Tag Archive: Wages

Aug 10 2015

ACM: On attacks on women’s reproductive rights: budgets, no choices, and eugenics, oh my!

By NY Brit Expat

An incident at dinner in Italy during my vacation there and the subsequent discussion has driven me to prioritise this piece. Following a wonderful dinner at a local restaurant, one man decided that it was time for us to listen to his misogyny on women’s reproductive rights. I knew he was saying offensive things as the two English speakers at the table refused to translate what he was saying. Upon my insistence, he tried to speak in English, but what he was saying was so offensive I refused to believe he was saying it. I turned to my husband and the other English speaking friend and they shook their heads yes, that is what he was saying. This man argued that women have to the right to choice but if they get pregnant with a child they do not want, they must be forced to carry the child to term and to give it up for adoption. Those that know me would not be surprised at my angry response in which I spoke of women having the right of property in their own body, spoke of bodily autonomy and reminded him that we were not incubators, but human beings. I concluded by calling him a misogynist and telling him that this was not an opinion but hate speech.

Abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978 when Law 194 was passed. While not a perfect law, it was won after intense struggle by the women’s movement. This law not only guaranteed access to abortion, but access  to reproductive health care, contraception, and a whole range of rights for women and these were tied into public health provision. Like in the US (and this has been a failing in both countries), the conscientious objector clause has led to a decrease in the numbers of medical professionals willing to carry out the procedure on religious grounds (and in the US due to pressure from anti-abortion activists). So to hear someone (who is not religious) babbling this crap at me following dinner was way too much. So, who ruined dinner? Was it him or me?

This incident highlighted something that has become extremely obvious and this applies both to women’s rights and to racism. The days when someone who held these offensive positions knew to keep their mouths shut is long gone; instead they pose hate speech as opinion and demand their right to preach it.  Our response must be swift and strong so that these troglodytes are driven back to the primordial soup from which they have barely crawled out from.

In a follow-up discussion on the way to the car park, I told my English speaking friend what just passed the British parliament as part of the Welfare Bill. I told him that the Tories are changing the nature of the social welfare state which covered all women (child-tax credits, child benefits) to only cover the poor and working class. And then I told him about the limits to benefits only to 2 children in the future. I explained that the former made it easier to eliminate benefits totally (why should taxpayers take care of the working class – employed and unemployed — after all?). I explained the latter policy was a form of eugenics and was a neo-Malthusian policy. While he agreed with the former (he is a mainstream neoclassical after all), he was horrified at the latter (maybe because he has 5 children and has benefited from receiving benefits in several countries to help with covering the costs for all his children).

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When women talk about reproductive rights and justice they are not only speaking about women’s rights to not have children. This is an essential part of reproductive rights: the right to choose not to have children, to have access to birth contraceptives abortion and voluntary sterilisation. But we are also speaking of the right of women to have children and to determine when and how many. This right has been most often denied to working class women, disabled women and to women of colour. Sterilisation abuse and forced usage of birth control against working class women, disabled women and women of colour is part of a long-term agenda of eugenics and neo-Malthusianism.

Wealthier white women fought for the right to not have children and to choose when they had them and to demand sterilisation without the consent of their husbands. Eugenics law that promoted the “betterment of the human race” by forcing wealthier white women to have children also led to laws that demanded the use of birth control to access welfare benefits and forced sterilisation for working class women. These laws have been the tools of choice against working class women, women of colour and disabled women and have been used to prevent their choosing to have children and to limit the numbers that they had. In the US, to this day, eugenics laws are still on the books to be used against disabled women; Buck vs Bell (1927) in which the Supreme Court ruled that compulsory sterilisation of the unfit did not violate the Due Process Clause of the US constitution.  This endorsement of negative eugenics has not been repealed and still stands as US law. So to say that to leave things of the past in the past doesn’t really hold up as these things of the past tend to revive. After all, patriarchy is still strong and these arguments are not only a position of patriarchy but of the bourgeoisie that does not feel the need to humour women in their bizarre beliefs that they, not the family, not the church and not the state control their own bodies.

Nov 09 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: The Word is Crisis, Not Recession! by NY Brit Expat

Yes, comrades, we need to talk about crises again, the term recession simply does not explain what is really going on! Just in case you might not have noticed or perhaps the mainstream media where you live ignored it, the obvious has happened and the end of the so-called recession has disappeared into the fantasy novel. Once again there is a slowdown in growth and the financial markets are not particularly happy. This time, Germany and China are showing signs of slowdown. Globalisation has not ended the potential towards crises in the capitalist economic system; in fact, the greater interconnectedness of the world economy has exacerbated the situation and ensured that the contagion spreads.  

For those who believe the fantasies of neoliberal economics, the shock of these latest failures of neoliberalism must come as a surprise. But for those of us that have been warning of the stupidity of squeezing wages and destroying work conditions, rising inequality in income and wealth, the dangers of export-led growth when wage incomes are being squeezed meaning that unless governments become the sole purchasers of goods and services that are being produced (and they are not) that obviously there comes a point when working people cannot purchase goods and services as their incomes are too low, wiping out of savings  has happened and personal indebtedness leads to default and bankruptcy. Neither of these things helps to maintain capitalist growth, accumulation and profitability in the long run; forget that, it hasn’t even lasted in the short run.

I will be giving a run through on what is going on and why our lives feel as though we are living through the Shock Doctrine (which we are) then address the proposals of dealing with persistent unemployment under capitalism from the Left on which there is significant disagreement.

Sep 15 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: An Immodest Proposal by NY Brit Expat

For Preventing the Poor People in Britain from being a burden to Their Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public

Un hommage รก Jonathan Swift

Whenever I travel the country and listen to the newscasts and read the papers, it has become evident that the poor are a significant burden upon the country. Instead of working, women go begging at food banks to provide for their children.  Others sit on the streets with their offspring begging money from their betters. Clearly these lazy creatures assume that we as a society have some responsibility to ensure the existence of their offspring. Moreover, since they have to care for their children, they obviously have no time to actually work to provide for their existence. Their lack of property and their inability to ensure their and their offspring’s survival is threatening the very nature of our society.  

Nov 21 2012

Walmart Black Friday Strike

Black Friday is the name given to the day after Thanksgiving. It marks the first day of the Christmas shopping season with grand bargains and the feeding frenzy of consumers to find the best price on the most desirable gifts for the holiday. The term originated in Philadelphia as a description of the crowded stores and heavy traffic the day after Thanksgiving. It later took on the meaning that it was the day retailers begin to turn a profit and are “in the black.”

It has taken on a new meaning for retail workers in the “big box” stores, who are now being forced to work and forgo their Thanksgiving holiday evening because the largest retailers, specifically Walmart, decided to open at 8 PM on Thursday. Most of these retail workers barely make a living wage, the typical employee is paid $22,100 a year, slightly below the federal poverty line for a family of four (which is at $23,050 in 2012). Walmart workers, although not unionized, have banded together to strike the retailer on Black Friday. Here is why:

   – WHY WORKERS ARE STRIKING: Workers – organized by non-union OUR Walmart – are protesting that Walmart continues to pay low wages and cut benefits, even while it is making billions of dollars in profits. The strikes that have occurred are the first in the 50 year history of the company. Workers have demanded “more-predictable schedules, less-expensive health-care plans and minimum hourly pay of $13 with the option of working full-time.” The company is increasing employee contributions towards its health plan in 2013. Walmart made $15 billion last year, and paid its CEO $18.1 million.

   – WALMART’S RESPONSE: The company has claimed that it is “not aware of any major disruptions that are going to happen Black Friday.” However, it has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the protests are being orchestrated by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which Walmart claims is a labor law violation.

   – WHY NOW?: Black Friday is not only one of the biggest shopping days of the year, but Walmart and other large retailers have steadily increased their Black Friday hours to extend into Thanksgiving Day. This year, Walmart’s “Black Friday” starts at 8 p.m. Thursday, so workers will miss Thanksgiving evening with their families. Employees claim “they weren’t given a choice as to whether they would work on Thanksgiving and were told to do so with little warning.”

The argument that Walmart cannot afford to raise pay and benefits claiming it would hurt their ability to keep prices low has quite a few holes. A study made by Demos show that by increasing wages not only do the workers benefit but so does industry and the economy as a whole:

   A wage standard at large retailers equivalent to $25,000 per year for full-time, year-round workers would increase GDP between $11.8 and $15.2 billion over the next year.

   As a result of the economic growth from a wage increase, employers would create 100,000 to 132,000 additional jobs.

   Effects on Retail Sales: Increased purchasing power of low-wage workers would generate $4 to $5 billion in additional annual sales for the sector. Much of the increased consumer spending by low-wage workers after the raise will return to the very firms that offered the raise. The average American household allocates 20 percent of their total expenditures toward retail goods, but for low-income households that proportion is higher. A raise for workers at large stores would bring billions of dollars in added retail spending back to the sector. Our study finds that:

   Assuming that workers do not save money out of their wage income, the additional retail spending by employees and their families generated by the higher wage would result in $4 to $5 billion in additional sales across the retail sector in the year following the wage increase.

The wage increase would hardly effect prices:

   The potential cost to consumers would be just cents more per shopping trip on average. If retail firms were to pass the entire cost on to consumers instead of paying for it by redirecting unproductive profits, shoppers would see prices increase by only 1 percent. But productivity gains and new consumer spending associated with the raise make it unlikely that stores will need to generate 100 percent of the cost. More plausibly, prices will increase by less than the total amount of the wage bill, spreading smaller costs across the entire population of consumers. The impact of rising prices on household budgets will be negligible, while the economic benefits of higher wages for low paid retail workers will be significant. Our study finds that:

   If retailers pass half of the costs of a wage raise onto their customers, the average household would pay just 15 cents more per shopping trip-or $17.73 per year.

   If firms pass on 25 percent of the wage costs onto their customers, shoppers would spend just 7 cents more per shopping trip, or $8.87 per year.

   Higher income households, who spend more, would absorb a larger share of the cost. Per shopping trip, high income households would spend 18 cents more, for a total of $36.80 per year. Low-income households would spend just 12 additional cents on their shopping list, or $24.87 per year.

As David Dayen noted reporting this at FDL News:

I would personally rather pay 15 cents more per shopping trip rather than pay the costs of a working individual who nevertheless has to go onto Medicaid or collect food stamps. What’s more, as a result of the economic boost from higher wages, I would probably make more money myself, so this would all come out in the wash. Prosperity for retail workers would really mean more prosperity for all.

Up with Chris Hayes host Chris Hayes discussed the Black Friday strike by Walmart employees with guests Greg Fletcher, a Walmart associate in Duarte, CA; Heather McGhee, vice president of Demos; Raymond Castillo, a member of Warehouse Workers United; and David frum, CNN contributer.