Would you want to set up FairPhone? January 14, 2014Posted by Tomboktu in Choice, Community, Employment Rights, Environment, Ethics, FairPhone, Human Rights, Technology, Workers Rights.
Who in their right mind would want to set up FairPhone? Obviously you can check out their site to find out who actually did set it up as a Dutch social enterprise, but would you want to?
Park, for a moment, the ‘fair’ bit and think about what is involved setting up a company to make a new smartphone. Smartphones are complex products, with chips, capacitors, resistors, glass, sensors, casings, displays, batteries, cameras, speakers, antennae, sockets and other bits and pieces that I don’t know about. And you’d need software. You would also need to design all of this, or get people to do that for you, and to set up or find a factory to make it.
If you did do it, you would be going into a market with big brands like Samsung, iPhone, Sony, Nokia, HTC, and so on, so you would need a pretty strong selling point to attract customers from the products offered by those heavy-hitters.
And talking about the Dáil… July 17, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Feminism, Irish Politics, Workers Rights.
1 comment so far
Martha Kearns has a pretty good piece in the SBP on the dispiriting and dismal scenes involving Fine Gael TD Tom Barry last week. Until the point where it isn’t.
But let’s note the good stuff first.
I don’t think anyone would disagree with the fact that there was no malice intended. But what the actions – which quickly spread across the internet in the form of a 14-second-long video clip – showed were disrespect, misogyny, inappropriateness, childishness. – and, of course, a total lack of awareness of how to properly behave in a workplace, let alone in the country’s chamber of political power.
And she continues:
If any other woman was subjected to this level of mishandling while she was trying to carry out her work, sanctions would already have been taken against the man involved. And she would have a case filed with the Equality Tribunal before she left the office that day.
I’m a bit less sanguine than she that ‘any other woman’ would be able to get to the ET, perhaps most or many, but I would think, and this is drawn from my own experience, that some workplaces are deeply misogynistic and sexist to the point where people are too intimidated to complain. Still, not difficult to believe that she is correct in relation to the following, that because of the context it was smoothed over…
But this is politics. To be more specific, this is Irish politics. Sure, it’s all a bit of a laugh and why don’t ye wimmin just calm down and see the funny side of it.
Whatever the intentions behind Barry’s behaviour, it raises further questions about the establishment’s ongoing plan to attract women into the political arena. Out of the 166 Dáil seats, just 25 (or 15 per cent) are held by women. This is behind the world average of 19.5 per cent and the European Union average of 24 per cent. Ireland lies in 76th position in a world table of women’s political representation in parliament.
And also she continues that the structural aspects are such that they are deeply problematic for any woman with a young family lot thinking of having children. Of course this is true of a broader swathe of the working environment too, and it is indicative of just how working lives are, of necessity, fitted around commercial and work demands and to the detriment of personal and familial issues.
As it happens Gerry Adams was one of the few to bring that up in the actual debate, particularly when it came to the absurdity of the late night/early morning sitting. Because, of course, it wasn’t just the TDs but the workers in the Oireachtas, many of who found themselves forced to remain there because the representatives couldn’t organise their time more efficiently and more appropriately. Something to consider in light of all the rhetoric about that sitting.
Still, got to admit that for all that it is good to see the ‘m’ word in use, I found the following a bit irritating:
The latest antics in the Dáil are hardly going to have young, professional women banging down the doors at Leinster House.
Professional women? Surely any women?
A number of deeply thought-provoking pieces by Will Hutton in the Observer these last few weekends. He notes in passing that the current crisis has meant for the UK that…
By 2018, 10 years after the financial crisis began, our GDP will be, cumulatively, 16% lower than it would have been had the crisis not broken. Only war has provoked such a discontinuity in our growth performance in modern times. This is imposing incredible and growing hardship on everybody, except for a few. Average incomes have fallen by 7% from their peak. You can see the effects in any high street. It’s a world where good jobs are scarce, half a million rely on food banks, zero-hour contracts mushroom and the future is dark.
A single sentence, and it covers so much. Food banks. Zero-hour contracts. Unemployment. A close relative of mine is on one in the UK. Listening to the way in which it is used to atomise workers is something else. Understanding the demoralisation and fear of workers in the face of such measures and the very immediate background of large scale unemployment goes more than some way to understand the limited nature of resistance to them.
And as CMK noted on the CLR recently, this is the future, slowly, piecemeal, such measures expand as the crisis continues and as the orthodoxy seeks ever more to consolidate whatever the nature of the outcomes in the broader socio-economic context. This again is why the pleas that ‘austerity’ etcetera is value neutral, from Dan O’Brien and others are so unconvincing. There are political formations structured precisely to ensure the delivery of a more ‘flexible’ work force and environment, for which read a diminution of workers rights and terms and conditions. And as with the recent set back in relation to JLC’s, REA’s et al, this is a process which continues apace.
Still Hutton does a further service in his piece by noting the following the weekend before last. Talking about the latest changes in welfare provision in the UK he notes:
There will now be a seven-day wait for the jobseeker’s allowance. “Those first few days should be spent looking for work, not looking to sign on,” he intoned. “We’re doing these things because we know they help people stay off benefits and help those on benefits get into work faster.” Help? Really? On first hearing, this was the socially concerned chancellor, trying to change lives for the better, complete with “reforms” to an obviously indulgent system that demands too little effort from the newly unemployed to find work, and subsidises laziness. What motivated him, we were to understand, was his zeal for “fundamental fairness” – protecting the taxpayer, controlling spending and ensuring that only the most deserving claimants received their benefits.
But as Hutton says:
Osborne has taken the Orwellian misuse of language to new levels. Losing a job is traumatising: you don’t skip down to the jobcentre with a song in your heart, delighted at the prospect of doubling your income from the munificent state. It is financially terrifying, psychologically mortifying and you know that support is minimal and extraordinarily hard to get. You are now not wanted; you are now excluded from the work milieu that offers purpose and structure in your life, along with the company of others. Worse, the crucial income to feed yourself and your family and pay the bills has disappeared. Of course you want to find a job as fast as you can. The sooner the whole experience is behind you the better. Ask anyone newly unemployed what they want and the answer is always: a job.
This is something that is under considered to a remarkable degree in the public debates about welfare. Consider our own situation during the 2000s where we had, using the economic definition, close enough to ‘full employment’. And now, of course we have nothing at all like it. In other words the overwhelming majority of those willing to work worked when work was available.
And that’s the key. When work is available. When it isn’t, quite naturally one has unemployment figures, as we do tipping 13 percent. Moreover there is demonstrably a willingness to work.
And the other aspect of this is that unemployment if a dismal place to be. I’ve mentioned before that I was made redundant in 2004 and signed on for a period of time. It wasn’t the first time, but it was in a way psychologically… well yes, as Hutton says, mortifying, particularly because it was in a boom. And his point about networks suddenly being cut away is well made.
Hutton points to a new brutality in British politics but it is of course more widespread. And as he also notes, there’s a remarkable amnesia, particularly in the British context:
But in Osborneland, your first instinct is to flop into dependency – permanent dependency if you can get it – supported by a state only too ready to indulge your mendacity. It is as though 20 years of ever-tougher reforms of the job search and benefit administration system never happened.
But consider all that in relation to his earlier thoughts about zero-hour contracts, food banks and unemployment, and one can see that this is a broad based, systemic assault on the conditions of those both in and out of work.
And a final thought in this regard. Where are we, in Ireland? Well from his piece two weekends ago Hutton writes:
…on Wednesday, George Osborne will proudly tell Parliament that the government has found the spending cuts to keep the country on course for the biggest shrinkage of the state ever overseen by any large industrialised country over eight years. Indeed, as debate rages worldwide over the rights and wrongs of austerity in the wake of the financial crisis, the IMF’s Fiscal Adjustment in an Uncertain World (April 2013, Methodological Appendix, Table 3) shows that only three other countries – Iceland, Ireland and Greece – are mounting public spending cuts that are proportionately larger over the same period. No large country in the eurozone is being asked to deliver spending austerity on this scale.
…on top, inflation of 3% or 4% would not be the end of the world. No sane policy-maker would make deficit reduction the sole aim of economic policy, or indiscriminate spending cuts the chief means of achieving it, whatever the economic conditions – more so given the soundness of the overall fiscal position. This is insanity.
Excise the ‘soundness of overall fiscal position’ (which is a reference to the UK) and the import of that paragraph remains. Yet that is precisely the aim of economic policy in this state. That truly is insanity.
Work life balance… sort of… May 19, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Workers Rights.
For an example of how workplaces are changing in the contemporary period there’s no better example than the statistic earlier in the month that 80% of Irish employees access social media at work. Okay, the report by William Fry law firm, is not perhaps quite as scientific as might be hoped for, but purely anecdotal observation of public and private work places suggests that the ubiquity of the mobile is now complete, or almost so.
Can’t say I blame people, work is, in large part for many, tedious. Anything that helps get people through the day is probably no bad thing. It also perhaps, indicates that the discipline of work places is now somewhat different to what it used to be.
I’d love to think that this is a sign of good things more generally, but I’m a little dubious. Perhaps because I see no real efforts societally to democratise working lives, again either in public or private workplaces. Most are run along lines that the most Stalinist command economy would look upon with envy. Autonomy is limited – and increasingly curtailed. Less union membership and unions that seem detached from workplace concerns adds to this.
So while there are changes, and some are better, some unfortunately are worse.
Take the following from the SBP and also reported in the Irish Times:
Irish workers spend an average of 56 minutes per working day on social media sites
More than 80 per cent of Irish employees access social media sites at work, spending an average of 56 minutes per working day on such sites, a new report has found.
Again, this is unsurprising. I asked an IT person in a place I worked about Facebook access and their take was that most people in the place had it on in their browser all day long.
Another employment, and this tallies with data that ‘more than 46 per cent of Irish employers do not have a social media policy in place, leaving them open to internal disputes, abuse and potential litigation’, was very unkeen to impose any sort of internet/social media policy, not least because middle and upper management had discovered the – ahem – joys of the internet and weren’t keen to see access to them curtailed.
Around 40 per cent of companies have imposed bans on employees accessing sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
But, for there is a but…
…as the majority of employees access social media from personal devices, the value of imposing absolute restrictions is limited, the report says.
In a way it’s an example of a brilliant contradiction within capitalism, between the near all pervasive push by social media/internet providers to encompass all our lives all the time, or as much as is humanly possible, and the requirements of individual workplaces – and perhaps the economy as a whole – to operate without interruption.
I’m sceptical in the extreme about Google glasses, but assuming they did catch on I wonder if and how that would be policed in workplaces.
What is the experience of people generally in relation to social media in workplaces?
Ireland breaches European human rights laws on workers rights January 30, 2013Posted by Tomboktu in Employment Rights, Human Rights, Workers Rights.
Ireland has been found to be in breach of eight European requirements on employment rights (pdf here). A total of 11 breaches of the Revised European Social Charter were itemised by the Council of Europe in legal findings published on Tuesday (29 January). The Charter is a sister human rights treaty to the European Convention on Human Rights (pdf).
The findings were made by the European Committee of Social Rights, an independent legal body set up to judge state’s conformity with the Charter.
In addition to finding that Ireland is breaching European human rights law, the Council of Europe watchdog indicates that it doubts that the State is properly implementing its legal duty to strive for full employment, and echoes an OECD report that Ireland’s performance on assisting people with job searches in ineffective. The Committee took note of the OECD’s findings that a quarter of people eligible for help from FÁS were never referred to it and that Irish spending on labour market policies relies on job creation schemes that have been judged to be ineffective. However, the Committee decided to defer coming to a legal finding of compliance or breach until the Government provides more information.
The Employment Equality Act was found to to be incompatible with the human rights standard because the maximum compensation that can be awarded is not sufficiently dissuasive and may not be enough to make good the loss a person suffers. The law was changed in 2011 to raise the amount to €40,000. Only the provisions on gender discrimination, where the upper limit does not apply, are found to meet the standard required.
Most of the shortcomings highlighted in the legal report concern the rights of non-EU workers. Ireland has been found to discriminate illegally against those workers in relation to their access to vocatonal training, their access to vocational guidance, the length of their residency requirements for access to higher education, and their access to further or continuing education.
Fees levied by Ireland for work permits were found to be excessive. At the time the Committee assessed the situation, they ranged from €500 to €2,250 (in the case of a person renewing a permit for five years).
A rule requiring both Irish and non-Irish people to be resident in a local authority area for a year before they are eligible for a maintenance grant for vocational training was also found to be a breach of the European Social Charter.
Ireland was also found that the rights of all newly employed workers — both Irish and non-Irish — is breached because they are not protected under the Unfair Dismissal Acts in their first full year in any employment. “The Committee considers that one year period of exclusion is manifestly unreasonable”, the report says. It also finds that excluding workers who have reached the normal retiring age from the protection of the Unfair Dismissals Act goes beyond what is permitted in European human rights law.
The European Committee of Social Rights also finds that employment rights of army officers is breached. Officers may not seek early termination of their commission unless they repay to the state at least part of the cost of their education and training, and the decision to grant early retirement is left to the discretion of the Minister of Defence. The human rights watchdog find that this could lead to a period of service which would be too long to be compatible with the freedom to choose and leave an occupation.
The Committee found Ireland to be in conformity with six provisions, and deferred reaching a conclusion in the case of six other provisions because the Government had not provided enough information to enable the Committee to assess if the State is meeting its obligations.
The findings were made in the annual reporting procedure under the Revised European Social Charter. A quarter of the 31 articles of the Charter are examined each year, in thematic clusters. The next report will examine Ireland’s situation in relation to health, social security and social protection.
Ireland ratified the Charter thirteen years ago. Unlike the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter does not provide individual redress, but collective complaints from trade unions, employers’ bodies and European NGOs can be heard by the European Committee of Social Rights.
A Left-friendly email service provider? October 15, 2012Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, Community, Ethics, Internet, Other Stuff, Society, Trade Unions, Workers Rights.
My main email account has been with ireland.com since the 1990s. Today they sent an email to say they are closing the service in less than a month (so the domain can be transferred to Tourism Ireland).
I could simpy transfer everything to my back-up gmail account, and may do that simply to ensure that I have the data. However, I was wondering of any readers of CLR know of a Left-friendly email service provider?
So, what would be Left-friendly? My ideal would be one run as a co-op, and I wouldn’t mind paying for that, but I’ve no notion if there are any or if any I might find thrpugh an internet search are secure or reliable. My second preference would be one run by a company that recognises unions. (When I got my first mobile phone, I checked with the CWU to see which providers recognised it and/or other unions. The initial reply gave me a list of companies where the union has members, but I did get an answer the specific question a few days later. I don’t know how often the union gets a query like that.)
Dear Account Holder,
The Irish Times and Tourism Ireland today announced a digital content cooperation agreement to promote Ireland as a tourist destination. The agreement spans a number of areas, including the sale of the ireland.com domain name to Tourism Ireland. Tourism Ireland will use the ireland.com url to attract more web traffic and enhance the promotion of Ireland overseas.
As a result, we wish to inform our @ireland.com email subscribers that the service will be discontinued from November 7th, 2012. From midnight on this date, you will no longer be able to send or receive messages. You will, however, be able to access your account until December 7th for the purpose of transferring any data (i.e. emails, tasks, documents, appointments and/or contacts) currently saved on your account. We are writing to advise you of this change and to ensure the transition to a new service provider is as seamless as possible.
To aid the transition, we have provided a step-by-step guide and FAQs on ireland.com and a helpline has been established to assist wherever possible. The helpline will operate between 8am and 8pm weekdays on telephone 1890 876 666 or 01 685 6999 or email email@example.com .
We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to our valued customers.
Head of Online, The Irish Times
Worker directors July 24, 2012Posted by Tomboktu in Business, Ireland, Labour relations, Workers Rights.
One of the disdvantages of using Enlgish as our ‘lingua franca’ in Ireland is that we are not exposed often enough to ideas from outside the English-speaking world. A report published last week by TASC, Good for Business? Worker Participation on Boards (PDF here), is a case in point.
The existence of worker direstors in companies in Ireland — and the rest English-speaking world to which we so often look for policy examples — and the legislation on this issue are so poor that it can easily be forgotten that not only is it normal practice in many other European countries, but actually a legal requirement in some of our fellow EU member states. The poor situation in Ireland means that it is a difficult task to undertake a study of the role and effect of worker directors in Irish companies. The sample of companies is tiny and utterly unrepresentative: in the commercial sector, worker directors exist in only a handful of state-owned companies. (Worker directors also exist in a wider range of non-commerical public bodies, although that terminology is not always used to refer to them. Examples include the vocational education committees, the National Disability Authority, and the Legal Aid Board.)
It is worth setting out some of the legal requirements in those other EU countires. In Germany, depending on the size of the firm, either one-third or half the seats on the board must be worker representatives — worker directors or their nominees; in Sweden, a company with 25 employees must have worker directors; in Austrian PLCs regardless of the size of the firm, workers have a right to a third of the seats on the board. Across the EU 27 and Norway, 12 countries provide for worker directors of some form in private forms. The little-known directives on EU-level companies also provide for worker directors.
The TASC report presents a literature review and data drawn from a focus group with nine worker directors from six companies and thirteen interviews with other people: non-worker directors, company executives, and “independent experts”. We are not told what the basis of this last group’s expertise — or, importantly, the the view that they are independent — is.
In Ireland, we are a long way from the kind of values that are reflected in the 12 other EU countries. Two details from the TASC report show how much of a hill we have to climb.
The first detail is that the five recommendations in the report do not include anything would lead to an extension of the model to be extended outside the public sector. I would have thought that this is the kind of idea that a progressive think tank should be introducing into the debate in Ireland. And the report contains a reference that shows why ding that at this time would be opportune. In discussing the legal roles of comapny directors, TASC uses not the current legislation but propoals from a draft companies bill that is expected to be introduced next year. That bill will be a massive overhaul of the Companies Acts — the draft proposals come in at over 1000 pages. (The scale of what is comming doen the line for the TDs and Senators can be seen in the time the preparation of the bill has taken. The Company Law Reform Group has been working on this for over a decade.) TASC should be calling for that process to be used to strengthen industrial democracy in Ireland.
The second detail is that a majority of the the interviewees in the study — that is, the non-worker directors, the company executives and the “independent experts” — believe that worker directors should not sit on remuneration committees. That mind-set, which sees executives as being in a different market from others — so different that it often looks like they are on a different planet — is one of the key factors that has contributed to the obscene income inequalities we see in Ireland and the rest of the English-speaking world.
“Reports from the coalfront” January 2, 2012Posted by yourcousin in Unions, United States, US Politics, Workers Rights.
This post started as a response to CMK’s question on the Sean Garland thread, but as the response got bigger and bigger I thought that a new post might be more appropriate than a response to a dead thread. On a personal note, I appreciate the support, I am working and doing well.
I do think that the traditional relationship with Labor serving as the foot soldiers for the Democratic Party is fraying. Obviously the Wisconsin protests were huge, but when the Democrats tried to channel that energy, it fizzled for them. The grassroots campaigns in Ohio trying to get a referendum to over turn the anti-union legislation is seems to indicate that support for unions surpasses the support for Dems (obviously). There were calls for a general strike in Wisconsin, but it fizzled as labor leaders were anxious that things “not get out of hand” and promised relief through the Dem’s tactics, which included the recall campaigns and (off hand) a state supreme court election (which Republicans won btw). One of the interesting things is that the Firefighters stopped contributing to the national Dems and said that they would selectively target local/state elections. I believe they just recently reversed that decision within the last month or so.
The Occupy movement was also a catalyst of sorts, at least in the beginning. The sight of hundreds of uniformed pilots marching in protest, was impressive even to my cynical eyes.
Or maybe I just never got over seeing people in uniform stick it to the man. The point there was that these were everyday people venting their rage at the system that controls both political parties. When “normal” people take to the streets, not so much to protest abstract concepts so much as to protest for it means its touching a chord. It is also happening at a time that no one within the established political movement will actually doing anything in support of the marchers other than try to pander for a few votes. I predict that after 2012 you’ll see Dem hopefuls listing their involvement in say a human microphone on their resumes once it is “safe” for them to do so. “Progressive” city councils and mayors coordinated the removal of encampments like the ones in Oakland and Denver. So to me the chances of the occupy movement having an impact in that sphere aside from possibly staying home on election day or being more cynical of the dems is slim for right now. But with the coming of election season Obama is definitely polishing up his populist (and I mean this in the good sense of the word) credentials. So he and the Dems will have to walk a very fine line of trying to motivate folks to vote for him but not ask too many questions about the economic system. But in his favor he’s got the current batch of Republicans to go against so that may help. I mean the House had their run and I think that the debacle with the pay roll tax cut may be the beginning of their decline.
Something else that may work in his favor is people’s sheer desperation. A lot of people are living on the edge of disaster. So while many folks may not be enthusiastic about him like they were two years ago the idea of people who would hang pictures of Ayn Rand in their offices totally running the place is too much to even think about. And that’s pragmatics not “change we can believe in”. My brother is just as militant as me, but since he doesn’t have a union job, no insurance and has an injury from a work accident (third degree burns on the inside of right elbow and arm leaving him with some substantial nerve damage) he is on the very edge of destitution due to so much of his meagre pay check going to pay for medical bills and medication. It’s because of him that I support Obama care. He said flat out that he will vote for Obama because he has no choice. I hope my dad will remember that when polling day comes because I could see him falling for Romney’s bullshit. I don’t thinkthat our story is that unique either.
If I were try to predict where the labor movement is going (something which I’m loathe to do) I would simply highlight two trends. The first is the traditional role of labor as booster of the the Dems, but in a more frenzied fashion and dropping things like the Employee Free Choice Act which might upset the apple cart. I view this kind of like Dev’s “labor must wait”. Or like a popular front action where it’s all hands on deck in defense of basic civil society. And I agree with this branch in as much I think government ought to defend civic society from capital.
The other branch which exists and is growing however slowly with fits and starts is the old school unionism which existed in the shadows until the late seventies. While it might take full advantage labor law it relied upon traditional solidarity and direct action. The thing that I think alot of people don’t understand about this current is that these folks in many facets appear reactionary. A prime example of this is a guy I currently work with. He’s a straight up conservative/reactionary. We almost came to blows over his justification of the Iraq war and Saddam’s WMD being the gassing of the Kurds. I about came out of my seat and folks came out of the trailers due to the yelling. But he is as steadfast a union man as one could want. Once during a wobbled job (ie during an unofficial work stoppage) he happened to show off a new M-14 to a co worker in view of the superintendent. Of course the police were called and came guns drawn but as he hadn’t threatened anyone with it and it isn’t illegal to have a rifle in your trunk he was left alone and the pay dispute was resolved quickly there after. He was also part of a “clearing crew” during an official strike. The “clearing crew” were guys who would wait until work started and any scabs who crossed the line were at work. At this point the “clearing crew” would enter the site with baseball bats and clear the job out. The guy who trained me to do doors and hardware saw his first strike in the army during his tour of Vietnam. He knew of a carpenter’s strike in the mountains where the scabs spent the entire day pinned down by a sniper who promptly wrapped up his sport shooting at the end of shift. It isn’t all violence but these examples told to me by first person participants and witnesses highlights labor’s untold story of declared Republicans and decorated vets (my guy came back from ‘nam with a bronze star which is a whole other story) who are “upstanding Americans” who are also part of the army of labor.
This back story of sorts is simply used to highlight the legacy of direct action up through the Reagan years as a connection the actions which took place in the Pacific Northwest where back in Sept. hundreds of longshoremen stormed a grain terminal, dumped grain on the tracks, cut brake lines and walked off the jobs in other ports after the president of their local was arrested for blocking the tracks during a dispute with the operator of the terminal. They were accused of holding six security guards hostage though it was later revealed that the guards simply hid out for a number of hours in their shack rather than face hundreds of angry longshoremen. Even the police backed down and retreated when called out. The sherriff although largely hostile made a unique comment as to why no arrests were made during and after the terminal storming after which the longshoremen simply returned to their hall unmolested with threats of further action. He pointed out the fact that the longshoremen were members of the local community and that he could understand their anger at their liviehoods being threatened during these difficult economic times and while condemning their actions refused to condemn them. The irony is that while the ILWU (west coast longshoreman’s union) has a known history and reputation for militance and political actions this was a new front and one which was done with absolutely no fanfare or rhetoric, indeed even members who I know personally and who have stayed in my home were extremely tight lipped about the action and others that might happen. I can of course understand because as Jimmy Diamond once told me, “whatever you say, say nothing” (circa 2007).
As I see it as the “respectable” wing of labor continues to lose ground I see more and more workers turning to the more direct approach. Obviously my examples highlight a very specific demographic that is unfortunately a shrinking part of the American workforce. That being said solidarity unionism, direct unionism or whatever you want to call it remains a viable form of resistance to capital, indeed it is, I would argue one of the fundamental pieces of resistance to capital. Far outweighing any Political adventurism that may be put forward. It should also be noted that union bosses vhemently oppose direct unionism and as was the case in Wisconsin rather see their unions destroyed than give up control to “irresponsible” forces. The largest challenge for the labor movement (note the lower case “l” denoting an all encompassing movement rather Organized Labor) is to bridge the chasm from the shrinking demographics of the trade union movement (though as Wisconsin demonstrated can still be impressive) to the growing working poor and private sector who never really thought about the class war until it arrived on their doorstep.
As for mortgages and what not. I’m sure there are groups out there that do help people, but the sad reality is that many, many people stopped viewing their home as a place to live and viewed homes as commodities. Many like my friend took out lines of credit on their homes and second mortgages. Indeed I bought my home as a foreclosure learning only after closing that the house in question was previously owned by my uncle’s girlfriend who took out a second mortgage to pay for heart surgery to repair a defect. The surgery wasn’t successful and she lost the house. I just don’t see any grouping with the political will let alone the knowledge and finances to challenge many of the foreclosures. Also the fact that at best the challenges would be addressing some of the foreclosures for errors, not challenging the idea of throwing people out of their houses due to their inability to pay is another major shortcoming in my eyes. So no, I have no hope of outflanking capital on that front and I foresee the rise and return of the landlord class as a new enemy for the working class to face off against in the foreseeable future.