Quite recently, the economicsystem changed to capitalism Capitalism went hand in hand with the industrial revolution. When did it start in England?
Quite recently, the economicsystem changed to capitalism Capitalism went hand in hand with the industrial revolution. When did it start in England? About 1760.
We had feudalism much longerthan we have had capitalism But in the 1800’s with the industrial revolution which began in England, factory production became concentrated in cities and peasants became workers Today, this process continues in countries like China The exploitation of factory workers is common to both eras And in response to exploitation, workers band together to fight for their common interests
Capitalism ‘in the raw’ Workers came from the countryside into the cities to find work
Factory owners found women andchildren were cheaper than men
Characteristics of factory workin mid-1800s in England Hours were incredibly long, 6 days a week and 12 hours a day in mines, for example Pay was pitifully low There were no vacations, paid holidays It was incredibly dangerous and caused much occupational disease
It was no surprise that workersorganized to fight back to try toimprove their working conditions Women match workers developed bone cancer in their jaws from phosphorus matches and formed a union in to fight for improvements
On the continent, revolution was in theair in 1848, as workers fought back
In Germany and 50 other countries,including in Latin America, 1848
Worker uprisings led to improved laws Factories Acts prohibiting child labour, requiring safeguarding of machinery, government inspections Education Laws requiring school attendance for 5 to 10 year olds Laws regulating hours of work, requiring days off In Germany, by 1889, to stave off the fight for socialism, Bismarck brought the workers’ compensation system, health and disability insurance and old-age pensions
Russia, 1905 St. Petersburg uprisings led by workers
Russian Revolution of 1917Once again, workers fought back
Workers and unions in othercountries have also had majoreffects on the political system Poland 1980, strike at Gdansk shipyards led by the Solidarity trade union and Lech Walesa
Led to downfall of Polishgovernment by 1989 andultimately the collapse of theSoviet Union and the Eastern Bloc
Unions have lobbied for, and achievedimprovements for all workers The weekend Paid vacations and holidays Restrictions on excessive hours of work and overtime pay Equal pay for work of equal value for women Occupational health and safety laws Workers’ compensation laws Pensions for retired workers Maternity and parental leave Unemployment insurance Civil rights and human rights laws
But today, however,Globalization sets the context Privatization De-regulation Free trade WTO 1995 Unfettered capitalism
South Africa ended apartheid Were it not for the unions, the strikes and the stay- aways, would apartheid have ended? Nelson Mandela, 1953: We “should fight unreservedly for the recognition of African trade unions and the realization of the principle that everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”
South Africa ended apartheid May 1, 1986 1.5 million black workers stayed away from work 1990 Nelson Mandela released from prison 1994 apartheid finally ended with the election of the ANC
Brazil, well known for strikers Can you name some?
In 2010 18 Foxconn workerscommitted suicide Young men and women in their early twenties
Southern Weekly undercoverreport Story picked up by rest of media in China and reports were closely followed
Shocked the nation People were glued to their television sets and newspapers Foxconn was roundly condemned and many did not attribute the ‘blood and sweat’ shop conditions to Foxconn alone, but abhorred the conditions in so many factories
Foxconn’s response? Put up anti-suicide nets on the dormitories
Workers finally got a 30% -70% wage increase Not because of the effort of the union in the workplaces because it was a fake union run by relatives of managers; it was public pressure Not only product knock-offs are fakes
But most workers don’t despair,they fight back Honda auto parts plants workers organized in the summer of 2010 They had been working alongside Japanese workers paid many times (50X) what they received
So they organized and struckfor change & improvements
Premier Wen Jiabao Urged better treatment for the nations vast army of migrant labourers. “Rural migrant workers are the main army of the contemporary Chinese industrial workforce. Our wealth and our tall buildings are all distillations of your hard work and sweat,” Wen told a group of migrant workers in Beijing, the Peoples Daily reported the following day. Wen was the first high ranking official to comment publicly about strikes and the current labour situation. At the end of the meeting, which got top billing on national TV, he said, “The government and all parts of society should treat young migrant workers as they would treat their own children.”
The first Honda partsworkers won 24% wageincrease Strikes spread to other Honda parts plants and they won 45% increase
In some cases, the “union”roughed up the workers As Chair of the Guangzhou Trade Union said to us, “These are fake unions”.
And the strikes spreadelsewhere E.g. Tianjin Mitsumi Electric workers
In Guangdong Province alone There were 90 work stoppages to demand wage increases mainly in joint ventures or auto parts and electronics industries of the Pearl River Delta (near Hong Kong)
Quit with pay, says Foxconn Mayor of Wuhan talked them out of committing suicide on the following day But when they quit, no pay was forthcoming
Support for strikes? Why now? Wages have fallen from 17% of total economic output in 1980 to 11% in 2008, creating resentment among workers who feel they are owed a bigger share of China’s new wealth. At the same time there are many more wealthy people. The gap between rich and poor is as much as the U.S.
