Obama Labor Day Speech Praises Union Concessions

Philip Pilkington pointed to this Real News Network video as a companion piece to our post on how executives in the coated paper industry have strip-mined their own companies.

If you had any doubts as to who Obama sees as his real constituency, this should settle it.

More at The Real News

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  1. chris

    So, does anyone still believe that his Teleprompterfulness is not a knee-bending chattel of the plutocrats?

    1. gruntled

      Come on folks, Wall Street has made concessions, too. Did you see the bonuses they had to live with last year? Heart wrenching! Even then, they still lent a helping hand to Obama. A selfless bunch if ever there was one!

  2. propertius

    So, since he is a public employee himself, exactly what sacrifices are he and Michelle prepared to make?

  3. bmeisen

    Thank you for making this available.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t GM use bankruptcy primarily to wiggle out from under union retirement benefits obligations? I was paying more attention to the banks at the time but were’t they screaming about snowballing healthcare costs for retired union members? And instead of supporting a national health insurance plan for everyone, instead of condemning the managerial scumbags who extract rent through appallingly inefficient and unjust private schemes, they used the financial meltdown and bailout to conveniently unload their unwashed undies on the nearest sucker. Maybe I’ve got this wrong – feel free to correct.

    And as for Obama – Is he trying to buck up the troubled and virtuous union members? Give ’em a chuck on the shoulder and send them back into the industrial relations frey? Or trying to get us to reject reality in favor of his American TV-genicism?

    Living in Germany and having worked for Mercedes and Bosch I am able to appreciate how German car manufacturers have achieved their reputations in the car market: German designers have been way off the mark sometimes and German engineers have often been pathetically complacent. The reputation for quality that German car brands enjoy is the result of commitments to training and qualification on the factory floor, commitments defended by labor representatives at the highest levels of corporate oversight.

    1. steelhead23

      Thank you Mr. Meisen. I have worked on a shop floor. Management had almost nothing to do with QA/QC – it was the foremen, guys paid a tad more than the other workers, with experience and loyalty to quality and the brand. I continue to view this system as the best part of Western manufacturing – not innovation in design – but consistent high quality. And creating careers, with family wages, as unions have done, underlies this quality. If management had half the loyalty to brand of any journeyman on the floor, America and American companies would not be in so much economic trouble. If you want to decry the state of American competitiveness, look to the boardrooms and middle management cubes, not the shop floor.

  4. ArkansasAngie

    I hate to be cattie … but … the way he changes the content of gray in his hair depending on whether he wants to look serious or not just grates on me. Can’t watch or listen to him any more. Of course that goes for just about all politcians these days.

  5. Cynthia

    I recall hearing on the news last year that a Mercedes plant located in my state were making plans to hire 400 to 500 temp workers through a temp agency. These workers would be making $14.50 per hour, and because they are only temporary, they won’t be receiving any benefits whatsoever. At least hospitals provide health-care benefits to their workers. So they’d be better off working as nurses’ aides at a local hospital than as auto workers at a Mercedes plant. What a sad state of affairs we’ve gotten ourselves in!

    I imagine that most Americans think that low-wage auto workers translate into cheaper priced automobiles. But this isn’t true. The truth is that a larger share of the auto profits are simply going to the very few working in top positions in the auto industry, leaving an even smaller share of these profits for those working in lower positions in this industry. So it’s nothing but a myth that paying auto workers less will bring down the cost of automobiles.

    So Americans who are working in the service side of our economy don’t gain anything by American auto workers and other types of production workers making only $14.50 per hour, especially without receiving any benefits. Service workers will soon be hurt by this, too, because a drop in wages in the production side of our economy will eventually cause wages to drop for all types of workers in the service side of our economy, from lowly paid housekeepers and babysitters to highly paid doctors and lawyers. I think that if more Americans were aware of this symbiotic relationship between service workers and production workers, they’d come to the conclusion that in order to prevent the Great Recession from causing America to regress to a low-wage, third-rate nation, our government needs to support labor more than it does capital.

