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“We are the Workers, the Mighty, Mighty Workers
Everywhere We Go,
The People Want to Know
Who We Are, So We Tell Them…
.”
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As I walked toward the demo of the Fast Food Workers in Union Square, I heard the words and sounds of this song and couldn't help but grin.  We were back!  The workers that is – not the “middle class,” not the “deserving poor”, not “the 99%.” As a working class kid from a union factory family, I got it.  Not only because you can’t really go around shouting “Middle Class of the World Unite” or “We are the Mighty Mighty Middle Class” – let’s face, it, it just doesn't resonate – but because the very concept of “worker” which this movement seems to grasp intuitively changes the very nature of the struggle.  

“The Middle Class,” “the poor” and even “the 99%” define us in terms of how much wealth we have or do not have, regardless of how we got it, in the upwardly mobile mantra of Capitalism. As workers we are defined, instead, by what we do, how we appropriate the materials and provide the services necessary for the survival and comfort of the human species. And that is a pretty important difference.

Obama’s “middle class” framing of all that is good and important in society (and god know we all want a better lifestyle) is no more than the standard capitalist divide and conquer, the promise of individual upward mobility for the few at the expense of the many.  You too can be one of the chosen. And we often buy into it. We want to see ourselves as “better” because we have been able to buy our own home, or send our children to “private” or “charter” schools.  And we rationalize that it is because we deserve it – we’re smarter, more industrious, stronger, our skills are more necessary--not due to the whim of the time and place we were born into or that our skills and success are built on the back of the skills and hard work of others.

All of us have known an aunt who raised kids, worked outside the home all her life, carried on intelligent conversations about the world’s problems, worked for the community and has ended up relatively destitute.  What is her value? Is she poor because she deserved it?  How about many of our young people today who bought the American Dream, worked hard, even went to college if they could afford it and now, through the vagaries of capitalism are jobless or working in low paying jobs that will not allow them to get that middle class dream (unless they can still inherit it from their parents)?
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The term “workers” reunites the labor movement by removing the distinction between the mostly white, working middle class (who usually got their middle class lifestyle through union benefits that their grandfathers fought for) and the less affluent workers who are often people of color, single mothers, immigrants, and increasingly young college educated workers who missed out on the brass ring due to the recent failing economy. As one worker put it:

"I don't care if you're blue collar, white, collar, pink collar or no collar -- all of us have value.  Have you ever stopped to think how hard people work?  The people who cook for you, the bus driver who drives you to work in the morning?  The people who clean your house and your clothes?  Have you ever stopped to say 'thank you'?  If you don't know how to do that job, or if you don't want to do that job, the best way to say thank you, no matter how much you make, is to stand in solidarity with us and RAISE THE MINIMUM wage!"

What is just as important is that the concept of “workers” raises the well kept secret that we, the workers, have really got the power in our economic system. If we remove our labor power as a group (strike) the system falls apart and all the money in the world won't fix it if there are no workers to provide the goods and services we require.

It is true that the transition from a traditional manufacturing economy to a global economy, in which the financial sector has grown exponentially, has given Wall Street a stranglehold on our lives and institutions  - from the goods we buy, to our healthcare system, to the jobs available to us, to our congressional representatives and government leaders. And it is a fact that great advances in technology allow capitalists to eliminate jobs or outsource jobs to other countries with increasing mobility.

But one other fact remains. Capitalists still need workers to produce the goods and services that make their profit – billions of us – from the sweatshops of China and the mines in Africa, to the IT techs in Mumbai, to the biologists and chemists working in the rainforests of Brazil, to the oil rig workers in the oil fields of Dubai.

Organizing the Retail Sector

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Last month, fast-food workers went on strike in more than 50 cities in the United States, from East to West and North to South. Employees walked out of about 1,000 restaurants. The strikes began in New York in November when workers at several fast food chains, including McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's walked out. The movement still remains pretty small-scale. Prior to Thursday, the largest walkout was this summer when "about 2,200 of the nation's millions of fast-food workers staged a one-day strike in seven cities."  

