Democracy In The Workplace

I give credit where credit is due. This article is inspired by Dr Richard Wolff, who runs the YT channel, “Democracy At Work”. If you do not follow Dr Wolff, you really should. Dr Wolff is a highly experienced professor and explains several things in this video, which you may want to watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOqqRD1t47Y

That said, no, this article is not a review of that video. I prefer making my own statements but give credit to my inspirations, be it a conversation with my girlfriend or a more known source like Dr Wolff.

Americans like to think we have democracy. Yet at work, we surrender to hierarchic structures where we simply follow dictates handed down by business and corporate demands. Those demands consistently benefit the business and corporate entities far more than it benefits the workers.

We are told by employers to refrain from discussing politics at work. The rationale promoted being that it causes stress and division. That statement is demonstrably false.

The slave mind. I do agree that some people take things personally which they should not. Why? Because our society has been (as I have written about extensively) indoctrinated into a slave culture mindset addicted to entertainment and chained to celebrity over substance.

The slave mind is promoted by two factions- the slave owners/masters and the slaves too fearful to oppose the owners/masters. The latter will adamantly and even violently defend their own slavery. These are the workers who are “brown nosers”, the ones least trusted by coworkers because what you say in their presence will make it up the chain, even if your words were completely benign. These are people that have an innate need to be led, that need an authority figure to dictate to them. These are people who will remain in an abusive relationship or environment or even thrive on it. They are motivated by instilling fear, division and drama or literal addiction to the same things and their own submission.

Indoctrination. This subservient mindset is embedded in our consciousness from childhood via religion and public education. By the time we enter the workplace, we are fully surrendered to faithfully defend the slave masters, to think that our labor, our thoughts, our very existence should be dedicated to the well-being of our employers, elected officials, judicial system and military worship, even when it is contradictory to our own best interests and that of the economy, society, the environment and the planet at large.

Democratic work space. Have you ever worked in a workplace where laborers have open communication and are allowed to voice ideas for improvement which are taken seriously? I have on several occasions. What happened was that there was greater cohesion, greater productivity, more efficiency, less theft and better morale. People felt like their ideas were heard, even if voted down by a democratic majority or rejected for practical reasons. They felt like they contributed. They felt rightly that they were cared about by their own coworkers.

Democratic leadership. In this environment, fostered by leaders who promoted it, I was able to criticize that leader (usually privately). It did result in some pretty strong arguments yet, in the end, we respected each other. There were no repercussions. I was not written up, did not have my income reduced, was not terminated. I respected them more because I was able to voice my opinions and thoughts, even when they ran contrary to instructions from above or the most popular view. They respected me because they knew they could trust me.

Hurt feelings. Think employers worry about your hurt feelings when they tell you that your family comes second to the job? That your cost of benefits are increasing? That your hours are being cut? That someone less qualified (but more subservient) is being promoted or even hired in over you or given a position you applied for? It’s not feelings that matter. Have you ever noticed that cohesion and motivation have been replaced by “professionalism” and productivity? In other words, shut up, follow orders, get along with fellow slaves and do your job or suffer the consequences. Sound familiar? How do feelings count in that environment?

Recent changes. Can anyone recall not so long ago when tech startups were a big thing? Many startups had environments and meetings where workers were allowed and often encouraged to voice ideas for improvements and tactics. That attitude spread beyond tech startups into other industries as well. Companies expanded benefits and changed environments to become more inclusive. That didn’t last long. What happened was that workers began demanding more benefits, recognition and compensation for their contributions. Some claim that this led to the tech bubble bursting but that’s not true. The tech bubble burst because of numerous startups that never produced anything and never had a cohesive concept to begin with, so they never should have been funded by anyone. Many were nothing but con artists. The demand for more compensation and recognition was frowned upon by capitalist investors who bought out smaller companies. Reduction of compensation and benefits was enforced by executives who were given stock options tied to stock price. We went through years of cutting salaries and benefits to reduce costs to support profit margins as executive salaries skyrocketed and executive stock packages grew ever larger. Today, profits are completely unrelated to company profits while stock holders get richer by artificially inflating stock prices. There is no need to consider worker needs other than public image.

