Tag Archives: unions

Nothing to say but what a day.

Good Morning. Good Morning.

Nothing to say, but what a day
How’s your boy been?

Nothing to do, it’s up to you
I’ve got nothing to say
But it’s O.K.

Good morning, good morning, good morning-a

Written by Lennon-McCartney
From The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” 1967

The song was actually written by John Lennon and inspired by a post-touring lull in suburban London with his wife, Cynthia. At this time, son Julian would have been nearly 4 years old. From all accounts, life with John was not a walk in the park. Like many artists, the gap between the person and the art is wide. We end up enriched by the song and its place in our memories regardless of what John was doing as a husband, father, and bandmate.

For a simple set of lyrics, attributed to inspiration from a Kellogg’s TV commercial, the song was made complex and interesting in the studio. It opens with a rooster crowing, and ends with birds, a cat, a dog, a cow, a horse, a sheep, a lion, an elephant, and then the sounds of a fox hunt. A chicken clucking as the song fades out is replaced by the guitar opening of the reprise of the song Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band near the close of the album. The final song is A Day in the Life.

A horn group called Sounds Incorporated play throughout with the sound of the horns made “weird” by the engineers to suit Lennon’s tastes. The song has 7 sections with time signature and beat changes.

Most of the song is 12 or 16 syllable lines evoking a frame of mind, like:

Going to work
Don’t want to go
Feeling lowdown

and

Heading for home
You start to roam
Then you’re in town

Beatles last public performance.

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I’ve taken a break from the Lefty Boomer blog for a while due to T&E shortages. (time and effort) The recent mid-term elections have provoked me sufficiently to return to the fray. I’m opting to not began a long rant on the successes of conservative propaganda and the real dangers of oligarchy in the U.S. But I have a couple of points that may help with context:

Who came out to vote?

Fewer than 37% of eligible voters case their votes in the 2014 midterm elections. This is 4 points down from the 2010 elections. White males and older voters came out disproportionately, and they are both categories that skew Republican (63% Republican to 35% Democrat for white males generally,  56-43% Republican for seniors).

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wrote in a statement, “We should not be satisfied with a ‘democracy’ in which more than 60 percent of our people don’t vote and some 80 percent of young people and low-income Americans fail to vote.”

While unmarried women skew Democratic 61% to 27% that margin is slimmer than it has been in the past. It may be that these voters are above the fray of FoxNews vs. working America and simply see that the economy is not moving fast enough under Democrat’s control. Similarly, voters under age 30 skew Democratic, by 13% but their share of the electorate was down from 19% in 2012 to 13% in 2014.

Historical trend?

Our last four full two-term presidents, Eisenhower to George W. Bush, have concluded their final two years in office without the support of either house of Congress. What is being portrayed as unprecedented and historical is in fact both precedented and non-historical!

Ballot Initiatives Favored Liberal Points of View

Binding initiatives raised the minimum wage in 4 states. Alaskans voted to raise the state’s minimum wage from its current $7.75 to $8.75 in 2015 and $9.75 in 2016, and index it to inflation.  Returns indicate the measure was supported by more than 68 percent of voters.  In Arkansas, 65 percent of voters approved a ballot measure to raise the state’s minimum wage to $7.50 in 2015, $8.00 in 2016 and $8.50 in 2017.  Nebraskans passed a measure raising the state’s minimum wage to $8.00 in 2015 and to $9.00 in 2016, with 59 percent of voters approving. In South Dakota, 54.9 percent of voters approved a state minimum wage increase to $8.50 per hour, effective January 1, 2015, and index future increases to account for inflation.

Non-binding resolutions in Illinois and Wisconsin also favored raising minimum wage to $10 and $10.10 respectively, in spite of both state’s Republican governor wins.

Republican policy is against a hike in the Federal minimum wage, and Mr. McConnell, our future Senate Majority Leader, has voted against raising the minimum wage 16 times, and has never crafted a jobs bill despite 30 years in Washington.

