by Peter Olney and Rand Wilson
by Jen Johnson
As a public high school history teacher for 10 years, I organized lesson plans and materials and the arrangement of my classroom. I facilitated thousands of discussions about history with classes of teenagers. I designed projects and guided the students to achieve our goals and get excited about learning and putting in the work.
Yet, somehow, if you asked me if I was an “organizer,” I probably would have said that I wasn’t. “Organizers are the professionals. I’m not a professional organizer!”
Thankfully, my union, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), has tried to change that wrong-headed perception. The CTU works hard to train our members to understand that organizing is grassroots rank-and-file work. There are leaders everywhere if you’re looking for them. Improving our workplaces and the lives of our communities are collective tasks. We can all be organizers, but there is an art and science to learning to practice good labor organizing skills.
Secrets of a Successful Organizer—a new book from Labor Notes, by Alexandra Bradbury, Mark Brenner, and Jane Slaughter—is a perfect primer on the basics of good organizing. Distilled into digestible bites, the book lays out eight main lessons—from how an organizer thinks, to how an organizer maps a work site and designs, carries out and assesses a campaign. (It even includes a brief summary of labor law and related resources.)
Unlike many wordy and inaccessible how-to manuals, Secrets of a Successful Organizer reads more like a conversation with an experienced and patient organizer, guiding you and reassuring you along the way.
You’re encouraged to see that even reading the book can be a collective activity.
“You could read this book alone, but you’ll learn more if you talk each lesson over with a buddy—or better yet, a group of co-workers,” it reads.
The book is designed to make this possible through its organization and content.
Each chapter builds on the previous one to paint a coherent picture of how to build better organizers and organizations, and have successful campaigns. The book’s eight lessons are divided into 47 shorter tips, and nearly each one includes downloadable handouts, specific organizing stories and exercises you can do with co-workers or in trainings.
The perfectionist in me loves the chart handouts. One explains “How the Boss Keeps Us Disorganized.” Another shows how to track tasks during an organizing campaign, along with who is responsible and the deadline for each task. While you’re reading, you might think things like, “Easier said than done!” but no sooner than you have, the book anticipates your concerns and, like a good organizer, inoculates you—giving you reason to hope and telling you a real story to prove the point.
For example, the book profiles Joe Uehlein, an organizer in a Georgia meatpacking plant. He and his colleagues used the escalating tactics of singing, whistling and humming at work to call out a union-busting official every time he walked on the plant floor. Each escalation was a response to the boss trying to shut down an organizing drive with ridiculous new rules. The actions scared the bosses and gave workers confidence in a short period of time, which ultimately allowed them to win a union. Tip #34, “Don’t Let the Boss Trip You Up,” then lays out the main tactics that bosses use (fear, hopelessness, confusion and division) to stop organizing.
Some of the stories are complementary and help organizers not only see the tips come alive, but point out that the workplace context will often dictate what kind of tactics are best.
The section around Tip #25, “Choose an Issue That Builds the Union,” includes the story of Los Angeles hospital workers who organized a campaign after management changed policy to mandate that workers provide a doctor’s note even for a one-day absence. A subset of workers demanded a meeting with management and, when it was held, workers took their 15-minute breaks in rotating fashion to attend the meeting. One set of workers started the meeting, then as workers had to leave when their breaks were over, new sets of workers joined. They were able to keep the meeting going as long as possible and testify as to why the change was bad.
That story contrasts well with that of the Pennsylvania social workers who organized a powerful 15-minute strike by using the flexibility in their work rules to have all social workers take their regular 15-minute breaks at the same time.
This story, contained within Tip #31, “Keep the Boss Off Balance,” is simple and inspiring, but the similarities and differences between it and the story about Los Angeles hospital workers help organizers draw on universal advice and apply it to their unique setting.
Additionally, each of the stories includes reflections, quotes and honest assessments of mistakes and accomplishments from organizers and workers on the ground.
For me, maybe the biggest lesson the book helped to hammer home is that we are often reactive in organizing, but it’s important not only to respond to crises. To be our best possible organizers, we have to proactively and strategically select organizing issues that are the most urgent and important to the broadest set of members.
Whether you’re a labor leader wanting to increase worker or member engagement, a veteran organizer in need of a refresher or a new steward wanting an orientation to best practices,Secrets of a Successful Organizer is a must read.
Buy the book for $15 + shipping here.
