Law and Disorder Radio

Law and Disorder Economic and Class Warfare: Pacifica Special

Class Warfare and Economic Analysis: Professor Rick Wolff

Economically the United States is at a critical point as billionaires and corporations pull in historic profit during the so called jobless recovery. The United States government and governments worldwide now face rising costs to cover its debt. How does this happen? The local state and federal government need to free up money by taxing corporations and the rich, OR they can start cutting., laying off people and cutting programs.  Governments have made the decision to cut without debating an alternative which is to tax the wealthy and the business community.

We talk with returning guest Professor Rick Wolff about the larger post-austerity cuts perspective and why the burden was put on the masses of people while corporations and banks were bailed out with bonuses.  As wealth moves upward during this serious crisis, are there any solutions? In a recent article Debts, Truth and Lies in the US, Rick suggests that state and local governments can become less dependent on the federal government and corporations. Instead of giving unemployment compensation to workers, state and local governments could restart their economies by providing the unemployed with capital to start businesses.

Rick has a new radio show on WBAI here in New York City.  Its called The Economic Update and it airs at Noon every Saturday. Rick is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City and  teaches classes regularly at the Brecht Forum in Manhattan.

Professor Rick Wolff:

  • In the last 40 years, taxes on corporations have been systematically dropped.  When class warfare is discussed its often a simple idea. One class is the rich, the other is the poor. Then there is the class of corporations as distinguished from individuals. Big business is a class, different from small business.
  • Are you the kind of person that works 9 to 5 or are you the kind of person that hires people to do that work?
  • Marx argues that if the mass of people are producing that surplus, and the employer draws it into his hands, it gives the employer and enormous advantage over the worker.
  • Here in America we have 300 million who work here and 500 large corporations that do most of the business.
  • The history of the world is a struggle about doing something about the extremes of wealth and poverty on the one hand and powerful and powerless.  The efforts to equalize wealth didn’t deal with the efforts of production. They should have.  If you think about the last 30 years of American history, we’ve undone the reforms of the New Deal.
  • They (businesses) used the surplus they got from the workers, to undo the social security, the unemployment insurance, the Glass-Steagal Act,
  • It’s a bit strange to hear my fellow liberals asking for new reforms for the banking system, new programs to help working people, its all very nice but if you don’t deal with the organization of production, even if you struggle hard and win a few reforms, they won’t be secure.
  • You haven’t changed the production system and that’s the key issue.
  • It’s called co-ops, the idea is that the people who get together to do that work on a project,  ought also decide what is done with the fruits of their labor.  We don’t need a king to tell us what to do, we can govern ourselves.
  • Right now, we have 5 to 7 percent of Americans doing extraordinarily well and the mass of people getting more worried.  The small group of wealthy people have begun to manage the situation. The first order of business is to make the political system depend on them.
  • Candidates have to rely on lobbyists. Lobbyists more than anyone else, write legislation.
  • Empires in the past have always collapsed because those running them did not remember the limits.
  • Everything the Republicans are doing is making the conditions for most Americans worse.
  • You cut government services at a time of unemployment and housing disasters you’re making peoples lives worse.
  • Bowling Alone. Americans have stopped engaging in civic activities.
  • We are five percent of the world’s population and consume 65 percent of the psychological drugs produced in this world. We face a social problem and a social problem requires a social solution.

Guest –  Richard D. Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he taught economics from 1973 to 2008. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City. He also teaches classes regularly at the Brecht Forum in Manhattan.

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Class Warfare and Organized Labor: Attorney Daniel Gross

The very rights that protect organized labor and the benefits of workers are being disassembled during one of the worst economic downturns to hit the United States.  These are classic union busting techniques used by corporations and the far right wing of the Republican Party. In the last month, Republican governors of Montana, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey targeted organized labor with insidious laws to dismantle fundamental worker rights such as capping wages and removing bargaining power for public employees. This anti-public union push also reignited a progressive movement among unions in many states ending in some biggest worker demonstrations seen in years,  yet some of these laws aimed at pulling apart unions were passed.  We’re joined today by attorney Daniel Gross, co-founder and executive director of Brandworkers International, a non-profit organization protecting and advancing the rights of retail and food employees.  We talk with him about the of rights of union employees as state politicians backed by corporations strike at the heart of traditional organized labor.

