Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Labor Notes After Labor Day


For all those clueless types who think we all love our jobs, a recent June 2013 Gallup survey, “The State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement,” says otherwise.  It reported that only 30 percent of U.S. workers “were engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.” In contrast to this “actively engaged group,” 52 percent were “not engaged,” simply going through the motions to get a paycheck, while 18 percent were classified as “actively disengaged,” hating going to work and putting energy into undermining their workplace. Those with higher education levels reported more discontent with their workplace.  In 2009 the figures reached 28% ‘engaged,’ 54% going through the motions and 18% evident saboteurs.  These numbers, with variations, have held fairly steady since 2000. 

Oddly enough, here in Minnesota, we had one of the lowest numbers of engaged workers in the U.S. – at 25.7% ‘engaged, with 55.9% ‘showing up” and 18.4% actively disengaged. That means 3/4ths of the Minnesota workforce has no illusions as to the alienating character of their employment.  Karl Marx would not be surprised, even here in the land of opportunity.  These numbers parallel those in many other northern states.  Southerners were the happiest to be slaving away – Louisiana had 37% ‘engaged’ workers, followed in descending order by Oklahoma, South Dakota, Georgia, Arkansas and South Carolina.   The report does not break these figures down by type of job or class – which would reveal too much.  It does mention that managers and other professionals increased their brown-nosing from the past, to 36% enthusiastic suck-ups.    

Most capitalists really can’t fool the majority of the working-class that they have ‘loyalty’ to  their workforces after the brutal US and world recession of 2007-2008 decimated employment, shifting many workers to unemployment, lower-paid service work or doing the same work for less pay and benefits.  It was a chance the capitalists had been waiting for to downshift working conditions from the proletariat to the precariat.  (See review of “The Precariat,” below.) 


Thomas Geoghegan has a recent essay on Martin Luther King’s role as a labor leader, not just a civil rights leader.  This aspect of King has always been buried by the ruling class media, just as they defang King by concentrating on one line in one damn speech, to the exclusion of his activist life, hounding by the FBI and anti-war activities.  Most notable of all is his assassination at the hands of the Memphis police, backed up by U.S. army snipers, as retailed in Perkins' well-researched book, "A Time to Die."

 For example, Walter Reuther and the United Auto Workers gave most of the money to fund the 1963 “March on Washington.”  King gave many speeches to union bodies about labor issues and was heavily supported by the former CIO unions, but not by the mostly bigoted building trade leaderships.  A. Phillip Randolph of the ‘Brotherhood of Railway Porters,’ who came up with the idea for the “march,” conceived the march as a labor march. It was actually titled “A March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”  None of this was mentioned by the hagiographers of the Democratic Party celebrating the march last week, for good reason, just as they ignore the real reason for Labor Day.  The Democratic Party is the false friend of labor and of the black and Latino populations, so this is no surprise.

Nor is it a surprise that capitalist America cannot grant MLK's 'dream" even 50 years later. Time to stop dreaming.


In an encouraging development, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Minnesota State Council has endorsed Ty Moore for Minneapolis council person of the 9th Ward on Minneapolis’ south-side.  Ty has already been endorsed by Socialist Alternative and the Green Party.  This is a first, and Ty has a good chance of actually winning.   It means a significant activist labor body has endorsed a socialist and Green activist working with Occupy Homes, who supports the idea of a labor party and who is running against four vanilla machine Democrats.  Support Ty Moore by working for him or giving him money.  This is the kind of thing the labor movement needs to do to survive.  Let’s put a socialist in office in Minneapolis and disrupt this one-party dictatorship they call a town.  

Red Frog
September 3, 2013

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