Timesizing® Associates - Homepage

Timesizing News, July 5-15, 2003
[Commentary] ©2003 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080

7/15/2003  timesizing consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope -

  1. Germany: Fallout from a failed strike, by Mark Landler, NYT, W1.
    Leaders of IG Metall, Germany's most powerful union, have proposed a special convention at the end of August to settle a leadership battle that erupted after a failed strike in eastern Germany. The meeting...could derail the candidacy of Juergen Peters to replace the longtime chairman, Klaus Zwickel...who is departing.
    [Or rather, the meeting's whole purpose is to derail Peters' candidacy.]
    Mr. Peters, now the union's vice chairman, has been blamed [read 'scapegoated'] for the collapse of the strike, which had been called to demand a shorter workweek.
    [And two background newswires -]
    German industrial union in leader dispute, AP 07/14/03 09:15 EDT via AOLNews.
    Leaders of Germany's largest industrial union on Monday [7/14] proposed a special convention next month to decide who will be its next leader and to end infighting over a failed strike for a shorter working week in the country's ex-communist east. The...meeting of IG Metall members would be held Aug. 30-31.... The recommendation, made by 10 board members, still needs approval from the union's full 41-member board. IG Metall's No. 2 official, Juergen Peters, was originally seen as the favorite after being nominated by the union's executive board in April to succeed Zwickel at an October convention.
    But many [irresponsible!] officials now hold Peters responsible for the collapse last month of the eastern strike and some have demanded he drop his leadership ambitions - calls that Peters...has rejected. The strike sought to cut working hours in the east from 38 hours to 35 hours.... It collapsed June 30 amid criticism from business and political leaders, and even some regional union officials.
    [Union disunity.]
    Many said the union picked the wrong time and the wrong issue with Germany struggling to get out of 3 years of economic stagnation.
    [The wrong time?? - when thousands of companies and organizations and municipal and county governments round the world are independently reinventing shorter working hours to save their skill set and their consumer base amidst this global downturn - see examples below that make it into AOL News or the WSJ/NYT. And the wrong issue?? - when the two major times it's been tried nationally (USA 1938-1940 and France 1997-2001) it cut unemployment 1% for every hour cut from the workweek - and so strengthened the French economy that it was the last in Europe, save subsidized Ireland, to succumb to the U.S.-led recession of 2001.]
    Peters, who is responsible for wage negotiations, rejects criticism he misled colleagues about the possibility of secondary shutdowns at plants in western Germany for lack of parts - one of the most unpopular aspects of the strike.
    ["Oh geee, we're sooo sorry for any inconvenience." Whatta buncha wimps! Those plants should have been shut down by all-too-comfy IG Metall members in western Germany anyway. Apparently Germany's not so sure it really wants to be united after all those years wishing it was.]
    German union plans special congress to end crisis, by Kerstin Gehmlich, Reuters 07/14/03 11:11 ET via AOLNews.
    BERLIN -...Juergen Peters, designated the next head of IG Metall, has been under fire since the union called off a 4-week strike in east Germany last month after failing to win a shorter working week, the first time it conceded outright defeat in 50 years, its chairman Klaus Zwickel said on Monday.
    [What about the victory win of the shorter workweek for the east German steelworkers?!]
    ...The union's executive suggested a trade union congress in late August to decide on the union's new leadership.... "IG Metall wants a quick clarification, no paralysis that drags on for weeks," Zwickel said afater a meeting with union executives.
    [They've had paralysis for 13 years while their east German members work 38 hours for 35 hours of west German pay. No wonder -]
    IG Metall has seen its membership decline sharply in the last decade and its influence wane as demands have grown for more flexible wage bargaining.
    [You want the wrong issue? Wages are the wrong issue. Higher wages in the face of a labor surplus go against market forces. Taking care of the labor surplus first by shortening the workweek per employee and getting everyone hired by spreading the vanishing work swims with the current of market forces and harnesses them to raise wages automatically without a big song and dance.]
    About 57% of Germans think the power of German trade unions is too high, according to a recent Emnid poll for N-TV....
    [That's just a function of corporate control of the media. If IG Metall had been making itself useful all these years and getting the nation's workweek, not just the union sector, down to where it needs to be to achieve full employment throughout the two Germanies, public opinion would be 87% in their favor no matter who controlled the media.]
    ...The East [sic] German strikes...significantly hurt Germany's key car industry....
    [What tommyrot - or rather, jerryrot! The steel industry agreed quickly to the very reasonable 35-hour week because they apparently had some big orders. The car industry's markets have been weak, chiefly because they waste 18-20% of their potential customers in east Germany by keeping them unemployed by means of technologically outdated long workweeks.] "The union should look for a clear alternative in the personality question," said Hans-Peter Mueller, union expert [another ignorant 'expert'!] at the Berlin School of Economics. "It needs to close this chapter and find someone who can re-unite the union."...
    [Meaning, take it back to not rocking the boat and "go along to git along"? Then it might as well disband.]

