Saturday, July 31, 2010

Good Reading: A Sin And A Shame

A Sin and a Shame

The treatment of workers by American corporations has been worse — far more treacherous — than most of the population realizes. There was no need for so many men and women to be forced out of their jobs in the downturn known as the great recession.

Many of those workers were cashiered for no reason other than outright greed by corporate managers. And that cruel, irresponsible, shortsighted policy has resulted in widespread human suffering and is doing great harm to the economy.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Andrew Sum, an economics professor and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. “Not only did they throw all these people off the payrolls, they also cut back on the hours of the people who stayed on the job.”

As Professor Sum studied the data coming in from the recession, he realized that the carnage that occurred in the workplace was out of proportion to the economic hit that corporations were taking. While no one questions the severity of the downturn — the worst of the entire post-World War II period — the economic data show that workers to a great extent were shamefully exploited.

The recession officially started in December 2007. From the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2009, real aggregate output in the U.S., as measured by the gross domestic product, fell by about 2.5 percent. But employers cut their payrolls by 6 percent.

In many cases, bosses told panicked workers who were still on the job that they had to take pay cuts or cuts in hours, or both. And raises were out of the question. The staggering job losses and stagnant wages are central reasons why any real recovery has been so difficult.

“They threw out far more workers and hours than they lost output,” said Professor Sum. “Here’s what happened: At the end of the fourth quarter in 2008, you see corporate profits begin to really take off, and they grow by the time you get to the first quarter of 2010 by $572 billion. And over that same time period, wage and salary payments go down by $122 billion.”

That kind of disconnect, said Mr. Sum, had never been seen before in all the decades since World War II.

In short, the corporations are making out like bandits. Now they’re sitting on mountains of cash and they still are not interested in hiring to any significant degree, or strengthening workers’ paychecks.

Productivity tells the story.

Increases in the productivity of American workers are supposed to go hand in hand with improvements in their standard of living.

That’s how capitalism is supposed to work. That’s how the economic pie expands, and we’re all supposed to have a fair share of that expansion.

Corporations have now said the hell with that. Economists believe the nation may have emerged, technically, from the recession early in the summer of 2009. As Professor Sum writes in a new study for the labor market center, this period of economic recovery “has seen the most lopsided gains in corporate profits relative to real wages and salaries in our history.”

Worker productivity has increased dramatically, but the workers themselves have seen no gains from their increased production. It has all gone to corporate profits. This is unprecedented in the postwar years, and it is wrong.

Having taken everything for themselves, the corporations are so awash in cash they don’t know what to do with it all. Citing a recent article from Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Professor Sum noted that in July cash at the nation’s nonfinancial corporations stood at $1.84 trillion, a 27 percent increase over early 2007. Moody’s has pointed out that as a percent of total company assets, cash has reached a level not seen in the past half-century.

Executives are delighted with this ill-gotten bonanza. Charles D. McLane Jr. is the chief financial officer of Alcoa, which recently experienced a turnaround in profits and a 22 percent increase in revenue. As The Times reported this week, Mr. McLane assured investors that his company was in no hurry to bring back 37,000 workers who were let go since 2008. The plan is to minimize rehires wherever possible, he said, adding, “We’re not only holding head-count levels, but are also driving restructuring this quarter that will result in further reductions.”

There can be no robust recovery as long as corporations are intent on keeping idle workers sidelined and squeezing the pay of those on the job.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Germany and Japan, because of a combination of government and corporate policies, suffered far less worker dislocation in the recession than the U.S. Until we begin to value our workers, and understand the critical importance of employment to a thriving economy, we will continue to see our standards of living decline.

No, it doesn't have to be this way. Americans can and should unionize to protect themselves.



  1. Sam now can you see how badly we need a union
    They are making fools out of thier selves.
    That web site they have is stupid.Sam we want you
    to rep us. We don't care how much IBEW as.

  2. Sam it's time for you to take your gloves off
    We are pissed that they went and put your
    salary out there, ( Who cares you work for it )
    We are all behind you Sam we all meant last night at one of the team members house I can speak for 10 of us there is nothing they can say or do that will change our mind.... Ask Dan how much he makes he works for MCC and he does not even stand up for us.You are not even getting union dues yet and you are helping us.

  3. 1:09 PM - my gloves are off - I'm just doing the "rope a dope" right now.

    I am with you guys too - 100%. I care about all of you - everybody _ and I don't want to see any worker lose anything. Will the company make that same statement? How can they it is them threatening it to begin with.

    I don't think that they really care because it is THEY who keep hinting around about "losing things"



    The company is the ONLY ONE talking about losing anything-

    .......I thought they were concerned for all of you???????

    Who is it that would do that terrible thing to you guys? Must be THEM, HUH????

    Don't trust it!

    Protect yourself - VOTE IBEW Local 363

  4. 'Who' knows where we'd be if we'd had a better result in 1994....with so much on the line, all I can say is "We won't get fooled again!"

  5. Sam I have a great tape of 2 managers saying how we are going to lose things if we let the union
    in if this continues with this anti union shit
    I will turn these tapes over they even go to say we will lose money.Can you believe how stupid they are.Right now I only have respect for 3 managers there they are staying quite and when this is over I hope they can be rewarded.Thank You ball for the information of our new team member.

  6. 7:43Pm - Please save that tape for me because they will colaberate the other Unfair Labor Practices already committed and on tape by who else but Danny Boy.

    I'm loadin up. Keep taping and hover around the biggest mouths please if you can.

  7. I don't always agree with Mr. Hebert's politics but I think he has nailed it this time, great reference quote and how relevant to our situation. All the more reason to say "YES". Of course you know the "Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" will be doing their best (?) to convince us otherwise. They are doing a good enough job on their own sending the pro-union message,. A hint: when you publish a "fact sheet" get your facts straight. Don't publish the adversaries' cash sheet with out defending yours. The whole anti-union message has been negative toward the company. Don't give me frivolous facts about the company, how good it all is and then tell me the world as I know it is going to end. Maybe your's is, for us getting unionized and represented at the pie slicing dinner table. Your management team actually gave us a bone, our breaks were 15 min, 30 min., 15 min.s, you made them scheduled at 30, 40, 30. But you came off like the SS, made them a criminal act if you are waylayed and can't tell your supt. you will miss your scheduled break. And on top of this the plant was screaming great in production. Where did that go after your edict? Then, when asked who thought this up, upper management blames the dead guy, Russ. Accountability my ass. You were only playing Russian Roulette with your toes at that point. But you came off like it was 1939, ve haf vayz, your paperz? And in all astonishment you wonder why it came to this. A union. Reality what a concept. Bulletins when they happen.

  8. Ahhhhh, Black Dog a Zep tune quoting the Who. Better yet "Meet the new Boss, the same as the old Boss". Too the nay sayers, if you vote no, DO NOT BITCH ever again about the company, you know who you are and blew your chance, we know who you are , (a hint: you are the loudest), to the Ball turncoats, you have no ax to grind here learn our culture first before you let management cloud your eyes, and don't spread falsehoods that can be easily checked out. Unless, of course, you are helping them aim that gun. Oh yeah, and if we lose something in the contract is there a possiblity it will be some of the managers? When Joe Selenger ran MCC we were lean and mean, how ironic after Inbev gutted A-B we are top heavy at the local management (?) level, redundant. Who pulls the strings?