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There are lots of on-line comments about the gig economy. WhatIs says, “A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40% of American workers would be independent contractors.” There are higher and lower estimates here and there, depending on how they define the jobs that have no benefits, no rights, no dignity, and no guarantee that employment will last more than one day. It’s maybe one step above serfdom.

We’d have to be stupid to ignore the gig economy

But every article I saw said that the gig economy is growing and will keep on growing. The reasons they give are so inadequate that they almost constitute untruths: they attribute the growing gig economy to the changing nature of work. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening.

More and more people are working part-time, split shift, “independent contractor,” no-future jobs because that’s what the employers want. It’s what they have always wanted, but they never had such power over the government as they have now. The gig economy is growing because employers do not want workers with guaranteed jobs, workers with health care, workers with any kind of rights at all. In several levels of government, but especially in state legislatures, they are moving to reduce all of us into the gig economy.

Uber Drivers Rally

Last Saturday, a woman walked into the KNON studios and said “Hi, I’m Edith.” We greeted her and I tried to find out why she wanted to be on the “Workers Beat” talk show. She said she was a driver, so I assumed she was from the Amalgamated Transit Union and there to talk about management’s privatization scheme. They want to let Dallas’ disabled people get transported by Uber and Lyft temporary drivers instead of the professionals from ATU.

About 20 minutes into the program, Edith started talking about Uber management, and I finally realized that she was the woman I had exchanged e-mails with during the previous week. She wants to organize Uber and Lyft drivers. She had some compelling reasons.

Uber has recently cut the percentage of fares that the drivers get, Edith said. Worse than that, they manipulate the hiring process so that newer drivers get more fares. That way the newer drivers will be more likely to stay with Uber until their other options have disappeared. Then they’re stuck.

I’m for organizing all workers, no exceptions, so we got right into the problems and solutions. Edith said there would be a demonstration at Dallas City Hall today.

After the program, I posted an “event” on Facebook for the Uber/Lyft rally. At noon today, I hurried down there. Nobody else showed up, not even Edith. She told me by email that she had gotten discouraged because nobody else would commit to come. I told Edith that the proof of a good activist in the period we live in is not how successful they are, but whether or not they give up. So we’re going to try again on the 2nd Monday next month, or at least I hope so.

What Do We Learn?

First of all, a job with absolutely no guarantees can change at management’s whim. That’s why management likes them so much. Thousands of out-of-work government employees are, right now, applying to go to work for Uber or Lyft. It may seem like a good option, or perhaps the only option, but it will change when management wants it changed, and they never willingly change things for the betterment of the employees.

Gig jobs will just get worse as more people depend on them.

Second of all, gig workers are extremely difficult to organize. It’s one of those impossible things that has to happen. That’s why Edith couldn’t get anybody to the rally. It’s also why the established unions aren’t trying very hard to organize gig workers.

But it has to happen because the gig economy will keep on growing as long as bosses are running “our” government. One might pretend to be “objective” and say it doesn’t have to happen because there are other alternatives like fascism. That’s not an alternative, it’s a disaster!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Working people in other nations must be simply amazed that the Americans would let 800,000 workers get locked out while everybody else goes to work as if nothing was happening. After all, if we so much as shut down one airport, one railroad, one highway, or one city for half a day, we’d get whatever we wanted.

Call Congress. Then what?

Without making any excuses, one can look back in American labor history for some of the reasons that nobody has walked out in solidarity. The biggest one is that everybody waits for the unions to do it and, as the saying goes, it ain’t going to happen!

Unions have power, and because they have power, they have tremendous government supervision. Most union contracts have a “no strike” provision. Management would love to see a union violate their contract, because they would then be free to do almost anything they wanted, and the government would happily assist.

In the old days, unions got what they wanted primarily by striking. The Industrial Workers of the World had hardly any other tactics. At the same time, their legal status was about the same as bank robbers. Some of the most powerful unions, mostly in transportation, gained some legal status with the passage of the Railway Labor Act in the 1920s. In the 1930s, the Roosevelt Administration gave us the National Labor Relations Act. It set up the supposedly neutral National Labor Relations Board to referee disputes between management and labor. Legal at last, the unions went on the biggest organizing drive in history.

