workers freedom

economics as if workers mattered

Monthly Archives: March 2015

We can no longer afford the rich

Pundits’ bleating about the need to further gut workers’ pensions and health benefits has reached a deafening roar. In New Jersey, the governor warns that the state can not afford to pay its share into public employees’ pension funds. Illinois just slashed pensions because it also “could not afford” them. Similar is happening all over.

Next time your grocery bill look a bit daunting or the mortgage check is about to bounce, I suggest you follow the lead of our eminent polytricksters and explain that your bills are unsustainable, and so you will just have to “restructure” your obligations. I’m sure they would be glad to settle for 50 cents on the dollar.

General Motors, which is now looking at record profits thanks to deep concessions from its unions and millions of dollars in assistance from the rest of us working stiffs through our taxes (much — but far, far from all — of which it repaid interest-free; the rest was a gift I’m sure you were glad to give), has so much cash on hand that it’s buying back its stock. And, of course, it’s asking for new concessions from the autoworkers.

The Philadelphia Daily News’ Will Bunch asks if we can afford these parasites. Shockingly, he concludes that they are a luxury we no longer can afford after decades of austerity, off-shoring production, speed-ups, tax cuts for the rich, and the like.

Joe Hill centenary

There are now scores of events marking the centenary of the judicial murder of IWW songwriter and organizer Joe Hill, including concerts in at least six countries, conferences, museum exhibitions, new recordings of his songs, books, etc. Much of this is chronicled at, which includes the full text to all of Joe Hill’s surviving songs (and links to sheet music and performances for most), an extensive calendar of upcoming events which is updated weekly (starting soon are tours of northern Europe and the Joe Hill Roadshow through the midwestern U.S.), and other material.

A Joe Hill Memorial Songbook will be issued in time for May Day celebrations, which also kick off the Joe Hill Roadshow. I’ll be in Chicago May 2 for a ceremony honoring former IWW General Executive Board Chair Frederic S. Lee, who secured the release of the last of Joe Hill’s ashes from federal custody after more than 70 years. We’ll be scattering his ashes at the Haymarket Monument in Waldheim Cemetery. (The day before a representative of Sweden’s largest labor federation will commemorate Joe Hill at Waldheim during the Illinois Labor History Society’s annual observances — demonstrating the power the Haymarket Martyrs and Joe Hill hold over the imaginations and memories even of those who would never have associated with them in life.)

It’s important to remember our struggles — both the victories and the heavy price our fellow workers have paid over the years in our struggle for labor’s emancipation. Without them, we would still be working 12-hour days, six or seven days a week. Some of our fellow workers, where the right to organize has yet to be won, still are…

Mock battles among brothers in exploitation

Our friends at El Libertario in Venezuela call attention to the close relations of exploitation between the U.S. and Venezuela that have only deepened since the so-called Bolivarian revolution. Oil exports are up, Venezuela’s “eco-socialist” regime has embraced tracking, and the two regimes shadow box with each other – bolstering their domestic popularity by seeming to fight enemies abroad:

Quote of the day

“Whenever someone starts talking about the “free market,” it’s a good idea to look around for the man with the gun. He’s never far away.”— David Graeber, “The Utopia of Rules”