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Immigrant Workers Occupy Chicago Factory
December 8, 2008 5:21 PM   Subscribe

"You got bailed out. We got sold out." Chicago workers respond to a factory closing by occupying the factory. A flickr set of photos from the site.
posted by jason's_planet (77 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Way to go!

Now, how do I go about ordering them a pizza or something?
posted by klangklangston at 5:33 PM on December 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


Jason's planet thanks for posting this.
Here are some links to establish the historical precedent for this type of direct action-
Factory takeovers in Argentina during their last economic crisis: Occupy, Resist, Produce

Syndicalism in Barcelona during the 1936 Spanish Revolution: Collectivization in Catalonia
posted by yertledaturtle at 5:35 PM on December 8, 2008


Haven't they been doing this in Argentina for several years now?
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:36 PM on December 8, 2008


Where did the "immigrant" thing come from? The NY Times article doesn't seem to mention it. It just says:
The workers — about 80 percent of them Hispanic, with the rest black or of other ethnic and national backgrounds — made $14 an hour on average and received health care and retirement benefits, Ms. Fried said.
Just because they're Hispanic doesn't necessarily mean that they're immigrants; at least not more than any other non-indigenous American.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:37 PM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Are the workers in Chicago planning on taking over the factory and running it themselves? Everything I've read says they're just occupying the factory. I don't know who exactly they're pissing off with this move, the company that runs the place is out of business.

Their protest seems to be with the Bank of America - do they own the building?
posted by meowzilla at 5:39 PM on December 8, 2008


Today Governor Blagojevich ordered the Illinois state government to suspend doing business with Bank of America, whose termination of Republic Windows & Doors's line of credit led to the factory closing, though it's unclear what this means or whether it will happen.
posted by enn at 5:39 PM on December 8, 2008


Good for them. At the end of teh day, it may accomplish zilch, but it sends a message about how pissed people are.
posted by jonmc at 5:41 PM on December 8, 2008


Pizza I don't know about, but I did see this:

To support the members of Local 1110 in their courageous fight, send checks payable to the UE Local 1110 Solidarity Fund, to: UE, 37 S. Ashland, Chicago, IL 60607. Messages of support can be sent to leahfried@gmail.com.
posted by jason's_planet at 5:41 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Are the workers in Chicago planning on taking over the factory and running it themselves? Everything I've read says they're just occupying the factory.

At this point they are cleaning it up and maintaining it. I suppose if there are buyers for what they produce they could run it.
posted by yertledaturtle at 5:42 PM on December 8, 2008


Thanks for this. I hope these workers get a lot of attention. I hope if there is a way for them. I hope it works and that other workers treated poorly by irresponsible companies (if that is indeed what happened here) can take back their jobs. Most of all, I hope communities continue to support these efforts and overcome the mass apathy we've all fallen prey to.
posted by theefixedstars at 5:44 PM on December 8, 2008


Thanks especially for the pictures. I hope the citizen journalism starts rolling in here.

If I were in the area, I'd go down there ... it's yet another demonstration that bailouts prop up a failed system, while suffering surrounds us.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:46 PM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


How come we can "nationalize" banks and the auto industry, but if we try to touch healthcare, it's "SOCIALISM!!ONE!!"?
posted by Balisong at 5:46 PM on December 8, 2008


How come we can "nationalize" banks and the auto industry, but if we try to touch healthcare, it's "SOCIALISM!!ONE!!"?
posted by Balisong at 8:46 PM on December 8


That won't be the case anymore. Too many Fox News viewers and ditoheads have been sent packing, so now all those things are simply "pragmatic."

I'm not sure taking the factory over to produce windows and doors is the best idea, considering these things end up in houses, relatively few of which are being built and because no one can get home equity loans to remodel their current houses.

The only problem I see with what the works have done is that they are occupying the factory and encumbering the property of their former employer.

What the workers should be doing, what laid off workers everywhere should be doing, is occupying Bank of America branches.
posted by Pastabagel at 5:51 PM on December 8, 2008


klangklangston, there's also this, plus, lots of people are indeed just showing up with food, changes of clothes, etc.

The gripe is not just that the factory is shutting down, which is bad enough, but that they did it without the required notice and are refusing the workers their contractual severence and vacation pay. Bank of America comes into it because they cancelled the company's line of credit supposedly precipitating the shut down. What's not entirely clear to me is if Republic took any steps at all to find another line of credit or to negotiate with BoA. On one level it looks like they were looking for an excuse to shut down without having to honor the worker contracts.
posted by nax at 5:53 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Chicago police said that they were monitoring the situation but that they had had no reports of a criminal matter to investigate.

Actually, I'm surprised that the police hadn't made a response. Even in peaceful protests on public property with all of the permits, you'll still find cops in riot gear ready to gas and beat. How can they occupy private property with barely a shrug?
posted by dr_dank at 5:53 PM on December 8, 2008


Should have mentioned that I have no idea how legit the donation/news link I provided is. just found it through google. You can also contact the Rainbow Push Coalition; they're providing aid as well.
posted by nax at 5:55 PM on December 8, 2008


Actually, I'm surprised that the police hadn't made a response. Even in peaceful protests on public property with all of the permits, you'll still find cops in riot gear ready to gas and beat. How can they occupy private property with barely a shrug?

