Masque of the Red … Revolution?

¡Viva la huelga!

I’ve been wondering when someone in the mainstream media would write something about the potential for increasing union membership and labor strength in the Year(s) of the Plague.

Here’s a start. It’s short, focused largely on the so-called “gig economy,” and written before a Washington Post-Ipsos poll that indicates some laid-off and furloughed workers may be overly optimistic about whether they will be able to return to their old jobs.

How does an activist pitch a union to a worker with no job? Is a patchwork of small, decentralized, tightly focused labor organizations preferable to One Big Union? Are people ready to rethink their notions of who is an “essential” worker? Will stock clerks trump stockholders?

Nick French at Jacobin gives us a look at the protests that arose shortly after the Great Depression took hold. He argues that radical groups, among them the Thirties-vintage Communist Party, forged a bond of solidarity between the jobless and those still working that helped make FDR’s New Deal possible.

The conditions are different today, he concedes. But the public-health issue may give workers more leverage this time around. Writes French:

By forcing sick people to come to work, or by unnecessarily exposing people to coworkers or customers who might be infected, employers are hastening the spread of the coronavirus and putting everyone at risk. This means that all workers, employed or unemployed, have a common interest in these workers winning their demands.

Boy howdy. Dead broke is bad enough. I hear dead is worse.

• Addendum: As white-collar types join workers from the restaurant, travel, hospitality, and retail industries on the sidelines, experts say there’s no way to calculate how many jobs might come back as states consider lifting shelter-in-place rules. according to The New York Times.

Many businesses, particularly small ones, may not survive, while others are likely to operate with reduced hours and staff. The job search site Indeed reports that postings are down nearly 40 percent from a year ago.

“We don’t know what normal is going to look like,” said Martha Gimbel, an economist and a labor market expert at Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative.

• Addendum the Second: How should unions organize? From The Nation.

• Addendum the Third: Comrades, identities, and attachments. Also from The Nation.

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15 Responses to “Masque of the Red … Revolution?”

  1. Charley Auer Says:

    How are you hearing from the dead?

  2. khal spencer Says:

    Somehow I don’t think this Covid curse is gonna just blow over like a spring cold. And somehow I am not convinced that life will get back to normal. Whatever normal is. Bruce Cockburn says whatever normal is, it always gets worse.

    So maybe, just maybe, people on the short end of the stick will band together for a change. No job. No health insurance. Pressure to go back to high risk work without any PPE or health insurance. Low wages. No job security. Meanwhile, as yesterday’s blog post shows us, some of the more fortunate sons can blow 2.3k on a fake bicycle.

    Back when I was a shop steward and then on the board of directors of the faculty union at the U of Hawaii, a lot of faculty detested the union since they thought trouble never would find them, that they would rather use their dues as a beer fund, and that the union only represented those commie pinko faggot liberal arts professors. In our case, collective bargaining of all state employees was mandated in the Hawaii State Constitution, written by, you guessed it, the wretched masses yearning to be free and who took over territorial government after WW II. But when you needed help, who was there with lawyers, guns, and money? A colleague found out a wealthy landowner tried to scotch his research as it had to do with the effects of development on shoreline erosion. Another colleague needed a lawyer as a student was sueing him. Who did they go to first? Yep, the union.

    Multiply that by a few tens of millions of people who are SoL thanks to Covid, vulture capitalists, and inside the beltway Democrats.

    But you know what Larry’s wife says. And now, a word from your sponsor.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It’s gonna be an uphill trudge that would make Sisyphus look like a slacker.

      Plenty of companies are gonna choose bankruptcy, so there will be no job to go back to (just bonuses and promotions all around for management). How many Gaps, Banana Republics, Applebeeses, Starbuckses, and Olive Gardens do we really need?

      Speaking of redundancies — next, the downsizing among the survivors. Glance around your own shops. All of us have muttered to ourselves, “What the fuck does that fool actually do around here, anyway?” You’re not the only person thinking that. (And if you’re not thinking that, the fool is probably you.)

      In the publishing biz it has been the practice to slash staff just below the level required to actually produce the magazine/newspaper. Then maybe add a couple folks (who get paid less than the folks they replace). Or maybe not. Lean and mean, baby, lean and mean. Down is the new up.

      So, yeah, lotsa people out of work. Just what capitalism loves, a nice big surplus labor pool full of hungry little fishies. Get everybody fighting over that one low-wage job, battling for the crumbs while the big boys eat the cake. People have always been scared to join unions — think how much easier it is to track and blacklist organizers and fellow travelers now than it was in the Thirties. Plus, it’s tough to put together a proper picket line in a world of hungry scabs.

      And they will be extra hungry once the states cut off their unemployment bennies because they don’t want to return to dealing them off the arm at the Waffle House, driving a Civic full of sneezers for Uber, or stacking boxes for Bezos, with shit wages, no PPE and Ginger Hitler wiping his fat ass with the last scraps of Obamacare.

