Thursday, July 04, 2013

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Richard Eskow offers up some ugly facts about corporate wealth accumulation and tax avoidance.

- David MacAray writes about the challenge facing labour activists when much of the public has been trained to engage in gratuitous union-bashing even while fully agreeing with union priorities:
A union official I correspond with (the International Vice-President of a West Coast labor union) recently shared an interesting anecdote.  He said that whenever he meets someone for the first time and they casually ask what he does for a living, he answers by saying he’s a “workers’ rights activist.”

Because people are, typically, intrigued by his reply and want to hear more, he goes on to explain that his job consists of doing things like making sure retired workers get their pensions, meeting with management to clear up wage or hours disputes, helping laid-off employees get unemployment benefits, representing employees who feel they’ve been unfairly reprimanded, and discussing with company officials such on-the-job issues as bullying and sexual harassment.

Almost invariably, people express their approval of what he does for a living.  They respond by saying things like, “Wow, what a cool job,” or “I didn’t even know jobs like that existed,” or “Hey, we need more people doing stuff like that.”  But when he ends the conversation by telling them he works for a labor union, he gets a totally different response.

People are stunned.  They appear shocked or confused.  According to this fellow, some people actually exhibit hostility at hearing he’s a union officer, believing they’ve been unfairly tricked into momentarily respecting a person they would otherwise have nothing but contempt for.  Such is the warped perception of labor unions.

When I was a rep, I used a slightly different approach with union-haters.  After listening to their tiresome litany of complaints (i.e., unions are corrupt, they go on strike too much, their economic gains are eaten up by monthly dues, they’re undemocratic, etc.), I would respond with this:  “Say what you will about unions, but name another institution that’s solely dedicated to the welfare of working people. Name me one.  Just one.”  Of course, no one could name any because there aren’t any.
- And Jonathan Glennie discusses the disconnect between the rich and the poor by pointing out a few laughable theories as to how poverty continues:
I have lost count of the number of well-educated, well-off people I have spoken to who seem to believe that poor people somehow "want to be poor" or are simply too dim to escape from poverty.

The banana-businesswoman's view that "poor people suffer from a culture of poverty". The ex-beauty queen who told me that she had once begged at a traffic light as part of her studies and had come to the conclusion that it was an easy way to make money – poor people must just be lazy, she said. The USAid consultant who explained to me over lunch that "some indigenous people just don't want to develop".

It is not only failed economic and social policies that are barriers to poverty reduction; it is this failure of so many people – voters, politicians and so-called "development experts" – to empathise with the reality of poverty and the problems poor people have to overcome.
- Pogge notes that the Libs' excuse for human rights protection in Canada's free trade agreement with Colombia is being predictably flouted by the Cons - who care so little about human rights abroad that they aren't even bothering to acknowledge the existence of the abuses within Colombia that made an agreement a dubious proposition in the first place.

- Finally, Mark Lemstra observes that we should be skeptical of a health care system that's increasingly reliant on the selective and self-serving reporting of trial results by exactly the actors who stand to profit by proclaiming they've discovered a miracle cure.

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