29 June 2021

Class struggle from below

Congress is near-paralyzed due to the filibuster and tiny Democratic majorities, but that doesn't mean the people are.  They are taking action on their own while the government stumbles.

As the pandemic winds down and bosses try to drag home workers back to the office and re-assert the old model of shitty pay and shitty working conditions, workers are quitting in unprecedented numbers.  It's becoming a cliché that service-sector businesses can't get people to come and work for them -- unless they offer decent wages for a change.  Republican state governments have been cutting unemployment benefits in an effort to force their serfs to give in and submit to the re-shittyization of the economy, but it isn't working.

As for those white-collar workers who have been working from home for a year, I've been saying all along that companies which try to drag them back to offices will wind up at a huge competitive disadvantage -- they'll lose their best workers to other companies which continue to allow work from home.  Now that some workers are indeed being dragged back, they're coming to realize just how awful the misery of commuting and spending all day in an office really was.  They know they can do their jobs from home as well or better.  They know there's no valid reason for forcing them back to the office.  They know the supposed justifications are just squid-ink for the bosses' desperate control-freakery.  They're going to start looking for something better.  People are already quitting rather than give in.

When NPR did a story about "the great office return", they managed to find someone to quote who said that "businesses have a civic duty to bring workers back".  He's an executive of a company that leases out office space to other companies.

Since our country has no major political party which is explicitly committed to the class struggle, and the structure of our government allows the Republicans to block the Democrats from doing even as much as they wish to do, that struggle must be waged by the workers themselves.  If Congress won't bring our minimum wage into line with that of other developed nations, the workers themselves will do it by refusing to work for shitty pay any more.  If the government won't defend our right to keep working from home instead of commuting (a zero-cost contribution to the fight against global warming, on top of everything else), then we ourselves will defend that right, by refusing to settle for anything less.  And given time, who knows what else working people will be able to achieve once these changes help them realize their power?  I've said before that this pandemic may ultimately be remembered as a catalyst for social progress.

Oh, and over time our people are developing a more favorable view of socialism and a less favorable view of capitalism -- and this is especially true among younger people.

Be afraid, fuckers, be very afraid.  We're on to you, and things are going to change around here, big time.


Blogger SickoRicko said...

Your essay sounds very similar in thinking to the World Socialist Website (WSWS) that a friend sends links to me once in a while. We can hope. (I like the opening image.)

29 June, 2021 08:46  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Oh, shocking that people are not willing to go back to jobs that pay miserably just to keep the fat cats getting more money. Shocking!
I still don't know when I'm going back. Apparently not this fall, for what I've heard. Whatever. I do have to commute and I don't miss it. Also, I've saved tons in tolls and gas, so there's that.
Oh, and people are catching up on capitalism? Where have they been?


29 June, 2021 08:50  
Blogger Lady M said...

I just can't understand it - work from home is a win-win for companies as well as the environment. No more office space overhead and workers are just as productive without all the distractions and socializing that takes place in an office.

29 June, 2021 09:23  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

People are definitely quitting and demanding better pay. People should be allowed to work from home if they can do their job just as well that way.

29 June, 2021 14:22  
Blogger Jimmy T said...

Ya gotta remember way back to the post WWII era, when the American economy exploded creating millions of jobs and spreading the wealth down the ladder. I remember being a young teenager who had a lawn mowing service that paid for school clothes and such. One of my customers was a milkman who basically delivered milk to residential consumers. He wasn't rich, but he could afford to pay me, and keep his wife and their three kids at home. I've always thought that WWII created an attitude in the former combat class and that they weren't going put up with a lot of bullshit. They won the war and they deserved decent pay and respect. A load of money came from the Treasury for infrastructure (the interstate highways) to ensure that jobs were going to be there. Somewhere in the early 1070's that began to change, and the wealthy few once again began hogging resources for themselves. It appears to me we're at a similar moment, and people are refusing to be wage slaves again. I sure hope the trend continues...

Personally, I support the younger generations in their attempt to live decent and rewarding lives. I'm not seeing that widespread as yet, but given the resources (the Biden plan), and good public education, and job training, we could see an economic revival that will sweep us all forward...

