Posts Tagged ‘working class’

“The powerlessness of the workers is not merely a ruse of the rulers but the logical consequence of industrial society, into which the efforts to escape it have finally transformed the ancient concept of fate.”

– Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer, Dialectic Of Enlightenment. 1944/1947. Translated by  Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

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“Jail and the Workingman.” Kingston Daily Standard. Editorial. October 9, 1912. Page 04.

According to the annual return of Governor Corbett, of the county jail, there was a total of 162 prisoners committed during the year ending the 30th September 1912, of whom eight were females. The occupations of these prisoners were: Baker, 1; blacksmith and boilermaker, 1; bricklayers, 1; butchers, 1; cabinet makers, 5; carpenters, 8; cigar makers, 2; clerks, 1; engineers, 1; farmers, 3; hotelkeepers, 1; laborers, 109; masons, 1; moulders, 2; painters, 2; sailors, 1; servants, 6; teamsters, 1; tinsmiths, 1; woodworkers, 1; no occupation, 7; soldiers, 2.

In looking over these figures one is at once struck with the large number of laborers, 109, as against 49 of all other occupations. Two-thirds of the whole number are laborers. It may be said that laborers constitute the majority of working people and for that reason the proportion constitute the majority of working people and for that reason the proportion is not out of the way. That probably is true, but laborers do not make up two-thirds of the population of Kingston, and there are not 109 times as many laborers as there are bakers, or blacksmiths, or clerks or engineers or masons; for we find only one of each of these classes of workmen in jail during the year. The number of laborers imprisoned is clearly out of all proportion to their number in the community.

Only one explanation can be offered for this condition of affairs. A lack of education is at the bottom of it. A boy who is allowed to drift through school and leave it at an early age and is then placed at some work which leads to no trade, business or profession lands among the class of laborers when he reaches man’s estate. He is without a trade or business training and almost always without education except the merest rudiments of it.

The parent who thus neglects his child, who fails to make him attend school or who does not send him to learn a trade or business is almost criminally blameworthy. In Canada there is no excuse for allowing any boy to drift into the class of laborers. Here, there is every chance for any boy to get a fair education or to learn a trade. In the first place, it is the fault of his parents, in 99 cases out of a hundred if the boy does not get that chance; in the second place it is the fault of the State for for not passing and enforcing such laws as will compel the parents to look to the welfare of their children by seeing either that they are properly educated for the professions or are taught a business or trade. Our foreign immigration will provide us with all the laborers we need; it is a disgrace to Canada to have any of her sons among the class of criminal laborers, not because labor is not honourable, but because the people of Canada should be educated to work of a higher nature than that of the mere laborer.

The statistics furnished by Governor Corbett shows that of the 162 prisoners, 12 are Canadians – that is just 112 too many.

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“In so far as education has proved successful, in repressing vagrancy, I would answer, (without intending disparagement of the benevolent intentions of the projectors of the
scheme, or the zeal of the officials employed in its administration) No! 

The children of the dissolute and careless remain, to a great extent, outside its influences; progressing to crime and vagrancy is expanding yearly into still more frightful
dimensions, presenting now too alarming an aspect not to call for prompt and grave consideration
in the proper quarter. 

In the neglect of the proffered advantages of education, the children are frequently
to blame; but the parents are more generally the guilty party. Had they the welfare of
their offspring at heart, they would compel their attendance at school, where the opportunities
were available; but, instead of doing so, they, too often, not only connive at their
truancy, but absolutely encourage it, and find for them, instead, occupations calculated to
make them idlers and rogues; the children thus growing up pests to society, shunning
alike industry and education. 

Those who have gardens within a city, know the aptitude of the vagrant boys to strip
them of everything worth carrying off; and the owners of’ house property are aware, to
their cost, of the sharp artillery practice of this class, when the destruction of the windowglass
of their untenanted houses has to be accomplished. 

The encouragement given to vice, through the random charity bestowed in the public
streets on the “please give me a copper” class of vagrants, is much greater than the
benevolent contributors are generally aware of. The quantity of poison, yelept whiskey;
bought in a week or month with the alms thus given, would make a frightful flood, if collected
in one reservoir. 

