, and i’ll never get health coverage. 🙁

  2. A friend of mine who has spent considerable time in southeast Asia is convinced the standard of living in the West, the First World standard of the US and Europe, is unsustainable. With wages so low in developing nations, and their education of enough workers to compete with the West, it is simply a matter of time before the wages of all in the West, except for the small group of elites at the top, along with some professionals, will be on par with the rest of the world.

    With the liguidity of capital and now even manufacturing infrastructure, the speed of information transfer, it is happening, fast.

    The wealthy have their people in elected office taking care of them.

    Who do we have? Not Obama! Not so many of the elected Dems.

  3. People are going to have to create their own jobs through developing some skill set and finding a niche. Mass exodus from the corporate rolls by labor would do a lot to put them in their places: Hey you wanna pay 3rd world wages? Move to the third world! More people are going to have to start farming (community, backyard, and large group) to sustain themselves due to ever higher commodity prices, and i do see an increase in violence as this adjustment plays out.

    It’s the bottleneck event (which has already started) due to the environment making life much harder on humanity and all other species that scares me. Corporations are bringing on their own demise.

  4. So, is this why Harleys are the favored rides of bankers these days?

    I’m printing this article out and handing it around in my old town, where everybody dreams of riding a Harley or working at the plant. In Tomahawk, in a low income area, where 14.70 is a dream job. (You don’t need to go to a third world country. You can go to Northern Wisconsin.)

  5. Hell, almost twenty years ago, I was involved in an outside audit of a UPS region. There were the union members who were paid a fair amount but the representatives of their union traded off their increase in wages for a piss test of union employees and a second and third tier of workers. That worked remarkably well. As far as I remember, the percentage of union members dropped from 65 percent to 40 percent in 4 years of piss tests. Payrolls dropped like stones in certain area, where UPS had to bring in people from other regions to train the poorly paid and unmotivated how to do it the “UPS” way.

    Since the audit was not considered important but the UPS did not want temps with numbers explaining things to the union people, we worked on mahogany row at night. Those high flyers had no problem leaving confidential information laying on top of desks.

    One report “superintendents and above” was of a study that showed clearly that the difference in the failure rate between long time physical laborers and new hires who passed a drug test when hired, met at 6 months. After 6 months, a new hire or a union 30 year man had the same chance of being released for a failed drug tests. After that there was no evidence that it accomplished anything but getting rid of the greedy union people with those outrageous benefits, retirements, vacations and holiday pay.

    If I didn’t despise the Teamster’s union so much, I could have dropped a dime and explained how UPS payroll programs skipped the contribution to the union every time the end of the month did not end on Saturday night. Maybe 9 to 11 weeks a year of just flat planned theft. It had to have been approved and programmed in so it wasn’t just a glitch in the system.

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