Right to Strike Daily Update

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Multiple reasons democracy is declining that the plan can’t solve for

Lisa Mascaro, 12-8, 21, Washington Post, Can democracy still deliver? Biden convening global summit, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/can-democracy-still-deliver-biden-convening-global-summit/2021/12/08/59d9bdfa-5864-11ec-8396-5552bef55c3c_story.html

President Joe Biden is convening global leaders Thursday to pledge strong new commitments to democracy, even as the U.S. itself is facing some of the gravest threats in years to its democratic traditions and institutions at home. As the president launches the administration’s inaugural Summit for Democracy, determined to show the world democracy can still work, the nation that’s been long considered a shining example is seen by various measures as a backslider. Local elected officials are resigning at an alarming rate amid confrontations with angry voices at school board meetings, elections offices and town halls. States are passing laws to limit access to the ballot, making it more difficult for Americans to vote. And the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol has left many in one U.S. political party clinging to Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, eroding trust in the accuracy of the vote. America must do better, critics at home and abroad insist. “Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate, and fears that have pulled us apart?” Biden asked during a joint session of Congress at the start of his presidency, months after the Capitol insurrection. “America’s adversaries — the autocrats of the world — are betting we can’t.” It’s an unsettling moment for the world’s leading democracy as authoritarianism grows around the globe, raising questions about the United States’ ability to lead by example and intensifying pressure on the Biden administration to not only promote democracy abroad but do more to shore it up at home. As allies gather for the two-day virtual summit, the White House is approaching the meeting “from a place of humility,” understanding that no democracy is perfect, not even the U.S., according to a senior official granted anonymity to discuss the thinking at the White House. At the forum, intended for some 110 participating countries to announce new commitments for strengthening democracy, Biden plans to speak about the importance of voting rights at home, much as he did at an anniversary celebration of the capital’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the official said. At the time, the president called voting “that fundamental right” and decried efforts to curtail it as “the most un-American thing” imaginable. The president has also said that passage of his ambitious domestic agenda — the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill he signed into law, as well as the roughly $2 trillion “Build Back Better Act” of social and climate change initiatives moving through the Senate — will demonstrate how democracy can improve people’s lives. “The United States has a thriving democracy, but it’s been hurting in recent years,” said Michael Abramowitz, the president of Freedom House, whose annual report marked a 15th consecutive year of a global democratic slide. “Right now, we’re going through a phase in America where it’s very difficult to get things done and to really prove that democracy can deliver,” he said. One early test will come Thursday as the U.S. House moves to approve the Protecting Our Democracy Act, the third in a trio of bills alongside the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act that Democrats in Congress have put forward. A fourth bill being drafted would impose changes to the Electoral Count Act, the once-routine process of tallying and certifying the presidential election ballots that was severely tested on Jan. 6 as Trump urged followers to challenge the vote. But the legislation churning through Congress seems destined to fail, facing opposition from Republicans who dismiss the bills as partisan overreach. Some Republicans say the bills are unnecessary or need to be dramatically scaled back. Others are perpetuating Trump’s false claims of election fraud despite dozens of U.S. court cases that found no evidence of voting irregularities. Some Republicans are now downplaying the attack at the Capitol, even as hundreds of rioters are facing charges in courts nationwide. The White House is gearing up for a year of action on what it sees as rebuilding democracy. The Republican blockade against the Democrats’ bills in Congress has revived private Senate negotiations over changing the chamber’s filibuster rules to muscle past a nearly impossible 60-vote threshold in the evenly split 50-50 chamber. Some are pushing for action ahead the 2022 congressional elections amid fears of new restrictions on the right to vote and outside actors sowing misinformation. “If President Biden really believes — as he should — that we’re in an existential battle to protect democracy, when will he put the political capital behind these bills that such a crisis warrants?” said Ian Bassin, executive director of Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan, anti-authoritarianism organization. Globally, meanwhile, this week’s summit gets underway as outside groups are raising alarms about a worldwide slide of democracy, fueled by populations that have grown increasingly frustrated by stubborn income inequality and the COVID-19 crisis with its restrictions and millions of lives lost. Authoritarianism is on the rise in some some ostensibly democratic countries, alongside shifting attitudes about the best forms of government amid anti-democratic influences and commentary from China and Russia. A Pew report released this week said that while “people like democracy, their commitment to it is often not very strong.” Even wealthy countries, including the U.S., have some people who favor military rule, the report said. Another group, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, said in its annual report that the number of countries experiencing democratic backsliding “has never been as high” as the past decade, with the U.S. added to the list alongside India and Brazil. The legislation being voted on Thursday in the House tries to claw back some of what its supporters consider executive overreach that has been building in the U.S. for years and intensified during Trump’s term. It includes provisions to strengthen enforcement of congressional subpoenas, protect whistleblowers and provide for congressional oversight of presidential emergency declarations, among other provisions, many of them previously backed by Republicans. Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has also been “brainstorming” reforms to the electoral count that was disrupted that day the mob stormed the building. “The Jan. 6 attack, and the image that gave the United States about the dysfunctionality of our system at present, I think, is a real body blow to the cause of democracy around the world,” Schiff said in an interview with The Associated Press. Schiff said from his own recent talks with Biden, “the president is very much focused like a laser on the challenge to democracy around the world, but also at home.”

Strikes just result In workers being replaced

Boshika Gupta, 12-8, 21, https://www.mashed.com/681812/the-kellogg-worker-strike-just-took-a-huge-turn/?utm_campaign=clip,  The Kellogg Worker Strike Just Took A Huge Turn,

Approximately 1,400 unionized workers at Kellogg Company have been on strike since October 5, 2021, as reported by Associated Press. The result of a breakdown in over a year's worth of contract negotiations, the organized worker strike impacted many of Kellogg's U.S. plants, which produce Frosted Flakes, Fruit Loops, Pop Tarts, and many other American breakfast staples. Per Reuters, the union and the company were attempting to finalize a new contract, but couldn't come to terms over salaries and benefits. According to Anthony Shelton, president of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, Kellogg allegedly wanted some of its employees to compromise on heath care, retirement packages, and paid leave. On the other hand, Kellogg stated that it was offering a fair contract to its workers. A statement from the company read, "We are disappointed by the union's decision to strike...our offer includes increases to pay and benefits for our employees." As pointed out by NBC News, this strike was also linked to a growing problem across several industries: a "two-tier benefit and wage system" that also motivated worker strikes at Nabisco, John Deere, Kaiser Permanente, and more. The two-tier system sets up two separate structures at organizations in terms of salaries and benefits, or as NBC News describes it, "for the length of a given contract, existing workers are grandfathered in and guaranteed certain benefits and pay rates, while future employees are hired at a lower pay rate and often receive fewer or worse benefits." The controversial practice has sparked backlash with employees in both tiers. The Kellogg worker strike is a complicated problem Bloomberg/Getty Images Per NBC News, the two-tier system came into place in 2015 at The Kellogg Company when employees agreed to a temporary arrangement that included "tight caps for how many workers could be considered transitional versus legacy." This October, the company's employees said that the organization was attempting to implement the system for good. Kellogg refuted this point, with a spokesperson saying, "The union agreed to a two-tiered system in 2015 to help address rising labor costs, which were out of sync with the market and the rest of our network." They added that hourly cereal employees received a $15,000 signing bonus "in exchange for these changes" and that the union is now ignoring this deal. Per The New York Times, if the company's workers had said yes to the new suggestions from Kellogg, all workers who have spent four years or more at the company would be classified as "legacy" workers and receive the commensurate pay and benefits. The company's suggestions indicated that lower tier, known as "transitional" workers would have "an accelerated, defined path...to legacy wages and benefits." However, union workers remain unconvinced. Local union vice president Kevin Bradshaw at the company's Memphis plant told USA Today, "The majority [of the workers] said they didn't like it [the proposed contract.] It's the only issue that matters." Per Reuters, the employees believe that the new plan would hurt the union and its influence by "removing the cap on the number of lower-tier employees" which could potentially hurt the legacy workers if transitional employees obtained a majority and began negotiating against legacy wages. Replacements are being hired Bloomberg/Getty Images The Kellogg company has now made the decision to hire more people in a bid to replace some of its employees who have refused to back down from the strike. According to Reuters, the company brought in temporary workers after the strikes began in October and the workers' contracts came to an end. But now, it has made its stance clear: it will get permanent replacements instead.

Lack of strike rights limiting strikes

Marianne Garneau is a labor educator and organizer in New York. She runs the website Organizing Work, December 2021, “Striketober”: Hopes and Realities, https://brooklynrail.org/2021/12/field-notes/Striketober-Hopes-and-Realities

For years now, we have been hearing about strike waves, upsurges in worker militancy from a labor movement ostensibly on a comeback. The Economic Policy Institute declared a “surge” in striking workers in 2018 and 2019 a “35-year high”—citing General Motors and Stop and Shop.1 The Washington Post said, “Teacher strikes made 2018 the biggest year for worker protest in a generation.”2 A “Strikewave” website was launched that same year and elsewhere strike trackers sprung up. The headlines have been so resoundingly positive for so long that it’s hard to believe there’s any higher to climb. The most recent example was “Striketober,” the “biggest strike wave in a generation,” (again) according to Robert Reich,3 expected to have a “lasting impact” per an NPR headline,4—“only the beginning” according to The Hill.5 Labor journalists also have an understandable incentive to be the first to accurately diagnose the present moment and declare what course history is on. Those on the left, especially, want to believe that the labor movement is becoming more powerful. Under such conditions, it’s tempting to lump together a number of disparate labor disputes, including striking nurses in Massachusetts, film and television crews, and factory workers at John Deere and Kellogg’s. No one claimed these unions were deliberately coordinating their activity—instead, “objective conditions” did the heavy lifting of establishing why this was a unified phenomenon and not a coincidence. By broad consensus, the pandemic and an advantageous labor market conspired to wake workers up and suddenly demand more. That in itself is dubious, but first: was there an uptick in labor action? Yes and no. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) counted six large strikes in effect in the month of October; April saw an equal number, although with fewer workers involved. BLS only counts work stoppages of 1,000 workers or more, which leaves out countless significant actions such as the 420-member strike at Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. There are attempts to round out strike data, such as Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations strike tracker; it draws in part from Bloomberg Law’s database. For that matter, much of the “Striketober” buzz was over strike votes that did not turn into picket lines. Even by BLS’s stingy count, October looked significant, but part of the reason we can speak of an uptick is because the range of figures is so small—between two and six work stoppages per month so far this year (15 total for the year), involving between 1,800 and 18,300 workers. Kim Moody, drawing from those other sources like Cornell’s tracker, has a more generous count of 194 so far this year, but even he acknowledges that these involve a total of 73,320 workers, far fewer than 2019’s 432,484.6 No one disputes that the overall trend since 1945 has been a precipitous decline in strikes; as BLS notes: “In 2020 there were 8 major work stoppages, the third lowest number since 1947.”7 In short, in order to register all of these alleged upswings of the past few years—the kind vaunted in the breathless headlines—you have to dramatically stretch the y-axis.