Not alone by the parents and their vile associates the baneful beverage thus obtained
is consumed. hie youthful mendicant through whose doleful whines it had been procured, is also a partaker of it, and the harrowing spectacle of the innocence of childhood degraded,
through the example of the parents, to the level of brutality, may be witnessed on walking
through the slums inhabited by this wretched class, in the vagrant of some seven or eight
summers, the tyro drunkard, proud of mimicking, in its little maudlin swagger and hiccup,
the daily action of the miserable parent. 

Should any imagine that the picture here is overdrawn, let them but refer to the police
authorities of our populous cities, and they will receive the saddening confirmation of it.
It is, perhaps, whilst his heart is filled with the courage inspired by the liquor, the
youthful beggar first attempts a higher part in the role of vagrant life. The fear of being
pounced on by some lynx-eyed police officer, is no longer before his fuddled vision.  In
strolling about lie comes across something which his infant intelligence tells him can be
turned into money; he sneaks off with it unseen, and reaches home with it, undetected, where, through the agency of a “receiver,” or the accommodating officers of the grogseller,
it is speedily converted into whiskey.

From thus picking up small waifs on the wharves and market places, carrying home
“stray ” sticks of cordwood, taking off keys carelessly left in doors and such small beginnings,
the vagrant acquires confidence by success, creeping up into the bigher walks of
pickpocket, burglar, counterfeiter, in short everything which an adept in his profession
may aspire to until filling a cell in the Penitentiary…or a felon’s grave. 

The end so shocking, what was the beginning? Too generally, Vagrancy!

If the vagrant is to be reclaimed and the public spared the injury and cost of his misdeeds, some organized agency for the purpose is requisite.

This must necessarily be a state institution. The support desirable from private
beneficence is to uncertain to base on it the maintenance of a permanent undertaking. 

While simply pointing out the necessity that exists for some salutary measure, I do
not intend to enter upon the details of its organization, these would necessarily follow on
the adoption of the principle. 

The plans devised in those older countries, where vagrancy has been a subject of
state legislation, would supply the best information that made valuable by experience. 

That mode of treatment would best succeed, which would be gentle and compassionate.
The proceedings of the tribunal before which the vagrant should be brought for
examination, should be different from those pursued towards adult prisoners, and divested
of the exposure consequent on actual crime. 

The detectives employed (men tender and considerate) should be a body distinct from
the civic police, not alone in the duties discharged, but in the externals of dress. 

The vagrant, when taken up, should not be confined in an apartment used by the
criminals or disorderly classes, nor examined at the same time, or at the same place, with
them. Every harsh and repulsive feature should be put aside, that could give the appearance
of criminal prosecution to this first movement of benevolence in behalf of the vagrant.
The case should be enquired into in the presence of the parents, if the vagrant have
any, and they could be found; and every information possible should be obtained, in the
meantime, touching their reputation and habits. 

As, with every other scheme proposed for public consideration, objection may be made
to this one, on the ground of its expense, there need be but little room for this objection,
I imagine. 

Thus officers, one of them holding rank over the others, and competent to keep the
records of the department, and an office in which to keep these, which would also answer
for the Court, would constitute the bulk oi the expense, and this simple arrangement
would, at least for the present, embrace the necessary machinery for working the system. 

There are benevolent institutions at present in operation in Toronto which, under
suitable arrangements, would be found adequate to give the experiment a trial, and at
very small cost, I would suppose.
In the “ Boys’ Home,” an institution founded by some benevolent ladies of that city, and which has already done much to check the evil which is the subject of these remarks, would probably be found at least for some time a refuge for those vagrants of the Protestant
faith, and in the Reformatory Farm School, established by His Lordship the Catholic
Bishop of Toronto, would, I have no doubt, be received, those belonging to the Catholic

The establishment of such a tribunal and its machinery would, I have little doubt, be
hailed by many a sorrow-stricken parent as a blessing.
For the refractory youth-so often spoiled by blind indulgence, who does truant shuns from school and the parental roof, and associates with none but the worst of companions, and over when the parents have lost all influence, yet whom they cannot bring themselves to place in a prisoner’s dock; this tribunal and its-sentence of committal to a
strange but benevolent home, would be a merciful recourse, and, in all probability, restore
many a repentant prodigal to welcoming parents.”

