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The “Jobless Recovery” in Michigan and What It Really Means

June 19, 2010

It’s official: suffering seems here to stay. For every job in America, there are six to seven workers competing for it. The unemployment rate in some Michigan cities is as high as 16 percent—and that doesn’t include all those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits months or even years ago. Michigan foreclosures on homes went up 46 percent in one year. Over one million residents here do not have any access to health insurance or affordable care.

But on the other side of the fence, take a look at the picture. Are big businesses suffering just like their workers? Quite the opposite, although they are working hard to hide that fact from the public. In February, for example, Ford announced it had $1.6 billion to retool facilities for more fuel-efficient vehicle manufacture. Its profits and “worker productivity” were up. Like many other companies, Ford is currently experiencing quarterly sales exceeding expectations. In March, its sales were up a staggering 43 percent.

But at the same time, Ford sadly announced that it wasn’t ready yet to start adding workers after having cut 47 percent of them in 2006. Blame the jobless recovery, a spokesperson said.

That term is everywhere. So what does “jobless recovery” really mean?

“Jobless Recovery” Means Exploitation of Workers

Many people who have jobs in Michigan are doing the work of two or three workers for one person’s pay. But they don’t dare complain because there’s an inexhaustible supply of fresh victims begging for a chance to take their places. Wages are stagnant, and have been for several decades. Benefits are eroding or have been cancelled completely. Pensions? A faint memory.

The creation of job scarcity—a boon to corporations—allows them to manipulate people and get them to accept working conditions that are untenable, even dangerous. And it fattens the bottom line: fewer wages are being paid out, and the work is still getting done, at a cost borne entirely by employees.

“Jobless Recovery” Means Union Busting

Earlier this year, Ford wanted its UAW workers to accept a wage freeze that would be in effect until 2015. The union rejected that demand. But GM and Chrysler workers were not so lucky. Their unions were forced last year to negotiate during the companies’ slide into supposed bankruptcy, and as a result, serious concessions were accepted.

This is only one way in which corporations are using the “jobless recovery” scenario to weaken and bust unions in this country. The scarcity of jobs in general creates an unprecedented labor pool, which is then used as a threat to unions, the traditional guardians of workers’ rights in this country. Anti-union rhetoric has notched up at the same time, making it sound like it is the unions who are responsible for the lack of jobs because of their supposedly outrageous demands for living wages and benefits.

The New York Times summed up this situation in a March 2010 article: “The declining influence of unions has made it easier for employers to shift work to part-time and temporary employees. Factory work and even white-collar jobs have moved in recent years to low-cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Automation has helped manufacturing cut 5.6 million jobs since 2000.”

“Jobless Recovery” Means Redistribution of Wealth

Representative Alan Grayson recently made the point that bank robbers can only steal as much money as a given bank holds at one time. But banks themselves have robbed the taxpayers of money they haven’t even paid into the system yet. The massive bailout that occurred under Bush and was sanctioned by Obama was the largest transfer of public money into private hands that has ever been accomplished: a crime unique in history. $12 trillion vanished right in front of our eyes.

This was the capper, at least so far, on a massive redistribution of wealth that began under Ronald Reagan. And at each point along the way, workers are promised that things will improve if they just accept the terms of the capitalists. Remember Obama’s promise that a big portion of the bailout money was going to go toward job creation? The numbers show that the Obama administration gave over 90 percent of taxpayer money to already profitable companies—with no requirement that they tell us what they did with it—and less than 10 percent for jobs programs.

Last month, 431,000 jobs were created in this country, which works out to 94 jobs per each Congressional district. All but 41,000 of those jobs were temporary census-taking positions. These are crumbs being tossed to people desperate for work and wages.

“Jobless Recovery” Means Class Warfare

Have you noticed all the economists who have started writing articles and making statements about how we’re now supposed to get used to the current poverty of jobs? Even the Obama Administration’s Department of Treasury issued a report stating that although business profits will recover by 2012, job availability will not significantly improve. In other words, we’re being told the “jobless recovery” is here to stay. Adjust your thinking. Learn to accept and scrape by.

Be sure to read these statements for what they are: declarations of victory in a war against the working class. Even Representative Dennis Kucinich admitted that, when he said in December of last year, “The class warfare is over; we lost.”

But in this battle, only one side has been fighting so far: the capitalists, as they clean out the coffers and shatter the lives of ordinary people; as they control the government with campaign contributions and lobbyists and control the message by owning the mainstream media.

It’s time for workers to get into this war and fight back together. Only by creating a new system, one that honors collective ownership and the meeting of human needs, can this battle be reversed. It’s time to stand against those who have stripped so many in this country of so much. We don’t need a so-called recovery that offers us nothing. We need an out-and-out reinvention, a revolution.

One Comment leave one →
  1. stelle permalink
    June 19, 2010 2:32 pm

    Right on, Kate!

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