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Employment and money in industrialized nations

“Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” read the headline of Mitt Romney’s now infamous op-ed from 2008 on the American Automotive Industry.  Mitt Romney, current Republican Presidential Nominee, believed that bail outs in 2008 would lead to the eventual demise of the American Auto Industry, as the major auto makers would be propped up by public money, not market forces.

Some claim that the bail outs saved jobs, encouraged growth and a rebound in the auto industry.  That is very likely.  However, while the headline that is endlessly quoted in the media, makes it appear Romney doesn’t cares at all for the average auto worker, reading the article gave me a different perception.  It seemed that he was concerned for the auto worker, although he doesn’t explicitly state it. In the article, he states that not bailing out the auto industry would allow it to actually flourish, become more competitive, sustainable and put an end to the disastrous cycles of job losses which are too common in the auto industry.  It was these points about sustainability, ending the job losses (caveat: the article does not mention creating more jobs, or keeping the current amount of workers, it just mentioned ending job losses, which could mean decimating the number of workers and being able to sustain those still employed in the auto industry) and making sure that the auto industry still exists in the years ahead, which gives a different frame Mr. Romney’s argument. While this was not explicitly states,  it almost seems that he believes not bailing out American auto makers with public funds could actually help auto workers.  It could bring stability and success to these organizations, and as a result, could possibly lead to better, more secure jobs. However, there could be very few of these jobs in Romney’s vision for a post bankrupt Detroit.

If Detroit did go bankrupt 4 years ago, it is possible that what emerged would have been a more competitive auto industry with a sobering view of economic conditions.  Unrealistic labour compensation and benefits would be eliminated.  People would (and should) be fairly (and hopefully generously) compensated for their work in such a massive industry.  However, a post bankruptcy auto industry, wised up to economic reality of a bankruptcy, would be much more likely to be upfront and offer employees sustainable compensation and benefits, including a pension that can be funded without worry.  If workers were offered honest compensation and benefit packages, based on what was actually feasible and sustainable, it would prevent many issues and turmoil for auto workers in the years ahead.  Consider pensions, for instance.  These are often a very contentious issue between organized labour and business.  No one wants to hear that their pension is in jeopardy in their final working years, or even after they have retired.  If workers in a post bankrupt Detroit were offered a realistic and sustainable pension, then they would be able to plan their retirement around this, and would be saved a lot of stress and anxiety in what are supposed to be leisurely years of retirement. Pensions are just one issue, there are endless other possibilities.

Of course, this is just one perception, based solely on the words of the article.  Only Mr. Romney truly knows what Mitt Romney thinks about auto workers and to a larger extent, the average manufacturing labourer.

Here’s the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/opinion/19romney.html

Electro-Motive employees in London, ON, have voted 95% in favour of accepting the severance package negotiated between the CAW and Caterpillar.  The deal does seem generous, including things such as 3 weeks of pay for each year unionized workers have been employed at Electro-Motive.  It is not, however, a long term solution or very comforting to the now unemployed workers and their families.

Where some have lost others, in another country, have gained.  As Electro-Motive workers were voting on their severance package and thinking of what to do next, Caterpillar held a job fair in Indiana, to hire workers for the plant which will replace the shuttered one in London, ON.  Indiana’s state legislature recently passed anti-union legislation.  There’s nothing wrong with Caterpillar wanting to lower costs, but there is definitely something wrong with showing complete contempt and disregard for your employees (especially long term ones) and the community in which you exist.  Based on the prominence of the Electro-Motive labour dispute and the resulting shutting down of the plant in the news, this plant was clearly an important fixture in the community.  While it is always unfortunate when business shut down, it is sometimes needed for a firm to stay competitive.  When a major employer, with ties to its community shuts down, it is something entirely different.  Businesses like this need to recognize their importance in communities and consider all stake holders in their firm, not just the shareholders.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2012/02/23/wdr-electro-motive-severance-vote.html

