Tag Archives: jobs

Theater Review: “Sweat” Written by Lynn Nottage and Directed at the Dallas Theater Center by Tim Bond. Run ends Feb 10

When jobs disappear, do we disappear too?

My theater buddy and I couldn’t stop talking about “Sweat” after we saw it. The play covers a handful of workers who socialized together through the period 2000-2008. If you’re old enough to remember, those were hard times for factory workers who had made a decent living previously.

The background is layoffs. For these workers, and for millions of Americans, the layoffs and cutbacks seemed as meaningless as they were devastating. Lots of people were hit, hardly anybody knew why. Usually, we talk about these things with statistics and graphs, but this play talks about it in terms of people.

Layoffs and cutoffs created desperation, and desperation brought alienation. Alienation created hate. Many of us have seen it up close. It takes many forms such as: wife abuse, jealousy, divorce, estrangement, substance abuse, and all the ugly forms of chauvinism.

With a handful of friends, “Sweat” demonstrates several of the tragedies. Multiply it by millions and you’ll have America’s working class.

–Gene Lantz

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

We’re forced today to battle to hang on to what little we have. But it’s good to keep in mind what we actually want.


For example, we are trying to keep the bosses from shipping our jobs overseas. Mr Trump says he will help us. We say we want to keep those jobs, but is that really our ultimate goal?

In a Better World, We Don’t Want Jobs

What we actually want is wages, not jobs. We get fooled on that when politicians announce that they have brought in a certain number of jobs after giving away millions in tax abatements and other concessions to this or that corporation. The jobs, if they ever materialize at all, often turn out to pay very little. Texas is a great example of this. Texas politicians claim that they brought in more jobs than any other state, but they hide the fact that they also have more minimum wage jobs than any other state.

Texas and the rest of the South had full employment up to 1860. Everybody who wanted a job had one. Lots of people who didn’t want a job still had one. Slaves didn’t make any wages, but they by Golly had full employment!

It isn’t jobs we want.

If all our gains in productivity (wealth produced per worker per hour) went to shortening our working hours, out jobs would only last about two hours a day, 5 days a week. As the wealth produced would still be the same, we could enjoy the same wages that we made with the old-time long hours.

In a Better World, We Don’t Want Obama Care

Right this minute, the fight is on to try to save the Affordable Care act. But is it really what we want? Wouldn’t we really rather have free health care as a right — so we could have great public health services and medical experts consulting with us to keep our health at the peak?

In a Better World, We Don’t Want Electoral Reform

The Republicans have severely battered the democratic system, and they are probably going to try to do a whole lot more damage before the Mid-Term elections. We have to fight to stop voter suppression, the flood of money into elections, and the outright falsehoods perpetrated against us in election campaigns. But what would we like to have?

Now that almost everyone in America has access to a telephone or a computer, why shouldn’t we do away with representational democracy altogether and begin direct democracy? It would be a lot easier and cheaper than the present system, not to mention being far more fair. Why not have a national discussion over, for example, the federal budget, and then take a day or two for everybody to register their vote electronically? Computers could count the vote and let us know the outcome right away!

We could say similar things about free education, ending chauvinism, the right to emigrate, ending wars, child care, military expenditures, etc. There are better ways to do things than the options we are presently being offered.

A Better World Is Attainable

Shorter working hours, free health care, and direct democracy may sound like science fiction. It’s probably true that they wouldn’t have worked as well in the past as they could work now, and they would certainly work better in the future than they would work now, but they could work now!

The system that we live under doesn’t adapt to the possibilities of improvements for its constituents. Mostly, it only adapts to the possibilities of improvements for a tiny few rich people, and those rich people do the best they can to hold everybody else back.

But we could have a better world for everyone. Having a clear idea of what we want is Part One of developing a strategy to get it.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on and 89.3 FM radio every Saturday at 9 CST. If you are curious about what I really think, click here.



The official report says only 38,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in May. Economists say 200,000/month are needed. At the same time, the unemployment rate dropped because so many unemployed people answered “no” when they were asked if they were looking for a job. They call that “dropping out of the labor force.” The participation rate has been really low since 2008.

If they counted the people too discouraged to look for a job and the millions of people forced against their will to hold part-time jobs, the unemployment rate would be 10-11% and it would make a lot more sense.

Shorten the working hours

The obvious solution to the ravages of unemployment is to shorten working hours. One could write an entire history of the United States just on the issue of the fight to decrease the hours of work. The fight reached its zenith with the worldwide political strike of May 1, 1886, which focused on Chicago. They hanged the leaders of the 8 hour day movement.

Unions in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) demanded lower working hours throughout their history. “30 for 40 with no cut in pay” was their demand, and they kept it up until they disappeared into the AFL-CIO in 1955. Since then, unions have asked for more wages and more benefits, but not for shorter hours. I don’t know why.

Our big partial victory was the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandated that employers pay time-and-a-half when hourly workers put in more than 40 hours in a week. They have been fighting over that act since then. The current battle is because President Obama wants more workers to qualify for overtime pay, and the bosses, of course, don’t. They’d like to hang the President, too.

–Gene Lantz