Long term changes. Before tech startups, we had another structure which defended our interests and where our voices were once heard. Unions.Unions brought us the 40 hour work week, overtime pay, child labor laws, worker safety regulations, worker health insurance, worker retirement accounts, workman’s compensation, unemployment insurance and a lot more. These things were achieved through communication and mass movements, strikes and protests. Yet over time since Reagan, unions have lost cohesion due to internal corruption at the top and weakened through “Right To Work” legislation pushed through by corporate bribes in the form of lobbying and campaign “donations” to elected officials.

Competition over cooperation. The modern business environment, social environment and even educational environment encourages competition. Who decides the winners? Most commonly authority figures who profit in some way by the results of a competition. Cooperation is encouraged only when it involves one team competing against another. The division is constant and cooperation which would benefit all members of all teams equally is not only discouraged but my be grounds for elimination of/from a team. School students are graded on a curve rather than as a group. Workers are pitted against coworkers, businesses are pitted against other businesses in the same industry. Singers are judged individually and not allowed to sing as a group/choir unless authorized or ordered. Seniority and productivity earn you a mass produced pin on your uniform or a computer generated and printed award to hang on your wall. There must always be an “other”, an opponent, an enemy that must be “beaten” so “we” can “win”.

Disclaimer: This is not making a statement against competition or striving to do better. I am making a statement against this being a mindset in a way of life that we accept as a constant. Personally, I can be brutally competitive when debating things that involve human lives. I can also be very seriously competitive in games but remain polite.

The real fear of capitalists. When workers discuss politics, it will invariably lead to economics and working conditions. Or vice versa. This is unacceptable to capitalists. In many tech startups mentioned above, those who made major contributions at first gained a real share of benefits and wealth for their efforts and ideas. As startups eventually sold ownership to larger and larger corporate investors, those gains for individual workers slipped away gradually. Replaced by positions where improvements and ideas were expected, demanded and mandatory to earn flat salaries. Rewards were replaced with threats. Benefits became more expensive to the worker or were reduced, even eliminated. Today, if a worker offers an idea which improves efficiency, reduces cost or results in an entirely new income stream for a company resulting in billions in profits, the worker may get a small bonus instead of a share of the profits. Or simply a letter of recognition.

No more divide and conquer. As should be obvious through all of this, the entire goal is to keep us divided. As long as we remain divided, we can be controlled. Break up unions, split the workforce, make us compete like performing animals, tell us that the most subservient will be rewarded, follow orders, watch one another and report disobedience, accept the roles assigned no matter how demeaning or below our capacity and capability, accept the workload no matter how crushing, ask no questions, make no demands, struggle to survive so the rich and corporations survive and profit. As long as we remain divided, we surrender our own power as a group, a workforce, a community, a society. We hand our power over too willingly and lock our own shackles.

We can do better. If we want things to improve, we have only one choice. To unify. That means communicating with each other. Yes, it may at times be uncomfortable but eventually we gain more respect for each other. Can all of us agree on everything? No. However, we can gain consensus. In other words, democracy in the workplace. Which leads to democracy in ever-growing concentric circles to community, city, state, nation and world.

THAT absolutely terrifies capitalists.

The only other choice is surrendering to the oligarchy and perpetuating our own subservience where more chains will continue to be added as time goes on until we can no longer carry the weight. In the long run, if we communicate, even on the issues we disagree on, then when conditions improve, we gain more respect and caring for each other. It’s called being a society. Which is the root word of Socialism. Remember that.

Break the rules. Turn to your coworkers and start talking about real issues. Today. Don’t wait any longer.