Perhaps the owners of the factory have not pressed charges?
posted by yertledaturtle at 5:57 PM on December 8, 2008


Bank of America can cry "prudence in uncertain times" for withdrawing the line of credit all they want but the whole point of this bailout was so that business could go back to normal lending standards so that things on Main Street could continue without worrying how to pay the employees this week.

Instead they're taking the cash and just sticking it back with the fed ready for the next big clusterfuck that Wall Street is going to drop on them. What will it be? Credit card debt imploding? Next batch of ARM resets? Mass monetary transfer from yet another credit event? Anything can happen with Commander Cuckoo Bananas in charge.
posted by Talez at 6:03 PM on December 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


My hope is that out of the ashes of this downturn rises up a new appreciation for labor unions. The Republican party and their donor CEO's have spent the last 50 or so years demonizing and undoing any good produced by labor unions and look at where the American worker stands today - off-shored, many without medical benefits and pensions that seem to disappear without even an apology.

At least these workers can stand in solidarity due to their union membership being a commonality they can celebrate. As this same sort of thing happens throughout the south all the workers will do is move from their existence of living from paycheck-to-paycheck to something much worse like the tent cities that seem to be popping up in every city.

I feel especially awful for folks like my father who preached his anti-union rhetoric to me as he worked as a supervisor in R+D engineering dept's over thirty years. At every company he did his best to treat his employees right thinking that was the best way to keep the unions at bay. Happy employees don't need unions he always told me.

He confided in me last week that he's almost 100% sure the engineering dept he's been the head of for over 10 years is going to off-shored in the next 12-18 months to cut costs. Many of the other divisions at the media analysis company he works for have ended up in India. Even though he's treated his employees the right way, kept costs down and continued to lead a group that innovates and generates patents he's going to find himself unemployed and probably forced to take early retirement.

It upsets me because I don't know what the answer is for him or for the folks at Republic Windows and Doors. It's one thing to read a story about some folks occupying a factory for their last paychecks but this shit isn't supposed to happen to people we love. The house of cards built by the capitalists and shit-peddlers on Wall Street needs to come crashing down but my fear is their isn't going to be anything left when the dust settles.
posted by photoslob at 6:03 PM on December 8, 2008 [9 favorites]


http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2008/12/08

Union leaders say the company failed to give workers the 60 days' notice required by federal law, and that Bank of America barred Republic from paying for the 60-day period or for vacations.

Technically under the law there is an exemption for the full 60-day notice required under the WARN act:

* Unforeseeable business circumstances: When the closing or mass layoff is caused by business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable at the time that the 60-day notice would have been required (i.e. a business circumstance caused by some sudden, dramatic, and unexpected action(s) or condition(s) beyond the employer's control, such as a major order's unexpected cancellation);

BoA withdrawing a line of credit because all of a sudden they decide that the business is unworthy would definitely be covered under that exemption. While it sucks, the business hasn't done anything wrong or failed to meet any obligation.
posted by Talez at 6:08 PM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


What the workers should be doing, what laid off workers everywhere should be doing, is occupying Bank of America branches.

What they should be doing — along with their supporters — is closing any accounts they may have with BoA. Preferably all at once, for an optimally telegenic line out the door. I don't think it would take much for such a synthetic bank run to snowball into a real one, and I suspect that if you had a few hundred or a few thousand account holders (very few people by political protest standards) lining up to get their money from a single bank branch with cameras rolling, you'd have yourself a decent amount of leverage — far more than you'd get standing out front with signs.
posted by enn at 6:14 PM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Technically under the law there is an exemption for the full 60-day notice required under the WARN act:

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
posted by jason's_planet at 6:15 PM on December 8, 2008 [9 favorites]


I swear to god, between hearing this story on NPR and another about a guy who is moving squatters into foreclosed houses, I'm about to turn Republican. Why should Bank of America continue to extend credit to a debtor who already can't pay, so they can incur more debt they won't pay? Why all the ire at the bank, when it's the company that's screwing over the employees?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:27 PM on December 8, 2008


Sweetie Darling writes: Why should Bank of America continue to extend credit to a debtor who already can't pay, so they can incur more debt they won't pay? Why all the ire at the bank, when it's the company that's screwing over the employees?

This is a good question. The problem is all of these banks are now suckling on the federal teat to the tune of billions of dollars. I'm no economist, but I believe the idea of this 'bailout' was to help the banks help their customers by easing everyone back into solvency, not "give the banks hundreds of billions in taxpayer money to cover their own asses, then let them give a middle finger to their customers."
posted by anifinder at 6:39 PM on December 8, 2008 [8 favorites]


Curioser and curioser. Apparently the management of Republic incorporated the aptly-named Echo Windows & Doors on November 18, which has already purchased a plant in Iowa and told workers there that it will be doubling the work force because of an existing order book, and that it will bringing in equipment from elsewhere:
"They're bringing in machinery from a facility that is closing somewhere else," said Sandy Schoonover, who works in the glass department at the Red Oak plant.
If that's a reference to the Republic Windows & Doors assets, that seems pretty sketchy to me. (via MeFite me3dia.)
posted by enn at 6:43 PM on December 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


Dude! No!