Do we all feel we deserve fairtreatment? Of course And of course workers do too Our societies are democratic with the choice of leadership up to the voters In our homes we decide what to eat, what time to go to bed, what we want to watch on television, what car we want to drive But in the workplace, the employer decides…..
Workplace employers decide Everything, unless their power is eroded by labour laws or by the existence of a union
Workplace employers decide When we arrive at work and when we leave What we do when we are at work If/when we have rest breaks and meal breaks Penalties for violations of any workplace rules that the employer has set Who gets promoted and who does not Who works and who is laid off Who is fired and for what reason
Workplace employers decide How fast we work How much we get paid for our work and how often What our pension is How much vacation we get and how much money we will be paid for vacation Whether we have benefits such as a dental plan
Workplace employers decide If we will be looked after if we are hurt at work Whether we may return to work after an injury What safety precautions are taken to ensure we don’t get hurt What chemicals or other substances are used in the workplace that may harm our health
In short The workplace in a capitalist society is a very undemocratic place So….how can things be changed to erode employers power and give some to workers? The answer is labour laws and organizing a trade union
It’s usually a sense of injustice,unfair treatment or being wronged That brings a union to a workplace Sometimes it’s when people had something that was taken away such as a vacation or pension provision Sometimes it’s seeing a popular person or an older person getting laid off or fired Sometimes it’s when a relative or friend of the employer is promoted while others with no connections are left behind
It’s often poor working conditionsand an unsafe workplace that leadworkers to unions It can be a too fast pace of work in a manufacturing facility It can be plates that are too heavy to lift in a fancy restaurant It can be dangerous chemicals causing illness It can be noise making people deaf It can be dirt, danger and an uncaring attitude by the employer
In order to organize a union in aworkplace in Canada Workers usually contact a union in secret A majority of workers have to sign up into the union by signing a card and paying an initiation fee When a majority has signed, the union applies to the labour relations board for a vote If a majority of workers vote in favour of the union, the union is certified by the government But…..
Employers often Threaten to fire people who join a union And sometimes they do, even though it is illegal Threaten workplace closure if workers vote in the union And occasionally they do (e.g. Wal-Mart, Jonqiere) But in most cases, workers succeed despite employer threats and intimidation
Once organized, the union Works to get a collective agreement at the workplace The collective agreement gives workers: collective rights to fair pay, standard vacations and holidays, benefits, seniority for layoffs and recalls as well as promotions, rights of fair treatment, occupational health and safety rights, rights to return to work if injured, and a grievance procedure to deal with individual complaints of unfair treatment
Unionized workplaces are Safer and healthier Fairer, a place where workers have a sense of dignity and respect
Unionized workplaces have Better pay Longer vacations Pension plans and better pension plans Medical plans (extended health benefits for prescription drugs and extra health treatment) Dental plan
Questions and myths about unions Why are people are forced to join unions and pay dues? We pay taxes to our governments to provide services. When a union is certified in a workplace, the union is legally obliged to represent all workers, whether they are members or not. As a result, all workers must pay dues.
Questions and myths about unions Why are unions only interested in money? In fact, most labour disputes are about much more than pay raises but the media usually only reports the monetary demands
Questions and myths about unions Why do unions go on strike all the time? In fact, collective agreements are settled 95% of the time with no strike.
Questions and myths about unions Unions are too big and powerful In fact, unions are far weaker than corporations. That’s the nature of capitalism. Employers and senior managers continue to see their incomes escalate, especially over the last 30 years, while wages, even for unionized workers have seen little growth. Non-union wages have fallen behind. Corporations continue to receive government tax-breaks and hand-outs.
Questions and myths about unions Haven’t unions outlived their usefulness? Employers, government and the media continue to harp on this theme. But workers in our society still suffer injustice and still suffer mistreatment.
Questions and myths about unions Don’t high wage demands by unions lose jobs in our country? Unions and workers will never win the ‘race to the bottom’. There will always be workers in some other country or part of the country making less. In practice, large corporations make enormous profits by locating in low wage areas. But they still would make fair profits by staying here.
Questions and myths about unions Supporting workers’ rights to achieve higher wages in poor wage areas in our country and in every country will help all workers to improve their standard of living. We need fair trade laws, not ‘free’ trade for corporations to locate wherever they like. Domestic consumption and domestic production make sense, especially when energy for transportation becomes scarcer and environmental consequences are so harmful for energy production.
Why Unions? When people feel a sense of powerlessness or helplessness on their jobs or in their workplaces, many form unions to help resolve their problems.
Small Group Work There will be three groups doing different activities Read through the exercise together and answer the questions in your group. If there’s time, we’ll report back to the whole group.