Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Deadly Zero Sum Game

Sweetness and Light has posted an editorial from the 1945 Communist New International praising the United Auto Workers’ 113 day strike against General Mothers demanding a 30% raise in wages without promising a 30% increase in production or arguing that the cost of living had increased 30%, the traditional bargaining points.

Here is an excerpt with my emphasis:

. . . This capitalist theory is based upon the concept that the interests of capital and labor are complementary, that the welfare (i.e., profits) of industry meant the welfare (i.e., higher wages) of labor. The UAW proceeded from a position which had implicit within it the concept that the interests of capital and labor were antagonistic, i.e., the concept which Karl Marx established a hundred years ago and which the leaders of American labor have until now sought to deny. The UAW stated that it was the aim of labor to increase wages at the expense of profits. It took the position that if the workers continued to work at present wage rates it would only lead to super-profits for GM. The 30 per cent increase, therefore, was to be paid at the expense of GM profits.

It is too bad that the Communists and the UAW only saw the situation in a win/lose paradigm while capitalism offers profits for all who contribute, i.e. “the interests of capital and labor are complementary.” The workers could have bought stock in the company, maybe a little bit at a time, and shared the profits that way. Then they would have received the justice of honest wages for their part in production, and the “icing on the cake” of sharing the profits just like the “evil” stockholders. Instead they chose immediate gratification for themselves, but a dying company adversely affecting the lives of all their grandchildren.

Sweetness and Light believes that this was the beginning of the end for General Motors. All I can add is that throughout my grade school and high school years, there was one strike after another by the UAW, the Teamsters, the AFL-CIO, and the Longshoremen. The end result was that usually the union won the battle, or most of it, but lost the war in steadily losing membership and influence.

Obama wants to single-handily reverse union fortunes during his term of office. The only problem is that his policies thus far have narrowly pitted union wins at the expense of the rest of his country.

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