104 Years Ago Today

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34 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    American Clothing Manufacturers still use thugs to break up unions:

    http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/03/salvadoran-maquila-plants-use-gang-members-to-break-unions/Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      It’s easy to think that the owners were just trying to squeeze more product out of the workers and see the disaster as strictly an issue of workplace safety, but in fact the blocking of the exits was done by the owners of Triangle substantially in retaliation to unionization efforts; Triangle’s owners were leaders in the efforts of manufacturers all around New York to disrupt and prevent the forming of labor unions.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        It can be both. The question of who is responsible for workplace safety was argued with passion since the start of the industrial revolution. Owners didn’t like to implement safety measures because they were expensive and it was much cheaper to just hire somebody knew if a worker had to leave the job because of a cripling injury. The owners generally didn’t have to worry about lawsuits from injured workers because the Courts applied the idea of assumption of risk to prevent workers from recoverying from injuries that happened at work. It was held that since industrial work is inherently risky but voluntarily assumed that anybody who gets injured on the job assumes the risk and can not recover.

        Many people in the present wonder what drew hundreds of thousands or millions of people to embarace socialism, communism, anarcho-syndicalism and other leftist ideologies during the 19th century rather than support the free market and the night-watch men state, which was raising living standards in the world. To a lot of people, industrialization was not something that they enjoyed experiencing. It was long, hard work for them.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      Speaking of business models I don’t quite understand, I’m surprised that it’s a cost effective business decision to pay a Latin American street gang whatever it costs to break kneecaps than it does to do any other course of action – including all those that would still bust up the union.

      I figure it would easier to simply fire the union workers outright and hire new ones and use the multinational’s leverage in the judicial system to make that decision stick. Or at least, hire a corrupt police to do the same intimidation, because where *does* a multinational get the local knowledge to hire underworld muscle off the streets? A corrupt police force is in any case is more plausibly deniable, more likely to stay bought (cf the definition of a ‘good politician’), and can be useful for other things when working in the country.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        It’s only because the gang members have yet to unionize. Someone should them in touch with the International Brotherhood of Strike Breakers and Hired Thugs.

        Are the Pinkertons still around?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I’m surprised that it’s a cost effective business decision to pay a Latin American street gang whatever it costs to break kneecaps than it does to do any other course of action

        Yeah!

        I figure it would easier to simply fire the union workers outright and hire new ones and use the multinational’s leverage in the judicial system to make that decision stick.

        Wait, ya lost me there.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Or for a gang member to become a Respectable Member of Society.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        kolohe, you hire the street gangs in situations where workers aren’t organized into a recognzied union with rights protected by the law. Thugs are used to prevent unionization in the first place and not to break up existing unions. You have to use different strategies once workers are organized and the law recognizes this fact.Report

      • Avatar Zane says:

        @j-r : “Are the Pinkertons still around?”

        Indeed!

        http://www.pinkerton.com/

        “Over 160 years of innovation: From Protecting Mid-Western Railways to Providing Corporate Risk Management to Clients Across the Globe”Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        What’s the going rate for Salvadoran gang members these days?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        It appears that hiring gang members for such things is fairly common in El Salvador, which makes me think they’re pretty cheap:

        http://lser.la.psu.edu/gwr/documents/UnholyAlliances_January2015.pdfReport

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Lee, from your brother’s article, the threatened workers are part of a union called Sindicato de la Industria Textil Salvadoreña (SITS), which seems organized enough.

        And which ties into what Stillwater thought was unclear. If you have a union in your factory that’s recognized with rights under the law, that’s one thing – but if you also control the people that make the decisions on what is, and what is not, against the law, then that’s a completely different thing. A thing which pretty much negates the first thing.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @kolohe, we don’t know how much it costs corporations to buy the judiciary. It was probably easier in the past, when you could count on Uncle Sam’s help if you ended up with a government largely trying to do well by its’ citizens. These days, not so much.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Oddly, the most famous Pinkerton (of the 20th Century, anyway), served time in prison for his leftist views.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        He was more Pink than, er, Erton, eh?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @chris

        That one deserves an A for effort.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Lee, besides straight up bribes to judges and bureaucrats (which are probably more expensive than street gangs, in the short term), I’m also thinking of what Katherine said in the John Oliver thread about being able to use, e.g. trade agreements to get the government to legitimately (if not quite ethically) bend to your will.

        And Chris explained a lot of it with his link, in that the people that are doing the dirty deeds are using a multi pronged approach, using corrupt government & union officials as well as criminal enterprises. (who in the end, probably know each other, because that’s how this stuff works)Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    Its a good thing work places have been rid of all dangers since then. Why i haven’t heard about a work place accident in years, therefore they don’t exist. And if they did it was the workers fault. Those kids gave their lives in a good cause.Report

  3. Avatar Zane says:

    Thanks for this post and the link, @saul-degraw.

    That eyewitness account was far more horrifying than any slasher pic could ever be.

    Dehumanization and indifference lead to more brutality than do sadism or “evil”, whatever that is. When people are only what they can produce (or more lately, consume), then trouble follows.Report

  4. Avatar LWA says:

    Which is where I ask why we have a massive global legal structure dedicated to lowering and regulating the barriers to trade in capital and property, yet none for labor.

    Why for example, do our laws make it easy for contracts to be signed across dozens of different countries, and be enforced zealously, yet it is somehow impossible to erect a mandatory minimum wage for all the signatories to the global treaties that make all this possible?Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      It’s almost as if what’s in the interest of capital has a lot more respect and value than the interests of labor within elite decision making or something.

      Nah, can’t be. Has to be the market speaking.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      On the one hand yes to what @lwa and @jesse-ewiak said. On the other hand lowering the barriers for labor is a lot harder for a lot of other reasons than lowering trade barriers in capital and property for a lot of reason. For one, most people really don’t want to live in a borderless world. Getting a consensus on the movement of goods and capital is a lot easier than getting a consensus on the movement of people. Instituting global labor standards for worker’s rights and workplace safety is similarly a Herculean task to achieve because there is more disagreement on these things. Not just elite disagreement either.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      There are lots of legal barriers to the movement of capital and goods and services. Some countries impose capital controls and exchange controls. You can read about them here: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/nft/2014/areaers/ar2014.pdf and they are almost always a bad idea. And lots of countries impose tariffs and non-tariff barriers to the flow of goods and services across borders. Go to the WTO web site and read about them. Likewise lots of countries, the smart ones at least, facilitate labor mobility across borders. And there are even a set of internationally recognized Core Labor Standards. You can read about those at the ILO site.

      Trying to characterize the current arrangement as some collusion of the interests of global capitalism is a theory that doesn’t hold much water, because there is really no one current arrangement. Rather, the rules on these things are an often incomprehensible mish mosh of various points of view.

      The larger problem is that what @leeesq said is absolutely true. There simply is no consensus on what the floor ought to be for wages or for enforcement of labor standards.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        The global network of laws and treaties regulating and setting trade and tariffs is exactly, precisely, a collusion of the interests of global capitalists.

        Who negotiates these treaties? Whose interests are represented at the table? What issues are raised, what conditions are set and by whom?

        The word “collusion” has an unsavory tone, since it usually indicates something shameful that is hidden. As the saying goes, whats shameful here isn’t whats hidden- its whats advertised openly. Global trade agreements are openly aimed at securing and enforcing property rights and contracts.

        There never was a consensus on tariffs, or property rights, or contract enforcement. That is, until different representatives got together, negotiated, argued, and ultimately forged an agreement to construct the current system.

        The only reason there isn’t a multi-national regulation on wages is because those who negotiate aren’t interested in making one. There is, by the way, a system of agreements forbidding undercutting prices. But only prices of goods, not labor.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Trying to characterize the current arrangement as some collusion of the inteests of global capitalism is a theory that doesn’t hold much water,

        I don’t know about the theory part, but it’s a pretty good description. GATT treaties were historically negotiated in private to the extent that most people in the US probably don’t even know what “GATT” means. WTO the same. It wasn’t until NAFTA that Murkins started paying attention to international trade agreements, and after that was the big WTO meeting in Seattle which garnered lots of popular as well as US-media attention.