  2. [meanwhile, in Europe's 3rd biggest economy next door (1 Germany, 2 UK) -]
    France's disgruntled performers launch a new act for labor protests, by Vauhini Vara, WSJ, A12.
    PARIS - By halting a number of summer arts festivals, angry French performing artists and unions have opened a new front against the government as it attempts to cut back the nation's generous pension and unemployment benefits.
    For the past week, many seasonal theater workers and entertainers have refused to work and sought to prevent their colleagues from doing so, in protest against changes that would limit unemployment benefits. The strikes and protests forced the closure of several major arts festivals, including high-profile theater and opera festivals in Avignon and Aix-en-Provence late last week....
    In France, anyone involved in show business - including actors, dancers, musicians, and even hairdressers and costume designers - qualifies for one of Europe's most generous packages for the profession. If an artist can show proof of 507 work hours (or about 63 eight-hour days) during the previous 12 months, full employment benefits for a year [12 months] will be available. Under the changes, actors will have just 10 months to fulfill the 507-hour obligation and will qualify for only 8 months of unemployment benefits..\..
    The actors' success in shutting down the festivals could add to the tension between unions and the government, which, like many across Europe, is wrestling with changes to labor laws and benefits in a bid to save money and jump-start business activity....
    [It never ceases to amaze us how completely we have forgotten the lesson of the Great Depression - the harder you are on ordinary consumers, the less consumption you'll get and the LESS likely you'll be able to "jump-start business activity." Here's the Reuters version -]
    Chirac laments axing of French arts festivals, Reuters 07/14/03 11:37 ET via AOLNews.
    PARIS...- Pres. Jacques Chirac on Monday lamented the axing of a number of France's popular summer theatre and arts festivals due to a strike by artists but said a decision to cut their benefits would not be reversed.... The government plans to trim a 950m euro shortfall in the sector's benefit fund by making artists work more hours before qualifying for benefits..\..
    Some 650 show business personalities, including actor Gerard Depardieu, appealed in an open letter to Chirac on Monday for the president to intervene in the row.... "This accord would push a quarter of actors and technicians out of the unemployment system. It is brutal and unfair, but even worse, it is inefficient because it will not reduce the deficit, nor will it enable a decrease in the fraud and abuse," said the letter, published in various newspapers.
    Organisers pulled the plub on crowd-[draw]ing festivals in Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Montpelier and La Rochelle after opening performances had to be scrapped due to a strike by actors and stage hands..\.. The cancellations...have meant weeks of wasted time and money and have denied hotel and restaurant owners in festival towns of their traditional annual windfall.
    [IG Metall needs to learn to strike from the French, who don't give a flying Karamatsov who likes them. If fat hotel and restaurant owners reclining in their lounges want their windfall, they better make sure the performers doing all the work out there on the street are getting shafted by the rightwind government. Listen to this hypocrisy -]
    "We must not leave these performing arts workers in their current situation,["] Chirac said, criticising employers who reportedly pay performers a fraction of their due wages and advise them to make up the rest in benefits.
    [No wonder he doesn't want them to put the onus on benefits - when he's cutting benefits. Here's his big 'solution' -]
    "A certain number of A/V or theatrical firms have deliberately misused these funds to their profit. These companies must be investigated and any abuses will be condemned and sanctioned," Chirac said....
    [Oh that'll be a real Big Help to the starving artists.]

7/12-14/2003  timesizing consciousness in the weekend news = glimmers of strategic hope -
  1. 7/12   New York City tightens cultural budgets, by Deepti Hajela, AP 07/11/03 13:17 via AOLNews.
    NEW YORK - It could have been worse. A lot worse. Budget cuts for museums, concert halls and other cultural institutions in the city were serious..., officials said. The city's Dept. of Cultural Affairs funding was down by $1.6m [c.1.3%?] over a year ago, forcing some popular sights to shorten their hours of operation....
    [And presumably taking employee hours with them, but hopefully not employee jobs.]

  2. [and ditto in Britain -]
    7/12   Princess Diana charities face money woes, by Sue Leeman, AP 07/11/03 22:08 via AOLNews.
    LONDON - ...At Action for Prisoners' Families, which had received $160,000 a year [from] the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund..\..a quarter of its total budget, staff have had to cut their work hours and some may face losing their jobs altogether..\..
    Princess Diana had a special place in her heart for AIDS sufferers and land-mine victims, prisoners' families and the homeless. But charities caring for them were devastated to learn Friday that the memorial fund bearing Diana's name has stopped giving grants to charities because of financial problems linked to its bitter legal feud with the American collectibles maker, the Franklin Mint....
    [Huh? Bizarro! - unless the Franklin wanted to mint a Diana collectible.... Yep -]
    The fund and executors of Diana's estate sued the Franklin Mint in 1998 over a "Limited Edition Commemorative Plate" sold shortly after Diana's death in 1997. The lawsuit was thrown out, and in November the Franklin Mint filed a $25 million lawsuit accusing the fund and estate of acting maliciously in the original lawsuit. The Franklin Mint insisted Friday its lawsuit "is most definitely not a matter on money."
    [Then the only thing left is nasty and small-minded revenge. We have never bought anything from the Franklin Mint and now we'll make sure we never do. They must be suicidal to attack Princess Di's legacy like this, especially after exploiting her memory for profit. The Mint's lawsuit is about as smart as "Monsanto sues dairy in Maine over [No Artificial Growth Hormones] labels," by David Barboza, NYT, B1 & B3.]