– Inspector Terence O’Neil, “SEPARATE REPORT FOR THE YEAR 1864,” Annual Report of the Board of Inspectors of Asylums, Prisons &c for the year 1864. Sessional Papers of the Province of Canada, Sessional Papers No. 14, 29 Victoria, A. 1865. pp. 79-82

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“The Polish Workers’ Paradise,” Montreal Gazette. September 2, 1980. Page 07.

Poland’s crisis is a forerunner of what could happen in the Soviet Union

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TURKEY. 1998.
Renault cars factory.

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“Shipyard workers at Gdansk defy Polish leader Edward Gierek’s orders to return to work,” Montreal Gazette. August 27, 1980. Page 07.

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“Calling someone a “hipster” is a license to spew all kinds of demented hate. Since the term carries connotations of slackers and trust funds, the image of “hipsters on food stamps” is designed to provoke the conclusion that someone is lazily taking advantage of the system. Certainly that was how things played at the blogof the libertarian Reason magazine, which mocked the notion that someone might both deserve economic assistance and make art and wear odd clothes.

One wouldn’t expect any better from libertarians, who have built an entire ideology around the worldview of twelve-year-old boys. But they aren’t the only people who react to stories like this with rage or contempt rather than empathy. Consider the following comment, left under my friend’s response to the article about him:

I’m sorry but you are a selfish, whiny leach. I can say this because I a middle-aged woman and have been trying to find work for two years without success though I have a masters degree in a fairly desirable field. I have dwindling savings and two kids. Because I stayed home with them for a few years I don’t qualify for unemployment and that has also damaged my marketability in the job world. Despite all of this I have never resorted to public assistance and will not. In addition, I have a back problem that surgery did not correct so I am in physical pain 24 hrs a day. Still I have taken temp jobs and we have cut back in many ways. I am proud of my fortitude and resourcefulness, because we will make it through this time and my kids will learn valuable lessons from me about self-reliance.

Here we have a person who has been marginally employed for two years and suffers physical pain twenty-four hours a day — and rather than demanding something better for herself, she demands that other people suffer more!

Vicious and unhinged discourse is widespread on the Internet, but this example is worth noting because the sentiment it expresses is by no means unique. This attitude — a petty and mean-spirited resentment — is depressingly common even among the working class. It sometimes seems to amount to no more than the sentiment that justice consists in everyone else being at least as miserable as you are. At one level, it’s an attitude that reflects diminished expectations, and can be partly blamed on the weakness of the Left and the defeat of its historical project: when you don’t believe any positive social change is possible, there’s little left to fall back on but bitterness and resentment.

This resentment is also at the heart of a lot of hating on “hipsters.” People see others whom they perceive to have lives that are easier, cooler, or more fun than theirs, and instead of questioning the society that gave them their lot, they demand conformity and misery out of others.

But why? The false (but not without a grain of truth!) intimation that hipsters are all white kids who are subsidized by their rich parents legitimizes this position, but even if it were accurate it wouldn’t make the attitude of contempt any more sensible. For even if creative and enjoyable lives are only accessible to the privileged, that’s not a damning fact about them so much as it is an indictment of a society that has so much wealth and yet only allows a select few to take advantage of it, while others are forced to waste their lives chained to their useless jobs and bloated mortgages.

The rage directed at the figure of “a hipster on food stamps” is only intelligible in terms of the rotted ideological foundation that supports it: an ideology that simultaneously glorifies the suffering of the exploited and vilifies those among the dispossessed who are deemed to be insufficiently hardworking or self-reliant. It treats some activities (making art) as worthless and parasitic, and others (working temp jobs) as totems of “resourcefulness” and “self-reliance,” without any apparent justification.

This is what we have learned to call the work ethic; but the vociferousness with which it is expressed masks its increasing hollowness. For just who counts as a hard worker, or a worker at all?

