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Once Again, America Seeks the Answer to The Labor Question


Once Again, America Seeks the Answer to The Labor Question

Damon Silvers

“The labor question, is, and for a long time must be, the paramount economic question in this country.” — Justice Louis Brandeis, 1904

The labor question is back. After World War II, it seemed to many that widespread unionization and collective bargaining had made sure that the people who did the work in this country were getting a fair share of the wealth they created, and that through their unions working people had a substantial voice in the way our country was governed.


America's labor unions back Hillary for the most part.
Given that fact perhaps we should allow the unions to die off? They seem to have become part of the problem and not part of the solution.

The following is a problem looking for a solution that none of America's labor unions can solve.
American corporations have parked $2.4 trillion dollars offshore in non-corporate accounts.
The United States has already taxed that money, but it cannot collect those taxes until the corporations move that money back into the country. That's the law. Every country has a similar tax law.
The EU recognized that Apple was doing just that and decided to claw back their unpaid taxes.

The United States should rewrite this law so that corporations are forced to pay their taxes on all profits regardless of where those profits are parked.


It's congress who passes laws and funds wars.
We should focus like a laser beam on our congress people.
They're pretty easy to strong arm because they're in their districts most every weekend and can be disrupted during meetings.

We should also vote every incumbent out of office and start all over again.


You give the presidency far more power then it deserves or indeed has.

At this point in our history the Green Party is powerless.
If Stein receives 10% of the vote in November it will be a miracle.
If you want to build a Green Party that is competitive with the Democrats and the Republicans on the local level then you'd better get started because no such competing structure exists today. Most of us can't vote for a Green Party governor or mayor if we wanted to.

So let's focus on reforming or eliminating the system where we can.
And that starts with putting pressure on our congress people.


The writer slides past "the unstoppable natural [sic] forces of technological change and globalization."

And indeed the looting class, and their PR flacks in academia and the media, do use these tropes to "justify" gross inequality that actually is not justified.

But it's not so simple as to simply slide past these trends. What will "the labor question" be when there are no jobs?


It's all about labor for sure. When most of us feel like wage slaves, there is a major problem. I don't know how to get there from here but I have always felt that worker cooperatives are the answer.
Unions have been trashed for years. The constant drum beat to get rid of unions has been effective. I don't think there is much hope of bringing them back like they were.
Cooperatives don't need approval to raise wages for everyone if the money is coming in. They answer to each other and cut the middle man out.
They are the answer to living and working locally and to me, offer a better path to the worker problem solution.


Folks interested in building the worker co-op economy can find information, support, and successful worker co-ops at the US Federation of worker Cooperatives.

The Democracy At Work Institute has all kinds of materials, tools, and people who can help you on your path to building worker-controlled businesses.


Actually, the way to curtail off-shore parking is to require transfer pricing at fair market value (I've provided you links,here). But, you'd have to couple that with increased funding for enforcement and increased funding for independent oversight and discipline of enforcement.

Trying to tax a multi-nationall's profits, regardless where those profits are earned, would (I should think) require laws written similarly to those of U.S.states where a resident, who is working in a different state is taxed on the difference between that resident's taxes paid out of state and the taxes that would be paid if that income was earned in-state.


Thanks for the links. i hate to say it, but if there are transnational and global enterprises, we need a single, simple, global system of taxation, replacing the complex of national systems.

Not that i "oppose" enforcing transfer pricing at fair market value. Just that looking at the way everything works, such efforts to regulate systems that are by their nature antithetical to broad public [and ecological] interests is just adding more complexity. The looting class is primed to exploit all such increased regulatory complexity.

Better yet we need a socialist economy, in which all enterprise is controlled democratically for social [and ecological] benefit, not privately for private benefit.

Certainly in the immediate term, imposing fair market value for all transfer pricing is an improvement. But the effort to institute it is a years-long struggle against an implacable opponent who is always investing resources in subversion and work-arounds. At some point -- and in my mind, immediately -- we need to focus on larger systemic solutions.


Don't let the unions "die off"!

Unions need to gain strength in the US. Their weakened stature is a major problem contributing to too many ills in the US economy.

Our Teamsters Local 120 still works well for us in my workplace.


Who are the Teamsters supporting for president?


The US Supreme Court will declare gerrymandering to be unconstitutional within the next two years.
Violence is never the answer to any problem. It only makes the situation worse.
Please name one of those people/labor friendly countries which is not: a)controlled by the oligarchy and b)not influenced by the USA?


An ode to times past.


"The writer slides past "the unstoppable natural [sic] forces of technological change and globalization."

The premise of Nature as the provider of much in the way of global resources (and therefore Her status as commensurate with much that constitutes wealth as well as the well-being of a People) is also not considered or mentioned.



