December 09, 2007

Save Your Favorite Show

I'm still sick. And tired. I usually run out of steam these days by the time I get to email and a little news. So not many links, and I'm pretty much typing with my eyes closed because they keep going bleary.

I know that there are horrible things going on in the world right now. With people being tortured and global warming spiraling out of control like the home foreclosure wave. Also, I hear that the Republicans are having a debate in Spanish in which they demonstrate that they have the courage of their convictions to hate brown people. Good times.

And you may say to yourself, "Self, I'm not sure what I can do about all these things, or if I can do anything about them. It would be nice if there was a place to start."

As it happens, you're in luck. The Writers' Guild is still on strike and the studio bosses have walked away from the negotiating table. An extra $0.04 per DVD and a share of the billions the studios are raking in off the internet was apparently too much to ask of the bloated distributors who package and promote their original work.

What does that have to do with anything important?

One of the basic forms of social justice is paying someone what their work is worth. That's one of the key differentiators between freedom and slavery.It's the way the people who invest capital are supposed to reward the people who invested labor and made their money worth more. To not pay someone what their work is worth is a hallmark of discrimination, because most forms of bigotry can be seen manifestly in economic disparities and pay inequities.

It matters because money is power. The power to provide yourself and maybe a family with the necessities of life. The power to bargain for all the things you need that you can't make or do yourself. The power to get where you need to go. The power to secure health care.

And the people who have it seem less and less to want to share it with all the other people who helped them earn it. Because really, does the average CEO or hedge fund manager actually do 400 times as much work as you do? Please. But they do have 400 times as much power. At least.

Over the years, many of them have used a lot of that power to buy lobbyists to pressure Congress against helping your family out with health care, against supporting your public school, against providing decent public transportation, against enforcing food and product safety standards for the things you bring into your house, against enforcing workplace safety standards that would mean they have to keep you safer on the job, and against living wages. They've demonized unions because unions are the only organized voice that people who aren't 400 times more valuable than the average worker had available to argue in opposition.

This, you should remember next time you want to complain about 'lobbyists' in Washington who whisper in Congress' ears so they enact legislation that lets people screw you over with the imprimatur of the law. Lobbyists are people who know stuff about Congress and the law and usually a bureaucracy or two. They're only enabled to use that power for evil to the extent that some scumbag who thinks they're worth at least 400 times more than you has hired them and sent them out on a mission to kill your access to the levers of justice.

And you may say to yourself, "Self, wtf is she on about? I thought we were going to talk about the writers' strike." Well, we are. We're going to do it now.

There aren't a lot of vibrant unions left. There aren't a lot of unions that can actually get much attention when they try to get their fair share of the earnings of the businesses they build with their daily work.

Often, when they do, that attention is negative. So you might have disgruntled, non-unionized people reading the paper about striking grocery workers before going to their own crappy jobs and wondering why their checkout clerk thinks they should have benefits you can't even count on in an office job anymore. Which is a shame, because those office jobs used to be better when there were more unions around to raise the bar on how employees were treated.

Think it's a coincidence that the decline of unions has paralleled the decline in the availability of benefits? It isn't. Think it's a coincidence that it's paralleled the decline in laws that kept jobs in the US so you didn't have to compete for that call center job with four Costa Ricans whose cost of living is a vanishing fraction of your own? It isn't.

Unions are supposed to be your lobbyists. To lobby your employer for decent treatment and a fair share of the earnings from the investment of your time. To lobby Congress for laws that make sure your employer can't risk your life and health and ability to work, which are probably all you have to invest in a business, so that they can cut corners with safety for a better return on their cash investment.

Unions lobby for you. Even if they aren't your union. When they lose, you lose. Even if they aren't in your industry.

All these SOBs watch each other like hawks to see just how much they can get away with. To see just how much of your work they can steal. How much of your investment of time they can take without paying for. How low they can go and who they'll get to hold up as cautionary examples when you come looking for a raise, some benefits, some time off so you can have a life.

As Naomi Klein pointed out in The Shock Doctrine, the union movement in the US never really recovered from Reagan's firing of the air traffic controllers. The summary dismissal of thousands of critical public servants was a shot across the bow of any other union headed to the bargaining table.

The typical household wage in the US has been stagnant since the 1970s. Americans no longer believe, as a majority position, that life will be better for their kids than it was for them. I mean, do you believe that? Really?

Employers used to have to compete with the standards of multiple union workplaces, with the public sector whose wages might not have stood out but whose benefits and security were sterling. But there aren't as many union workplaces. The pay for much public sector work has gotten a lot of downward pressure from Republicans fighting 'big government' by cutting the salaries of teachers and firefighters, or the head count for safety inspectors and road repair crews, and other grafters like that who make our civilization work so well that we mostly don't notice it happening around us.

And you know what else? People in other countries like having unions, too. But the same creeps that have been working for years to destroy unions here make sure the World Bank and IMF put conditions on their loans to cash-strapped countries. Those provisions are forced on governments facing financial crises to make it difficult to impossible to get unions started where they aren't, and easy to break them where they are. All in the name of progress; which means you having to compete for your job with someone whose society has no workplace protections and where they might get shot for trying to organize and ask for them.

It isn't complicated. It doesn't require a conspiracy. It's just that people who have money and the power that comes with it in obscene amounts like keeping it. And they don't want to share it with all the other people who helped them get it, which unions have a tendency to insist on.

So support the writers' strike by sending a letter to the producers of your favorite shows. Click on the button below and have at. Let this strike be the one that changes the tide against working people. Let this strike put a face on everyone who's seen their purchasing power and job security plummet, even as the papers herald record profits for industries of all kinds.

It'd be nice if something went right, for a change.

Posted by natasha at December 9, 2007 08:41 PM | Activism | Technorati links |

n-tv: Muhammar Al-Ghaddafi visits France

Posted by: ccoaler at December 10, 2007 10:06 AM

Rice cartoon

Posted by: ccoaler at December 10, 2007 12:43 PM

Great rant!!

Posted by: idyll at December 10, 2007 02:22 PM

Well said.

Posted by: Batocchio at December 11, 2007 03:24 PM