  3. [#1 'progress toward the Third World' in America -]
    7/14   How lawyers work overtime - The 1930s' labor laws are updated for the 21st century, editorial, WSJ, A10.
    [We'd say "are updated for the 1950s." "For the 21st century" would require automatic overtime-to-training&hiring conversion and a weekly overtime-start threshold that automatically counterbalanced unemployment - comprehensively defined to include welfare, disability, homelessness, incarceration, forced part-time and early retirement.]
    Given all the union hollering over Labor Secretary Elaine Chao's proposals to 'update' overtime laws [our quotes], it's tempting to think this is just one more run-of-the-mill labor spat. The real story is that Ms. Chao is pushing through some much needed tort reform.
    [Huh? That's a stretch for a hell-yes metaphor.]
    The Labor Dept. recently outlined plans to update the nation's 'antiquated' overtime provisions, first devised in 1938. Those 'Depression-era' laws were originally meant to protect low-wage workers from toiling too many hours by guaranteeing them overtime [pay]....
    [Wrong. They were originally meant, and imperfectly designed, to share and spread the clearly limited, even shrinking, 'lump' of employment of the Great Depression across the entire population of people who needed to support themselves. You get the drift. It's the same sneering but where's-the-beef?! 'modernism' that gutted the Glass-Steagall banking act and the consumer-neutral bankruptcy law, and the questioning of the wisdom of this type of sneering against a number of laws that we learned the very hard way has already started. We're going to leave it there.]

  4. [#2 'progress toward the Third World' in America -]
    7/14   Attendants approve longer days, pointer digest (to C2), NYT, C1.
    Flight attendants for American Airlines have approved a longer work day, a move that may result in 208 furloughs [alias layoffs].
    [This is the direct opposite of timesizing, not downsizing. That will be 208 more people willing to do the survivors' jobs for less. Here's the indicated article -]
    Attendants extend shifts at American, Bloomberg via NYT, C2.
    ...The option, chosen Friday by 7,535, or 63%, of the 12,045 attendants whose votes were certified, includes changing the domestic duty day to 13 scheduled hours and 15 maximum hours. The results were announced via recorded message at the Assoc. of Professional Flight Attendants in Euless TX.
    [Another segment of labor, ignorant, votes against their own interests.]
    American, the unit of AMR, has negotiated $1.8B in annual cost reductions from employees in an effort to avert a bankruptcy protection filing. Those cuts were part of a plan to cut $4B in annual spending after accumulating losses that totaled $5.3B in the last 2 years and increased competition from low-cost carriers.
    "This does not necessarily mean there will be furloughs," a union spokesman, George Price, said before the vote was announced.
    Flight attendants must be offered voluntary leaves of absence or job-sharing arrangements with other attendants before furloughs occur, he said....

7/11/2003  timesizing consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope -
  1. [continuing shorter-hours pressure in Korea -]
    S.Korea Kia Mtrs union pushes for industrial action, Reuters 07/10/03 01:51 ET via AOLNews.
    SEOUL...- Unionised workers at Kia Motors Corp., South Korea's 2nd-largest auto maker, are pushing through an industrial action plan to seek higher wages, the union said on Thursday.... South Korean labour unions have been stepping up industrial action to press for higher wages and a shorter work week....
    [But no specific statement that the Kia unions are pushing for the shorter week.]

  2. [some ambiguity in America -]
    New overtime rules clear House, pointer digest (to A10), NYT, C1.
    The House [of Representatives in D.C., by a vote of 213 to 210] cleared the way for the Bush administration to impose new rules of overtime pay, rejecting Democratic arguments that the plan will cost millions of workers the opportunity to earn extra money.

  3. [and some outright regress in America -]
    Inside Southwest Airlines, storied culture feels strains - Spirit of fun and hard work is clouded by picketing and employee complaints - No longer the underdog - Growth has made upper management more remote from the rank and file, by Melanie Trottman, WSJ, front page & A6.
    DALLAS - One afternoon in February, a group of 40 flight attendants gathered at Dallas Love Field to vent their frustration with their employer. They carried signs declaring "Spread the LUV" - their employer's stock symbol [and their home base is Love Airfield in Dallas] - and handed out cards to travelers demanding "Give our flight attendants a break!"
    Their bosses wanted to boost their workday to 13 hours from 10½. The attendants also didn't like the lack of meal breaks and the fact that they didn't get paid when their planes sat idle - even though they spent that time cleaning the cabins.
    [Whoops, that basically yanks Southwest from the heights of employee relations to Wal-Mart slavery - see the classic article on 6/25/2002 #1.]
    This display of dissatisfaction...would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.... Southwest [is] the only profitable airline among the 9 U.S. majors. [It] owe[d] much of its success to an extraordinary culture that b[ou]nd...and motivate[d] workers. By offering a generous profit-sharing and stock-option plan, and creating a "we're all family" culture [just like Wal-Mart - originally] with office parties and advancement opportunities. Southwest has spurred its employees to continually boost productivity and profits. And it...engendered a fiercely loyal and competitive workforce along the way.
    But now that culture is showing signs of strain, just as Southwest [is] adapting to a new CEO [and] maintaining its growth during the worst downturn in aviation history.... And some longtime employees say that after years of pushing themselves to increase productivity, they simply can't give any more....

