Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Closing the Plant

I've recently been on hiatus from the blog due to working my 9 to 5 this summer (just more evidence that I am destined for academia where I can make my own hours). However, last night my Dad told me a really sad story, that is worthy of a blog.

My father worked for most of my life in a large plastics plant in Connecticut. About eight years ago, he went into business for himself. He told me that yesterday, some of his old friends from the plant stopped by the business to tell him that the plant was closing. They gave the employees the 5th off with pay, and then told them they were out of a job. No warning, just a meeting attended by everyone at the plant...and the local police. Some of my Dad's friends had worked there for over thirty years. No deals, no early retirement, just laid off.

I asked my Dad if the workers had a union, and he said no. Surely, if they had representatives, the abrupt closing of the plant would not have happened. They would have had some notice, or some form of severance pay. I understand that from a purely economic standpoint, the company probably found the plant expensive to keep open, and it may have been losing money. The cost of living in Connecticut is high, so opening a plant down south or offshore is more cost-efficient. But the people who put years into this job, figuring they'd retire from the plant are now jobless, with their age working against them in an already competitive job market. Even if the plant was losing money, it is owned by one of the wealthiest companies in the world (whose name I'll omit for the purpose of the blog). I cannot believe the company did not have the money to compensate its workers at all.

While I am not very theory savvy, after hearing this story, I can begin to understand what Marx is talking about. The working class is powerless against the bourgeois unless they unite. As long as there is competition for jobs, and people willing to work for less and less money, with no union representation, the worker will continue to be exploited. I want to go further with this, but I feel somewhat under-qualified...anyone want to help? Possibly a fellow blogger who is teaching theory this summer whose name begins with an E?


At 10:31 AM, Blogger Erin said...

Wow, C, I'm sorry to hear about this. I think you hit the most important part a la Marx, the class consciousness. Without a developed class consciousness where workers recognize their common precarious position and determine to unite, like in a trade union or factory union, workers won't be treated as more important than the bottom line.

While I may be familiar with a little theory, your event-time-series-couple-multiple-logistic-regression-path-analysis-words-I-can't-even -remember
brilliance is nothing to sneeze at.

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Adam said...

Supposing it were possible to brainwash the poor who are willing to work for less that it is best that they remain unemployed so that others can enjoy more pay and better job security, wouldn't this mean that prices would increase, placing an extra burden on the poor? Just imagine the cost of a DVD player built completely in the USA by union workers.

It is true that in capitalist societies very unfortunate and sad things happen, like layoffs, but compare that to any Marxist society... oh wait, they don't seem able to survive for very long. I would bet that most Cubans would trade in their government-provided rice cookers for a boat ride to Florida.

At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

your father's friends may have recorse under the WARN Act which requires 60 days advance notice before a plant the department of labor or the sugar law center for economic and social justice,,for more information.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Carolyn said...

Thanks for the advice, I'll pass it on.

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Nacim said...

Sorry for coming into this late...

In terms of legislated job security, France and Germany lead the world in that area. In both countries, I believe you must have government approval before conducting a layoff. Even in normal cases, it is almost impossible to fire a person. Not surprisingly, France and Germany also lead the industrial world in high unemployment rates. Both countries have unemployment up to 10%. The logic is simple: everytime a company hires somebody, they assume a risk. When you make it easy to fire someone, the risk is substantially minimized since any mistake in the hiring process can easily be corrected afterwards. When you make it nigh impossible to get rid of someone, companies hire less people because the risk is substantially higher. If you hire a bad worker by mistake, you are stuck. There's also the matter that high job security encourages laziness but that's another topic.

Furthermore, why is this attidue so prevalent?

"I cannot believe the company did not have the money to compensate its workers at all."

If you would like to help out the displaced workers, (either through financial assistance or help in finding another job) then it is noble to use your own time, effort and resources to appeal to like minded people for assitance in forming a charity. I'd gladly assist you myself if that was the case. However, sitting in your chair and grumbling about how OTHER people should use THEIR OWN resources for goals YOU find worthy is quit frankly just plain sloth.

At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Abi Vingston, from France said...

Après la bataille

The reason France and Germany have higher unemployement rates than say, Great Britain or the US, is that France and Germany have better unemployment pensions systems. BUT don't get me wrong, it's not the pension money that counts, its the pension count itself : people who are not being paid an unemployment pension are not counted as unemployed... thus the 10% estimation for France, the true proportion of unemployed being closer to 15%...
Considering the US has a very crappy pensions systeme hummmmm....

Yeah France and Germany have fairly decent labor laws, by the way it is not necessary to have the state's "go ahead" to fire somebody, but you do have to have a good reason (better than say, the employees not wanting to work overtime for free, or wanting to hire someone cheaper etc.)

The US economical and social system is not exactly a model of success... I'm not even mentionning the "working poor" and the "underemployed", or the fact that France and Germany happen to have much better education and health indicators than the US... geez I could go on for hours... The "blaming the victims" ideology is just wrong, and it's probably not par hazard that it is so often brought up by white middle class males, is it ?

At 2:58 PM, Anonymous Adam said...

but you do have to have a good reason (better than say, the employees not wanting to work overtime for free, or wanting to hire someone cheaper etc.)

What a joke, I hope you aren't the one who gets to decide if a reason for firing someone is "good".

When you go to the store, do you discriminate against an expensive place just because somewhere else is cheaper? Is that a "good" reason? Wouldn't you hate it if some busybody started telling you which of your reasons for doing things was "good" and which reasons were not?


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