      I guess we could put everyone in the Army, go invade Venezuela or something. Privatizing that op’ didn’t seem to go too smoothly. And here I thought the private sector expected results! But that’s the gig economy for you. Call it the Bay of Gigs.

      • khal spencer Says:

        indeed. yes, indeed.

        Proving that even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day, I had to agree with Steve Pearce that the Governor’s order that kept Jeff Bezos and the WalMarts humming while the local mom and pops were shuttered tighter than a drum was not fair. But Governor My Way or the Highway would not listen or try to figure out how to practice good social distancing while keeping The Corner Plant and Bug House open for business. So I suspect more than a few small businesses will fold their tents in these parts, leaving us the Big Boxes and even more people standing on street corners with Feed Me signs. The more I read about working conditions, the less I want to patronize Amazon. And my worry is Uncle Sam can’t keep printing pictures of Andrew Jackson forever unless we have an economy again.

        Workers need political power. I worked for UPS once for about two weeks, loading trucks, and then literally told the foreman to go fuck himself. Never even picked up my paycheck, such as it was. They used part time college student summer labor. No bennies, no union, no piss breaks (literally). It was the worst job experience of my life.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        We try not to do business with Amazon, but it ain’t easy. While Page 1 Books has been closed I’ve been using Powell’s. Looks like Page 1 now has a curbside-pickup deal and an online option, so I can return to buying books locally. I’m not reading a lot of e-books on the iPad lately, so no Kindle action there. And we’re not shopping Wholeazon Amafoods either.

        We do occasionally watch something on Amazon Prime, via the Apple TV. That device is starting to present its own set of difficulties, as HBO Now plans to drop support for the older Apple TVs in mid-May. I’ve upgraded the OS on the Mac Mini hooked to the TV, which should let us use a newer version of the Chrome browser to watch HBO Now, but we haven’t experimented with it yet.

        Speaking of which, anybody follow the latest season of “Westworld?” Peeeeeeeyewwwww. A once-interesting show that has careened into the ditch. “Punch-porn,” as Herself says of all Marvel/DC movies.

        • khal spencer Says:

          I managed to break my coffee carafe doing a spaz attack a few weeks ago. Both local shops that normally carry it were shuttered so I ended up ordering it on BezosLand. I shoulda pilfered some Erlenmeyer flasks and funnels when I still worked in chemistry and the Quality people were making us throw a shitload of them away. Talk about government sanctioned waste, fraud, and abuse? Those flasks, as long as I washed out any Plutonium in strong nitric acid, woulda been just fine.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          We’ve had good luck going straight to the source on stuff like that. If we break a carafe from Mr. Coffee, we get another directly from him. Her. Hir. Thyre. Whatevs. In fact, we just bought a spare, ’cause, y’know, like, spaz, an’ shit.

    • Hurben Says:

      • Herb from Michigan Says:

        Ah….Strawbs. Moody Blues with teeth and razor blades. I’m still cranking up Ghosts to wall shaking levels twice a year. “May you never cross the line, I hope your dreams are not like mine”

  3. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Wait until the dumpster gets rid of the Postal Service. Then you will see some a huge increase of unemployment numbers followed by serious union action. But, they have a new postmaster general. Patronage? Nah, just trying to screw Bezos. You know, cheeto benito hates real billionaires. Com to think of it, I don’t much care for the current crop of them either.

    • Dale Says:

      Privatizing the Postal Service (which used to be a department of the government as you may recall) is the camel’s nose in the tent. The real prize is Social Security. George W floated that idea a while back, but it didn’t sprout wings. Don’t think SS is not on the near agenda.

  4. Shawn in da Gorge Says:

    Isn’t it nice to know that as the pandemic descended (arose?) around us, and business closures were mandated by the state(s), that you as a conscientious supervisor or manager now don’t have to make the difficult decision of how you were going to let that / those “marginal” employees that you really don’t care for, go. What a fine solution. Flushing the toilet of your perceived inefficiencies.

    Such is most likely what is resulting in our confused world. It is definitely a time for the backbone of the country to coordinate together to protect their livelihoods and their future employment safety. Otherwise capitalism will eat them alive.

    Re: 2.3K fake bikes: I understand the rumor that somebody is making a product so that you can ride your peloton outside. Just think, a pack of pelotons rolling down the road….. Hey ! Hey! Wakeup. It’s ok.., It’s just a bad dream….

    • Pat O'Brien Says:

      You are right Shawn. But capitalism has already eaten them alive and just shat them out. The 20 and 30 somethings with a boatload of student loan debt just got shat out too. China and the rest of the world is tired of eating our pollution and plastic for the sake of wall street profit, and the whole world is watching our country being run by a breathtakingly incompetent puppet.

  5. Opus the Poet Says:

    Having been dead due to an impact with a truck doing about 60 MPH, I can verify that being dead is a bummer, and very boring. But having been dead and then not-dead I think the only reason I’m still not-dead is dead is painfully boring, even though dead is not physically painful.

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