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Useful quotes

On workplace democracy

Management is far too important to leave to managers.
Paul Cochrane NZ Public Service Association, 2001

Only by fighting for democratic power do (workers) educate themselves up to the level of being able to wield that power.
Hal Draper

We still have a lot of work to do when it comes to democracy. We have political democracy but not economic democracy.
Danish worker, unionist and ex-Prime Minister Anker Jørgensen

Workers (now) own... the critical means of production. In a modern company 70 to 80% of what people do is now done by way of their intellects. The critical means of production is small, gray, and weighs around 1.3 kilogrammes. It is the human brain.
J Ridderstrale and K Nordstrom, 2003

The era of using people as production tools is coming to an end. Participation is infinitely more complex to practice than conventional corporate unilateralism, just as democracy is much more cumbersome than dictatorship. But there will be few companies that can afford to ignore either of them.
Ricardo Semler, Brazilian CEO (see the inspiring SEMCO story here)

One out of every four working Americans (25%) describes their workplace as a dictatorship, while just 34% of bosses react well to valid criticism.
Workplace Democracy Association/Zogby Interactive poll, 2008

What we call a financial crisis is really at its core a crisis of management, and not just a crisis of management, but a crisis of management culture. ...In other words, what you had is a detachment of people who know the business from people who are running the business.
McGill University Management Studies Professor Henry Mintzberg

Freedom is participation in power.
Marcus Cicero

The work of unions is to create workplace democracy, and in the larger picture, economic democracy.
Lisabeth L. Ryder, AFSCME

Just because we get to vote every now and then, we can call this a democracy, when the economy is anything but? ...There’s not democracy in the workplace. I mean, through most of our daily lives, the idea of democracy is fairly nonexistent.
Michael Moore, film maker

The rules of workplace democracy are founded in solidarity and mutual trust. They are at the core of a historic process which promises to introduce a new economy, and thereby a new society, after capitalism.

Seymour Melman, US workplace scholar

On global unionism

What we have today won't get the job done. We need a new trade union internationalism.
Guy Ryder, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

It is no longer possible to protect workers' rights in one country, while in the neighbouring countries with whom we trade, workers face exploitation and sweatshop conditions. The fight for workers' rights in one country has to be a fight for workers' rights in every country.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC President, 2007

National unions have dealt with national companies. To deal with international companies you need international unions.
Derek Simpson, Unite

New unionism organizing styles not only increase membership density within multinationals, but also create an incentive for management to deal more honestly with unions on a global basis.
Paul Garver, global union campaign organizer, ex IUF, 2007

...in a global economy, we have no alternative but to build truly global unions. Unions with the ability to confront corporate power wherever it rears its head, whether it's a call center in Bangalore, a shoe factory in Vietnam, or a coal mine in Colombia. Brothers and sisters, the corporate agenda doesn't end at the water's edge -- and neither can ours!’
Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President

Unless unions devote more resources to international organisation and begin to develop global super-unions – so that they respond to events as speedily and concertedly as the financial markets – they will be unable to redress the power imbalance between labour and capital.
Peter Wilby, writing for the New Statesman

Capital went global; trade went global; finance went global. It's impossible for unions to stay local or regional...
'Workers of the world, unite!' isn't ideological anymore. It's practical.
Andy Stern, former SEIU President

Global unionism is the answer to global capitalism. There is no other answer.
Former labor leader and U.S. Under Secretary of Labor Jack Henning

On union organizing

The average workplace is made up of about 20% of workers who are angry and alienated, 60% who are generally pretty content, and 20% who are on best behaviour. The challenge for unions is to reach further into the workplace than this first group, and to organize the second.

Linda Kelly, a Director at the UK Partnership Institute

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
Son Tzu

...everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23, Section 4

By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.
Preamble to the IWW constitution, as amended in 1908

Don't get angry - get curious! Why are people taking the positions they are? Why are they angry? It's a good first step towards a solution.
ACAS motto

If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
Mark Twain

Organizing isn't about the boss, it's about workers. It's about their need for some power or influence over their jobs and their lives. So it doesn't matter if the boss is kind or moderate, benevolent, or vicious... It doesn't matter what they say or do; this isn't about them, it's about us.
Kris Rondeau, US worker-turned-organizer, HUCTW

Organizing is a fancy word for relationship building.
Ernesto Cortes, co-founder of the Industrial Areas Foundation

Partnership without strong, effective unions is meaningless, while organising is not an end in itself.
Paul Nowak, TUC National Organiser, 2006

Stop worrying about whose name gets in the paper and start doing something about rats, and day care, and low wages ... We must try to take our task more seriously and ourselves more lightly.
Dorothy I. Height, a founding matriarch of the American civil rights movement

