Wage rollbacks: stage two in full swing, trace it back to...Reagan

Friday, January 13, 2006 at 07:13 PM

The first stage of rolling back wages in this country was simply to cut American jobs and add overseas jobs at a fraction of the old cost.  That left fewer jobs, but didn't lower the wages of the jobs that remained in America.

As I've said repeatedly, though, it was inevitable that this would be followed by a second stage in which the large employers used the threat of job loss to start rolling back wages on existing American jobs.

Welcome to stage two.  We begin our tour of this stage at the Delphi bankruptcy proceedings, where management last month began its push of massive wage and benefit cuts for employees otherwise faced with loss of their jobs.

Then we continue on to Continental Tire North America which "plans to cut wages of hourly employees at its Mount Vernon plant by 10 percent. Those cuts will allow Continental to invest between $60 million and $70 million in new equipment to make the plant more efficient, said company spokesman Rick Holcomb."  That comes 3 days after a report that "If union takes pay cut, layoffs could be reduced."

We end this mini tour back where it started, in another Bankruptcy Court, where Automotive News reports that "Tower Automotive Inc. has moved to reject its union contracts and modify retiree benefit packages in federal bankruptcy court in New York."

None of these coercive efforts could succeed without the real threat of loss of the jobs, of course.  So we end our current mini-tour at the news desk where we find:

--One store manager who asked to remain anonymous told The Detroit News....that several thousand jobs will be cut across many of Kmart's 1,400 stores

--Detroit's other paper, the Detroit Free Press, reported that "Bankrupt auto parts supplier Federal-Mogul Corp. said on Friday it would cut about 4,500 jobs, or 10 percent of its workers."

--A Toledo, OH television station reported that "Toledo's public schools...superintendent says before the next school year begins, the district will have to cut almost 400 jobs or close as many as nine schools and lay off their staffs."

And is all this really pure chance, the unfortunate byproduct of our new mantra/deity of "globalization?"  You know that your government would like you to believe that.  Certainly the Chamber of Commerce types, the Republicans, and groups like the Council on Foreign Relations would LOVE for you to believe that.  But read this from Monthly Review:

"...a new era in collective bargaining erupted at the end of the 1970s that was soon dubbed "concessionary bargaining." Corporations were now the ones making the demands. Tensions had been building through the decade, with corporations increasingly asserting that they could no longer both maintain profit rates and meet workers' demands and expectations. Governments also intervened to shift the balance of power in society through "neoliberalism" through the 1980s, transforming the policy "rules of the game."
[end excerpt]

Did you catch that "erupted at the end of the 1970s'??  That means 1980 and onward.  Buttressed by "Governments also intervened to shift the balance of power in society...through the 1980s."  The 1980s, otherwise known as Reaganism, otherwise known as the end of the American Dream.

The deconstruction of American labor.  Brought to you by an ex-actor in the early throes of Alzheimer's.  A family values man with a fractured family.  The architect of ketchup as a vegetable.  The architect of...the American nightmare.