Current laws limiting strikes

Marianne Garneau is a labor educator and organizer in New York. She runs the website Organizing Work, December 2021, “Striketober”: Hopes and Realities, https://brooklynrail.org/2021/12/field-notes/Striketober-Hopes-and-Realities

Strikes didn’t decline because they fell out of favor with the working class, or because gutless bureaucrats replaced daring communists and socialists in union leadership, although that is a story you will hear a lot. Instead, they have been severely hemmed in over the course of decades. In the first place, workers can generally only strike after their contract has expired (or before they have one), because nearly all contracts contain no-strike clauses, i.e. a commitment not to disturb production during the life of the agreement. Of course, workers can theoretically defy such things (Southwest Airlines pilots and Rikers Island guards have been engaging in crippling mass sick-outs for months), but they probably won’t have the backing of their union leadership, and certainly not access to its strike fund. Union officials are generally unlikely to want a strike. They will sometimes be pro-strike when they really can’t get an acceptable offer at the bargaining table, but even then they still sometimes push a bad settlement rather than face the risks and challenges of a strike. Relatedly, it’s important to recognize that there is a difference between actually striking and voting to authorize a strike. Many of the disputes heralded as part of Striketober were actually the latter, which are more common than actual strikes. Authorization votes are often feints by a union leadership to force a better “last, best, and final” offer from employers within a broader context in which employers are able to declare an “impasse” and impose that offer. Unions often take these votes without necessarily intending, or being prepared, to take their membership off the job. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) vote was exciting because of just how many workers it would have taken out (30,000–40,000), and how overwhelmingly they voted in favor of action (nearly 99 percent, with 90 percent of the membership voting), but members say the union leadership had even signaled to them that they weren’t entirely serious about going out.8 In fact, IATSE has never really gone on strike and the last strike by any crew was in 1945, likely before any current member’s lifetime. It would take a lot of work to organize a strike among IATSE members, especially since maintaining a picket line across such distributed workplaces as film sets could take considerable logistical coordination and collective discipline. Again, the unfortunate reality is that strikes today are highly constrained and circumscribed events that minimize the impact on employers (but not on workers). Because they generally only happen after contracts have expired, employers have a date, known years in advance, to prepare for. And they do prepare: John Deere formed contingency plans that included training management to run production, however poorly; Kellogg’s has hired scabs to cross the picket line. Employers may cut striking workers off from their health insurance, as Kellogg’s has also done. Shockingly, they have the right to permanently replace striking workers (except in the case of an unfair labor practice strike, but all of the examples mentioned have been economic strikes). They may stock up production in advance so that they welcome an idle line or shift production elsewhere.

Employers can easily limit strike effectiveness, strikes fail

Marianne Garneau is a labor educator and organizer in New York. She runs the website Organizing Work, December 2021, “Striketober”: Hopes and Realities, https://brooklynrail.org/2021/12/field-notes/Striketober-Hopes-and-Realities

Again, the unfortunate reality is that strikes today are highly constrained and circumscribed events that minimize the impact on employers (but not on workers). Because they generally only happen after contracts have expired, employers have a date, known years in advance, to prepare for. And they do prepare: John Deere formed contingency plans that included training management to run production, however poorly; Kellogg’s has hired scabs to cross the picket line. Employers may cut striking workers off from their health insurance, as Kellogg’s has also done. Shockingly, they have the right to permanently replace striking workers (except in the case of an unfair labor practice strike, but all of the examples mentioned have been economic strikes). They may stock up production in advance so that they welcome an idle line or shift production elsewhere. In other words, strikes are tough. They are less magic weapons that get workers what they want than they are necessary, bloody battles. For the most part, they result in a better contract settlement. Other times, they result in the devastation of the union. As a strike drags on, workers’ resolve may be strengthened or weakened. Sometimes employers will provoke a strike (or initiate a lockout) because they know this comes at a cost to workers, or they figure the workforce isn’t prepared and a strike will just demoralize and divide them. Or they want to draw down the union’s treasury by making them use up their strike funds, which is one reason why union officials of every stripe are very cautious about calling them. In the case of John Deere, workers were able to secure a more significant raise by rejecting the company’s offer (twice!) and staying out; they also quashed the company’s attempt to introduce a “third tier” of workers, ineligible for pension upon retirement. However, they were unsuccessful in their bigger goal of eliminating the two-tier wage and benefit structure that has been in place since 1997. Some workers today still don’t earn as much as their forebears (in some cases, their literal parents) did then. Nor do they enjoy the pre-1997 hires’ post-retirement healthcare benefits, from a job that is physically punishing. For their part, the 32,000 workers covered under various unions at Kaiser were successful in fending off the employer’s proposed two-tier structure with their strike threat. IATSE workers secured higher pay when working on productions for streaming services (they had agreed to lower pay when the format was still experimental) but not parity. They sought guaranteed breaks but instead got increased penalty rates for missed meals; they won 10 hours of guaranteed rest between work days rather than the sought 12. When the left romanticizes strikes, it seems to forget that workers generally don’t like being on strike. (One of the primary union-busting talking points from employers is that the union will “make you go on strike.”) For as invigorating as pickets can be, as a friend once commented, a lot of time on the line is just spent eating hotdogs and watching passing cars, sometimes in the rain or cold. The long hours spent talking to one another and the collective struggle can bond a group of workers, but the betrayal of scabs and a disappointing resolution can also leave a bitter taste forever. Pickets can be rowdy or ugly or dangerous, with scuffles sometimes breaking out and picketers being hit by cars. Sometimes pickets can be whittled down to a handful of workers standing symbolically outside the gates, as happened with John Deere in Iowa.

Laws limit strikes from spreading

Marianne Garneau is a labor educator and organizer in New York. She runs the website Organizing Work, December 2021, “Striketober”: Hopes and Realities, https://brooklynrail.org/2021/12/field-notes/Striketober-Hopes-and-Realities

Having said that, strikes can inspire and embolden other workers, which is why they are contagious. That used to be much more obvious, when one factory would go out and another would follow. Over time, tactics like secondary strikes—striking to support other fellow workers who are on strike at another company—were legislated against or barred in contract language because they were successful. Whether or not workers can respect others’ picket lines varies by jurisdiction and by their own contract language. Every effort has been made by government and business to mitigate contagion and to drive unionism into orderly exchanges of proposals one workplace at a time. Strikes are not meant to spread, which is why those looking for waves are at best tallying patterns in the data. As Bill Haywood of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) speechified in 1911: “the A. F. of L. couldn't have a general strike if they wanted to … They have 271,000 different agreements that expire 27,000 different minutes of the year.”9 The IWW repudiated contracts for that reason, seeking to organize all workers into “One Big Union” deploying direct action. It took aim at the practice of dividing workers into multiple craft unions: as William Trautmann complained, also in 1911, “One portion of workers, members of one craft union, remain at work, while others, members of another trade union, are fighting … The result is that no concerted action was possible.”10 A handful of other unions, including the Western Federation of Miners and later the CIO embraced “industrial unionism,” uniting all workers within an industry, but this approach by no means triumphed over craft unionism. For that matter, any certification drive today has to establish what the law calls a “community of interests” to put workers into the same unit. All of this, too, militates against strikes breaking out in waves. Unions today can coordinate with each other, as they did at Kaiser, or line up contract expiration dates, but these strategies do not have the latitude that enabled the general strikes of the 19th century or the 1910s and the mass strikes of the 1930s. If we want to continue to idealize those upsurges, as many do, we have to know why they aren’t materializing today. There have always been deep disagreements within the labor movement on both strategy and principle. But compared to a hundred years ago, today’s union landscape is a monoculture: the scope of disagreement simply isn’t nearly as broad. From the early 20th century especially, government and employers conspired to create conditions in which the tamest version of labor unionism was incentivized and rewarded, and all other forms were edged out. That, and not the purging of communists, was what drew down militancy. As historian Nate Holdren explains, summarizing Charles Romney’s book Rights Delayed, the National Labor Relations Act: Introduced complicated legal procedures to unionization. These procedures were slow in ways that hurt workers—employers could stand to wait in a way that workers without a paycheck could not. He details, for example, years-long delays in responding to unfair labor practice charges, already in the early 1940s. These procedures required legal professionals as well, which made them less than democratic—lawyers and other experts are generally not a force for collective decision-making; technocracy and democracy are at best an unstable combination—and were also very expensive. As a result, unions that were more progressive, democratic, and militant saw fewer benefits from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and were in some ways hamstrung by it. More conservative, top-down, and conciliatory unions, on the other hand, did better: This history is important because it means the NLRA did not create an environment that was generally good for unions, so much as an environment that was good for specific kinds of unions.11 What other forms of unionism used to exist? Pretty much everything taken for granted today (paid staff, dues check-off, contracts) was once merely one practice among many, if not outright controversial, and that includes many of the structures and practices that prevent strikes from rolling into waves. Perhaps most significantly, workers in nearly all unions much more frequently took action directly on the work floor in immediate response to what they did not like. “It was common practice in the auto shops for negotiations on the shop level to consist of a steward, surrounded by all the men in a department, arguing with the foreman. No one worked until the grievance was settled,” wrote Martin Glaberman.12 Historian Nelson Lichtenstein reminds us that: At Armour’s main Chicago plant, packinghouse union stewards developed a tactic they called “whistle bargaining.” Each steward wore a whistle around his or her neck. Whenever a supervisor declined to discuss a grievance, the steward gave a blast on the whistle and the department halted work. When the issue was resolved, the steward whistled twice and production started once again.13 As I have argued elsewhere,14 there was an evolution in the labor movement away from worker militancy on the floor until all-out strikes were the only tactic left—before these too were severely weakened.

Worker organizing efforts fail

Marianne Garneau is a labor educator and organizer in New York. She runs the website Organizing Work, December 2021, “Striketober”: Hopes and Realities, https://brooklynrail.org/2021/12/field-notes/Striketober-Hopes-and-Realities

In the years following the passage of the National Labor Relations Act,15 and particularly after World War II, workers were bribed to trade away shop-level disruption for much higher wages and benefits.16 “The more ‘victories’ they recorded, the bigger and more technical the contracts became,” says Glaberman. “A contract is a compromise. That establishes that, no matter what union gains are recorded, the rights of the company to manage production are also recorded.”17 Grassroots forms of worker action were replaced by orderly bargaining and grievance handling, away from the shop floor, and increasingly dependent on professional staff. Likewise, decision-making was moved from the ranks to union leadership. With that came a tremendous diminishing of the agency of the working class. More of that kind of ground-level activity seems to have kicked off during the pandemic, with workers engaging in direct bargaining with employers over things like health and safety and PPE, hazard pay, and so on. Some have suggested it is more common in non-unionized workplaces—Bloomberg Law analyst Robert Combs has pointed out that it’s actually “easier for non-union workers to walk off the job, as long as they do it together.”18 The United Electrical Workers and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) set up the “Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee” (EWOC) to coach non-unionized workers through the process of coming together as a workforce to make demands. That’s because, contrary to “Striketober” commentary, abysmal conditions are not enough to make workers spontaneously fight and win. One EWOC organizer I spoke to estimated that probably 80 percent of workers who actually get to the point of forming a committee and taking action do win. The problem is how few of them get to that point. Collective action is not automatic or natural.