I like the provocative, open-ended Brandeis quote.

I like the proposed centrality of labor - the idea that the "labor question" is central to national economies and politics - whether declared or implicit in other issues.

I like the integrative, overarching idea that a great, inter-related question in the US today is how workers can get a fair share of national wealth and exercise power - not only in politics, but in society and culture.

I like the inclusion of journalistically responsible and educative links.

And I like the policy wonky, attempted populism of the piece...

...though that policy wonky-ness and the fact that it appears on commondreams vs. a union hall is also deeply - perhaps fatally - problematic.

I do not agree that, "[n]ow defenders of the status quo of runaway inequality have shifted from saying there isn’t a problem to saying that, while there is a problem, NOTHING CAN BE DONE." As I see it, the main liberal view is that there is a "skills gap" and the solution is "college for all" and "career and college readiness" in the sphere of education - when, in fact, the purported "skills gap" has more to do with the economic and political power of private business than education.

And I think Silvers botches the paragraph that starts, "The 20th century was called the “American Century” fundamentally because we addressed the labor question democratically and we did it first — propelling the US out of the Great Depression and enabling us to be the Arsenal of Democracy." Those with a background in US history will get what Silvers gets backwards here...

Last, I agree that unions are an ideal answer - in terms of political awareness and economic and political bargaining power - but, given the 'roboticization' and offshoring of labor - such progressives as exist in a post-unionized-labor-US economy must not be anachronistic: we must think within the framework of those options available to us...

...sorry not to end w/a great solution here, but...let's think.


I'd like to address something that's generally taken for granted but without much in the way of substance to validate such certitude. You stated “...the Democratic party can't be changed...”, “There is no salvaging the Democratic party”, “...there is currently no real power in the Green party, but power comes one person at a time...”. Jill Stein has often said (paraphrasing) 'that a revolutionary movement can't happen in a party that rejects revolutionary movements'.

While parties may help facilitate movements, actual movements themselves are a manifestation of powerful demands from a population, particularly due to abuse and needs. It's communicating the commonalities across the population as a whole that they are on the same wave length about the issues and that they, the population, are for taking their collective effort into a movement. From that perspective the effect of 'parties', while not irrelevant, are a more peripheral element than a major driving component.

It's with that in mind that I question the proposition that says power, coming one person at a time, is more efficaciously exercised via building a third party than transforming an established party that's rigidly encrusted in orthodoxies. Anything resembling a proof for that claim is not known. Or kept a well hidden secret. A third party wins at the polls by building a large base. However, would not such a societal dynamic also have the capacity to recapture control of an established party that's 'gone wrong'? The 'New Dems' have already morphed into what the established GOP were like 40-50 yrs ago. They could make it official by joining the Republicans.

Sanders has given the need to stop Trump as the highest priority in the months before the election. Yet he has also given a call to activism that Clinton and her campaign/administration team will find to be quite restraining. Any IOUs are owed to Sanders and the movement. Sanders owes Clinton and her administration nothing post election. Nothing. But he is in a position to exercise a constant probing eye and a loud voice. And the movement will grow. It's the most obvious direction for the younger generations to take. For whatever name they and the rest of us of similar persuasion call ourselves.


The answer to the labor question will be, why work? Robots will eventually do all the work. Meantime, if one is lucky enough to make a few billion, one needs to share it with the rest as a responsible person to prevent societal collapse.

Direct economic democracy.


I like your point that classic union power was based on the strike - not only a work stop, but the ability to choke off industrial production, Times.

But could you support something with a link: you write that the "vast majority of Union workers are working for the various levels of Government, not private companies;" whereas Silvers writes, "today...[o]nly 11 percent of all American workers belong to a union, and less than 7 percent of private-sector workers are organized"...which would mean that, in the US, a 7% majority of private sector workers are organized vs. 4% public sector workers organized.

Today, this may not make a great difference - but the numbers must make some difference since private sector unions have more power due to their ability to strike vs. public sector unions...as, I seem to recall, stipulated in the Taft Hartley (sp?) Act...and, as I recall...exampled in Reagan's breaking of an air traffic controller strike in the 1980s...

Along the same lines, could you give a link for your claim that, "the biggest hurdle today for forming Unions is the ability to blockade business. Instead of one huge factory with limited entry points and easily blocked, today you have small buildings and while you may be able to block one or two the impact on an industry wide scale will be nothing and again, even if you do manage to block production, there is always someone else who can supply the goods or services that you are not blocking"...

...simply not clear what "goods and services" you are talking about.



Worthy of thinking about - for similar reasons as African American leadership's support of Clinton imo: on-the-defensive minority that short-term-pragmatically judges its best bets are with the lesser of two evils.


...regrettably, I'd leave it at, "very few people get it"...