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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Obama and labor

I'm busy writing a book on Obama. Don't get your hopes up too high: I may not finish. Roughly 153 other half-finished books lurk within the bowels of my various hard drives. The long form is tough; that's why I segued into blogging.

While researching Obama's changing stances on NAFTA and free trade, I discovered that this month marks an important anniversary. In June of 2010, in the small Mexican mining town of Cananea -- just 30 miles south of Arizona -- the independent union los Mineros led a strike against a transnational copper mining company. Mexican President Felipe Calderón was determined to break the strike.

No-one would ever characterize him as friendly to labor. His party, the PAN, had tried very hard to make all strikes illegal in Mexico.

Usually, large corporations south of the border use "protection unions" to quash troublemakers. These "unions" are supposed to represent the workers, but they're actually controlled by the bosses, and they do everything possible to keep pay beneath the inflation rate. When necessary, they use violence to bring the obstreperous into line.

In recent times, the protection union system has begun to falter. At an automotive interiors plant in Puebla -- run by the Wisconsin-based mega-firm Johnson Controls -- the protection union thugs could not prevent a major strike, even when they threatened strike leaders at gunpoint. The company had no choice but to cut a deal with a genuine union -- Los Mineros. Previously, the new hires at the plant made all of seven bucks a day, working 60 or more hours a week in a plant reeking of toxins. (And rents aren't so very cheap in that town. Look 'em up.) I don't know how much they are making now.

On June 6, Calderón decided that the situation in Cananea was getting out of hand. He didn't want a repeat of the Puebla stand-off, and he knew that the protection unions had lost some of their power to intimidate. So he called in the military. Roughly 2000 federal troops (some estimates go much higher) descended on the small town. There was an armada of helicopters and military vehicles. Mass violence ensued, and the entire town was tear gassed -- men, women and children.

Here's the thing: A lot of people watching the situation knew in advance that something nasty was about to go down. Two weeks before the attack, Calderón visited the White House, where he was honored with a state dinner. On that occasion, representatives from the AFL-CIO and other labor unions rushed to the White House, hoping to speak to Obama. They didn't get through. The labor leaders told Obama's people about the impending violence in Cananea, and they begged Obama to keep a leash on the Mexican president.

Don't worry, said the White House staffers. We'll make sure your message gets through. We're on your side. We're your friends.

You know what happened next.

Did Obama condemn Calderón's resort to military force against his own people? No. At least, I've not been able to find any mention of the event -- laudatory, condemnatory, or neutral -- in any official statement.

In fact, the major America media refused to consider this act of mass violence newsworthy. Most of you are learning about it for the first time right here and now.

Imagine the outraged commentary we'd hear if such a confrontation occurred in Venezuela or in some other nation that the Washington elite dislikes. Imagine the nonstop teevee coverage if the year were 1985 and the tear-gassed strikers were Polish.

(Come to think of it, those Mexican "protection unions" sound an awful lot like the fake workers' unions that used to be common in the East bloc.)

The polling is consistent: The majority of Mexicans despise NAFTA, which has destroyed the middle class in that country. The majority of Canadians want the treaty renegotiated. The majority of Americans think that NAFTA has helped to destroy American jobs. The common people in all three nations understand that NAFTA was never a trade agreement -- it's an outsourcing agreement. It's a treaty designed to keep wages on an ever-downward spiral. It's also a treaty designed to wrest control of natural resources away from elected officials.

If the people do not want NAFTA, why is the thing still there?

Wasn't Obama supposed to be the anti-NAFTA guy?

Last question: If (as the tea partiers continually bray) Obama is in the clutches of Big Labor, then why doesn't the guy ever do anything for labor?
Because they don't want anything from him, at least not now. But when big labor does want something like, say social security reform, obama will jump right on it.