Employers win in the end

Marianne Garneau is a labor educator and organizer in New York. She runs the website Organizing Work, December 2021, “Striketober”: Hopes and Realities, https://brooklynrail.org/2021/12/field-notes/Striketober-Hopes-and-Realities

A lot of the “reporting” on trends in organized labor looks like licking your finger and sticking it in the air, prognosticating whether we are on an uptick of militancy. Explicitly, nearly every “Striketober” article took objective conditions to be responsible: First and foremost, the “labor shortage” gives workers more bargaining power. Second, the pandemic allegedly taught workers their worth, and/or foisted conditions on them that made them fed up. Relatedly, there is allegedly a historical relationship between worker uprisings and just having emerged from a period of social disruption.19 And finally, there is the “accumulation of grievances”—basically, the poor conditions under which workers work. Many tied the strikes to the high “quit rate”: “the same forces making work intolerable for so many—not enough workers and too much work—are simultaneously preparing workers to fight back,” argued Jonah Furman and Gabriel Winant at the Intercept.20 The problem, again, is that strikes in this day and age do not burst forth from worker inspiration, but are cautiously deliberated upon by union membership and leadership in a process that has been years in the making and is not entirely straightforward (a majority of IATSE members voted against the proposed settlement, but the agreement was ratified because of IATSE’s Electoral College-like voting structure). We should be extremely skeptical of “conditions are ripe” arguments. I’ve never encountered an organizing campaign that was made meaningfully easier by workers being screwed over. Capitalism has already insidiously handed them adaptive tools for that: stew in anger, or better yet, hopelessness; resent other working people, either for making more or working less or trying to steal your job; aim for a promotion or maybe a job elsewhere; shrug that the world is unfair. It’s true that there is an expression, “The boss is a good organizer,” but where that usually helps is after workers have already started organizing and therefore developed some ability to talk to each other and collectively respond to challenges. The boss screwing up can tip the fence sitters or, in a slightly dormant union, it can provoke people back to action. But in a less organized workplace, it just alienates workers, perhaps to the point of quitting. What it doesn’t do is organize the work floor because, believe it or not, that is not a matter of how workers feel as individuals but a matter of them building relationships with each other. It is true that workers are in a better position when unemployment is low, but even so, working-class power is a matter of organization—labor markets don’t create actions, only organizing does. Employers may raise wages to attract workers at a given moment but they will also lower them once they are less desperate. Likewise, in a workplace, what you can wrest out of an employer has to do with how organized you are, not how healthy profits are. If you want to talk about objective conditions: objectively, companies that are deep in the black should offer their workers raises that keep pace with inflation during a time of allegedly “very tight” labor markets. And yet we just saw Kaiser proposing that new hires—essential health care workers now recognized as heroes by the public—be paid less than starting wages at McDonald’s. Why would they do that? Because employers understand that their relationship with the union is a power struggle. At every contract negotiation, the company asks for givebacks—regardless of the financial health of the company. Between negotiation sessions, they fight the union by ignoring the contract (Kellogg’s workers have complained that the company wasn’t making good on its commitment to move workers into the higher tier). Everything they ask for is a maneuver for power and they are playing the long game. Two-tier contracts aren’t just about saving the company money, but about driving a wedge between workers and making the union seem powerless. There are other cunning moves. John Deere has structured pay so that workers receive more when they meet or exceed production targets. Money gets placed into an account, and drains back out if workers fall behind. This is a particularly insidious form of the speed-up. The pace of work used to be one of the most fundamental and fought-over issues in the workplace; John Deere has put workers in the position of fighting to keep this form of financial discipline, in a production environment with significant dangers. The class struggle never ends. When unions certify a workplace, the employer begins their campaign to punish workers for it on day one. They slow-walk negotiations, or try to force workers to accept less than what they currently have. A certification is not a win; it’s just a gauntlet thrown down. The employer will not rest until they render the union’s presence meaningless, and/or legally decertify it. Unions’ ability to persist in winning concessions and protecting workers lies in members’ willingness and ability to continue to mobilize for ongoing struggle—not just during bargaining time, but at all times. Measuring worker strength and militancy is more complicated than observing occasional, statistical upticks in strikes, especially given what we know about the bureaucratic structuring of unions. The most important things that could happen to rebuild the agency and ultimately the fighting capacity of the working class are things that wouldn’t necessarily make headlines, but happen behind the scenes, and are harder to quantify than strike votes. These would include workers talking to each other and collectively deciding on actions to take—and taking them, as they did in decades long past.

Larger wage increases make inflation control impossible

Dean Bsker, Senior Economist, 11=25, 21Center for Economic Policy Research, Being Thankful for Thanksgiving, https://cepr.net/being-thankful-this-thanksgiving/

The most important issue for the future course of inflation is what happens in labor markets. As noted earlier, many workers at the bottom end of the wage distribution have seen double-digit pay increases in the last year. This is great news for these workers, many of whom would have been living near the poverty level, especially if they were supporting children. (The $3,000 child tax credit, $3,600 for kids under age six, is also a huge deal.) But double-digit pay increases are not sustainable in an environment of moderate inflation. If wage growth continues at that pace we have seen at the lower end of the wage distribution, we will certainly see serious problems with inflation going forward.

Violence inherent in unions

Morgan O. Reynolds is Associate Professor of Economics at Texas A & M University, 1983 (reprinted 11-26, 21, Unions and Violence, https://fee.org/articles/unions-and-violence/

There is a long and violent history of labor disputes in this country. The facts really are not in serious dispute, only their interpretation. Facts always are interpreted within the context of a general theory of human action. One view, popular among Europeans and our industrial relations community to some extent, is that labor violence is sire-ply part of a wider tendency toward violence in the American character. A more influential view promoted by unionists and their academic defenders is that American employers were especially brutal and defiant toward their workers and toward unions, and, therefore, were at least as guilty as unionists in causing la bor violence. Moreover, goes this theory, the violence which sometimes accompanies labor disputes is incidental, and surely is a small price to pay for the benefits produced by unionism. The well- known rationale is that labor must be allowed to combine for its own protection and use “labor’s weapons” to offset its inherent bargaining disadvantage relative to capital. Unionism allegedly offsets the excesses of capitalism, a system supposedly stacked against labor and in favor of propertied capitalists who control the means of production. In sum, unionists argue that the bene fits of unionism outweigh its modest costs in threats and actual use of violence. In any analysis of unionism, there are two general issues to confront. The first is to discover the actual effects of unions on economic variables like the level of national output, unemployment, real wages, the rate of inflation, government spending, and so on. The second general issue is to analyze the means unions use to pursue their economic and political ends. Union men basically argue that their objectives and their effects on the general public justify or excuse the threats and violence which often flare up in union disputes. This argument is familiar among collectivists, who usually argue that it is results that count, not the process. “You must break some eggs to get an omelette,” is their contention. Coercion supposedly is all right when exercised on behalf of the good causes that unions seek to promote, or to put it in economic terms, expected benefits supposedly exceed expected costs. Many people would argue, however, that the end does not justify the means, that, indeed, use of the proper means is the real end that we seek in human affairs. Most economists would also object that unions do not, on balance, produce economic benefits. Useful theories in the sciences and in studies of human behavior are compact yet explain and predict a rich variety of observed and yet-to-be-noticed facts. The theory of monopoly or cartels in economics passes this test because its application to unions yields a tremendous payoff based on a handful of correct statements about unions. The theory explains an impressive array of facts about what unions do. Moreover, there is no. competing theory of unionism, no other general theory of unionism available. Even though imperfect, we cling to theories which help us to understand a wide range of behavior until a superior theory comes along. And there is no new theory of union behavior on the horizon. My purpose here is to briefly recount the theory of unionism, show why threats and violence are an integral part of unionism, use the theory to highlight the problem of unionism in the public sector, analyze why the theory is ignored by most of the industrial relations community, and then discuss what to do in terms of public policy. [CONTINUES] Union violence is exciting in and of itself for many intellectuals, who generally are bored by stability and gradual material progress. Labor violence also provides intellectuals with support for their view that workers are alienated from the economic system. Workers are not alienated. A minority of employees merely respond to the incentives that they face under a legal regime in which unions are tacitly allowed wide latitude to use coercion. Strikers convicted of vandalism, assault, and other crimes are routinely reinstated in their previous jobs with back pay. This is a formula for irresponsibility. These incentives and immunities account for the commonplace threatening and violent behavior of organized workers, not alienation from their work or the economic system, as the academic and intellectual left typically assert. Even more important than romantic visions of social change and ferment in accounting for the failure of industrial relations analysts to adopt the correct theory of unionism is the fact that our system of mediating, conciliating, arbitrating, fact-finding, and the whole panoply of machinery often labeled our “system of industrial jurisprudence,” provides power and income to the academic community. Industrial relations types perform as expert witnesses, directly shape a turbulent hodgepodge of labor law, and derive handsome fees in the process. A Vested Interest Consider arbitration, for example. An arbitrator must maintain his acceptability to unionists, as well as managers, to sustain this source of income; otherwise the parties will choose other arbitrators or settle their differences directly, saving the expense of arbitration. The situation is analogous to a court system in which each judge would derive his income directly from the disputants and would thus take their reactions into account in his decisions. Concepts like “past practice” and “common law of the shop” were introduced so that arbitrators could decide more grievances for unionists. Employers now are saddled with a kind of arbitration which they probably never expected to pay for. Although arbitrators deny that they are concerned about rendering at least 50 per cent of their decisions in favor of union grievances, it is well known that commercial organizations issue ratings on arbitrators and prospective arbitrators, basically in terms of “pro” or “anti” union. The incentives for arbitration and other consulting income help to explain the bland nature of the academic literature in industrial relations, where no scholars are known as “anti-union.” It simply pays to be confused. Or, as Thomas Sowell has remarked, “The advantage of intellectuals is that they are not perceived as interested parties.” The hard truths of economics are inconvenient in such an environment. Conclusions Labor violence is an inevitable side-effect of government-supported worker cartels in an economy that has large numbers of managers and workers who refuse to cooperate with strikes and union coercion. So what can we do about this unsatisfactory state of affairs? There are a variety of competing proposals, many of them excellent, but I want to remind us of what our long-run objective ought to be. Our aim should be to restore the rule of law by repealing the entire muddle of labor laws and regulations which have effectively exempted unions from the rules which apply to everyone else. We should repeal all the laws, statutes, rulings, and regulations which exempt unions from the peaceable behavior expected of everyone else. Unions essentially are immune from contract and tort law and they should be brought back under it. Justice should no longer peek and ask whether or not a union man committed a violent act in pursuit of union purposes. A violent, illegitimate attack is an act of aggression which ought to be punished regardless of its announced purpose. We cannot declare that this is a free society until everyone is free to accept the best available offer for his or her labor, best in that person’s own opinion, free from threat, regardless of how much these decisions supposedly harm the higher-income-people represented by union officials. The benefits of unionism do not outweigh the costs of union violence. There are no benefits from unionism for the great mass of working people, only costs. Unions are not public servants that offset the excesses of capitalism, but sectional interest groups with coercive privileges. Peter Wiles’ indictment, written in 1955, says it well: It is truly amazing that anyone should suppose this crude, selfish, violent and piecemeal process to contribute to social justice. It is, when we come to think of it, incredible that the building up by some salary and wage earners of monopoly power, in greater degree here and lesser degree there, should improve the distribution of income among them all; so incredible that the supposition has only to be directly given utterance to be dismissed.

