Friday, July 19, 2019

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jim Stanford calls out corporate apologists for blaming workers for deteriorating working conditions and stagnant wages which have resulted from deliberate policy choices:
Unemployed workers on the dole for months at a time? Clearly they aren’t looking hard enough for work. Low-wage workers stuck in dead-end jobs? Clearly they didn’t invest in their own “human capital.” Young workers facing a never-ending series of gigs? Clearly they don’t have the discipline to stick with a real job.

A new high water mark in this lamentable practice was surely set this week with a research paper from the Commonwealth Treasury. The report examined historically weak growth in Australian wages over the last several years. It proposed a novel but far-fetched explanation: workers are failing to leave their existing jobs to seek out better-paying opportunities elsewhere.
The formal paper contained all sorts of statistical cautions and academic nuances. But that was lost on the legion of gleeful pundits who seized on its findings, pointing their accusing fingers at complacent, “stubborn” workers for their own low wages. Never mind obvious actions that could directly boost wages: things like raising the minimum wage, restoring collective bargaining (which has all but disappeared from private sector workplaces), or abolishing the Commonwealth government’s own strict two percent  limit on wage increases for its own employees.

No, it’s far easier to ascribe record-low wage growth to some perverse characteristic of the workers themselves. After all, the forces of supply and demand are always working their magic: allocating resources efficiently and ensuring everyone gets paid according to their “productivity.” If that payment isn’t enough to live on -- well, that must be your fault, not the market’s.
(T)he insecurity and powerlessness felt by workers is no accident. It’s the deliberate outcome of a generation of labour and social policies predicated precisely on instilling fear and discipline among workers -- assuming that will lead to greater obedience and productivity. Newstart has been frozen for a generation; protections against dismissal have been dismantled; steady jobs have been casualised or converted into gigs.

In that context, there’s little hope of successfully demanding a raise from your boss: more likely, they’ll brand you a troublemaker and not renew your contract. And with strong restrictions on union activity and collective bargaining, there is little institutional possibility for workers to wield collective bargaining power.
But never mind. The high priests of economic policy would still come up with other reason to blame the victims for their own plight -- not the system. Perhaps their choice of music. Or their insistence on eating smashed avocado for Sunday brunch. Or their bad planning in being born into families without inherited wealth.
- And in a prime example of the systemic gap between what workers get paid and what they need to survive, David Macdonald studies how the minimum wage falls far short of allowing workers to pay for housing all across Canada.

- Sam Arie writes about the reality that due to decades of corporate control and conservative denialism, it's probably too late to entirely avoid dangerous global warming. But Ashli Akins discusses the need to let the prospect of changing our current course for the better needs to overcome any sense of outright despair - even if we also can't blithely assume everything will work out for the best without substantial work.

- CBC News reports that Donald Trump has wasted no time imposing new restrictions on Canadian imports after the Libs claimed success in negotiating a new and worse version of NAFTA.

- Finally, Andrew Mitrovica discusses the disastrous results of Ontario's election of a right-wing populist government.

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