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In light of the Union diaries over the past few days, I thought I would share the contents of a post I made a few months back to a forum of highly technical people.  I hope you like it.

Whenever you get a situation where a few people have bread they are looking to distribute, and many people are hungry, people are willing to fight for scraps.  And the person dispensing the bread can give out smaller and smaller scraps of bread, and the people who are hungry will still fight for them.  When the dust settles, the people who get the bread will be happy and the people who do not will not be.  The fact of the matter is that the scrap of bread will not fill the belly of the person who gets the scrap much better than the person who does not.  Things will be better for the scrapful than the scrapless, but, when you come right down to it, to the guy who has the loaf, one person willing to fight for a scrap is just as good as the next, and if they settle for a smaller scrap, it's better for him as he gets to keep more bread.  And, really, the fate of the rabble fighting for the bread is not his concern: there are always more people willing to fight for scraps.  This is the model of American Capitalism.

At the beginning of the last century, the American worker got wise to this, and formed Unions.  With a Union, the workers could bind together and say that they want a larger piece of bread.  For awhile, they were getting a lot of friction from the people with no bread saying that any bread is better than no bread and that if they didn't want the bread, the breadless would take it, that the people with the small scraps of bread were just greedy.  It took many years and many lives to teach people that the only way to get more bread was to get it from the guys with the loaves rather than the guys with the ittybitty scraps.  And, until the 1980s, American wages rose.  Working conditions improved.  The work week got shorter.  Not just for Union people, for everyone.  As the Unions declined in strength, American wages stagnated.  The work week got longer.  As the Unions started dying, fewer and fewer people were doing more and more work, time off started decreasing, and real wages started to plummet.  Again, not just for the Union people.  For people like you and me.  Even as there is more computer work than you can shake a stick at, consulting wages have decreased 40%, and salaried work has dropped 20%.  And you're not going to be home at 5 and take summers off to vacation with your family.  Those days are gone.

And why?

Because American industry has found more hungry people.  More people willing to fight for a scrap of bread.  It's not that the American worker is getting paid too much.  It is that the Chinese worker is getting paid too little.  And, when the Chinese workers finally realize that part of being communist is that the worker is supposed to get a larger percentage of the profits generated by his labor, American industry will go elsewhere to find more hungry people, and Chinese wages will go down too.

But, realize that by the time that the Chinese wages go down, our nice high western wages will have plummeted.  This is global wage arbitrage and will eventually stabilize when we're all starving together, and the people with the loaves of bread have bigger loaves than they've ever had before and the rest of us are living in a Dickensian nightmare complete with pollutions, dispair and disease.

And the only way THE ONLY WAY to stop this is by forming international Unions that equalize wages across industries so that it is not cheaper to produce a product in this country than in that.  Wages in America and England and Israel will drop, but not as quickly nor as drastically as if the international unions do not exist, and the wages in Ethopia and Sudan and China and India will skyrocket overnight, generating more desire to buy the expensive products that we Americans have been enjoying for 50 years or better (refrigerators, washing machines, cars), which, in turn, generates more profits, and spawns global hiring and a global increase in living, and, of course, globally, lower unemployment and higher wages.  Almost overnight.

But it's not going to happen.  Unions, after all, are bad, and evil and corrupt.  Just ask the bad, evil, corrupt people who keep saying it.  Strangely, those are the very people who want us fighting amongst ourselves for scraps of bread.  

And again, what the monied idiots don't realize is that they are breeding the beast that will eat them too.  They do this a lot.  In this case, the American consumer has given these greedy jerks the biggest loaves of bread the world has ever seen, and, in the search of even bigger loaves, the guys with the bread go to China or India to get cheaper labor.  What they don't realize is, without paychecks, the American consumers will not keep buying their product, and, eventually, even the richest people will suffer.  What they also don't realize is that, when the American worker is fat and happy, he's willing to pay a little more for his "stuff" and they could get a bigger loaf not by producing it more cheaply but by selling it more dearly.  And they don't see that the better they treat their worker, the more they pay him, the better off, they too will be.  The rich get richer when the poor have money to give them.  And, once again, we're all in it together.

Originally posted to ultrageek on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 09:58 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You need (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kraant, va dare

    a tip jar.  

    consider this recommended.

    Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility. --Ambrose Bierce

    by JaketheSnake on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 10:02:46 AM PDT

  •  Excellent diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    metal prophet, kraant, va dare

    If I wasn't busy making calls for Jim Webb's campaign right now, I would be commenting more.

    But if you know anyone in Virginia, please call them and tell them which candidate is the anti-union unionbuster who outsourced American jobs.

    And make sure they don't votre for him.

    If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place - FDR

    by PaulVA on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 10:09:58 AM PDT

  •  Great diary... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kraant, va dare

    do you have action item suggestions? As we try to inject more labor discussions into DKos we should have actions too because otherwise what is the point?

  •  Recommended. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kraant, va dare

    That's a wonderfully concise - and evocative - analogy.

    Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. -Philo of Alexandria

    by vansterdam on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 10:18:11 AM PDT

  •  I've gone back and forth on Unions (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HistoryTeacher, nightowl724, kraant

    Currently, I'm in support - they do more good than bad.

    When I was in high school, I was forced to join "The Retail Clerks International Union" RCIU for my afterschool job.

    The bonus for joining was $0.10 per hour increase in pay and a $2.50 per week dues. I worked 24 hours a week. :-( (for the mathematically challenged that's a net -$.10 per week)

    Sure I got free medical screening and discount prescriptions - and at 16-18 years old I needed lots of both :-)

    Strange thing is, the older full timers hated the union too for its seeming corruption and lack of value to the workers (I remember talking about it with them when I had to join).