  4. Art out of sight - Museums close galleries, trim hours; Now showing: employee art, by Brooks Barnes, WSJ, W1.
    ...This summer, the big news at the nation's museums may be what you can't see - like the entire Chinese art gallery at the Denver Art Museum, which now gets shut down after 5 pm some days, or the American paintings at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (off-limits every Tuesday, along with the rest of the place). With institutions across the country facing their biggest budget problems in over a decade, they're being forced to try everything from leaving out-of-order interactive displays broken to cleaning galleries less often. Starting this month, Michigan's Public Museum of Grand Rapids, which just hosted a blockbuster exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, won't open on Sundays and Mondays.
    [And presumably that takes employee hours with it.]
    Because of electricity costs, says Timothy Chester , the museum's director, "we literally can't keep the lights on."
    [It's like there's a big cycle of sharing. There's a relatively rapid upturn caused usually by rapidly materializing labor shortage (via war or disease or starvation or emigration) that harnesses market forces to give the rare side, jobseekers this time for a change, the advantage in bargaining power - which breaks through all the money-funneling mechanisms and centrifuges the astronomically concentrated and deactivated spending power of the economy, and then there's a long slow downturn whereby the top brackets gradually dismantle or redirect all the centrifugal mechanisms and recreate recession and depression as they, once again, astronomically concentrate the national income in their own, comparatively few, pockets. The irony is, this hyperconcentration isn't even good for them. They have nowhere to invest or even store their megabucks and their personal security declines, and their gradual parasitism inches the nation down towards Third World levels and standards. Yet wartime experience indicates that during a perceived labor shortage (actually a labor-employment balance) which decreases the overall share of the top brackets, their income still increases (eg: WWI & flu %share & $income of top 5%: 1913 33% $10.6B, '14 32% 10.3, '15 32% 11.1, '16 34% 14.3, '17 29% 14.7, '18 26% 15.4, '19 24% $15.5B) as do their opportunities for solid investments and their personal security. Figures are from National Bureau of Economic Research, "Income in the United States" (NYC, 1922), pp.115-16, quoted in Art Dahlberg's "Jobs, Machines and Capitalism," p.89.]
    ...Museums say they don't have much choice. Between cuts in government funding for the arts, higher operating and insurance costs and insurance costs and a slow economy that has big companies scaling back donations, revenue is down by a third in some places....
    [And here's the problem with Concentration&Charity Capitalism, in contrast to Centrifugation&Market Capitalism that Timesizing facilitates -]
    So why won't the local billionaires just bail them out? Individual supporters are feeling "donor fatigue" after being hit up so many times, experts say....

