Better Than, & Beyond Labor Unions.

Not to discourage current union organizing, but to develop a better future.

“It is necessary from the very nature of things that Power should be a check to Power.” – Montesquieu.

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Since the owner-worker dynamic began, workers have been trying to get more than a toehold of control. Management usually tries to thwart most of these control efforts. Both sides have good reasons for pursuing their ends, but the reality is that the struggle to find a sweet spot will never end because the process of work will continually change in most industries. However, there is another way to tackle the problems that give rise to the worker-owner conundrum, and reduce the impact of continual changes in work.

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A major issue for workers is the capitalist’s pursuance of the lowest common denominator in wages. Employees going a decade, or a few, developing certain skills, and then being shown the door, with the likely prospect of spending the last decade or more of work at a low skilled job, is personally demoralizing, and societally problematic. Retraining and transitioning to a vocation at a similar, high-level is always a possibility, but how often is that a realistic result? While the more strident libertarian may have no sympathy for this forgotten worker, there is no need for any type of improved system if the self-starter, K2 mountain scaler is the only one we are concerned about.

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The current jobs system is mostly set up for the star who makes it through every hoop, usually forgetting the hoop jumping assisters who made it possible. I call it the Audie Multiple–WWII–Medal–Winner Murphy no system, system. How many soldiers were used as cannon fodder to give Murphy the chance to be the great, did-it-all-on-his-own, hero? Like those who may have inadvertently taken a bullet for him as he stepped off the landing craft; think the beach-landing scene in Saving Private Ryan. The forgotten Americans that died to make Murphy a hero are in the same boat as the forgotten worker is, compared to the star worker.

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Both matter to companies, the forgotten (or background) workers, and the star. Additionally, they both require a system for a chance to succeed. Neither is possible without the other. It only seems like the stars (and heroes) do not need any help. The problem is that the systems we have are AWOL, MIA, or constantly playing catch-up. Currently our jobs programs are set up as if we sent the American military to fight a war via MeetUp, with video of a rousing patriotic speech, a purchase order for weapons at Dick’s Sports, individual plane tickets, and mere bullet point, how-to instructions for conducting overseas military actions. Many fewer workers survive the war for jobs because the current non-system is weakly developed, poorly instituted, invisible hand managed, and increasing societal complexity sets them up to fail.

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The current process may be enough for a small percentage of Americans; something that may have made more sense decades ago. That said, there are fewer and fewer employers who employ tens of thousands of workers in one location. Any such large employers remaining in the U.S. can quickly disgorge their entire workforce at any time, leaving a huge hole of unemployment, and decimating a whole city or county’s economy and much more. Today, most of these larger employers pay workers very little compared to the same size factories, or businesses fifty years ago.

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Continuous, Individualized, Pertinent Data Thread.

This shrinking of highly paying factory jobs, and reduction of the worker population size in one plant or office, makes finding that good job, at least a good paying job, much more fragmented, and downgrading. If you must choose a lower wage job as an interim step, which one should it be? And if it is normal for certain jobs to move overseas, what should be the response of any system? Again, the conservative libertarian or Republican may believe everything is a first come, first served, toss up, Russian roulette wheel of risk proposition, but that is not how a modern nation continues being successful. An advanced country takes into account all the realities, and does not get stuck on status quo economic ideologies.

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“An injustice to one is a threat made to all.” – Montesquieu.

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Even the Chinese have changed their perspectives on markets, and how to produce higher level products for the global market. They have built a cash generating behemoth. Their methods may never be ours, but seeing what others are doing makes new ideas possible. By the mid 2010s, as many as 270 million Chinese migrant workers were journeying back and forth to jobs. That does not count the tens of millions who rent long-term housing near their jobs, becoming permanent residents. Imagine moving over a quarter of a billion people in continuous three-year cycle, let alone finding good jobs for everyone of them. Of course, most workers in China are not finding that good job, it often being a 14 hour day, six days per week labor camp.

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Yet funneling their citizens blindly into grinding work situations whether its workers who seek jobs, or Uighur forced labor, cannot last much longer. Such forced work, and sweatshop conditions are made possible to a large extent by lack of pertinent information, which makes coordination of resistance efforts difficult. Large numbers of people spread out by miles, in fragmented industries, working non-concurrently as rotating migrant workers do, or those kept in detention, are unable to communicate all the problems and abuses to each other effectively. It is hard to organize, and prevent abuses in various guises from sub-living wages to sexual harassment, when few know the whole score.

