Majority Versus Elite Priorities
The part-timers are in what has long been called a “shape-up system,” which has advanced with the help of improved business software that forecasts business volume each day and allows the managers to schedule part-timers day-by-day, and even within days. They must be ready for these in-day calls. This is, of course, like the famous and widely emulated Toyota “just-in-time” supply system, here applied to the more intensive commodification of labor, although admittedly not new there also.
A large number of the part-timers would like more work and, ultimately, full-time work. In fact, an estimated 8.3 million of them seek more work (Catherine Rampell, “U.S. Adds 171,000 Jobs, More Than Estimated,” NYT, November 3, 2012). Greenhouse recounts the experiences and frustrations of several such workers (he and his associates interviewed 40). They note that when there are substantial bulges in the need for workers today the business-alert companies will now hire a batch of additional part-timers, although the existing workers may be doing a good job and expressly want more work. But the managers explain that the shape-up system keeps costs down and enhances “efficiency”—benefits are avoided or kept low, fresher part-timers are less tired on the job.
It is not till the 34th paragraph that Greenhouse mentions the “decline of union power” as a factor explaining the enlarging shape-up system, quoting
And Greenhouse later cites labor advocate Carrie Gleason on how “we’re seeing more and more that the burden of market fluctuations is being shifted onto workers, as opposed to the companies absorbing it themselves,” but Greenhouse balances this with some further business representatives’ statements on the improved efficiency and worker “enthusiasm” advantages of the on-call part-timers system.
This is a good article and we must give the NYT credit for publishing it. But the article somewhat buries that relevant context of the decline of union power and there is no deeper context provided, such as the actual and intensified war on labor, the politics of that war, its class war characteristics, with the decline in legal protections of union membership and organizing activities and the growth and deployment of union-busting and avoiding specialists, its recent and ongoing display in the political and “reformer-philanthropists” privatization and anti-teachers union campaign and its link to the growth of income and wealth inequality.
We should also consider the loneliness of this article, in light of the human importance of its subject matter. With 8.3 million part-timers who want full-time work and, of course, another 6 million or more looking for any kind of work (the estimate given in the Rampell article), isn’t this a subject that demands repeated attention and lots of editorial backup?
Maybe as much attention as the NYT gives the
By contrast, the part-time (and full-time) unemployment problem is a real threat and one of acute importance to millions of
The NYT did have an editorial on November 3 entitled “Jobs Are Growing, Not Stagnating,” but it never mentions unions or class warfare techniques applied to labor and part-timers. It is an Obama supportive editorial, contrasting his more-or-less expansionary policies with those of Romney. It says that Obama’s employment agenda “includes school and infrastructure rebuilding and aid to states to hire teachers.” It doesn’t mention his support of
In another dramatic case of selectivity that serves elite interests and is essentially just building majority support for elite programs, we can consider the attention given to the Taliban shooting and injuring of the Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, and the inattention given to the large number of killings of children in
The Malala attack was despicable and justly condemned, but so were the scores of drone-based injuries and deaths. The difference in attention is surely that in the Malala case blame attaches to the enemy, the Taliban, whereas in the drone case, the attackers were
Malala’s shooting was front-page news in the NYT, with a picture of the victim and lead article by Declan Walsh, “Taliban Gun Down a Girl Who Spoke Up for Rights” (October 10, 2012). On the following day, there was another article by Walsh on “Pakistanis Unite in Outrage Over Girl’s Shooting by Taliban,” with a large accompanying photo of grieving women in “A Show of Support.” Then two days further along the paper supplied another front-page picture, this time of a Pakistani boy with the picture heading “Prayers and Tears for a Wounded Girl” (October 13, 2012). This was by no means the end of photos and articles on the Malala case. In fact, through October 28, the NYT had 14 articles, including 3 items on the editorial page, on the Malal case.
In the midst of this series the NYT ran an article by Alissa J. Rubin titled “3 Children Die in Afghan Strike by NATO-Led Coalition” (October 18, 2012). This article was on page A12, had no pictures, and the children were unnamed. The article stresses the “coalition’s” claim of “deep regret” for this incident and its taking of “full responsibility for what occurred.” Most of the article is devoted to a discussion of Taliban actions in the strike area and coalition policy designed to protect civilians. But Rubin and the NYT couldn’t find people grieving or indignant or anything else to humanize the victims or condemn the killings as outrageous.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at the City University of London, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan alone killed between 2,593 and 3,370 persons from 2004 through October 2012, and between 475 and 885 civilians, and 176 children (see the webpage devoted to “Covert War on Terror—The Data,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, with continuous updates). But the NYT has yet to find this report newsworthy (as of November 5).
A qualification here: there have been two NYT blog articles addressing “Living Under Drones,” one by the print edition regular Scott Shane, who found the drone report impressive (“Report Cites High Civilian Toll in
So is the finding of outrage in
In a recent article in the London Guardian entitled, “The victims of Fallujah’s health crisis are stifled by Western silence” (October 25, 2012), Ross Caputi states that “Ever since two major U.S.-led assaults destroyed the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004, Fallujans have witnessed dramatic increases in rates of cancers, birth defects and infant mortality in their city. Dr Chris Busby, the author and co-author of two studies on the Fallujah heath crisis, has called this ‘the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied’.”
Caputi points out that “four new studies on the health crisis in Fallujah have been published in the last three months. Yet, one of the most severe public health crises in history, for which the
It should not surprise people that through November 5, the NYT has yet to mention any of these studies of the Fallujah victims. After all, it is very unlikely that the Volkischer Beobachter reported on casualties in
Edward S. Herman is an economist, media critic, and author of numerous books, including The Politics of Genocide (with David Petersen).