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Economic Update: A New Labor Movement Rising

Economic Update: A New Labor Movement Rising

welcome friends to another edition of economic update a weekly program devoted to the economic dimensions of our lives jobs debts incomes those of our children those of ourselves looking into the future I'm your host Richard wolf I want to begin by indicating that a few weeks ago we spoke about a strike or actually an impending strike of the New York State Nurses Association and the decision of the Union to forego the strike because of a tentative agreement that had finally been forced out of the hospitals and so on I reported this as a victory for the workers there which in part it was but an alert listener and indeed several let me know that there was quite a bit of disagreement in and among the nurses about that agreement and about whether they could have and should have struck for a much better agreement that their patients need and that they do so please I want to correct my reportage there is great division and the struggle about these issues will continue within the Union and between the Union and the management my next economic update strikes me as particularly remarkable the latest Gallup poll results released in April of 2019 have a remarkable statistic membership in religious institutions in the United States has dropped to an historic law never seen before 50% of the American people are members of any sort of religious institution that's over the last 20 to 25 years a drop from 76 percent to 50 percent that is a staggering decrease the new generation of people is clearly less committed to less interested in being members of religious institutions and earlier generations in America were the reason I bring this up is because despite all of that we still as a nation subsidize organized religion religious institutions are exempted in the United States from paying federal or state or local taxes they use public services police fire public schools health maintenance roads all of the things that everybody else uses everybody both members of religious organizations and not but the difference is that if you're a member of a religious organization you get to use these public services but the religious organization is not required to pay for them those who get free services from the government and don't pay for them thereby put a burden on those who must pay for the delivery of services to institutions that don't contribute themselves to paying for it 50 percent of Americans who are not members of religious institutions are subsidizing to 50 percent who are and you might want to think about that my next update has to do with a turning point I mean a big historical turning point for the United States getting way less attention than it deserves over the last few weeks the head of the German government Angela Merkel and one of the biggest car companies in the world Toyota have made statements about the United States that every American or – think about long and hard let me begin with mrs. Merkel she made a major speech that said that Europe not just Germany all of Europe now has to deal with a world in which there are three great rivals orward Russia China and the United States Europe has to go it alone Europe has to develop the economic political and cultural power to confront its three rivals Russia China and the United States that's a remarkable talk from what once was an ally we are not an ally we are a rival alongside Russia and China Europe is a bigger economic unit than the United States more people larger GDP that is big news for the United States as we will see also over the same period of time Toyota slammed President Trump and the GOP for issuing a statement which mr. Trump made that foreign owned companies in the automobile industries constituted a danger to the national security of the United States Wow Toyota is a foreign owned automobile company active in the United States even the American Association of automobile manufacturers which includes both foreign owned and domestic automobile companies is horrified by this and has spoken against the president why and here's the important economics Toyota announces it no longer feels welcome in the United States directly and indirectly Toyota employs four hundred and seventy five thousand people in the United States if they're not welcome they will leave and what happens to American Auto Workers working for Toyota or VW or Lord knows who else what are you doing what are you engaging with this is economic nationalism of a frightening sort if the United States gonna become fortress America we're only gonna produce here if so if so if only American companies are gonna get the benefit of the American government we're gonna have a problem we're gonna have a big problem why because to produce here in the United States is expensive if you start doing at prices are gonna rise that's what the Automobile Association explains and if prices rise workers in America are going to demand more wages to pay the higher prices this is a serious problem for us this is a direction we really ought not to go into it is a serious problem and that direction may be good politics for mr. Trump and the Republicans it is a disaster if the rest of the world produces at lower prices becomes itself a place where new technology is developed the United States will fall behind going it alone with economic nationalism didn't work out real well for mr. Hitler in Germany some decades ago it's not gonna work out well here either next update 40 out of the 50 states in the United States have filed suit against major pharmaceutical firms alleging mass price gouging in some cases raising prices of drugs a thousand percent after a five-year investigation