Anger is meant to be acted on. It is not meant to be acted out. Anger points the direction. We are meant to use anger as fuel to take the actions we need to move where our anger points us. With a little thought, we can usually translate the message that our anger is sending us.
Julia Cameron, novelist, playwright, songwriter and poet

To know and not to do is not to know.
Ancient Chinese Proverb

You can't hold a man down without staying down with him.
Booker T. Washington

Too long have the workers of the world waited for some Moses to lead them out of bondage. He has not come; he will never come. I would not lead you out if I could; for if you could be led out you could be led back again. I would have you make up your own mind that there is nothing you cannot do for yourselves.
Eugene Debs

There is no greater fallacy than the belief that aims and purposes are one thing, while methods and tactics are another.
Emma Goldman, anarchist and dancer

If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything.
Will Rogers

After all is said and done, a lot more will be said than done.

On the future of work

The best way to predict the future is to create it.
Peter Drucker

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.
Charles Darwin

A precondition for a healthy society is to have an articulated image of the 'other future' - that tension between where we are now, and where we could be.
Seattle community planner Milenko Matanovic, 2008

The challenge to unions is to embark on union - management cooperative ventures with an independent agenda, grounded in the needs of members. Globalization has raised the stakes for unions in getting the balance between cooperation and conflict just right.
Corliss Olson, School for Workers, University of Wisconsin, USA

The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the making of them changes both the maker and the destination.
John Schaar, futurist, 1999

Why unions?

Workers who belong to trade unions (internationally) earn higher wages, work fewer hours, receive more training, and have longer job tenure on average, than their non-unionized counterparts .... At the macroeconomic level, high unionization rates lead to lower inequality of earnings and can improve economic performance.
The World Bank (no friend of unionism!), 2003

...unionized manufacturing plants are 22% more productive than nonunion factories. By offering superior wages and benefits, unionized employers improve worker retention, thus reducing the time-consuming and costly process of hiring and training. Additionally, unions provide an avenue for the open exchange of information and ideas between workers and management. This communication is vital to fostering productivity and innovation, and it cannot occur in workplaces where employees fear retribution.
Professor Harley Shaiken, Center for American Progress, 2004

Long ago we stated the reason for labor organizations. We said that a union was essential to give labourers opportunity to deal on an equality with their employers.
US Supreme Court

(US) union workers earn an average of $10.27 more per hour in total compensation than non union workers; that's $33.32 vs $23.15.
US Bureau of Labour Statistics 2005 survey of labour costs
For information regarding other countries see our article on the wage premium here.

On workplace culture

This is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor, in a sort of life, rather than a Monday-through-Friday sort of dying.
Studs Terkel, actor and writer, 1974

Factory managers abuse and harass us because they think it will increase our productivity. They don't understand that people work better when they are treated in a way that respects their needs. You should do research into that.
Worker from a Nike sweatshop, 2002 (name withheld)

If you want people motivated to do a good job, give them a good job to do.
Friedrich Herzberg, management guru, 1963

You can tell a company by the people they keep.

Managers need to remember that most people join organisations, and leave managers.
M Buckingham and C Coffman, management theorists, 1999

Clearly the most unfortunate people are those who must do the same thing over and over again, every minute, or perhaps twenty to the minute. They deserve the shortest hours and the highest pay.
John Kenneth Galbraith 1908-, US economist

Gallup collected a database of 4.5 million employees in 12 industries in the U.S. and found that fully 60% were "not engaged", while another 20% were "actively disengaged" 
Gallup Employee Engagement Index survey, 2003

People ask me, "How can I get our employees to be passionate about the company?" Wrong question. Passion for our employer, manager, current job? Irrelevant. Employees shouldn't be sleeping in cubes to prove they're "passionate employees." The company should behave just like a good user interface -- support people in doing what they're trying to do, and stay the hell out of their way.
Kathy Freeman, "chief poobah" of Head First books


steinbeckThe things we admire... kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding, and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest: sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism, and self-interest are the traits of success.
John Steinbeck, US novelist

It isn't the rebels who cause the troubles of the world. It's the troubles that cause the rebels.
Carl Oglesby, Students for a Democratic Society

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late… Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late".
Martin Luther King

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Marianne Williamson, US author, lecturer and peace activist (often attributed to Nelson Mandela)

Don't believe everything you think!
Bumper sticker and fave motto of labor cartoonist "Bobbo" Simpson

Some things you must always be unable to bear. Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have got. Not for kudos and not for cash. Your picture in the paper nor money in the bank, neither. Just refuse to bear them.
William Faulkner, U.S. author

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.
Herman Melville, U.S. author

...the pure market is a fantasy; the examples of the two most traded commodities in the contemporary world, oil and drugs, show how political, social and cartel factors override and distort the workings of supply and demand.
Fred Halliday, 2008

Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.
St. Augustine

pogoThere is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve, then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tiny blasts of tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.
Walt Kelly, spoken by his cartoon character Pogo