But there was a price. With government arbitration came a lot of government supervision. In 1947, Republicans came down hard on labor laws. That’s when the vicious “right to scab” laws were legalized in the infamous Taft-Hartley bill. Texas led the way. Republicans have made sure that labor laws worsened.

It may sound innocent to say that “secondary boycotts are outlawed,” but what it means is that unions cannot stop work in solidarity with other unions. Our fundamental principle, “An injury to one is the concern of all” is quoted a lot more than it is used, and it can’t legally be used at for major work stoppage.

Unions are calling for an all-out lobbying effort. A few unions, including one in Dallas, are hitting the streets, and that is a big step forward. But it’s not likely that they will go further.

Why doesn’t someone else do it?

Why is everybody waiting for unions to call walkouts? It’s because our solidarity with the rest of the working class is still fairly weak. From 1947’s Taft-Hartley Act to 1995, America’s unions did very little to promote their relations with churches, community groups, civil rights people, and protest organizations. They accepted their isolation.

With the AFL-CIO elections of 1995, unions began to get back on track. But it’s a long road from a national labor convention to a grass roots coalition at the local level. I’m very proud that my own AFL-CIO Council in Dallas has made giant strides, but not every council has and, even in Dallas, these coalitions are still quite young.

Most of the individuals with enough personal following to call a major action are politicians. If they called a walkout, or even spoke in favor of walkouts, their campaign funds would rupture. So don’t expect any of them, not even Bernie Sanders, to call for walkouts.

Maybe a rock star will.

Some impossible things happen

If Mr Trump really tries to keep the government shutdown going for an extended period, as he says he will, there will be work stoppages. They will succeed, too.

There is such a thing as “historical imperative.” It says that some things will happen, not because they are likely or even possible, but because they have to happen. Maybe Americans don’t understand our own labor history, and maybe we’re easily divided. Maybe we’re ignorant, but we’re not stupid.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, look at my personal web site

Today I posted a prologue and Chapter One of “Commissioner Torres and the New Government” on http://lilleskole.us, my personal web site. It’s actually my 4th book-length effort. One of them is autobiographical and covers just about everything I’ve learned so far.

What would your revolution look like?

The other three are speculative fiction about a guy named Leo Torres who gets involved with revolutionaries just when the old order of things has fallen apart. Leo gets in on the revolution from the ground floor.

Why?

You may wonder why I write and post these things. Obviously, I’m not going to make any money. They aren’t even copyrighted. It’s not because of the silly old shibboleth “Writers write because they have to.”

I’m one of many people who would like to see a better world, but I’m one of the very few who have tried to describe it. For decades I’ve dodged the question the same way almost every activist does by saying, “I don’t know what the world I’m fighting for would look like, because it’s up to those people living in that world to decide for themselves.” It may be true, but it’s still a dodge.

If we’re fighting for a better world, we ought to be able to describe it. Or at least we ought to try.

I decided on speculative fiction as my way of initiating a discussion on what might happen and what we might do about it. After all, does anybody think that we’ll just wake up one day in a better world?

Nearly all of our sci-fi is dystopian. Just about the only exception is the Star Trek series. They didn’t even have a revolution to get into their wonderful world. They just listened to the Vulcans. In one episode, Mister Spock hints that the Vulcans had to go through some very trying times before they became so civil, but he doesn’t tell us much about it. So we actually have no pattern to follow.

For a long time, American activists tried to copy the Russian revolution. When it imploded, a lot of them were disgusted and demoralized. Some others have tried to follow Chairman Mao. Some followed Nkrumah, Ho Chi Minh, and some followed Castro. I think we could learn from all of them, but we couldn’t learn enough. We have to do a lot of our own thinking.

So, we speculate.

The World I Made

Looking toward the future, especially in the Donald Trump era, one can see disaster ahead. It’s not a matter of whether or not the planet will become inhabitable and wealth inequality will make economic life impossible. It’s only a matter of when.

But I have great faith in myself and other people. Sooner or later we will give up on the people who are destroying the economy and the ecology. We will embrace new leaders and new ways of running things. In the world I create in my sci-fi novels, people have just recently done that. Following the advice of revolutionaries, civilized people have disbanded their armies and their police. They formed local militias to keep order while respected and capable leaders are elected to make economic and social decisions.