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
Jen Johnson was a high school history teacher for 10 years in Chicago, where she was also a union delegate. She is currently a Chicago Teachers Union facilitator for teacher evaluation.
by Arun Gupta
On Friday evening, just before 7 p.m., in a darkened hall in the Richmond Convention Center packed with more than 1,000 low-wage workers and union organizers, Olimpia Barajas-Ames gave the signal.
A mother of one and an organizer with the Child Care Fight for $15 campaign in Las Vegas, Barajas-Ames stood up, holding a sign that read, “$15 minimum wage and union rights for all means organizers too.” That was the tip-off for other union organizers to slap on stickers and don tee shirts indicating they want a union for employees who work on labor organizing projects spearheaded by the 1.9 million-member Service Employees International Union.
To outsiders, it may seem strange that union organizers are demanding a union of their own. But to Barajas-Ames and others who joined in the protest against SEIU, they are as much part of the precarious, low-wage workforce as workers at McDonald’s and Walmart are.
Jodi Lynn Fennell, also an organizer with the Child Care Fight for $15 campaign in Las Vegas, says, “Many SEIU organizers come from low-wage backgrounds. Childcare organizers come from childcare backgrounds. Fast-food organizers come from the fast-food industry. Many home healthcare organizers were once home healthcare aides themselves.”
For months, organizers in SEIU’s Fight for $15 campaign have been working with the Union of Union Representatives to demand representation. Currently, nearly 100 staff at SEIU are unionized under a contract with UUR that began 30 years ago. UUR launched an investigation of SEIU in 2015 and found it was outsourcing the work of its field organizers in violation of the contract. Earlier this year, many of SEIU’s field organizers formed an organizing committee to gain union representation and in April, 15 organizers submitted UUR membership cards.
The action by the Fight for $15 Staff Union Organizing Committee at the convention in Richmond, Virginia, is the latest tactic to pressure SEIU to recognize the union rights of all its organizers. After Barajas-Ames held up the sign for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and a union for organizers, she started walking toward the stage where SEIU president Mary Kay Henry was speaking.
Fennell, who joined, says, “Nearly 100 organizers and supporters gathered, moving up toward the stage peacefully. Our plan was simply to deliver a letter to Mary Kay Henry because she doesn’t make herself available to speak with us.”
Fennell wrote the letter that was to be presented to Henry. Fennell says last February, during a luncheon with Henry, the SEIU president said that “every worker deserves a union.” The letter called on SEIU to “lead by example” and “embody the movement’s basic principles of $15 and a union.” Fennell pointedly wrote, “If you say all workers must have a union, why is SEIU International denying my union rights and those of the entire Fight For $15 field staff?”
Fennell added that the UUR organizing campaign “is not about negativity. We want to enrich this movement with integrity so that we can strengthen the national Fight for $15.”
But they never got to hand the letter to Henry. Inside sources at SEIU say the union was prepared for such an incident, and sprang into action. Fennell says, “Security prevented us from getting to the stage.” Meanwhile, on the speakers’ platform, Henry stepped back and a group of African-Americans and Latino/as who sit on the national organizing committee for Fight for $15 stepped up.
One woman on stage with Henry grabbed the mic. She berated the staff organizers and their supporters below as cameras broadcast the convention. “Are you serious? Are you going to do this right now? Do you know what it is like to get paid $500 every two weeks? … You guys get paid enough. You have a chance to get a union. I don’t.”
As Henry stood smiling faintly behind the human wall, the speaker continued, “Do you know what it is like to have your kids homeless, sleeping in the back of a van? You will never know what that is like. They will never walk a day in our shoes.”
Fennell said of the accusatory remarks, “Everyone has different struggles, but this is not fighting over scraps. This is a movement about being in solidarity. We are not competing on who has it worse. We are not trying to pull each other down like crabs in a bucket.” She said her struggles include carrying $35,000 in student loan debt and nearly as much in medical debt.
Barajas-Ames says the UUR organizers stood before Henry for 15 minutes. As the speakers on stage led the crowd in chants of “$15 and a union,” Barajas-Ames says, “The security guards became hostile and aggressive, physically pushing us back. We stepped back and stood peacefully. Our signs were grabbed and torn up.”
Two child care workers at the convention who supported the action by the UUR organizing committee felt many in the audience were hostile: “They were all up in our face, chanting, ‘This is what democracy looks like.’ We had to jump over a table to get out.”