The work ethic is a foundational element of modern capitalism: it assures the overall legitimacy of the system, and within the individual workplace it motivates workers to be both economically productive and politically quiescent. But the love of work does not come easily to the proletariat, and its construction over centuries was a monumental achievement for the capitalist class.

After years of struggle, discipline was imposed on pre-capitalist people who rejected regimented “clock time” and were prone to take a holiday on “Saint Monday’s day” whenever they had been too drunk the Sunday before. In America, a Protestant ethic equating work, salvation, and moral virtue arose in an economy full of artisans and small farmers, and was maintained only with great difficulty through the transition to more grueling and alienated forms of industrial labor.

In the twentieth century, perpetual war and labor’s Fordist compromise with capital provided a moral and material justification for the work ethic: during wartime (hot or cold), work could be equated with the patriotic struggle for national preservation, while the postwar golden age rested on an understanding that if workers submitted to capitalist work discipline, they would be rewarded with a share in the resulting productivity increases in the form of rising wages.

Today, the work ethic still serves as a guiding value from one end of the political spectrum to the other. The Right, including its latest Tea Party iteration, presents itself as the defender of the hardworking many against the slothful and indolent. To take just one recent example, a Republican candidate for governor of South Carolina has proposed mandatory drug testing for recipients of unemployment insurance, echoing an early proposal from Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

On the Left, the rhetoric of “working people” and “working families” is ubiquitous; indeed, in the wake of Clinton’s assaults on the welfare state, it seems that the poor can only justify their existence and their access to benefits and transfers if they can somehow be portrayed as “working.” So New York State’s social democratic quasi–third party calls itself the “Working Families Party,” and the union-led One Nation march in Washington promotes the slogan “Putting America Back to Work.”

Such appeals to the moral superiority of work and workers are often rooted in producerism: the notion that the fruits of society’s wealth and labor should return to those who directly perform productive labor. Producerism is hostile both to parasitic elites at the top of society and to the allegedly unproductive indigents at the bottom, hence its relationship to the political left and right is ambiguous.

But in post-industrial capitalist society, “work” has come to be disconnected from any conception of directly producing something or contributing work with any specific content. Work is increasingly defined formally: as whatever people do in return for wages.

With this elision, the material foundation of the work ethic is gradually undermined, and today the absurdity of the work ideology becomes readily apparent. For while it has never been the case that labor was rewarded in proportion to its contribution, it is now quite obvious that wage work is not identical to productive activity, and that the rewards to labor have lost any connection to the social value or desirability of the work performed.

Indeed, it sometimes seems that the distribution of wages is, to a first approximation, the exact inverse of the social utility of work. Thus the workers closest to our most fundamental needs — food and shelter — are non-unionized residential construction workers and migrant fruit pickers, lucky to even earn the minimum wage. At the same time, bankers are given millions for the invention and trade of sophisticated credit derivatives, even though most of their work is equivalent to — and as we’ve now discovered, quite a bit more destructive than — betting on the outcome of the Super Bowl.

This perverse reversal of values has a fractal quality, as well, so that even within individual occupations the same inverse relationship between wages and social value seems to hold. Plastic surgeons have easier jobs and vastly greater earnings than pediatricians, and being a celebrity pet groomer is more lucrative than working in an animal shelter.

Whether his art is any good or not, my artist friend on food stamps contributes more to society than the traders at Lehman brothers, by simply not wrecking the global financial system. He may well have contributed more than our anonymous commenter in her temp jobs, if they were anything like some of the temp assignments I’ve had: entering rejected applications for health insurance into the insurance company’s computer, for example, a tiny step in an inhumane decision made by an industry that should not even exist.

Note, moreover, that the commenter’s defense of her worth was based on her temp jobs and refusal of public assistance, and not on one of the few activities that is widely agreed to be valuable and necessary human labor — raising children.

In this context, it seems impossible to speak of the value of hard work without questioning both the equation of useful work with wage labor, and of high wages with high social value. But the ideology of the work ethic is nonetheless powerful, because it reassures people that their lives are meaningful and valuable, so long as they participate in waged work.

