Tuesday, May 28, 2013


 The United States Chamber of Commerce is the most evil organization in this nation.  It has led a 50-year effort to water down, dilute, eviscerate and eliminate wage and labor protections, hourly wage benchmarks, occupational safety regulations as well as paid vacation and health insurance for workers.  They have done this, in concert with regressives in Congress, to turn back all the advances workers achieved, from the New Deal through the Great Society, by pressure on both presidential and congressional elections and through legislation passed to level the playing field between bosses and workers.  A weak labor movement has allowed the bosses to take away or weaken most positive provisions workers fought for.

     The most recent example is a story in the Wall Street Journal about how employers have found a way around Obama's new healthcare law...a way to offer watered-down, ineffective and useless health insurance plans to their employees and not face any penalties for doing so.  If a firm refuses to offer health care benefits to employees, it could face a $2,000 per worker penalty under the new law.  (the money would then be used to help pay for insurance for the workers)  The Journal reports employers have discovered if they offer an insurance plan that lacks basic benefits like hospital care, they can avoid any penalties.  Brokers are offering plans to employers which cover some doctor visits and preventative care, but cap how much they will pay, don't offer any mental health coverage and surgery and hospital stays would not be covered.

     When Obama's plan was developed it was thought employers would offer good plans for their workers.  The failure to do so will force workers into state exchanges and drive up costs.  Obama's plan is predicated on bringing in the healthy and the sick to keep costs under control.  However, businesses are working hard to undercut this idea.  You gotta love 'em.

     Along with trying to game the new health care laws, and leave the workers hanging out to dry, America's corporations and businesses continue to race to the bottom in almost every other category.  USA Today reports the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not mandate paid vacation for all workers.  Only 1 in 4 American workers have paid vacation.  (and few of them actually take it all out of fear of being fired, rendering the benefit moot)  The benefits of vacation are obvious.  Not only is it good for mental and physical health, family dynamics and morale, vacating workers consume more and spend more thus helping the economy grow.  The "chamber" doesn't care.  Add to this the failure to provide paid sick days and American workers, particularly women with children, find themselves overworked and losing money all to the benefit of their company’s bottom line.

   It has been recently reported Apple Computer, along with most high tech and energy companies, paid no taxes on hundreds of billions of dollars in profit held in offshore shell companies, many located in Ireland.  Taxes they fail to pay have to be made up by you and me.  The taxes for everything from the military to infrastructure, all things which benefit Apple, have to be made up for by us because they have found ways around the law.  Apple recently announced it was going to give dividends for the first time.  It is going to borrow the money rather than bring any of that taxable profit home.  Instead of dividends, wouldn't it be something if Apple decided to take some of those billions and raise the salaries of its workers?  Workers in Apple stores are notoriously underpaid.  One of the reasons Apple has all these profits is because of these and other workers, yet it has decided to reward shareholders instead of the workers.  I know I'm being naive to suggest a company reward its workers...that is so 50's, but it is an example of how corporate America doesn't care a whit about the people who enable them to prosper.  The last thing a corporation or business wishes to do in this country is pay good wages.  Hourly wages have risen about 4% over the last 35 years while corporate profits have grown by over 300%.  American workers watch as their salaries fail to keep up with inflation and have to make a Hobson's choice between demanding a raise or increased health care costs, because as a nation we have failed to make health care available to everyone separate from where they work.  The result is the explosion of two working parent families necessary just to try to keep up with the basic cost of living.

     High tech companies are fighting to stop Congress from mandating they employ more Americans before they import cheaper foreign labor.  Hell, Yahoo doesn't even want people to be able to work at home, and save on commuting costs and maybe some daycare, and is forcing them back into the office grind.

     None of this assault on American workers would be possible without the war on unions.  From when Reagan busted the air traffic controller's union, to the use of strikebreakers and the spread of the hilariously insulting "right to work" laws which render unions impotent, this war has been a complete success.  While American productivity continues to improve every year, American workers have not seen any benefit due to the inability of individual workers to negotiate better salaries and the lack of union membership to engage in collective bargaining.

     Unions are anathema to capitalism.  Corporations, businesses, the "chamber" all hate unions.  Where unions still exist, their workers get better salaries, better pensions (unless the corporation goes to bankruptcy court...gets permission to abandon their contracts with workers to pay their pensions and health care costs...dump it all on the taxpayers and pay only ten cents on the dollar to people who worked for them for twenty or thirty years...God could they get any more immoral with help from the courts using laws written by a bought and paid for legislature?), better working conditions and they share in the profits they help to generate.  This drives the 1% to distraction.  The goal of capitalism is to make something for the cheapest cost possible thus creating more profit.  Unions are socialistic, communistic, un-American (at least in the salons and boardrooms of the Koch brothers and others) obstacles which have the gall to tell the capitalist some of the profit will have to be shared.  They hate it, and they have used Washington, and state houses, to beat workers and their organizations into the ground.

     Shangri-La for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would be a nation with no minimum wage, no child labor laws, no collective bargaining, no mandated health benefits, no 40-hour workweek or 8-hour workday, no overtime, no safety regulations and certainly no worker compensation laws.  Paradise would be a return to the Gilded Age where government was weak, poverty rampant and the gap between the rich and everyone else resembled the Grand Canyon.  Nirvana for the 1% would be for America's workplaces to be totally and completely unregulated.  Wait, wait, I see it now...Heaven is Bangladesh.  If corporate America wins this race to the bottom, it isn't far off.


  1. Bernie: as ever, great article. Could you please also do one that gives your opinion of the Montsanto corporation?

  2. I am a working professional with an advanced degree. i work for for a large corp. our division boss tells us that we still have to be available by cell ph and to respond to email even when we are on holiday. Is that legal to do in Ca.? Our HR person has done nothing nor commented.