On the cannabis votes, 3 of the 4 state initiatives to allow recreational use of marijuana passed. Illinois’s non-binding measure regarding the coverage of contraception passed. Stricter gun laws were passed in Washington state. Massachusetts’ measure to require one sick day for each 30 days worked also passed.

It’s difficult to imagine how these outcomes can coexist with the Republican victories except as a marker that the leadership and the populace are out of step with each other. Maybe I’m overly hopeful, but as these synchronization problems play out we may find that the pendulum of political thought is ready to swing back to the left.

Unions – Mixed messages

The longtime meme regarding unions are that we needed them in the bygone days but today, there is little need for them. But the fall of unions correlates to the rise of income going to the top 10% as this video shows.

The Economic Policy Institute writes that “By most estimates, declining unionization accounted for about a third of the increase in inequality in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Why bring it up now? Because for the first time, the Teamsters were able to get a vote for  unionization at one of its locations: FedEx Freight’s East Philadelphia terminal in Croydon, Pennsylvania. Workers in a New Jersey location voted the union down earlier in 2014 but the victory in PA suggests that all workers for FedEx will be seeing some benefits as the company will move to block further encroachment by the Teamsters.

Pew Research Center research found that about half (51%) of Americans said they had favorable opinions of labor unions, versus 42% who said they had unfavorable opinions about them. That was the highest favorability rating since 2007, though still below the 63% who said they were favorably disposed toward unions in 2001. In a separate 2012 survey, 64% of Americans agreed that unions were necessary to protect working people. So the attitudes toward unions are just not as clear as traditional media would have us believe.

Unions also suffered a defeat at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee despite Volkswagen’s tacit approval and Germany’s success working with unions. From http://www.remappingdebate.org/, “In 2010, over 5.5 million cars were produced in Germany, twice the 2.7 million built in the United States. Average compensation (a figure including wages and employer-paid benefits) for autoworkers in Germany was 48.97 Euros per hour ($67.14 US), while compensation for auto work in the United States averaged $33.77 per hour, or about half as much as in Germany, all according to 2007 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For Germany-based auto producers, the U.S. is a low-wage country.”

Bruce Rauner, governor-elect of Illinois, offered “right to work” zone as part of his campaign platform. Right to work is, of course, the right to work for less! So anti-union policy (enforced and reinforced by a public relations onslaught regarding global competition) actually promotes the race to the bottom, not the race to the top as Germany’s policies promote.

Union successes are rarely offered as news, like when the Teamsters won bargaining rights for 7600 workers at Continental Airlines and it only rated a small non-bylined story in the Business Section of the New York Times while being ignored by other national media. Yet, if we want to reverse the trend of wealth gravitating to the top, unions may be the fastest and easier route there.

 

 

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Like we was lost and nobody cared…

In this edition: Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath not ripening in post-Reagan America, what’s the matter with unions, if you put yourself on a pedestal then my instinct is to knock you off. Please do the same for me.

Quotes from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath

Ma Joad: I ain’t never gonna be scared no more. I was, though. For a while it looked as though we was beat. Good and beat. Looked like we didn’t have nobody in the whole wide world but enemies. Like nobody was friendly no more. Made me feel kinda bad and scared too, like we was lost and nobody cared….

Rich fellas come up and they die, and their kids ain’t no good and they die out, but we keep on coming. We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out, they can’t lick us. We’ll go on forever, Pa, cos we’re the people.

Tom Joad:  Then it don’t matter. I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.

Jim Casy: I wouldn’t pray just for a man that’s dead, ’cause he’s all right. If I was to pray, I’d pray for folks that’s alive and don’t know which way to turn.

Grandpa Joad: It’s my dirt! Eh-heh! No good, but it’s – it’s mine, all mine.

My custom on this blog has been to abuse the copyrights of songwriters to introduce posts but in this entry I’ll abuse the copyright of an author and a screenwriter instead. I saved the 1940 film The Grapes of Wrath on the DVR and finally got around to watching it one recent night. My wife, who HATES old movies, got interested in it and watched it with me. Not born and schooled in the U.S., she was shocked by the portrayal of the Okies and the Depression-era abuses they endured. To me, the resonance with the themes we face today were fascinating.

Steinbeck outlined his main aim saying, “I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for the Great Depression and its effects.” His goal was realized by the film but by blunting Steinbeck’s razor-sharp edges of realism the film became a better method of communicating to the wider audience.  Outrage induced by the injustices endured by the dust bowl migrants renews whenever this classic is shown.

The content is quite socialist but the people involved in bringing the film to life were far from that. The director was John Ford whose life encapsulates the development of the American film industry from silents to talkies with star-building thrown in and rejection of studio controlled films in order to preserve freedom of expression. We can see from his films a strong sense of justice but not an outright rejection of capitalism. The producer was Darryl F. Zanuck. Reportedly, Zanuck was nervous about the left-wing political views of the novel. Red-baiting is both a part of the film and a part of the times it was produced in. Then, as now, when the focus shifts to the interests of the common man the response of “conservatives” is to call it socialism or communism. Zanuck sent private investigators to Oklahoma to investigate the plight of the tenant farmers and collected documentation that would help him to defend charges that he was pro-communist.

Steinbeck wrote, “In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.” The metaphor is based on the Battle Hymn of the Republic:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Which in turn was taken from the New Testament’s book Revelation, in 14:19–20 which is big on prophetic visions:

And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

All this led me to the question of “Why aren’t the grapes of wrath growing heavy today?” How have we been convinced that the good of the people at the top is more important than the good of hard-working people who make all success possible?

For example:

From 1978–2011, CEO compensation grew more than 725 percent, more than the stock market and remarkably more than the annual compensation of a typical private-sector worker, which grew just 5.7 percent. As of 2011, the figure of CEO comp to average worker was 231 to 1. Just before Ronald Reagan took office, that number was 35 to 1. In many industries, especially retail, the ratio is over 1000 to 1.

Wal-Mart’s ratio is more than 600 to 1, even while they actively fight unionization, include applications for federal aid as part of their hiring packet, and fight the expansion of covered healthcare costs. The six remaining Walton family members have a fortune equal to the combined wealth of the bottom 30 percent of the American population – 100 million people. And in one year they spent nearly $8 million lobbying politicians to work against trade regulation, to reduce corporate taxation, and to degrade worker’s rights (like paid sick days). They are supporters of conservative policy thinktanks like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, and of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. They fulfill a mission of providing low quality, low-cost goods and admittedly, that can help low-income people. But they’ve created a situation where predatory practices do more harm than good.

It has been reported that the average Wal-Mart worker required $730 in taxpayer-funded healthcare and $1,222 in other forms of assistance, such as food stamps and subsidized housing due to low wages and miserly benefits. More here…

While such fortunes accrue to the few, 47 million Americans–or one out of seven–need food  assistance. Almost half of the hungry are children. For every food bank we had in  1980, we now have 200. At the same time, 20 people made more from their investment income in  one year than the entire 2011 food assistance  budget. That’s $73 billion, taxed at the capital gains rate. Meanwhile, President Obama couldn’t get the $1 billion per year he needed to improve childhood  nutrition in schools.

Some will argue that in a free market compensation follows value. This is not true. Money=Power=Influence and once at the top, those driven by greed and narcissism use their power and influence to stack the deck in their own favor. This is not free market capitalism, and in fact free market capitalism would demand that wages have equity externally and internally since that’s the path to the highest levels of employee performance resulting in higher levels of business success. There’s a good Harvard Review article on the topic here.

Those with influence have had great success in avoiding taxation, reducing the amount of money available to serve the other 99% of Americans. Loopholes and exemptions cost the public about  a trillion dollars a year, and under-reported income costs another $450 billion. The total is much more than the cost of our stable but always threatened Social Security program. Since the recession, Fortune 500 corporations have  cut their tax payments in half, even though their profits have doubled in less than ten years. If that were not enough, it is  estimated that between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden offshore, untaxed, with up to 40% owned by Americans.  U.S. PIRG estimates that the average taxpayer in 2012 paid an extra $1,026 in taxes to make up for tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals. The average small business paid $3,067.