7/10/2003  timesizing consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope -
  1. No Rest for the Productive, by Louis Braham, *BusinessWeek Online Jul 9 8:41 AM ET, flagged by reader Robert Solmer of San Diego.
    What happened to the technological utopia promised in the 1939 World's Fair? Visions of idle homemakers and endless vacations dominated American culture since then, as futurists predicted a world where technology completely eliminated the need to work. But where is Elektro, the 10-foot singing robot who was supposed to do all our housework, and Sparko, the talking dog?
    Not to be found in most American households, that's for sure. Quite the opposite of that imagined future has come to be. Today, Americans work more hours than they did 20 years ago. Vacations have dwindled, and "overtime" isn't overtime anymore. It's the norm.
    Recently the Bush Administration lobbied to update the Fair Labor Standards Act so that millions of federal workers would no longer be eligible for overtime pay [see nurses story below]. Emergency medical technicians, paralegals, nurses, reporters, chefs, and dental hygienists would be affected. Under the Bush plan, they would work past five [pm] at the same hourly rate or become "salaried employees," who receive a flat annual wage for whatever hours they work.
    CORPORATE DEATH SENTENCE. So why are Americans working harder than ever? The reason is that while technology has evolved, people haven't.
    [Let's say "policies haven't" - "people haven't" makes it sound unchangible, which it isn't.]
    If your employer discovers that a computer can cut the time it takes to do your job in half, is he going to let you work half your current hours for the same pay? No.
    [even though that would align with the reason most often stated for the introduction of new technology in the first place, AND maintain the same number of consumers with the same spending power.]
    Greed alone isn't driving management. Even if an employer recognized that technology could make workers' lives easier, lightening the workload could be a corporate death sentence.
    [A highly exaggerated fear, judging from the success of companies that do it, like Nucor Steel, Hooker Furniture, Lincoln Electric, et al. In fact, it's not really lightening the workload at all. A computer cutting the time it takes to do your job in half means that technology has doubled your productivity. You're doing the same amount of work in half the time. That is not a lighter workload. It's the same workload in half the time. Reread these sentences several hundred times until you get them through your thick inertial outdated puritanical work-hard-to-get-ahead-fixated guilt-prone heads. If you lose your job or get a paycut, WHO'S GOING TO BUY THE PRODUCTIVITY? Therein lies the secular (steady), NOT CYCLICAL (oscillating), trend toward recession in current economies worldwide. That is why - despite all the massive cheerleading, optimism, agreement, happytalk, accentuating the peripheral positives, downplaying the bad news, shouting the stock "jumps" or "leaps", whispering when stocks "ease" - that is why we're going down - unless we stop downsizing ourselves, and start timesizing ourselves. There is no alternative but going down unless we make this change. We aren't allowing any alternative except illusionary stock bubbles and "new" economies where investors supposedly don't need returns and only need losses.]
    A competitor down the block or in Asia, Europe, or Latin America could use technology more efficiently and sell the same products more cheaply, possibly putting the company and its "enlightened" CEO out of business.
    [That's why God invented tariffs. And why simplistic "free trade" (when it's convenient for US) is, as Martin Luther would say, the stinking work of the Devil. Why should desperate CEOs who gouge their employees in Third World countries have access to our well-paid employees = big-spending consumers when they not only do NOTHING to maintain them but in fact behave in such a way as to DESTROY them? Gradients in currency exchange or price relative to each and every external would-be trading-partner economy should automatically leveled so that qualitative differences in products and services weigh and nothing else - and this is the situation that we will gradually design and implement - if our human self-respect, sensitivities and expectations continue to rise and we demand more stability and sustainability from our neanderthal economists instead of the kind of shoot-em-up mongolian bar-room scene they spread out for us today. We HAVE the computers to do all this automatically, but we aren't using them.]
    Technology has, in effect, created a productivity arms race. By increasing the speed of production, it exacerbates the output demands employers impose on workers.
    [And via downsizing instead of timesizing, DESTROYS ITS OWN MARKETS.]
    The productivity miracle kept the economy afloat during the 1990s, or so goes the mantra among most American economists.
    [The US economy may still have been floating, but it was sinking ever lower in the water, with huge "productivity" shifting from weapons to prisons, and ever rising levels of "purchasing-challenged" consumers dba wasted consumption potential, as in 5.4 million disabled, 2.1 million incarcerated, and at least 600,000 homeless, not to mention millions on unemployment, welfare, forced part-time, forced "self-employment," forced early retirement and God knows what other dirty little categories that we've overlooked.]
    From the workers' perspective, however, the fact that technology enabled them to crank out more widgets per hour than they did a decade earlier wasn't exactly a blessing. Pay for the average worker [not top executives] grew just 0.5% annually after inflation during the 1990s, according to the Center for Economic & Policy Research, a Washington think tank. During the same period, the average CEO's salary grew 342%.
    [The top income brackets are the default destination for any of the national income flow that the rest of the income brackets don't have the bargaining power to divert toward themselves. Why? Because they've got the accounts and the accountants. Think about it. Why do stupid people in HR departments have higher pay ranges than smart people in other departments? The problem for the top brackets is this. They're already spending/consuming all they care to, and saving/investing most of it, but after awhile the concentration of income in their brackets becomes sooo utterly and unimaginably astronomical that they have greater and greater difficulty finding safe investments for it. Why? Because they're funneling to their own, relatively few, bulgingly overstuffed accounts sooo much unspendable spending power that they're actually suctioning the markets away from any and all productivity they may care to invest in. Where are the legions of standard economists who should be yelling and screaming and shouting warnings about this??? Why are they, like the Democrats against Bush, so passive and silent? (Have the money flows completely clogged and deactivated this feedback loop too?!)]
    Meanwhile, average annual hours worked grew from 1,783 to 1,878 - about 12 additional days of work per year. [Our CEOs and the business schools who teach them and the economists who deploy the widescreen theoretical background rationale for their activities are turning us all, including themselves, back into slaves.]
    MORE DEMAND NEEDED. The typical Joe or Josephine ha[s] only two ways to benefit from the productivity miracle.
    1. One is to have close to full employment in the country. Such was the case during the latter part of the 'boom' [our quotes] - 1997, 1998, and 1999 - and workers made significant wage gains during that period. With unemployment at the 3% or 4% range, they had more leverage to pressure employers for better wages, hours, or benefits.
      Even though the tech-induced productivity growth was just as strong throughout the decade, workers actually lost wages after adjusting for inflation during the first half of the 90s, when the jobless rate was higher, according to the Economic Policy Institute, another Washington think tank.
      Unfortunately, creating jobs is challenging in a country with strong productivity growth.
      [Unless the mantra that "technology creates more jobs than it destroys" is really true, which it evidently isn't.]
      Demand for American goods [alias productivity] must equal any productivity gains in order for additional employment to materialize. Consider: "If productivity growth is 3% and there's no comparative increase in demand, that's 3% less of the labor force you need that year," says Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic & Policy Research.
      [OR, 3% less work time from the labor force, because you need 100% or more of the consumer base, alias the labor force, and if you get into thinking (as we have!) that you don't need as much labor force, you've got a serious contradiction in your excuse for a mind.]
    2. EUROPEAN INEFFICIENCY? That brings me to the second way workers can benefit from productivity gains: Organize into unions and demand that employers share the wealth. In Europe, where labor unions are much stronger than in the U.S., workers have much longer vacations, five to six weeks on average compared to two or three in the U.S.
      The average European's annual work hours actually declined in the 1990s to 1,629, compared to 1,878 here. American economists often point to all this "wasted time" as a sign of European inefficiency. But greater efficiency is often better for companies [short term] than it is for human beings [or markets, and therefore, companies in the longer term]. By traditional measures [weighted toward possession of materialistic 'stuff'], Americans have a higher standard of living than Europeans do. But Europeans have longer life expectancies than Americans and spend more time with their loved ones.
    Perhaps it wouldn't be utopia, and maybe the day is still far off when all household tasks are automatically completed by robots. But a return to unions negotiating with management for better pay and better hours would count as progress - even if some profits have to be sacrificed along the way.
    [and a 56th uninvestable $billion for Bill Gates.]
    Let Elektro be the superproductive one. Americans need more free time.
    [A cogent tour de force, Louis Braham. Thank you! And thanks to Bob Solmer for flagging this gem-of-an-article for us!]

  2. Nation's nurses lobby to protect overtime pay - Groups ask US to be excluded from rule changes for professionals, by Diane Lewis, Boston Globe, C1.
    ...Under proposed rules changes published in March, about 640,000 white-collar employees who earn more than $65,000 annually would not be guaranteed overtime for working extra hours..\.. Ten national nursing groups [including Mass. Nursing Assoc.] have asked the US Labor Dept. to treat them differently from other professional job categories....