leading that charge Connecticut Attorney General William Tong referred to a quote mo multi-billion dollar fraud on the American people 20 firms have been named and over a hundred drugs I find this astonishing but more astonishing than this kind of fraud is the fact that no systemic solution is being proposed what are we gonna do slap them on their hands that's what we've done in the past and clearly it made no difference something much more fundamental has to be changed maybe the government and a cooperative of workers ought to run the financial excuse me the pharmaceutical industry so we begin to do something that might slow this down to give you an idea of what's upsetting people who have to live with this outrageous profiteering I did some work and I got the average out-of-pocket cost for insulin something needed by diabetics which is a global disease in Italy the out-of-pocket monthly cost for an Italian to get insulin is $19.00 in the united kingdom the monthly cost out of pocket of an individual to get the same insulin shots $65 in the united states the monthly out-of-pocket cost today three hundred and sixty dollars there's no excuse for this this is called price gouging let me give you another example in the United States the richest Americans live ready if they're men fifteen years longer than the poorest and if they're women it's ten years put that in a different way the average difference between rich and poor in the United States who can afford medical care and who can't is wider that gap between rich and poor in America is wider than the gap between the average American and the average length of life of a yemeni or ethiopian citizen think about it Trump keeps saying that the Chinese will pay the tariffs that we're that he's putting on Chinese goods and mr. Trump doesn't understand economics a tariff is a tax if the government of mr. Trump puts a tariff on Chinese goods it means that whoever imports the goods into the United States whatever American company does that they will be charged that tax so the tax is not paid by the Chinese the taxes paid by American importing companies and guess what they don't want to have to pay that tax so there's the only thing they can do they can pass that on in a higher price to you and me so the people who end up paying the tariffs are the American companies and American consumer mr. Trump's tariffs are an immense tax increase on America which as a Republican he's supposed to be against remarkable don't be fooled Mother's Day recently passed and it reminded me that there is a bill which has been introduced to the United States Congress call the raise the wage act of tuna 2019 that has still not been passed this act would raise the minimum wage in the United States from the current $7.25 one of the lowest in the world to $15 per hour by 2024 if it were enacted seven point eight million mothers would get an actual Mother's Day gift that mattered it's sitting in the Congress and nothing is happening to it meanwhile Mother's Day cards are being sent in large numbers finally in Russia a couple was recently excuse me in France my mistake a couple the balconies they are cold were arrested they were the political leaders both the man and his wife and for the center-right party the party of Sarkozy and Chirac in the level whatever a suburb of Paris here's what they were found they were accused of tax fraud taking bribes using the money to buy mansions in France and the Caribbean why do I bring you this you're wondering probably gee this happens all the time and you're right but it's a lesson nonetheless here's how it works capitalists have a lot of money that's what they're in the capitalist business to get they make profits they had a lot of people working and they pay them as little as possible and get as much profit as they can and in order to get even more profit because they're competing with other profit tiers they use part of their profits to bribe public officials to give them more benefits and occasionally very occasionally they get caught you know we had one recently in this country when Conrad Black who went to jail for bribing politicians was given a pardon by President Trump of course here's the problem no end of arrests no end of this problem it's not solved by slapping people on the hands even if they don't get a pardon from a president the problem is if you allow some people to have this much money and the rest of us not those people with the money are gonna bribe government to keep the wealth going their way it says all the problem as the human race and it's particularly bad in a system that gives so few people so much money well we've come to the end of the first half of economic update please stay with me for a remarkable interview to follow but again please support us on YouTube it's a big help to us make use of our websites our DeWulf with 2fs calm and democracy at work dot info there you can follow us on Facebook Twitter and Instagram and communicate directly to us with your questions and suggestions which we welcome and finally before our break one more thanks to the patreon community for the support the encouragement and the enthusiasm they show we are grateful stay with us we'll be right back welcome back friends to the second half of today's economic update it is my pleasure to welcome to the microphone and to the camera Neha Matthew Shah she is the president of the Progressive Workers Union PW you and currently employed with the Sierra Club as an international environmental justice representative as a nonprofit employee for over seven years layha participated actively with the two unions that now represent two-thirds of Sierra Club the PW you and the Sierra employee alliance because of the importance of nonprofit institutions in the American