Plan irrelevant, US democracy promotion not credible

Katie LaRoque Patrick W. Quirk, 11-25, 21,  https://nationalinterest.org/feature/us-democracy-promotion-credible-after-afghanistan-196789, Is U.S. Democracy Promotion Credible After Afghanistan?, Katie LaRoque is InterAction’s Senior Manager for Democracy, Rights, and Governance, where she leads a coalition of nine leading U.S. democracy assistance organizations in collective advocacy to the Hill and Biden administration. Katie is a Penn Kemble Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy and previously worked on the Eurasia region with the International Republican Institute (IRI).  Patrick W. Quirk is Senior Director for Strategy, Research, and the Center for Global Impact at IRI, a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, and an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University. Previously, he served on the U.S. Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff.

While the Summit for Democracy will issue a rallying cry for freedom and democracy defenders everywhere, actions—not rhetoric—are needed to rebuild trust and restore this administration’s credibility in the eyes of those who risk their lives for democratic progress. The Biden administration is less than a month away from convening its Summit for Democracy, where heads of state and civil society representatives will try to advance commitments that deepen democratic values and address the growing rise of authoritarianism globally. The event comes on the heels of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and, with it, abandoning that country’s democracy advocates. Whether the pullout was the correct strategic decision will not be clear for years; What is evident now, however, is that leaving Afghanistan’s vulnerable populations to a repressive Taliban regime casts a dark shadow over next month’s high-level gathering. Civil society activists slated for summitry in December are likely looking at events in Kabul or Kandahar and asking themselves: will the United States, despite lofty statements, actually stay committed to our struggle? Democratic solidarity is meaningless if the international community does not stand by frontline activists facing down the barrel of a gun. If the United States is to strengthen democracy overseas—something the White House purports is central to its foreign policy—it must quickly address this credibility problem. Below, we outline steps the administration can take—on Afghanistan and its broader approach to standing with democratic activists—to reaffirm American leadership in this space. Doing so is essential to girding activists for the often long-slog of democratic transitions and steeling them against authoritarian overtures from the likes of China and Russia. President Joe Biden recognizes that individuals are the keystone to democratic struggle the world over, telling the UN General Assembly in September that: “The democratic world… lives in the anti-corruption activists, the human rights defenders, the journalists, the peace protestors on the frontlines of this struggle.” Such words from the world’s most powerful person likely put wind in the sails of activists striving to push back on authoritarian regimes. But rhetoric is easy. Absent consequences or resources, it does not stall the hand of thugs repressing their citizens and increasingly working together to outsmart the world’s democracies. If the United States is to turn rhetoric into progress toward democracy—from Belarus to Myanmar, Venezuela to Sudan—it must begin by doing all it can to save Afghanistan’s freedom fighters. For months, many have called upon the Biden administration to safely evacuate at-risk Afghans who worked alongside the United States over the last twenty years to build a peaceful, democratic, rights-respecting Afghanistan. Thousands of our colleagues and partners seeking evacuation, along with their families, were left behind when the last U.S. military flight departed Hamid Karzai International Airport. Due to the Department of State’s years-old interpretation of who qualifies for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, only those who worked on U.S.-funded contracts (as opposed to grants and cooperative agreements) are a U.S. priority for evacuation. In the eyes of the Taliban, it does not matter what U.S. procurement vehicle someone was employed under, only that he or she worked to advance values that are anathema to the Taliban’s positions. The president must make good on his August 31 remarks: “We will continue to work to help more people leave the country who are at risk. And we’re far from done.” This means evacuating all U.S. partners. Backing Words with Forceful Action Yet the credibility conundrum extends beyond U.S. failings in Afghanistan. For decades, the United States has issued statements affirming that America stands with the people of a given country seeking a better future in the face of a totalitarian regime—and then not matched said words with forceful diplomacy or sufficient foreign assistance resources. This disconnect between words and action has become particularly pronounced since Biden took office in January. The White House needs to move quickly to close the credibility gap. The first step it should take is to broaden the U.S. democracy promotion diplomacy playbook. This involves going beyond sanctions to include other steps that can restrain authoritarian behavior. No matter how far the United States ratchets sanctions, this shop-worn tool seldom has its intended effect. The prolonged stalemate in Venezuela, with dual sovereignty playing out, and the murderous Assad regime’s persistence in Syria—among many other examples—show that sanctions often do little to change the reality on the ground. The United States and Europe should not do away with this tool, but must consider more consequential costs to punish regimes who make their people suffer. Taking more bold actions starts by forcefully backing an international norm—the “Right to Assist”—which holds that the United States and other supporting countries have the right to help activists struggling for a better democratic future. This norm, which would (re)legitimize a range of forms of external support to nonviolent pro-democracy movements, is based on the premise that sovereignty is rooted in the consent of the governed, which authoritarians do not have (and therefore do not enjoy the same sovereign status as other nations). As a second step to close the credibility gap, the United States and allies, rooted in this norm, should deploy practical new options—in addition to the standard suite of economic sanctions—for inducing behavioral change by repressive regimes. This could involve targeted efforts to deny regimes support from other autocratic partners, whose assistance often underwrites a regime’s ability to suppress domestic resistance. The United States—with and through a coalition of democracies, like the D-10, which it should formalize—should levy calibrated threats to hold accountable officials that participate in violent repression against civilians. Allies can do so by making clear, both publicly and privately, that such repression will have meaningful consequences, including arrest when traveling abroad. Going further, the United States and its allies should consider new forms of intervention to help prevent repression that do not require a sustained commitment of military force. These forms of intervention should be calibrated to meet the severity of infractions, but also be sufficiently forceful to alter regime behavior. Sophisticated cyber-attacks onto the responsible regime’s infrastructure could serve as a useful deterrent. While the Summit for Democracy will issue a rallying cry for freedom and democracy defenders everywhere, actions—not rhetoric—are needed to rebuild trust and restore this administration’s credibility in the eyes of those who risk their lives for democratic progress. Failure to act will undoubtedly signal that the United States is not up to the task of leading the free world during what Biden himself has referred to as an “inflection point” between democracy and autocracy.

COVID killing democracy

Boehm, 11-23, 21, https://reason.com/2021/11/23/covid-19-made-democracies-more-authoritarian-and-authoritarianism-even-worse/ , COVID-19 Made Democracies More Authoritarian and Authoritarian Regimes Even Worse

A new report says many democracies have taken steps that are "disproportionate, unnecessary, or illegal" to curb COVID. The COVID-19 pandemic is contributing to a significant decline in democratic values across the globe as many countries have taken aggressive and authoritarian steps to attempt to curb the virus. If you haven't been living under a rock for the past two years, that's probably not much of a surprise. Still, a new report from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, a global nonprofit based in Sweden, offers a comprehensive look at the worrying trend of democratic erosion—a trend that has been helped along by the pandemic even though its roots go deeper. "The world is becoming more authoritarian as non-democratic regimes become even more brazen in their repression and many democratic governments suffer from backsliding by adopting their tactics of restricting free speech and weakening the rule of law, exacerbated by what threatens to become a 'new normal' of Covid-19 restrictions," the IIDEA warns. The number of countries that are becoming "more authoritarian" by the group's calculus is three times the number of countries that are moving toward democracy. This year is the fifth consecutive year in which the trend has been moving in that direction, the longest uninterrupted stretch of pro-authoritarian developments since the IIDEA started tracking these metrics in 1975 That trend predates the COVID-19 pandemic, of course, but governmental responses to the virus have made things worse. A number of democratic countries—the report specifically mentions the United States in this section—have implemented COVID measures "that were disproportionate, illegal, indefinite or unconnected to the nature of the emergency," according to the IIDEA report. Those include travel restrictions and the use of "emergency powers that sometimes sidelined parliaments." The last two years have indeed been littered with examples of previously unheard-of government powers on display in the U.S. That includes everything from statewide lockdowns in which governors decreed which businesses were "essential" to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the backing of both the Trump and Biden administrations, making it nearly impossible for property owners to evict deadbeat tenants. It took until this month for the U.S. to reopen its border with Canada for supposedly "nonessential" travel, even though there was probably no good justification for closing the border in the first place. Outside the U.S., places like Austria and Australia continue to rachet up authoritarian restrictions on public interactions and economic behavior—even for people who have been vaccinated. According to the report, 69 countries have made violating COVID restrictions an imprisonable offense, with two-thirds of those countries being ones the group considers to be democracies. Albania and Mexico have the most punitive laws on the books, allowing prison sentences of 15 years and 12 years, respectively, for violating pandemic-related protocols. More than 20 percent of countries have used their militaries to enforce COVID controls, which the report warns could contribute to "the normalization of increasingly militarized civil life after the pandemic." Meanwhile, 42 percent of countries have rolled out voluntary or compulsory apps used for contact tracing, which may be effective in curbing the spread of the virus but create concerning new opportunities for government surveillance in a post-pandemic world. Of particular concern to IIDEA are the eight non-democratic regimes (Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Singapore, Thailand, and Turkey) where those apps have been made mandatory for all smartphone-using residents. Meanwhile, some public health officials in America are wishcasting for even more aggressive restrictions. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, recently praised the "really strict lockdowns" deployed by China—a country that no healthy democracy should be using as a model for good policy making. But while COVID-19 has been the acute cause of much democratic backsliding in the past two years, the IIDEA report indicates a more insidious threat that lurks behind the pandemic: "The rise of illiberal and populist parties in the last decade is a key explanatory factor in democratic backsliding and decline," the report states. Those parties seek to obtain power so they can dismantle checks on government authority, including freedom of expression and policies meant to protect minority rights. Indeed, as Reason's Stephanie Slade has pointed out, some of the leading advocates of America's turn towards illiberalism are now quite open about their embrace of authoritarianism. This tendency to embrace "will-to-power" politics amounts to declaring that "what matters above all else is ensuring that our tribe is dominant." That's not a good signal for democracy, or for the preservation of human freedom. The will-to-power also serves to paper over the nonsensical aspects of their ideas. Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.), for example, wants to give the Commerce Department more power to decide what products can be lawfully bought and sold in the United States—despite the fact that he voted against confirming Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. He literally wants to give more power to someone he believes is not qualified for the job. Similarly, left-wing efforts to abolish the filibuster in the Senate are easily exposed as nothing more than a power grab by asking advocates how a filibuster-less Senate would have worked during Donald Trump's presidency—a tactic that Axios' Jonathan Swan recently used to great effect in an interview with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D–Mich.). In various forms and despite internal inconsistencies, these illiberal and populist sentiments seem to be growing stronger. Expanded governmental powers during the pandemic offer an even more tantalizing prize to politicians who would use the power of the state to direct society in the future. "As in many other aspects of life, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated and magnified pre-existing political trends while adding a whole new plethora of unprecedented challenges to democracies that were already under pressure," writes Kevin Casas-Zamore, IIDEA's secretary-general, in the preface to the report. "The monumental human victory achieved when democracy became the predominant form of governance now hangs in the balance like never before."

