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The Year Of The Co-op: New Survey Reveals Americans View Co-ops More Favorably Than For-Profit Businesses

8:51 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

A co-op in Austin, Texas. Photo by woods at night.

On October 31, 2011, the United Nations proclaimed 2012 to be “The International Year of Cooperatives (IYC).” The world body uses this annual designation to help bring attention to what it believes are some of the world’s most critical issues. On its IYC website, it praises the cooperative model for its contributions towards ending world poverty, and encourages more groups to embrace this “alternative means of doing business.”

Co-ops benefit communities around the globe by offering employees a living wage with favorable working conditions, and by promoting social integration and sound environmental policies.

Co-ops have recently enjoyed something of a resurgence in the U.S. as its economy has continued to sputter. Worker pay has remained on the decline for decades, and a corporate hijacking of U.S. democracy has left the public distrustful of the 1% who appear to be living large off the pain, suffering and disempowerment of the 99%.

‘Social injustice’ has become the buzzword to define America’s new economic reality.

In just the last few years, Americans have watched in horror as laissez faire Capitalism wreaked havoc, with impunity, on their communities. From Wall Street corruption bringing the entire financial system to its knees, and those responsible profiting from the calamity they engineered, to BP & Halliburton’s gross negligence resulting in 200 million gallons of oil pouring into the Gulf, and creating a catastrophe so severe that two full years later the sea life there can only be described as “horribly mutated creatures.”

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VIDEO Interview w/ Noam Chomsky: #Occupy’s Number One Target Should Be Concentrations Of Private Power

9:46 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

Off the release of his new publication, OCCUPY (Occupied Media Pamphlet Series), Laura Flanders (GRITtv) sat down with MIT professor Noam Chomsky to reflect on the grim state of America, and the role activists have to play in turning it around. When asked what should be the number one target of the ninety-nine percent, to foster change, Chomsky responded:

It’s the concentrations of private power, which have an enormous — not total control — but enormous influence over Congress and the White House. In fact, that’s increasing sharply with the sharp concentration of private power escalating across the elections, and so on. [...]

Chomsky believes a good way to combat the destruction that private corporations unleash on the societies in which they operate, is to work to redefine the concept of ‘business responsibility’ away from responsiveness to shareholders, and towards responsiveness to stakeholders:

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Here Is What Unregulated, Non-Unionized Capitalism Looks Like: Apple’s iFactory In China

7:26 pm in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Conservatives have long derided organized labor and business regulations as some sort of insidious ‘socialist’ cancer that stymies innovation, fleeces hardworking business owners, crushes prosperity and investment capital, and dampens economies with high inflation and high unemployment.

They contend that when corporations are left unburdened by oversight and regulations, to pursue their own profit-maximizing interests, that this will always — as if by an invisible magical hand — optimize the interests of the society in which they operate.

Obscenely naive or deeply disingenuous, this ideology has been disproved over and over again, since the beginning of the industrial age. In a global economy, the moment a nation catches on — usually when its citizens’ quality of life deteriorates to the point of social unrest — and moves to remedy the situation with more regulations, and by easing organized labor restrictions, the corporations begin to look around to other developing countries for exploitative opportunities.

This now familiar business cycle is especially prominent in sectors that require an educated and highly skilled workforce. This is because higher education is generally funded, not by corporations or government, but by labor itself. This limits the supply of skilled labor, and forces corporations to compete with one another for these self-educated workers, thereby pushing wages upwards.

But unlike labor, who are restricted by national borders in search for employment, corporations are free to roam the world for cheap labor. And corporations have no loyalty to the citizens who reside within the countries they operate. Why pay a premium for an employee with a unique level of expertise, when potential employees with similar skill-sets are being grotesquely undervalued overseas? After all, a corporation’s charter commands it to exploit resources and labor as cheaply as is possible in order to maximize profits.

At the moment, China happens to be one of those developing nations with a massive poverty-stricken population — ripe for corporate exploitation.

And what better iconic ‘American’ corporation, but Apple — manufacturer of the world’s most beloved technology products and gadgets — to demonstrate this corporate flight towards labor-exploitative opportunities.

China is a country which conservatives would consider an ideal, unregulated, business-friendly environment. Rather than demanding China raise its labor standards, conservatives would rather weaken U.S. labor standards to be more like China. The conservative plan for bringing jobs home is little more than a race to the bottom. By union busting, cutting government jobs, and further deregulation, American workers will find themselves as powerless and exploitative as our counterparts in developing countries. This, they believe, will make America more ‘competitive.’ This is their ‘free market’ ideology, in a nutshell.

In the following video, ABC’s Nightline was granted unprecedented access to Apple’s factories (owned by FoxCon) inside China. When you see the conditions in which these employees operate, you realize why decent paying American jobs are disappearing, and, as Apple’s recently-deceased CEO admitted to President Obama, “they aren’t coming back.” You begin to understand why young Americans are now questioning whether it even makes economic sense to assume huge amounts of debt in pursuit of higher education.