What does it mean to be a revolutionary who is not trying to stage a revolution? It is not necessary to conquer the world. It is sufficient to make it new.
Subcomandante "Marcos", masked leader of Mexico's Zapatista National Liberation Army

Success is a journey, not a destination.
Vince Lombardi

The movement is lava rumbling under the earth, always there. But sometimes it breaks through, and then anything can happen, and the surface is forever changed.
Kim Fellner, US author and co-founder of the National Organisers Alliance

I am only one, but I am still one; I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
Helen Keller

Philosophers have merely interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.
Karl Marx

...Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care.
...Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his (sic) interests.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

The modern Conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy - that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
John Kenneth Galbraith,economist

You say the little efforts that I make will do no good; they never will prevail to tip the hovering scale where justice hangs in balance. I don't think I ever thought they would, but I am prejudiced beyond debate in favour of my right to choose which side shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.
Tommy Douglas, 1960

In an era of reform the demand for revolution becomes a badge of complacency.
Brian Kitchener

John Chambers of CISCO systems spends 80% of his time in conversation with customers, and requires every executive to spend at least 50% of their time face-to-face with customers.
P B Seybold, customer relations analyst, 2001

It is never too late to be what you might have been.
George Eliot

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
Sun Tzu

We economists have a responsibility to think more broadly about what a healthy economy might do for its participants. We need new metrics and new models.
U.S. feminist economist Nancy Folbre, 2008

Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has had great difficulty in generating joy.
Pope Paul VI, 1968

It is not that humans have become more greedy than in the past generation... It is that the avenues to express greed have grown so enormously.
Alan Greenspan, former US Federal Reserve Chairman, 2003

We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.
Anais Nin, Novelist, feminist, philosopher, dancer

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
Bishop Desmond Tutu, South African Prelate

...if work were such a splendid thing the rich would have kept more of it for themselves.
Bruce Grocott, British Labour politician

None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free.

Class consciousness is knowing which side of the fence you are on. Class analysis is knowing who is there with you.

In every one of those little stucco boxes there's some poor bastard who's never free except when he's fast asleep and dreaming that he's got the boss down the bottom of a well and is bunging lumps of coal at him.
George Orwell 1903-1950, British author, ''Animal Farm''

It is not the impossible which gives cause for despair, but the failure to achieve the possible.
Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid

I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.
C.S. Lewis, UK novelist and academic

...the denial of creative involvement at work results in socially significant pathologies with an import far beyond the scope of the job itself.
Melvin Tumin, in Source Book for Creative Problem Solving

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
(Note: the original hand-written text ended on the phrase "the pursuit of property" rather than "the pursuit of Happiness". However the latter phrase has been accepted as replacing this.)

I do not hesitate one second to state clearly and unmistakably: I belong to the American resistance movement which fights against American imperialism, just as the resistance movement fought against Hitler.
American singer and activist Paul Robeson

    First they came for the Jews
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for the Communists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left
    to speak out for me.
Pastor Martin Niemoller, who died in Dachau, 1944

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today.
African Proverb

The best map in the world will not get you anywhere. Only going will get you there.

A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.
Oscar Wilde, 1891, Irish playwright and poet

Rare is the person who can weigh the faults of others without putting his thumb on the scales.
Byron J. Langenfeld

The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
Milan Kundera, Czech novelist

The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.
Bill Clinton, US President

Love, work and knowledge are the wellsprings of our life. They should also govern it.
Wilhelm Reich, Austrian psychoanalyst

The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.
Lily Tomlin

Always remember that you're unique, just like everybody else.

You can get everything you want if you help enough others get what they want.
Zig Ziglar

Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.
Benito Mussolini, himself a fascist

At the extremes of the political spectrum one encounters people who are moved chiefly to find an outlet for the venom that is in them.
D. Sutten

It's better to die on your feet than live on your knees.
Emiliano Zapata

The great discovery the modern slaves have made is that they themselves their freedom must achieve. This is the secret of their solidarity, the heart of their hope...
Eugene Debs

Every means tends to become an end. To understand the tragedy of human history it is necessary to grasp that fact. Machines which ought to be men's instrument, enslave him, the state enslaves society, the bureaucracy enslaves the state, the church enslaves religion, parliament enslaves democracy, institutions enslave justice, academies enslave art, the army enslaves the nation, the party enslaves the cause, the dictatorship of the proletariat enslaves Socialism. The choice and the control of the instruments of political action are thus at least as important as the choice of the ends themselves, and as time goes on the instruments must be expected to become an end for those who use them.
Ignazio Silone, Italian Novelist, 1939

The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.
Dante Alighieri

Be as radical as reality.
Vladimir Ilyich 'Lenin' Ulyanov

To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.

