Tuesday, July 25, 2023
#206 / Cashing In
The picture comes from an article published by In These Times. The magazine described itself, in 1976, as an "independent publication to inform and critically analyze the emerging new movements on the American Left."
In These Times is still doing that, and its recent article, titled "The UPS Strike Looms as Corporate America Cashes In," is pretty good evidence that the magazine has not succcumbed to mission drift. As you may note, the title of this blog posting has referenced the assertion, by In These Times, that American corporations are "cashing in" by failing properly to pay the workers that have helped deliver the economic success of those very same corporations.
What In These Times is saying, essentially, is that corporations are effectively stealing from the workers who make them successful, by not compensating them fairly for their contributions. The stockholders and the corporate executives get the main fruits of the labor of the workers. UPS is not the only corporation in which this fact is coming to the fore. Actors and writers are making the same claim. And justifiably so, I believe.
If what the workers are claiming is true, what should we do about this? Well, as those who read my blog postings on any regular basis know, I think the "formula" that tells us how our government works is best expressed as follows:
Politics > Law > Government
The "meaning" of this "formula," or "equation," as I sometimes call it, is this: "Government" is how we arrange our life - how the political, social, and economic world in which we live is structured. Moving from right to left, the "Government" we have is, essentially, defined by the "Laws" that establish the "rules" that do, indeed, "govern" how we conduct ourselves. Those "Laws," of course, include the rules that define and delimit how we govern all the economic aspects related to labor and work.
Finally, of course, as the "formula" tells us, all those "Laws" that govern our world are the direct result of "Politics." This is important, because the word "Law" can mean the rules governing what I call the "World of Nature." Those "Laws of Nature," which we have discovered through the work of scientists, tell us what must and will happen. The laws of physics, our "scientific" laws, define inevitabilities. Our human "Laws" are completely different.
Our human "Laws" don't say what must and will happen. They say what we want to happen. These are "Laws" we make up ourselves, and that we can change through whatever legal procedures we have established to determine what will be a "Law" and what won't.
"Politics" is how we make the decisions about what our "Laws" will be. We live, thus, in a "Political World." In that world - OUR world - nothing is inevitable and everything can change. The American political experiment is premised on the idea that "we," the people, will determine the "Laws" that will "Govern" us.
It's called "Self-Government."
We do, in fact, live within a system of "self-government." WE make the rules that determine what happens in "our" world. This is, of course, a theoretical statement. The idea that WE make the rules (the essence of self-government) indicates what can happen, not necessarily what will happen. As I often put it, we can't have "self-government" if we, ourselves, are not directly and personally involved.
How do we get involved? Well, mainly through politics!
In my opinion, too few of us are directly and personally involved in "politics." Many, in fact, are repulsed by politics, which seems both dirty and degraded (and it's hard to argue with that description). To the degree that we are so repulsed by "politics" that we don't participate ourselves, the "laws" that govern what happens in our world are not, really, made by way of the democratic politics which is our ideal. Staying out of "politics," because of its deficiencies, leaves the field open to others - and they aren't hesitant about using the power of "politics" for their own ends.
Let's think about the claim that corporations are "ripping off" American workers by capturing a disproportionate share of the economic fruits of the workers' labor, without fairly compensating the workers. That's a good example of how the failure of our democratic politics has led to injustice - and if the In These Times' story isn't enough (The New York Times' paywall permitting), you can also contemplate a recent New York Times' article titled, "How a Union Dies." As The Times' says, "it took only a year for Starbucks to smother one of the most energized labor movements in America."
Of course, we do have "labor laws," the result of more than a century of efforts by workers to be properly compensated. Actors, Writers, and UPS drivers (not to mention Starbucks' baristas, and workers in every part of our economy) are all seeking to use the existing laws to increase their "just" compensation."
That's great - but as that New York Times' story really does make clear, our existing laws aren't really working too well. Given that, let's remember the "formula." Our current "law" can be changed. What if we moved to the "Political" part of the equation? Faced with a situation in which our current set of "laws" is not leading to the proper compensation of the workers who are helping to create the great economic wealth that has been producing so many American billionaires, what can be done?
Obviously, of course, workers, and their supporters, must "organize," politically, to be able to amass the required political power to produce the new laws that rearrange how our economy currently works, and that will better allocate the "profits" of the economic contributions of workers. However, WHAT should workers be organizing to enact, by way of new "laws"?
I have the following suggestion (conceptual, as I am presenting it here, but that would have to be elaborated into very specific "legalistic" provisions to be enacted by our governments, at every level).
It is my idea that our laws should recognize that economic success is the result of joint efforts, and that "workers," therefore, should get the same kind of treatment as "owners." If UPS is fabulously successful (if the movie studios and the media companies are fabulously successful, and if Starbucks is successful), our "Laws" should recognize that this economic success must be shared with all those who make it possible. That means MAINLY the workers, in my opinion.
I suggest that we enact a set of "rules," a new set of "Laws," that will allocate to workers, each year, a proper share of the economic benefits that their work has helped produce. In other words, our "Laws" should start treating "workers" the same way "owners" are treated. There are lots of ways that this can be worked out, with respect to specifics. The key point is for workers (and for all of us, as citizens) to enact into law a set of rules that will make sure that when a corporation is successful, economically, the main benefits of that economic success goes not to owners, but is shared with the workers who made it happen.
For me, that is what a "just" system would achieve. We need to legislate exactly the result that the worker's sign is calling for: "just" compensation for the workers who as so vitally necessary to provide the profits.
We should, in other words - and we can - stop the corporations from "cashing in" on the workers' efforts! We are, in fact, "all in this together," and that means that all those involved in achieving corporate profits (clearly including the "workers") should get their "just" share of the profits that they have helped produce.