American governments don't SUPPORT things like this. They send in the army or get the bank to have a private army to break it up. Besides, like, we don't really DO factories here, like okay? We put them in Indonesia, okay? Where people don't protest? okay?

God, get it RIGHT already. I thought you where experienced!
posted by The Whelk at 6:45 PM on December 8, 2008


I know, I know, history is always written by the winners. That doesn't mean that this sort of civil disobedience doesn't mean anything. I was always disappointed in high school history classes that strikes and riots were treated like flukes, like something that happened to the fatcats we studied. We were forced to memorize their birth and biographies and death dates. They made us identify with the Carnegies and the Morgans as though they, not us, were the ones we should identify with.

What would our culture be like if we'd been taught that the fatcats were something that periodically happened to us and should be shrugged off?

These people are the direct descendents of the people who gave us the 8 hour work day and the 5 day work week. Their grandparents would be proud.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 6:46 PM on December 8, 2008 [8 favorites]


Good for them.

I am always amazed at how many people will side against their own interests and side with the interests of management. Workers who complain that unions make it impossible for businesses to compete. Workers who complain that unions make it impossible for management to fire bad employees. Blah blah management talking point blahdedy blah.

I feel, if you're not going to support organized labor (and that doesn't remove your right to also be critical of missteps you see from a union), then you should hand back everything that organized labor has won for you. Your vacation pay. Your sick pay. Your living wage. Your eight hour work day. Your health care. Your retirement pay.

Oh, wait. No need. Unions have mostly collapsed in the U.S., and management just went ahead and took all those things away.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:03 PM on December 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


Meanwhile the asswipe that ran Merril Lynch into the ground is demanding a $10 million bonus pay.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:15 PM on December 8, 2008


Are the workers in Chicago planning on taking over the factory and running it themselves? Everything I've read says they're just occupying the factory. I don't know who exactly they're pissing off with this move, the company that runs the place is out of business.

They were terminated without proper advance notice and without receiving the benefits due to them, such as pay for vacation days they didn't take. The factory's management says this was necessary because the business has run out of money and can't cover what it owes its laid off workers. By staging a sit-in at the workplace that terminated them without what was owed them, the workers are drawing national attention to their sympathetic situation in an attempt to get some outside assistance, related to...

Their protest seems to be with the Bank of America - do they own the building?

...the fact that the bank that the business says it couldn't get a line of credit from is BoA, which just got bailed out for millions by the federal government. Assuming what the factory management says is true, if BoA had given (or would now change its mind and give) the factory a loan, these workers would be employed.

But deeper than that is a mistrust of the management, which started moving equipment in the middle of the night on the down-low, and which workers suspect is just setting up shop somewhere else for cheaper and taking advantage of the economic crisis to short its workers their owed pay. I'm not saying that's true-- who knows-- but that's what some of the workers think may be going on. Meanwhile BoA refuses to give the factory any credit since it'd be a deeply risky loan to give out.

And under all that is the deep-seating rage among the working class right now in this country, who are bearing the brunt of soured economic conditions and watching the very people who created this mess get bailed out with tax dollars.
posted by Tehanu at 7:25 PM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


the fact that the bank that the business says it couldn't get a line of credit from is BoA, which just got bailed out for millions by the federal government.

The thing a lot of people don't realize is that a lot of banks, Bank of America included, didn't want the bailout money. The fed insisted they take it. Why this was so wasn't apparent to me until recently. But now it seems clear that it was mostly about saving Citigroup. Citigroup was a total goner without the bailout money but the fed insisted places like Bank of America take the money as well to hide how much trouble Citigroup was in, which could have caused a run and the failure of the world's largest bank.
posted by Justinian at 7:33 PM on December 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I feel, if you're not going to support organized labor (and that doesn't remove your right to also be critical of missteps you see from a union), then you should hand back everything that organized labor has won for you. Your vacation pay. Your sick pay. Your living wage. Your eight hour work day. Your health care. Your retirement pay.

Amen. As the slogan goes, "Enjoy your weekend? Thank the labor movement."
posted by scody at 7:44 PM on December 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


The thing a lot of people don't realize is that a lot of banks, Bank of America included, didn't want the bailout money. The fed insisted they take it. Why this was so wasn't apparent to me until recently. But now it seems clear that it was mostly about saving Citigroup. Citigroup was a total goner without the bailout money but the fed insisted places like Bank of America take the money as well to hide how much trouble Citigroup was in, which could have caused a run and the failure of the world's largest bank.

