TWO (2) VIDEO CLIPS
Worker-Owned Cooperatives in the U.S. … A Vision for the future?
1. “SHIFT CHANGE: Putting Democracy to Work” Directed by Melissa Young & Mark Dworkin. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK9SjSpRCcQ (7 mins: 05
2. News Program about the film, “Shift Change” – “The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK9SjSpRCcQ (9 mins: 25
QUIZ 8 on the film, “Shift Change.” The QUIZ asks three (3) questions about the film, based on the Film Guide & your screening of the two video
clips. (QUIZ 8 is posted up on the ASSIGNMENTS Tab.)
In the final section of his book, our author Michael Zweig discusses what the Working Class Majority has done historically to claim political power,
and what can be done in the present/future, especially given the unchecked power currently exercised by global capitalism.
There are two parts to this project of claiming power and making change:
1. Working class efforts to obtain greater power within the American political system (Chap. 7)
2. Working class efforts to obtain greater power within the globalized capitalist economy – one that reaches far beyond the national borders of the
United States (Chapters 8 & 9)
ZWEIG: Chapter 8, POWER & THE GOVERNMENT
Three major questions are explored in this chapter of The Working Class Majority:
1. What *role* does the government play in the dynamic relationship between workers (LABOR) and owners of companies and corporations (CAPITAL)?
2. What role should the government play in the U.S. economy, and in the ongoing struggles between workers (labor) and employers/bosses and
3. How can working class people engage the government to gain more power – based on our understanding of what the government does.
Question # 2, above, figures prominently in all the current discussion swirling around the upcoming 2016 presidential election – there are very
sharp disagreements between Democrats and Republicans on the question of the government’s role in society.
Zweig’s final chapters invite you to re-evaluate your beliefs about the role the government should play in the economy, especially in relation to
working class people.
In the introductory paragraphs of Chapter 8, Zweig discusses some of the prevalent negative attitudes *his* friends have about the government – and
these are pro-labor, pro-working class people. This indicates just how deep anti-government sentiments are in our society.
Zweig rejects the idea that government is totally controlled by Big Business and the wealthy. He believes the government has an important role to
play in resolving the problems working class people have and their struggles for greater social equality. While some progressive scholars and
radical activists believe all electoral politics only works for the wealthy, dominant class, Zweig believes there is “wiggle room.” He believes
there are specific moments and issues on which working people – at the job and in their family/community lives – can pressure the government to act
in our favor. He does not believe the government *only* works for the rich, the powerful, the 1% — the owners of corporations, the banks and the
WHAT IS – AND WHAT SHOULD BE – THE ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE DYNAMICS AND STRUGGLES BETWEEN WORKERS (LABOR) AND BOSSES/OWNERS/MANAGEMENT
In the United States, at this moment in history, there are basically two distinct views about what the role of government should be: YOYO versus
YOYO – “You’re On Your Own”: Individualism, no interventions or help from the government. The strong & the lucky survive and thrive. If you don’t
“make it” in America – it is your own fault.
WITT – “We’re in This Together”: This view affirms that government needs to play a role, government is supposed to intervene in the economy and
society. WHY? To “even the playing field,” to guarantee access to key resources (jobs, education, healthcare and housing) to *everyone* in U.S.
Especially to make sure that the most vulnerable sectors of our population – children, the elderly, those who are sick, the disabled, poor people –
are taken care of.
YOYO reflects the dominant values & beliefs about individualism that we are socialized to accept. Multi-national corporations and the super wealthy
depend on the government very much: the government builds and maintains the roads, the ports, the utilities and all the other infrastructure
projects necessary to build any company or corporation. The government basically takes care of those facets of the economy that the owners of
corporations and firms do not want to pay for.
This is especially interesting when we consider that all the money the government must use to pay for these items comes from tax dollars – and the
vast majority of taxes are paid by working class and middle class people. The wealthiest members of U.S. society have enjoyed one tax-cut after
another since 1980. They also employ lawyers to take advantage of tax loopholes. They put their money in off-shore accounts and find other ways to
hide their wealth so that it is not taxed. Meanwhile, the working class and middle class are paying for all the government programs that *serve* the
rich through their tax dollars — even as real wages have remained stagnant for the past 30 years. (Real wages refers to the actual buying power of
dollars earned, taking into account inflation and other factors.)
