Everybody knows the dice is loaded, 13

12 11 2014

Yet more dispatches from the long dissolve:

1. You  there, with the $15/hour janitorial job—what makes you think you’re free to leave to take an $18/hour janitorial job?

Don’t you know “free labor” is about the freedom to hire labor, not of the laborers themselves?

The workers at Jimmy John’s know the score.

2. Yet more wisdom from a mineworker—or, in this case, Mary Middleton, widowed by a mine:

“You get a speeding ticket … and you don’t pay and they’ll want to put you in jail,” Middleton added. “But this man — it’s people’s lives and injuries, and then they just keep letting him keep doing it and doing it.”

Her husband was one of five men killed in an explosion at Kentucky Darby Mine in Harlan County, Ky in 2006. The co-owner of the company, Ralph Napier, Jr., “still owes $500,000 in penalties for the Kentucky Darby disaster. Napier also controls eight other mines that have $2.4 million in delinquent fines.”

3. And tank the world economy, and you get a chance to pay a fine for corrupting the currency.

No jail for anyone, of course.

4. Any halfway-decent Marxist (or Marxisch, as it were), could tell you of the state’s centrality in the development and protection of capitalism; any disputes have centered on to what extent the state retains some autonomy from the relations of production.

The welfare state, which has improved the lives of tens—hundreds—of million of people, nonetheless serves to blunt attacks on the state, and thus on capital itself, by insulating workers from the remorseless machinery of capitalism.

There is a logic for both labor and capital to sign on to this agreement: the state will skim off some of the profit it insures for capital and redistributes it to labor, leaving capitalists their profits and laborers some level of decent living.

This agreement has worked more (Scandinavia) and less (US, UK) well for decades, but the pact has long been unraveling.

And what should no longer astonish me, but nonetheless still does, some people like it that way.

(h/t: Erik Loomis, Lawyers, Guns & Money)

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Everybody knows the deal is rotten, 3

5 08 2014

How wonderful that French and American cultural institutions are expanding into the United Arab Emirates. How wonderful for the Emiratis to visit the Louvre and the Guggenheim or enroll at NYU without needing a passport.

Ibrahim has the sort of intelligence that crackles around him in sly, sarcastic sparks. He is smart in a way so obvious that he tries to hide it from his bosses by speaking in broken English. He knows five languages, loves poetry, and dreams of getting a master’s degree.

Isn’t it marvelous that a man so obviously intelligent and cultured is laboring to bring such cultural riches to the boss who calls him a donkey?

I mean, how fantastic is it that Ibrahim had someplace to go after being chased out of his own country after the NGO for whom he translated couldn’t be bothered to protect him because he wasn’t a real employee? That he was able to pay someone over $700 in order to work in a place that does, in fact, treat him exactly as a laborer?

And shouldn’t we celebrate when

In 2007, up to 30,000 Arabtec workers went on strike in Dubai. Men building Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, put down their tools. The strike had been coordinated with mobile phones to protest low wages and poor living conditions. Police arrested 4,000 strikers. At the end of ten days, Arabtec promised a pay raise. Managing Director Riad Kamal told Reuters that the impact on the company’s profits would be less than 1 percent.

Arabtec could pay more without any pain to themselves! Win win!

Of course, not everyone was so happy: After 3000 men went on strike for  pay raise from $176 to $217 a month,

The police arrested 70 men they claimed were ringleaders. “Their presence in the country is dangerous,” Colonel Mohammed al Murr, director of the Dubai Police’s General Department of Legal and Disciplinary Control, told the National, a state-owned newspaper.

After this, Bangladeshi workers, who were alleged to have helped organize the strikes, were banned for an indefinite period from seeking UAE visas.

I could go on and on and on and on, but you get the point. Conditions are so terrible in these men’s home countries that they pay to work under terrible conditions.

And the neoliberal sings Ain’t capitalism grand! Isn’t it wonderful that these surplus can be put to good use for 200 bucks a month! Isn’t it wonderful that the Louvre and the Gugg and NYU get to extend their brands and the Emiratis—the citizens, not the vast majority of migrant laborers—get to enjoy these brands!

Isn’t it wonderful that a man who speaks five languages and  loves poetry arrived to find only that he wanted to leave?

~~~

Okay, there is one truly wonderful thing: the workers are fighting back. They are, damn-near-literally, at the point where they have nothing to lose but their chains.

“Capital is global and derives its velocity from replicating the same model everywhere. Gulf Labor is arguing for a global, humane, and fair standard of labor and migration regulations to accompany, and slow down, global capital,” said Naeem Mohaiemen, a New York–based Bangladeshi artist who is a member of Gulf Labor. “The implications can be staggering. If Saadiyat implemented world-standard labor and migration rights, that could become a precedent for implementing the same standards in the entire region. Then people would ask, what about migrant labor in Malaysia? In Texas? And so on…”

Which is precisely why capital fights so hard against labor.

~~~

Extensive quotes from Molly Crapapple’s Slaves of Happiness Island, in Vice
h/t Jen Graves, The Stranger





Which side are you on

15 07 2014

A few more short thoughts on recent Supreme Court decisions, and some connections between them:

1. That mashupCorporations are people, my friends, and some people are more equal than others—is a distressingly apt line:

Two recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings—AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion and American Express v. Italian Colors—have deeply undercut these centuries-old public rights, by empowering businesses to avoid any threat of private lawsuits or class actions. The decisions culminate a thirty-year trend during which the judiciary, including initially some prominent liberal jurists, has moved to eliminate courts as a means for ordinary Americans to uphold their rights against companies. The result is a world where corporations can evade accountability and effectively skirt swaths of law, pushing their growing power over their consumers and employees past a tipping point.

2. Is the Court’s contempt for labor leading or following a more general social contempt for labor?

3. Remember, reproductive labor is the first form of labor, the basis of all other labor.

.

And one non-Court related note:

I will never be an orthodox Marxist—I lack the optimism required of the orthodox—but if you want to understand the political culture in the US today, you’d do worse than to start with the domination of capital over our entire political-economy.

This doesn’t mean that all is determined by capitalist relations, that there is no autonomous space for politics and culture, or that there is no resistance to capital.

But it does mean that you can understand a lot if you understand that if capital is up against any other interest—labor, community, environmental, educational, safety, public—capital almost always wins.

If capital has no interest, then the politics is up for grabs.

We are left fighting over scraps.