WORKERS, CONSUMERS, VOTERS AND POWER

#workers #consumers #voters #power #RobertReich
As a worker, consumer and voter, do you feel powerless?
Do you feel that the world favors those with more than you, and tramples you because you might be in their way?
Robert Reich, the former U.S. secretary of labor and current professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley – and a frequent commentator on TV news programs — discussed this in a May 3, 2015, column in the San Francisco Chronicle.
“A large part of the reason” that people feel their voices don’t count, “is we have fewer choices than we used to have,” Reich writes. “In almost every area of our lives, it’s now take it, or leave it,” he continues.
Companies are treating workers as disposable cogs, and most working people have no choice, he says. The once-powerful private-sector unions have lost much of their clout, he adds.
As consumers, we find that as companies merge and deliberately create fewer choices, we pay the price. “U.S. airlines, for example, have consolidated into a handful of giant carriers that divide up route and collude on fares,” Reich writes. In 2005, there were nine major airlines. Now, there are four, he adds.
Even in the political arena, there is less competition because so many districts have been gerrymandered to be safe for the incumbent – or at least the incumbent’s political party. “(More than) 85 percent of congressional districts are considered ‘safe’ for their incumbents in the 2016 election,” Reich says.
What’s the average person to do? Certainly circumstances have occurred that are beyond the average person’s control. But there is also good news: the average person can take advantage, if he so chooses, of ways to combat the apparent lack of choice.
As consumers, we can, as individuals, adjust our behavior to fight the put-up or shut-up attitudes of the companies that serve us. Using the example of airlines, there isn’t much an individual can do about delays, whether they be caused by a mechanical problem, weather or some other issue. No one would want to fly unsafely just to get to a destination sooner.
But, as an example, to combat the big airlines’ recent policy of charging a fee to check a bag, we can learn to pack more carefully, so that everything fits into smaller luggage that can be carried on the plane. On full flights, if people come prepared to carry on their luggage, airlines will ask that some of the suitcases and other items be checked. Then, they cannot charge you.
As voters, we can vote defensively, if we don’t like the ideology of the candidates most likely to win. How? If your state laws allow, vote in the primary of the political party whose ideology is generally opposite yours. Find the candidate(s) with records of statesmanship, i.e. working with the other party to get things done. Vote for those candidates, even if they would not be your choice in a general election. Negotiation and compromise are the essence of governing. The problem in politics, regardless of one’s political beliefs, is too much ideology and not enough statesmanship.
Finally, as workers, we need not to think of a job as the only way to make an income. There are many other ways out there with which people, regardless of education, background or skills, can earn substantial income without having to put up with an employer’s whim. For one of the best, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau
As for unions, they did wonders for workers and the middle class many decades ago. However, today’s global business world requires companies to have extreme flexibility and efficiency. Unions decrease both of those things, but years ago, productivity gains and other business progress occurred much more slowly. It’s best to presume that no matter what your job, and no matter how good you are at it, it will probably go away before you want it to.
In conclusion, Reich is largely correct about the state of the world, and our place in it. But, just as circumstances we can’t control can hurt us, the world has provided more options for those who choose not to tolerate those circumstances, and want to make their lives much better.
Peter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *