Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

A six-part series by Laurence Peterson documenting an example of downward mobility in Post-Meltdown America

Part 5: Yuletide Epiphanies

The author experiences a mildly excruciating revelation regarding his employer’s client’s attitude towards him

Toward the latter part of last year, conditions for most CDS advisors took a turn for the worse. Marc had left, and was replaced by Ashley, who had worked alongside us as a senior advisor for a long time. This move was very popular with just about all of us, especially inasmuch as CDS practice tended towards bringing in someone from outside via the corporate office when there was a management change. I really liked Ashley: she was always respectful and eager to help every one of us, and seemed more likely to take our side in the state of permanent war with Costco management than Marc had been. For a few months things went better than they ever had done in my time with CDS. (more…)

This piece of writing is up on the Facebook ‘Save the Fire Service’ page and begins with ‘”Sent to us at STUKFS, powerful and emotional story from a firefighter who attended Grenfell Tower” (STUKFS is Save the UK Fire Service); we’ve corrected a few typos and put in a number of paragraph spaces.

I’m not sure if this is something that I should vocalise or whether or not it should be shared with the world but as I sit at home thinking about the other night the Grenfell Tower I feel like people might want to know how the incident went from the point of view of a firefighter who was sent inside, while the tower burned all around us and how after years of cuts to the service I work for, how I feel about what we do and how the past few years have been for us.

I’ve always been very proud of the job my colleagues and I do week in week out as part of the fire service. At times its hard, at others not so much but the uncertainty of what might happen is always there.

We are a funny bunch, we like to laugh to play jokes on each other, sometimes we are silent and won’t tell you what we are thinking about.  We laugh off the good-natured banter directed at us from outside the service and mostly manage to do the same with the insults we get as a public service, even when it’s not always easy to do so.

It is especially hard to think about those insults during times like this. When I think about all the occasions I’ve heard and seen on the news or social media where people are calling us lazy or greedy because we dared to show anger at the 1% pay rise we’ve had imposed year after year. While MPs sit in Westminster drinking and eating in a subsidised bars and restaurants while they make £100+ a hour all on the tax payers money, getting a 11% pay rise and increased pensions to go with it.

When people think we have some sort of golden-plated, over-generous pensions. Ignorant to the fact that we pay over 12% of our wages into it every month.  That’s £300/£400 a month, every month! That we are worse off now than we were 7 years ago.

And we weren’t (more…)

In New Zealand, the trend of educational institutions has been to out-source cleaning, leading to a decline in the pay and conditions of cleaners, ‘invisible’ workers without whom tertiary education institutions could not function!  In London, however, an important victory has been won by cleaners at the London School of Economics.  This victory shows what can be achieved by ‘precarious’ workers when they decide to fight and have a union which is focused on serious struggle.  The union is called United Voices of the World and consists almost entirely of migrant workers, especially from Latin America.  UVW recruits its members mainly in the low-pay and outsourced London economy – cleaners, porters, construction, childcare workers, people working in customer service and security, etc.

The following statement was released by the union on June 10:

UVW is proud to announce that the LSE cleaners will be BROUGHT IN-HOUSE and become employees of the LSE from Spring 2018! This will ensure they get, among other things, 41 days annual leave, 6 months full pay sick pay and 6 months half pay sick pay, plus proper employer pension contributions of up to 13% of their salary.

This is the most significant victory for any group of workers in UK higher education today, and will hopefully set a precedent to follow for other degraded, outsourced workers across the country.

This announcement comes on the back of an awe-inspiring 10-month battle for (more…)

A six-part series by Laurence Peterson documenting an example of downward mobility in Post-Meltdown America

Part 4: Characters

Surveying the Costco Avon Habitus

George was a diminutive 70-year-old who was known as “Tweety Bird” for his resemblance to the Disney character and the way he moved, with an outsized bald head and rapid, back-and forth lateral swaying gait. He came in every day, just about, and often twice or more. He employed two greetings, and two greetings only, directed both at old timers and newcomers at CDS: on some days, he’d growl “I’m taking what I want and I don’t give a fuck!”; on others, he would remark that every day was a beautiful day that we should all be grateful for.