But that was just the beginning of the troubles for the members of the UUR organizing committee. Shortly afterward, Barajas-Ames and Fennell were personally called by the national director of the Child Care Fight for $15. The two organizers were told they would not be attending the events and protests on Saturday they had been organizing toward for months. Instead, they were to pack their bags as they were being flown out at 6 a.m. back to Las Vegas. Fennell claims the national director also told them, “We will be expecting you to pay for the cost of the hotel.”
Barajas-Ames and Fennell refuse to pay for the two nights they stayed at the Hilton Richmond Downtown, which would set each back more than $300. Barajas-Ames said that amount of money represented a car payment for her, while Fennell said it would be nearly 40 hours of work, as she often makes only $9 an hour given 60-hour workweeks and after out-of-pocket gas expenses. A total of five Fight for $15 organizers who support UUR were shipped home for trying to bring attention to their cause.
Fennell says, “This represents the exact same type of retaliation that corporations do to low-wage workers.”
A UUR representative claims this is part of a broader pattern. “SEIU has been fostering anti-union sentiment for months among the national organizing committee. We think they are creating divisions between the workers and the staff organizers’ campaign.”
UUR estimates more than 100 SEIU organizers who have been outsourced should be covered by its contract, although it has only identified 40 to 50 of them. Of this group, UUR says about 10 have left in the last six months because of the difficult working conditions or retaliatory actions by SEIU. UUR has already filed one “unfair labor practice” charge with the federal government and plans to file a second on August 14.
The outsourcing is blatant, the staff organizers claim. Fennell says her job is determined solely by SEIU. “I was hired by a regional director for SEIU. All my communication is with SEIU. I work in an SEIU office.” But her paycheck, like Barajas-Ames’s, comes from the “Ardleigh Group.” One former employee calls it a “faceless, shadowy” corporation that acts as a pass-through to hide employer responsibility. SEIU documents appear to show it using paper outfits to funnel money to the Ardleigh Group, which then pays workers on SEIU projects who say they are being denied their legal union rights.
UUR president Conor Hanlon told the Raw Story, “The treatment of the Fight for $15 Organizers fits the same pattern that we see from private-sector employers across the country which turn to franchises, temp agencies, and so-called independent contractors rather than hire employees directly. We believe that rather than participate in the disastrous race to the bottom SEIU should commit to its organizers who, like all workers, deserve a career path, fair treatment, and good pay and benefits.”
In addition to accusing SEIU of “evading responsibility of its employment practices,” UUR alleges that SEIU engages in discriminatory employment practices. These include “women are paid less than men, Black staff are paid less than non-black staff, and Latina/Latino staff are more likely to be hired as temporary employees rather than full-time employees.”
Fennell says SEIU’s habit of overworking and underpaying organizers leads to “extraordinarily high” turnover, which harms labor organizing and the goal of improved social services. “We feel passionate about creating affordable child care for all. We can serve our community better when we have the same worker rights as the child care workers who we are fighting for.”
Arun Gupta contributes to The Washington Post, YES! Magazine, In These Times, The Progressive, Telesur, and The Nation. He is author of the forthcoming Bacon as a Weapon of Mass Destruction: A Junk-Food Loving Chef’s Inquiry into Taste from The New Press.
This article is reposted from Raw Story [http://www.rawstory.com/2016/08/exclusive-some-of-seius-fight-for-15-workers-arent-unionized-and-dont-make-15-an-hour/] with permission of the author.
By David Bacon
Capital and Main, August 11, 2016
A farm worker harvests romaine lettuce near Mecca, in the Coachella Valley, where the temperature this summer reached 115 degrees. Workers cutting lettuce in this crew are paid by the piecerate, and work so fast they are almost running through the field, bent over double all day.
The fight for farm worker overtime is going down to the wire in California’s current legislative session, which will adjourn at the end of August. And as Assembly Bill 1066, which would require it, moves through the legislature, Jewish and African American organizations have made a commitment to win the votes it needs for passage.
A bill that would have phased in overtime pay for farm workers, Assembly Bill 2757, passed the State Senate earlier this year, but then failed to pass the State Assembly in a vote on June 2. Since then a new bill, AB 1066, has progressed through the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, and may be sent to the Assembly within days.
The bill would then need to pick up the four votes by which AB 2757 failed in June. They will have to come from either the eight Democrats who voted “no” or the six who failed to vote at all. Continue reading
by Mike Elk
CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE – Khristy Wilkinson, a 34-year-old, tattoo-adorned, stay-at-home mom, doesn’t look like your typical Eastern Tennessee politician. Before this year, she had never even considered running for public office, but says that she was inspired to run by the success of Bernie Sanders.
