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Labor Reform: Proposals to Maximize Workplace Bullying

Mickey Mouse style caricature smoking cigar, wearing top hat and stomping on tiny people. "Monopoly: Big Means You Don't Have To Share."

“Labor reform” is just another band-aid on corporate greed.

Introduction

Leading management consultants, top government officials and prominent financial journalists are proposing, what they dub, “labor reforms” as the solution for double-digit unemployment and underemployment, economic stagnation and the decline of capital investments.

“Labor Reform” as the Concentration of Power and Profits

First of all, the term “labor reform” is just a euphemism for labor regression, the reversal  of laws and practices that workers and employees secured through decades of struggle against employers.

The idea that “labor reforms” would create jobs for the unemployed has been tried and disproven over the past decade. Throughout Europe, in particular Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland and France, laws facilitating firings, pay differentials between short-term and long-term contract workers and speed-ups have not reduced unemployment, which still remains at depression levels.

What neo-liberal economists and journalists call “labor market flexibility” is really all about  increasing the power of the bosses to impose reductions in wages, dominate and dictate work rules, intensify management bullying in the workplace and  fire workers without just cause or redress. Likewise “wage flexibility” means giving management the exclusive power to unilaterally lower wages, to alter work contracts, to stratify payments between workers, to downgrade job categories in order to lower wages and to increase output, and to pit unemployed workers against employed workers, temporary workers against long-term workers.

The Consequences of “Labor Reform”: Rising Inequalities

Labor reforms” are not policies designed to end unemployment, encourage economic recovery and increase capital expenditure. They are not an economic strategy. The principle goal is to concentrate power in the hands of the bosses in order to lower labor costs, increase profits and double-up production from a reduced workforce.

The growing disparity of power between capital and labor resulting from “labor reforms” is the key factor producing inequality. Neo-liberals attribute growing inequality to technological changes, ignoring the fact that it is the growing power of capital that determines how productivity gains, from the introduction of technological innovations, are distributed between capital and labor.

Labor Reform” and the Astronomical Rise of Workplace Bullying

Most liberals focus on the problems of sexual harassment and intra-working class bullying. These problems certainly require attention and correction. But far more pervasive and with far-reaching consequential is management harassment of all workers of both genders. Because ‘labor reforms’ allow management to fire workers without due process and because union shop stewards do not exist in 88% of the private and public workplaces, management intervenes in everyday workplaces, arbitrarily increasing work assignments and downgrading work performance. And many times it does so with verbal and some times, physical abuse. Management no longer faces workplace solidarity: it can abuse workers, isolate and harangue them, threaten and dictate ultimatums. Any self-defense is immediately interpreted as insubordination and the worker is fired – an example to others to unconditionally submit. Intimidation takes the form of hiring temporary low-wage workers to compete with permanent employees, or threatening to ‘relocate’ the factory. Macro and micro personal bullying is today an integral part of capital – labor relations.

Bullying has an economic function – it is designed to increase output, inculcate obedience and raise profits. But management bullying has profound negative psycho-social effects on workers. Verbal abuse, face to face intimidation, arbitrary downgrading without recourse and other everyday indignities cause depression, a loss of self-worth dignity. This leads  to self-abuse, worker and family violence and/or a ‘chain of bullying’ of those below … children, spouses, neighbors and outsiders (immigrants).

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Labor Reform: Proposals to Maximize Workplace Bullying

By James Petras99GetSmart

Introduction

Mickey Mouse style caricature smoking cigar, wearing top hat and stomping on tiny people. "Monopoly: Big Means You Don't Have To Share."

“Labor reform” is just another band-aid on corporate greed.

Leading management consultants, top government officials and prominent financial journalists are proposing, what they dub, “labor reforms” as the solution for double-digit unemployment and underemployment, economic stagnation and the decline of capital investments.

“Labor Reform” as the Concentration of Power and Profits

First of all, the term “labor reform” is just a euphemism for labor regression, the reversal  of laws and practices that workers and employees secured through decades of struggle against employers.

The idea that “labor reforms” would create jobs for the unemployed has been tried and disproven over the past decade. Throughout Europe, in particular Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland and France, laws facilitating firings, pay differentials between short-term and long-term contract workers and speed-ups have not reduced unemployment, which still remains at depression levels.

What neo-liberal economists and journalists call “labor market flexibility” is really all about  increasing the power of the bosses to impose reductions in wages, dominate and dictate work rules, intensify management bullying in the workplace and  fire workers without just cause or redress. Likewise “wage flexibility” means giving management the exclusive power to unilaterally lower wages, to alter work contracts, to stratify payments between workers, to downgrade job categories in order to lower wages and to increase output, and to pit unemployed workers against employed workers, temporary workers against long-term workers.

The Consequences of “Labor Reform”: Rising Inequalities

Labor reforms” are not policies designed to end unemployment, encourage economic recovery and increase capital expenditure. They are not an economic strategy. The principle goal is to concentrate power in the hands of the bosses in order to lower labor costs, increase profits and double-up production from a reduced workforce.

The growing disparity of power between capital and labor resulting from “labor reforms” is the key factor producing inequality. Neo-liberals attribute growing inequality to technological changes, ignoring the fact that it is the growing power of capital that determines how productivity gains, from the introduction of technological innovations, are distributed between capital and labor.

Labor Reform” and the Astronomical Rise of Workplace Bullying

Most liberals focus on the problems of sexual harassment and intra-working class bullying. These problems certainly require attention and correction. But far more pervasive and with far-reaching consequential is management harassment of all workers of both genders. Because ‘labor reforms’ allow management to fire workers without due process and because union shop stewards do not exist in 88% of the private and public workplaces, management intervenes in everyday workplaces, arbitrarily increasing work assignments and downgrading work performance. And many times it does so with verbal and some times, physical abuse. Management no longer faces workplace solidarity: it can abuse workers, isolate and harangue them, threaten and dictate ultimatums. Any self-defense is immediately interpreted as insubordination and the worker is fired – an example to others to unconditionally submit. Intimidation takes the form of hiring temporary low-wage workers to compete with permanent employees, or threatening to ‘relocate’ the factory. Macro and micro personal bullying is today an integral part of capital – labor relations.

Bullying has an economic function – it is designed to increase output, inculcate obedience and raise profits. But management bullying has profound negative psycho-social effects on workers. Verbal abuse, face to face intimidation, arbitrary downgrading without recourse and other everyday indignities cause depression, a loss of self-worth dignity. This leads  to self-abuse, worker and family violence and/or a ‘chain of bullying’ of those below … children, spouses, neighbors and outsiders (immigrants).

The bullying by management does not merely express itself in victimizing workers but also in forcing them to enter in “co-operative relations” where they are supposed to “share” tasks, responsibilities and innovations, without rewards or say in the distribution of material benefits or in the shaping of workplace power relations. It’s bad enough to be bullied and exploited, its worse to be forced to co-operate with management bullies, to smile at indignities and praise the degrading relationships.

The Most Vulnerable: Unemployed, Temporary and Young Workers

(more…)

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