Yeah, I realize there's a lot of other shenanigans going on as well. Which is why I don't think BoA is the bad guy here. From what I can tell, anyway. There seem to be new, darker layers all the time.
posted by Tehanu at 7:46 PM on December 8, 2008



I'm no economist either, but isn't it conceivable that Republic windows, given their main business of supplying windows for housing construction in a time where real estate has been precipitously dropping in value, that it no longer made good business sense for BoA to continue supplying their line of credit to the company?

I mean, I absolutely do sympathize with the workers, who have been cheated out of their hard-earned money, but I'd place most of the blame on the company instead of BoA.
posted by gyc at 7:46 PM on December 8, 2008


enn said: "I don't think it would take much for such a synthetic bank run to snowball into a real one, and I suspect that if you had a few hundred or a few thousand account holders (very few people by political protest standards) lining up to get their money from a single bank branch with cameras rolling, you'd have yourself a decent amount of leverage — far more than you'd get standing out front with signs."

It wouldn't matter. For every dollar we took out, the Fed would be stuffing ten more in the other side. Even in normal times, they'd never allow a bank run to cause a failure, and in this crunch, they'd load up the metaphorical bombers with tonnes of cash by the time the first people exited the first branch.

It doesn't matter in the least what we do or how stupid the large banks are; if we try to take our dollars out, the Fed will just create new ones. They can't go bankrupt under any conceivable circumstances. We have no leverage over them as consumers at all.

If you want change, it'll have to be via your Congresscritter; big banks are now entirely immune to market forces.
posted by Malor at 7:49 PM on December 8, 2008


And curiouser still (yes, I do usually know how to spell that), someone may have been staging an echowindows.com site at a republicw.com address (republicw.com is registered to Republic Windows & Doors).

echowindows.com and republicwindows.com resolve to the same MediaTemple IP, as has been noticed on DailyKos. (republicw.com does not.)

Surely it cannot be legal for the owners of even a privately-held company to pull assets out when it's about to go under and use them to start a new company which lacks the liabilities of the old company. Can it?
posted by enn at 7:50 PM on December 8, 2008


As the slogan goes, "Enjoy your weekend? Thank the labor movement."

I absolutely thank the labor movement for weekends, the 40 hour week, overtime pay, and many other things.

But that doesn't mean I have to support everything that they do.

And right now the big 3 are foundering as much because of the UAW's inflexibility and recalcitrance as it is by the managements' collective lack of creativity and short-sightedness.
posted by chimaera at 8:14 PM on December 8, 2008


"While it sucks, the business hasn't done anything wrong or failed to meet any obligation."

Legally wrong, maybe, I don't know.
Barring the company from paying workers for what they're contractually obligated to pay, yeah, that'd be wrong.
On the other hand, maybe BoA just doesn't have enough goddamned money that people should be shafted out of their pay and they should aid and abet that.

Seriously, wtf was the bailout for? So they didn't want the money - so? It's ostensibly exactly for something like this. What, we're giving them cash so they *don't* extend credit to companies to make payrolls and cover their debts?

There's always some stupid loophole, some 'oh! gotcha!' bullshit that some gerbilhead writes into it so they can twist money from people who can't bite back.
We all know that's crap.
I'm not the smartest man in the world, but I'm pretty smart, and I think - hell, I know I could have made a lot of money hosing people who maybe aren't as smart or as strong as I am. I don't. Why don't I? Well, I like to credit myself with some virtue. But mostly it's because I'm smart enough to know that eventually everything goes to hell when you do that enough or enough people do it.

And just because someone isn't as smart as I am or doesn't know the law doesn't mean I should take bread off his table. You don't exploit people just because you can.

Maybe BoA is covering to shore up some other credit lines, maybe they're trying to keep some other more salvageable business afloat. Maybe.
But they haven't said so, have they?
And this sneaking out in the middle of the night crap has all the hallmarks of people who know they're doing something wrong (lot of BoA 'rejects plan' going on there - they talked about this in Sept. - first thing, apparently, the workers knew about it was this week and I just don't buy this "No one could have predicted the unprecedented drop in new construction sales due to the unprecedented economic conditions." I mean, c'mon, the financial papers were using the term 'bubble,' and talked about it breaking, I knew that and I know next to nothing about finance)


Anyway, it's pretty big news in Chicago. Jesse Jackson was out there yesterday and today handing out care packages and such. Plenty of news in the Sun Times (Trib declared bankruptcy I understand). And Obama's all over it.
So are most of the aldermen, the governor (stopped clock, all that), and a lot of others.
Probably why the heat is so low from the cops.

Audio
- and a lot more links from the pilsenprole (local blogger out here).
posted by Smedleyman at 8:33 PM on December 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


"And right now the big 3 are foundering as much because of the UAW's inflexibility and recalcitrance as it is by the managements' collective lack of creativity and short-sightedness."