29 June, 2021 17:35  
Blogger Mike said...

I keep saying democratic socialism with regulated capitalism. We need a balance.

29 June, 2021 20:51  
Blogger SickoRicko said...

What Mike said.

30 June, 2021 08:09  
Blogger Tundra Bunny said...

Too many Americans equate socialism with communism. Socialism in a democracy can be a very good thing (e.g., Canada). The biggest problem is getting the uber-wealthy to pay their fair share of income tax. There is absolutely NO justification for American billionaires such as Buffet, Bezos, et. al. to get away with being poor on paper so they can avoid paying taxes. NAFTA was initially good for the U.S. because it sucked most of the manufacturing sector out of Canada. Then the U.S. manufacturing sector was in turn gutted by cheap offshore labour in China/East Asia and Mexico. The "new" NAFTA agreement can't do much to correct globalization impacts now. The Covid-19 pandemic has opened up those economic fault lines even more dramatically, and now overlap the racial and religious fault lines concurrently. Unfettered capitalism in the U.S. has created a permanent underclass of citizenry that is poorly educated, armed and angry and they don't want to blame themselves for letting it happen.

30 June, 2021 13:45  
Blogger bluzdude said...

One of the factors involved with trying to get the workers back in the office is that some companies are stuck with leases for office space. My own company has at least another 5 years dedicated to our current downtown office, so they're trying to find a way to bring people back as best they can, with the offers of "3 days in, 2 days from home" schedules.

Personally, I'm going to try to WFH as much as I can possibly get away with. My life has been measurably better since I started working from home 5 days per week. I get 2.5 hours a day back from the grind... I sleep an hour later and avoid 2 45-minute commutes. Plus my lunches are a fraction of the cost of what I'd pay at the building cafeteria or surrounding venues. That's 12.5 hours a week I have to be at home and enjoy my life, with savings to boot.

30 June, 2021 13:53  
Blogger Bohemian said...

Oh an excellent Post that says it ALL! I tire of hearing people with great paying Careers lament that people who refuse to accept shitty jobs that cannot support them are lazy. It's only from a place of extreme privilege that someone cannot relate at all to the struggle of the Working Class who are not able to get benefits, a livable wage, good working conditions, afford the basics like decent Housing and putting Food on the table regularly. Most Americans were only one paycheck away from disaster, as the Pandemic proved when it dragged on too long and economic collapse began to happen. I'm so fed up with how impotent our Politicians have become on the one side and how out of touch with Reality they are on the other side and pandering to a wannabe Dictator. The Majority rule should prevail and not the Fanatical and Lunacy of the Cult Worshiping Minority that lost this last Election. I thought we'd never get thru 4 years of that Lunatic and his Grifting entourage! So, I don't want to have to Deal with his Base and his ReTrumplican Politicians fucking things up further... it's time to roll up the Doormat and make it a Club already.

30 June, 2021 22:34  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ricko: Just started reading that myself after seeing a link to it on your blog. They seem to know what they're talking about.

Sixpence: Glad you're at least able to avoid commuting. As for people not waking up about capitalism all this time, a lot of money and effort have been expended on keeping them asleep.

Lady M: Objectively it's a win for the companies too. And in many cases it turns out people are even more productive. It's just boss control-freakery. When they can't watch you every minute, they worry that you're not miserable enough or something.

Mary K: There's a cliché that quitters never win, but in this situation, quitting may be the best winning strategy.

Jimmy: I hope you're right and that the trauma of the pandemic will encourage people to stand up for themselves as the trauma of World War II did (it has already killed a lot more Americans, and in one year, not four). We certainly can't build a decent economy on the basis of a few people being obscenely rich while everyone else struggles.

01 July, 2021 01:32  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Mike: Exactly.

Tundra: It's an important distinction. As soon as we start talking about wanting the same basics of a decent life as places like Canada or Scandinavia, the right-wingers always start talking about Venezuela or Stalin, as if our only choices are industrial feudalism or the Gulag. They need to remember that socialism is not a gateway to communism, it's more like a vaccine against communism. If we're blocked again and again from getting those basic protections socialism provides, eventually those armed and ignorant masses will turn against the ultra-wealthy.