As ABC News reported on January 25, 2012 (SeniboyeTienabeso):
In a week when taxes and tax returns have dominated the headlines, billionaire investor Warren Buffett jumped back into the political debate and
showed his returns exclusively to ABC News’ BiannaGolodryga, adding, “I have never had it so good. … What has happened in recent years, we were told
a rising tide would lift all boats, but the rising tide has lifted all yachts.”
Buffett’s secretary since 1993, Debbie Bosanek, sat next to her boss just hours after being invited by the president to the State of the Union
address, where the president made her the face of tax inequality in America.
Bosanek pays a tax rate of 35.8 percent of income, while Buffett pays a rate at 17.4 percent.
“I just feel like an average citizen. I represent the average citizen who needs a voice,” said Bosanek. “Everybody in our office is paying a higher
tax rate than Warren.”
It is interesting to note the profound inconsistencies within the YOYO (You’re On Your Own!) belief system!
Now, those people who believe in the “YOYO” framework do not apply it uniformly to all fields of their lives: When it comes to the economy, the role
government should play, and how workers should be treated, folks may assert “You’re On Your Own!” YET, they do not accept this way of thinking when
it comes to their families & friends.
In the family, it is assumed that *all* will sacrifice and contribute to help each other. It is assumed that young children, the elderly, and those
who are sick or disabled will be cared for and respected – even when they are not working or bringing in enough money to support themselves. When
family members run into hard times, economically, other family members are expected to help out.
(Now, we may not like every member of our families, and we may resent the pressures put on us sometimes, but most of us accept these duties; heck,
we consider our family obligations a point of honor – yes?)
The WITT (We’re In This Together!) Perspective applies a family approach to society as a whole. Advocates of the WITT position argue that Americans
aren’t looking for a hand-out, but a “hand up.” To protect the vulnerable is a righteous, decent act. It resonates with all the values expressed in
the dominant religious texts in the United States – the Bible (both Old & New Testaments), the Torah, and the Koran.
– What do you think happened between 1960s and 1970s – when WITT was the dominant U.S. shared, cultural belief, and today?
– Why and how has rampant individualism been intensified during the past 40 years?
– Why did the political and cultural emphasis in our country shift from WITT to YOYO?
– What powerful forces or class interests – the so-called “Market”(as if the Market had a mind of its own)
– What impact does racism play in the move away from sharing & taking care of each other?
– What role does anti-immigrant hysteria play in this sea-change of shared values and beliefs in the U.S.?
– How do you feel when you help others in need – through your family, your church, your trade union, your community service organization, or your
– Do you feel “ripped off” and taken advantage of?
– Or, do you feel more noble?
– Do you gain skills when you share with others, or do *you* lose something?
… Who is it that we are being told is “coming to get us” or trying to “get something for nothing”? By this time in our course, you should be able to
critically dissect and analyze such fear-mongering. How might you use the contents of the last chapters in Michael Zweig’s book to refute these
Preconceived Notions and ideological beliefs… that are simply *not* substantiated by the economic and social facts?
Your task in these chapters is to read and understand the logic behind Zweig’s assessment. You may not agree with his position — BUT, I invite you
to ask yourself *WHY* you hold the beliefs you do? Where do *your* beliefs about the role of government come from? How do you benefit from
government actions? How do you think you are wounded by government actions? Are you a YOYO or WITT?
CHAPTERS 8 & 9 in Zweig’s book articulate a range of ways that working class people can mobilize to change our conditions of life: the quality of
our jobs – (heck, just the existence and availability of jobs!) – the rate of wages & salaries, and the quality of our daily lives.
Zweig examines a wide range of working class mobilizations:
A. Independently, as workers – in trade unions:
1. at the work site, especially through collective bargaining negotiations with management
(the union contract) and through shop-floor activism and processing grievances
2. in political & community affairs, when workers mobilize as “the labor movement.”
B. In coalition with other constituency groups, including:
women, students, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, native Americans, the LGBT community (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals & Transgender people),
immigrants, and environmentalists