7/09/2003  primitive timesizing & timesizing consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope -
  1. Hyundai Motor union to continue partial strikes, Reuters 07/08/03 23:05 ET via AOLNews.
    SEOUL...- Unionised workers at Hyundai Motor Co. said on Wednesday [7/09] they would continue partial strikes through next week as key demands, including a say in management decisions, had not been met. The 39,000-strong union at South Korea's largest auto maker said in a statement its members planned to hold partial strikes until July 16 to seek a 40-hour work week, participation in management decisions involving investments and wage increases for temporary workers [who] total around 8,000.... Hyundai Motor...employs about 50,000 people..\..
    South Korean labour unions have been stepping up industrial action to press for higher wages and a shorter work week. Analysts said the unions have been emboldened after winning a delay in June to a merger between Chohung Bank and Shinhan Financial Group for 3 years....

  2. Toyota employee's wife wins workers' compensation suit, Kyodo 07/08/03 03:59 EDT via AOLNews.
    NAGOYA...- The Nagoya High Court on Tuesday [7/08] upheld a lower court ruling that repealed a decision by a Labor Ministry office not to provide workers' compensation to the wife of a Toyota Motor Corp. employee who committed suicide in 1988 as a result of overwork.
    [Sooo many double negatives! Wasn't it George Gobel used to say, "I ain't never hardly done that no more"?]
    Presiding Judge Katsusuke Ogawa rejected an appeal from the Ministry of Health, Labor & Welfare, saying the suicide was caused by excessive work hours and workload which made the man suffer depression.... According to the ruling, the man started suffering from depression around August 1988 when he was in charge of designing cars to exported to other Asian countries and jumped to his death at the end of that month at age 35..\..
    "The husband had accumulated a substantial amount of fatigue due to everyday overtime and heavy workloads, and that, coupled with being appointed head of the labor union's works committee, made him suffer from depression," Ogawa said. "In addition, a delay in a project to develop a new car model and an overseas business trip assignment caused the depression to worsen rapidly and he committed suicide," the judge said in handing down the ruling.... [The man's] wife had applied to the Toyota Labor Standards Inspection Office for workers' comp in March 1989, but her request was rejected in October 1994 [and that was fast!]. Two additional requests were similarly rejected. The Labor Ministry had maintained that the [deceased] employee's overtime hours were not excessive compared with his colleagues,
    [hey, that's why they call it the Labor Ministry]
    and the cause of his suicide was not work-related..\
    [and cigarettes don't cause cancer, and unemployment doesn't raise the crime rate, and technology creates more jobs than it destroys, and Bill Gates earned every penny of his $55,000,000,000....]
    A lawyer for the plaintiff said it is the first time...a high court [has] rule[d] that workers' compensation should be paid in a job-related suicide [alias karoshi] case....

  3. Japan to enact child care law to cope with aging society, Kyodo 07/08/03 17:02 EDT via AOLNews.
    TOKYO...- The Diet on Wednesday is set to enact legislation to encourage child bearing among women by requiring employers to provide childcare facilities.
    [Encouraging more population on a couple of already overpopulated islands? Dumb. And forcing employers to provide childcare facilities instead of just finaigling high enough wages so Japanese families can go back to doing just fine with only one wage earner? Ignorant. Ignorant of how you do that. You do that by leveling the power-gradient playing field between employers and employees so that more of the national income flows to employees instead of funneling to employers. And you do that by switching from an employment shortage to a labor shortage - market forces always reward shortages. And you do that by cutting the workweek.]
    ...The legislation has already cleared the House of Representatives..\.. The House of Councillors [cf. our Senate?] is expected to approve the childcare bill, part of the government's effort to avert a rapidly aging society in Japan [huh?], in a vote set for..\..around 12:20 pm...Wednesday afternoon [7/09]....
    The law requires that private-sector employers with more than 300 employees as well as local governments...draw up and launch childcare programs beginning in fiscal 2005.
    [Sounds like one of our unfunded federal mandates. They've already got a labor surplus relative to their long-outdated 40-hour workweek, and now they want to burden employers more (short term) and multiply job seekers (long term) instead of just cutting the workweek and spreading the vanishing work! And what the heck is wrong with an aging society? The only possible answer would be forced retirement at some arbitrary age, so quit forcing it!]
    The Health, Labor & Welfare Ministry...plans to draw up a list of childcare programs that private-sector employers may use as reference for their own childcare programs. Among the childcare programs to be listed in the [Labor] Ministry guideline [are] childcare leaves for both men and women, exemption [from] overtime work for employees with small children [this should be universal], and shortened working hours for employees with preschool age children....
    [Finally we get to shorter hours, but what a convoluted path en route. If they'd just do the shorter hours first - for everyone - they could avoid all this other big-government micromanagement. Fix the imbalance once in the center and you don't have to run around repeatedly and futilely trying to fix it around the edges and everywhere but the center.]
    In addition to the childcare law, the Diet is also set to approve Wednesday an amendment to the child welfare law, extending child welfare benefits to all families with young children....
    [Bottom line: Japan is still subsidizing labor surplus, falling wages and shrinking domestic demand, instead of implementing nationwide worksharing, perceived labor shortage, rising wages and growing domestic demand. "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"]