If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you recognize that your liberation and mine are bound up together, we can walk together.
Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s

The dogmatist within is always worse than the enemy without.
Stephen Jay Gould

César E. Chávez

chavezWe are a movement that builds, not destroys.

We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live.

The first principle of non-violent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating.

I am an organizer, not a union leader. A good organizer has to work hard and long. There are no shortcuts. You just keep talking to people, working with them, sharing, exchanging and they come along.

We are convinced that non-violence is more powerful than violence … If you use violence, you have to sell part of yourself for that violence. Then you are no longer a master of your own struggle.

Mahatma Gandhi

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

We must be the change we wish to see in the world.

We must always seek to ally ourselves with that part of the enemy that knows what is right.

Martin Luther King

martin luther kingFreedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

Often the oppressor goes along unaware of the evil involved in his oppression so long as the oppressed accepts it.

Power is the ability to achieve purpose. Whether it is good or bad depends on the purpose.

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.

One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted as polar opposites. Love is identified with a resignation of power and power with a denial of love... What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic.

Joseph Stiglitz

stiglitzUnderlying the problems of the IMF and the other international economic institutions is the problem of governance: who decides what they do. The institutions are dominated not just by the wealthiest industrial countries, but by commercial and financial interests in those countries, and the policies of the institutions naturally reflect this.

The discontent with globalization arises not just from economics seeming to be pushed over everything else, but because a particular view of economics - market fundamentalism - is pushed over all other views... This notion flies in rhea face both of economics, which emphasizes the importance of trade-offs, and of ordinary common sense.

It has become increasingly clear, not to just ordinary citizens but to policy makers as well... that globalization has not lived up to what its advocates promised... In many cases commercial interests and values have superceded concern for the environment, democracy, human rights, and social justice.

US Presidents

rooseveltIf I went to work in a factory the first thing I'd do is join a union.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (The sculpture to the left is from the Roosevelt Memorial).

When the workers are paid in return for their labor only as much money as will buy the necessaries of life, their condition is identical with that of the slave.
John Adams, Second President of the USA

If a man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar!
    ... and ....
Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.
Abraham Lincoln

The American labor movement has consistently demonstrated its devotion to the public interest. It is, and has been, good for all America.
John F. Kennedy

Only a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of the right to join the union of their choice.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

America is a living testimonial to what free men and women, organized in free democratic trade unions can do to make a better life. ... We ought to be proud of it!
(vice President) Hubert Humphrey

The AFL-CIO has done more good for more people than any (other) group in America in its legislative efforts. It doesn’t just try to do something about wages and hours for its own people. No group in the country works harder in the interests of everyone.
Lyndon Johnson

Every advance in this half-century: Social Security, civil rights, Medicare, aid to education... one after another- came with the support and leadership of American Labor.
Jimmy Carter

We're ready to take the offense for organized labor. It's time we had a President who didn't choke saying the word "union"

I don’t see organized labor as part of the problem. To me, it’s part of the solution;

...much of what we take for granted--the 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, health insurance, paid leave, pensions, Social Security, Medicare--they all bear the union label... So even if you're not a union member, every American owes something to America's labor movement.

Barack Obama

Some management views

Probably for the first time since the industrial revolution, you can’t build a company that’s fit for the future unless you build a company that’s fit for human beings. And let’s just admit it; management as it has been practiced over the last 100 years has not been very human-friendly. We’re going to have to change that. Yes, for the benefit of performance; yes, for the benefit of shareholders; but most of all we have to change it for the benefit of people who show up every day and devote more of their life to work than anything else. If you can build a company that’s fit for those people, that gets the best out of them… then you will build a company that can thrive in the world ahead.
Gary Hamel, whom the Wall St Journal called "the world’s leading expert on business strategy".

Such a thing as democracy in industry, love in industry, is possible -- and it is good business.

George F. Johnson, US industrialist, 1857-1948

We simply do not believe our employees have an interest in coming in late, leaving early, and doing as little as possible for as much money as their union can wheedle out of us... They are adults. We trust them... We get out of their way and let them do their jobs... We recognise the renewing power of unions and the importance of not becoming ostriches... The era of using people as production tools is coming to an end. Participation is infinitely more complex to practice than conventional corporate unilateralism, just as democracy is much more cumbersome than dictatorship. But there will be few companies that can afford to ignore either of them.
Ricardo Semler, Brazilian CEO (see the inspiring SEMCO story here)

One's own employees ought to be one's own best customers... Paying high wages is behind the prosperity of this country.
Henry Ford 1863-1947, Founder of Ford Motor Company

The fundamental purpose of a business is not to make money. Rather, it is to achieve sustained, profitable growth. To achieve growth, we must have innovation; we need to do things differently. And innovation is a bottom up process... coming from the people closest to the work.
Praveen Gupta, management consultant and author

I believe that the future of successful workplace design can be defined as how you treat your employees — in other words, the overall employee experience... I believe that the future of work is ALL about design, and more specifically democratic design.