Authoritarian regimes also promote economic growth

Thomas Pepinsky, Nonresident Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, 11-22, 21. Biden’s Summit for Democracy should focus on rights, not economics and geopolitics, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/11/22/bidens-summit-for-democracy-should-focus-on-rights-not-economics-and-geopolitics/

A second reason why the Summit for Democracy may prove ineffective is that it is not responsive to the general issues of governance and economic performance that matter for mass publics around the world. Even if it were true that democracies are more likely to deliver sustained economic growth or more equitable societies — and the evidence on this is far from decisive — cases like Singapore since 1965, China since 1978, and Vietnam since 1986 demonstrate that there do exist authoritarian models for rapid economic growth and widely-shared improvements in material wellbeing. The existence of authoritarian paths to economic prosperity makes it hard for democracy’s defenders to argue that democracy delivers better material outcomes. A regime such as China’s need not argue that there exists an exportable “China model” for others to emulate. Instead, it can simply observe that authoritarianism is not incompatible with prosperity.

Democracy not more likely to reduce corruption

Thomas Pepinsky, Nonresident Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, 11-22, 21. Biden’s Summit for Democracy should focus on rights, not economics and geopolitics, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/11/22/bidens-summit-for-democracy-should-focus-on-rights-not-economics-and-geopolitics/

Any Summit for Democracy that pitches democratic regimes as better able to battle corruption — a key pillar of the Biden administration’s case for democracy — will raise similar concerns. The anti-corruption efforts of the Xi Jinping regime and China’s results-oriented focus on infrastructural development stand in sharp contrast to the rampant money politics in fragile democracies like Indonesia and the Philippines.

Protecting dissent at home key to global democracy promotion

Thomas Pepinsky, Nonresident Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, 11-22, 21. Biden’s Summit for Democracy should focus on rights, not economics and geopolitics, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/11/22/bidens-summit-for-democracy-should-focus-on-rights-not-economics-and-geopolitics/

President Joe Biden’s first “Summit for Democracy” is an opportunity for the United States to highlight civil liberties, freedom of conscience, and peaceful dissent at a moment in which democracy is in a fragile state around the world. Democracy is the only political system which can protect these freedoms: For authoritarian regimes of any form — single-party regimes like China, personalist dictatorships like Russia, or absolute monarchies like Saudi Arabia — criticism, mobilization, and dissent are no less than fundamental threats to the ruling order. The U.S. has long had an inconsistent record of democracy promotion around the world, and the record of democracy within the United States is uneven as well. The Biden administration views the work of the summit as building strategies to strengthen and defend democracies — the United States included — against authoritarianism. Thomas Pepinsky, associate professor of government (GOVT). Thomas Pepinsky Nonresident Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for East Asia Policy Studies tompepinsky The Summit for Democracy, however, has a larger geopolitical ambition. It reflects a prominent view within the Biden administration that assembling a global coalition of democracies can counter China’s rise and continued Russian aggression. There are good reasons to emphasize the common interests of new and established democracies, but the geopolitical ambitions of the Summit for Democracy are bound to disappoint. To see why, it helps to distinguish between a country’s political regime and its foreign policy objectives. As Jessica Chen Weiss and I recently argued in Foreign Affairs, Chinese foreign policy is fundamentally goal-oriented and pragmatic rather than ideological. Although the Xi Jinping regime is currently engaged in a thoroughgoing defense of single-party strongman rule within China, it does not have a preference for authoritarianism outside of the country (of course, the regime considers Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan to be integral parts of China, and hence it does prefer authoritarianism in these territories as well). China’s most important strategic rival in the South China Sea region is Vietnam, which is itself a single-party authoritarian regime just like China. The case of Russia is different: One may plausibly argue that Vladimir Putin’s regime believes that democracy in the United States and Europe threatens Russia’s national interests. But even in this case, we must be careful not to confuse a Russian strategy of foreign election interference with Russian foreign policy objectives. Russia, like China, can find common cause with any regime — democratic or authoritarian — whose policy stance is compatible with its perceived national interest. A second reason why the Summit for Democracy may prove ineffective is that it is not responsive to the general issues of governance and economic performance that matter for mass publics around the world. Even if it were true that democracies are more likely to deliver sustained economic growth or more equitable societies — and the evidence on this is far from decisive — cases like Singapore since 1965, China since 1978, and Vietnam since 1986 demonstrate that there do exist authoritarian models for rapid economic growth and widely-shared improvements in material wellbeing. The existence of authoritarian paths to economic prosperity makes it hard for democracy’s defenders to argue that democracy delivers better material outcomes. A regime such as China’s need not argue that there exists an exportable “China model” for others to emulate. Instead, it can simply observe that authoritarianism is not incompatible with prosperity. Any Summit for Democracy that pitches democratic regimes as better able to battle corruption — a key pillar of the Biden administration’s case for democracy — will raise similar concerns. The anti-corruption efforts of the Xi Jinping regime and China’s results-oriented focus on infrastructural development stand in sharp contrast to the rampant money politics in fragile democracies like Indonesia and the Philippines. The key economic issue for many countries where democracy is in peril — especially those middle-income countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America with relatively short histories of democratic rule — comes down to governance. Focusing on democracy as a solution to inequality, corruption, and ineffective economic management simply will not resonate with the summit’s intended audience. The Summit for Democracy will be most effective if it remains focused on strengthening and defending democracy rather than constructing a dichotomy between the world’s democracies and their authoritarian counterparts. It would also be a mistake to focus on corruption, economic performance, and material prosperity as areas in which democracies can outperform authoritarian regimes. The case for democracy is simple: Democracy is the only political system that institutionalizes protections for minority voices while also protecting the rights of journalists, citizens, and opposition leaders to criticize their government. Authoritarian leaders can promise the same protections, but their political institutions mean that any such promises are not credible. The political criticism and meaningful dissent that democracies encourage is an existential threat to any authoritarian regime. Whatever the weakness of American democracy, past and present, the Biden administration can hold up values of liberty, dissent, contestation, and participation as both uniquely democratic and worthy of defense. To the extent that any democracy fails to deliver on these fronts, it should be strengthened. And to its credit, the Biden administration appears clear-eyed about the challenges facing democracy around the world, and here at home. This, then, ought to be the focus of Biden’s Summit for Democracy: identifying threats to democracy and ways to strengthen existing regimes by investing in freedoms of conscience, mobilization, and dissent for all. This work ought to start at home, not least because it is essential work to do in a moment of high partisan polarization. If American democracy continues to wobble, it will have global repercussions.

Strikes important to securing worker protections

Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers, 11-21, 21, Working people are stronger together, Working people are stronger together https://www.aft.org/column/working-people-are-stronger-together

That line, from the century-old labor union anthem “Solidarity Forever,” feels especially apt in this moment. Aren’t we all yearning to live in a “new world” without the anxiety, disruptions and sorrow caused by the COVID-19 pandemic? Isn’t it well past time to sweep discrimination and violence based on race, religion, gender and other factors into the “ashes of the old”? Can’t the United States—the richest country in the world, yet home to 37 million people living in poverty—“bring to birth” a world in which every person has a decent standard of living and opportunities to get ahead? Randi Weingarten at Scranton, PA strikeWeingarten addressing striking educators in Scranton, Pa., on Nov. 4. Much has been made of the divisions polarizing our country, but Americans are united by a powerful bond: our desire for a better life for ourselves and our families. People are anxious about rising prices for food, gas and other essentials. They are frustrated that life isn’t snapping back from the pandemic as quickly as they’d like. And they want fair wages and benefits, good working conditions and a voice on the job. New terms have emerged to describe the state of American workers—like the “Great Resignation,” the “Great Exhaustion” and the “Great Frustration.” I hear this sentiment from my members, most of whom work in education and healthcare, professions under enormous strain during the pandemic. We have a saying in my union: Together we can achieve things that would be impossible on our own. Collective bargaining allows workers not just to ask for things from those in power but to have some power of their own. Today, Americans are twice as likely to have a Costco card as to have a union card. Yet two-thirds of Americans approve of labor unions, the highest level of approval since 1965. And nearly half of nonunion workers polled said they would join a union in their workplace if they got the chance. The pandemic has shone a new light on the importance of worker voice. Our affiliates across the country negotiated health and safety protocols to reopen schools and keep them open for in-person learning during the pandemic. And some unions, like the Detroit Federation of Teachers, negotiated innovative programs like the DFT’s home visit program to combat low student attendance exacerbated by the pandemic. But there must be good faith on both sides of the bargaining table. Warrior Met Coal is riding high on record coal prices but has kept its employees on strike for nearly eight months—after workers made concessions in pay and benefits to help the company emerge from bankruptcy. Workers at Kellogg, which racked up $307 million in profits last quarter, are in the sixth week of a strike. The union representing employees at the Wirecutter, the New York Times’ popular and profitable product review site, plans to strike from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, to protest the Times’ management’s wage proposals that would severely underpay its staff. Nurses and health professionals at Kaiser Permanente facilities in Oregon and Washington state, 3,400 of whom are members of my union, are exhausted, traumatized and short-staffed after nearly two years on the frontlines of the pandemic. Kaiser had a higher profit rate than Amazon last year, yet it demanded a two-tier wage scale to pay new nurses less and failed to address staffing shortages. Last week, two days before thousands of Kaiser workers were set to strike, the parties negotiated an agreement that makes big inroads on safe staffing levels and provides decent wages and benefits. This week, AFT-member lecturers at the University of California, who teach 30 percent of the courses at the university, negotiated landmark job security protections, paid family leave and double-digit pay increases—just hours before they were set to strike. Lecturers now won’t have to worry from one semester to the next whether they will have a job. Strikes are always a last resort. That’s especially true in education and healthcare because of our responsibilities to our students and patients. But they can’t always be averted. Teachers and paraprofessionals in Scranton, Pa., where public schools have been shortchanged $39 million annually, have been on strike for two weeks with strong support from parents and the community. Instead of getting the state funding the district needs, it is under a state-controlled “recovery” plan that has done great harm. The district has closed school libraries; eliminated prekindergarten, art and music; and cut other supports that help children thrive. Educators have sacrificed as well, working five years under an expired contract with no pay increases. In these uneasy times, working people understand that we are stronger together. Collective bargaining can channel anger and frustration into action to achieve economic fairness, gain voice and agency on the job, and help Americans achieve their dreams. And for that I give thanks.

