Pushing Working People Down


High Unemployment Means Lower Wages for the Employed

The true nature of the great recession is beginning to show in ways that until very recently were pretty well hidden.

Probably the most obvious example so far of how the very rich are using this economic downturn to consolidate their power is the strike by 305 hourly workers at the Mott’s apple juice plant in upstate New York.

Those who are benefiting from the rotten economy are the wealthiest 20 percent of the American people, who hold upward of 85 percent of the country’s wealth.

For those who are manipulating the situation, you probably can look to the richest 1 percent of Americans, who, among their tiny number, hold more than one third of the private wealth in the United States. They’re the ones with the real power, the ones who hold the deeds to key politicians and mortgages on the Republican and Democratic parties.

The New York Times presented recently a clear picture of the Mott’s situation. (Also see  The Nation’s recent story “Rotten Apples, Core Values“.)

In a nutshell: The workers went on strike more than three months ago when Mott’s parent company demanded they take pay cuts of $1.50 an hour, accept a freeze on pensions and give in to other reductions in benefits.

In insisting on the pay and benefits reductions, Mott’s, owned by Dr Pepper Snapple Group, a beverage conglomerate, makes no claim of hardship, economic or otherwise.

Quite the contrary: the company is bragging about record earnings. It proudly reported earnings of $555 million in 2009, a big upward swing from the $312 million loss of 2008. Results for the first half of this year showed further improvement, including from Mott’s, which also showed a substantial gain in its over-all share of the juice market.

The company is unusually forthright in its explanation of its demands. It is trying to push its employees to lower rungs on the economic ladder simply because it thinks it can get away with it. That’s it, pure and simple. Poorer employees mean richer shareholders and executives.

New York Times writer Steven Greenhouse quoted Mott’s spokesman Chris Barnes as saying the wage cuts and benefit reductions can be done because they will bring the Mott’s plant in upstate New York in line with “local industry standards.”

In plain English: Unemployment is high because of the recession, and desperate people are taking whatever jobs they can get, even if the pay is low. So Mott’s figures it can force its employees to work for less and thus enhance its already soaring profits.

Left unsaid, but clearly in a big cartoon bubble over the company management’s head is this: “If you don’t want to work for less, we’ll find a way to get rid of you and hire others who will take much less.”

A number of people on Wall Street have defended the drink producer’s position on the grounds of “fiduciary responsibility” — the claim that a corporation’s responsibilities are solely to produce the greatest possible profit for its shareholders (and executives, though they don’t say that).

Fiduciary responsibility, in case you were wondering, does not extend to such things as worker safety or concern for the environment.

We’re going to see more of this very soon from corporations that are doing very nicely in this recession-cum-depression.

American corporations continue to feed their captive media the false story about wanting nothing more than to “create jobs” while, in fact, they do everything they can come up with to reduce employment in this country. Now that there is a very big, long-term, if not permanent, unemployed population in the United States, it is inevitable that the next move is to force those who have jobs to accept less and less for their labor.

Jim Fuller


  1. Lydia says

    Both of these comments seem to have completely mised the point of Fuller’s essay.
    Elaine seems trapped in the self-blame that ruling elites are happy to see atomized, disconnected workers get mired in. The desire for living wge jobs that are not dropped at the employers; whim (“Hey! we can work half as many people twice as hard and WE make a LOT more profit!” is the current corporate mentality). yet, it’s simply “envy” or “low self-esteem” that causes workers to resist such exploitation?

    And Transparency’s view is American Entwerprise Institute Kool Aide. HOW ARE WE IN A “SHARED SITUATION” WHEN EMPLOYERS NOW TREAT WORKERS LIKE DISPOSABLE TRASH? CEOs made 40 times their average workers’ wage 40 years ago–now, CEO make over 1,000 times as much. Yet. its WORKERS that are working harder (and taking home less). Increasingly, CEOs go for short-term profits that harm workers, their families, communties and the environment—and are paid obscenely to do so.

    When will the American worker stop worship the wealthy and demand ec onomic justice?

  2. Transparency says

    The true nature of traditional employee loyalty during the greatest recession in modern times.Businesses and public universities are into a phase of creative disassembly where reinvention and adjustments are constant. Even solid world class institutions like the University of California Berkeley under the leadership of Chancellor Birgeneau & Provost Breslauer are firing employees, staff, faculty and part-time lecturers through “Operational Excellence (OE) initiative”. Yet many employees, professionals and faculty cling to old assumptions about one of the most critical relationship of all: the implied, unwritten contract between employer and employee.
    Until recently, loyalty was the cornerstone of that relationship. Employers promised work security and a steady progress up the hierarchy in return for employees fitting in, accepting lower wages, performing in prescribed ways and sticking around. Longevity was a sign of employer-employee relations; turnover was a sign of dysfunction. None of these assumptions apply today. Organizations can no longer guarantee employment and lifetime careers, even if they want to. UC Berkeley senior management paralyzed themselves with an attachment to “success brings success’ rather than “success brings failure’ and are now forced to break the implied contract with Cal employees – a contract nurtured by management that the future can be controlled.
    Jettisoned Cal employees are finding that the hard won knowledge, skills and capabilities earned while being loyal are no longer valuable in the employment market place.
    What kind of a contract can employers and employees make with each other? The central idea is both simple and powerful: the job or position is a shared situation. Employers and employees face market and financial conditions together, and the longevity of the partnership depends on how well the for-profit or not-for-profit continues to meet the needs of customers and constituencies. Neither employer nor employee has a future obligation to the other. Organizations train people. Employees develop the kind of security they really need – skills, knowledge and capabilities that enhance future employability.
    The partnership can be dissolved without either party considering the other a traitor
    Traditional employee loyalty is dead: rest in peace!

  3. Elaine says

    I do not know why you print this man’s articles. He is one messed up human being. He hates everybody really & is so jealous of people that have worked hard & have more money then him or that had estates passed down to them that he complains about. I do not envy anyone for money. America is suppose to be for anyone to live out the American Dream & it has always been if you educate yourself & read as much as you can, work hard at something you like you can live comfortably & if you are lucky you might become richer then rich. But you have to work for it. Granted their are those that just seem not to have a chance in the world of anything but most of the time that comes from having no self esteem which is hard to get & even harder to keep when you keep falling down. I know, I have falling down more times then I can count anymore but it has been low self esteem that caused me to do that & now that I am older & sickly I feel like I made too many bad choices & not good choices but I do not envy those that made all the good choices & I do not want their money. I would like to have a 2nd chance & thought I did until I became sickly. Now I just try to keep up. I blame no one for this but myself & I keep right on going & refuse to admit that I will die before my time. So, please, keep this creepy guy, with a creepy attitude out of peoples lives. He is too envious of people & that is so, so wrong.

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