    I suspect that many people still equate unions with corruption and Teamsters buried in the Jersey Meadowlands (or wherever Hoffa may be)..

    It's too bad and not a surprising progression that unions have grown weaker. The world economy plus the fed tax incentives have driven work off shore.

    Had unions been able to maintain some strength I suspect we would not be worrying about jobs moving overseas.

    on a related note,

    I remember reading about a UAW President from many years ago who had very progressive ideas about the union - like "Never fight technology" it will mean better jobs for the union members...

    •  You identify failings in older unions (5+ / 0-)

      The fact is that most people take the theories of economists as gospel. They work. But they also exclude power relationships between buyers (of labor) and sellers (of labor.)

      For greatest rational efficiency of production, the producers need to live in an environment in when the suppliers and purchasers of products, capital, labor and land are all free actors. There are no power factors that allow a purchaser to control a supplier.  This is the economic ideal. Then economics will describe how producers will function most efficiently. This becomes a lot less efficient when there is a counter to the power of the buyer of land, labor or capital.

      The producers hate to find  that their power is countered by the power of labor suppliers. It messes up their calculations. The discipline of Economics is very producer-oriented. It ignores the social effects of producer power over labor.

      Capital operates from the position of power. Land is fixed, so that the power of land cannot be effectively countered by the purchaser. But Labor?

      The power of labor can be controlled by capital by either choosing the most desperate (as described in the diary above.) or by simply expanding the market for labor to include foreigners who are a lot more desperate than the close labor.

      The assumptions of economics exclude most power differences. Unions work to include them. This makes labor the enemies of capital.

      For good political and historical reasons, American labor decided to not field a Labor Party. Probably because of the domination of decisive elections by the Southern (anti-union) Democrats the Democrats could not be controlled by labor. This left capital to gain control of the Republican Party and to begin marginalizing labor in the power structure of America. We now live with the results of this set of union decisions. It worked while the economy was expanding (post WW II until about 1970), but fails totally as the American economy begins to be non-competitive internationally.

      We now need a political expansion of labor in America. It is time for the Democrats to become a pro-union party.

      Recovering Perfectionist IWDWIC (I Will Do What I Can) - Politics Plus Stuff

      by Rick B on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 12:10:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Common answer to a problem, but wrong anyway (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hugo Estrada

      There are of stories you could find about corruption and greed in unions, and governments, and schools, and businesses, and churches, and...... See what I mean?  There ar epros and cons to everything.  There are good and bad of everything.  The answer is not to abandon those things, but to fix them.  Imagine if the US had just scrapped the Constitution over the Fugitive Slave Act, the Alien and Sedition Acts, Indian Removal Act, or any other heinous law enacted by Congress.  We would be in disarray.  The answer is not to say, well, that one union was bad, or my one union experience was bad.  We have to be able to see the big picture of how unions benefit everyone, and then make the necessary changes to fix them.  One bad apple ruins a bunch, but if you find it quick enough and throw it out, you could attract new, sweet juicy apples to add to your barrel of already sweet and juicy apples and what a great bunch of apples you would have!

  •  I love what you say (6+ / 0-)

    I just wish more people could hear and would listen.  It still amazes me how many people still believe that the unions are the bad guys, and don't believe that when unions do good for their members they do good for everybody.
     Not to change the subject but farmers do the same thing when they think voting Republican is good for them.  They ALWAYS do better when Democrats are in office because as you point out when people have money they can buy things, when they don't, they can't.

    Don't attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    by jasfm on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 12:16:44 PM PDT

  •  corporate checks and balances (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Excellent diary. This ties into the discussion of libertarian dems who see excesses of unchecked corporations but don't want to empower government to regulate them or the market. Isn't labor an obvious choice for corporate check and balance? I wonder what libertarians think of labor unions... Obviously labor unions cannot provide the umpire/referee for the market game but perhaps an opposing team at least!

    International corporations no longer need American labor or (soon) the American consumer. They no longer need to play by the rules of an individual country. As Thom Hartmann is fond of saying "corporations are structured as monarchies, unions are democracies".

    I think international unions are a necessary but not sufficient beginning to a reasonable form of checks and balances to corporate pwer.

  •  It's kind of like trickle up economics- I like it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Great job of making explaining this issue in a way anyone can understand.  I think we could really take the idea of trickle up and use it as a populist message in campaigns.  After all, look at the theory of trickle down.  The rich get richer and are supposed to feel so generous that we get more scraps.  Bullshit, I say.  They just get fatter from eating more bread.  We peons are the ones who spend money and drive the economy.  If we have money, we spend it, dammit.  Great post.  I love it.  You have me psyched for the day!!!!!!!

  •  Are you kidding? (0+ / 0-)

    And again, what the monied idiots don't realize is that they are breeding the beast that will eat them too.

    That's why they also invented religion.

    •  You see I use the phrase 'again' (0+ / 0-)

      That seems to be a common thread.  The noose gets tighter and tighter around the people who are creating the beast.  There are lots of different examples.  But I like the phrase "they are breeding the beast that will eat them too" because the Republicans who read it read in Biblical connotations and it stops them long enough to think for a minute or two.  

      -9.50;-6.62. But it don't mean nuttin if you don't put your money where your mouth is

      by ultrageek on Wed Jun 14, 2006 at 01:45:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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