What started the movement?

The active online presence of the Fast Food Workers echoes the Occupy Wall Street model - a movement that several supporters of the protests cited as an inspiration. In recent years, in an environment of mobile global capital, there have been efforts to gain worker rights by appealing to the broad solidarity of all workers in society in order to try and change workers’ conditions by changing the laws in society as a whole (“Increase the Minimum Wage” campaign) as well as  using consumer/worker boycotts instead of focusing on organizing workers in individual shops.

But sometimes, the catalyst that starts a movement is simply that the capitalists push the boundaries too far in their drive for profit and workers rebel out of necessity. As one Los Angeles striker said, "people can't survive on the minimum wage." That much seems pretty clear. Many fast food workers earn the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage. Eighty-four percent of the fast food workers in New York City do not even bring home the insufficient legal wages they are entitled to.

If the minimum wage simply kept up with inflation, it would be $10.74 an hour today, but workers insist that is still not enough. Compared to the overall economy, fast-food jobs are twice as likely as other jobs to pay so little that workers are pushed onto public assistance while working full-time. Fast-food jobs pay so little that 52 percent of the families of front-line fast food workers need to rely on public assistance programs (which their employers encourage, instead of picking up the tab), costing taxpayers nearly $7 billion a year.  It also says there is not a single state in the country today in which a full-time, minimum-wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment. A quarter of fast-food workers have to support families on these wages.

In the past, low paid retail jobs have not been viewed as a good sector to organize workers.  The old left has traditionally considered the retail sector less critical to union power than those workers who are in the industrial sector. Steel, oil and manufacturing jobs are viewed as more critical to the development of the means of production and thus a more important point of class struggle.  However, much of the manufacturing base in the United States has been outsourced around the world in search of cheap labor, and unions have started organizing the secondary and tertiary job sectors such as public service jobs and the retail industry out of necessity. Nevertheless, even as late as last year, no major unions were supporting or actively seeking to organize fast food workers.

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The Fast Food Workers seem to have adopted a broad approach of sporadic one day strikes, attempting to develop a general campaign where workers also rely on the workers as consumers to boycott the stores and as citizens to gain worker rights by changing the laws We have seen some a similar concerted effort by the more progressive labor movement to stop the spread of Walmart stores using similar tactics of one day strikes, consumer boycotts and efforts to use legal structures to keep megastores that use cheap labor out of local areas.

However, according to an article from August 29th in The Atlantic:

"the strikes would have a much better shot at inspiring a change in franchise- and corporate-level policy if fast-food chains perceived one of two threats: (a) a threat to the steady supply of food-service workers who want to be employed at any wage and (b) a threat from consumers demanding higher wages for their fast-food clerks by not buying burgers and fries at McDonald's."
Instead, according to the Atlantic, the big-picture doesn't reveal either of these pressure points.

Changing the Labor Culture

Only six percent of the labor force is currently organized due to increasing capital mobility and technological change.  The exploding cost and global spread of mass communications has greatly increased the influence of the moneyed elites at the expense of regular workers. Forty years of Republicans promoting Ayn Rand individualism and historic US racism (the Southern strategy), brought to us courtesy of the money of the wealthy Koch Brothers and their ilk and justified by the recently bought and paid for Supreme Court decision on Citizens United (which just declared that corporations – a financial structure – are “people”)  has decimated whatever worker consciousness did exist. The unlimited money poured into advertising and the political campaign process has reached a level where the sheer quantity of money has caused a qualitative change resulting in a level of corruption and control by money over the public sphere that has not been seen previously.

That there is anything left of workers’ consciousness as workers is astounding. To the extent there is a resurgence in workers’ consciousness it is, at least partially due to changes in objective conditions. As the American middle class government employees, teachers and well-paid unionized workers have begun to lose their own benefits due to globalization (so much for American Exceptionalism) and are now crying for support from the rest of the working class, they are finding that, if they want the support of others, they will have to learn to give it back to the low paid workers that they have been ignoring. Fast-food wage activists are now receiving financial and technical support from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), to the credit of that union. If there is any chance of reuniting the working class, which is necessary if we want to be able to challenge capitalist hegemony, we will finally have to address some long standing inequities in our society.

The Three Headed Hydra of Patriarchy, White Supremacy and Class

This means actually addressing the intertwined issues of sexism, class and racism that have plagued the left and the union movements since their inception. Take the almost universal perception that most fast food and other low paid service workers are low-skilled, unintelligent and inherently undeserving of higher wages. Many of the articles and, in fact, a rational used by a McDonald’s executive himself was that the minimum wage jobs are only for “kids” who later can go to college and get other jobs or work their way up the corporate ladder at McDonald’s.
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The real issue here is that most of the jobs are filled by women and people of color.  Historically, women have provided most of the labor in the home for free which now forms the fast food service sector.  This leads to the perception that women’s labor in general, and particularly household labor such as cooking and cleaning, because you can get it for free, has no value.  In fact, “kids” can do it. The same goes for African Americans with the history of slavery. This results in a tautology: that anything that doesn't cost money has no value and if it has no value it deserves to be underpaid (if paid at all).

In fact, most of the workers are adults between the ages of 20 and 55, one third have families to support, and for most it is their only income, even if they are working part-time (which is another way for McDonald’s to avoid paying benefits). And, by the way, one third have college degrees.

Of course many of the semi-skilled jobs that formed the base of the industrial working class which became the good paying union jobs that allowed the middle class to flourish were also low paid jobs before they were unionized by the CIO in the 1930s.  By the way, you should see the list of skills necessary to be a fast and efficient barista (Starbuck’s has them listed in a Taylor like chart). If you’ve ever broken your wrist you need not apply because you probably can’t rotate your hand sufficiently to make the espresso. And this does not begin to describe the flexibility and intelligence it takes to multitask several customers at once, or provide the customer with empathetic nurturing service (This is perhaps the most undervalued of the skills because it is so hard to quantify.  I don't know how many times we will have to listen to the binary intelligence of a computer asking us to press option 22 on the telephone or a touch screen, before we get it).

The McDonald's Paradox

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There is still another good reason to look to Fast Food workers as important to the union movement at this particular juncture of history.

Globalization not only changed the strategies for union organizing, but the strategies for companies themselves.  The fast food industry has only developed in the last 40 years with globalization  and, unlike your local hot dog stand or diner, it has given birth to some of the largest global multinational monopolies in the world.  The McDonald's Corporation is the world's largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants, with 34,000+ locations and 1,800,000 employees, serving around 68 million customers daily in 119 countries, with total assets of over 37 billion and profits of over $6 billion in 2013.

The McDonald's Corporation's business model  is vertically integrated, meaning it either owns or controls over 80% of the meat industry and has de facto control over most of the products in its food chain from producers of beef, chicken and potatoes, to middle level beef processing plants and warehouses. While the majority of the 34,000 individual outlets are “independent” franchises, McDonald’s owns the land and rents to them and controls their food ordering through a third party.  In other countries, McDonald's restaurants are operated by joint ventures of McDonald's Corporation and other, local entities or governments.

As a matter of policy, McDonald's does not make direct sales of food or materials to franchisees, instead organizing the supply of food and materials to restaurants through approved third party logistics operators. (Could this be to avoid Monopoly lawsuits?).

While this “mega” monopoly is very efficient at keeping out competition, it also creates a vulnerability. Since all of its resources are funneled through the individual McDonald’s retail stores, an attack on the individual stores has the possibility of bringing down the whole McDonald’s structure.  If workers in even ¼ of their outlets successfully disrupt the corporations business through rolling one day walk-offs in different places around the world, it could back up their entire production chain.  Moreover, just as McDonald’s was able to capitalize on the increasingly globalized market and communications, so too can McDonald’s workers  get on the internet and talk to other McDonald’s organizers around the globe.  We are not suggesting this will happen tomorrow. But however, brief, the degree to which the Fast Food workers were able organize a national campaign in less than a year, suggests that this is a new ball game with new organizing rules.