The revolutionaries at the center help coordinate activities and continue to advise the localities. As you might imagine, there is very little continuity between one locality and another. There are a tremendous number of problems to be resolved. What will people eat? How will they get it? How will trade continue? How will people get from one place to the next?

Because the air and water are almost undrinkable and unbreathable, something drastic has to be done about the burning of fossil fuels. Because all systems are down, there is no electricity. Without electricity and transportation, there is no long-distance communication. Without transportation, people will not be able to get the goods and services they need to stay alive. What would you do about those things?

The first two novels take the easy way out. They only deal with some of the smaller questions.

My first novel deals with whether or not revolution is possible and worthwhile. It’s common to hear it said that humanity isn’t worth saving, that people will never learn to live without war, that people are essentially greedy and incapable of cooperation, and that every revolution has failed because people are basically just no damned good!

My second novel is more specific. It tries to deal with the fact that certain sectors of the population will not cooperate in building a better world. Hardened drug addicts, for example, are unlikely to cooperate in civil society. What would you do with them?

The third novel is by far the most ambitious. It recognizes that government is necessary and begins to discuss the ins and outs of setting up and running such a government. Is democracy the answer? If so, what would be the machinery of democracy? Here’s a really thorny question, “How could a society avoid the tyranny of the majority?”

I don’t know if you can answer these questions, but I know that I can’t. But I’m inviting you to join me in trying to find out.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” talk show 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM every Saturday. Call in 972-647-1893 with your ideas. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site at http://lilleskole.us

Movie Review: “Vice,” Directed by Adam McKay, 2 hours 12 minutes.

As the young Dick Cheney and the old, Christian Bale was heavy
Christian Bale was skinny in “The Machinist”

Even if you lived through the Bush-Cheney years and don’t think you need a refresher course, you will benefit from seeing “Vice.” It concretizes our understanding of the many things that are wrong today. Dick Cheney was not the first nor the last Republican to warp our laws in the service of dark money, but he is certainly in the running for the worst.

The movie credits him with paving the way for dishonest network television, tax giveaways, fraudulent wars, distortion of justice, and torture, among other things.

So many are the chronicles of Cheney’s crimes that the movie, despite its length, has little time for drama. It is almost a documentary. The time-saving method of using a narrator to hurry us through events has to be employed. Even within that hurried framework, though, the actors are magnificent. Christian Bale again shows his dedication and ability by being both the wastrel Young Dick and the overweight criminal old Dick. Amy Adams, as Dick’s Lady MacBeth, is outstanding. Several headliners take minor roles, or even cameos, to get the historical drama on the screen.

It was not completely amazing to see that Brad Pitt headed a list of film producers, especially if one also went across the movieplex to see the outstanding civil rights film, “It Happened on Beale Street,” where Pitt is again the lead producer. Pitt apparently is committed to progressive filming.

There are a lot of surreal moments in the film. They’re extremely humorous in a macabre sort of way. Some of the critics have blasted McKay for taking short breaks from serious treatment, but I think he did it the way it had to be done. When listing the crimes of Cheney, we have to laugh to keep from screaming.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM every Saturday Central time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

I need somebody to explain the machinery of democracy to me, because I’m writing a sci-fi novel about a better world.

A lot of people are now claiming to be revolutionaries. An even larger number would at least say that they want a better world than the one we live in. I think they’d agree that we want to maximize democracy.

What do you want?
How would you get it?

But does anybody know how?

Even if all the present election reformers got their way, even if the current House Resolution # 1 should pass on January 3rd, we would still an imperfect democracy, because we have no way to overcome the “tyranny of the majority.” No matter what Utopian election machinery we may advocate, minorities would still be at the mercy of the majority of voters.

In a better democracy, one’s vote should be directly proportional to their personal consequences from that vote. If a proposal affects you more than somebody else, why should your votes have equal weight? I didn’t think this up, I got it from Ivan Illich in 1972. He said everyone’s vote should be proportional to the effect that it would have on them. He didn’t explain how that could be done.