Wealth concentration increasing

Eyal Pass, 11-18, 21, New York Times, To Understand Inequality, Look to the 9.9 Percent, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/18/books/review/the-99-percent-matthew-stewart.html

A decade ago, protesters enraged by corporate greed and the bailouts that followed the 2008 financial crisis coined a phrase — “We Are the 99 Percent!” — that quickly went viral. It was a captivating slogan that spoke to the anger many felt about rising inequality and an economic system that seemed blatantly unfair. It was also misleading, not because the slogan exaggerated the economic disparities in America but because it understated them. As various studies have shown, much of the wealth in recent decades has flowed into the pockets not of the richest 1 percent of Americans but of the 0.1 percent, including a band of billionaires whose net worth has grown by a staggering $1.8 trillion since the start of the pandemic. In our new Gilded Age, wealth is even more concentrated at the top than the participants in the Occupy Wall Street protests imagined. At the same time, the idea that the interests of all but the very rich — that 99 percent — are harmoniously aligned is a fantasy, glossing over the economic and racial divisions that cleave the rest of society. This was starkly apparent during the pandemic, when families in some neighborhoods gathered in bread lines while others fled to second homes and ordered gourmet meals online — food delivered to their doors by “essential workers” paid a fraction of what the typical lawyer or software engineer earns. In books like Matthew Desmond’s “Evicted” and Sarah Smarsh’s “Heartland,” the stories of poor people at the bottom of America’s hourglass economy have been vividly documented. The literature on affluent citizens who, though not superrich, have nevertheless benefited from inequality is comparatively sparse. What kinds of stories do the better-off tell themselves about the advantages they possess? How do they justify their good fortune to themselves? In his new book, “The 9.9 Percent,” Matthew Stewart focuses on the wealthiest one-tenth of Americans, a “new aristocracy” whose aggregate wealth is four times greater than that of everyone else. A minimum of $1.2 million in assets is required to enter this exclusive club and Stewart writes that the threshold will almost certainly rise by the time his book is published. It’s a club to which white people are eight times more likely to belong than people of color. But what ultimately unites its members is less the size of their bank accounts than a mind-set, Stewart contends. At its core lies “the merit myth,” a shared belief that the affluent owe their success not to the color of their skin or the advantages they’ve inherited but to their talent and intelligence. Under the spell of this conviction, Stewart argues, the privileged engage in practices — segregating themselves in upscale neighborhoods, using their money and influence to get their children into elite colleges — that entrench inequality even as they remain blithely unaware of their role in perpetuating it. A former partner at a management consulting firm, Stewart is interested in tracing how the “thoughts and desires” of his own professional class exacerbate inequality, a welcome if not entirely original idea (in his 2017 book “Dream Hoarders,” the economist Richard Reeves made a similar argument about the upper middle class). Unfortunately, Stewart’s portrait of the 9.9 percent draws on few firsthand interviews with members of this class. He relies instead on examples culled from sources like Slate and on made-up characters such as “Ultramom,” a cartoonish figure who deploys her knowledge of branding to promote the virtues of her “Ultrachildren” in the race for coveted spots at a hyper-selective preschool.

Strikes widespread

Jasmine Kerrissey and Judy Stepan-Norris, 11-11, 21, Washington Post, U.S. workers have been striking in startling numbers. Will that continue?, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/11/us-workers-have-been-striking-startling-numbers-will-that-continue/

U.S. workers are doing something we haven’t seen much of in the last three decades: striking. Roughly 25,000 workers have recently walked off their jobs and joined picket lines, earning October 2021 the nickname #striketober. Are these strikes likely to spread? Our research on union activity over the past century has identified several major factors affecting union and strike dynamics. How today’s strikes develop will likely depend on these factors. Here’s the background on strike waves and strike droughts We collected archival data on labor relations by industry from 1900 to 2015, including information on union membership, strikes and the number of workers involved, union elections, major legislation and the strategies used by unions and employers. We then applied historical and comparative methods to analyze why unions have been strong in some industries and eras and not in others. The United States has been in a strike drought since the mid-1980s, with well under a half-million workers striking each year, and sometimes fewer than 100,000 workers — despite rising inequality and economic insecurity. In comparison, strikes were comparatively common for much of the 20th century. As the figure below shows, from the 1940s to the 1980s, between one and four million workers went on strike most years.​​ Workers involved in strikes, 1927-2014 Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics 1927-1981; Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) 1984-2014. No data available 1982-1983. We end at 2014, as later years’ data are available for only strikes involving 1,000 workers or more. In 2018 and 2019, more than 400,000 teachers went on strike in different actions across the country. Combined with that surge, #striketober, and what’s being called the Great Resignation, workers are signaling that they are once again willing to take action when they have grievances. Strike waves happen, in part, because workers reevaluate what they might be able to change in their own workplaces; societal conditions are favorable; and people see other workers successfully striking. Although we have had difficulty finding data on win rates for recent years, we found that strike win rates and strike activity moved together between 1916 and 1936. When workers were winning, more workers went on strike. Strike outcomes: labor supply, strategy, and politics Employees tend to win strikes when employers have a hard time replacing striking workers. When that happens, businesses can no longer produce goods or services, creating financial or political crises for employers.

Right to strike makes it more likely workers will succeed

Jasmine Kerrissey and Judy Stepan-Norris, 11-11, 21, Washington Post, U.S. workers have been striking in startling numbers. Will that continue?, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/11/us-workers-have-been-striking-startling-numbers-will-that-continue/

So what factors make it hard to replace workers? First, a tight labor supply gives workers more power during strikes. For example, during the world wars, with legions of working-age men fighting abroad, workers had the upper hand. Highly trained (especially licensed) workers in industries that are critical to the economy — like flight attendants or health-care workers — are also well-positioned for action because their critical skills make them difficult to replace. Most recently, the pandemic has brought workers new leverage. As workers have refused to return to jobs with low pay and poor conditions, they’ve become more difficult to replace — and remaining workers are more powerful during strikes. Second, unions can adopt strategies to make workers hard to replace. Early unionists built the American Federation of Labor (AFL) through their apprenticeship training programs. Since craft unions were central in training skilled labor, employers couldn’t easily find replacements during strikes. In the 1930s, the rival Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) adopted a different strategy. Industrial organization unionized entire workplaces rather than only workers within a single occupation, using inclusiveness and worker solidarity to make them difficult to replace. Their initial spark came from a new tactic: the sit-down strike. Here, strikers “sat down” at their work stations. For employers to replace them and resume production, they first had to battle to move out each seated worker — making the sit-down strike highly successful. The real reason teachers were striking in the red states in 2018 Employers, for their part, have experimented with making workers easier to replace. That’s included automating tasks, de-skilling (or breaking down tasks so they are easily done by anyone), moving worksites to states or countries without unions, developing new legal relationships with workers (like sub-contracting or part-time work), or reorganizing tasks to enable work to continue even with high worker turnover. Third, laws and government actions can also make replacing workers either easier or harder. In the early 1900s, courts often issued injunctions to stop strikes, and employers routinely fired striking workers. But in 1935, New Deal legislation established workers’ right to strike. With courts and regulations on their side and the CIO on the move, workers struck often — and won union recognition, wages and conditions that over several decades ushered in a new middle class. By the 1980s the political pendulum had swung back. President Ronald Reagan permanently replaced striking air traffic control workers in the 1981 PATCO strike, symbolically legitimizing the replacement of striking workers. Since then, state laws and courts have undone protections for unions and strengthened employers’ rights.

Why haven't U.S. mothers returned to work? The child care infrastructure is still missing. The future of #striketober In this pandemic moment, workers are again more difficult to replace. With millions quitting their jobs in what’s being called “the Great Resignation” and others unable to work because of a lack of child care or other supports, many businesses can’t find staff. And supply chains have been disrupted in unprecedented ways due to shortages of truckers, shipping containers, and covid workplace closures. In some ways, the moment is ripe for strikes: Workers have power and frustrations, and can see strikes succeeding elsewhere — including beating back concessions, sometimes just with the threat of a strike. However, although most Americans approve of unions, 90 percent of wage and salary workers are not unionized. To win strikes, workers need more union support, experienced leaders, and strike funds. How the government reacts will also influence any potential strike wave. Although President Biden expressed support in March for a unionization vote at Amazon, he has mostly refrained from speaking about recent strikes. But two of his Cabinet members have expressed solidarity with workers. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh even recently visited Kellogg workers on a picket line. Symbolic solidarity like this helps striking workers. Laws and friendly appointments would be even more effective, from appointing pro-labor NLRB board members to passing legislation like the PRO Act. The government could also take other actions. For example, in the 1930s, the federal government threatened to rein in powerful anti-union monopolies like the A&P grocery chain. It also established the LaFollette Committee to expose employer abuses and illegal actions. Professors: Check out TMC’s ever-expanding list of classroom topic guides. The pandemic exposed and intensified a host of worker grievances, including inadequate wages, demanding schedules, historically high CEO compensation, and the notorious two-tiered wage system. These strikes, combined with the “Great Resignation,” suggest that many working people want better options. If they succeed, they could redefine the next generation of work.

