MR Daily Review
Tuesday, August 30th
1. Landmark labor law passes in CA.
Fast food workers gathered at the California Capitol to celebrate the passage of AB257, a law that will create a state run commission to facilitate fast food workers to negotiate with owners for better pay and working conditions. The victory comes after workers organized strikes at over 350 restaurants across the state, pressuring the senate to pass the bill. This means over 550,000 workers have representation they didn’t have before. The bill now goes to Governor Gavin Newsome’s desk to be signed, which should happen any day now. The bill was supported by dozens of unions and workers organizations like Fight for $15. The bill is encouraging in that it mimics stronger labor protections and regulations like codetermination, which has been used in some European countries to secure workers and unions spots and voting power on corporate boards. The California law is different as it creates a state run commission, but if it leads to additional bargaining power and leverage, it will be just as important as it would be in the case of codetermination. This is an encouraging step and hopefully turns into more action that betters the lives of California’s fast food workers.
2. Last leader of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev dead at 91.
Russian state TV announced today that Mikhail Gorbachev has passed away after a battle with a “long and grave illness.” Gorbachev helped usher in the post-USSR neoliberal order and bring an end to the cold war, solidifying western influence. This makes Gorbachev incredibly popular outside of Russia, particularly with western liberals. For communist hardliners at the time, and now Russian nationalists, the death of the Soviet Union was a significant blow, for very different reasons. Communists despised the shift toward international free trade and the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and all it entailed from the Baltics to the Balkans. Now Russian Nationalists see those very same acts as indicative of the decline of Russian empire and Gorbachev’s legacy fuels their calls for renewed aggression and expansion. Though Gorbachev passed away, his legacy is complicated and remains so.
3. Pakistan is ravaged by increasingly common “once in a lifetime” floods.
Videos are pouring out of Pakistan detailing the devastating floods sweeping the country. Today Pakistan’s leaders led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif asked the international community for much needed aid. But he did so by highlighting that those very countries are significantly to blame for the extreme weather currently destroying the country. “I can say without any fear of contradiction, this flood situation is probably the worst in the history of Pakistan,” Sharif said. The floods come after eight weeks of significant rainfall and the floods have killed over 1,100 people and affected more than 33 million residents, destroyed over 1 million homes, and 2,200 miles of road. The damage is immense and ongoing. Given the urgency of the climate crisis the international community must act immediately to protect the people of Pakistan and help them rebuild. Unfortunately crises like this one are only becoming more common so it’s even more imperative that the international community act accordingly and develop procedures and institutions that can help countries in the future when they find themselves in a similar situation. We have nothing but well wishes and solidarity for the people of Pakistan.
4. Sri Lanka close to ‘bail out’ deal with IMF – in other words, forced austerity and reliance on foreign capital, the same neocolonial policies that caused the crisis in the first place.
The Sri Lankan people are facing a disastrous economic crisis – the result of decades of neoliberal and neocolonial policies forced on them since their independence (discussed more in depth here). The IMF and World Bank as a matter of course dictate economic and social policy to governments that borrow from them, effectively taking away the people’s sovereignty in the countries they lend to. Any new deal with Sri Lanka will be no different. This past week the IMF delegates visited, and there are signals that a new agreement is at the final stage. Of course, the ‘relief package’ will come with severe requirements to curtail the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan people and their ability to hold elected leaders accountable, since they will instead be accountable to the IMF. Already, the IMF ghouls have required the government to raise VAT and income taxes as a precondition to even come to the bargaining table Sri Lanka had to show it was willing to inflict pain on its people while they suffer skyrocketing inflation and shortages for basic goods. The policies in the deal will be the same that the IMF forces every country to take – extreme reliance on foreign investment with no capital controls (making the country highly susceptible to capital flight), low tariffs to ensure the country cannot develop more advanced industries, and a focus on exports for revenue. This model leads to any country that adopts it to a cycle of debt and underdevelopment, just as Sri Lanka has seen rolling balance of payment crises in the past few decades. After nearly 70 years of abject failure, the IMF’s persistence in their horrific policy prescriptions leads to the singular conclusion that the its goal is not to speed or support development, but rather trap countries in a cycle of underdevelopment, keep them from ever becoming self sufficient, and continue the extractive and exploitive colonial regime.
5. Gallup poll finds approval of labor unions at 71% the highest level since 1965.
It seems like workers in every industry and at every level are growing tired of their working conditions and turning to unions to help alleviate that. The labor movement has been making incredible progress coast to coast as we’ve reported here on numerous occasions. It also appears unions are winning the battle of public opinion. Characters like Jimmy Hoffa and the notion that “big labor is just as bad as big business” have influenced public opinion in terms of unions for decades, but it appears that spell has been broken. A recent Gallup poll found public support for labor unions at its highest level since 1965 with 71% of Americans approving of unions. This is up from a recent low of nearly 40% in the early 2000’s. It also comes with a 57% increase in the number of union elections in the last year according to the NLRB. As is stands now only 1 in 6 households consider themselves a “union household” but hopefully these trends will see that number rise in recent years. New union starts like Starbucks Workers United and the Amazon Labor Union have revived the labor movement and apparently people like what they see. Hopefully this bodes well for future successes and union density can continue to pull itself up to 1970’s levels and beyond.