  4. A German union takes stock - Failed strike splits leadership of the metalworkers, by Mark Landler, NYT, W1.
    ...At issue is whether IG Metall's vice chairman, Juergen Peters, misled his fellow board members about the bare-knuckle tactics he planned to use to push for a shorter workweek in eastern Germany.
    [WHAT "bare knuckle tactics"? A strike is a strike. German labor's going soft.]
    ...IG Metall's campaign in eastern Germany was supposed to force manufacturers, through brief strikes, to shorten the workweek from 38 to 35 hours in line with factories in western Germany....
    [And another attempt to read-in all kinds of significance -]
    Analysis - Once mighty European unions see power slip away, by Alister Bull, Reuters 07/08/03 11:01 ET via AOLNews.
    [With emphasis on the 'Bull'.]
    Powerful unions in France and Germany picked fights this summer and lost, exposing the decline of Europe's once mighty labor movement....
    [But then, no labor movement, no markets. Unless employers implement timesizing themselves. Which occasionally does happen - see our working models page.]
    Falling membership, rising unemployment and the declining importance of heavily unionised manufacturing industry are all taking their toll. But the damage is also the result of the [premature!] creation of the euro single-currency bloc and the single European market.
    1. "...Monetary union has weakened centralised bargaining because employers and unions no longer have a government with which they can negotiate on inflation," said Tito Boeri, an economics professor at Bocconi University in Milan. Controlling inflation in the 12-nation currency bloc is now the job of the European Central Bank, which aims to hold price rises under 2% and...does not do pay deals with unions.
    2. "...Greater mobility of capital in the currency zone means that businesses respond to labour costs...and unions pressing for big pay awards must acknowledge that the jobs might move away," he said.
    European [Union] enlargement means skilled workers from the former communist east will be inside the EU from next year and available at a fraction of western pay levels. This makes it tough for unions to play hardball and IG Metall's strike for a 35-hour workweek in east German factories collapsed late last month from lack of public support.
    [Well, this is a public that is going to bump down to 3rd world levels same as the US and Japan, unless they share the vanishing work and restore their domestic markets, since they can't count on export markets anywhere.]
    The region's unemployment is above 20% [now we've seen everything from 18 to 20!] and managers said union demands amounted to an 8 or 9% pay rise [3/38= 7.9% actually] which they could not afford.
    [Not even with more employees able to afford their own products, like Henry Ford's employees making above-market $5/hour in 1912?]
    ..."It is increasingly hard for unions to press against the winds of change and the winds of change are blowing in the direction of longer [hours?] and more flexible working conditions," said Klaus Zimmerman, head of the DIW economic thinktank in Berlin.
    [Not much of a thinktank if he can't see the direction of longer hours is the direction downward toward the Third World or worse, slavery.]
    ...The [EU] region is battling with slow growth and both Germany and the Netherlands have slipped into recession, which is not improving labor's bargaining position....
    [When labor falls, consumption falls, and markets fall. But labor is a house divided -]
    German union fails to resolve power struggle, by Sabine Siebold, Reuters 07/08/03 17:50 ET via AOLNews.
    Germany's IG Metall engineering union failed on Tuesday to resolve a power struggle that has plunged Europe's mightiest trade union into a crisis that could determine the future of German industrial relations. The designated head of IG Metall, Juergen Peters, has been under fire since the union called off a 4-week strike in east Germany last month after failing to win a shorter working week.... After 15 hours of talks in Frankfurt, Zwickel told a news conference that although he had offered to step down early if Peters resigned too, Peters had refused and IG Metall's leadership had failed to agree on a solution to the crisis....
    [Tempest in a teapot, or bierstein. And post mortem -]
    Strikes hit German June car production - VDA, Reuters 07/08/03 04:58 ET via AOLNews.
    Strikes by east German workers caused car production and exports in Europe's biggest economy to fall almost a fifth lsat month, while demand for cars at home also slipped, auto industry association VDA said on Tuesday [7/08].... Germany's car industry, which accounts for 10% of total industrial output, was hit hard by union IG Metall's campaign last month for the former communist east's 310,000 engineering workers to have their working week cut from 38 hours to the 35 which is standard in the west.
    [But apparently not hard enough to win this merely 8% hourscut.]
    The stoppages, called off after the union failed to win the shorter hours, hit production of two of Germany's most popular auto exports -Volkswagen's Golf and BMW's 3-series....

  5. [meanwhile, back in the You-nighted Snakes of Hysterica -]
    Senate welfare draft touts work, marriage, by Laura Meckler, AP 07/08/03 17:50 ET via AOLNews.
    ...Following the pResident's lead, the plan drafted by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, would reuire single moms on welfare to work more hours, although not as many as Bush proposes. It also would spent [sic] hundreds of millions of dollars promoting marriage and sexual abstinence for those who are not married....
    [They could do that much more cheaply just by starting up monastic orders for fundamentalists.]
    The Grassley outline [in part] calls for: [Again, all this government micromanagement should be replaced by a much more markets-encouraging policy of fluctuating adjustment of the workweek against all forms of unemployment (if jobless goes up, the workweek comes down), including welfare, disability, homelessness, incarceration, forced part-time, and forced retirement at any arbitrary age.]

  6. Actress celebrates Mother Jones march, by Eric Tucker, AP 07/08/03 03:10 EDT via AOLNews.
    PHILADELPHIA - Betsey Means has spent the last year or so donning long black dresses and transforming herself from a 48-year-old contempoary woman into Mother Jones, the activist who famously allied herself with America's industrial laborers a century ago.... In her autobiography, Jones writes that she traveled in...1903 to Pennsylvania, where she encountered 75,000 striking textile workers. At least 10,000 of the workers were children, she said....
    In 1938, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established a federal minimum wage and a maximum-hour workweek for some workers....