        Given that capital has, almost by definition, a seat at the negotiating table, and labor – at least in the US – does not, it seems like an accurate description that these agreements were negotiated by capital in the absence of labor or (often) any other political interests. And in secret, for the most part. (It’s certainly not like Clinton threw out NAFTA feelers to the public to see how they’d react before he went ahead with the agreement. The public was wildly opposed to it, once they found out about it.)

        And I think all that stands irrespective of any particular individual’s views of the outcomes of those policies.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        Given that capital has, almost by definition, a seat at the negotiating table, and labor – at least in the US – does not…

        This is not true. And the reason that I know this is that I used to sit in that seat. This is where I worked my first year out of grad school: http://www.dol.gov/ilab/about/offices/. In particular, that job involved representing the interests of labor (both domestic labor and international labor standards) in the conduct of U.S. trade policy. I won’t lie and say that labor is at the center, but there were certainly decision that we made specifically out of deference to the concerns of organized labor. If you want examples, Google the 2011 China 421 tire case.

        The global network of laws and treaties regulating and setting trade and tariffs is exactly, precisely, a collusion of the interests of global capitalists.
        And again, this implies that there is some unified set of preferences that we can refer to as “the interests of global capitalists.” On a very broad level there is. Businesses, for instance, do like to operate in places where there is regulatory certainty, but that often means a preference for places where the regulations are less friendly but predictable to a place that is more friendly, but capricious.

        More to the point, businesses are generally in the business of competing with one another, which often means that they have competing preferences. For instance, do businesses higher or lower oil prices? That depends, doesn’t it. ExxonMobil would probably prefer higher oil prices (but not so high that the demand for oil drops significantly), but what about General Motors. To the extent that GM sells trucks, they probably prefer lower oil prices, because people stop buying gas guzzlers when the price of gas gets too high. Alternately, a company with a big investment in alternate fuel cars doesn’t want the price of gas too low, because high gas prices make their product less competitive.

        Long story short: it’s complicated.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        For instance, do businesses higher or lower oil prices?

        Businesses that own Resource X want its price to rise. Businesses that don’t own it but do consume it (directly or indirectly) want its price to go down. Since all business consume energy, the ones that don’t own oilfields (and this includes independent refiners) want oil prices to drop.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        @j-r

        I wanted to get back to this a couple days ago but forgot until now. Here’s a link to a review of some current and apparently ongoing shenanigans.

        “After more than five years of negotiations under conditions of extreme secrecy, on March 25, 2015, a leaked copy of the investment chapter for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was posted. Public Citizen has verified that the text is authentic. Trade officials from the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – are in intensive, closed-door negotiations to finish the TPP in the next few months.

        “The leaked text provides stark warnings about the dangers of ‘trade’ negotiations occurring without press, public or policymaker oversight. It reveals that TPP negotiators already have agreed to many radical terms that would give foreign investors expansive new substantive and procedural rights and privileges not available to domestic firms under domestic law.”

        The leaked text would empower foreign firms to directly “sue” signatory governments in extrajudicial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals over domestic policies that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms that foreign firms claim violate their new substantive investor rights. There they could demand taxpayer compensation for domestic financial, health, environmental, land use and other policies and government actions they claim undermine TPP foreign investor privileges, such as the “right” to a regulatory framework that conforms to their “expectations.”

        Make of it what you will, but it seems to be par for the course insofar as what I was referring to upthread.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        @stillwater , @j-r : I mentioned this in a comment some months ago and it didn’t get any traction then, but if I were to put on my Alvin Toffler Future Shock hat and engage in armchair futurism hat I could easily see the multinational corporations evolving into “Capital States” on a par diplomatically with the conventional “Geo States”. Perhaps their corporate headquarters would be located on seasteads or orbital platforms.

        It might not even be so bad (dystopian) as long as there were also the concurrent development of “Labor States” on the same diplomatic level.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        @road-scholar,

        If the review is accurate, the TPP seems to go some distance towards that eventuality. WHereas WTO-type agreements have always placed nation-states at the center of adjudicating disputes for resident businesses, the TPP would allow investors to skip right past all that political nonsense and file grievances against a nation at an “extrajudicial” court for review.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Yes, but the people that are horrified by that are generally perfectly fine with the ICC.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        And the IOC, too.

        Hypocrites.Report

  5. Avatar Notme says:

    Is it May Day already?Report