Nov. 29. Just had a chance to read Steve Early’s fine piece of November 15 ” A Lesson for Labor From Occupy Wall Street”. It’s similar is some ways to a point I made here in March in a post “I Am Not Middle Class”
It praises the Occupy Wall Street approach, the 1% vs. the 99% as opposed to the whiny “defend the middle class” slogan that Democratic party geniuses have taught to most U.S. labor leaders.
It quotes Professor Michael Zweig who reminds us that class is not how much money you make. He says “the real basis of social class lies in the varying amounts of power people have at work and in the larger society”
For instance there are school principals who make less than some technical workers, but with the principals ability to evaluate, hire and fire they are real middle class as opposed to the workers. Airline pilots make far more than a lot of mom and pop store owners, but the pilots are workers who get screwed like other workers (Witness today’s bankruptcy filing by American Airlines so they can break union contracts.) Shopkeepers have their own very different problems.
As Early points out the muddled “defend the middle class” approach confuses us about who are our friends and who is the target. He points out that during the August Verizon strike, Verizon tried to dampen working class support for the strikers by taking out ads saying that their relatively high pay made them “upper middle class”.
When the NBA was locked out there was talk that some of the mega-millionaire players were part of the 1%. Not so. They were just employees with rare skills that got them huge pay. The players have no say in how the NBA is run and how to distribute the billions made from TV. Now someone like Michael Jordan who took his immense pay and became an owner, he’s something else.
Though the OWS approach is a breath of fresh air, it’s a slogan not a science. Part of class has to do with who is taking advantage of whom, who gets screwed and who does the screwing. Steve Jobs was a smart guy, but he didn’t gather his billions by working a hundred thousand hours of overtime. The Asian factory workers whose limbs withered from doing the same assembly motion over and over again made Jobs huge fortune.
It’s more than the 1% who do the screwing (or using a fancy word, the exploiting) or who reap the benefits of the Wall Street rigged game. The capitalists who own corporations and/or the millions of shares of stocks and bonds (sorry Charlie, your little 401k doesn’t make you upper class) are more than 1% of the population. And there are the true middle class people the administrators, judges, lawyers, shopkeepers, and such. With noble exceptions they realize they’re living high off the hog because they assist the capitalists and act politically as their allies. Police are in a group all their own. They’re employees like other workers, but they’re obsessively tied in with defending the current order and can never be depended to stand with workers. Bless his departed soul, George Meany the ultra-conservative AFL-CIO President of the 1950′s and ’60, still understood this fact and always opposed letting police unions into the AFL.
So let’s keep with the 99% slogan, but get real, study up on class and figure out who our friends and foes really are.