And ideologies can stumble along in zombie form for a remarkably long time, even when the historical conditions that gave rise to them have completely disappeared. The work ethic, in all its morbid forms, may have already degenerated from tragedy to farce, but that alone will not be enough to abolish it. We need an alternative to erect in its place.

The threads of a different ethic are all around us, if we begin to think of all the subtle ways in which our activities contribute to social wealth outside of paid labor.

Feminists were the pioneers, showing how all of capitalism, and all of human history, was predicated on a vast and invisible structure of reproductive labor performed mostly by women, mostly not for wages. The rise of new ideologies of communal production, like Open Source and Creative Commons, have revealed how much is possible without the wage incentive. Even the great new robber barons of the digital age, Google and Facebook, are instructive. Their value rests, on the most basic level, on the work of millions of users who provide content and information for free.

If it is increasingly impossible to disentangle the productive and unproductive parts of human activity, then we can reconstruct the old producerist dogma in a new way: everyone deserves to be provided with the means to live a decent life, because we are all already contributing to the production and reproduction of society itself.

The kind of social policy that follows from this position would be very different from the narrow, targeted, programs like food stamps, whose very narrowness make it easy to demonize one group in society as parasitic — whether the demonized group is welfare queens in the nineties or hipsters on food stamps today.

Rather than the “deserving” or “working” poor, with its connotations of moral judgment and authoritarian social control, it is time to begin speaking the language of economic and social rights. For instance, the right to a Universal Basic Income, a means of living at a basic level that would be provided to everyone, no questions asked.”

– Peter Frase, “Resenting Hipsters.Jacobin, January 1, 2011. 

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“This drastic revision of penality’s logic [from punishment to rehabilitation] occurs precisely at the historical moment when the political franchise is being extended to include the mass of the (male) working class within its terms for the very first time…At precisely the same time a whole series of institutions and regulations are put in place which are designed to identify all those legal citizens (or prospective legal citizens) who lack the normative capacity to participate and exercise their new found rights responsibly. Once identified, these deviants are subject to a work of normalization, correction or segregation, which ensures one of two things. Either they become responsible, conforming subjects, whose regularity, political stability and industrious performance deems them capable of entering into institutions of representative democracy; or they are supervised and segregated from the normal social realm in a manner that minimizes (and individualizes) any ‘damage’ they can do.”

– David Garland, Punishment and Welfare: A History of Penal Strategies. Aldershot: Gower, 1985. p. 249

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“This “social space” that Eribon yearned to flee was marked by the deprivations and frustrations of working class life in postwar France. His father worked long hours in a factory and his mother cleaned houses. The family lived in a series of cramped government-provided apartments where he and his three brothers shared a single bed, and where each floor in the apartment building had only a single communal bathroom. One of the few bright spots in Eribon’s bleak upbringing were the neighborhood dances and festivals organized by the local branch of the French Communist Party. Eribon’s parents were staunch supporters of the Party, which provided them and their fellow workers with a sense of collective identity and hope for the future. “The Communist Party,” as Eribon explains, “was the organizing principle and the uncontested horizon of our relation to politics.”

Eribon began to chafe against this community at a young age. He liked to read books instead of play sports, which put him at odds with his father, his brothers, and virtually every other boy in his working class neighborhood. He was the first person in his family to attend high school (doing so wasn’t mandatory in France at the time), and this produced the first of many ruptures with his family: “The educational process succeeded in creating within me, as one of its very conditions of possibility, a break—even a kind of exile—that grew ever more pronounced, and separated me little by little from the world that I came from.” This separation grew wider when, at the age of 13 or 14, Eribon fell in love with a male classmate. Homosexuality was scorned in Eribon’s hyper-masculine milieu, so he was forced to conceal his desires. Sometimes he even leveled homophobic insults against other boys to ward off any suspicion about himself. This psychic disjunction—a nerdy gay boy hiding behind a fake manly facade—produced within Eribon a split self. He found himself perpetually “shuttling back and forth between two registers, between two universes.”