Yves Behar, CEO of fuseproject


Facts and figures

CEO payIn 2006 hedge-fund manager James Simons took home $1.7 billion. Two other hedge fund managers made more than $1 billion. The top 25 combined made $14 billion.

NY Times, April 2007

From then until 2008, average executive pay in Britain, as in America, rose sharply.
see The Economist, September 2009.

In Africa 174 children out of 1000 still fail to reach the age of five.
J. Micklethwait and A Wooldridge, writers on globalisation, 2000

Over the past decade, the number of households in the United States with a private jet has doubled, to more than 50,000.
Council on International and Public Affairs, 2007

A quarter of the children who live in the developing world are malnourished. About 120 million work full-time. 5,000 die every day from drinking dirty water. Eleven million under the age of five die each year, mostly from preventable and treatable diseases. That's one every three seconds.
Click here for a note on sources

The U.S. financial bailout of 2008 cost more than the Marshall Plan, Louisiana Purchase, moonshot, Korean War, New Deal, Iraq war, Vietnam war and NASA's lifetime budget combined.

More than one billion people do not have access to clean water.

Global Call to Action against Poverty, 2007

The cost of eradicating poverty has been estimated at a mere one per cent of global income. That’s about $80 billion. In 1995 the world spent $800 billion – ten times that amount – on the military.
From the United Nations Human Development Report 1997 (UNDP)

With the advent of globalized markets... the South now exports capital to the North, at a skyrocketing rate. According to the United Nations, in 2006 the net transfer of capital from poorer countries to rich ones was $784 billion, up from $229 billion in 2002. (In 1997, the balance was even.) Even the poorest countries, like those in sub-Saharan Africa, are now money exporters.
New York Times, p. 16, March 25, 2007

In the late 19th century, rich countries had incomes about 10 times greater than the poorest ones. Today’s ratio is about 50 to 1.

Lant Pritchett, ex World Bank, “Let Their People Come.”

(US) union workers earn an average of $10.27 more per hour in total compensation than non union workers; that's $33.32 vs $23.15.
US Bureau of Labour Statistics 2005 survey of labour costs

The IMF estimates that the cumulative losses from the current financial crisis will total $3,400bn between 2007 and 2010. The ILO predicts unemployment will increase by up to 60 million.

Each year, an estimated 2.2 million people die from work-related accidents and diseases around the world.
ILO 2008

Between 1960 and 1997 the gap between the poorest fifth and the richest fifth of the world's population more than doubled.
ChristianAid, 2001

The combined assets of the world's three leading billionaires exceed the combined GDP of all the least developed countries in the world, including 600 million people.
J. Micklethwait and A Wooldridge, writers on globalisation, 2000

The total collective net worth of the world's four billion poorest went down for the twentieth year running in 2007, to an all-time low of just under $US35. The net worth of the world's 946 billionaires increased massively from 2006, to a total of $3.5 trillion!
Figures taken from the Forbes 400 Richest List, 2007

A meager 1.5% of the worldwide labour force works outside its home country. In the EU the equivalent number is 2%.
G Mulgan, Harvard Business School, 1997

The labour and environmental side-agreements tacked on to the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico have a spectacularly poor track record. Today, 75% of Mexico's population lives in poverty, up from 49% in 1981.
Naomi Klein, writer on globalisation and corporate culture, 2001

Likened by some to a plague of locusts, private equity funds now control more overseas assets, and employ more workers, than the traditionally ranked leading TNCs. Trillions of dollars in recent years have gone into acquiring, restructuring and disposing of companies, often with a catastrophic impact on employment and working conditions.
International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) Secretariat, 2007 (see www.buyoutwatch.info)

The amount returned to developing countries by expatriate workers, at more than $160 billion (£82bn), is far higher than the total aid budget spent by the developed world on developing countries, which runs at around $100 billion (£51bn) a year.
International Organisation for Migration 2005

(In the USA) a one-percent rise in unemployment has been linked to an increase of 4.1 percent in suicides, 5.7 percent in homicides, 1.9 percent in stress-related illnesses, and 4.3 percent in admissions to mental hospitals.
Dr. M. Harvey Brenner, sociologist at Johns Hopkins University

Developing countries lose an estimated £250 billion every year as a direct result of corporate tax dodging – money which could be used to reach the UN’s Millennium Development Goals several times over. Tax avoidance and capital flight cost Africa five times what it receives in aid in each year.
War on Want, 2007

Twenty years ago the salary difference between a US CEO and a factory worker was 40:1. A few years ago it was more than 400:1.
J. Micklethwait and A Wooldridge, writers on globalisation, 2000

A person living in a poor country is 79 times more likely to be hit by a climate change-related disaster than someone from a rich country.
United Nations Development Program 2009

