Monday, January 23, 2012

"Get Your Ass Down Here, Prime Minister Harper!"

Holy crap, what's this? The mayor of a city not taking lying down the gutting of a local factory's workers' pay and benefits after the foreign corporation which owns it was granted huge tax breaks? Not to mention that same mayor is also excoriating the nation's leader for favoring corporate interests over those of the workers? Fabulous! Too bad it is only happening north of the border, as reported Saturday by Digital Journal:
"Get your ass down here, Prime Minister Harper!" bellowed Joe Fontana, mayor of London. In 2008 Harper visited the city's EMD plant, announcing corporate tax cuts to increase job security for Canadians. Now, EMD workers are locked out by their U.S. owner.
So what exactly has the mayor all up in arms?
Since the start of the year, about 425 unionized Electro-Motive Diesel workers in London have been locked out by Progress Rail, a subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc. The highly profitable, global company shocked many by demanding London workers take a 50 percent drop in pay, accept deep cuts to their benefits, and stand by as their pension plans were gutted.
Yeah, that's pretty bad. I can see why people might be pissed off. And I found these quotes to be particularly delicious:
Stop, ask a pleasant looking older woman why she is there. You learn her son has worked at EMD for years and his reward is being locked out, put onto the street in January in the middle of the Canadian winter. "Tell Harper to get the money back . . . It's our money he gave to those bastards!" She spits out the words with venom.

Everyone hears the personal story of the Jones family when Brianna Jones and her father, Ian, take centre stage. Brianna made her contempt for the giant American company clear. Without unions she said, "We'd all be living in the slums. They don't care." She continued, "Our family's budget will be slashed in half." Brianna is attending university in Windsor and plans on going on to earn her doctorate. A crumbling family budget would hurt.

"It is morally wrong to call (my father's) life's work unskilled," she says talking about her dad. Brianna is proud of her father. "We should not have to inherit a society where greed trumps morality." The crowds loudly chants, "Greed. Greed. Greed."
Oh, and here you see the lingering effects of the Occupy movement:
But it was not only private and public-sector labour unions that were attracted to the rally; It also drew non-labour supporters as well. Sister Sue Walker of the Sisters of St. Joseph in London warned, "The social contract is breaking down." She said, "Wealth is trickling upwards" and this is "tearing at the fabric of society. Now is the time for the 99 percent to stand together."
The biggest question I have every time I read the latest story about a factory being shut down so that production can be moved to China, or workers being laid off by CEOs who are still paid tens of millions of dollars is: where is the outrage? Every time this kind of shit happens in America, the workers just meekly take it and don't ever protest. Why not yell and scream and make your voice heard? Ultimately, it might not save your job, but it might serve to finally wake people up to what is really going on in this country.

Bonus: Which side are you on?


  1. The whole unskilled thing is nothing but a leveraging ploy brought about through taylorism by the owners and managers to strip power away from employees. Factory workers used to all be skilled machinists, but as taylorism and fordism broke down factory work into smaller components each to be performed by one person and then later by robots, the workers lost bargaining power as the simplified tasks could be done by almost anyone, thus any worker could easily be replaced by a scab.

    Good for overall production, good for cutting costs, good for profit, terrible for the worker. All dignity and respect has been stripped away.

    The managers and owners see only numbers, only a system, a system they must optimize, it doesn't ever really hit them that by doing so they are destroying the only ability some people have for income, which one must have in order to have a home and to acquire food and clothing. Because private land ownership and private ownership of the means of production deprives people of the once free access they had to the necessary means for survival, they are forced into servitude, which makes labor cheap.

    And of course this all ignores the overall incredibly destructive effect that industry has on the biosphere.

    David Rovics' Battle of Blair Mountain, on what labor struggles once were, and the vicious cruelty and lengths the owners are really willing to go to.

    "The Union leaders tried to stop us
    Mother Jones told us to turn back
    But we had learned ourselves from the gun thugs
    there's a time to talk, and a time to attack."

  3. I believe Henry Ford said something about building a car that his workers could afford to buy on their wages. Smart guy.

    What good is a lot of cheaper stuff, built using the fewest possible workers, if nobody earns sufficient wages any more to buy the products?

    How does that figure?


    1. What we are seeing now is "Henry Ford in reverse." What Ford and his generation of industrialists so painstakingly built up, the current generation of vulture capitalists are determined to tear down out of sheer greed. A thus does our modern industrial society complete its life cycle.

  4. I'm glad the Canadians are brave enough to get angry. Sometimes I think it's not really about winning, but maybe about maintaining your dignity even if you lose. I just don't know. You get into some really odd territory when you start wondering about all of that.

  5. So when the majority of wage earners have all had their livings squeezed down to the lowest common denominator, all the cheap stuff becomes utterly superfluous as no one will be able to afford it, no matter how cheap.

    What's the end game here? I mean what can these corporate vultures possibly be thinking? When everybody is poor how can they remain rich? It's well known that parasites are designed NOT to kill of the hosts, as the parasite depends on the host for survival.


    1. My take: they think they can kick the can far enough down the road that it ultimately won't be their problem.

    2. That attitude will lead to our extinction. Mark my words.

    3. Bill, Totally check out this story on desdemona despair, about why Apple loves China.

  6. @Anon#2 - I saw that story. Karl Denninger of all people was ranting and raving about how it shows we need high tariffs on products produced by virtual slave labor (and by implication strong unions). Never thought I'd see the day when a Libertarian would advocate for such things.

  7. "Every time this kind of shit happens in America, the workers just meekly take it and don't ever protest. Why not yell and scream and make your voice heard?"

    American workers have been conditioned for generations to believe that whatever serves business interests serves "freedom;" and that whatever serves anyone else's interests, EVEN THEIR OWN, is tyranny. They don't realize that they are not part of the business interest circle.