Obviously, one way is to have a bunch of small local governments. They could regulate things at the local level. A larger government, however, would have to have larger control over what they do, because whatever people do in society will have at least some effect on others.

What About This?

Here’s the best I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Legislative proposals are encouraged from the lowest levels. Proposals should not only substantiate what they intend to do, but should also designate the relative weights of different voters.
  2. The proposal would have to be passed by majority vote, but it wouldn’t be implemented at that point.
  3. If the legislation passed the majority vote, then the majority would also have agreed to the relative weight of different voters.
  4. Thus, before implementation, the vote would have to be re-weighed with some voters getting more weight than others. That result would be the one implemented.

Here’s an example. Suppose somebody proposed that free abortion on demand become the law everywhere. The original proposal might allocate extra votes for women, as women would be affected more than men. If everybody thought that was fair, then the proposal would pass by majority vote. Then the votes would be recounted on the second round, with extra weight for each female vote. If the proposal still passed, it would become law.

Another example: Suppose we had a proposal to provide funding for medical care for coal miners suffering from silicosis (lots of them are). Coal miners would obviously get a bigger percentage of the total potential vote.

Give Me Criticisms & Suggestions

There are very few examples of a better future in American sci-fi. Nearly every speculation is dystopian. The exception is Star Trek, where humanity does indeed achieve a better, more fair, world. But Star Trek never explains how it happened or how it works. All we know is that they learned it from the Vulcans.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON Radio’s “Workers Beat” program, 89.3 FM in Dallas, at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

This isn’t the only place I post. I also do several Facebook Pages, two Twitter accounts, and several web sites. Every week, I write the labor newsletter for the Dallas AFL-CIO. An example is below. The photos are almost always mine. Nearly all of my time is volunteer. I sometimes make as much as $43.64/week from my communications efforts. Never more than that.

Publishing is not as hard for me as it might be for some because I’ve had considerable practice with photos, I type really well, and I’ve been doing volunteer journalism most of the time since I was a sophomore in High School. That would be 1955, 63 years ago.

So, why do I do it?

I’m going to answer in a roundabout way. First of all, I like myself pretty well, or at least I excuse my faults as just run-of-the-mill human errors. Secondly, I know I’m nothing special, I’m about the same as everybody else. That means then, that I must esteem everybody else about as much as I do myself. So, then, I should try to treat everybody pretty well just as I like being treated. It’s not the “golden rule” in the abstract, it’s totally selfish. I like you because I like me. That’s the only reason.

So I try to do what I can for myself, and, by extension, for you, too. That doesn’t mean I’m devoting myself to charity. In my opinion, charity is just a lubricant for a mercilessly inhuman machine that is grinding us up. The System.

If I want to curtail misery and human suffering, then, I need to do whatever I can to change The System. That means getting organized around a program that can actually make a difference. That program is simple: organizing working families. So that’s what I espouse, on paper and all over the internet. I intend to keep it up until I die.

–gene lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM central time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Dallas Labor Unites Us!

If you are part of a working family, the Dallas AFL-CIO is on your side. None of us are illegal; none of us are outsiders. The Dallas AFL-CIO joins Alliance/AFT in a special program to benefit union members who want to apply for citizenship. Volunteers and applicants are encouraged to attend a forum at 11AM tomorrow, December 15, at 334 Centre in Oak Cliff. The road to obtaining citizenship is not an easy one, but your labor movement will assist.

Citizenship Committee Meets

Sherlyn May Need Help

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1338 is assisting Sherlyn Samuel to get back her job with DART. Samuel received the Texas award for outstanding woman trade unionist. She heads our civil rights affiliate, A. Philip Randolph Institute. She stands up for the Dallas Transit Riders. We cannot afford to let managers victimize our top activists.

Sherlynn accepts award from Louis Malfaro

DART management will hold a hearing in the near future, and we may be needed. To get on the Dallas AFL-CIO’s rapid text alert, text “@laborrel” to the phone number 81010.

Get Ready, Texas Legislature Is Coming

If working families are united, we can support progressive Texas legislation or fight reactionaries when the legislature begins on January 8th. The first step is to know what is going on. Write to ed@texasaflcio.org to get on Communications Director Ed Sills’ email list. He also recommends going to http://texasaflcio.org and entering your email and zip code.

