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 here, here, 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.