Were you aware that America has the highest death rate for newborns on their first day in the industrialized world?  According to a report published by Save the Children, an international aid group, an estimated 11,300 babies don’t make it past their first day in the United States. “This is 50 percent more first-day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined,” write the authors of the report.  America may have good healthcare, but it’s not universal and the poor and underprivileged are left out in our for-profit system. Where are the leaders to champion a cause like reducing newborn deaths? I hear crickets chirping.

A news release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports:

In 2012, the union membership rate–the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union–was 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 percent in 2011. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.4 million, also declined over the year. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.

And the benefits of unions:

$917 = Median weekly earnings in 2010 of union members.

$717 = Median weekly earnings in 2010 of non-union workers.

That’s a yearly difference in salary of $10,400 for union members vs. non-union members.

But the problems of unions are that they make products and services too expensive! Bullshit. Bullshit for two reasons.

1. The differential is reasonable.

From BLS:  In private industry, unionized electricians earned an average of $21.05 per hour, compared with $15.11 for non-union electricians. In the public sector, these figures were $18.07 and $13.51, respectively. The wage differential was greater in private industry ($5.94) than in the public sector ($4.56).

Working a normal workweek a union electrician in the private sector would make just $43,784 per year. This amount seems very reasonable for a trained person doing a quality-critical job.

2. The cost of labor represents only a portion of the cost of producing a product. Costs are generated by labor, capital costs like machinery, and raw materials costs.

Analysts at JP Morgan have written:

Let’s put the importance of labor costs in its proper perspective. It may be surprising to note that labor accounts for a relatively small 16% of total manufacturing costs in the US. This moves as high as 30% for certain sectors such as electronics and apparel, to as low as 6-7% for sectors such as Motor Vehicles, where capital costs are so much more significant. Raw materials and components are clearly the biggest drivers of input costs (emphasis mine).

So while industry fights the worker over wage gains along the lines of what unions provide this may represent a 1 or 2% uptick in pricing (25% increase of labor on 6% of the  item’s costs). More on the proportion of manufacturing that comes from labor costs here.

The term Fordism refers to Henry Ford’s system of mass manufacturing but it also includes a component that encompasses the idea that the system must afford its workers decent enough wages to buy the product that is being manufactured. Disregard for the worker seems to be the hallmark of those we entrust the strategic planning in companies to.

So these concepts have fallen out of the conversation since around 1980:

1. Around 2/3 of the economy is consumer spending and by restricting wages (caused by anti-unionism, shifting of funds to investors and top management, and outsourcing to create a labor surplus in the U.S.) the economy struggles.

2. There are people in need at the bottom of socioeconomic spectrum, there are always needs there (e.g. beggars in the Bible), their lives will not be improved by “tough love” impulses to have them raise themselves by their own bootstraps (whatever that chestnut means), and a certain amount of our prosperity must be focused on helping them and intervening on the rising generations to “mainstream” children into the productive economy.

3. The people at the top are more likely to be money-hoarders than job-creators and we need to knock them off the pedestals they’ve assigned themselves to.

4. The kind of greed and injustice that befell migrant farmers lured to the California orchards in the 1930s (for the express purpose of creating a labor surplus that would drop labor costs dramatically) still exists and maybe even thrives in our current world. There are a subset of people who will never have enough, and begrudge a fellow American wages or healthcare while they themselves develop un-spendable quantities of wealth.

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“But ain’t nowhere near the fella I was. Jus’ let me get out California, where I can pick me an orange when I want it. Or grapes. There’s one thing I ain’t never had enough of. Gonna get me a whole big bunch of grapes off a bush, or whatever, an’ I’m gonna squash ’em on my face an’ let ’em run offin my chin.” Quote from Grandpa Joad in Grapes of Wrath. Didn’t a Firesign Theater bit parody this?