    1. Kevin Murphy

      I agree with your sentiment but wonder how Kia underprices american cars. I figured it was cheap labor.

  6. Chris Rogers

    We should all ask ourselves the question: WHY IS OBAMA SMILING?

    Having presided over one of the worst Presidential periods in US – at least we knew where Bush Jnr stood – this guy still finds time to smile and utter nonsense to an audience of shrills.

    Who exactly is Obama’s constituency, the Forbes 1000 list and Wall Street or the US electorate?

    This guy should be impeached for lying to the US public, better still, burn most of DC down and start again – with the exception of a few brave souls, most of your elected officials – much as in the UK – are feeding from the same trough as the rest of us literally starve.


  7. Philip Pilkington

    Just to highlight one key point:

    Note that the union guy is less afraid of so-called international competitive pressures in the labour market — a ‘Big Lie’, as Yves demonstrated in the coated paper piece — than he is of un-unionised Southern workers.

    The foreigners didn’t ‘tuk our jiiiiibs’ as many would have you believe. Wages are, and always will be, a domestic issue. Pandering to Xenophobia — whether you’re right or left-wing — is one step toward protectionism and two steps toward fascism.

    1. attempter

      Speaking of Big Lies, how about this one:

      “Globalization is the natural order of things and not the result of aggressive, command economy action by the corporate/government nexus.

      Protectionism is artificial action, tantamount to fascism, to restrain this naturally globalized free market.”

      The truth is the exact opposite:

      Globalization is 100% the result of an aggressive corporatized command economy, and is in fact literally fascist, in the economic sense (and increasingly in other senses, in particular the Permanent War needed to keep it going).

      “Protectionism” is a stopgap reformist measure which tries to restrain this aggression.

      The real goal is to abolish globalization itself by dismantling the command economy structure which makes it possible. That would restore the natural economy, indeed a truly free economy.

      1. Cynthia

        Many of our jobs have been lost due to automation, but even more of them have been lost due to globalization. This wouldn’t be so had our elected officials NOT crafted a whole slew of trade agreements that are geared towards enrich corporate America at the expense of the American workforce. Even after our corporations have created massive unemployment in the US by shipping thousands, if not millions, jobs overseas, they still pay next to nothing in taxes and still receive military protection from our armed forces. Talk out having your cake and eating it too. There’s no doubt that our corporations are getting a smorgasbord of free lunches out of these rigged trade deals that we have with low-wage countries like India and China!

        And it goes without saying that robots are better than humans at thinking and making complex decisions, but you’d be hard pressed to find a robot that’s better than a human at using its hands to perform multiple tasks. So if most work that managers do can be easily automated, why aren’t they being replaced by robots, or at least getting a cut in pay for having robots do most of their work for them? I think that part of the answer to this question lies in the fact that corporations wrongly believe that the productivity of managers can’t be monitored like it can for laborers. What makes this particularly wrongheaded is the fact that managers are far more expensive to corporations than laborers are. So if there’s any group of workers that oughta have their productivity monitored, it is managers, not laborers.

        1. Philip Pilkington

          I’m telling you, this is largely a myth. Fast forward to about 9min into the clip and you’ll see that Hammer isn’t so worried about international competitiveness. He’s worried about wages being dragged down by ununionised workers in the South.

          It’s SO important that people grasp this. Wages are 90% a domestic issue. International wage competitiveness is such a poor show of real competitiveness.

          Example: I just finished doing a newspaper article on Ireland slipping down the ranks of the annual WEF competitiveness report. The kay reason it has slipped is due to an ‘unstable macroeconomy’ — translation: unemployment and LACK OF SPENDING POWER.

          Article, if you’re interested: http://www.independent.ie/business/irish/economic-environment-hits-irish-competitiveness-2869847.html

          Competitiveness is such a complex issue and cutting wages can and does sometimes lead to poorer economic growth and diminished competitiveness.