If you take one thing away from this video, I hope it is that this is not merely an American problem. It is a world problem. The only way to raise the living standards of Americans will be to raise it for everyone else in the world, because this is truly a global economy. And that process begins with rewriting all of our trade deals in ways that empower workers in every single nation, across the world.

Some highlights from Nightline’s reporting:

• Apple’s Chinese employees work 12-hour shifts, broken up by two-hour meal breaks, and often seven days per week.

• Employees work so long and so hard on the assembly line, that most eat their 70 cent meals at the company canteen quickly, so they can catch up on lost sleep at their work stations. (the video shows them all sleeping side-by-side during their lunch break)

• Many employees live in dorm rooms, shared by seven other workers, and will each pay $17.50 per month for this. This allows Apple to have workers on-call 24-7, in case they ever need to quickly scale-up production, at a moment’s notice.

• Most employees have left their families to work here.

• ’Suicide nets‘ have been installed under the windows of all FoxCon employees to prevent them from killing themselves. A year ago, nine employees jumped to their deaths in the span of 3 months.

• Last year, poorly ventilated aluminum ducts, which the company had been warned about by human rights groups (an accusation the company does not deny), caused two separate explosions in iPad polishing stations, killing four employees and injuring seventy-seven.

• Literally thousands of people (over three thousand on this particular Monday) line up daily at FoxCon’s recruitment center, waiting hours on end, and many carrying suitcases. They are desperate to work there for $1.78 per hour. Demand for Apple products is so high, that FoxCon will hire 80% of them.

• To help manage the controversy that erupted after the NY Times’ recent article, In China, Human Costs Are Built Into An iPod, Apple joined the Fair Labor Association. But Apple paid the group $250k to join, and also pays for all its pre-arranged — never by surprise — audits, leading many to believe there is a deep conflict of interest, and is little more than a ploy to whitewash their labor practices.

• ABC revealed most all of the employees they spoke with complained about their low-pay, expensive lunch prices, and crowded dorms, but there was nothing they could do about it, as unions don’t exist there.

Sounds like a Conservative Utopia!

WATCH: Click through to view ABC Nightline Video

Originally published at AlterPolitics

 

Obama Flip-Flops On Outsourcing American Jobs, While In India

10:19 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

It appears President Obama has two contradicting messages with regards to outsourcing American jobs overseas.  The one he chooses to voice apparently depends on whether he’s speaking here at home or to an overseas audience, and whether his statements are made before or after an election.

Here’s a video clip of the President, in May of 2009, criticizing the American tax code for giving financial incentives to corporations who outsource American jobs:

It’s a tax code that says, you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York. We will stop letting American companies that create jobs overseas take deductions on their expenses when they do not pay any American taxes on their profits.  And we will use the savings to give tax cuts to companies that are investing in research and development here at home. “

Here’s the President speaking to a crowd in Ohio — where 9.6% of its residents are unemployed  — on September 9, leading up to the 2010 midterm elections:

“One of the keys to job creation is to encourage companies to invest more in the United States. But for years, our tax code has actually given billions of dollars in tax breaks that encourage companies to create jobs and profits in other countries.  I want to change that. Instead of tax loopholes that incentivise investment in overseas jobs, I’m proposing a more generous, permanent extension of the tax credit that goes to companies for all the research and innovation they do right here in America,” he said, with Ohio governor Ted Strickland standing by his side.

“I think if we’re going to give tax breaks to companies, they should go to companies that create jobs in America — not those that create jobs overseas. That’s one difference between the Republican vision and the Democratic vision. And that’s what this election is all about,” Obama said.

Now, shortcut two months later to Obama speaking in India (two days ago) — post-2010 Midterm elections:

“I don’t think you heard me make outsourcing a bogeyman during the course of my visit.  In fact, I expressly said during my visit to Mumbai, at the business council, that both countries (India and the US), I think, were operating on some stereotypes that’ve outlived their usefullness,” Obama said.

“In every discussion that I have had with Indian businesses what I have seen is that our countries are matched up in a way that allows us enormous win-win potential,” he said.  “Whenever I’m asked about Indians taking away our jobs, I want to say: You know what, they’ve just created 50,000 jobs. But these old stereotypes, these old concerns ignore today’s reality. In 2010, trade between our countries is not just a one-way street of American jobs and companies moving to India.”

He added:

“We’re very proud of our high-tech industries and we think we make some of the best products in the world, and we want to sell them to a growing Indian market.  But it turns out some of those same technologies are ones that will allow Indian entrepreneurs to grow and thrive and create jobs right here in India,” Obama said.

President Obama obviously didn’t get the message from Americans who actually bothered to turn out to vote in the Midterm elections:  “It’s the jobs, Stupid!”

UPDATE:

Tonight, The Ed Show covered Obama’s outsourcing flip-flop in India.  Here’s the video clip with a worthwhile discussion on the outsourcing problem with Teamsters President, James Hoffa.

Originally published at AlterPolitics