American history is rife with examples of the blue collar worker being exploited by corporate bullying. The companies crafted situations where their employee base and the ancillary businesses supporting them were essentially owned by the corporations. Their very existence was subordinate to the whim of the company’s aims. This led, of course, to catastrophes that took hundreds of American lives and left much more than that to suffer shortened lives as armies of disabled and diseased.
This brought the advent of the union and empowered the individual as part of a force that at last created a more level playing field and the inception of collective bargaining. That’s not to say that this warring came to an end, companies have never stopped trying to get more from their employees while trying to curb employee costs, nor have employees ever stopped trying to get compensated for their labors at what they believe are fairer levels. However, both sides became more aware of the challenges each side endured and both sides were more willing to negotiate compromise that permitted each side to get some of what they felt were important concessions. All in all, a much better situation than club wielding mobs slugging it out in violent melees.
Globalization though, has given corporations a greater edge over the employee pool. Able to reach into labor pools across the planet where living wages are a fraction of the very minimum, companies have a a virtual nuclear arms capability when stacked against the virtual bows and arrows of the labor pool. Not only does reaching across the world for its labor bring down the costs of labor for the companies, it also eliminates jobs in America, making jobs harder to get, and forces the acceptance of a lower wage. As well, it allows companies to demand greater labor from its employees. Things like off-clock overtime are gaining more than a foothold on the workers while ridiculous volumes of policies constantly delay promotions. An employee with stellar performance finds themselves laid off just before they qualify for full pensions. The level playing field in becoming less balanced all the time and corporate abuses are growing like a snowball rolling down a mountainside gaining more and more mass as it goes.
The college graduates we need to drive our technological advances, and therefore the economy, are starting to apply to and going to work for foreign businesses because the base compensation packages can be twice or more than a similar position in the US. Meanwhile, the laws created as a result of the hard won efforts of the American labor pool are being short circuited as lobbies woo the Congress and Senate away from a dedication to the people to focus on the desires (not needs) of corporate plans.
Our sole defense against such contamination, the vote, has become a wasted tool as apathy keeps people from the polls and corporate interests promulgate gerrymandering and voter restriction laws to shackle those who do want to vote. Sadly, the voters that make it to the voting booth simply check the name they recognize, the incumbent, and thus jut continue the death spiral of America’s only method of forcing government to represent their interests.
Joseph de Maistre, a social commentator among other things, is quoted as saying that a society gets the government it deserves. I have to admit that I find it difficult, especially in cases of first and second world nations, to be an accurate assessment. In the case of the US, I think it’s especially true because were are a literate and tooled society with the ability to vote. Certainly the Electoral College has dulled the sharpened point of the popular vote, but the ballot still has enough power, both in state and federal elections, to permit us to make the needed reforms to give ourselves back a representative government.