In America anti-union sentiment is strong due to the marketing efforts of large business owners that don’t like paying workers. Amazon’s anti-union efforts are a great example of this. In recent years the pro-union movement has been growing and the recent push by Amazon workers to get respect is an example of this.
Over at Vice, of all places, they have an article about eight people explaining how they learned that unions are there to protect workers. The stories capture the reality, and benefits, of being in a union in the USA right now.
That strike helped us win free family health care. We don’t have to pay anything to cover our spouse or kids, and the copays are so low that I never need to worry about money when I go to the doctor. We also won retention rights, which protect us when our restaurants shut down or close temporarily for renovations—which happens all the time at SFO! With these retention rights, we get put on a priority list to be rehired at one of the other restaurants in the airport. My union contract gives me a sense of security that I’m always going to be able to provide for my family. Before I started as a union cook at SFO, my husband was working a job where he had to pay a big premium for health insurance, and it didn’t even cover the whole family. Nothing beats having a good job that feels really secure.
Capitalism works when companies pay for good and services, when companies make deals and don’t pay for what they ordered then things fall apart. This is exactly what happened last year in the fashion industry, and it was the workers who suffered the most. The owners of companies like JCPenney, Urban Outfitters, Walmart, and others had deals in place with factories to produce clothing which they should have paid for but failed to do so. These were international deals which smaller countries have a hard time enforcing (meaning the large multinationals got away with breaking the law due to their size).
Then the #PayUp movement started and campaigned against these unethical companies. By March of last year they got pledges from many companies to honour their contracts (valued at $22 billion). This money would go to pay the owners and workers of the companies originally sourced by the large multinationals. To date many of paid, but there are still a few outliers.
By the summer of 2020, #PayUp had been shared on social media millions of times. A Change.org petition, which was sent to over 200 fashion executives directly, garnered nearly 300,000 signatures calling on companies to pay for the cancellations. Behind the scenes, NGOs and activist groups like Remake, the Worker Rights Consortium and Clean Clothes Campaign moved in tandem to negotiate with brands.
This pressure was combined with direct action by workers around the world. In response to factory shutdowns that left thousands in the apparel industry without jobs, workers in Myanmar went on strike, eventually securing a wage bonus and union recognition through a two-week sit-in. In Cambodia, around one hundred workers marched to the Ministry of Labor to submit a petition requesting compensation after their factory shut down. When they weren’t offered a resolution, protesters continued their march to the prime minister’s house, where they were blocked by nearly 50 police officers.
Universal basic income (UBI) is a simple idea: give people a small amount of money so they can at least survive. This isn’t a radical idea yet it keeps getting blocked by governments who despise….government. The argument for UBI keeps growing as more and more studies point out that it greatly improves recipient’s mental wellbeing and their employment opportunities. What’s more is that supporting people before they need to access welfare programs governments save money.
This is what California found in their recent UBI study.
Here in Ontario we started a basic income research study which was swiftly cut by the Conservative government. Hopefully smarter governments who actually work for people will pick up where Ontario failed and California found success.
Mental and physical well-being improved, with reductions in depression and anxiety recorded. Households were able to avoid or limit their exposure to financial ups and downs often experienced by low-income families, especially in the event of unexpected costs.
SEED found that those in the UBI trial “experienced clinically and statistically significant improvements in their mental health … moving from likely having a mild mental health disorder to likely mental wellness over the year-long intervention”.
But one of the most potentially significant findings was that people in receipt of the $500 UBI payments were more likely to find full-time employment.
At the start of the project, in February 2019, 28% of the UBI recipients were in full-time work. That had risen to 40% a year later. The SEED trial included a control group, not in receipt of the payments. In that control group, full-time employment increased by 5% over the same period.
Uber drivers in the UK will now get better treatment from Uber thanks to the courts ruling the company can’t as robustly exploit their drivers. The way drivers get gigs and subsequently paid by the company structurally mean the company has control all aspects of the process, which means the drivers are workers since they actually have no control over key aspects of the job. This is a blow against Uber which skirts the laws in multiple countries and this decision in the UK will resonant throughout the entire gig economy.
The court considered several elements in its judgement:
Uber set the fare which meant that they dictated how much drivers could earn
Uber set the contract terms and drivers had no say in them
Request for rides is constrained by Uber who can penalise drivers if they reject too many rides
Uber monitors a driver’s service through the star rating and has the capacity to terminate the relationship if after repeated warnings this does not improve
Looking at these and other factors, the court determined that drivers were in a position of subordination to Uber where the only way they could increase their earnings would be to work longer hours.
The idea that we can eventually decarbonize our economy to keep it growing has been talked about for decades; sadly we’re far away from a carbon neutral economy and even it we did achieve such an economic system we still need to shrink it. What makes a “good” economy is up to us since we create the rules and laws around economic practices. Currently we designed our economic systems to be inherently unsustainable since it’s based on growth for the sake of wealth production. Instead we can make economic systems that favour environmental protection, economic equality, or any other good idea.
Regardless, we can start making more people aware that we need to shrink, rather than grow, the economy.
Green growth, Hickel concludes, is anecologically incoherent“fairy tale.” If this seems harsh, consider what the ecomodernist position asks us to believe. The current systemrequires annual growthof roughly 3 percent to avoid the shock of recession. This means doubling the size of the economy every 23 years. The economy of 2000 must be 20 times larger in the year 2100, and370 times largerin the year 2200. The green growth position rests on the assumption that this can go on, basically forever, because innovation will “dematerialize” the economy. Yet 2000 was the first year that, according to experts, humanity used more energy and materials than the safe limit. And the growth economy, far from dematerializing, remains geared toward expanding future markets for extremely materials-heavy products like Tesla cybertrucks and Apple iPhones. Comparing this to a fairy tale is, if anything, too generous, since children’s stories usually involve some kind of moral lesson applicable to the real world.