Sorry, I'm calling bullshit false equivalence. The primary causes of the auto companies' problems are first and foremost a drastic oversupply of production and distribution capacity relative to demand, but nobody starts complaining about how many goddamned car dealerships GM has. And the UAW just took a tremendous hit that I don't think anyone outside of Michigan understands—the ending of the JOBS program. The cycle of autowork is that you have a couple of months of surge, working around the clock, pumping out autos, and then you have a month or so of downtime, when (theoretically) the engineers make adjustments and the dealers sell off the stock. Without it, auto workers are essentially seasonal employees, except that things don't go in regular seasons. While the program was often derided as featherbedding, it didn't have to be, and it would have been far smarter to use government funds to support the downtime activities (tax breaks for community service on company time?) than making the labor market drastically more unstable.
posted by klangklangston at 8:55 PM on December 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Seriously, wtf was the bailout for? So they didn't want the money - so? It's ostensibly exactly for something like this. What, we're giving them cash so they *don't* extend credit to companies to make payrolls and cover their debts?"

Yeah, no doubt. If they didn't want the money but had to take it, hey, extra money for doing things like extending riskier credit to help keep companies in business until demand can rebound somewhat.
posted by klangklangston at 8:56 PM on December 8, 2008


…the Fed will just create new ones. They can't go bankrupt under any conceivable circumstances…

I suppose there is some technical definition by which they don't go bankrupt, but I should think the effective result is surely equivalent to bankruptcy. They can't just print money endlessly without repercussion.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:04 PM on December 8, 2008


It amuses me greatly, which is to say I want to cry, when people ignorantly blame unions for all the problems with business in America.

I mean, hell, it couldn't be a complete lack of long-term planning that did in the Big 3, could it? Couldn't possibly be CEOs hauling in over 400x what front-line workers earn, could it? Couldn't be management's fault for all these problems! No, it must be unions that are to blame.
Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.
All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.
He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.
In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.
Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.
He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.
Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.
If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.
It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.
Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe also forgets that his in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state funded university.
Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the tax-payer funded roads.
He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans.
The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.
He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.
Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."
posted by five fresh fish at 9:10 PM on December 8, 2008 [48 favorites]


I guess that's more to do with liberalism, but same-same. Unionism gave workers the only decent break in centuries, during the first half of the twentieth century; idiocy clawed a lot of those benefits back during the latter half.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:12 PM on December 8, 2008


My hope is that out of the ashes of this downturn rises up a new appreciation for labor unions.

I suppose labour unions act as a safety net in this case, and make sure the workers get a (barely) living wage and health care, but, Jesus Christ, who wants to work for $14/hour? And what union would proudly say "our brothers and sisters earn $14/hr"?

Those sorts of jobs should be temporary, until people somehow upgrade their skills and do something else more productive.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:18 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Unions have been gutted in recent years. The safety net has been stripped away for most people.
posted by Tehanu at 9:20 PM on December 8, 2008


Seriously, wtf was the bailout for?

Bank failure CEOs were running out of mattress stuffing.

And we're going to give car industry failure CEOs billions to do exactly the same thing.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:05 PM on December 8, 2008


The best thing U.S. organized labor could do for workers in the United States would be to work aggressively to organize workers in low-cost countries, and remove some of the incentive to outsource. Barring that, or some sort of trade regime that smacks huge tariffs on countries to eliminate the advantage of their cheap-labor pools (which doesn't seem wholly unreasonable to me, but is probably not politically feasible), I don't see how labor can win any significant gains. Anything they might win would just further increase costs relative to other countries and thus add additional incentives for would-be outsourcers.

There just don't seem to be enough living-wage jobs that are either totally non-exportable (i.e. don't produce products or IP that can be manufactured elsewhere and imported), or that we have a significant enough advantage at to justify our high costs of living, to sustain the economy in the manner to which we've become accustomed. The current situation—where we try to have our cake (cheap imports) and eat it too (high wages)—just doesn't seem sustainable.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:06 PM on December 8, 2008


In an extremely under-reported story, Canadian workers - Qubecois to be more precise - took over an Alcan Aluminum smelter in 2004. It is easier to stumble upon news of the factory takeovers in Argentina than it is to find reports on the takeover of a smelter right here.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:13 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I guess that's more to do with liberalism, but same-same.

Most of the gains made by labour unions were made in the days when all were condemned as dangerously pink; the workers who marched and were beaten and shot for the 40 hour week, weekends, and all those nice things we all take for granted were communists, socialists, and anarchists. Liberal unions have a long history of complicity with the bosses, cooperating against both leftist unions and the very workers they represent. The triumph of the liberal end of the labour movement was the union bosses' ticket into the same parasitic relationship as the owners and operators of business.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:20 PM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]




Jesus Christ, who wants to work for $14/hour?

Very shortly... many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many fucking people...

Getting the picture yet?
posted by jkaczor at 12:21 AM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


KokuRyu - in several threads lately you complain that no-one wants or should have a $14/hr job... They should get more education and get a better job. All find and dandy, until someone decides that, hey... Someone on the other end of an internet connection can do this job cheaper.