It’s time for all of us as workers (probably close to 99%) to support each other as a group and to understand the basis of that support.  This speaker at a recent Fast Food demo said it best:

Appendix

All week, while writing this article I found myself singing another old song
which pretty well sums up my hopes and fears about the Fast Food Workers
movement. Perhaps you know it:

Once there was a little old ant,
Tried to move a rubber tree plant,
Anyone knows an ant can’t
Move a rubber tree plant….

Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant!
(In solidarity with all the worker ants)

References and further reading:

http://www.democracynow.org/...

http://www.democracynow.org/...

Jerry Lanson, Fast-Food Strikes Lend Much-Needed Fire to Largely Dormant Labor Movement

Why the Fast Food Workers Strikes are doomed

Raise the Minimum Wage Campaign

(NYSE: MCD), ( USA Today ) business model, ,(The Atlantic)

 Tom Watson http://www.forbes.com/...

"Raise the Minimum Wage"

Originally posted to Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 03:00 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Hellraisers Journal, Invisible People, Anti-Capitalist Chat, Sexism and Patriarchy, Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, and ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Can't say enough about this diary!!! (9+ / 0-)

    This is the movement that has the potential to save the labor movement in this country (if it can be saved.)

    And I love the way this diary begins:

    We are the Workers, the Mighty, Mighty Workers
    That's it in a nutshell: class consciousness!

    Well done,Geminijen!!
    Bravo!!

    God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

    by JayRaye on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 03:20:35 PM PST

  •  The ACM has been reposted at: (6+ / 0-)

    The Stars Hollow Gazette:

    http://www.thestarshollowgazette.com/...

    Wild Wild Left:

    http://www.wildwildleft.com/...

    DocuDharma:

    http://www.docudharma.com/...

    For some reason, I cannot post on FDL, I wonder if it is due to the time change. If someone wants to volunteer to do it, I would appreciate it. I have spent an hour and have failed to do it.  Sorry!!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 03:26:22 PM PST

    •  Am having trouble with the videos on three (4+ / 0-)

      sites and I used the old codes as per instructed, I just can't fix it. FDL is not working for me, it is not saving the piece and I can't post. I am so very sorry that such a wonderful piece is missing some components and can't be read at FDL.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 03:37:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for all your help posting the videos, etc. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, JayRaye, ek hornbeck
      •  You need to know that I have been (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JayRaye, Geminijen, annieli, ek hornbeck

        singing High Hopes for days! I do not know who wants to strangle me more, the cats or Mr NY Brit Expat ... :D ... well it may be the people on the tube that have heard me humming (as you know, I have a very deep, off-key voice which cannot do high hopes!). :D

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 03:55:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  ACM Schedule (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, ek hornbeck

    November

    10th: NY Brit Expat
    17th:?
    24th: Annieli

    December

    1st:
    8th:
    15th:
    22nd:
    JayRaye
    29th: Annieli

    We really need a volunteer for the 17th of November! Can anyone step in to do this?  Also, we need to fill one Sunday in November and then 3 Sundays in December still need coverage, the 1st, the 8th and the 15th! Can anyone volunteer? We need you to keep going people! Contributions anyone?

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 03:31:14 PM PST

  •  Hoping Geminijen will be able to (6+ / 0-)

    be here for this; she has done such an excellent piece of work. She has been having computer problems and that may impact upon her presence which would be a shame.

    Geminijen, this is such an excellent piece of work. If this movement works, it could revitalise the labour movement in the US. Given the large numbers of people working in the fast food (and for that matter, retail sector), unionisation here could be the backbone of a new labour movement that is so desperately needed!

    Thank you so much for your work on this piece, it is truly excellent.

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 03:40:38 PM PST

  •  Transcript of the speech at Fast Food Demo: (6+ / 0-)
    Let the workers
    Run McDonald's
    Let the workers
    Run the Gap
    They should be in control
    Cuz we create the wealth
    All workers should be in control
    Cuz we create the wealth
    The bosses, the CEOs
    They don't create the wealth
    They steal our wealth
    And I want to leave you with
    An old mantra
    Something that we should
    Strive to fight for

    POWER TO THE PEOPLE

    POWER TO THE PEOPLE

    POWER TO THE WORKER!

