Monday, June 22, 2009
As the wife of an "auto-worker" and the daughter of a "farmer and carpenter", I am becoming increasingly incensed over the the phrase "cheap-labor" used flippantly by people in government, business, and the media. You hear media blasting workers trying to make a "living" wage. Portraying them as somehow"greedy" for wanting a some share of the benefits those at the top enjoy, and that their labor make possible. I ask myself why these millionaires as rich as they are, resent sharing any the profit with the people who have helped make it possible for them to acquire that wealth? Seriously, it is not like we have asked them to live on the modest scale of most middle class, or the poor. While we do not begrudge them their wealth, why is it they look down on the people that work for them, these hard workers now dealing with arthritis, hearing loss, carpal tunnel, cancer from working with toxic materials, etc.? Why shouldn't they make enough to enjoy some comfort, feed their family, allow one parent to be home with their children, and enjoy some of life's small pleasures? Not only do these workers give their labor, but buy these products made with the monies they earn, which also generates wealth for these few. These same few wealthy who feel they do their employees a "favor" by following through on promises they made, or think of it as a "savings to them" by canceling contracts, cutting benefits, or dumping these same workers who gave their labor, and life to help them gain the wealth they enjoy. They want it all back, they want "cheap labor" and to "shed" their debt, and negate promises, while moving business overseas, or other states where they can enjoy even more profit while paying out less to those that toil for the scraps they throw at them. I do not know, I may have missed the article or broadcast where they told of how these top CEO's , Bankers, Investor's, etc. had their health care cut off, lost their homes, cars, their pensions, had their wages cut in half, had to start over with no job prospects at 56 or 70 years old. So much greed, yet this corporate method of giving less and wanting more is not a new thing. Let's reflect back on our past. Here in an article I came across, written by Fredrick Douglas, he addresses the issue of "Cheap Labor", regarding black and oriental workers in his time, yet mirrors this same issue today....... Cheap Labor by Frederick Douglass How vast and bottomless is the abyss of meanness, cruelty, and crime sometimes concealed under fair-seeming phrases. Take the one we have made the caption of this article as an illustration. Ostensibly the demand for cheap labor is made in the interest of improvement and general civilization. It tells of increased wealth and of marvellous transformations of the old and the worthless into the new and valuable. It speaks of increased travelling facilities and larger commercial relations; of long lines of railway graded, and meandering canals constructed; of splendid cities built, and flourishing towns multiplied; of rich mines developed, and useful metals made abundant; of capacious ships on every sea abroad, and of amply cultivated fields at home; in a word, it speaks of national prosperity, greatness, and happiness. Alas! however, this is but the outside of the cup and the platter--the beautiful marble without, with its dead men's bones within. Cheap Labor, is a phrase that has no cheering music for the masses. Those who demand it, and seek to acquire it, have but little sympathy with common humanity. It is the cry of the few against the many. When we inquire who are the men that are continually vociferating for cheap labor, we find not the poor, the simple, and the lowly; not the class who dig and toil for their daily bread; not the landless, feeble, and defenseless portion of society, but the rich and powerful, the crafty and scheming, those who live by the sweat of other men's faces, and who have no intention of cheapening labor by adding themselves to the laboring forces of society. It is the deceitful cry of the fortunate against the unfortunate, of the idle against the industrious, of the taper-fingered dandy against the hard-handed working man. Labor is a noble word, and expresses a noble idea. Cheap labor, too, seems harmless enough, sounds well to hear, and looks well upon paper. But what does it mean? Who does it bless or benefit? The answer is already more than indicated. A moment's thought will show that cheap labor in the mouths of those who seek it, means not cheap labor, but the opposite. It means not cheap labor, but dear labor. Not abundant labor, but scarce labor; not more work, but more workmen. It means that condition of things in which the laborers shall be so largely in excess of the work needed to be done, that the capitalist shall be able to command all the laborers he wants, at prices only enough to keep the laborer above the point of starvation. It means ease and luxury to the rich, wretchedness and misery to the poor. These words written in another time, are evident again today. I am again reminded of a saying many of you may be familiar with, "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it".