economy and the relatively new effort to organize them as union members I thought it was particularly important to talk to me huh about that whole project so first of all let me thank you now for joining us thank you okay tell us a little bit so the audience can get with us on this a little bit about brief history of the PW you and kind of what your goals are sure absolutely so back in 1991 when I was one years old this there were employees in our San Francisco office of the Sierra Club that we're facing a layoff or about 22 employees and an increase to the workweek of 40 hours and so they quickly realized that unionizing was really the only way to protect their worker rights and so after what I can imagine was an incredible organizing story the National Labor Relations Board made a decision to create two separate unions the Sierra employee Alliance which is affiliated with the United Auto Workers and represents the workers based in our corporate in our headquarters in Oakland California and then everyone else working for the Sierra Club on national campaigns is represented by the John Muir local 103 years ago we renamed our union from john muir local to progressive Workers Union ok and let me ask you almost a provocative question as a new union as a union involving young people like yourself do you have a plan for what union organizing means that is different from the tradition of the Union in other words are you part of a new wave are you doing within the union movement I don't know what Bernie and AOC are trying to do within the Democratic part it's that kind of question I'd like to hear your thoughts about yeah and I I believe were part of that new wave and I believe we're leading that new wave so just from my personal experience I didn't I don't come from a union background I wouldn't have been in a Union had I not landed into an organization that happened to have union represented positions I think it is so fortunate that after I think about five years in the organization I tried to join through various committees and task forces trying to hold organization accountable to change you know how can the organization walk the talk around issues of social justice and equity you mean the Sierra Club the Sierra Club correct as a nonprofit and the reality is that all nonprofits are dealing with something called a nonprofit industrial complex the nonprofit industrial complex basically results in such a way where employees have been facing a legacy of exploitation and that shows up in very different ways but what I discovered as a union worker and as a union leader was that once we developed a way to organize collectively and talk about our issues within the organization we were actually directly holding the organization accountable and directly combating this issue of the nonprofit industrial complex so to me and I would say to to the broader progressive union workers union at this point you organizations like the Sierra Club and building our collective voice and action around not just workers rights but economic justice social justice racial justice issues is really about making progressive organizations practice what they preach and therefore strengthening movements from within interesting so it is correct for me to infer from what you say that your goals are both the economic advancement of the employee faced with what management's typically do but also that you're part of a broader social movement and feel that as intrinsic to your unionization absolutely I mean we have to do that right for example I think when IOC came into office one of the first thing first articles I saw was that she was trying to pay for her interns right and that's actually one of the first things our members fought for a few years ago was Sierra Club had been trying for a long time many staff had been trying to get their interns paid but that's not traditionally something that nonprofits do but in the past few years we were able to successfully through the union's efforts push for paid internships and now every intern that is at the Sierra Club has a paid internship right so the reason I ask is that there's a long legacy in the American labor movement for sure of a split between those who think the Union should be focused just on improving the conditions for its members on the job and those who believe that that tasks improving your members situation requires you to be part of a larger social movement in other words the experience of workers on the job is shaped not just by the job but by the largest Society are you making a choice is the PW you committed in this controversy if you like which way to go hmm I'm wondering if you could rephrase okay how important is the broader social activity for PW U is it intrinsic to what you're trying to do are you as committed to participating in the broader social movements as the immediacy of your own workers situation yes and I can offer a few examples of why I think that we aren't just related to movements that are on around anti-sexism around we are a part of those movements some examples I can offer so I told you earlier about how our union changed its name from john muir a local to progressive workers union this happened a few years ago when our leaders basically we came together and demanded of our membership who are we what do we represent who do we represent and what we came together was that we stand absolutely for anti-racist initiatives and we stand for any movement that is striving towards equity and justice we stand against anything that impacts our members whether that's ableism sexism racism homophobia transphobia you know that all of these issues impact our members and so we are whole people just because we work at an environmental nonprofit that has one mission doesn't change how