    God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

    by JayRaye on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 03:58:10 PM PST

  •  thanks for this diary - embodied labor everywhere (6+ / 0-)

    is increasingly harder to determine as an object of analysis in a commodity economy

    The labor theories of value (LTV) are heterodox economic theories of value that argue the value of a commodity is only related to the labor needed to produce or obtain that commodity and not to other factors of production (except as those elements can be regarded as embodied labour.)
    capitalism is always in suboptimal states of pareto efficiency, whether due to false consciousness, exploitation, or kleptocracy and the diverse (abstract/concrete) social ontology of labor
    In other words, if empirically it was found out, that commodities exchange according to their marginally necessary labor inputs, this would confirm marginal theory. It would contradict Marx’s theory, because according to Marx these exchange ratios are determined by prices of production, which are generally different from the necessary labor inputs, the labor values. Implicitly, Marx is thus denying, that capitalism is in a state of Pareto optimality.
    This is an example of that anti-equilibriating, suboptimal state on the supply-chain level as subverting criticisms of vertical integration and monoposony:
    As a matter of policy, McDonald's does not make direct sales of food or materials to franchisees, instead organizing the supply of food and materials to restaurants through approved third party logistics operators. (Could this be to avoid Monopoly lawsuits?).

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 04:01:31 PM PST

    •  in other words, (5+ / 0-)

      US pork going from midwestern factory farms to Asia to make ham that winds up in our US fast food sandwiches signifies an entire industry and its labor processes that are askew

      Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

      by annieli on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 04:24:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  My own take on this is that originally, when we (5+ / 0-)

      first started trading, the price of a product might have somewhat been comparable to its labor value inputs. However, as capitalism has progressed, the financial economy has taken on a life of its own and there is little or no correlation between the money price of a commodity and its actual value. Even the concept of determining value or worth by supply and demand has been undermined by the monopoly of financial capital.  But I think we still need the labor theory of value to reaffirm the fact that the real economy still does depend on people's labor, and that money is just the token of wealth, not the creator of wealth itself.  We have been so inundated with the glitter of gold, credit, etc. (I love when people refer to credit swap packages and derivatives as "products", as if they were real goods, instead of financial phantasmagoria). We really have been taken in by the smoke and mirrors (is this what Marx means when he discusses commodity fetishism? I'm sure Ex Pat will call me out on this and give me the correct analysis, but I couldn't resist raising the image)

      •  agreed but the notion of wealth as a construction (5+ / 0-)

        not of any mode of production and not totalized or absolute always needs to be measured against what might even can be scientifically assessed as a labor value understanding the range of human labors: manual, cognitive, joint, and their measurable conversion/substitutability as embodied factors of production rather than by pricing in a commodity market of dubious clearing capability  

        But I think we still need the labor theory of value to reaffirm the fact that the real economy still does depend on people's labor, and that money is just the token of wealth, not the creator of wealth itself

        Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

        by annieli on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 04:38:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  If the labour value of a commodity (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JayRaye, annieli

        does not underlie its price of production or its money price in some way or another, then the labour theory of value does not hold by definition. So, you are fetishising the labour theory of value. While prices of production will deviate from labour values due to the differing c/v used on average in different industries, does that mean there is no relationship between them? I would argue that there is. However, iIf the labour theory of value has no relevance, why use it, it was always supposed to be more than reminding us that things cannot be produced without labour. That is obvious, nothing can be produced for the purposes of exchange without the intercession of human labour; trees may spontaneously produce fruit, but that would not be enough to cover subsistence ... it is spontaneous.