Eribon finally escaped at age 20, when he moved to Paris to continue his graduate studies. He immediately found himself in an environment that embraced his intellectual ambitions and gay identity. But at the same time, it was an environment where working class tastes and experiences were denigrated. In a fascinating parallel, Eribon reveals that at high-brow social gatherings in Paris, he employed the same techniques he once used to conceal his homosexuality to now conceal his class origins. This entailed “a constant self-surveillance as regards one’s gestures, one’s intonation, manners of speech, so that nothing untoward slips out, so that one never betrays oneself.” Eribon’s move to Paris also precipitated a shift in his politics. In his late teens he had been a devout Trotskyist, but the latent homophobia of his comrades ensured that he never felt completely comfortable in this milieu. “I was split in two,” he says. “Half Trotskyist, half gay.””

– Michael Andres, “Return To Sender.The New Inquiry, January 30, 2014. 

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“The ONDP is seriously in danger of losing the plot. They have communicated next to nothing on the minimum wage recently. Nothing congratulating workers on the win, informing them of the changes, nor defending the raise against a slew of attacks in the media and by employers.

This fits a pattern where ONDP refused to endorse the $14 minimum wage called by the movement in the runnup to the 2014 election, opting to call for $12.

Then a full year after the launch of the Fight for $15 and Fairness they finally came around to supporting the call for $15 – but gave no timeline. They equivocated on most of the other demands of the movement. It was true it was better than the Liberals, but the ONDP never really championed these ideas. They never aimed to organize support for these ideas, help build the movement, and stump the message across the province.

Their fundraising emails and communication were mostly empty. They said one thing here and then turned around and talked about cutting red tape and providing offsets to business there. They spoke at the Chamber of Commerce and the Empire Club talking about how they were good for business and that the Liberals were rushing these changes.

Again they have better policy positions, but Wynne and the Liberals have taken over the ground the ONDP ceded. They have message discipline on the issue, they frame it along class lines, talk about bully bosses ,and champion the low-wage workers. They are Liberals so we know this is opportunistic, but who gave them this opportunity? The ONDP leadership has to only look in the mirror.

Time is running out for any ONDP course correct, but this is all very bad.

If Horwath thinks critiquing Wynne for being all talk is going to play well with workers when her government just passed Bill 148, while the ONDP has done nothing but support these issues in hushed tones, the ONDP is in for a world of hurt.”

– DB on the failure of the Ontario New Democratic Party to speak or move on the $15 minimum wage increase

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“It has come as no surprise that employers and business interests across the province are swamping news outlets with predictions of pending doom. Prices will rise, jobs will be cut, and workers will be punished, they claim. Tim Horton’s franchise-owners in Cobourg recently announced that they will be punishing workers by eliminating various forms of corporate pity meant to make them seem like good employers, i.e. paid breaks. This is meant to let the wider public know that this minimum wage increase is too much too soon, and will bring greater consequences than gains.

Those who eat this kind of thing up with relish respond to the Cobourg Tim Hortons story with know-it-all glee. “Of course this is happening. You zigged, they zagged, nothing will ever change. Stop trying.” In the face of nihilism, I think it’s important to remind ourselves of the enormity of what’s been won through Bill 148, and think through the ways in which we can continue to exercise collective political agency in 2018.

I think it’s important to remember that the power of employers to “zag” is actually pretty limited—given that we’ve won tremendous gains with Bill 148, and hundreds of new dollars will be going in to workers pockets every month, the sacrifice of paid lunch breaks is quite petty. Employers’ power to retaliate is limited by the newly improved Employment Standards Act which entrenches higher standards with respect to scheduling, paid sick days, and wages.

Furthermore, the power of employers to “zag” by ruthlessly increase prices is also limited by their desire to remain competitive and to avoid alienating its customers. They will push as far as they think they can get away with on prices, which means that we need to let them know the limit to our tolerance is lower than they might hope. Unfortunately, price increases disproportionately effect those on fixed incomes, and so we should be intolerant to the extent that we appreciate this!

In the meantime, what can we do as allies to minimum wage workers? Firstly, we can be loud in letters to the editor and across facebook to ensure that employers know that we’re watching them. When a local employer “zags” publicly, we should respond just as publicly with letters to the editors and strategic rallies and canvassing sessions.