Legal protections needed to support worker protections

Sara Nelson (@FlyingWithSara) is the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-C.W.A., 11-11, 21, New York Times, America’s Judges Are Putting My Life on the Line, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/11/opinion/courts-labor-strikes.html

Workers are flexing collective power in major strikes, workplace actions and organizing drives, as they are forced to fight battles that labor won decades earlier: over workplace safety, an eight-hour day, vacation, sick leave, a living wage, health care and retirement security. But even as workers build power and wield it, we are thwarted by laws and judges who reliably side with corporations over workers. America needs more judges who understand and support the rights of workers. For too long, the courts have sided with corporations over labor, fundamentally and perniciously reshaping American law, life and liberty. Today, they are doing their part to unravel the American dream — and the social contract that has been in place since the 1940s, offering the working class a good life if they spend 40 hours on the job, the means to enjoy it in off hours and a secure retirement. In one stark example, a judge in Alabama in October barred union mineworkers from picketing within 300 yards of mine entrances, even as the authorities there have failed to charge the drivers of vehicles that struck lawful picketers. In a more common infringement of free speech, a judge in Iowa limited United Auto Workers picket lines outside a John Deere plant in Davenport last month to just four people at each entrance to the plant. The wholesale theft of workers’ rights is happening in broad daylight. With the help of conservative judges, corporations have systematically weakened labor laws for decades, leaving workers fewer and fewer tools to hold their bosses accountable. In the rare cases when workers win judgments against a bad boss, employers rarely face more than a slap on the wrist. This didn’t happen by accident. Republican presidents have stacked the federal courts with judges who hail from elite law schools, white-shoe law firms and corporate boardrooms. (More than a quarter of all federal judges on the bench in January had been appointed by Donald Trump.) As a result, the corporate win rate in American courts is sky-high. This is especially true in cases heard by the Supreme Court, which has sided with the Chamber of Commerce 70 percent of the time since 2006. A study published in 2013 ranked Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas among the five most-corporate-friendly members of the court since 1946, and the pro-corporate voting rate of its conservative wing is only growing. According to one recent report, the court agrees with the Chamber of Commerce more now than it had at any other time in recent history. Two other cases this year vividly demonstrate how the business lobby is using the courts to undermine workers’ rights. In June, in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, the Supreme Court elevated property rights above the rights of workers, upending a 1975 California law that allowed union organizers to speak with farmworkers in the fields and vineyards. This law had been a seminal accomplishment for the farmworker labor movement led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. As if to emphasize the court’s hostility to workers’ rights, Chief Justice Roberts declared that the California law granted union organizers the “right to invade the growers’ property.” In another case decided in June, Trinity Services Group v. National Labor Relations Board, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia gave employers a free pass to hoodwink their employees into voting against the union as long as they don’t make threats or promises or evoke future consequences. Because judges have created loopholes and carve-outs in labor law over the years, companies can seek to weaken the collective power of workers by forcing them to attend anti-union “captive audience meetings,” firing workers who organize their colleagues and disseminating propaganda smearing unions, as well as employing other intimidation tactics to keep employees from organizing. Congress wrote labor laws to foster union organizing and encourage collective bargaining, recognizing that workers are the foundation of our economy, and their collective power can check corporate abuses. Congress is today considering landmark legislation to update outdated, broken (and in some cases overtly racist and sexist) labor laws and give workers a fair chance to organize, bargain and hold employers accountable. But its passage would prove hollow if the courts dismantled it or wouldn’t enforce it. This isn’t just an academic question, or even an economic one — it’s often a matter of life and death. Before he joined the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, voted to allow the firing of an employee who abandoned an unheated company truck in a blizzard to avoid freezing to death. This is just one example of the judicial callousness toward workers that has put our livelihoods and lives in real danger. President Biden has an important opportunity to appoint judges who have been in the trenches with workers, and who know that strong labor laws and union contracts create workplace protections and rights for workers. By nominating union lawyers and worker advocates, he can help break the cycle of courts undermining our rights to benefit their corporate friends. Workers have seen progress when presidents appointed judges who had a personal understanding of injustice. Justices like Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg devoted their careers as lawyers to arguing for civil and women’s rights and changed our nation for the better from the bench. We’ve had laws to protect workers’ rights for nearly 100 years, but workers have learned that seeking justice in the courts leads all too often to frustration. No workers are immune from having their rights snatched away as long as judges reflexively side with employers. With the midterm elections approaching, it’s imperative that the White House act swiftly to fill vacancies while Democrats hold a Senate majority to confirm Mr. Biden’s nominees. In this moment of historic economic inequality, the president can take a powerful action to help workers build — and keep — power.

A strong labor movement is key to Democratic socialism

Swarthmore YDSA Coordinators, 11-10, 21, Nationwide Strikes: A Resounding Rebuke to Labor Shortage Hysteria and a Path Forward for All, https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2021/11/10/nationwide-strikes-a-resounding-rebuke-to-labor-shortage-hysteria-and-a-path-forward-for-all/

But together, the workers do have leverage; in solidarity they can withhold their labor and demand that they be compensated with living wages, a safe work environment, and the ability to have their voices heard in the workplace. In a stunning rebuke to the narrative that fewer people are returning to work because of unemployment benefits, worker strikes are sending shockwaves across the country. They are showing us that not only are people sick and tired of being treated like disposable objects at their workplace, but they are also tired of seeing others go through the same abuse. Nurses in Worcester, Massachusetts refused to agree to a contract that did not guarantee continued employment for nurses that went on strike, and Kellogg’s workers’ demands include that workers not be blocked from future increases in wages and benefits in a tiered system. Whether we look at the taxi drivers who went on a hunger strike for 15 days in New York for debt relief (and won), the thousands of striking workers at John Deere, miners in Alabama who strike even though it has been ruled criminal, or even college students at Columbia who attempted to hold a tuition strike earlier this year, we see true solidarity budding around us. This recent revitalization of the labor movement is a step towards a more-just economic framework. It is a glimpse into a future in which the workers who created this world have a say in how they are treated; that is a true democracy. We moved from monarchy to democracy because we recognized that society should not be governed by the arbitrary and autocratic power of kings, but rather the people who live in it. After roughly 200 years of capitalism, however, we have found ourselves in a society governed by self-appointed kings who established their power not solely with an army, but also with the subtler yet potent powers of inherited wealth, wage-theft, political gifts and corruption, media manipulation, and the deceptive, smiling sheen of benevolent expertise and technocratic rule. We are now looking closer to a new form of feudalism, one in which the vast majority of people are bound to dehumanizing labor by their need to survive. Meanwhile, the world’s second-richest man goes on a joyride to space and has the gall to thank his underpaid workers for making that possible. It is hard to imagine that even after 40 years of rapid technological development, we are still not living in a society that (as Keynes once said) allows us to enjoy lives of dignity with less work and more creative exploration. Instead, it is harder for anyone to afford a home and live without the knife of financial destitution pressing against their throats. This contradiction, that such advancement in automation and technology alongside people still being forced to work more, has developed under the governance of self-appointed capitalist kings and is something we can no longer ignore. It is time to have a new direction for our world, and who can decide that better than the people of it? Democratic socialism is a political philosophy that believes in democracy as both a means and an end. Improving people’s material conditions not only distributes power more equally, but it also ensures that a few cannot autocratically rule society. With the power of persuasion that is fundamental to democracy, democratic socialists hope to bring about a society where it isn’t the kings, but rather the people, who govern. The spark in our labor movement is a sign of hope towards democratic workplaces and democratic structures in society. If we truly believe ourselves to be acting for the public good, we must ground our study and ethos in the interest of the working people of the world and not that of the forces that created Swarthmore — a bastion of wealth and power which invests in morally reprehensible institutions and plays a role in molding the next set of the modern “best and brightest” technocrats who often fail upwards just to eventually reinforce this institution’s concentration of power. The Swarthmore College Young Democratic Socialists of America aims to participate in concrete actions which improve people’s material conditions and transfer power from the ruling class to the people. We plan to collaborate with Philly DSA and DelCo DSA to work on electoral organizing, movements to remove the Covanta incinerator (a textbook example of environmental racism), labor and tenant organizing, and anything else that members are interested in and is widely felt. The issues facing our planet right now — imminent climate disaster and all forms of oppression (such as those forced to the margins of society simply based on their gender, race, sexuality and more) — must be recognized and dealt with. We have faith in the dignity of each and every person and believe that creating a more democratically and economically just society is necessary to address these challenges. There is a reason that the people in power want you to believe there is nothing we can do and that the world is simply broken (or, in some cases, doing just great), because believing in a better world is a direct threat to the status quo that benefits them. Join us on Nov. 18th at 6:30 p.m. in Science Center L26 to plan and implement actionable steps that improve the material conditions of people and create that better world. All students, faculty, and staff are welcome. Our interest form is here. Email any inquiries to swatydsa@gmail.com, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

“High food prices bad” is non-unique: CEOS are making millions in the food industry

Julie Keown-Bomar is executive director of the Wisconsin Farmers Union and has a Ph.D in anthropology, 11-5, 21, Op-ed: As Striketober Becomes Strikesgiving, Stand in Solidarity with Food Workers and Farmers, https://civileats.com/2021/11/05/op-ed-as-striketober-becomes-strikesgiving-stand-in-solidarity-with-food-workers-and-farmers/

Some skeptics say the Deere strike will lead to higher equipment prices for farmers. But those prices have already risen exorbitantly in recent years, while May pulls in an income 300 times that of the average American. “Hey food giants, we’re disappointed in you. Farmers and workers are being taken advantage of while those at the top rake in record profits and salaries.” The farmer’s share of a $4.99 box of breakfast cereal is $.12 and this pittance has been dropping for decades. The American food system is characterized by cheap food at an unfair cost to farmers, laborers, and the land and yet some folks are getting filthy rich off this exploitative system. But the recent wave of strikes is showing that workers are fed up and willing to put their livelihood on the line in ways that we haven’t seen in decades. Kellogg’s CEO made $11.6 million last year and received a 20 percent salary increase from 2020 to 2021. Yet this profit-making corporation had the gall to say it was “disappointed” that its essential production workers went on strike. Hey food giants, we’re disappointed in you. Farmers and workers are being taken advantage of while those at the top rake in record profits and salaries. Farmers and labor have stood together in the past, as the Wisconsin Farmers Union explored in our eight-episode Farmer–Labor Solidarity Podcast. Corporations will try every technique possible to divide workers, farmers, and consumers. Don’t fall for it.

Higher wages increase inflation snowball

Boyle, 11-5, 21, Ryan James Boyle is a Vice President and Senior Economist within the Global Risk Management division of Northern Trust. In this role, Ryan is responsible for briefing clients and partners on the economy and business conditions, supporting internal stress testing and capital allocation processes, and publishing economic commentaries, Labor: Strike While the Iron Is Hot

Inflation concerns are leading workers to demand higher wages. In most recent years, wages rose more rapidly than inflation; today, the opposite is true. As workers secure better increases, firms may be prompted to raise prices, initiating a feedback loop that could be difficult to arrest.