At least 2.4 million people are victims of trafficking for the purpose of forced labour around the world, generating an estimated US$32 billion in annual profits.
ILO: Combating human trafficking and forced labour, 2007

Almost 2.2 million people die in accidents or due to illnesses related to their work each year. Over 270 million workers are injured at work and almost 160 million suffer from illness caused by their jobs. These figures do nothing to convey the impact such events have on workers and their families, but it is an impact which effects us all: the estimated cost is 4% of the world's gross domestic product, or 20 times total development aid.
Figures issued by the ILO

The world labour force has been growing at least 3% per year, which means that it has more than doubled between 1970 and 2000. (Over the same period the percentage of women in the labour force) has risen from 33% in 1970 to 40% in 2000.
J. Harrod and R. O'Brien, labour analysts, 2002

USA, Japan, Brazil and China account for 40% of the world's workforce.
J. Harrod and R. O'Brien, labour analysts, 2002

Some 57 million U.S. workers say they would join a union if they could.
Peter D. Hart Research Associates, December 2006

During the 1960s, U.S. fathers on average talked 45 minutes per day with their kids. Today, the equivalent figure is six minutes.
T Peters, Liberation Management, 1992

25% of the U.S. workforce has no right to form a union under federal, state or local law.
See this GAO report and this ARAW summary

Between June 2007 and December 2008 the proportion of U.S. employees who professed loyalty to their employers slumped from 95% to 39%; the number voicing trust in them fell from 79% to 22%.
Centre for Work-Life Policy (more)

The service sector, comprising finance, banking and tourism, but also much lesser-paid jobs in retail and food services, overtook agriculture as the largest source of employment last year (2006).
U.N. Commission for Social Development

During the 1990s more than 80% of all new jobs in Latin America and 93% in Africa were within the informal economy.
ILO - Your Voice at Work report, 2000

Most Americans today know that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, but fewer know why he was there. King went to Memphis to support African American garbage workers, who were on strike to protest unsafe conditions, abusive white supervisors, and low wages -- and to gain recognition for their union.

Peter Dreier, writing for American Prospect 2007

Around 65,000 multinationals between them employ more than 90 million people today, or one in 20 of the global workforce.
ILO, 2007

More than 57 million workers - or 42% of the U.S. workforce - do not receive any paid sick leave to take care of themselves or family members. Nearly 23 million are women. Internationally, 168 countries provide some sort of paid leave for new mothers and 145 countries provide paid sick time for short- or long-term illness. 102 countries guarantee one month or more of paid sick leave.
Alison Trinidad, reporting for the New-Union Times

Globally, at any given time, at least 12.3 million people are working in forced labour conditions. More than 2.4 million of these victims have been trafficked.

International Trade Union Confederation 2007

At $4.6165 trillion and counting, the 2008 Credit Crisis bailout represents the largest outlay in history. Adjusting for inflation, it has cost more than the Marshall Plan, Louisiana Purchase, Race to the Moon, Savings & Loan Bailout, Korean War, New Deal, Iraq War, Vietnam War and NASA's lifetime budget combined. more»
Barry Ritholtz November 2008, in research for Bailout Nation

World's 5 largest employers
People’s Liberation Army of China
National Health Service, UK
Indian Railways
Indian Army
  Source: Financial Times 23 June 09 from ONS and Labour Force Survey data


A senior aide to President Bush made this chillingly Orwellian remark to journalist and author Ron Suskind:
"We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

How do sociopaths wind down after a hard day?kkk
Thanks to Paul Wratten for this surreal gem.

O Angela, how we shared your pain!

bush and merkel

The representation gap

Richard FreemanHarvard economist and New Unionism founding member Richard B. Freeman (pictured) is perhaps the world's leading authority on the representation gap: the difference between those who would like join a union and those who actually do.

According to a recent survey by Freeman, more U.S. workers want to join a union today than at any other time in the past generation.

In 1984 about a third of non-union workers wanted a union to represent them, while two-thirds said they would definitely or probably vote against one. By 2005 nearly the opposite was true: 53% of non-union workers wanted a union and only a little more than a third said they would vote against a union.
"If workers were provided the union representation they desired in 2005, then the unionization rate would be about 58%" — that's almost eight times higher than the actual rate of 7.4%. more»

What about other countries? Is the representation gap a U.S. anomaly? In an earlier United Kingdom study (again involving Freeman) the TUC found that somewhere between 5 and 8 million workers would be likely to join a union if they were approached. This would double the size of the movement. download»

In looking at five other countries Freeman has found:

• In Canada
25% of non-unionised workers would prefer to belong to a union. This would almost double the size of the movement.

• In the United Kingdom
10% of non-unionised workers would be “very likely” and a further 26% “quite likely” to join a union. It is hard to say how “soft” this latter figure is, but we might guess a total of 20% . This would more than double the size of the movement.