We can also work towards limiting the “zagging” power of business by empowering workers themselves to dictate the terms of employment under which they work, with as powerful a voice as possible. As allies, we should ask ourselves why workers in so many food-service, minimum wage jobs are not unionized right now, and ask what we can do to make this option more accessible. Are myths about unions being “outdated” too dominant? Do workers understand what unions are or how to form one? Does the two-stage process of unionization prevent successful organizing drives in the food service industry such that expanding card-check certification would help? Would the power of food-service unions be more substantial if sectoral bargaining were available?

Let’s ask ourselves what needs to change in order for the workers at the Tim Hortons in Cobourg to be able to demand paid breaks through collective bargaining (if that’s something they want to fight for) rather than receiving them at the mercy of their employer.”

– LJ on fighting employers fighting the minimum wage increase

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“"Family-owned and family-run" Agnew Foods in Kingston, Ontario owns 15 Tim Horton’s stores. It employs over 500 people at sub-$15 wages with a meagre benefits package for full-timers that employees have to pay into. It is the second largest private sector employer in Kingston, a city of about 140,000 or so (the Startek call centre is first with only a few more employees).

Seven or eight years ago a court case made average Tim Hortons franchise owner profits public: $265,000 per store each year. A new franchise store is estimated to cost $1 million investment to open.

Going by these greatly dated figures, Agnew Foods is pulling in just shy of $4 million in pure profit each year – and that is most likely on top of generous compensation.

Agnew Foods runs a virtual monopoly in Kingston with only a handful of competing Tim Hortons – most of them corporate-run. Not only that, but it is the single strongest franchisee in town of any fast food chain, meaning it is most likely the dominant in the local market.

Companies like this are the result of the franchise model: a competitive market over time gives way to fewer competitors. In Kingston it has reached the point where there is no chance in hell a new Tim Hortons franchisee can start up, and corporate is unlikely to award such a franchise because it makes no sense in terms of distribution of capital, labour, resources, etc. It is quite easy to see how the geographic spread of the Agnew Foods Tim Hortons stores is designed to cover every major avenue, intersection, interchange, etc.

The franchisees are the frontlines of capturing local and regional markets so corporate can build bases of operations to carry out the same quest for market dominance at the provincial, national and international level. Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Tim Hortons, owns Burger King and Popeyes Chicken as well. I can’t reasonably speculate on the specific strategy of RBI, but there is no question about the company’s general goals: profits through market dominance.

Where does this leave a low wage or minimum wage worker at Tim Hortons? Their labour operating the food processing factories, shipping the goods, and serving customers is where all the profits are extracted and flow upwards through the franchisees to corporate. Whatever technological transformations – greater factory automation, touchscreens, mobile apps – they still retain the power to bring RBI to a grinding halt if they withdrew their labour.

The anti-$15 propaganda from employers and fed constantly by the mainstrea media, the cuts to benefits, the scaremongering, bullying, and propagation of fantastic myths about hard work, laziness, education, social status, “lifestyle”, race, gender, etc all serve to beat down people, divide them, redirect anger sideways or downward, and undermine workers from building solidarity on the basis of common interests.

The task for anyone who sees the potential power of worker solidarity and identifies it as a strategic power capable of transforming society and destroying the profit system, is to intelligently, patiently, and relentlessly work to build that solidarity and power.”

– quoting from DN about the mimimum wage increase and Kingston, Ontario, Tim Horton’s franchise

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Of the top 20 global employers in 2017, five are outsourcing and “workforce solutions” companies, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence. In 2000, only one employer in the top 20—International Business Machines Corp., which offers outsourced IT services among its many businesses—fell into that bucket.

Outsourcing companies are vacuuming up the world’s workers as traditional employers are handing over more of their tasks to nonemployees, a shift that has transformed the way corporations do business and had profound effects on workers’ prospects and pay.

The past two decades have been boom times for the outsourcing sector, with the annual value of contracts growing to $37 billion in 2016 from $12.5 billion in 2000, according to research and advisory firm Information Services Group Inc. III +0.00% The market is expected to rise again in 2017 and 2018, thanks partly to double-digit growth in big technology projects as more companies transfer massive volumes of data to the cloud.

