September 2, 2013

quote of the (labor) day

Filed under:, , , — cwage @ 5:29 pm

For some brief context here, recall that Belloc's take on "Capitalism" is not the same as the "capitalism" as it exists in our own vernacular or current pop culture lexicon. For Belloc, (as he says below), Capitalism is an unstable equilibrium wherein the means of production are owned by a few and there exists political freedom -- meaning, basically, people are free to work or not work as they like, but if they do desire to work, it requires the means of production owned by the Capitalist. Thus your employment occurs at the whim and discretion of the Capitalist. So it does resemble (arguably) our current state of affairs, but has nothing to do with the connotations of "free market" ideology that exists in current America. Here, then, Belloc describes the essential character of insecurity (and anxiety) that exists for the laborer in Capitalism:

Combine these two elements: the ownership of the means of production by a very few; the political freedom of owners and non-owners alike. There follows immediately from that combination a competitive market wherein the labor of the non-owner fetches just what it is worth, not as full productive power, but as productive power which will leave a surplus to the Capitalist. It fetches nothing when the laborer cannot work, more in proportion to the pace at which he is driven; less in middle age than in youth; less in old age than in middle age; nothing in sickness; nothing in despair. A man in a position to accumulate (the normal result of human labor), a man founded upon property in sufficient amount and in established form is no more productive in his non-productive moments than is a proletarian; but his life is balanced and regulated by his reception of rent and interest as well as wages. Surplus values come to him, and are the fly-wheel balancing the extremes of his life and carrying him over his bad times. With a proletarian it cannot be so. The aspect from Capital looks at a human being whose labor it proposes to purchase cuts right across that normal aspect of human life from which we all regard our own affections, duties, and character. A man thinks of himself, of his chances and of his security along the line of his own individual existence from birth to death. Capital purchasing his labor (and not the man himself) purchases but a cross-section of his life, his moments of activity. For the rest, he must fend for himself; but to fend for yourself when you have nothing is to starve.

Enjoy your hot dogs!

July 21, 2006

HCA/Riverside strike

Filed under:, , , , , , — cwage @ 8:38 am

Amidst various swirling rumors of the buyout/non-buyout, HCA is facing trouble on the labor front. Thousands of HCA workers are threatening a strike if talks don't progress:

"My coworkers and I never wanted to strike, but we will if we need to.
Our patients are suffering because of the poor working conditions at
HCA/Riverside Community Hospital. I am willing to walk a picket line for an
industry standard contract that allows me to provide safe, quality care for
my patients. My coworkers and I will not settle for anything less," said
Russell Main, a Respiratory Therapist at HCA/Riverside Community Hospital.

Coincidentally, Kevin Carson just addressed the health industry in his recent post about professionalism:

Professionalism undermines the separation of work and home. Throughout the entire service sector, increasingly, low-paid wage workers are expected to think of their job as a calling, and of customer service as something to sacrifice "ownlife" for. In nursing, an occupation that fell under the spell of professionalism long ago, this is old news. For all of living memory, hospital managements have cynically manipulated nurses' concern for their patients to guilt them into working unwanted overtime. This is often done, deliberately, in preference to hiring enough staff to avoid overtime, because it economizes on the costs of benefits.

April 13, 2006

labor economics followup

Filed under:, , , — cwage @ 9:04 am

Dean Baker says it much better than I can:

Quick trip back to econ 101: recall the concepts “supply” and “demand.” What makes a job a “low wage” job? In econ 101 world, a job will be a “low wage” job if the supply is high relative to the demand. When there is insufficient supply, then the wage rises. My students didn’t pass the course if they couldn’t get this one right. Econ 101 tells us that there is not a shortage of workers for low wage jobs; it tells us that there are employers who want to keep the wages for these jobs from rising.

Immigration has been one of the tools that have been used to depress wages for less-skilled workers over the last quarter century. Many of the “low-wage” jobs that cannot be filled today, such as jobs in construction and meat-packing, were not “low-wage” jobs thirty years ago. Thirty years ago, these were often high-paying union jobs that plenty of native born workers would have been happy to fill. These jobs have become hard to fill because the wages in these jobs have drifted down towards a minimum wage that is 30 percent lower than its 1970s level.

In response to this logic, the “low wage” job crew claims that if the wages in these jobs rose, then businesses couldn’t afford to hire the workers. It’s time for more econ 101. Businesses that can’t make money paying the prevailing prices go out of business – that is how a market economy works. Labor goes from less productive to more productive uses. This is why we don’t still have 20 percent of our workforce in agriculture.

So the economic side of the debate over immigration is a question about employers wanting access to cheap labor. That part is pretty simple. There are other questions in this debate about human rights and basic decency. It’s outrageous to threaten people with deportation and imprisonment who have worked in this country as part of a conscious government policy. (No one enforced employer sanctions. That was a deliberate decision by the government.)

April 12, 2006

labor economics

Filed under:, , , , — cwage @ 9:44 pm

AC makes a bold assertion:

Mass immigration, be it illegal or legal, displaces workers and depresses wages

There is no reason to believe this is true. Or, at least, I'd love to see AC support the claim.

First: There is no basic, "Economics 101", reason that immigration would depress wages. Economies are made of people. If you add people to a market, is the only thing they add labor? Of course not, that's stupid. They add labor and they also add consumption. People that work also need to eat, drink, and shop for quality pornography. They demand things. Who provides things that are demanded by new people? Uh.. other people. So anyways, the snotty assertion you often see (though not from A.C.) that anyone that knows basic economics can see that immigration would depress wages is not only failing to realize we don't live in an Econ 101 world, they are failing to understand .. well, Econ 101.

As a hypothetical example to demonstrate how ridiculous this idea is: imagine a growing city like, say, Nashville. Does Nashville discourage people from migrating to Nashville because they will drive down wages? Of course not. In fact, cities tend to do the opposite: they try to attract people. But won't that dwindle the labor market until we're all working for peanuts?

In any event, misunderstandings aside, it's clear that we don't live in an Econ 101 world. There's no empirical evidence, however, to support the idea that there are any structural forces imposing themselves on the free market that would cause immigration to depress wages. There are structural forces, however, that could cause illegal immigration to depress wages. For example, oh, I don't know, labor law. Libertarians take heed, this is right up your alley: if you want to find the source of our immigration woes, look no further than government intervention. The class of lower-grade, cheap labor that drives down wages is not a product of immigration itself -- it's a product of our fucked up, draconian, yet impractical and impossible-to-enforce immigration law.

March 25, 2006

immigration reform

Filed under:, , , — cwage @ 10:10 pm

Global Labor Strategies has a good summary of immigration reform legislation and strategies.

March 3, 2006

mmm, choco-rations

Filed under:, , — cwage @ 6:46 pm

Quote of the day comes from Kevin Carson:

It reminds me of Krauthammer or some other neocon dirtbag, after the invasion of Iraq, who ridiculed the shorter work weeks and longer vacations of Europeans. "We" prefer, he said, to work longer hours and take shorter vacations, so that "we" can produce more carrier groups to send to the Gulf. Well, sorry. I don't take any vicarious pride in Oceania being able to put another floating fortress off the Malabar front. I want my fucking choco-rations.