Nel's New Day

August 29, 2011

Demand for Productivity Destroying U.S. Workers

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 2:54 PM

The fall Congressional agenda will surely be about jobs as Republicans claim that anything they do to weaken the government—eradicate regulations, increase tax cuts for wealthy corporations, etc.—will create jobs. House Majority Eric Cantor (R-VA) has already started his diatribes  about this after he finished trying to figure out a way to weasel out of paying any FEMA monies in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. President Obama has said that he will have his proposals for job creation after Labor Day.

But why are we struggling to find employment for millions of people in this nation? The approach from greedy corporations is causing much of this problem.

To keep profits climbing in tough times, corporations have laid off staff, piling more and more work on the remaining employees. Year after year American companies are wringing more and more value out of their employees than they did the year before. We now put in an average of 122 more hours per year than U.K. workers and 387 hours (nearly 10 weeks) more than Germans.

After a sharp dip in 2008 and 2009, U.S. economic output quickly recovered to near pre-recession levels, but workers didn’t see the benefit. During the recession, far more people in the U.S. lost their jobs than anywhere else, and far fewer were hired back once the recovery began. Although some positions are taken by technological or organizational improvements and offshoring, U.S. employment is actually suffering from “offloading,” cutting jobs and dumping the work onto the remaining staff. With work force down, U.S. productivity grew almost six times from 2008 to 2010. That’s 22 percent.

Sometimes the extra work comes with money and perks, but more often it’s the result of fear—of being passed over or “downsized” out of a job. There’s a benefit to all this additional productivity, but the workers aren’t getting it. While incomes have stagnated or fallen for 90 percent of U.S. workers for the past three decades, the wealthiest 0.1 percent are making 6.4 times as much as they did in 1980. Most of the 22 percent increase in profits went to the finance industry.

We’ve reached this point because we’ve turned the financing of elections over to wealthy interests; we’ve made it harder for unions to organize; and we’ve deregulated Wall Street with no intention of re-regulating it after the financiers almost destroyed the global economy. Conservatives in this nation think that they’re being virtuous in destroying unions and de-regulating Wall Street, but they are actually driving their own wages down in a never-ending spiral.

There is a way out. Germany, for example, provides six weeks of vacation and no weekend work. Companies’ response to a downturn is to temporarily reduce employees’ hours and then restore them when things look up. They have less productivity, but it doesn’t matter. Higher productivity doesn’t help any U.S. worker.

Ninety percent of U.S.workers and all the unemployed are in an abusive relationship with greedy corporations; it’s time to admit the problem and turn things around.

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