• In Ireland
A staggering 64% would be likely to join if management supported unions. This is reduced to 28% if management opposes. If we apply only the latter figure, this would increase the movement’s size by about 75%.

• In Australia
17% would be very likely to join and another 22% fairly likely to join. Shall we say that this would amount to a 27% increase? If so, the movement more than doubles. Since then a 2007 study has confirmed the trend, showing that an extra 820,000 workers wish to become union members.

• In New Zealand
11% would be “very likely” to join and 21% fairly likely. This would almost double the size of the movement.


The union premium

Countless academics have sought to measure the tangible benefits of being a union member. The difference between union and non-union wages, often referred to as the "union premium", can be calculated in many different ways. It's a profoundly complex field... here's a classic example of the poop one has to wade through in search of enlightenment:

"If heteroscedasticity is present and affects the coefficient estimates, the quantile regression estimation suggests that the rate of change of the unobservables is different at different quantiles for males but it is not the case for females."

Rightho, then.

Strangely, international data on the union premium has never, to our knowledge, been assembled in an easily-accessible form. The most that we found was a list of 19 countries. No doubt there are good reasons for this, probably involving heteroscedasticity. Anyway, let's start with a sample of five countries and then consider some of the issues.

United Kingdom
United States

(Note: these figures are not necessarily comparable, as different methodologies and definitions may have been used).

And here's some more recent data from the U.S. prepared by the AFL-CIO:

US union premium

Before we go any further though, let's stop and ask ourselves if a high union premium is necessarily a good thing for workers? At first this may seem an odd question, but as the Canadian Labour Congress has pointed out:

"The union wage premium has been found to be lowest in countries where union density is high, and highest where union density is low.
Thus it is much higher in the US than in Sweden. This is surprising on the surface, but it reflects the fact that non-union employers will be more likely to be forced to match union wages where unions are very strong... The goal is to improve the working conditions of all workers rather than raising the wages of a union elite. A very high union wage premium and low union density is likely to promote strong employer resistance to unions, as in the US. On the other hand, widespread unionization, as in Sweden, is likely to promote much less strong employer opposition, at least once high density has been established. That is because, in highly unionized environments, wages are effectively ‘taken out of competition’... Employers must then compete with each other on the basis of non-wage costs, productivity and quality."

Employers would do well to reflect on this. Does it really make sense to pay workers extra so that they won't unionize, on the basis that the company can then compete on wage costs?? Reducing the union premium in this way is common practice in many developed countries, but savings are seldom compared against the costs of employee alienation, angry organising campaigns, anti-union consultants, ongoing legal costs, and the commercial risk of a public relations melt down.

Sadly, the majority of countries do allow businesses to compete on wages. Such competition leads to an endless pressure on wages, and of course workers have no choice but to resist.
By and large, as we can see above, this resistance pays off well.

"Unions in other countries, such as Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal and Spain, are also able to raise wages by significant amounts."
Changes over time in union relative wage effects in the UK and the US Revisited, December 2002, by David Blanchflower and Alex Bryson

In Germany "...works councils are associated with higher earnings. The wage premium is around 11 percent (and is higher under collective bargaining)."

In South Africa "...We estimate union premia on the order of 20 percent for African workers and 10 percent for white workers."

In the U.S.  "The standard estimate of the average union premium (union vs. non-union wage gap) of 15% might be incorrect due to two forms of measurement that create an error bias in the data... These procedural errors lead to a downward bias, indicating that the average union premium could be as high as 24%".
Reconsidering Wage Effects: Surveying New Evidence on an Old Topic, Journal of Labor Research, Spring 2004, by Barry T. Hirsch

An interesting result of this battle is that a unionised workforce also tends to reshape the economic landscape as they struggle over wages.

"An almost universal finding is that union/non-union wage differentials are larger for lower-skilled than for higher-skilled workers."

In the U.S.   "When one compares workers whose experience, education, region, industry, occupation and marital status are comparable, those covered by a union agreement (are also):
-- 28.2% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance
-- 53.9% more likely to have pension coverage
-- 14.3% more paid time off.

The union wage premium varies by race, ethnicity and gender, but is large for every group:
-- Whites - 13.1%
-- Blacks - 20.3%
-- Hispanics - 21.9%
-- Asians - 16.7%

...Unions also lessen inequality because they are more successful at raising the wages of those in the bottom 60% of the wage pool.
Lawrence Mishel, President of the Economic Policy Institute Committee on Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, 2007

By now you're getting the picture... and it's complicated stuff. Unions are good for working people, as a whole, but the financial benefits of unionism do not simply bounce back to the sole benefit of those who pay the fees.

Various studies have shown that unions tend to make pay fairer (ie across society), rather than just higher (ie for members only). But do fee-paying members get a good return on their investment? Sadly we can't prove this. The necessary data just isn't available. In fact the move towards private employment contracts and fluid working arrangements means we may never again see proper comparative figures. The best we can do for you is to break our own rule, and include data from the 1990s. 

1994, 8, 9
1994, 5, 8, 9
1994 & 8
1994-6, 8, 9
1994 & 5
New Zealand
South Africa
1995, 7-9
United Kingdom
United States

Unless otherwise stated (see below) this data comes from The Effect of Trade Unions on Wages by Alex Bryson, Reflets et Perspectives de la Vie Economique, 2007. This article can be purchased for 5 Euro here.

When looking at the figures for Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden, don't assume that the unions there aren't doing their jobs! As Bryson points out: "this is primarily due to the fact that unions are also able to control wage outcomes in the non-union sector". The same holds true, to a lesser extent, for France and Germany. Although our figures are dated, it looks pretty clear that being a union member pays off. In fact when one compares union fees against wage/salary gains, there would be very few investments in the world which pay such handsome dividends.

And yet this financial incentive is clearly not the sole reason people join/fail to join. Why are there so few members in the US, where the rewards are so high? And why would a worker in Italy, the Netherlands or Sweden join? There seems to be no simple link between union density and the union wage premium. None at all.
Yes, union membership pays a high dividend to members. But it also generates benefits for others, some of whom are not members.

It seems that the cost-benefit ratio of unionism cannot be calculated in any normal way. Investing in values. Solidarity. Social justice. This is the kind of maths that modern economists simply can't figure. It's a pity, because there seems to be an awful lot of it going around.
To download a list of further readings on this subject click here.

The union-busters

union busters
The only way to bust a union is to lie, distort, manipulate, threaten, and always, always attack.

former union-buster Martin Jay Levitt, 1993

It seems that class war is alive and well and living in the U.S.A. Oddly enough, its prime exponent these days is the private sector employer, generally backed (under Republican governments, at least) by public officials. At a time where workers are seeking democracy in the workplace, "union-busters" are resorting to every cloak-and-dagger trick imaginable to undermine basic workplace rights.

"...I would call it class management."

Dr Charles Hughes, psychologist & anti-union consultant

Ever since the Pinkerton agency started hiring agents as strikebreakers in the 1890s, the U.S. has been a hothouse for experiments in union-busting. By the 1980s it had become a multi-million dollar industry (more). Since then turnover is believed to have grown to about $4bn per year.

It has become extremely profitable for these people to create and to promote industrial discord.
It is a phenomenon which is now going global. As a result, in 2008 the largest national union federations in the U.S. and the UK's signed a protocol for co-operation. This was in response to union busters setting up "union avoidance" operations in the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Belgium, France and Germany.

This a story which will loom large during the Obama Presidency. The rights-busters stand to make a fortune out of the panic they generate. As the headlines come and go, remember:

12% of U.S. workers have a union in their workplace, but 53% would like one;
Every 23 minutes a worker in the US is fired or discriminated against for supporting a union. 30% of employers illegally fire pro-union workers during organizing drives;
91% of employers force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with their supervisors during union organizing drives;
92% of companies involved in union organizing drives mail anti-union materials to employees' homes;
79% of U.S. workers feel they would be “very” or “somewhat” likely to be fired for trying to organize a union;
49% of employers openly threaten to close a worksite when workers try to form a union
36% of workers who vote against union representation say their vote was a response to employer pressure;
4.6% of workers reported feeling pressured by union organizers to sign up.
AFL-CIO data, 2007

In the film clip below ex union-buster Martin Jay Levitt identifies several strategies which were used successfully against him, including:

Inoculation:  Thoroughly preparing the workforce for the campaign. Let them know what's coming and leave it to them to defend the union.

Exposure:  Get copies of contractual arrangements between the company and the consultant. Check company returns, public documents and previous campaign records. Let workers see for themselves how underhand these campaigns are, and how outrageous the fees.

Further reading and resources

• Wikipedia: Union Busting

American Rights at Work, 2005: Undermining the Right to Organize: Employer Behaviour During Union Representation Campaigns

• American Rights at Work: The Anti-Union Network
John Logan, 2008: US Union Avoidance Consultants: A Threat to the Rights of British Workers
TUC: Union busters in the UK
No-Busters website

This battle
(excerpted from a poem by Emma Rosenthal)

this battle implores
we understand the complexion of wealth
the essense of water
the sanctity of land
the wall between neighbors

this battle requires
a fight with open hands
and broken heart
i am not afraid to show you my wounds
nor tend to yours
nor am i afraid of connection
or honest deliberation

this battle commands
diligent study
patient instruction
honors life through righteous living
requires that i do not avert my eyes
that i insist you look at mine

For the full poem and others click here