Yet - everyone is competing for the next leg up? You have offspring - would you let your child starve because you wouldn't take a menial/manual labour job? I see you do translation. That's all fine and dandy as long as people have the money to buy translated items. I'm thinking that books, essays and instruction manuals for electronics crap that isn't selling won't be high on the priority list very shortly. Ah, I see you do television - well that tit won't be empty for quite some time, enjoy...
posted by jkaczor at 12:28 AM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu- I work for 14/hr (or the salaried equivalent thereof) in an office job and am highly educated. I know a number of other highly educated workers who would love to be working for 14/hr too. If I'm not mistaken, 14/hr is nearly twice the minimum wage for Illinois, and a great deal more than what most people in the service sector make.

I might take your point more seriously if you weren't deriding what many would consider a decent, if not large, salary as disgustingly tiny.
posted by dinty_moore at 5:22 AM on December 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Jesus Christ, who wants to work for $14/hour?

I'm sure my mother would love that. My girlfriend, too, for that matter. Hmm. Most all of the students at the school where I work would do back flips if they found a job that paid that, to say nothing of their parents - most of whom work (at least) two $6/hour jobs.

It took a lot of effort to to attach something snide to the end of this comment.
posted by absalom at 5:27 AM on December 9, 2008


Jesus Christ, who wants to work for $14/hour?

You'd be surprised. That's, what, almost double the minimum wage? Someone would be able to go from 2 jobs to 1.

I'd take it in a minute if I needed to. Beats unemployment.
posted by spirit72 at 6:15 AM on December 9, 2008


Jesus Christ, who wants to work for $14/hour?

i have a 14$ job - you're really out of touch, aren't you? - i might also point out that the UAW and its members' hourly rates are much greater than ours and come at the expense of other working people, many of them union members

they got greedy and selfish and forgot about worker solidarity - instead of fighting for everyone, they said "i'm alright, i've got mine"

the lesson here is that a small section of the workforce can advance only temporarily, at the expense of others - if you want REAL progress and REAL advancement that's permanent, you have to bring everyone along and the UAW forgot that - they got fat and complacent, just like their employers did
posted by pyramid termite at 7:39 AM on December 9, 2008


Those sorts of jobs should be temporary, until people somehow upgrade their skills and do something else more productive.

Upgrade them...how? College tuition is increasingly unaffordable. Loans are almost impossible to come by, thanks to the banks like BoA that took our tax money. Not everyone came from circumstances that allowed them to attend college in the first place.

A $14 manufacturing job? Hell, I'm about to lose *my* job in a couple months. I'd take it in a heartbeat. If they didn't have a union they'd be making minimum wage.
posted by jnaps at 8:02 AM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I used to be rather anti-union, being from Flint, and seeing how auto workers did fabulously, while everyone else really didn't. Then Reagan came along and fired air traffic controllers, and I changed, as I sympathized with that group.

Then I was listening to commentary to other day, and had reality knock me up side the head. If you're jealous of the deal some union got, unionize yourself.

Of course, if you're in Flint, doing some job that requires some education, of course you can't organize. Educated people don't do those kinds of things (excepting teachers). At least, that's the attitude we've been taught.

Fuck that shit. Fuck the fucking fucks who taught that fucking lie.

What lie? The lie that an education puts you in a different 'class' than Joe Sixpack workin' 2nd shift at AC Sparkplug. Oh, there are those in a different class, but they only number 1 or 2% of the population.

So see, there is an 'us' and a 'them', it's just not what you thought. There's a whole lot more of the us than there is of the them. Yet somehow, those whats got the least, pays the price when things go bad. But they can't do that if we don't allow it.

You know they taught you in school how it's good to "get along", right? Well, citizen, yes, it is good to "get along". We have a word for that, it's a powerful word. We call it "solidarity". It's about getting along. But getting along with each other, sticking up for each other, sitting down with each other. And saying "FUCK NO!", with each other, to those fucking fucks that feel they have some devine right to fuck everything to hell and make us pay the god damned price.

Some one up-thread made some comment about "inflexibility" of the UAW members. That's utter bullshit, actually. I was surprised to get set straight about what the UAW has been up to in recent years. Whoever said that, you need to become better informed. Seriously. Times are getting rough, and you don't want to get mistaken as a member of the wrong team, if you follow what I'm saying.
posted by Goofyy at 8:43 AM on December 9, 2008 [10 favorites]


Yeah. UAW is getting slimeballed by all this is a really weird way. It's startling how easily the anti-union logic goes down.
posted by Tehanu at 8:55 AM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


re: "I'd gladly work for $14 / hr!" - even if this were true, focusing on salary is not really the point. Work is one of the ways in which we define ourselves as people (think, for example, how we all answer the seemingly generic question "What do you do?"). Even if you think your job sucks and you don't get paid enough to do it, you'd be upset if:

a) You were let go with 3 days notice instead of the expected 60,
b) The reasons were entirely out of your control (through no fault of your own), and
c) The party responsible was busy buying up a lot of banks with your tax money instead of helping you out.