          People need to get it out of their heads that a race to the bottom with regards wages does not lead to greater competitiveness. It often leads to a dangerous lack of demand, unemployment and massive debt incurred as people continue to consume beyond their reduced wages.

          Henry Ford knew this. It’s time the left relearned it.

          1. Philip Pilkington

            “People need to get it out of their heads that a race to the bottom with regards wages does not lead to greater competitiveness.”


            Should read: “People need to get it out of their heads that a race to the bottom with regards wages leads to greater competitiveness.”

          2. Cynthia

            I agree, Philip. And it seems to me that Mitt Romney must’ve had robots on his mind when he came up with the term “job machine”…


            After all, the goal of any Wall Street squidlet like Mitt Romney is to get even richer by making us workers even poorer. So their ultimate goal is to replace all of us working stiffs with a massive fleet of shiny new robots who don’t require a paycheck — or any employment benefits for that matter other than an occasion oil change and tune-up. But until they can figure out a way to get robots to shop and spend at Walmart and Disney World, they’ll have to settle for a zero return on their equity investments.

          3. attempter

            People need to get it out of their heads that “competitiveness” is anything anyone who’s not a psychopath would want as the basis of human existence.

          4. Skippy


            Since humanity left its geographical origins, it has been in fact, on the road to globalization. Isolationism is contrary to_hundreds of_thousands of_years_in our history, seemingly an edifice of uncompromising hardness to bash ones ideology upon…eh…DNA was written by the universe, scream all ye wish.

            Skippy…markets are the main intersection, there absolutely needs to be enforced rules of the road.

  8. TC

    How much longer can the destruction of U.S. industry and manufacturing be separated from the destruction of the Bretton Woods System of fixed exchanged rates (8/15/1971)?

    Political calls for labor competitiveness ignoring forty years of concerted political effort to destroy the means by which our competitive advantage was maintained in the post-war period is but another benchmark Americans can use to separate patriots among their political stock from fascists like the President.

  9. Harry Johnson

    Most of the cost of any goods today is due to packaging, advertising, marketeering and salesboy commissions. Union wages could be cut to zero and prices would still rise as the salestrash puts their slimy hands on everything. There are too few working people supporting too much dead weight in administration, sales and marketeering.

    1. John Zelnicker

      Harry — Now really, what is your problem with salespeople? An old manager I had many years ago said “Nothing happens until a sale is made.” That is still true today. And they earn their keep. (At least the commissioned ones do since they only get paid if they sell.)

      I do agree that admin and marketing are likely overstaffed, but that’s not the salespeople who actually get out there face-to-face with the customers and help them buy the products and services they need.

      You sound like someone who has a major case of “buyer’s remorse” and blames the salesperson for their own weakness.

      1. liberal

        Depends on the salesman.

        My recollection is that for life insurance and title insurance, an outrageously huge fraction of the cost goes to the salesman. Seems more like a kickback than a payment for wages earned.

  10. lindsay allen

    Taken from the above webpage

    Speaking Of Unemployment – I Am A Serial Job Killer
    by John Jazwiec

    When someone asks me what I do for a living, I tell them I work in an office and travel a lot. Telling people I am a CEO, is a conversation killer.

    Speaking of high systemic unemployment and killing – I am in the business of killing jobs. I kill jobs in three ways. I kill jobs when I sell, I kill jobs by killing competitors and I kill jobs by focusing on internal productivity.

    All of the companies, I have been a CEO of, through best-in-practice services and software, eliminate jobs. They eliminate jobs by automation, outsourcing and efficiencies of process. The marketing is clear – less workers, more consistent output.

    I reckon in the last decade I have eliminated over 100,000 jobs in the world-wide economy from the software and services my companies sell. I know the number, because in order to sell, my revenues (the return on investment from the client in labor savings is a small fraction of what they pay me) are based on the number of jobs I kill.