we exist on a day to day basis and so I think the way that we function as a union is we're talking about our day to day lives and that what we live and do day to day should be or lived reality of how we do our work as well yeah it's interesting because if you go back a few decades in American history it was almost common sensical say not that far back 50s and 60s even and certainly even before for unions to think of themselves as the leaders of a broad social movement wanting to be seen that way and understanding that if the Union was in the forefront of broad social issues it would bring more people in touch with the Union and build its memberships too so there was no contradiction okay I noticed in one of our earlier conversations you made a distinction between an organizing model of unionism and a service model could you tell a little bit about that and where the PW you puts its emphasis yeah absolutely so a service model of a union right is one where you're not really very engaged within your union structure you know you might have an issue so you might contact someone that you think might be involved with the union you might contact the leader and then there's some sort of leadership structure that deals with management and there's some sort of a response what we've built especially especially in the last three or four years is what I would say an organizing model and an organizing model is one where for example we've built a steward program that is constantly changing with our members input so we have head stewards we have stewards as well and every member and steward is required not only to communicate when there's an issue it's really about having more of a transform transformational relationship than simply a transactional one where there's an expectation out of some hierarchical structure that something will happen something that I constantly say on our member calls our PW member calls is you know I'm not the Union Neha Matthew is not the Union we are the Union and anywhere where we're operating we have to think about what we have as our collective voice our collective action and what does that look like I also think another part of the organizing you know or an organizing union is one where we have specifically realized the importance of centering impacted the most impact the most marginalized identities so you know if I can point to our logo our logo is really of to people of color hands join together that doesn't mean that we don't have folks that identify as not people of color actually I would say we're majority white but the reality is that we have put realized the importance of when you bring up the most marginalized folks in any situation what that results in is bringing up not just the unionized folks our bargaining ended up resulting in impacting just those that were unionized non-represented folks as well as management let me ask you if your sense is that nonprofits present some special problems in other words you're focusing on nonprofit employees my gut reaction from my own experience working in nonprofits which I've done is that you have a problem because there's this ethos as it's almost this ideology that we're all in the nonprofit business we're all here about doing good and we shouldn't have a problem between management and labor because we are all nice people doing good and what that does is kind of make the Union push it out in a in an unusual way have you found this and what are you doing about it yeah I think it's I think it's this idea that there is no gray right we always want to claim that we're the good guys don't you know don't come after us because we're the good guys we're trying to save the environment we care about all these issues but I think that's where so much of our efforts have really brought the organization to accountability so last December we actually both the unions pushed Sierra Club to come out in support of organizers at the Tesla factory in Buffalo who were trying to organize to unionize and we were able to come out in support of these workers who are trying to unionize at a Tesla factory I think the overall message there that we're putting forward also because our membership represents organizers community organizers campaigners that are based across the country communications professionals we really understand what's happening in community and it's it's not just about shutting down plants and moving towards clean energy that's not it it is about people it's about changing and transforming our economy about paying attention to what that results in for whole communities and so to be able to bring out that voice I think finally through the Union we're actually able to live this talk about being a organization being a grassroots based organization right we're actually able to do that because we have a voice sitting across the table from from management I also like the idea that the workers at Sierra Club are beginning to shape what Sierra Club is because after all that's what being a democratic organization should have meant all along I wish we had more time but I want to thank you and I want to say something to our audience the labor movement and larger broader social movements went their separate ways over the last 50 years on many occasions not all but many and that came out of a lot of political struggles and it was a service to the people who run this society that that was a split it's now coming back together again thanks to a new generation of labor activists and leaders such as they are and I want to be the first to welcome that development and to look forward to the reunification of the labor movement and other social movements to change the direction of this society thank you all for watching and I look forward to being with you again next week

