Monday, 2 July 2012

What happened to Worker's Rights?

In modern politics a lot of time is spent debating working rights for minorities and women. They demand equal opportunity as white men in all domains and this goal (even if it does not always work out) it is a noble pursuit that, if the disparities are drastic, should be pursued. However, in today's globalized economy and in today's neoliberal political sphere one issue important to all workers has fallen aside. The issue of worker's rights has been forgotten, buried and now lie dead with champions of worker's rights such as Martin Luther King Jr and Harvey Milk.

In a time of progressive movements, "radical" liberals and pro-choice debates we have forgotten about perhaps the most important rights of all. The right to fair pay and the right to work. These two rights have been forgotten by the 99% and torn asunder for the richest 0.1%. People talk constantly about education... and how a good education will get you a good job but even the value of an education has been declining over the last decade. Youth today face an alarming environment where they are forced to either work minimum wage with little chance of promotion, take on large student debts or receive the aid of their parents in financing their post-secondary crusade. The choices are slim and the prospects are slimmer.

You may graduate with a degree in one of the hot fields... but if you don't you will likely wind up flipping burgers, serving coffee or making sandwiches. You will be paid minimum wage for these tasks and you will be kept constantly on edge by the threat of losing your job or in the case of more advanced degrees, being outsourced. This pressure keeps wage prices low, keeps CEO profits high and in an environment with high unemployment the threat can be infinitely sustained. Someone will do the job you do since there are plenty of candidates to do it.

The effect of this pressure destroy all safety nets supporting workers, shift the power from the labourer to the rent-collector and result in the growth of corporatism. Since the rent-collector now has excess power and seeks to increase their ability to collect rent, the rent-collector uses its influence to increase rent-flow and this results in money being siphoned away from the healthier parts of the economy. As consumers become unable to consume due to the high rent costs imposed on them (Largely a result of the financial sector not government taxes) the healthier parts of the economy become even more stagnant.

As the economy stagnates the rent collectors become unable to collect more rent through conventional means and turn to government backed insurance obligations and the likes to continue increasing their rent collecting efforts. This involves taking on more risk with the taxes from income tax payers who are facing squeezes from high rent collection on their revenue. The income tax payers grow to depend on government services which depend on income taxes from the income tax payers. The banks proceed to cut into the income tax revenue and this results in shrinking of government services.

This income tax revenue must be further leveraged to allow the economics of rent-extraction to continue and in an economy with less consumer power greater risks must be taken by the rent-collectors to allow profit growth to continue. These risks must be backed by something and as a result government backs these risking loans to allow continued economic growth... or at least allow the illusion to go on. However, these government backed insurances are once again backed by the income tax payer who is facing more and more of a squeeze due to shrinking consumer power and now shrinking government power.

As the government shrinks government jobs are cut resulting in further loss of consumer power. This creates a powerful feedback loop where consumer power and government power both keep decreasing while financial institutes grow larger and larger. Unable to maintain growth margins, the financial institutes must take on more and more risk to compensate for poor consumer power. As the system collapses underneath the worker's feet, media shifts attention from the failing financial system to the remaining unions. The unions becomes a martyr for a massive financial sector that needs consumer support to survive.

However, due to the economic problem of rent capture, the financial sector can no longer feed off just the consumer and must also feed off the government. Worker's unions are broken up to provide additional stomping grounds for the financial sector to feed off of and subsequently the economy contracts further. Without strong unions it becomes easier and easier for corporations to exert predatory behaviour and they become capable of destroying the labour market and even stagnating healthier markets. This is why worker's rights have been forgotten. Their death began in the 1970s with the dawn of Neoliberal economics and they are but a long lost dream now.

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