"(Come to think of it, those Mexican "protection unions" sound an awful lot like the fake workers' unions that used to be common in the East bloc.)"
-> Only,
You (in this case) OMIT to consider some "minor" fact :
namely, that the Commune (="east bloc") WAS(and always, until generalised, IS) under the SIEGE of the bourgeois (capitalism, as described by You)
- In order to overcome -globally- that siege humanity finds itself under- HAS tactically TO obey to some necessities dictated by the globally still ruling class..-
So, generally what goes on INSIDE any beleagered entity, is under control of the outside, the beleaguering, the enemy (=capitalism, burgeois).
I.e. : dividing the besieged.
What, to the scientifically unarmed eye,
at all the "evidence" looks like being the same, not always IS the same.
Those are the limitations of common -metaphisical "philosofy".
Namely : to take objects, observations, out of their original (historical) context in order to analise them,
BUT - then- "neglects" to put those observations BACK into that (historic) context,
allowing itself the liberty and forces those observations in a ideological, phantastical way (equalising the unequal)
NOT putting the observations back into that original real (historic) context but going on by insinuating any sorts of "conclusions" based on that purely imaginised "reality".
(This "operation" is what common ignorance and PROPAGANDA have in common- the latter for obvious interests, which I know You are opposed to).
Anybody acting that way in natural science or the industrial process would get fired immediately for producing junk.
(its when the wheel of a car turns up on the backseat.-F.ex.)
In politics, individually and socially, this "method" leads to more desastrous results.(Tags : Madness; destruction;)
You see, I came to think of it ...
Could someone please translate what Anonymous@1:50 said?
As to the labor unions being crushed in Mexico, looks like Obama pushed the Present button again.
How will the Kosholes defend him this time?
"Could someone please translate what Anonymous@1:50 said?"

To cut a long story short, Anon doesnt think the Mexican "protection unions" sounds like the fake workers unions that used to exist in the Eastern Block. Anon makes a very good argument for why you cant compare the two cos of different contexts, and also says something quite cool about the responsibility for what happens within a place under siege is the responsibility of the besiegers - I imagine Gaza is quite a good example.

I happen to disagree re the specific case of East Block Unions, but the general point seems very well made. And also the specific analogy with Mexican protection unions does seems poor. At the very least, cos Russian unions didnt generally need to involve themselves in violence.

Funny how this Calderon guy can't take out a union but can't put a dent in the drug cartels running amok in Mexico.
Anonymous@1:50 here
-> Given that capitalism and Socialism are reciprocately exclusive methods of production,
given, that workers unions are at the same time adverse and necessary to capital in a capitalist "societiy".
What constitutes the nature of a socialist society ?
The workers have taken back (from the bourgeois) the formerly stolen (alienated) results (products)
of their own work.
No more struggle over "fair share" etc.
Doesn't that change the nature of workers unions inside socialism at all ?
Historically,(to all the EVIDENCE)
Socialism has never been able to prove itself a superior (vs. capitalism) production method.(not quite true, but given)
Why ?
Because historically -up to this very moment-
the capitalists and the people are STILL struggeling over control.
Total control of the capitalist would be fascism (as many here, I guess will agree)
Total control over the means of production through and by the producers would be communism (THE human society).
Workers unions in a socialist WORLD would be not (in the same way) opposed to their own social society but just reactionary, tools of the bourgeois.
Workers unions in a just "one country" -commune, "east-bloc"- are workers unions in a society
under siege (of the bourgeois still surpressing their "own" working class in the rest of the world).
Any "workers union" in a socialist entity opposing that entity would be a REAL fake union, from the point of view of that socialist entity, cause sabotaging it in its struggle to reign in the dictating capital (outside).
Denouncing the REAL workers unions in a socialist country by equalising -via comparing- them with REAL FAKE YELLOW "workers union" of the Rockefellarian kind
can by now means be a workable way of supporting any struggling
REAL workers unions anywhere in this world.
Meta(-)physic philosofy is the RIGHT wrong tool in order to arive at such false conclusions as to MAKE equal the uncomparable.
(As already laid out, albeit rudimentary).
Can't put it any shorter, sorry.
The problem with NAFTA isn't our trade relationship with Canada which is a country with similar wages and prices, it is with Mexico. A 1957 paper by none other than Milton Friedman talks about how disruptive wage and price corrections are when two countries trade when prices and wages are extremely dissimilar. It's one of the reasons that the EU and other currency and trade arrangements formed the Maastricht criteria. Certain key economic variables need to be very close (inflation rates, GDP growth rates, etc.) in order for countries not to experience incredible wage/price adjustments. So NAFTA without Mexico makes sense. The problem the EU is having with Greece right now is that Greece lied about its data and took on way too much debt to finance the Olympics (with the aid of Goldman Sachs I might add). The deal with these agreements is that in order for them not to be disruptive, the communities have to be very similar. The GCC, ASEAN, and other currency communities are taking years to get to that point. I have no idea why the US thought the could bring in Mexico and not have these problems. Like I said, it's exactly what Milton Friedman predicted in 1957 which is the theoretical basis for the Maastricht critera.
I went to my union's website. There is no mention of this that I could find. I have the feeling that they will endorse Obama as the lesser of two ...
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