That is why large scale, factory-based unions like at Ford’s River Rouge Plant were so powerful: a house divided against itself cannot stand, the divided are more easily conquered, or divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is the watchword of the wise.

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Consider how bosses get away with sexual harassment for years, even decades. Think of businesses where many women work, and there is consistent turnover of staff. Some get a sexual comment or two from the boss, others get creepier comments with the abuser taking more aggressive measures, and in other cases he crosses way over the line. No one individual is able to keep score of all the abuser’s transgressions, except the abuser.

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The kind of abuse is always different, and each harassed employee has at least a slightly different perspective. Some believe it was not that bad or they were probably the only one targeted, others think or are told it is their fault, or fear any kind of confrontation, really need their job, need a good reference, and all the other variations. Therefore the abused keep quiet, or are kept quiet.

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The entire workforce is in a similar dangerous, data desert; we are purposely and effectively kept in the dark by the current non-system. We are easily stampeded like cattle into a dead-end desert canyon. No matter how smart we are, if we are caught in the middle of the herd, we cannot see the dead-end coming, and we cannot retreat. If we are in front, it is too late to tell the herd at the point we figure out that we are trapped.

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Workers in America are much better informed than the Chinese workforce about the structure of their work before they start a job. However, what lack of information there is continues to negatively disrupt their future. Choosing a first job, or a career, is fraught with many positives and negatives. Sometimes the negatives are easily dispensed with like having limited housing options as a new worker, young adult, single person. Other times, we may be trapped in a declining industry, or have a boss that is a major problem. Worse yet, we may never get a job we are qualified for because we are passed over due alone to our skin-color, gender, disability, physical image, age, or criminal record.

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Forming a union in your industry, or in the specific company you work for may be possible, yet very improbable. In the meantime, what can be done? Reading a self-help book may turn things around for you personally. Commiserating with other employees who also get screwed over helps some. Various online job finding services may work, or not. The problem with all of these workarounds is their lack of power compared to large corporations. There is no system currently that is set up to give people of color, LGBTQ…, and women the power that straight White males have.

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With our bigoted, and chauvinistic culture, most laws, and other structures based on the White male, even a balanced power lifting, such as affirmative action or quotas, would only provide partial relief. White male dominance is entrenched deeply into the marrow of how America progresses, which means slowly and only incrementally. Giving everyone a status equal to the percentage they represent in the U.S. would still require a major dismantling of the drilled down deep pylons, and a massive matrix of guy-wires (pun intended) that prevent the rigid, White male structure from being altered. Equal status has not happened because of that structure, and equal status will not overcome it automatically. There would still be much work to do, to rewire the matrix of White male paternalism, as well as remove the pylons of bias, and reset the structural potential of success.

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What workers need most is timely and specific knowledge. If jobs in certain industries, or areas, are decreasing, or the pay is being reduced, workers should know this data wherever they are at in the job having, or job hunting process. Employees should not be caught off guard by the likelihood of downsizing, or reorganization (i.e. moving jobs to another state or country). No worker should leave a job without pertinent and specific ways to reinvent, or prepare themselves for a new job or career. Almost all guesswork should be eliminated.

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For people who experience discrimination, a simultaneous requirement of the system is an ability to remove the temptations of, and activities by, hiring entities associated with bias, bigotry, and chauvinism. This is the most dramatic shift that will be required of a new system; it is a consequential turning-of-the-tables on current hiring practices and talent acquisition. Employees would no longer be hired by employers, instead workers will choose their employers. Since employers cannot be fully trusted to hire without negative biases, workers should not be subjected to their possibly never-ending denigration of the other. If businesses actually profess a need to end these biases, and it has not happened, employers should welcome the change to remove its damaging effects from their cruel hiring toolkit.

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Furthermore, this process will provide significantly more overall flexibility for employees and employers. What little employers lose to making employing hiring determinations, they gain back at least five times as much with greatly uncomplicated hiring, higher quality workers, and transitioning on a fast track, or precise scheduling of each worker’s next-job start date, and such. Workers will experience a massively more robust jobs development system than ever before. Workers never go without a job transition plan in place. The transitions will form fit to the individual whether it is to upgrade skills, a hiatus for clearing the head, or replenishing the soul, or just providing time for the next job to open up.

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A person in the workforce a few years, may have some options more experienced workers will not, and more experienced workers will have other options that less experienced workers will not. For example, workers with two decades of experience will likely have greater paid hiatus options whereas less experienced workers could do volunteer work with a stipend for housing and meals. Workers may require two months of upgrade education or training for a new job, but have an additional two weeks open before the new job starts. The employer may provide a stipend, or partial salary to get the worker through. Training is often paid by the employer, and sometimes by the new system structure to effectively facilitate transitioning.