    I have killed many competitors. Again, I reckon I have eliminated over 100,000 jobs in the last decade. I know the number, because I know I have been in large markets, and have ended up being one of two company’s left standing, where there were many more when I took over.

    Finally I have killed many internal employees. When I acquire a company, some of the “synergies”, are eliminating duplicate jobs. When I buy productivity software or outsource for lower labor costs, I kill internal jobs. Finally companies that grow, demand internal people to grow. They attract better job candidates. Growing companies kill internal jobs by economic darwinism.

    So there, I have said it, I am a serial job killer.

    Why I am writing about this is in such a straight forward way? First, because, even though I know what I have to do for a living, it does not mean it sits well with me. Second, there are a lot of people like me, that have been killing jobs, for the last two decades.

    The latter point is relevant here. We have high systemic employment. The most optimistic projections, don’t point to full employment, until 2020. I think that is generous and unrealistic.

    You see, any job that can be eliminated though technology or cheaper labor is by definition not coming back. The worker can come back. They most often come back by being underemployed. Others upgrade their skills and return to previous levels of compensation. But as a whole, the productivity gains over the last twenty years, have changed the landscape of what is a sustainable job.

    What is a sustainable job? The best way I can articulate, what is a sustainable job, is to tell you, as a job killer, jobs I can’t kill. I can’t kill creative people. There is no productivity solution or outsourcing that I can sell, to eliminate a creative person. I can’t kill unique value creators. A unique value creator is, well, unique. They might be someone with a relationship with a client. They might be someone who is a great salesmen. They might be someone who has spent so much time mastering a market, that they are subject matter experts, and I know technology or outsourcing can’t be built profitably to eliminate a single unique job.

    Which brings us back to high systemic unemployment. Some of the high unemployment is due to the endless cycle of lack of faith in consumer demand. I have proposed solutions to help break this endless cycle. But these solutions are psychological and lead to underemployment as a substitute for unemployment. The largest factor in high systemic unemployment, is a failure in our schools and workforce to recognize, we have entered into a “free-agent” era of labor.

    Everyone is now a free agent. The days people worked for one company have been gone for a long time. But the days where people could assume if they worked hard, and the company they worked for was successful, made them “safe”, is now over. They are over, because job killers like me are lurking everywhere.

    Every child in school, or any young adult, needs to understand, that there will only be a “free agent” market for labor going forward. Free agency means, by definition, every day there is an implied contract. The free agent decides whether the job, pay and working conditions match up to other opportunities. The company decides whether the job, the pay and the same individual free agent matches up to other options.

    How many children are taught this “free agent” era in school? Or more preciously, do schools emphasize individuality or do they emphasize conformity? The latter sadly is the answer.

    In college, how much time is spent on concepts that are universal? And how much time is spent on creative application? The answer is based on economics. What costs less to teach, universal concepts or creative application?

    Where does the before-gainfully employed professional learn how to compete for jobs? Monster dot com? LinkedIn? The unemployment office? What infrastructure exists to retrain professionals to compete in a free agent job market, where only creative unique value contributors thrive?

    Until our children are taught to be individuals, until our colleges spend more time on creative application and until we provide training and mentoring for before-gainfully employed professionals; high systemic unemployment is never going away.

    In the meantime, the fully employed herd, without creative unique value contribution skills, will continue to be prey to serial job killers like me.

    1. JimS

      Did you read the article about the pharma company that laid off all ten of the scientists whose names were on one of their patents? They got into a patent suit and had to write to the people they’d got rid of, to ask if they’d please come defend the company in the court?

      Those were creative people who added value to the company, and their CEO killed their jobs anyway (and kept the IP, no royalties for the inventors). There are no jobs you can’t kill, there are only jobs you pragmatically shouldn’t have killed, and jobs you morally shouldn’t have killed.

  11. Otter

    You may be a jobkiller, and it is true that our education system trains people to fail. However, jobkilling does not make businesses more productive. It merely facilitates looting by banksters, speculators, and feral management.

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