It is not too early to establish relationships with your state senators and representatives. Some of them will be organizing buses of supporters to go to the Texas Capitol in Austin for the beginning of the session.

Texas 104 electee Jessica Gonzalez graciously accepted an invitation to speak to UAW 848’s retirees on December 13. She agreed that seniors should be protected against rising property taxes. Supporting public education will be her main priority.

District 104 winner Jessica Gonzalez with retiree Oritize Young

The victor in Texas 102, Ana Maria Ramos, will be speaking and answering questions on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program at 9 AM tomorrow, December 15. Tune in on-line at knon.org or on radio at 89.3 FM. The call-in number is 972-647-1893

More Actions Coming Up

Dec 15, 9A: State Rep electee Ana Maria Ramos on KNON.org and 89.3FM.

Dec 15, 10A: KNON radio’s annual toy drive and music fest at 11311 N Central Expressway

Dec 15, 11A: Citizenship Campaign Forum at Alliance/AFT, 334 Centre in Oak Cliff

Dec 15, 5-10P: Benefit for Brother Corey Hallmark at Theo’s Bar & Grill, 107 NW 8th, Grand Prairie

Dec 20, 7:30P Dallas AFL-CIO meeting for all affiliated members at Independent Bar, 2712 Main St. Followed by annual labor Christmas Party. Call 214-826-4808 for more info

Jan 8: Texas Legislature’s 86th session begins.

Jan 19, 10A: Gather at Dallas City Hall to participate in national Women’s Marches

Jan 20, 10A: Gather at Tarrant County Courthouse, 100 E Weatherford in Ft Worth, to participate in national Women’s Marches

Jan 31: Postmark deadline for applications to be sent to Texas AFL-CIO for college scholarships for union members families

Is there an honest history of the Middle East since World War I? Wikipedia gives it a good shot and includes the names of various rulers, parties, movements, and nationalities. But where’s the “why” of it all?

As this is written, most of the regimes in the area are reactionary. Women and children especially suffer the lack of basic civil rights. Religious fanaticism wields great power. Poverty is common, but some of the richest men the world have ever known live in the Middle East.

Currently, the United States is prominent in creating untold suffering in Venezuela, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Other countries are in various stages of negotiations as to how much misery they are to get in exchange for their oil. The people  get the misery and U.S. corporations get the oil. How did we come to this?

As I understand it, the “modern” states of the Middle East were largely carved apart as a result of England’s victory in World War I. As it was the first truly mechanized war, oil resources became closely identified with military power. England had that power but lost its worldwide grip by the end of World War II. By then, the United States was the dominant economic and military force on Earth. Key parts of their domain were the oil-producing countries. Keeping them in line has led the United States government to the wildest extremes of dishonesty and murder on a national scale. For example, the Dallas paper recently revealed that over 75,000 Yemeni children had died from starvation so far. That’s just from starvation and doesn’t include the children shot or blown to pieces.

What’s Wrong With Qatar?

Little Qatar, with population smaller than the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex where I live, is making headlines because of their defiance. Last year, the Saudi government put together a group to boycott Qatar and try to cut them off from their oil customers. Why? I have a notion that the main reason is their state-sponsored news service, Al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera has the second largest world network of news agencies, after England’s BBC. They report what’s going on, especially in the Middle East. For a while there, their news service was (barely) available in the United States on cable TV. A movie was made about the attempts to suppress them. Despite all efforts to destroy Al-Jazeera, one can still get actual news from their English-language web site. I don’t know if I would recommend it as gospel truth, but I will say it’s a reliable as, say, the BBC — and much better than what we’re likely to get from sources in the United States, where oil companies buy advertisers.

Qatar, like Mexico, suffers from its geographic location. It’s squeezed in between Saudi Arabia — Donald Trump’s favorite ally — and Iran — Donald Trump’s main enemy. I think they even share a great oil field with Iran. If Qatar faces one direction, they’ll be punished by the other.

Solving the Mystery

Even though we are talking about millions of dead, maimed, and displaced Middle Easterners, and we are not talking about a single murder case in a cheap novel, informed people know how to figure out who is responsible. Just ask, “Who profits?”

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3FM in Dallas at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site