Tag Archives | Labor

Smile, Work and Die

Pic: Todd Huffman (CC)

Pic: Todd Huffman (CC)

Via Truthdig:

The 300-plus people killed in the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh this week were not lost to an accident, but are among the many unnecessary victims of predatory, globalized capitalism, argues Vijay Prashad, a professor of South Asian history and the director of international studies at Trinity College in Connecticut.

Prashad informs the moment with an excerpt taken from Karl Marx’s “Capital,” the title referring to the component of the capitalist economy that pushes for maximum industrial output with no consideration for the laborer except that which is required to keep him or her alive and working:

[I]n its blind unrestrainable passion, its wear-wolf [sic] hunger for surplus labour, capital oversteps not only the moral, but even the merely physical maximum bounds of the working-day. It usurps the time for growth, development and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight….

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Desperate Letter Describing Chinese Forced Labor Camp Found Inside Halloween Decorations Kit

Imagine if we understood where everything we have came from. Via Oregonian:

The letter came in a box of Halloween decorations purchased at Kmart, a $29.99 graveyard kit. On a Sunday afternoon in October, Julia Keith intended to decorate her home for her daughter’s fifth birthday, days before Halloween. She ripped open the box and threw aside the cellophane. That’s when Keith found it. Scribbled onto paper and folded into eighths, the letter was tucked between two Styrofoam headstones.

“Sir: If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.”

“People who work here have to work 15 hours a day without Saturday, Sunday break and any holidays. Otherwise, they will suffer torturement, beat and rude remark. Nearly no payment (10 yuan/1 month).”

“People who work here, suffer punishment 1-3 years averagely, but without Court Sentence (unlaw punishment).

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From Greenwashing to Workerwashing

Picture: Rion (CC)

You don’t need health benefits and time off, you need a burger and a cola!  David Sirota writes at Creators.com.

Big Industrial Ag pretends to go organic. PC behemoths mimic Apple products. Barack Obama goes to the right of the Republicans on civil liberties. Mitt Romney suddenly portrays himself as a left-leaning moderate on immigration. It seems no matter the arena, the most cliched move in corporate and political combat is to co-opt an opponent’s message, expecting nobody to notice or care.

But as inured as we are to this banality, it’s still shocking to see Corporate America transform the message of organized labor into a sales pitch for … Corporate America. Yes, according to The New York Times last month, that’s what’s happening, as new ads are “tapping into a sense of frustration among workers to sell products.”

One spot for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (read: the casinos) shows a woman climbing onto her desk to demand a vacation.

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Wal-Mart Worker Strikes Expand To 28 Stores In 12 States

There’s trouble in paradise, the New York Times reports:

Protests against Wal-Mart expanded on Tuesday, spreading to 28 stores in 12 states, a union spokesman said.

Mr. Schlademan, director of the union-backed Making Change at Walmart campaign, added that more than 200 employees were traveling to Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to stage a protest on during the company’s annual meeting with financial analysts. He warned that disgruntled Wal-Mart employees, joined by labor unions and community groups, might stage a combined protest and educational campaign the Friday after Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.

Colby Harris, who earns $8.90 an hour after three years at a Walmart in Lancaster, Tex., said, “We’re protesting because we want better working conditions and better wages and because we want them to stop retaliating against associates who exercise their right to talk about what’s going on in their stores.”

Wal-Mart officials insisted that the protests were publicity stunts rather than strikes, carried out by a tiny fraction of the nation’s 1.4 million Wal-Mart workers.

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Education Is No Cakewalk: The Picket Line Against The 1%

Photo by Ryan Williams (used with permission)

Aaron Cynic writes at Diatribe Media:

Chicago teachers have been on strike for a week, and two other suburban areas have since followed suit. Predictably, the argument coming from critics of the CTU centers around teachers making too much money, putting children at risk while “whining” about pay, and teachers being some sort of self entitled class uninterested in hard work (re: lazy).

Given that the majority of Americans attended school at some point and more than likely, had at least a few good teachers who helped their education and changed their lives in some positive way, it’s already hard to imagine the cognitive dissonance it takes to make sweeping generalizations about a group of 30,000 people. But, critics of the CTU seem readily able to forget what the classroom looked like in their day with themselves on the other side of the podium, more than likely not always sitting still and paying attention.

