Category Archives: Labor

Grecopalypse Now! The meltdown continues


A story in six numbers from the Hellenic Statistical Authority:

BLOG Greece

Moving to curtail rights abuses by companies


When it comes to power, think transnational corporations.

Back in March Foreign Policy published an excellent report on the power of the 21st Century corporation, including these observations:

Already, the cash that Apple has on hand exceeds the GDPs of two-thirds of the world’s countries. Firms are also setting the pace vis-à-vis government regulators in a perennial game of cat-and-mouse. After the 2008 financial crisis, the U.S. Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act to discourage banks from growing excessively big and catastrophe-prone. Yet while the law crushed some smaller financial institutions, the largest banks — with operations spread across many countries — actually became even larger, amassing more capital and lending less. Today, the 10 biggest banks still control almost 50 percent of assets under management worldwide. Meanwhile, some European Union officials, including Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, are pushing for a common tax-base policy among member states to prevent corporations from taking advantage of preferential rates. But if that happened (and it’s a very big if), firms would just look beyond the continent for metanational opportunities.

The world is entering an era in which the most powerful law is not that of sovereignty but that of supply and demand. As scholar Gary Gereffi of Duke University has argued, denationalization now involves companies assembling the capacities of various locations into their global value chains. This has birthed success for companies, such as commodities trader Glencore and logistics firm Archer Daniels Midland, that don’t focus primarily on manufacturing goods, but are experts at getting the physical ingredients of what metanationals make wherever they’re needed.

Could businesses go a step further, shifting from stateless to virtual? Some people think so. In 2013, Balaji Srinivasan, now a partner at the venture-capital company Andreessen Horowitz, gave a much debated talk in which he claimed Silicon Valley is becoming more powerful than Wall Street and the U.S. government. He described “Silicon Valley’s ultimate exit,” or the creation of “an opt-in society, ultimately outside the U.S., run by technology.” The idea is that because social communities increasingly exist online, businesses and their operations might move entirely into the cloud.

The U.N. ponders a move

Two years ago, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to begin the process of regulating the way transnational corporations impact human rights.

Here’s how the vote went:

  • In favor: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Venezuela, and Vietnam
  • Opposed: Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, South Korea, Romania, Macedonia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America
  • Abstained: Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Gabon, Kuwait, Maldives, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, and the United Arab Emirates

The idea has won the support of more than 80 countries, though Obama’s America remains firmly opposed.

The work continues.

From the latest report from the Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations of the United Nations Human Rights Council:

The most egregious business-related human rights abuses take place in conflict-affected areas and other situations of widespread violence. Human rights abuses may spark or intensify conflict, and conflict may in turn lead to further human rights abuses. The gravity of the human rights abuses demands a response, yet in conflict zones the international human rights regime cannot possibly be expected to function as intended. Such situations require that States take action as a matter of urgency, but there remains a lack of clarity among States with regard to what innovative, proactive and, above all, practical policies and tools have the greatest potential for preventing or mitigating business-related abuses in situations of conflict. In the present report, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises outlines a range of policy options that home, host and neighbouring States have, or could develop, to prevent and deter corporate-related human rights abuses in conflict contexts.

>snip<

States should warn business enterprises of the heightened risk of being involved with gross abuses of human rights in conflict-affected areas and clearly communicate their expectations with regard to business respect for human rights, even in such challenging environments. With few exceptions, States have yet to convey their expectations of business behaviour in situations of conflicts. Normally, States would convey such expectations through policies, laws and regulations. For example, in the area of anti-corruption, States in recent years have agreed upon and communicated their expectations regarding standards of business conduct with respect to bribery through international conventions and domestic policies and regulations. However, unlike anti-corruption, the existing legal and policy framework relevant to conflict-affected regions does not have a component that is specifically designed to deal with the problems of business involvement.

This lack of regulatory clarity limits the ability of States to engage or advise business enterprises regarding acceptable conduct in or connected to conflict-affected regions. Therefore, states should review whether their policies, legislation, regulations and enforcement measures effectively address the heightened risk of businesses operating in conflict situations being involved in gross human rights abuses, including through provisions for human rights due diligence by business. They should ensure that their regulatory frameworks are adequate, the applicability to business entities is clarified and, for the most extreme situation, make sure that the relevant agencies are properly resourced to address the problem of business involvement in international or transnational crimes, such as corruption, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Abby Martin interviews one of the measure’s architects

In this, the latest episode of Abby Martin’s series for teleSUR English, the San Francisco Bay Area native interviews a diplomat who played a seminal role in shaping the UN panel’s mandate.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Bringing Corporations to Justice with Ecuador’s UN Rep

Program notes:

For the first time ever, progress is being made at the United Nations for a binding legal instrument that would hold corporations accountable for human rights violations. Transnational corporations — many with larger economies than the countries they operate in — have enjoyed immunity from charges for destroying the environment and taking human lives. But Ecuador is leading a fight in the UN to create an international treaty and standards that can change this equation. At teleSUR’s studios in Quito, Abby Martin interviews Ecuador’s Permanent Representative to the UN and Chair of the negotiations for the binding instrument, María Fernanda Espinosa, about the need for this step.