This weekend, Brantford, Ontario hosted its second annual winter festival, known as “Frosty Fest”.  The MC s of this event are two home grown super heroes known as  “Captain Kindness and Kid Kindness”.  They’re both affiliated with a local church and can be found at most events held in the downtown.  While speaking to festival – goers this afternoon, he thanked all those for attending and explained how this festival brought people in the community “to celebrate winter, instead of hiding from it”.  He then went on to express how important it was for the community to come together a “because as a city we’re stronger together than we are apart.”  The Captain has really raised a valuable idea.Captain Kindness

Communities, which could include anything from a classroom of students to the entire global population, are stronger when they work together or when citizens take an interest in their communities.  This is why the Captain’s quote and the concept are of such interest to this blog.  On issues of unemployment or poverty, the strength and cohesion of communities is a major factor on experiences of those facing poverty or unemployment.  Many issues need to examined not just by politicians, but by community as well.  An informed and connected community member is able to assert more influence or gain a greater stake in their community.  Politicians don’t always know what issues in a community need addressing or the unique and complex challenges of addressing major problems.

Community members, on the ground, should be able to solve more issues in their own community; the first steps towards achieving this higher level of citizen input and involvement is through knowledge and bringing citizens together.  These two things could happen in the same place.  This blog is part of a larger citizen journalism project.  It is also somewhat experimental as while this blog and all other EDG Media properties are guided by theories, scholarly literature, and journalistic practices, it also blends in many new, untried and unproven practices and ideas.  Citizen journalism, along with many other sites of information exchange and community member interaction, are great ways to foster the needed citizen knowledge and togetherness.  Citizen journalism could be an effective tool for gaining greater agency for community members when trying to attain this greater level of input and involvement in community matters.

If citizens are able to exert greater influence and involvement in community affairs, they could then possibly be in a better position to tackles issues such as poverty and unemployment.  A top down heavy approach can be useful, but some matters are better left to those who have actual lived experiences within these matters.

Communities are just one type of social organization.  They are also just one factor among many in the seemingly impossible task of solving poverty, unemployment and other social and economic issues.

Disclaimer: Evan’s Daily Grind in no way endorses or supports the notion that asking politicians about old age benefits is better than asking seniors.

Stephen Harper has confirmed that there may be some changes on the way for OAS.  Is it time to sound the alarm on a right wing ploy to roll back the state or is it a way to make a government program sustainable for future generations?

First, read this:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/02/03/harper-old-age-security-eligibility.html

The first point to be considered (and focus of this entry) is a possible raise in the age of eligibility.  This is a reoccurring and very contentious issue among modern industrialized nations.  It’s caused protest and civil disobedience in Europe and elsewhere.  Massive dissent in the form of protest occurred in France when this idea of raising the age of eligibility was floated.  Fortunately, this is Canada and most people have jobs or other commitments to attend so the likelihood of some sort of “Euro Dissent Fest” occurring in the near (or likely distant) future is relative low.

Well, should we ask people to put in two more years of work?  This is where people tend to split off into different ideological camps.  However, this issue is not a simple matter of right or left, liberal or conservative, coffee or tea.  It’s a complex issue with many intervening variables to be considered. The first (and perhaps most obvious) issue to look at is the type of job one holds.  A sanitation worker or heavy manufacturing labourer will have a much different experience than someone who works in a less physically demanding job such as something in administration, service, etc.  This concept raises yet another concept: who is to say that one job is ultimately harder than another?  While a worker in a factory may have a position requiring greater physical dexterity, someone in a service or retail position may be faced with intense emotional or stress related pressures.  Furthermore, someone who holds a management position and sits at a desk all day may also have an equally demanding position resulting from the intellectual requirements and massive responsibilities and workloads.  When trying to compare one job to another in this frame is very hard.  One question only leads to another. How can an accurate and objective of assessment of jobs come about in regards to OAS age eligibility?  Who really worked the hardest?

What is needed is an objective and replicable scale; something similar that might be encountered in sociology for analyzing social topics, units or aspects.  Who would create this? Government, industry, both?  Deciding on this is yet another issue to which would need to be addressed.