For employers, dispatching work to outside companies saves money and lets them access skills they need without adding to their headcount. Workers in jobs that have gone to outsourcers, though, can feel moved around like chess pieces, either displaced entirely or re-badged as employees of a service provider, sometimes with fewer benefits and lower pay. A growing body of economic research suggests that outsourcing is a significant factor fueling the rise of income inequality in the past decade.

“If all the engineers are in one firm and the cleaners are in another, you get less diversity within firms and more inequality across firms,” says Nicholas Bloom, an economist at Stanford University.

The breadth of services on offer from outsourcing firms is staggering. Compass Group was founded in 1941 to run factory cafeterias in wartime England, eventually branching out into corporate catering. It now employs more than 550,000 and counts among its subsidiaries firms like Eurest Services, which staffs and manages mailrooms for clients, provides them with full-time receptionists, sets up their conference rooms for meetings and operates their warehouses. Eurest’s clients include Google, SAP and Pfizer Inc.

With so much work done outside the company, businesses employ fewer kinds of workers than they used to, a change that economists say has fueled income inequality.Outsourcing leads to workers being clustered in companies according to their skills, which affects pay and benefits. A bank used to employ janitors and security guards, in addition to traders and salespeople. For the sake of morale and a sense of fairness, management had an incentive to limit the disparities in employees’ compensation. That had the effect of boosting the pay of lower-skilled staff.

Now, those janitors might just as often work for an outside firm like Denmark’s ISS AS, one of the largest facility services companies in the world, while the high-skilled workers remain employed by the bank—a trend economists call occupational sorting. Pay for outside workers tends to be lower because outsourcing firms need to keep costs low to compete for contracts and because the workers don’t reap rewards from the financial successes of the bank.

Companies that provide security guards or IT help-desk workers have to show they can do the job more cheaply than the client can, keeping a tight lid on wages for those workers, says David Weil, a Labor Department official in the Obama administration and an expert on contract labor.

Outsourcing firms’ workforces, though, may shrink as algorithms take on more tasks, says Steve Hall, a partner at ISG.

“The large outsourcers are using a combination of analytics and automation to significantly reduce the need for labor,” he says.

– Lauren Weber, “Some of the World’s Largest Employers No Longer Sell Things, They Rent Workers.The Wall Street Journal, December 28, 2017.

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“Scene of Explosion in Grain Elevator,” Montreal Star. October 27, 1921. Page 03.

“The photograph taken from the roof of No. 7 shed shows the galvanized iron superstructure that surmounts No. 1 elevator and which was badly damaged in an explosion of grain dust caused by a spark from an overheated motor this morning. Fire followed in one of the bins. So far as has been ascertained the main damage was done to the conveyor system, though it has not been possible to examine what quantity of grain has been damaged. The cement part of the huge structure was not damaged. Below is a group of the workmen in the elevator at the time of the explosion. None of them was injured.”

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“Three Are Saved in Central Patricia Mine Blast Which Killed Four Underground,” Toronto Star. October 9, 1947. Page 02.

Captions to photographs, starting top left:

Whole Community at Central Patricia Mine in the Red Lake district today stood by as draegermen toiled following the accident which trapped seven men at the bottom of the shaft. This is the mining settlement.

Explosion of Natural gas is blamed for the disaster which caught the men below 3,300 feet in the shaft at Central Patricia Mine, seen here. Three men have been saved, it is reported, and the other four are known to have died in the blast.

Hospital at Mine, at right, is available for emergency cases. Condition of rescued miners is not known. Because of limited communication facilities, the Toronto offices of the company have only meagre details.

Red Cross Outpost hospital at Red Lake, 100 miles from the Central Patricia Mine, is standing by to aid in any way it can, the society reports. This nurse is at work in the hospital which has an adequate supply of blood plasma and penicillin.

Map of the Red Lake area shows location of Central Patricia Mine where the explosion took four lives. Besides Red Lake Hospital, one at Sioux Lookout also could aid.

Four Men died under 400 tons of rock and earth in shaft at point indicated.

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