Until recently, Wilkinson was an adjunct philosophy professor teaching at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She has been active in her community, Highland Park, for years, and has been disturbed by the changes gentrification has brought to her neighborhood.
“I would invite some of my African American friends over and when they would leave, my neighbors would call the cops on them,” says Wilkinson. “It’s just outrageous what is happening to this neighborhood.”
Wilkinson represents a new wave of young Southern activists who have seen massive economic growth in the South – as the auto and tech industries relocate from the North – but have grown dissatisfied by the unequal distribution of those gains. While Sanders lost the Democratic primary by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in Chattanooga, he did win voters under the age of 35, leading many to believe that the vote was an indication of much more progressive organizing to come. Across the South, activists say that the Sanders movement has given them energy to push against the issues of economic and racial inequality that plague even Democratic-leaning cities, such as Chattanooga.
The population of the town is taking off, growing at 5 percent per year, thanks in part to Chattanooga’s investment in the nation’s fastest municipal broadband and its new Volkswagen plant. The Southern Appalachian city, nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and dubbed the “Boulder of the South” by its Mayor Andy Berke, has attracted a massive influx of creative and tech types seeking cheap housing.
As a result of the population increase and urban redevelopment in Chattanooga, rents have risen at levels on par with cities like New York and San Francisco. Between 2007 and 2012, rent increased by 26%. However, income has not kept up with rent increases over the years. According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, since 1980, rent has increased at nearly three times the rate of income in Chattanooga.
At the same time, much of the population remains poor. One in four Chattanoogans and approximately half of the city’s children now live in poverty.
Khristy Wilkinson grew up in poverty herself. Her mother was a school bus driver and her father was disabled. She says her family’s efforts to escape poverty were further hampered by their struggle with alcoholism.
“My life is a constant effort to break a cycle that has existed in my family for generations. It takes tremendous effort; you can’t break the cycle without that help,” says Wilkinson. “Unfortunately, what I have come to realize is that not everyone has access to break that cycle for their own families.”
Across Wilkinson’s chest is a large blue and gray tattoo with birds and a phrase inspired by her days studying philosophy at Wayne State. When translated, it reads, “From nothing, nothing comes.” Wilkinson says that in many ways it represents the dilemma facing many Sanders Democrats: “If we don’t do something, nothing will get done. I mean, who else is going to do it, but us?”
Bernie’s Political Revolution Grows in the South
This week, Senator Sanders has called on his supporters to back Hillary Clinton while separately continuing the “political revolution” that they had started. What the continuing political revolution looks like remains to be seen, but activists in the South are hopeful that the young millennials attracted to the Sanders campaign will continue to fight against economic and racial inequality.
In Chattanooga, Sanders activists have gotten engaged in everything from running for local offices, to fights over affordable housing, to the Black Lives Matter movement. One group is even trying to set up a nonprofit used car leasing service for people who can’t afford transportation to work.
“There is a movement that is not going away – this is just the first wave,” says Katie Cowley, who is running for state representative in a Republican-leaning suburban district, which runs along Tennessee’s border with Georgia. Cowley worked with Wilkinson on the local Sanders campaign and is serving as a Sanders delegate this week in Philadelphia.
Cowley has been fervently involved in the effort to expand Medicaid, fight for affordable housing, and push back against police brutality. She says she doubts she can win this time, but hopes that her long-shot campaign can help spur more organizing where she lives, and maybe even lay the groundwork for her own Sanders-like crusade up the food chain of local elected office in the future.
In many ways, Cowley’s and Wilkinson’s stories as progressive activists running for elected office mirror the path that Bernie Sanders took. Sanders was involved in community and civil rights activism before getting involved in electoral politics in the 1970s. He then ran four times unsuccessfully for local or state office before being elected Mayor of Burlington in 1981.
Once elected, Sanders focused on working with community groups that were previously apart and using the ability of municipal government to implement so-called “sewer socialism.” Sanders dug into local issues: focusing on efforts to build the first affordable housing trust in the country, raise wages for local workers, and end subsidies for major developments.
The success of Bernie’s presidential campaign has encouraged many community activists to keep struggling.
“When I see him, I think, he’s not a politician – he’s like a comrade,” says Patricia Bazemore of Dalton, Georgia, right across the state line from Chattanooga.
More than this, the Sanders movement presented a roadmap for how people can organize. The campaign instilled in Cowley and Bazemore the importance of using digital media to connect with others and then to take that online organizing offline. (They also learned valuable lessons in crowdfunding, and raised more than $3,000 to attend the DNC in Philadelphia.)
Bazemore said that the trips that she and Cowley took to Iowa and other early primary states gave them a lot of encouragement to keep pushing the envelope.
“You walk into these places with all these volunteers and you know that they are all their on the same page with issues,” says Bazemore. “There is like an immediate feeling of family.”
“Nobody wanted to do it on their own,” says Cowley, “but when you feel like you are a part of the movement, it really empowers you and connects support.”
Building an Alternative Economy in Chattanooga
While these activists in the Chattanooga area focus on electoral politics and community organizing, others are helping to build alternative economic models in Eastern Tennessee.
Up until this past summer, 28-year-old Ryan Holmes worked as a car salesman at a Ford dealership in the small town of Cleveland, Tennessee. After two years, Holmes got upset with what he says was the manipulative pricing and sales tactics of car dealers.
“It just felt like I was ripping folks off,” says Holmes.
The frustration led Holmes to come up with a unique business plan, developing one of the first nonprofit used car dealerships in the country. Holmes theorizes that such an entity could provide a car and guaranteed lifetime warranty service at a fraction of the price that major car dealers charge.
“Big money has power over us as long as we are spending it with them,” says Holmes. “When we work for them and give them our money, we give them our power.”
In May, spurred on by the energy of the Sanders campaign, he quit his job and moved into a growing eco-village community in Sequatchie Valley, 30 miles north of Chattanooga.
Holmes recently acquired a dealership license and has used the networks of online Bernie supporters to help promote his ideas and generate support. He hopes eventually when he launches his nonprofit that he will be able to use the viral energy of Bernie’s still-existing online network to crowdfund for his project.
“There is a lot more we can do, regardless of the politicians,” says Holmes. “If we can organize better without them, it’s going to be the best way to do it.”
Spurred by his dream to help build a solidarity economy, Holmes and his business partner Tyler Short have already acquired a lease for 100 acres of land in the Sequatchie Valley. They’ve opened a sawmill and have plans to build a series of tiny homes. The group has already started selling fertilizer made from the runoff of fish farming and has begun work with a local community supported agriculture (CSA) project, Chi Farms.
The Beginnings of a New South
Chi Farms was founded by Bates Reed, a Chattanooga native and an openly gay pastor with the Unity Church. After graduating from college in the early 1980s, Bates moved away from Chattanooga as a result of the closed culture of the city. Four years ago, inspired by the more progressive cultural changes in the city, Bates decided to move back and came up with the idea of the Chi Farms system, which links community agriculture in the Chattanooga region.
This year, Reed was finally able to get the rights to farmland in Pikeville, Tennessee.
“It just amazes me how many people have wanted to get involved in the CSA,” says Reed. “Now, there’s just so much energy and folks are always showing up wanting to help.”
Reed says he is amazed by how much young activists have moved the conversation forward in Chattanooga. While it’s unclear what may happen with Bernie Sanders’s political revolution, activists in the South say that they don’t see it going away.
“What is most amazing to me is that these young folks now are just learning to lead,” says Reed. “Who knows what the future holds for the South? I’m excited.”
Mike Elk is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report and member of the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild. He previously served as senior labor reporter at POLITICO and at In These Times Magazine. This article is reposted from Payday Report with the permission of the author.
by Martin Kich
Donald Trump spoke in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and promised to restore the jobs of coal miners.
I grew up in Scranton, and he might just as well have promised to restore the jobs of telegraph operators or those in typewriter factories.
The population of Scranton peaked at more than 140,000 in 1930. By 1960, the population had decreased to just over 110,000, and today it is between 75,000 and 80,000. The population decline mirrored the decline of the coal industry, though the production of coal ultimately fell more dramatically than the population.
Scranton remains the largest city in what is known as Pennsylvania’s “Coal Region.” Four substantial deposits of anthracite coal extend throughout a spur of the Appalachians in east central and northeastern Pennsylvania.
From the late nineteenth century through World War II, anthracite coal became the primary heating fuel for homes in the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. Production peaked in 1917 at more than 100 million tons annually.
By 1950, annual production had dropped to 46 million tons. By 1970, it had dropped to 9.2 million tons, and by 1987, to 5.2 million tons.
Today, 7.9 million tons are produced annually. But that increase is very misleading if one believes that it can be equated with employment.
Through World War II, anthracite mining was a labor-intensive and dangerous enterprise and almost all of the anthracite produced was deep-mined. These conditions combined to produce much labor unrest, most famously in the violence perpetrated by the Molly Maguires, and by the 1930s, the “Coal Region” was a union stronghold.
But today, only about 235,000 tons of anthracite are produced by deep mining, about 2,316,000 by open-pit mining, and, most notably, about 5,444,000 tons by processing coal refuse.
Coal refuse accumulated near coal “breakers,” where the anthracite was separated from slate, slag, and other materials and then separated by size for use in various types of furnaces. The piles of coal refuse were known as culm dumps, and when I was a boy, Scranton tried to lure tourists by inviting them to come and witness the “”burning mountains.” In the summer, the coal in the culm dumps would ignite in orange bands that sometimes resembled lava. The sulphurous smell was just God-awful.
These culm dumps were often hundreds of feet high, and when Interstate 81 was constructed between Scranton and Binghampton, New York, several dozen of these “burning mountains” still stood along the southbound lanes of the new interstate. Most of the material in those and other culm dumps would be trucked to Scranton’s east and west sides, where the culm was flushed into mine tunnels that were starting to collapse under streets and homes.
In any case, the decline of the anthracite coal industry can be attributed to four factors: (1) the shift to oil and natural gas as home heating fuels following World War II; (2) the increased attention to the environmental damage produced both by mining and by burning coal (illustrated not just by the culm dumps but also by the Centralia mine fire, which is still burning decades after the town was largely abandoned); (3) the increased concern about on-the-job fatalities and disabling injuries and conditions, most notably “black lung”; and (4) the fact that the anthracite mines, especially in the northern part of the “Coal Region,” had reached the water table, making the coal much more expensive to extract.
In 1959, 16 miners died in the Knox Mine Disaster. The mine was located near Port Griffith, between Scranton and Wilkes Barre. The Susquehanna River broke through the ceiling of a mine shaft and eventually flooded most of the anthracite mine tunnels in Luzerne County. Historians find it a convenient marker for the demise of anthracite mining as a major industry, but they generally acknowledge that the industry suffered a long and sometimes agonizing death, rather than succumbing to a sudden catastrophe.
I have not been able to find out how many people are still employed in anthracite mining, but in 2010, only 8,724 people were employed directly in coal mining in Pennsylvania, which is still the nation’s sixth most populous state. Indeed, about four times that number of people in the state–32,853–are employed in manufacturing mining equipment. That number likely reflects not only the increased automation of coal mining but also the rapid growth of the natural-gas fracking industry in Pennsylvania.
This article is reposted from the Academe Blog with the permission of the author.
[Ed. note: As a Catholic high schooler in Harrisburg, PA in the 1950s, I admired the grittiness of the Coal Region football teams I played against. But their families were already streaming out of the collapsing region to look for employment elsewhere. Nothing “Berns” me more about Trump than his cynical and ignorant disregard for the suffering of actual working families – Paul Garver]
by Stan Sorscher
Let’s start the debate about trade policy on the right foot. Everyone I know is “for” trade. A better question is, “Who gets the gains from trade?”
Gains from anything, trade included, can be divided in 3 ways.
- Someone might give you your share of gains, for whatever reason.
- You might take your share, if you have power.
- You might get nothing, or possibly lose what you have.
Option 1 presumes some level of trust. Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, projected that sentiment onto women, when he told them to be patient and not ask for raises. Their bosses would recognize their value and reward them in due time. Nadella and other CEO’s are accustomed to power. He was probably expressing benevolence, muddled with sexism.
Ultimately, power relationships determine how gains are shared. If you have power, you get gains. If someone else has power, they get gains. If power is balanced, then gains are more likely to be shared.
Nadella’s paternalism is reflected in an edgy cliché told about trade policy, “Sure, trade creates winners and losers. The winners could compensate the losers.” Right. Winners might voluntarily compensate losers, but the point of being a winner is to win, not to compensate someone else!
Where do workers get power? I remember a time when unions made demands. They could strike to increase their share of gains from productivity and work. Union contracts would then set standards for employment generally.
Figure 1. Large works stoppages over time.
In the late 70’s that power started to evaporate.