Do robotic insurance agents get commissions?


Or are banksters [for insurance is, after all, banking on your own mortality] putting the premium on profit in an aging Japan?

From the Yomiuri Shimbun:

A major life insurance company will deploy humanoid robots nationwide this autumn, using them to wait on customers at its offices and sending them out on sales calls.

Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co. has announced plans to deploy 100 Pepper robots, made by SoftBank Group Corp., at its 80 branches in October. Pepper will explain insurance products and services, and accompany sales people on their rounds.

This will give Meiji Yasuda the highest number of humanoid robots deployed in the financial industry.

Pepper will explain comparatively simple, reasonably priced insurance products in customer service areas at branch offices. The robots also will attend to visitors at insurance seminars held by the company, and accompany Meiji Yasuda salespeople on visits to other companies to promote insurance products.

How long before we start to see robotic peddlers on our own doorsteps?

And what does such a development imply?

What other sales jobs can be filled without having to do with those messy humans? No unions, no health insurance, no retirement benefits, and programmed to do exactly what you want them to do.

Kinda like the Trump Republican base.

Paramilitaries assault striking Mexican teachers


A tweet from an activist on the scene captured the paramilitary in action.

A tweet from an activist on the scene captured the paramilitary in action.

The Mexican government’s battle against striking teachers from the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [CNTE] heated up again Wednesday when armed thugs from state-backed paramilitaries joined in a police action against one of the roadblocks that have become the most powerful weapon of the action against neoliberal education “reforms.”

The assault came in the state of Chiapoas, and fatalities have been reported.

Meanwhile, strikers in another state, Michoacan, have taken the blockade action to the rails.

From teleSUR English:

Mexican State and municipal police accompanied by paramilitaries and hooded individuals with guns forcefully evacuated the only camp that civil society and teachers of the National Coordinator of Education Workers, CNTE, held in the state of Chiapas, Wednesday.

In a statement the CNTE said that 10 trucks loaded with a group of masked men came to the camp at highway San Cristóbal-Tuxtla Gutiérrez in Chiapas where about a hundred protesters were gathering before dispersing them with force. The CNTE was on high alert and reinstated its blockade soon after, according to student activist Omar Garcia.

There were reports that between one and two teachers were killed in the clashes and that two were detained. Videos circulating on social media website showed the masked men took part in cracking down on the protesting teachers, apparently with police permission. The news comes about a month after the Nochixtlan massacre claimed 12 lives in the state of Oaxaca.

Leaders of the CNTE have been protesting over the past few months against the neoliberal education reforms implemented in 2013 by President Enrique Peña Nieto

Railroads blockaded in Michoacan 

Elsewhere, striking teachers have extended their blockades to railroads, reports Fox News Latino:

Hundreds of striking teachers and their supporters effectively shut down the freight rail network in the western Mexican state of Michoacan on Wednesday.

Members of the militant CNTE union launched the protest around 8:30 a.m., blocking tracks with boulders, tree-trunks and even vehicles.

The blockades prevented the transport of thousands of freight containers from the Pacific port of Lazaro Cardenas, rail operator Kansas City Southern de Mexico said.

The state government urged the teachers to end the blockades and did not rule out the use of riot police to clear the rail lines by force.

Most of Michoacan’s 19,500 primary schools have been shut down since May 16 due to the CNTE strike, which is also having a major impact in several other states, including Oaxaca and Chiapas, where teachers and their allies have blocked highways.

Quantifying climate change economic impacts


No one doubts [well, except for lots of Republicans] that climate change is upon us, and that it will cause a great many changes to the planet we inhabit.

While we’re all acquainted that things are set to get hotter and drier for most of us, and that seas are rising, those are just some of the broader impacts.

But we many be less aware that profound economic changes lie ahead, and they’ll be very costly indeed.

New research tries to set a price tag on some of them.

From the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Rising temperatures caused by climate change may cost the world economy over $2 trillion in lost productivity by 2030 as hot weather makes it unbearable to work in some parts of the world, according to U.N. research published on Tuesday.

It showed that in Southeast Asia alone, up to 20 percent of annual work hours may already be lost in jobs with exposure to extreme heat with the figures set to double by 2050 as the effects of climate change deepen.