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Unpaid hiatuses, or project-based paid sabbaticals during and between jobs may also be an option depending on individual situations, and what is built up in each worker’s vested-experience bank. These types of transitioning options give employees power. Fear of losing a job, and gaps in employment make workers timid. Speaking against a corporation’s unreasonable work expectations, calling out sexual harassment, or whistleblowing dangerous activities, are much less likely when some kind of retribution is held over workers. The system plots out each worker’s future from any point in time. This makes job and financial instability nearly impossible.

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What is unique about this coordination is how it works for both the individualist and the collectivist. There is no need to join anything, except to participate. Each person participates in the services and activities pertinent to their needs and goals. While the system requires considerable participation, no one is forced to be involved in the running of the system. Standard dues paying is absent. Rather it is a societal responsibility to keep the system funded. Those at the low end pay nothing, once a certain level of success is present the contribution moderately rises, then rising faster at a very high threshold of financial success. However, there is a very specific correlation between system success and the funding strategy. Society benefits from this cohesive reinvestment, and skeptics see the results.

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The entire jobs development structure is built atop expansive and proactive civic and democratic inputs. Political parties are not involved; and all corporate influence is definitively quashed. Citizens and workers are the only parties with power to direct the jobs development strategy.

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Invisible Hand Mismanagement.

Much economic theory is based on the amazing work of the “free” market’s invisible activities. It is something we can never know a lot about, and must be vulnerably open to, and accepting of, its wild swings and destructive power. To encroach on the entrepreneur’s territorial power, or regulate the magical market, is the beginning of the end of all that is sacred, just, and virtuous. That claptrap said, we also cannot predict or control earthquakes, but we have not stopped trying, and will never stop. More immediate, and importantly, we do prepare to deal with the messes earthquakes create.

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“Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many.” — Eric Hoffer.

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The Jobs Development Platform is the preparatory structure for making the adjustments needed when markets, and entrepreneurs fail to protect workers and communities. To employ anything less in defense of workers, is the wishful thinking (yet unfortunately, the current capacity) of greed gouging grifters, and their fetishizing sycophants. There is too much riding on a modern, highly populated society to continue leaving so much up to chance. Americans are also not likely to keep worshipping the freewheeling entrepreneur, and the billion dollar barons as their communities dry up, and blow away. A major reason these occurrences have been allowed, up to this point, is a lack of pertinent and timely data on how so much has been negatively done to workers and citizens by the influence of big business on government, as if it all happened by chance.

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Additionally, workers require a countervailing force in their corner that never tires in their defense, and never subverts their place in the future. Having the pertinent, timely data is not the same as having the power to use its forceful truth to make change. Combining truth with the power to employ it will give workers at greater say in their future.

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Why do all workers and citizens in the United States not have decent healthcare? We have no countervailing force to compete with billionaires and big business, and their crony capitalism Congressional contingent, who are mostly Republican related, but are too often enabled by Democrats. To correct these flaws in our economic and political system, We The People need more control.

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A Countervailing Conclusion.

Such a Jobs Development Platform is not pie in the sky. It is part of an entire system of changes that we can, and must develop to make the future more of what we want it to be. Everything is off-the-shelf, there really is nothing new required from a technological standpoint. A massive change in perspective is needed however. Luckily, the benefits of such a comprehensive system will make it an easier task.

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The days of big labor are gone. We are not going to recombine into massive generic workplaces where everything we understand about the job we do is mostly similar. Those connections have thinned out, and gotten more complicated. We are a more diverse group, split into many locations, now in more diverse work environments. Even if the 35,000 American employers with 500+ workers were similarly connected in unions as in years past, this would leave about 100 million workers, or two-thirds of workers without union membership. Gaining the power we need is very unlikely unless we have a structure that is both individualistic and collectivist, and open ended in other ways as well.

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“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.” Frederick Douglass.

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Technology is only one aspect of the system. Combining our abilities as a nation of diverse peoples, and fully enjoining each person will springboard us so much further. Our countervailing force can achieve for us just about anything we want it to in this structure. The We The People System provides a matrix of a highly energized elements to sustain workers and citizens in their fight to improve American life for the many not just the few.

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By Richard The Chwalek.

A complementary essay with links to others:

Writer/Consultant. Wife/Two-20 something daughters. Flyover Midwesterner. RN/Engineer son, been there/done some, antiracist, feminist, ecotarotcardist, politics

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