None of us likes the idea of going home to our spouse/SO to tell them we don't have a job anymore. Particularly in a culture which says anyone who doesn't have a job is lazy, and people who are poor should just go out and get jobs, which will solve everything.

I get that there are a ton of people who make less and work harder. But two injustices do not a just society make. If we're going to tell people over and over again that a job is what they need to be worth something in this society, than they have to be able to get one and keep one when all they're doing is working hard and playing by the rules.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:24 AM on December 9, 2008


People weren't saying $14/hr sounded good as a criticism of the workers' sit-in. They were saying it in response to someone upthread who made a snotty comment about "who wants to work for $14/hr" and dismissing these jobs as something that's only worthwhile as transitional employment.
posted by Tehanu at 9:29 AM on December 9, 2008


"The best thing U.S. organized labor could do for workers in the United States would be to work aggressively to organize workers in low-cost countries, and remove some of the incentive to outsource."

Yep. Basically, as communication and transportation costs decreased, the marketplace for labor could expand, and global inequality resulted in an increase in local inequality.

Part of the problem, however, is that most other developing countries don't have strong labor protection laws or any real reason to want them. Which means that being an organizer is a fast way to be dumped in some Mexican ditch.

While "protectionism" isn't a good idea right now (see the Great Depression), we can do things like lobby through the State Department for stronger labor laws abroad (something the Bush administration fought against) and enact legislation here that encourages more trade with countries that do enact progressive labor standards (something else that the Republicans have opposed). Selling it as protectionism is a bad idea—selling it as increasing the fortunes of everyone (save the very rich, but I wouldn't mention that if I were actually speechifying) is a pretty powerful appeal.
posted by klangklangston at 9:49 AM on December 9, 2008


Quit with the baloney about "protectionism". It's the international norm, not something dirty and underhanded. The so-called "playing field" isn't level, and the United States has been playing the field in an up-hill direction. Normal countries have tariffs on imports. Duh.
posted by Goofyy at 10:50 AM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


They won. Bank of America caved.
posted by spirit72 at 12:46 PM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Quit with the baloney about "protectionism". It's the international norm, not something dirty and underhanded. The so-called "playing field" isn't level, and the United States has been playing the field in an up-hill direction. Normal countries have tariffs on imports. Duh."

Well, no, it's not. The WTO is set up explicitly to combat protectionism, and the United States practices more protectionism than most countries (especially regarding both manufacturing and agricultural production).

Tariffs are one thing, but they're supposed to cover the administrative costs of accepting goods from other countries. Subsidies and punitive tariffs are protectionism, and they invite retaliatory protectionism (see, as I mentioned, the Great Depression). However, by shifting how we view labor markets abroad, we can work to undermine the unfair advantages that come from things like lack of safety and environmental regulations, though I do note that this will take a concerted reform of how the WTO functions, as it places quite a high burden on countries to justify their environmental legislation and has an implicit view of strong sovereignty.
posted by klangklangston at 1:12 PM on December 9, 2008


They won. Bank of America caved.


AWESOME!

Nice to see poor people winning, for once.
posted by jason's_planet at 1:17 PM on December 9, 2008


YES!!!!!!!!!

Fuck, this is awesome. And hopefully a harbinger of things to come.

From San Diego up to Maine,
in every mine and mill,
Where working men defend their rights,
it's there you find Joe Hill,
it's there you find Joe Hill!

posted by scody at 1:22 PM on December 9, 2008


Lots of well-deserved beers tonight for UE Local 1110. Or maybe just going home for the first time in a few days.
posted by Tehanu at 1:38 PM on December 9, 2008


In other "BofA finally does the right thing" news, the NRDC convinced them to curtail lending to companies that mine coal by blowing off mountaintops.
posted by homunculus at 2:39 PM on December 9, 2008


Well, no, it's not. The WTO is set up explicitly to combat protectionism, and the United States practices more protectionism than most countries (especially regarding both manufacturing and agricultural production).

Rubish. If you believe that, go to Japan with a shipment of American-grown rice. And frankly, I couldn't care less what the WTO says. They aren't Congress, Administration, or the Judiciary. The very word "protectionism" strikes me as one of those words we've had shoved down our throats by people wanting to ship jobs off shore.

A huge percentage of manufactured goods imported to the States are nothing more than American companies shipping their own products, manufactured elsewhere, into the States. Purely for the purpose of avoiding American labor costs. (the precentage was either 40 or 60, I don't recall which, and it's too early in the morning for me to try a search).

The reality is, if we don't make wealth, we can't be wealthy, only dependant. Wealth is made by taking raw materials and applying labor to make finished goods. Everything else in the economy is in support of that activity. When the Great Depression hit, the US was the biggest exporter of finished goods on the planet. Now, we're the biggest exporter of bullshit (like those mortgage instruments that have wrecked the markets). Also, back then, we were still sitting on top of vast wealth of natural resources. Since, we've used most of those up. Recovery is going to be a bitch.
posted by Goofyy at 9:37 PM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh good + glad. Unexpected and wonderful news.

Jesus Christ, who wants to work for $14/hour?


I generally don't like it when people get snarky or snappy here, but you seem to be living at a great distance from reality. I am a super-skilled person with a fancy education, and I work for $14. Why? It's what I can find right now.

Your comment reeks of ignorance about economic reality and contemptuousness for those less fortunate than you.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:20 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is a world of difference between wants and has to. The only people who want to work for $14 are people who are currently working for less than $14, or who are not working at all.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:16 AM on December 10, 2008


"Rubish. If you believe that, go to Japan with a shipment of American-grown rice. And frankly, I couldn't care less what the WTO says. They aren't Congress, Administration, or the Judiciary. The very word "protectionism" strikes me as one of those words we've had shoved down our throats by people wanting to ship jobs off shore."

I see your tariffs with subsidies.

Regarding my previous mentions of the Great Depression, the important point regarding protectionism is the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which exacerbated the production surplus of the United States by denying us access to foreign markets due to retaliatory tariffs. Protectionism isn't just a buzzword.

Now, as I mentioned before, I think that WTO reform is important, both structurally (transparency is vitally needed) and in its practices (true efforts to remove trade barriers that hamper development in developing nations). But they are, through treaties that we've signed as a country, an important factor in both our governance and world trade.

"A huge percentage of manufactured goods imported to the States are nothing more than American companies shipping their own products, manufactured elsewhere, into the States. Purely for the purpose of avoiding American labor costs. (the precentage was either 40 or 60, I don't recall which, and it's too early in the morning for me to try a search)."

Right, and that is something that's best combated by raising labor standards abroad, with the understanding of comparative advantage. Why is labor cheaper abroad? Because of laxer labor standards, laxer environmental standards, the absence of effective unions and because of a lower cost of living. We can work, as first-worlders, to mitigate those first factors through intervention in developing countries—intervention that helps both us and them. By arguing for protectionism, we hurt both us and them. Developing nations lose markets for their goods and we don't gain an equivalent amount of manufacturing in return.

"The reality is, if we don't make wealth, we can't be wealthy, only dependant. Wealth is made by taking raw materials and applying labor to make finished goods."

Only if you're in the industrial revolution. But that's the extraction model of wealth creation, something that fucked most of the developing world (that's why, say, the Congo has no real infrastructure not related to getting raw materials to a port).

But wealth is made not just by taking raw materials and adding labor to make goods to sell. Warren Buffet has real wealth, and so does Bill Gates. Hell, Walmart has real wealth. Wealth is created by adding value to something and finding someone who will pay for it, whether it's a service, a good or a website upon which to snark.

Everything else in the economy is in support of that activity. When the Great Depression hit, the US was the biggest exporter of finished goods on the planet.Now, we're the biggest exporter of bullshit (like those mortgage instruments that have wrecked the markets). Also, back then, we were still sitting on top of vast wealth of natural resources. Since, we've used most of those up. Recovery is going to be a bitch."

And protectionism isn't going to help.

Look, there are times when protectionism is the right choice. For all of Porfirio Diaz's faults (and he had umpteen), his nationalization and protectionism of his later administration (after foolhardily relying on foreign investment) was good for the Mexican economy, and done under a similar sentiment to Ford's early efforts with the Model-T, to create a class of manufacturers who could afford to buy their own products. Likewise, the Ghana chocolate markets being regulated by the state was a boon of stability and a bulwark against exploitative chocolate corporations.

However, what protectionism ultimately does, as you ironically decry, is make industries dependent upon the government for protection, leaving them unable to fend for themselves. It makes them less agile, less innovative, less competitive and less viable as a long-term piece of the economy.

Limited protectionism is the norm for post-industrialized countries, but is very much not the global norm, and the answer isn't more protectionism in post-industrialized countries unless you want to worsen the global economic condition for developing nations in the short run and post-industrialized countries in the long run.
posted by klangklangston at 10:52 AM on December 10, 2008






Right, and that is something that's best combated by raising labor standards abroad, with the understanding of comparative advantage. Why is labor cheaper abroad? Because of laxer labor standards, laxer environmental standards, the absence of effective unions and because of a lower cost of living.

And why is it not acceptable to simply tariff hell out of products that are being made in countries with laxer labor standards, laxer environmental standards, the absence of effective unions and because of a lower cost of living?

Either method levels the playing field.

Granted, the tariff version does s.f.a. to improve the foreign workers' lives. But from a strictly internal viewpoint, the American consumer sees the same effect: jobs come back home, there's full employment, and the country is better off.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:06 PM on December 13, 2008


"And why is it not acceptable to simply tariff hell out of products that are being made in countries with laxer labor standards, laxer environmental standards, the absence of effective unions and because of a lower cost of living?"

Well, retaliatory tariffs, for one reason. And because, as I mentioned, in the long run it makes businesses less able to compete globally, less likely to serve local consumers well, and doesn't work to alleviate mutual export competition.
posted by klangklangston at 10:36 PM on December 13, 2008


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