Once an advisor had been at CDS for a little while, George would generally stop for a while and regale the chained advisor with the story of his children, both of whom, he claimed, had died in a clinical sense and had been revived thanks to divine intervention. He would then offer the advisor the chance to read a religious tract he promised to bring next visit, an offer which was, in my experience, without exception declined. George would then employ a strictly businesslike demeanour toward the new advisor for a while, defaulting pretty much to observance of the disjunctive greeting solely.

After a while he would chat a bit, but only about the most banal topics, and only very briefly. One exceptionally slow afternoon, I saw George propelling toward me and was so desirous of meaningful human contact that I tried my best to get him to stay and talk to me for a while. But he would have none of it; and as he hustled away I was sorely tempted to shout after him “GEORGE, THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN JESUS BRINGING YOUR DAMN KIDS BACK FROM THE DEAD! But I held my fire and retreated into the usual, post-encounter stupor.

Sorrowful post-industrial

He of the Sorrowful Countenance came in regularly, but not nearly as often as George, maybe twice a month. He either walked with a cane and heavy limp, or, much more frequently, used a motor cart provided by Costco for elderly or infirm shoppers, of which there were proportionately very high numbers of in the Avon store. Avon is wedged between Brockton (and the Costco store is just over the Avon border), where I live with my mother (whose family have been here since colonial times), a truly benighted, impoverished and violent post-industrial city whose chief legal industry appears to be storefront churches, all too many of which sport an altogether delusional affiliation with the prosperity gospel (“Winners City Church;” “The Church of God, Inc.”), and Randolph, which is popular as a retirement community; and between the two towns, along with Avon and Stoughton, already mentioned, residents are either too poor to buy much of anything or, in the case of the elderly, too infirm to take much out of the big box store, other than meds: hence the popularity of the chemist’s shop, whose sales (funded largely by government-subsidised Medicare and Medicaid), along with those of the off-licence, pretty much keep the whole store somehow ticking-over. (more…)

Regina Elsea and her fiance

by The Spark

Regina Elsea was killed last year when the robot she was trying to repair suddenly moved and crushed her. She was working for Ajin USA, a car parts company, earning $8.50 an hour.

Chambers County, where the company was located, offered tax breaks and other financial aid to companies to locate there. Encouraged by such free taxpayer-backed money, car companies, with their high-tech robots and technologies, started to move to the region. People were hired, but most of the wages remained very low. In addition, much of the work was supplied through staffing agencies and was temporary.

Elsea was not an Ajin employee. She was employed through a (more…)

imagesby Michael Roberts

I have written many posts on the level and changes in inequality of wealth and incomes,1 both globally and within countries. There has been a ‘wealth’ of empirical studies showing rising inequality in incomes and wealth in most capitalist economies in the last century.2

There have also been various theoretical explanations provided for this change. The most famous is by Thomas Piketty in his magisterial book, Capital in the 21st century (Harvard 2014). This book won the award for the ‘most bought, least read’ book in 2014, surpassing A brief history of time by scientist Stephen Hawking (London 1989).

I and others have discussed the merits and faults of Piketty’s work extensively.3 Suffice it to say that, although Piketty repeats the title of Marx’s book, published exactly 150 years ago, he dismisses Marx’s analysis of capitalism based on the law of value and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, and adopts the mainstream theories of marginal productivity and/or market ‘imperfections’ like ‘rent-seeking’. This leads to the view that capitalism could be ‘reformed’ and inequality reduced by such measures as a global financial tax or progressive inheritance taxes – or more recently a universal basic income (Piketty is now advising French socialist presidential candidate Benoît Hamon on this).

Inequality remains the buzz word of liberal and leftist debate and analysis,4 not (more…)

unnamedby Don Franks

(dedicated with respect to Pike River miners and their families)

On Mayday, get your old flag out
unwrap each dusty fold
pour the cold beer, find some young ear
to hear your stories told
how we used to put a blue on
downloadhow we boxed the place up tight
saw the scabs off, held the picket line
stood tall through all the shite
just remember while you party on
until the (more…)