The only thing that is clear is that any decision regarding age of eligibility for Old Age Security will be a tough one.  It will make some happy and some very upset.  Some people will reap the benefits, others will be screwed.  In other words, it will be just like any other political decision.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/01/18/british-columbia-mla-jagrup-brar-tries-living-on-welfare-for-a-month/

The above link is a story from the National Post.  B.C. MLA Jagrup Brar attempted to live off of just $610 for one month.  He didn’t really seem to enjoy himself.  Moral of the story:  Get a job.

Irony Alert: After he gave up his MLA salary and benefits for one month, his new and only source of revenue for the month was welfare.  The same people payed his salary both before and during the challenge.

Disclaimer: Evan’s Daily Grind in no way endorses or supports the notion that asking politicians about old age benefits is better than asking seniors.

Stephen Harper has confirmed that there may be some changes on the way for OAS.  Is it time to sound the alarm on a right wing ploy to roll back the state or is it a way to make a government program sustainable for future generations?

First, read this:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/02/03/harper-old-age-security-eligibility.html

The first point to be considered (and focus of this entry) is a possible raise in the age of eligibility.  This is a reoccurring and very contentious issue among modern industrialized nations.  It’s caused protest and civil disobedience in Europe and elsewhere.  Massive dissent in the form of protest occurred in France when this idea of raising the age of eligibility was floated.  Fortunately, this is Canada and most people have jobs or other commitments to attend so the likelihood of some sort of “Euro Dissent Fest” occurring in the near (or likely distant) future is relative low.

Well, should we ask people to put in two more years of work?  This is where people tend to split off into different ideological camps.  However, this issue is not a simple matter of right or left, liberal or conservative, coffee or tea.  It’s a complex issue with many intervening variables to be considered. The first (and perhaps most obvious) issue to look at is the type of job one holds.  A sanitation worker or heavy manufacturing labourer will have a much different experience than someone who works in a less physically demanding job such as something in administration, service, etc.  This concept raises yet another concept: who is to say that one job is ultimately harder than another?  While a worker in a factory may have a position requiring greater physical dexterity, someone in a service or retail position may be faced with intense emotional or stress related pressures.  Furthermore, someone who holds a management position and sits at a desk all day may also have an equally demanding position resulting from the intellectual requirements and massive responsibilities and workloads.  When trying to compare one job to another in this frame is very hard.  One question only leads to another. How can an accurate and objective of assessment of jobs come about in regards to OAS age eligibility?  Who really worked the hardest?

What is needed is an objective and replicable scale; something similar that might be encountered in sociology for analyzing social topics, units or aspects.  Who would create this? Government, industry, both?  Deciding on this is yet another issue to which would need to be addressed.

The only thing that is clear is that any decision regarding age of eligibility for Old Age Security will be a tough one.  It will make some happy and some very upset.  Some people will reap the benefits, others will be screwed.  In other words, it will be just like any other political decision.

Read this article from the Vancouver Sun.

http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Editorial+pension+crisis+reform+opportunity/6087614/story.html

It’s a piece on pension reform.  If you’re not aware of what’s (soon to be) going on with pensions in Canada, here it is in a very condensed form:  Speaking in Davos, Switzerland last week at the World Economic Forum, Prime Minister Harper raised a few eyebrows in Canada when he stated that pension reform was a priority for his government.  This of course brings up a lot of questions.  What exactly does he mean by reform?  Would this include entitlement reductions, claimants needing to be older than 65 (the current age to claim a government pension).  While what exactly these reforms will look like remains to be seen, they are needed. According to the Vancouver Sun:

The chief actuary for the federal Old Age Security system estimates that as our  population continues to get greyer over the next 40 years, the ratio of people  of working age to retirees will fall from 4.4 to one to 2.2 to one.

Changing demographics; this will not only be a major challenge of a generation, but it will also have implications relating to poverty.  The baby boomers are getting old; the first wave of them retired in 2011.  Pensions will not be the only issue impacted by a nation (and a world) populated by more old than young persons.  Issues such as old age security, housing, and other social and economic issues will need to be addressed to avoid younger tax payers being over burdened by a system that is not sustainable.