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Since this is a “literary” edition, I wanted to share this gem:

In an eon came evening, to cool and to displace the sounds of daytime with whispers and croaks and sounds like rusty hinges from grass-tuft sanctuaries in woods and pastures and from lily pads a quarter of a mile away.

That single sentence paragraph comes from Kurt Vonnegut’s posthumous book We are What We Pretend to Be and is from a novella he wrote in the 1940s called Basic Training. The amazing thing is that the work was rejected by publishers and didn’t find its way into the world for 72 years.

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That side was made for you and me.

In this edition: The other side of the fence–one group’s liberty is the infringement of another’s liberty. Quite a conundrum. Everything old is new again as the oligarchs expose themselves, figuratively. Drawing a line between child labor and right to work laws.

This Land Is Your Land

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway;
I saw below me that golden valley;
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

– Words and Music by Woody Guthrie (1940)

Purists will dispute that 1940 date since history seems a little vague on when to credit the writing of that song. We’ll just pick this date and go with it. The date has some meaning since it stands as the watershed between the extraordinary trials of the Great Depression and the more or less unified “greatest generation” postwar American identity.

This is NOT a boomer song (no, I am not being defensive, just putting it in perspective lol). It’s from the previous generation and relates to the generation before that, the boomers’ grandparents’ generation. This generation was passing as the boomer generation found a voice seeking social change in the sixties and early seventies. The boomers were most likely to have heard the sanitized version of the song including just the first 3 verses, perhaps even sung in grade school or endured in an elevator or on workplace Muzak.

It came to my mind following an NPR piece on the publication of House of Earth. The novel was written by Woody Guthrie and has only recently been published by Johnny Depp’s new publishing imprint at HarperCollins named “Infinitum Nihil.” Depp’s publishing partner, historian and author Douglas Brinkley, tracked the lost novel down after stumbling across a reference while doing research. I have not read it yet but plan to–it sounds like a powerful exploration of life in the 1930’s Dust Bowl and the economic inequity produced by the sudden reversal of fortunes in that era. It also has sex, lefty politics, and a man negotiating the enactment of his dreams amid difficulties, including lack of spousal faith.

A couple of Guthrie quotes:

“There’s a feeling in music and it carries you back down the road you have traveled and makes you travel it again. Sometimes when I hear music I think back over my days – and a feeling that is fifty-fifty joy and pain swells like clouds taking all kinds of shapes in my mind.”

“The note of hope is the only note that can help us or save us from falling to the bottom of the heap of evolution, because, largely, about all a human being is, anyway, is just a hoping machine.”

Guthrie’s life story reads like 5 ordinary life stories. His daughter (from a 3rd marriage if that tells us anything) keeps archival information at http://www.woodyguthrie.org/ including an unapologetic biography tracking his Oklahoma birth in 1912 to his death of  long-undiagnosed Huntington’s Disease in 1967, just months before son Arlo released his classic album and draft-dodger “how-to”, Alice’s Restaurant.

I call attention to the last 4 verses of This Land. Caught up in the myth-history of Americana we tend to forget that the oligarchs–the small group of wealthy families and individuals that want to run our country–had moved against workers 100 years ago, employing Pinkertons, police, and even the National Guard to break up union demonstrations with beatings, imprisonment, and even shootings.

With the game stacked in their favor, those in control of industry and finance enjoyed an unprecedented economic boom in the 1920s. Then, as in the run up to the 2007-2008 crash, investors ignored any economic signs that were less than optimistic and rode a dangerous aura of invincibility, over-investing and speculating in stocks. Prices were inflated and businesspeople succumbed to the illusion of a robust economy. In the twenties a dollar would leverage ten in stocks. Because of greed, the whole economy came down on their heads, leaving workers to live with little support in a world where 25% were unemployed and another 25% underemployed.

