Today, the city of Providence, Rhode Island sent out layoff notices to every single teacher in the city. Every single one of them. If you want to understand why this is happening, why wages in the US keep getting cut, this chart tells the story.
[Click through for the chart. There are almost no 1000-worker strikes since, well, PATCO.] … What you’ll notice is that people in America just don’t strike anymore. Why? Well, their jobs have been shipped off to factory countries, their unions have been broken, and their salaries until recently have been supplemented by credit. It’s part of a giant labor arbitrage game, that the Federal Reserve and elites in both parties are happy to play. Strike, and you’re fired. Don’t strike, and your pay is probably going to be cut. Don’t like it? Sorry, we can open a plant abroad. And we have institutions, like the IMF, to make sure that we get goods from those factory-countries, and get them cheap.
In passing, note that point — “their salaries have been supplemented by credit.” Those days are gone forever; and with it the salaries.
The key connection is here: “Don’t like it? Sorry, we can open a plant abroad.” And that’s where Cairo comes in. Cairo is “abroad.” And Stoller makes the case that all of these second- and third-world revolutions … arelabor revolts. Stoller again (emphasis his):
I noted a week and a half ago that the Egyptian revolution was a labor uprising against Rubinites. So to the extent that global labor arbitrage relies on sweatshops and environmental degradation in poor countries for cheap goods, successful strikes in poor countries undercuts the whole system. The reason to outsource work in the first place is to prevent workers in rich countries from gaining pricing and political power. Now workers in poor countries are getting pricing and political power? It’s actually a fragile system of control, and can be broken through either crackdowns on tax havens and oligarchs in wealthy countries or protests/strikes where the goods are made.
The Egyptian revolution was really a series of protests and highly politicized strikes, which is why people in Madison are taking inspiration from Cairo. In fact, the actions in Egypt may be creating a wave of labor actions worldwide, rippling to Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio. All of these strikes are aimed at a collusive set of tight relationships.
He goes on to detail those relationships, the key elements being a world-wide wealth transfer upward (duh) and the creation of crony-controlled world-wide shadow governments “in the form of security contractors, corporations, and banks that are supported with taxpayer money but consider themselves part of the ‘private sector’.” There are complexities in the article, and not all of it is to agree with, but I’m certain the prime connections are valid.
Cairo sent pizza to Wisconsin because it’s all one big anti-Rubinite labor action, and the rest of the world is where the workers are. Mubarak’s regime was neoliberal to the core. The world-wide labor action only lookspolitical — because the agent of the Rubinite wealth transfer is captured government. And if captured government is the agent of control — well, you always strike the bosses, don’t you.
Playing to win — Notice that Cairo played to win. They pushed till Mubarak was gone, and they know the game isn’t over. We need to do the same. And you can’t do that if you don’t know who’s playing opposite you. Stoller says that this spirit of uprising “didn’t come from the Democratic Party leadership,” and that Obama “is really nowhere, meekly tut-tutting about union busting while gravely acknowledging fiscal realities and tough choices.” The Rubinites are, after all, Democrats.
It may just be that changing the Democratic party dynamic is our best road to leverage. Primaries, anyone? How about “early and often,” as they say in Chicago. And how about playing to win.