        That is why the production of either a surplus product or surplus value does not occur in the absence of human labour; it is deliberate purposeful human labour that ensures that surplus comes about. But that is not a labour theory of value; that is a labour source or foundation found in the work of Smith who did not have a labour theory of value. In the early and rude state in Smith, due to the lack of private accumulation of capital in the hands of a few and the private appropriation of land, the whole of the product goes to the people that produce it, the workers; as such the quantity of labour required to produce it equals the quantity of labour commanded (Smith's measure of value) by the product. Once capital has been accumulated and land appropriated privately, the quantity of labour commanded by the product (now the wage) doesn't equal the quantity of labour required as a remuneration goes to capital and landowners (profits and rents respectively).

        Marx's discussion quantified the source (or foundation) and then united the discussion on what determines exchange value relating to the amount of labour socially necessary to produce a good. This is the amount of variable capital and the amount of constant capital measured in terms of the quantity of labour required for their production. That is a labour theory of value; the quantity of direct and indirect labour required for the production of a commodity determines its value. Now, Marx was quite clear that the quantity of direct and indirect labour required for production is not equal to the price of production for that good; that is the basis of his discussion of the transformation problem and the formation of the uniform rate of profits.

        But I do not see what the hell this has to do with anything that you are discussing here in this diary. What I would argue is that trade has existed long before capitalism as has money; that can be demonstrated. What is the difference between those systems and the capitalist system? That is generalised production for the purpose of profit, not for exchange of goods.  Exchange has existed forever ... capitalism is historically a relatively new mode of production and has done far more damage than all previous ones combined.

        You know what commodity fetishism is, so I do not have to explain that.  

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 05:43:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  thanks (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye, NY brit expat
          Marx's discussion quantified the source (or foundation) and then united the discussion on what determines exchange value relating to the amount of labour socially necessary to produce a good. This is the amount of variable capital and the amount of constant capital measured in terms of the quantity of labour required for their production. That is a labour theory of value; the quantity of direct and indirect labour required for the production of a commodity determines its value. Now, Marx was quite clear that the quantity of direct and indirect labour required for production is not equal to the price of production for that good; that is the basis of his discussion of the transformation problem and the formation of the uniform rate of profits.

          Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

          by annieli on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 06:52:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I think the labor theory of surplus labor has (0+ / 0-)

          everything to do with this article! In fact, I am in a very simplified way trying to start that discussion -- and no, people do not seem to realize that labor is required to produce goods and services.  That is, in addition to Marx's theory of the appropriation of profit from the labor of the worker to the owner of the means of production during the production process, there is another aspect that Marx points out -- by separating the workers from our tools and alienating us from control of the production process we lose the sense of ourselves as a group, as providing the goods and services we need for survival. We begin to see ourselves in two parts -- as workers and as consumers and frequently in one capacity act in conflict with their role in the other.i.e., as workers they fight for higher wages while investing their pension plans in sweatshop labor in other countries so they can make a higher profit as consumers.
          And Smith is irrelevant here as he does not have a labor theory of surplus value and jus confuses the issue.  

          Of course you're right, value is still ultimately based on labor.  I was being dramatic. But because the labor theory of surplus value which historically determined profit may be less and less powerful now as we move to monopoly financial capitalism where money itself has become so structurally powerful that the real value of labor to individually obtaining the money necessary to obtain wealth is almost nonexistent --which is why capitalists begin to believe their own hype and which is why the system will collapse.

          Re Smith, it is irrelevant since Smith doesn't have a labor theory profit created by SV and simply muddies the discussion because his dynamic is so different .

  •  I've Never Heard This Promised by Capitalism (6+ / 0-)
    the standard capitalist divide and conquer, the promise of individual upward mobility for the few at the expense of the many.
    All my life, back into Ike years, what I heard was a promise of upward mobility for the many. And that's what we had from around 1940 or 45 till 1970, and then for a while after we had some upward mobility among some who'd been largely held out of the mainstream. It still crops up in a few quasi documentary film shorts from the 50's and 60's on TCM between features, every so often.

    Even today the plutocrats are still promising the many will be able to advance once we remove all the restraints on the capitalists, and the Democrats promise it if we simply ask the rich to pay a little more and we liberate trade.

