21 December 2005

Strike Three

Since arriving in New Zealand nearly two months ago, I have witnessed two service worker strikes, and soon to be a third. In the first, KFC workers were demanding fair and equal wages for all employees. Apparently, in New Zealand, there exists a practice of paying teenagers less than their adult counterparts for the same union job. I guess the employer takes it upon himself to determine who needs more money and why, and finds a way to curb even more spending that way by reducing already low wages for those he sees as the need-nots. I suppose that is better than in America, where most fast food employees are neither in unions nor teenagers making extra spending cash, but underprivileged people looking for simple livelihood. Or even overqualified, more privileged people who have run out of alternatives to make a living other than in the service sector. There is no way to do this working at McDonald’s or Starbucks. Regardless, just as with the worst transgressor, Wal-Mart, union upstarts are being squelched before any seeds can even be planted in America. Here in New Zealand, unions are more powerful and people seem to be allowed to fight for their right to work their asses off at an unglamorous, inglorious, unwanted job and at least be out of poverty. Thus followed the world’s first Starbuck’s strike in Auckland in November.

There also exists an ethical consciousness among workers in New Zealand. Far from the “it’s just business” attitude that leads neighbors to constantly screw each other in America, New Zealanders seem to give a damn. Here, we are on the eve of a strike of national workers at a bank called Wetspac. Their complaint? Pressure to lend money to people who already have huge debts. Tellers say that their pay is reduced if they do not meet targets to sell credit, so they are forced to try to convince customers to borrow as much as possible. The workers call it an ethical dilemma. Regardless of whether or not these workers are simply utilizing the fact of this commission-based practice as an excuse to receive fair wages, when are ethics ever brought up in American business discourse? I don’t even think union workers in America could come up with the “ethical dilemma” excuse if they wanted to, because those kinds of dilemmas rarely cross the mind of the average American worker (or employer). (Those brave corporate whistleblowers notwithstanding.) I look forward to following this story.

In the meantime, I hear news of the transit strike in New York. Far from the “liberal media” showing bias toward the unheralded working class, or worrying about the increasing loss of health care and retirement packages by most working Americans, the slant in the news from the AP is that the workers are inconveniencing the transit riders and Christmas tourists. And the transit union is being fined a million dollars a day for standing up for their rights to be treated as productive members of society (and more necessary members than most of the people doing all of the complaining and earning all of the money)? So, now it is illegal for workers to strike? And America is not fast becoming a fascist regime? This totalitarian style of U.S. capitalist control, which is clearly seeping into public organizations, since corporations own the government, is not unlike Soviet style communism. That worked well for the people, huh? Frankly, it’s appalling to see. I think of my grandfather who worked for years as a union electrician in New York City. He loved his union and he loved the opportunities he was afforded in America. Sorry Poppop, those days are no more.


pjs said...

Gawd save the Bush.
He's a fascist tush.
There is no future
In the crap they push.
No future
No future
No future
For you...

Rebel Pleb said...

Thanks, Johnny.

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