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Seeing Red: Why The Chicago Teachers Strike Is The Best Lesson The CTU Could Have Planned

Picture: Basil D. Soufi (CC)

“When the powers that be are shutting you out of your life, you must take a stand. And it’s a lesson that teachers themselves learned from the communities they serve.”

Via The Occupied Chicago Tribune:

When a teachers’ strike started to look like a realistic possibility earlier this spring, CPS Chief Communications Officer Becky Carroll warned the readers of Catalyst, “Any talk of a strike is the wrong message to send our schools, students and taxpayers.” For her, and the rest of the privatization evangelists at CPS, the “right” message is simple—shut up and do what you’re told.

Of course, Carroll, who makes $165,000 per year, isn’t paid that kind of money to tell the truth. Luckily for us, neither Chicago teachers nor the larger education community are giving much credence to CPS talking points.

The corporate education “reformers” have been experimenting on Chicago’s most underserved students and schools for more than two decades, trying any quick-fix makeovers so long as such schemes keep the public out of the discussion on how best to educate our city’s children.

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iPhone Maker Still In Hot Water Over Slavery-Like Factory ‘Internships’

The enslavement of teenagers has ramped back up with the rolling out of deadlines for the next generation iPhone. Via the Atlantic Wire:

The student complaints allege that officials had classes suspended and then bussed them over to Foxconn to work on the upcoming iPhone, interns told Shanghai Daily. Since then, they have worked 12-hour days, six days a week, say some students. “MengniuIQ84 wrote [on Weibo] that the authorities had ordered the schools to send students to assist Foxconn but said that the factory neither informed parents nor signed agreements with students,” according to the Shanghai Daily.

Foxconn isn’t denying any of that, but says nothing is forced since these students have free will to leave. But where would they go? School has been suspended in light of the ramped-up production for the new phone, which Apple will likely announce next week and ship not too longer after that.

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Worker Unrest Grows Ever Stronger In China

Via Jacobin, Eli Friedman on low-wage Chinese workers fighting the machine:

Chinese workers are facing the same brutal competitive pressures as workers in the West, often at the hands of the same capitalists. Today, the Chinese working class is fighting.

China is undeniably the epicenter of global labor unrest. While there are no official statistics, it is certain that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of strikes take place each year. All of them are wildcat strikes – there is no such thing as a legal strike in China. So on a typical day anywhere from half a dozen to several dozen strikes are likely taking place.

More importantly, workers are winning, with many strikers capturing large wage increases above and beyond any legal requirements. Worker resistance has been a serious problem for the Chinese state and capital and, as in the United States in the 1930s, the central government has found itself forced to pass a raft of labor legislation.

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Time Wars

Picture: Alan Cleaver (CC)

Science fiction is tackling the issue of economic inequality using the metaphor of rationed time and mortality. Radical blogger and professor of ‘cultural analysis’ Mark Fisher doesn’t see this as too far from the truth.

His writing examines autonomy, workerism, post-Marxism, post-Fordism, punk, post-punk, neoliberalism, new atheism and anarchism. As fear of losing one’s job, debt closing in, mortality, apocalypse, the devastating end of capitalism or Malthusian collapse tick away in our background, all of us feel that constant tremor, further emphasized by the endless updates to our devices, making us addicted to our own anxiety. Society stalls and experimental innovation is crushed under the systemic pressure of time constraints. As he writes:  “Given all of this, it is clear that most political struggles at the moment amount to a war over time.

Via Gonzo Circus:

For most workers, there is no such thing as the long term.

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Human Workers Whose Boss Is An Algorithm

We envision a future in which the repetitive, manual labor is performed by robots with human overseers. But suppose we are headed for the reverse? Computers are brighter than us, after all. Via Technology Review:

Stephanie Hamilton is part of something larger than herself. She’s part of a computer program.

The 38-year-old resident of Kingston, Jamaica, recently began performing small tasks assigned to her by an algorithm running on a computer in Berkeley, California. That software, developed by a startup called MobileWorks, represents the latest trend in crowdsourcing: organizing foreign workers on a mass scale to do routine jobs that computers aren’t yet good at, like checking spreadsheets or reading receipts.

According to company cofounder Anand Kulkarni, the aim is to get the crowd of workers to “behave much more like an automatic resource than like individual and unreliable human beings.” The value of tasks is set so that workers can reasonably earn $2 to $4 an hour; payments are on a sliding scale, with lower rates for poorer countries.

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