As to the over-dependence on fragile and exploitative international supply chains, the pandemic has helped show how dangerous that is -- and Trumpism showed that the mass of right-wing voters here are open to protectionism, even if the Republican establishment isn't.

Bluzdude: That's certainly true. My company has been paying ridiculous amounts of rent for empty office space for over a year, with no end in sight. It's a sunk-cost fallacy, though, They can't get out of paying that either way, and bringing people back to the office will cause other costs in the form of increased turnover (and things like use of electricity). It's their own fault for not introducing work-from-home on their own terms long ago. The old office-centered model has been technologically obsolete for at least a decade.

Bohemian: Thanks! I've never understood that attitude. I've always recognized that people like store clerks and waitresses are basically in the same position I am, trying to make a living. Is it really so important to some people to find somebody, anybody, they can lord it over and feel better than? It's certainly not a matter of being lazy. You can only treat people like crap for so long before they decide that literally anything is better.

01 July, 2021 01:47  
Blogger Meremark said...

Here in my confinement (skilled nursing facility) 3 of my more caring nurses have quit during June.

01 July, 2021 19:26  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I'm sorry to hear that. I know how tough it can be in those places. But I can't say I'm surprised.

01 July, 2021 22:24  
Blogger Jack said...

You are more optimistic than I am about employers allowing more work-from-home, but I certainly hope you are right. I can't imagine many more effective ways to combat climate change than by significantly reducing the number of people commuting to and from various offices every day.

02 July, 2021 12:44  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jack: I'm not so much thinking they'll "allow" it as they'll realize they don't have much choice if they want to keep their best people.

Given the environmental benefits, the government should actually mandate that companies allow work-from-home as much as possible, but that's not going to happen, even with a Democratic administration.

02 July, 2021 17:23  
Blogger Bohemian said...

I just read your most recent post and understand your exasperation about the Political scene. Sometimes having no Words about it is the stance I take too, since I'm not sure I can make a change in any of it... no matter how disturbed I am about the direction it's heading and the impact it's making that isn't likely to have a good outcome. I do enjoy your Posts and perspective about important issues, so don't opt out completely and avoid topics that are indeed frustrating, but important.

03 July, 2021 01:57  
Blogger CAS said...

I saw an interview with a CEO of a major manufacturing company a couple weeks ago. He was claiming that his difficulties in finding workers stemmed from the extraordinarily generous government handouts coming from the government's stimulus packages. He said that he paid his employees well, a claim that I find dubious because the stimulus package, while helpful, simply isn't that lucrative.

However, his comments made me wonder if workers' current commitment to stay home is somewhat bolstered by recent government checks and if that commitment will evaporate when such checks dry up and necessity forces people back to low-paying jobs.

Wondering what your take is on this.

06 July, 2021 11:55  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Bohemian: Thanks. I still feel the same way -- no reason to lift a finger to help a cause which has become so corrupted.

Carol: See this item I linked in the second paragraph -- several Republican states have already cut off the increased unemployment benefits, and at least in Missouri, there's been no increase in people's willingness to take shitty jobs (that item is a blog post, but it's citing a New York Times story I can't link to directly because it's paywalled). CNN did an analysis a while back which concluded that government benefits had very little to do with the difficulty of finding workers. The three direct checks from the government were $1,200, $600, and $1,400 over a period of almost a year and a half -- nobody's living off of just that. I think what's emboldening people is more the fact that there's so much demand for workers -- they feel they can hold out for something better because it will be easy to get something if they get desperate. They're not desperate now.

Given how people's perception of what's fair has changed, I think it will affect how a lot of them vote in the future. The government would be wise to stand with the people rather than with the bosses.

06 July, 2021 15:44  
Blogger CAS said...

Thanks for the explanation. The capitalists should be happy. The free market appears to be determining what constitutes a reasonable wage. I hope you're right about the voting.

06 July, 2021 18:53  

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