    Advancement only for a few was neither a promise nor a fact here before I was an adult.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 04:28:31 PM PST

    •  depends on your perspective. many (6+ / 0-)

      demographics never felt included in that "many."

      The "many" was the white male. And they were promised upward mobility, at the expense of everyone else.

      Building Community. Creating Jobs. Donating Art to Community Organizations. Support the Katalogue

      by UnaSpenser on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 04:35:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The demographics can only include people who, (6+ / 0-)

        as you point out, are counted.  In most agricultural societies, the whole family does the labor, but in most labor statistics only the head of the family, the male was counted.  In more societies a very small number of people are in the formal wage labor force and the number of people in the "informal" labor are usually not counted.  In some countries, the informal sector makes up to 40-60% of the total economy.

        •  Interesting take on this (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye

          in a guardian commentary by Vandana Shiva, who claims that the modern definition of GDP skews the perception of what is or is not work. She is writing in the context of environmental problems, but the same principle causes workers in service industries to be underpaid as well.

          GDP is based on creating an artificial and fictitious boundary, assuming that if you produce what you consume, you do not produce.
          You summarise how this especially applies to women here:
          Historically, women have provided most of the labor in the home for free which now forms the fast food service sector.  This leads to the perception that women’s labor in general, and particularly household labor such as cooking and cleaning, because you can get it for free, has no value.
          When a Big Mac and a large order of fries is sold, value is produced and GDP rises, but most of that value goes either toward infrastructure, marketing, or into the pockets of the "wealth creators". Because food preparation is "women's work", which has not gone into calculating added value or GDP, they are paid accordingly.
          The system is skewed and the metrics to measure it are rubbish. Good on the fast food workers for striking, not only for better wages, but for respect for all work, no matter what kind.

          “The universe implodes. No matter.” -Liam Williams

          by northsylvania on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 03:13:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  This fact is also important in analyzing the (0+ / 0-)

            issue of the labor theory of surplus value.  Because of our statistical tools, we tend to try to actually physically determine surplus labor value, but can only do it using exchange value. So we really are measuring surplus value in terms of the cost of the product in the marketplace which undervalues the real value of surplus labor (i.e., we measure surplus in terms of wages pr hour but we have no way to measure things like increased intensity of labor in a given hour). So all these leftist micro attempts to actually measure the amount of surplus labor value is specific situations is simply neoclassical masturbation.

    •  That's the liberal propaganda, and at times (5+ / 0-)

      capitalism, especially in its early stages, has been able, with a well regulated welfare state, to keep some of the promises.  Unfortunately, there can only be so many bosses and they need workers to make their profit for them (we still live in a pyramid structure), so it can't work forever.  We can't have all bosses unless we have worker owned and managed coops and, if this was society wide,we would no longer be under capitalism as we know it.

      I am really fudging the analysis here because of time and space, but am sure we will be discussing these ideas on this site many more times.

  •  Good diary Geminijen. Refreshing to see those (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, NY brit expat, northsylvania

    supposedly "lowly" workers talking about class. I have been to rallies of state workers unions where they use the same bland language you mentioned - middle class and all that nonsense. But may be we can't expect much from them since they are joined at the hip to the Democratic party - or atleast they reward leaders who are stooges of the Dems.  The "liberal class" as Chris Hedges calls them.

    One another statistic we need to hammer repeatedly :if minimum wage tracks productivity growth, it will be 22$/hour today or atleast 16$ if a more conservative measure is used for calculation

    "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

    by Funkygal on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 05:39:13 PM PST

  •  Here's how McD's helpline "advises" workers who (4+ / 0-)

    call with grievances reg pay etc :

    McResources "Help" Line

    Tell me again who are the freeloaders/moochers?
    [But you know, it is all about job cremators creators.]

    "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

    by Funkygal on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 05:48:08 PM PST

  •  nicely done (4+ / 0-)

    great journal.  i agree with with you completely.  i have been baffled for a long why unions were not going after fast food industry.  this is low hanging fruit for them i should think.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Riane Eisler

    by noofsh on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 06:26:52 PM PST

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