Attorney Daniel Gross:

  • For many decades there’s been an existential assault on worker unions in the public and private sector. That’s now come to a head.
  • We’re a non profit organization based in New York City, protecting and advancing the rights of food and retail employees.  We have an amazing organizing effort called Focus on the Food Chain.  That’s organizing with immigrant workers from Latin America and China against brutal workshop conditions in food warehouses.
  • Sweatshops are alive and well in our society and around the world.
  • In other countries, from farm to plate.
  • In 2006 immigrant workers revitalized May Day.
  • May Day 2011, we’re calling it a day without workers. MayDayUnited.org
  • In Egypt we saw the working class, working force remain preeminent in society.
  • A combination of internal oppression, co-optation and internal division led to the rise of this business unionism idea.  What I think is different now is the level of fight back.
  • Certainly in my lifetime I’ve never seen the combativeness and energy in the labor movement.
  • The assaults are heartbreaking, they’re extreme, but finally the reality is starting to emerge that we have to look at this as a class struggle.
  • Large corporations and their agents in governments who are attacking and scapegoating immigrants, the same forces that are attacking any kind of worker organization.  Organize at the point of production.

Guest – Daniel Gross, attorney, co-founder and executive director of Brandworkers International, a non-profit organization protecting and advancing the rights of retail and food employees.

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Bhairavi Desai: New York Taxi Workers Alliance

What does organized labor and class activism look like? In New York City, founding member of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai has organized some of the biggest taxi strikes in New York history.  The one day strike in April 1999, brought awareness to issues such as unfair regulations, medical checkups and health insurance for drivers.

The mass activism tactics also include going to court.  Her activism has created a solidarity with immigrant workers around the world especially in Third World countries where people are forced to migrate into the US for jobs.  More than 60 percent of cab drivers are immigrants from South Asia and Bhairavi who was born in India has bridged the many cultural differences.  Bhairavi joins us to talk about her tireless work to organize immigrants not only around labor but also quality of life issues.

Bhairavi Desai:

  • While the taxi bosses are guaranteed a profit every single day, the taxi drivers are not guaranteed an income.
  • Drivers work 12 hour shifts daily, they average 60-70 hour work weeks. They need to make 150.00 a day just to break even.
  • Drivers don’t have health insurance, no disability coverage.
  • We call ourselves a union in the sense that we’re independent and fight for workers rights. We have a visionary membership that’s ready to fight whenever there’s an attack.
  • At the moment we have 15 thousand registered members. Because we don’t have collective bargaining recognition.
  • Our membership is diverse, we have a very large Haitian membership. This is an industry that anytime there’s a recession, the bosses are in heaven.  You have the newly unemployed lined up at the garages and the bidding wars start.
  • There’s such a concerted effort by the right wing, being financed by their corporate friends, who really attacked the working class from state to state.
  • It’s such a clear attack on the rights of workers to have decent wages, to have collective bargaining, to have their voices be heard.  When organized labor organizes, it unites, it has the resources to galvanize the entire working class. Ultimately you can’t fight consolidated capital without organized labor.
  • We are what’s happening to the public sector. We used to be employees, we had collective bargaining rights, drivers were stripped of all of that in the early 80’s.
  • We went from employee to small business owner (contract labor) The government doesn’t look at you as a working person who’s working economic condition should be protected, instead, they look at you as a service provider.
  • You can’t have democracy in a society where you don’t have democracy on the shop floor.

Guest – Bhairavi Desai, (Executive Director, Staff) has been organizing in the taxi industry since 1996 and co-founded NYTWA in 1998.

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