Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oh to be Solvent When Labor Strikes Back

Labor is usually helpless against capital. The employer, perhaps, decides to shut up the shops; he ceases to make profits for a short time. There is no change in his habits, food, clothing, pleasures—no agonizing fear of want. Andrew Carnegie

Back when companies were far more solvent than today, labor's ability to strike was balanced by capital's ability to lock-out (i.e. close down operations). Call it an artifact of solvency.

These days, while labor is deemed to be on the ropes by many, it is capital which, by virtue of the increasing web of necessary payments to the financial sector which seems to me to be on the ropes. Capital can't lock labor out, it is beholden to finance (as finance is to itself) in much the same way men of Carnegie's day were beholden to capital. 

I'll be a most interested observer of the Greek strike. I wonder how many days it will be before the banks cry "no mas" and labor discovers it has newfound power.  It's all about sufficient reserves, and it's easier to stock-pile food for a week than it is to stock-pile sufficient payments to the financial sector in the event of a business shut-down.


Charles Butler said...

'... protesters threw petrol bombs at a bank in Athens, killing three employees, in the worst violence the country saw since riots in 2008'.

It'll take more than a 24 hour strike on May 20 to convince Greek authorities, or anyone else, that it isn't just business as usual.

Dude said...

Mr. Butler,

As I wrote, I'll be a most interested observer. 24 hours of no production, and no payments might hurt some parties more than others.

We will see what the future holds.

John said...

hi dave

I thought 2010 might be a semi repeat of 2008 - but perhaps gold will do better this time?

Seth said...

This is quite an interesting line of thought. It stands to reason that labor is due to find some fresh point of leverage. Just-in-time supply chains create some vulnerability to disruption, but so far the sheer mass of 'cheap labor' (that comprehensive euphemism for people in poverty) has overwhelmed any organized resistance.

That thin *financial* 'supply lines' might be the new pressure point hadn't really occurred to me before.