Reader Comments

  1. Christianity survived the collapse of the Roman empire because it was the only institution that was remotely functioning. People have left the churches because they have become commodified drones. They will not pick up Marxism. They can barely pick up
    a reality of any kind anymore. Christianity may not make it, but don't bet on the Third International.
    I identify as a Trades Unionist and Christian. Don't cry Wolf to me.

  2. Sure religious organizations don't pay taxes but do they utilize infrastructure or use public services? Not really, do they? Their members do, yes. But they, presumably, do pay taxes on personal income.

    I appreciate what you're getting at, but kind of a weak argument, imo.

  3. Sierra club is a group for the rich to feel good to donate to. It's not a solution… just like greenpeace, they fight without offering solutions.
    Non profits are pieces of crap… TOP HEAVY, just like any other corporation. Non profit just means theres no income that goes to shareholders. Overpaid executives are not counted as "profit"

  4. 2:39
    I had to laugh at this.
    Of all the subsidies by government, he singles out this one?
    Many religious organizations help the community unlike others that are purely a drain on society

  5. Prof. Wolff has been giving a subtle message nobody has picked up on. He does not wear a tie. This is symbolism for a break from slavery. Debt slavery that is.

  6. Regarding the members of Church organizations. Each member and or including the clergy are already paying for all the services you described. And on top of that the Church is providing services like worship, marriage counseling, drug counseling and just about any type of counseling under the sun for free, Including food and in some cases shelter. And I think the Church is doing a better job of providing these services than the govt.

  7. Love the channel. But get rid of the annoying intro song. No need to copy the annoying style of corporate news intros. I would hope a socialist society would take into account peoples' need for peace and good music, as opposed to the crap commercial music that the capitalist system pushes on us.

  8. Great news on the drop in religious membership!!

    Why is it expensive to produce in the US? Because its less profits for the masters. Expensive production is the masters' excuse, isn't it? Sorry that's not a sufficient reason to NOT produce here. I thought Prof Wolff wanted to change the system not prop up the status quo. We must push regionalism in coordination with other nations otherwise ain't no change acomin'

  9. 18 dislikes… 11 of them are republicans 6 are neo liberals and 1 sneezed and hit the dislike button by accident

  10. For those still on the fence about religion, namely Yaweh based religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), turn the the book "Yaweh, The Two Faced God", by Joseph Farrell. For most, what was at first a nagging uncertainty, is now a certainty.

  11. Thank you DaW. I know the world is more bad than it is good, but I can't keep on listening the know-all pessimistic leftists. This is a refreshing reminder that people all around are fighting and that there is still hope!

  12. Unions are dangerous traps – Already in the beginning 20th century. Now more then ever.

  13. Folks fighting for this society of socialism or Marxism,what if some don't want it? Are they considered enemies and evil?

  14. I've always been curious, who are the "marginalized " and why should they have rule or say so, above all others?

  15. Intersectionality will never win or work. Because it's never enough, never pure enough, you'll fight your own.

  16. Mr Wolff, isn’t there a reason why producing is cheaper in other countries? Is this not capitalist imperialism? Wouldn’t it be preferable to buy US-made products, if only to prevent the greater exploitation of workers in poor countries? One of the main reasons it costs more to produce in the US, is because we have some basic labor rights like minimum wage…limiting imperialism (even if this is not Trump’s intention) doesn’t need to be equated with economic nationalism

  17. The simple root of all of our problems political and financial is this . . . accumulated wealth. The oligarchs will obscure this fact in shrouds of propaganda fog, yet there it is. It is time for us to place a hard limit on wealth accumulation, a wealth and ownership cap. No reform, not $15/hr, not medicare for all, not even Social Security, can survive the onslaught of wealth power pitted against these reforms. So we must remove the tools of power from the oligarchs by getting rid of them. Cap everyone's wealth at a set limit, failure to do this will cost us our future as we go extinct from the excesses of the oligarchy.

  18. NEW LABOR MOVEMENT – ALWAYS GOOD NEWS ! In this era of the destruction of the NEW DEAL. God bless FDR.

  19. Prof. Wolff, I frequently have heard you say that if employers threaten to leave somewhere because it becomes "too expensive" to do business, that the workers should rise up, take the factory, and start a co-op. I am thus surprised to hear you say that if Toyota were to threaten to leave the US, that this would be a problem. What would prevent the workers from taking over the formerly Toyota factory, and starting a co-op instead? Thank you so much for your updates.

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