"Song for a Deck Hand's Daughter" - James McMurtry
Bad news, bad news, and more bad news for working Americans.
- The classic canard in today's capitalism is that if only workers were skilled and productive enough to make their company's prosper, then they would share in the wealth they help create. Well tell that to the employees of Caterpillar, who helped their employer make $4.9 billion in profits last year. Their reward: employees at their Joliet, Illinois plant asked to take a six year wage freeze, a pension freeze, and pay more out of pocket for medical coverage despite the fact that Caterpillar is realising a profit of $39,000 per employee. One wonders really in what circumstances employees could expect to receive wage increases and otherwise improve their standard of living -- maybe when Caterpillar makes $10 billion in profit. Anyway, the Machinists Union is striking, a rare moment when workers are actually fighting for themselves. I wish them well.
- And then there is the warehouse workers in California's Inland Empire -- east of Los Angeles -- from where many of the products imported on the west coast are stored and shipped. Here workers are often paid piece rates that fall below minimum wage. Workers are often shifted from subcontractor to subcontractor without really knowing by whom they are being employed. In addition to subpar pay, workers complain of dangerous conditions:
“There’s nobody who cares about our health — there’s just pressure to empty cases at a fast pace,” said Mr. Herrera, who is part of a complaint that Warehouse Workers United filed last week with the state. “All the dust we inhale, all the heavy things we have to lift with all our strength and no support, it’s very hard.
I suppose in today's America, Mr. Herrera should be thankful to have his unsafe job. (Hat tip to bbw.)
- And, of course, the notion that any of these working people should be allowed to retire with an adequate pension, well that's just silly talk.
How many of these workers will in turn go out and vote for politicians like Mitt Romney, who will pursue policies that will render them ever more economically insecure? There was a time when leftist crowed that the last capitalist would sell the rope with which they would hang him. I am pretty sure that today's working class will embrace the politics and policies that will render them ever more vulnerable to capitalist predation without having the first clue as to what they have done.