Across the globe, 43 countries will see a fall in their gross domestic product (GDP) due to reduced productivity, the majority of them in Asia including Indonesia, Malaysia, China, India and Bangladesh, researcher Tord Kjellstrom said.

Indonesia and Thailand could see their GDP reduced by 6 percent in 2030, while in China GDP could be reduced by 0.8 percent and in India by 3.2 percent.

Resisting the Greek capitulation to the banksters


Greek’s have seen austerity at its worst, inflicted by the joint powers of the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

The austerians are acting in the interest of the banks of Germany and France, lending institutions that bankrolled arms deals that profited the military/industrial complexes of the lender nations.

While Greek official corruption was clearly involved in some of the deals, the bribe payments came from German companies eager for profits from the sale of weapon systems, warships, and other materiel necessary for the new Cold War.

A succession of Greek governments signed off on massive cuts in public salaries and pensions, restrictions on the national public health system, and the sell-off of ports, railroads, islands, and other public assets.

Finally, the Greek people said “Enough!,” and in and in January 2015, they voted in a new government headed by a previously marginal party, a coalition of the Left named Syriza [previously], swept to power on a platform calling for an end of the payments.

With party leader Alexis Tsipras becoming chancellor, Syriza seemed on track to mount the first real resistance to the ave of austerity programs imposed on nations of Ireland and Southern Europe in the wake of the crash caused by the institutional corruption of Wall Street and the City of London.

Seven months after taking power, Syriza called a referendum on the issue of whether or not Greece should accept the latest austerity mandates from the Troika. When the votes were tallied, 61 percent of the Greek electorate declared no to further austerity.

Two months later the leaders of the anti-austerity movement were gone, and Tsipras was ready to surrender once again.

In this interview with The Real News Network, one of those leaders talks about those critical events, and the launch of a new party to continue the resistance to the money lord of the North:

Odious Debt and the Betrayal of the Popular Will in Greece

From the transcript:

DIMITRI LASCARIS, TRNN: This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting from Lesbos, Greece, for The Real News.

This week, The Real News is in Lesbos to cover the Crossing Borders Conference on the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean.

This afternoon we’re joined by Zoe Konstantopoulou. Zoe Konstantopoulou is the former speaker of the Greek Parliament. She was elected to that position in February of last year with a record number of votes from her fellow MPs, including, surprisingly, the support of the right-wing New Democracy Party. But her tenure as speaker of the Greek Parliament was short-lived. Her position was vacated in October of last year after the SYRIZA government decided to implement an austerity program that was even more severe than [the one that] over 60 percent of the population of Greece had rejected in a referendum in July of last year.

>snip<

LASCARIS: Now, last year, after the referendum in which over 60 percent of the Greek population effectively voted to reject an austerity program that was even less severe than what was ultimately implemented, the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, called a snap election and there was a rebellion of the left wing of the SYRIZA party, and they formed another party called Popular Unity, which I understand you supported in the election that was held in September.

KONSTANTOPOULOU: I cooperated as an independent candidate with Popular Unity.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Income inequality linked to unwed parents


The American conservative is a creature who demands marriage before babies, but new research reveals the economic policies espoused by Republicans [and, it must be added, neoliberal democrats] are almost precisely crafted to encourage women to have children without benefit of clergy.

From Johns Hopkins University:

Rising income inequality, and the resulting scarcity of certain types of jobs, is a key reason a growing number of young Americans are having babies before getting married.

A study led by Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin is the first to trace how the income gap, a large-scale societal trend, is affecting individual people’s personal choices about starting a family. The greater the income inequality in an area, the less likely young men and women are to marry before having a first child, concluded the study, which will be published online July 14 and will appear in the August issue of the American Sociological Review.

“Does income inequality affect a young adult’s decision about getting married and starting a family?” asked Cherlin, the Benjamin H. Griswold III Professor of Public Policy in the Krieger School of Arts and Science. “We think the answer is yes for those who don’t graduate from college. Places with higher income inequality have fewer good jobs for those young adults. They don’t foresee ever having the kinds of well-paying careers that could support a marriage and a family. But they are unwilling to forgo having children. So with good jobs in limited supply and successful marriage looking unlikely, young women and men without college degrees may go ahead and have a child without marrying first.”

Cherlin and his fellow authors found that areas with high levels of income inequality have a shortage of jobs available in the middle of the job market. These are jobs available to those without college degrees that pay wages that would keep a family out of poverty — like office clerks, factory workers, and security guards.

Without access to this sort of work, young men can’t make an adequate living. They don’t see themselves as good marriage material, and their partners agree. Couples like this might live together and have a child, but they are reluctant to make the long-term commitment to marriage, according to Cherlin.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading