The Economic Policy Institute recently ran a couple of good studies about wages.


Factory Workers Earn More Money

EPI says, “…manufacturing workers still earn 13.0 percent more in hourly compensation than comparable private-sector workers. This manufacturing premium, however, has declined by about one-fourth (3.9 percentage points) since the 1980s, when it was 16.9 percent.” So why do manufacturing workers make more money than “comparable” people? And why is the margin diminishing?

Here’s another question that bugs the heck out of my friends who work in aerospace but are members of the Auto Workers Union: “Why do auto workers get much better contracts than aerospace workers?” We work just as hard and have had as much or more training. We have the same national union leaders, the same history, and the same intentions, but our wages and conditions have never been as good as theirs. Why?

It’s Not the Work, It’s the Organizing

Manufacturing workers are easier to organize than other workers. There are more of them in one place. They work closer together. They live closer together, They have more of the same interests. Contrast, for example, techies. Techies are notoriously hard to organize, even though they may really want a union. They live all over the place. They work almost entirely alone. Some of them actually work at home. They tend to travel for work. They don’t usually advance within the same company, but move from one company to another for advancement. It is very hard to organize techies.

The easier we are to organize, the more likely we are to have a union and thus get better wages.

Aerospace workers can cuss the auto workers all they want, but the fact is that auto workers were easier to organize. Assembly line production calls for the highest levels of cooperation among workers. Take just a few of the workers off an assembly line, and it has to shut down!

Airplanes, for the most part, aren’t made on assembly lines. It’s hard to win a strike in aerospace, but it’s much easier in auto. Better organizing, better contracts!

Why Is the Gap Decreasing?

EPI says that the gap between [organized] factory workers and everybody else is decreasing since 1980. I almost laughed when I saw that date. 1980 is the year that American government set new anti-worker policies and elected its best enforcer —
Ronald Reagan. So the question answers itself.

Unionism in America has atrophied beneath the government assault, and the advantage of unionism is not nearly as widespread as it was pre-Reagan. We fell from 35% of the workforce to the present 11%. Union workers still make way more money than non-union workers doing comparable work, but there just aren’t that many union workers left to bring up the statistics.

Whose Wages Are Rising?

The other interesting article from EPI said, “States with minimum wage increases between 2013 and 2017 saw faster wage growth for low-wage workers compared with states without any minimum wage increases (5.2 percent vs. 2.2 percent).”

Last month, Wall Street had a minor panic when it was announced that wages were rising for the first time in recent history. They were barely rising, but they were slightly higher than inflation for that same period. Since then, economists and political pundits have been saying that wages will continue to rise and that the government will have to take steps, such as raising interest rates, against the trend.

Capitalists may say otherwise, in fact they do, but they do not want wages to rise.

But wages did, statistically, rise a little bit in February, 2018. The reason was that some local and state governments, responding to political pressure from working people, were beginning to raise their minimum wages. An increase for low-wage workers has a profound effect on statistics, because there are so many low-wages workers. Also, all wages tend to rise when they are pushed up from the bottom.

Nineteenth century writers Karl Marx and Frederich Engels noted that workers would tend to benefit themselves more by organizing politically than they would by fighting the bosses one company at a time. It’s not a new idea; it’s just a true one.

Crossing the Line

There are a lot of references to “the line” in literature. There’s the “red line,” there’s the “line in the sand,” and there’s the “picket line.” If you want to get someone to answer the question “Which side [of the line] are you on?” just ask them if they support increasing the minimum wage. It cuts through a lot of verbiage.

Even though unemployment is statistically low, and the time is ripe for organizing, your own wages aren’t likely to rise much until you actually organize. Either organize a union on the job or organize politically to raise wages. That’s the road to success!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on 89.3FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9 AM Central /Time. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site.


In between activities, I write science fiction. In my world, the obstacles to progress are temporarily removed from power. People can actually solve their problems. But that means I have to describe some of those problems and, much harder, come up with some solutions. For example: What would people do if they had more free time?


Our allotted time is all we have, when you think about it. One may pile up wealth and fame while another languishes in a never-ending rut, but they both get about the same length of time. At their funerals, who can actually say which one of them spent their time better or enjoyed it more?

What’s the value of leisure?

In the system we live in, everybody wants more free time. Or at least they say they do, but it isn’t always true. For example, I did a quick study of union grievances at my factory job and found that “overtime” grievances were far and away the most numerous. I assumed it meant that everybody was like me and trying to get out of working longer hours. WRONG! Those grievances were all, every one, about people trying to get more overtime hours!

Normal work weeks in the oil field are 56 hours. But most of my fellow workers would tell me that they tried to get at least one or two “doubles” (16 hour days) every week. I did it myself, whenever I got the chance. What’s the value of leisure measured against time-and-a-half overtime pay?

Increasing Productivity Should Result in More Leisure

If you add up the accumulated productivity as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you will see that the average worker today creates more than four times as much wealth per hour than he did at during World War II. He didn’t get four times as much salary, and he darned sure didn’t get his his working hours reduced to 2 hours/day!

BTW, unions used to demand cuts in working hours as a way of fighting unemployment. “30 [hours] for 40 with no cut in pay” was the slogan of the CIO from around 1938 to around 1957.

But in my sci-fi world, they do reduce working hours and maintain full employment. Or, they can. If people create 4 times as much product, they could and should cut their working hours by a factor of 4. Here’s where I’m having my writing problem: What would they do with their extra time?

Under Today’s System, I Know

Under today’s system of alienation and every-man-for-himself capitalism, people who were only required to work two hours a day would likely sign up for four jobs! Our greed is endless when we’re scared, and workers in America are always scared. The bosses want it that way.

But the world I’m creating is solving problems. It will solve the problem of unemployment by shortening the working day (which we should be doing in the present world, but the bosses won’t let us). It will solve the problem of boredom and what to do with leisure time, too.

There Are Wonderful Examples

I have known people who work at traditional jobs as little as possible. Instead, they spend their time trying to improve the human condition. They are environmentalists, feminists, civil rights activists, socialists, and my neighbor down the street who picks up everybody’s loose trash after the truck goes by. Are they the people of the future? Are they the “new persons” that Che Guevara speculated about?

Compared to the general population, there aren’t very many of them. As far as I know, that type of people didn’t come to dominate Cuba, China, South Africa, or the Soviet Union. Why expect them to dominate here?

So far, the best I’ve come up with is this: revolution is a long process. People make changes, but changes also make people. In my new world, working hours will be shortened at the same time that people are figuring out how to best spend their leisure time. They won’t all have the same answer, but I’m hoping that many of them will take up the cause of improving the human condition. Actually, I’m hoping that real people will start now.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site


The West Virginia teachers strike of 2018 was one of the most dramatically successful labor events of recent times. After striking for 9 days, they won a freeze on new health care costs and a 5% general wage increase for themselves and for all state workers! In addition, it was basically a wildcat strike, which means that it was not officially called by any of the three major unions involved and, thus, did not have their official backing. Official backing usually means strike benefits such as a small weekly stipend and, sometimes, health care for the duration of the strike. They didn’t have that.


On March 10, I had an organizer from one of the West Virginia support groups on KNON radio. Steven Noble Smith said that the preparations had begun last December. Here is how he described the overall characteristic of the strike: “It was rooted and grounded deeply in the everyday pain of working people!”

Smith’s group was one of several that joined in backing the school employees as their movement grew. “Everybody was welcome in this movement,” he told the KNON audience. At least one of the supporting organizations was political, the Working Families Party. Others had been inspired, perhaps, by the Bernie Sanders movement, or perhaps by their disgust with the current government.

One of the contributions of Smith’s group was raising funds for some of the workers who were striking without any remuneration. The money raised in a short period, over $300,000, was impressive. I also found out from Smith some of the other elements of a successful labor action such as training, regular public action, social media, and interacting with commercial newspersons. But what, I asked him pointedly, was the key?

Smith explained, “What matters… is mass action!” Beginning last December, school employees had been holding public actions. The group planning and the individual contributions, Smith said, were very innovative. Many of the actions took place in the state capitol.

Responses Not So Hot

The total victory in West Virginia was announced around March 6, which was primary election day here in Texas. There was news coverage, especially from national sources, but it was dwarfed by local election news. That’s not the worst of it.

I also went around and asked some of my union friends about their responses to West Virginia. They were pleased and a little bit awed. But any suggestion of seeing what we could do here at home brought exactly the response I had been dreading. “I wish my own union had members like West Virginia!”

It’s not just lately, I’ve been hearing this from union leaders for forty years! “Our members are chicken,” “Our members are Republicans,” “Our members would never take action,” etc etc etc. Excuses!

My Big Gripe

I can understand why unions seldom go on strike. Nobody wants to. There’s a lot of pain and a lot of risk involved. The government pretends to be neutral, but it isn’t. Even easier forms of concerted action such as boycotts, petitioning campaigns, and slowdowns are perilous for unions and for the individuals involved. That’s not my complaint.

My complaint is that unions and, especially, union staffers, don’t try. Undoubtedly, the West Virginia school employees were not ready to strike last December. It took three months for them to get ready, and that three months of preparation paid off for them in March.

That’s what we ought to be learning from West Virginia — that preparations for concerted action should under way. Otherwise, how do we expect to survive the present onslaught?

-Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM every Saturday from 9 AM to 10AM. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

Take a look at recent news from the point of view of the progressive movement. Keep in mind that only the working class, and working class issues, can truly pull the movement together. The entire working class will not unite over gun control, over the right to abortion, over civil rights, or any of the other important causes. Wages and working conditions will unite us, because all of us care most about them.

On May 6, Texas held the first primary elections of the season. Democrats were overjoyed to double the turnout that they had in the last mid-term elections. Republicans improved about 15%. But the raw number of votes determines election winners, not percentages of improvement. While the Democrats were able to get a million voters to the polls, the Republicans got half again as many. The leading Democrat, Beto O’Rourke for Senate, got 600,000 votes, while the Republican incumbent got 1.3 million! The same was true in the governor’s race.

One of the reasons for improved Democratic Party turnout was that they fielded candidates in every race, even in the ones where they were almost sure to lose. There’s a downside to that, because some of the contested seats were held by rock-solid working class incumbents with 100% pro-worker voting records. Politicians are mostly opportunists, not principled leaders.

Labor is calling the results “mostly good news” because over 90% of our endorsed candidates got into runoffs or won outright. But we lost three of the best of the state representatives, including Roberto Alonzo of Dallas who has been honored nationwide for his commitment to labor’s cause. Labor worked hard for their candidates

Progressive Movement Remains Fragmented

No one could deny that there is an upsurge in the progressive movement since the 2016 elections. The big improvement in voting statistics demonstrates it. But cohesion is not one of the grand characteristics. The most unifying theme among Democrats was dislike for President Trump, according to the pundits.

But the only way they could unite effectively is around the basic issues of the working class, and the election results did not show that trend. While the AFL-CIO could honestly claim a 90% success rate, another organization, Emily’s List, which only endorses on women’s issues, could claim 100%, according to the Politico news service. All their endorsed women were in runoffs or had won outright.

Labor’s candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor was controversial because of being a woman, a Latina, and gay; but she won a thumping big plurality and goes into the runoff with a big advantage among Democratic voters. It would be a stretch to claim that she did so well because of the AFL-CIO endorsement, when Emily’s List had better results.

People who want serious change remain confronted with this problem: how can we unite the progressive movement?

Best News Was Barely Reported

While pages and pages of newsprint covered the Texas elections, there was scant coverage of the teachers’ strike in West Virginia. But from the point of view of unifying the progressive movement around workers’ issues, the news from West Virginia was at least as important, if not more so. For the first time in years, American labor saw a well planned and well-executed strike create big gains for workers. By holding out statewide for nine days, those teachers won a 5% raise for themselves and for all state workers. They also got a freeze on health care costs. The AFL-CIO Executive Board endorsed the strike in, I think, about the 7th day. The American Federation of Teachers spoke encouragement, but I didn’t see any of the nationwide forces really throwing themselves into it. The main fund raising I saw was one of those “go fund me” accounts.

In today’s news, way back in the back pages, teachers in Oklahoma have issued an ultimatum to their legislature. Arizona teachers are also talking strike.

Historical View is Bad, but Mostly Good

A lot of people, including me, believe that economic conditions are leading the capitalist class toward choosing fascism as their preferred form of rule. The great robbery called the “tax cut” went through Congress in December with very little popular support. Despite their best efforts, it is unlikely that the rich will convince Americans to warm to it very much.

What I’m saying is that it is getting harder for the rich to continue robbing the American people. That’s why they are working so hard to disarm us with voter suppression, dangerous foreign policy, anti-union legislation and legal decisions, deregulation, redistricting, and destruction of civil rights and civil liberties. Once our rights are gone, we can’t defend ourselves at all. That’s fascism.

Even though I think the obscenely wealthy are likely to choose fascism, I don’t think they will be able to implement it. That’s the good news. We aren’t as dumb as they may think. Actually, we’re far better educated and far more capable of coming together than the Italians and Germans of the 1930s were.

This is the time to organize. Low unemployment and high discontent are the ingredients for a great upsurge. Despite the low voter turnout numbers, Americans have more energy, and it is more generalized, then at any time since World War II. We may be fragmented, but we won’t stay that way. Once we are united, nothing can stop us!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3FM in Dallas from 9 to 10 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are interested in what I really think, check out my personal web site.


Book review: Glenn Frankel, “High Noon. The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic.” Bloomsbury, New York


There aren’t any actual good guys that I know of in the story about the American film blacklist. There are just bad guys, to one degree or another, and victims. The main character in this book is Carl Foreman, who wrote “High Noon” and saw it through. According to the book, Foreman’s views were shaped by the anti-communist witch hunt going on at the time (1952). Foreman was one of the victims.

The plot of the movie, as you know, concerns a lawman under pressure from a gang of killers. He can’t find anyone to back him up, but he can’t figure any way out of it either. So he has to face almost certain death alone. He survives (it’s still a Hollywood movie) and is embittered about the law (the system?) and about the people he had considered his friends. He dumps his tin star and rides away. The town becomes a ghost town, just as it deserved.

The town in High Noon is a metaphor for Hollywood. I’m old enough to remember when the movie came out, and I’m also old enough to remember the schlock that passed for American films afterward. Rock Hudson flirted with Doris Day in every other movie for the next ten years!

I’ve read several books about the witch hunt that is sometimes called the “McCarthy period.” I liked this one because it names a lot of names of the name namers. It doesn’t equivocate as to who was profiting by turning in their friends, who was lying to begin with, and who found some way around it. Foreman was one of those last ones. He was a victim to be sure, but he came out of it better than many former Reds. He managed to avoid naming any names, too, according to the book.

A lot of fuss is made over film star John Wayne, who was one of the biggest red-baiters in Hollywood. This may have been because many of the people he was victimizing had served honorably in World War II, while Wayne ducked it and made his fortune playing war heroes. Wayne hated “High Noon” and Carl Foreman. There’s an interesting interview on YouTube in which Wayne tries to cover his venom with a patriotic veil.

I also liked the film analysis in the book. Several artists did what has to be their best, or way up there nearly best, work in this movie under difficult circumstances. I can’t think of a better performance by Katy Jurado or Lloyd Bridges. Lon Chaney Jr, who ruined his image by playing The Wolfman over and over, was especially outstanding. Gary Cooper played Gary Cooper for the 1000th time, but it’s hard to think of a better version! If you’re curious about Cooper’s role in the witch hunt, you’ll get your answer in this book.

The book offers a lot of answers about this terrible period in American history. The questions continue to overshadow the answers, especially “Will it happen again?”

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 fm in Dallas every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site




The NextDoor social media service could be the core of a new democratic society.


I’ve written before about how important I think science fiction can be for clarifying the present and guessing the future. I write sci-fi novellas. Both the first one and the second one are posted online and free. I’m thinking up a third.

The Problem with Utopia

Almost all American sci-fi is dystopian, because those are the ugly trends we see. Star Trek is the major exception. All the problems on Earth are solved in Star Trek and they have to go running around outer space to find anything to fix. I like that version of the future and I think that some of today’s trends support it. I particularly like the trend toward more and better information. My sci-fi world tends toward the positive.

But what are the details of a utopian world? That’s what I have to confront in my new novel. The setting is “just after the revolution.” In the first novella, Commissioner Joe Torres gets a minor assignment in a backwoods area. In the second one, he gets a larger assignment, but still not one that is critical. I could go on writing those forever — letting Joe solve the little problems of a new society — but I decided to go toward the heart of the matter.

In the third novel, I intend to have the Commissioner get involved in setting up an ongoing government. The horrible emergencies are in a temporary lull. The family of war, want, and pollution have been traced to their Mama — capitalism — and halted. The oceans aren’t receding, but they’re not overflowing the beaches anymore. An ongoing structure for the new world society still needs to be created. I intend to have Joe Torres get drafted to play a small part in that giant project.

That’s where I ran into all the problems. If Joe has a say-so in building a positive structure that would benefit people and the planet long term, how would he go about it? What structure would he want?

Part of the Answer

I’ve been worrying about this for about a month. Yesterday morning, part of the answer hit me: NextDoor! It’s a social media service organized by neighborhoods. Most of the posts are about lost dogs and lawnmowers for sale. But what a potential it has!

If everybody were computer literate and had a good computer, they could join NextDoor. If the service were run by the people, it could be the basic element of a democratic society. Immediate problems in your neighborhood would be solved on-line. Representatives from your neighborhood would be elected to higher bodies who work on problems affecting larger geographic areas. Specialty committees and interests groups could be created and meet, like the core elements, on-line.

There wouldn’t be a Congress. There would just be a NextDoor group of representatives from all over the world. None of the higher bodies would be able to enact legislation. Their job would be to process problems and propose solutions. The solutions would then be voted on by the people affected.

The fundamental right of initiative, referendum, and recall would operate at every level.

It’s Not Exactly a New Idea!

Except for the computer part, this isn’t exactly new. The Cubans and Venezuelans tried to set up “revolutionary circles” that were to be the fundamental element of their governmental structure. The Russians in 1917 tried to govern through grass roots committees. The Russian word for “committee” is “soviet.” I think computers and social media make success for total democracy more likely.

Up until the time I’m creating with Commissioner Joe Torres, a state has always conformed to the ancient definition: “a body of armed men.” That is, whoever controls the army and the police control just about everything. In Joe Torres’ world, the army and the police are already disbanded.

We can surely do better in our future than we’re doing now!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my shaggy looking personal web site

Republicans are driving the national debt to unprecedented heights. Are they really “deficit hawks” as they always claim?

mitbuyinggovt72The whole idea that politicians have some kind of guiding principles or ideology is nonsense. What they actually have is material incentives to do what they do, vote the way they vote.

If the very wealthy people who direct most politicians want more spending on the military, or on tax cuts for themselves, that’s what they get. There isn’t some principle or ideology involved.

One thing that really upset Republicans during the Obama Administration was what they called “sequestration.” Under it, they had limits on what they could spend. Republicans wanted it, but only as long as it applied to spending to benefit the people. What galled them was that it also applied to the military. They’ve now broken that restriction and they are once again free to spend the money they want to spend to dominate the world.

When it comes to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education, health care — anything that benefits working people and has to be partially paid for by taxation from the wealthy — they will still claim to be deficit hawks. It would be a funny joke if it weren’t so horrible.

How Long Can They Borrow?

The American government can go on borrowing — selling bonds — as long as they can find someone to buy them.  They sold a lot of them since the 2008 crisis, and there was nothing to back them. We didn’t have any more gold, or any more treasure of any kind. America just sold bonds, and people, especially people in other nations, bought them.

Theoretically, that could go on forever. When another nation, say China, invests in United States Treasury Bills, as they often do, they are committing to a continuation of world economic stability based on the U.S. Dollar and United States economic domination. Otherwise, they wouldn’t get their bond money back.

It would be interesting to examine the cost of debt servicing now that the American debt is shooting up over $20 trillion dollars. I found a number: $174,800,239,416.18 that is supposed to represent the service cost for the last year. That’s $175 billion.

The amount goes up or down depending on the interest rates. But if people, especially people in other nations, become more reluctant to buy bonds, and if America keeps selling them, as they must, then the interest rates will necessarily go up. The cost of servicing the debt will go up, too.

This brings me back to the question of military spending. If the United States can still destroy any other nation, then it isn’t likely that any of them will stop cooperating with the worldwide economic system as it is. So, how long can America borrow? As long as it can find lenders.

–Gene Lantz

I”m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious as to what I really think, check out my personal web site