Eighty years later the same aura of invincibility (driven by the same bad impulse: greed) drove the banks and investors to use similar leveraging, trading risky mortgages bundled into securities. The demand for the investments fueled lending which, with low-interest rates, fueled the housing boom and speculative purchases by buyers in the market who wrongly assumed prices would rise indefinitely. Unfettered free market capitalism, favored by so many these days, inevitably leads to a fall caused by greed.

Effective federal regulation and a labor force cognizant of the need for equity and justice are the balancing forces against greed. Yet, the mood is for less regulation and many of the masses eat their cold gruel and and say thank you; assigning god-like characteristics to the rich and powerful. The top 1% of earners’ real wages grew 8.2% from 2009 to 2011 while the real annual wages in the bottom 90% lost 1.2%. So many are willing to attribute this to some sort of moral superiority instead of understanding that the deck has been stacked against the average worker.  Forbes doesn’t tell us that 40% of the billionaires on their list received a start on their billions from wealth gained from family or spouses.

Certainly every regulation needs to be evaluated for its need and effectiveness, but those financing the candidates who seek to repeal all regulation are the oligarchs who would benefit from reduced legal constraints the most. Those building “defenses” against the equalizing power of unions are interested in only one thing: silencing the voice of the worker. Their reduction in labor costs is our loss of a living wage.

Union workers made up 32% of the workforce in 1953, 20% in 1983, 13% by 2007. The number will have dropped even more today since the economy continues to hemorrhage public sector jobs, often unionized.  In 1933, the number of labor union members was around 3 million. A decade before it had been 5 million. History repeats.

An argument against unions and against minimum wage regulation is that it drives up the cost of labor. To this I say good! I’m increasingly convinced that the answer to getting back some of the 5% of GDP that has moved from workers to investors and owners (and often from there to offshore tax shelters) is to attack the wage issue from the bottom up.

But does the higher labor costs leads to higher product costs argument even hold water? I think we have to think in terms of the unit price of labor. For example, if at the hot dog stand the owner is forced by a minimum wage increase to pay an additional $1.75 per hour per employee. That employee works a 4 hour lunch shift where he prepares and serves 240 hot dogs  (4 hours of a hot dog every 3 minutes–conservative numbers). This adds just 3 cents per hot dog to the labor costs. Now that 3 cents can be made up in any number of ways including efficiency. That concept of unit price of labor applies up and down the line. If the factory owner trades the union’s higher wages for the promised higher productivity of union standards then it’s a fair trade.

The auto unions, seeing the need to negotiate, made concessions to the manufacturers. This kind of common sense approach can work in all cases where the time-aggregated pay and benefits of workers exceed the necessities in changing marketplaces. Higher paid workers don’t hinder an economy, they benefit it because they are the drivers of demand. If we can learn one thing from the last 30 years, let it be this: demand is the driver of a robust economy, not supply.

How far would the oligarchs go? In 1910 there were 1.5 to 2 million workers in American factories that were 15 years old or younger. Hard to believe? “Businesses liked to hire children because they worked in unskilled jobs for lower wages than adults, and their small hands made them more adept at handling small parts and tools.”  Facing the outrage of ordinary people–and seeing pictures like the ones below–Congress passed the Keating-Owens Act that established the following child labor standards: a minimum age of 14 for workers in manufacturing and 16 for workers in mining; a maximum workday of 8 hours; prohibition of night work for workers under age 16; and a documentary proof of age. Sounds like it errs on the side of the employers, but in a display of social irresponsibility this law was later ruled unconstitutional on the ground that congressional power to regulate interstate commerce did not extend to the conditions of labor. We can guess who had purchased those judges.

textile2 textile1

No, I don’t propose that a return to child labor is imminent. Instead, I’m trying to raise the issues that this is how far the greedy have gone in the past, that human nature hasn’t changed in the past 100 years, and that these same impulses still live in the sociopaths who guide large parts of the energy industry, financial firms and banks, and corporations like Walmart and GE.

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