Increased union power magnifies the supply chain crisis and threatens the economy

Elizabeth Hanke, Research Fellow, Labor Economics and Policy, Americans Struggle as President Biden Favors Unions During Supply-Chain Breakdown, 11-3-21, https://www.heritage.org/jobs-and-labor/report/americans-struggle-president-biden-favors-unions-during-supply-chain

UMMARYThe current supply-chain crisis has led to a significant disruption of global commerce that will have far-reaching implications. Americans are already seeing these impacts in the form of empty store shelves, product shortages, rising prices, and inflation. At the epicenter are restrictive union contracts that discourage a 24/7 schedule in favor of an abbreviated work week and fewer working hours, causing lower productivity at the nation’s largest ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach. President Biden’s Build Back Better plan should be abandoned. The Biden Administration should support capital improvements that increase worker productivity, permit the purchase of fully automated equipment, and limit unions’ ability to hobble critical infrastructure. KEY TAKEAWAYSUnion practices play a large role in the nation’s supply-chain crisis, and Democrats’ reconciliation plan avoids any solutions to the issues at West Coast ports.The high labor rates paid by cargo carriers and terminal operators are passed on to U.S. businesses large and small, which, in turn, pass them on to customers.The U.S. cannot allow international commerce, the global supply-chain, and the American economy to exist at the mercy of a handful of labor leaders.  Copied  Select a Section 1/0  Some in the Biden Administration have used the supply-chain crisis as a talking point to encourage passage of the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better (BBB) plan. According to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the supply-chain crisis “is one more reason why we do need to deliver this infrastructure package, so that we can have a more resilient, flexible physical infrastructure to support our supply chain in this country.”1  This claim is, at a minimum, disingenuous. While the BBB plan is touted as investing $17 billion in port infrastructure, the funding is centered on the Administration’s climate-change initiative and targets reduction of air pollution and greenhouse gases.2  Not only is there no funding for the implementation of productivity enhancements, bowing to union pressure, the plan also expressly prohibits the use of these funds for the purchase of fully automated cargo-handling equipment that is desperately needed to boost port efficiency.3  Reduction of air pollution is a good thing, but these proposed air-quality improvements will not alleviate the nation’s supply-chain issues. The Los Angeles and Long Beach Ports Union contracts and labor practices play a large and detrimental role in the nation’s supply-chain problem. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (LA/LB) provide a good example. The adjacent ports’ location in a large population center explains their rankings as the first and second, respectively, busiest container ports in the U.S.4  Their West Coast proximity to Asian ports, especially top-importer China, and their ability to handle the largest container ships in the world explains why almost half of total U.S. imports move through these ports and why, combined, they rank as the 10th-busiest container port worldwide, handling an average of more than 330,000 containers per week.5 Despite these advantages, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach seem to have found a way to squander them. Based on the statistical methodology results from the World Bank’s Container Port Performance Index 2020, the port of Los Angeles ranked 328th, and the port of Long Beach 333rd, of 351 global ports, placing them in the bottom 10 percent of global container ports evaluated.6   These two ports were also outpaced by most other U.S. ports, including Philadelphia (83rd), Virginia (85th), New York/New Jersey (89th), and Charleston (95th). Los Angeles and Long Beach posted abysmal scores in both the administrative procedures and the statistical measures that include time in port and other efficiency factors. A look at the contract with the labor union helps to explain why.  Union Influence and Labor Costs Dock workers at these ports are represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The current contract between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, the 70-member group of cargo carrier and terminal operator companies, reads like a union wish list. After meeting the baseline 4,000 hours, or just under two years, of industry work experience, members earn $46.23 per hour.7 International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association, “Pacific Coast Longshore Contract Document 2019–2022,” pp. 30 and 31, https://apps.pmanet.org/pubs/LaborAgreements/2019-2022_PCLCD.pdf (accessed October 26, 2021).   Nearly $100,000 per year is a generous salary, but it is only the beginning of the lucrative compensation structure. Second-shift workers earn a 33 percent premium over the regular rate, pushing their hourly pay to $61.64, while third-shift workers’ 60 percent wage premium results in a $73.96 hourly pay rate.8 Ibid., pp. 31 and 32.   The compensation package reflects the fact that longshoremen work a difficult and often dangerous job. It also translates to some impressive earnings, such as average dock workers making $171,000 and foremen pulling in $282,000, annually.  Union employees receive free employer-paid health care, full pensions, and 15 paid holidays annually, including United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez’s birthday, July 5 (“Bloody Thursday”) to commemorate the deaths of two union members during a strike in 1934, and the birthday of ILWU founder Harry Bridges.10  Considering the ability of the ILWU to immediately hamper global commerce, and the large amounts of money being paid to its thousands of members, it is easy to understand the immense power this union wields and the hesitancy many people have in even the slightest criticism of it.  Generous to near extravagant as this package is, union leaders who negotiated this contract are doing what is expected of them: acting in the best interest of their members. Unfortunately, while the interests of ILWU members are clearly being served under the contract, the interests of American businesses and everyday consumers are taking a back seat. The high labor rates paid by cargo carriers and terminal operators are passed along to American manufacturers, retailers, and other firms that, in turn, pass them along to customers in the form of higher prices. Ultimately, the impact of these exorbitant labor rates is borne by American consumers, many of whom are already struggling to pay their bills.  High labor rates can contribute to higher consumer prices, but the impact of these rates can be offset significantly by higher productivity rates. Labor productivity, traditionally defined as output per unit of input, is a widely used measure of efficiency.  Improvements to worker productivity can be a powerful tool in high-wage scenarios. When supported by training, capital improvements, and various forms of automation, many high-wage workers can be sufficiently productive to render themselves the low-cost alternative when performance is evaluated on a per-unit basis. For instance, if worker A is paid twice the hourly rate of worker B, this scenario will still be advantageous as long as worker A’s output is more than twice that of worker B. This is a critical concept when evaluating U.S. port performance.     This is no small matter. Los Angeles and Long Beach ports have historically operated two eight-hour shifts plus a partial third shift Monday through Friday totaling 112 hours per week, compared to 168 hours per week at ports that operate 24/7.13   This variance means that LA/LB ports are only open two-thirds the hours of other major container ports, resulting in a corresponding drop in capacity. Further exacerbating the problem is that this represents only shipping unloading time, but the terminal gates have traditionally been open only 88 hours weekly for trucks to pick up containers.14   This restriction to the container pickup process adds time and unnecessary expense to the drayage process. Since any hours above the current 112-hour work week must be paid at an overtime rate, the union’s agreement to increase to a 24/7 schedule translates to a massive overtime payout for its members.  Low Productivity. The traditional reliance on this high-cost, low-accessibility model tells only part of the story. When the two ports are actually working, their productivity is astonishingly slow compared to ports in China. Volume in container ports is generally measured by 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) that is based on the size of a standard 20-foot-long shipping container.15   Since 10-foot and 40-foot shipping containers are also used, albeit less frequently, this metric provides a standard measure for purposes of comparison. Offloading of a typical 6,000 TEU mega-ship takes an average of 24 seconds per container in the ports of Yangshan, Qingdao, and Yantian, but double that time, totaling a full 48 seconds per container, in Los Angeles.16   ,,,  Conclusion Americans should not be held hostage by unions. The situation in Los Angeles and Long Beach, which not only laid the groundwork for, but also exacerbated, the supply-chain crisis did not develop overnight. One need look no further than the ILWU’s annual recognition of the tragic “Blood Thursday” labor dispute that occurred nearly a century ago to see evidence of a long and deep-seated animosity. Toxic as labor relations are, the U.S. cannot allow international commerce, the global supply chain, and the American economy to exist at the mercy of a handful of labor leaders.  Rectifying this situation will take years and, more importantly, a currently non-existent level of commitment and cooperation from management and unions at these facilities. Considering that President Joe Biden ran his 2020 election campaign as a self-professed “union guy” whose inauguration speech promised to “unify America,” this seems like an ideal time for him to get started on his promise by gaining ILWU cooperation to alleviate avoidable problems for all Americans.

Strike wave now

John FettermanJohn Fetterman is the current Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania and a candidate for the United States Senate, 11-2, 21, https://www.thenation.com/article/economy/fetterman-strikes/, The Working Class Is on Strike

Across the country we are witnessing a historic strike wave, with over 22,000 US union members on strike right now. From our BCTGM Local 374G right here in Lancaster, Pa., on strike against the greed of Kellogg’s, to the 10,000 UAW workers at John Deere plants walking off the factory floor, the Ironworkers Regional Shop Local 851 on strike against Erie Strayer Company in northwestern Pennsylvania, or the 24,000 health care workers at Kaiser Permanente on the west coast who have overwhelmingly authorized a strike, workers have had enough, and they are taking action.

In Store, 11-3, 21, Workplace Strikes on the Rise in “Historic” Labor Movement, https://instoremag.com/workplace-strikes-on-the-rise-in-historic-labor-movement/

The October walkouts make 119 union strikes so far this year, including 15 classified as “major” strikes involving 1,000 or more individuals. That compares with nine major strikes in 2020 (when the pandemic took hold) and 30 in 2019. “But it is clear, economists say, that the 2021 strike movement is historic in both its size and the way it spans across industries,” the article notes.

Rich-poor gap increasing

John FettermanJohn Fetterman is the current Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania and a candidate for the United States Senate, 11-2, 21, https://www.thenation.com/article/economy/fetterman-strikes/, The Working Class Is on Strike

Now more than ever, the rich are getting richer while the workers are left with crumbs. Just look at John Deere, which is expected to make over $5.7 billion in profits this year, and the CEO took home $15.6 million in 2020—a 160 percent raise from 2019. And last year Kellogg’s authorized $1.5 billion in stock buybacks to pad its shareholders’ pockets, yet these corporations and executives want to cry poor when it comes to sharing the wealth with the workers who created it. It should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention that these workers have had enough of this corporate greed and raw exploitation to decide to finally take direct action.

250 worker strikes now

Lloyd Osborne, 10-31, 21, Journal Gazette, Workers strike to get fair treatment,not hurt employers, https://www.journalgazette.net/opinion/columns/20211031/workers-strike-to-get-fair-treatmentnot-hurt-employers

According to a strike database from Cornell University, there are currently 250 strikes happening across the country, and that is after an unprecedented few years of labor activism: striking teachers from West Virginia and Chicago, the reversal of right-to-work in Missouri, the walkouts at tech companies. Locally in the last few years, we've seen strikes in Building Trades, United Auto Workers and Teamsters, and our local Musicians Union was able to harness the support of the community through protest and actions to help settle a contentious contract negotiation. I'm sure many have seen national news coverage where economists and labor scholars debate the finer points of why now; what does this mean for the labor market; and what could be the long-term effects in this unprecedented time. Some politicians are looking at it like an opportunity to take a cheap shot at striking workers who in the past they have called lazy, and blame the labor shortage on extended unemployment benefits that were made available by the current federal administration. In my mind, they are all a little bit right, but not for the reasons you may think.

Can’t solve in the capitalist system

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