7/08/2003  primitive-timesizing news = glimmers of strategic hope - 7/05/2003  primitive-timesizing & worktime-consciousness in the weekend news = glimmers of strategic hope - totaling 2000 jobs saved -
  1. [the Mexico front opens wider (see 1-week workyear reduction below on 7/01/2003 #2) -]
    Mexican VW workers will consider pay cuts, AP 07/04/03 12:34 EDT via AOLNews.
    MEXICO CITY - Union workers at Mexico's Volkswagen [VW] plant have agreed to negotiate [hour and] salary cuts to avoid the layoffs of 2,000 employees, a union spokesman said Friday. Labor leaders will propose shrinking the workweek to four days from five [a 20% hours-cut] and cutting salaries 20% [a corresponding amount], spokesman Miguel Galan said.... VW spokesman Luis Miguel Briones said the company was waiting for a formal proposal from the union before it made a public response..\.. Negotiations were set to begin Monday [7/7].
    VW announced earlier this week that daily production would be cut by 23% as of August, leading to the possible layoffs of 2,000 workers. The company blamed sluggish sales of the Jetta and New Beetle models in foreign markets, mainly the United States. VW also recently announced that it was ending production of the Sedan - the old Beetle - at the Mexican plant, the only place where it has been produced since 1978.
    VW exported 103,379 vehicles from Mexico during the first 5 months of the year, or nearly 13% less than in the same period of 2002.... [and a related photo & caption -]
    A woman under an umbrella, AP photo/Juan Carlos Rojas caption July 4 2003 via AOLNews.
    ...begs outside the entrance of Volkswagen [VW] factory, Friday, July 4, 2003, in Puebla, Mexico. Union workers at Mexico's VW plant have agreed to negotiate [hour and] salary cuts to avoid the layoffs of 2,000 employees, a union spokesman said Friday. Labor leaders will propose shrinking the workweek to four days from five [a 20% hours cut] and cutting salaries 20% [a corresponding amount], spokesman Miguel Galan said. Union negotiators were to meet Friday with company representatives to lay the groundwork for talks, which are scheduled to begin Monday.

  2. Korea's Hyundai Motor union to continue strikes, Reuters 07/04/03 05:31 ET via AOLNews.
    SEOUL...- The union at Hyundai Motor Co will continue limited strikes into early next week after talks with the management failed, a union official said on Friday, extending a rash of labour disputes in South Korea.... The company employs almost 50,000 people..\.. The 39,000 union members at the country's largest auto maker will walk off the job for 3 hours daily from July 7 to 9, after similar stoppages this week....
    [With today's robotics, they can probably easily get everything done in those five (5) hours a day!]
    The union is demanding participation in management decisions involving investment.... Flush with winning a delay in June to a bank merger between Chohung Bank and Shinhan Financial Group for 3 years, South Korea's labour unions have been stepping up industrial action to press for higher wages and a shorter workweek....
    [Repeat - drop the side issues (wages, investment decisions) and go for the power issue = a shorter workweek.]

  3. Pressure rises on German union leader to step down, Reuters 07/04/03 05:34 ET via AOLNews.
    BERLIN...- Juergen Peters, due to take over as chief of Germany's powerful IG Metall engineering union, faced growing pressure from its leaders on Friday to step down for his role in its first strike defeat in almost 50 years.
    [How ridiculous. He hasn't even stepped up yet! And if his installation as chief is a matter of election, let the members decide! As in fact, over 75% of them had voted to go out on strike. And now this petty scapegoating? The other union leaders are truly a scurvy crew.]
    IG Metall had demanded a cut in the working week for east German workers to the 35 hours standard in the west but was forced to call off month-long industrial action after talks broke down without a deal last weekend. ...Current chief Klaus Zwickel...on Friday made a veiled call for Peters to withdraw his candidacy for the leadership, saying that those responsible for the strike should bear the consequences of their actions....
    [Over 75% of the membership are responsible for the strike and they are bearing the consequences of their actions by their continued 2nd-class citizenship. Zwickel is confused and cowardly. Let's hope Peters has the guts to throw him the bird and let the membership decide on his candidacy, not the craven wavering of the fickle Zwickel. And there's another confused coward -]
    IG Metall board member Helmut Lense also called on Peters to step down for the sake of the union.... Peters should step down before the next union congress "to prevent a total split," Lense said....
    [Helmut must be peering through a broken lens, because there's already a split - between the steelworkers who achieved the 35-hour week by 2009 and the engineering and auto workers who didn't, because they chickened out too soon relative to the slumping markets for their output. Evidently management in the steel industry had so many orders for product that they could ill afford a prolonged strike in resistance to such a reasonable demand for east-west workweek harmonization, while management in the auto industry had nothing but weak markets, so they decided to misbehave and they managed to get the press and thence the public and the pols on their disunifying side.]
    Amid growing pressure on Peters, Berthold Huber, currently slated to be Peters' deputy and widely seen as a more moderate candidate, is now gaining favour among union members.
    [Berthold Huber, exciting as a tuber. You get the government you deserve and if the majority of union members want to continue to be 2nd-class citizens, that's what they deserve.]

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