“Mate, what do you think of the ‘Organizing Model’? That’s an American thing, isn’t it?”
During a break at an IWW organizer training in London, the question caught me off guard. There were many organizing models, right? I chalked it up to U.S.-U.K. cultural misunderstanding. But a few weeks later in Cologne, Germany, I got the same question. I decided to do some digging.
It turns out the United States doesn’t export only Justin Bieber and Big Macs. We also export the trends of our labor movement. Over the last 15 years—as American management practices have cast a pall over the global economy—unions from the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, and Australia have looked to U.S. unions for survival strategies. They came back with “the organizing model”. Read more.
Mexican Workers Win Ownership of Tire Plant with Three-Year Strike
by Jane Slaughter
“If the owners don’t want it, let’s run it ourselves.” When a factory closes, the idea of turning it into a worker-owned co-operative sometimes comes up—and usually dies.
The hurdles to buying a plant, even a failing plant, are huge, and once in business, the new worker-owners face all the pressures that helped the company go bankrupt in the first place. Most worker-owned co-ops are small, such as a taxi collective in Madison or a bakery in San Francisco.
But in Mexico a giant-sized worker cooperative has been building tires since 2005. The factory competes on the world market, employs 1,050 co-owners, and pays the best wages and pensions of any Mexican tire plant.
Aware that this unusual victory is virtually unknown in the U.S., friends in Guadalajara urged me to come down and see how the TRADOC cooperative is working. Read more.
Hong Kong Dockworkers Strike Attracts Huge Solidarity
April 12, 2013 / Ellen David Friedman
Five hundred dockworkers are facing down the richest man in Hong Kong (and, according to Forbes, eighth-richest in the world) in a strike that has entered its third week and brought transport in the world’s third-busiest port to a virtual halt.
Li Ka-shing, the billionaire behind Hongkong International Terminals (HIT), controls more than 70 percent of Hong Kong’s port container traffic and oversees a vast transnational network of enterprises including the oil and gas giant Husky.
Arrayed against this financial titan often referred to as “Superman” are dockworkers exhausted by 12-hours shifts lacking even toilet breaks, surviving in one of the world’s most expensive cities on wages that haven’t risen in 15 years, and now waging a labor battle that observers are calling pivotal.
The confrontation appears to have tapped a vein of indignation against the “greed economy” and its glaring inequalities, bringing the workers broad public support. Read more.
Brother Keith Madding, a member of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU), the ILWU’s Marine Division, rescued a man who was struggling to stay afloat in the waters outside of San Francisco Bay. Madding was working on a tugboat named “Guard” during the early morning of October 31. The tugboat was outside the Golden Gate Bridge, waiting to escort a tanker. Perry Overton, captain of the Guard, noticed the man treading water a little more than a mile and a half from the bridge. The crew tossed the man a life ring and Chief Engineer Madding donned a survival suit and entered the 55 degree waters to help the fatigued man climb the Guard’s emergency ladder. Once aboard, the crew removed the hypothermic man’s wet clothing and wrapped him in warm blankets until the Coast Guard arrived and could perform other lifesaving treatments. “These guys are heroes and without a doubt saved that man’s life. In the 20-plus years of my career, I have never seen such a professional rescue by non-professional-rescuers,” said Ranger Shannon Jay of the National Park Service at Golden Gate National Parks in the San Francisco Bay area. He added, the event should be considered “a tribute to the training they received and also to the crew for quickly and diligently using their training. They are true heroes.”
The crew of the Guard have been nominated by the National Park Service for a Citizen’s Award for Bravery, which is an honor awarded by the Secretary of the Interior in Washington DC. The Guard, is a part of Crowley’s marine services fleet. The crew is fully trained to respond to a variety of incidents. In addition to meeting defined regulatory training requirements, the company’s crewmembers participate annually in the a custom training event designed exclusively for mariners. The program provides training in cold-water survival tactics, shipboard firefighting, medical incidents and other relevant topics that give the mariners the skills and confidence they need to respond to emergency situations.
“We value training, but it was Keith’s good judgment and many years of maritime experience that made the difference this time,” said Marina Secchitano, IBU Regional Director in San Francisco.
The Austerity Agenda
by Paul Krugman
May 31, 2012
“The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity.” So declared John Maynard Keynes 75 years ago, and he was right. Even if you have a long-run deficit problem — and who doesn’t? — slashing spending while the economy is deeply depressed is a self-defeating strategy, because it just deepens the depression.
So why is Britain doing exactly what it shouldn’t? Unlike the governments of, say, Spain or California, the British government can borrow freely, at historically low interest rates. So why is that government sharply reducing investment and eliminating hundreds of thousands of public-sector jobs, rather than waiting until the economy is stronger?
Over the past few days, I’ve posed that question to a number of supporters of the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, sometimes in private, sometimes on TV. And all these conversations followed the same arc: They began with a bad metaphor and ended with the revelation of ulterior motives.
The bad metaphor — which you’ve surely heard many times — equates the debt problems of a national economy with the debt problems of an individual family. A family that has run up too much debt, the story goes, must tighten its belt. So if Britain, as a whole, has run up too much debt — which it has, although it’s mostly private rather than public debt — shouldn’t it do the same? What’s wrong with this comparison?
The answer is that an economy is not like an indebted family. Our debt is mostly money we owe to each other; even more important, our income mostly comes from selling things to each other. Your spending is my income, and my spending is your income.
So what happens if everyone simultaneously slashes spending in an attempt to pay down debt? The answer is that everyone’s income falls — my income falls because you’re spending less, and your income falls because I’m spending less. And, as our incomes plunge, our debt problem gets worse, not better. Read more.
JPMorgan Chase Makes the Argument Again For Strong Financial Regulation
May 20, 2012
Dimon’s Déjà Vu Debacle
by Paul Krugman
Sometimes it’s hard to explain why we need strong financial regulation — especially in an era saturated with pro-business, pro-market propaganda. So we should always be grateful when someone makes the case for regulation more compelling and easier to understand. And this week, that means offering a special shout-out to two men: Jamie Dimon and Mitt Romney.
I’ll come back shortly to the troubles at JPMorgan Chase, the bank Mr. Dimon runs. First, however, let me talk about Mr. Romney, whose remarks about those troubles were so off-point that they constitute a teachable moment.
Here’s what the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said about JPMorgan’s $2 billion loss (which may actually have been $3 billion, or $5 billion, or more, but who’s counting?): “This was a loss to shareholders and owners of JPMorgan and that’s the way America works. Some people experienced a loss in this case because of a bad decision. By the way, there was someone who made a gain.”
What’s wrong with this statement? Well, suppose that someone — say, Jimmy Stewart in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” — runs a bank that takes in deposits and invests the money in various ways. And suppose that one of those investments is a risky bet on some complex financial instrument, with Mr. Potter, the evil plutocrat, on the other side. Read more.
Corporate Tax Myth
Warren Buffett: High Corporate Taxes Are An American 'Myth'
The Huffington Post by Bonnie Kavoussi 02/27/12
Corporations, like the rich, aren't paying their fair share in taxes, billionaire investor Warren Buffett told CNBC on Monday.
Even while enjoying record profits, corporations last year paid just 12.1 percent of those earnings in taxes, their lowest tax rate since 1972, according to the Congressional Budget Office. At least thirty of the country's most profitable companies had a negative tax rate between 2008 and 2010.
Buffett, for one, says it's time to take notice.
"It's a myth that American corporations are paying 35 percent or anything like it," Buffett said, referring to the top marginal corporate tax rate. "Corporate taxes are not strangling American competitiveness." Read more.