The Case For Federally Funded Elections

Many people realize that one of the biggest problems we have with our electoral and legislative systems in this country are based in corporate control of our government. Many have focused on Citizens United in the belief that rescinding CU would solve this problem. However, this is not true. We had corporate money in politics and elections long before CU came along. Rescinding CU would be nothing but a symbolic measure which had no actual effect whatsoever.

Let’s begin with election campaigns. The majority of election campaigns are mostly funded by corporate and rich donors. Those donors don’t fund campaigns out of the goodness of their hearts or dedication to democracy. They fully expect to gain from those “donations” in the form of legislation favorable to them. Which they typically get.

The only real way that we can solve this issue is by federally funded elections. It would be more difficult to eliminate PACs, since SCOTUS ruled decades ago that corporate speech is free speech. That’s difficult to argue against without impacting other forms of free speech. However, by eliminating all direct donations to campaigns, we could have the potential to move the goalposts in our favor and reduce the so-called “debt” any candidate has to their “donors”.

Before I even launch into the advantages of federally funded elections, let me address the most common objection to it. That we would have to pay for it. The fact is, you already pay for election campaigns and lobbying. You pay for it with every consumer dollar you spend. With profits corporations make and turn around to “donate”. With low wages from employers so they can reserve their funds for lobbying. With subsidies handed to corporations which cost you, the consumer and taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars a year. You pay with military contracts paid by a “defense” budget which increases tens of billions of dollars every single year. That money gets spent on campaign donations, lobbying and advertising. When Boeing, Raytheon and other DoD contractors advertise on corporate media, that is your tax money they are spending to do so. Now, don’t you feel secure and safe?

One advantage to federally funded elections would be that we could very well include equal funding for not the top two parties but the top four parties. I’ve said on many occasions that one option is a mandate, two options are an ultimatum. It takes at least three options to be a choice.

Another advantage to federally funded elections would be that a candidate would not have to be rich to be a candidate. The majority of congressional representatives are millionaires or billionaires. There are several reasons for this. One is that the rich tend to have more direct connections to other rich people, which gives them an advantage when seeking funding for their campaigns. The other is that it costs money to take time off from work to campaign. That may still remain true, unless we included basic living salaries for candidates, at least once they gained the nomination for their parties. At that point they would no longer be beholden to anyone but the American people they are seeking to represent.

One more advantage would be freeing time up for elected officials to actually do their jobs. Members of Congress have been documented to spend half of every single work day making calls to “donors”. They often start raising money for their next campaign as soon as they assume office or win an election. Thus, they are calling and asking for money from corporate and rich entities while in office, during the very hours they are supposed to be legislating and attending to their official duties associated with their office. It doesn’t even matter if they do favors for their donors, they are already spending 50% of their time not doing what they were elected to do!

Of course, campaign funding reform would only be the beginning but a very important one. To have a truly representative government, reform would have to include other measures.

Some have proposed measures which limit elected officials from acting as lobbyists for a specific time frame after leaving office. My own proposal goes much further. Make corporate lobbying a criminal offense subject to mandatory prison time for both lobbyist and lobbied official. The most recent estimate I heard states that there are 8 lobbyists in DC for every member of Congress.

A Duke University study several years ago found that if 100% of the American public supported specific legislation, that had absolutely NO affect on the legislation passing. However, if corporate/rich donors supported legislation, the chances of that specific legislation passing were 60%, even if the public was 100% opposed to that legislation.

In this particular case, the most powerful would of course claim that making lobbying illegal would be an infringement of their freedom of speech. That’s not true at all. They would still have their freedom of speech. They would just not have ready access to elected officials whom the general public has no access to on an equal basis. It is the direct access to elected officials whom they hold in debt which needs to be considered a criminal offense.

Of course, they could always use advertising to try and sway public opinion. The majority of that advertising would be via corporate media. I’ve told people for years to turn off corporate media. Stop letting corporations think for you.

Though the best option would be allowing them their voice. As long as it is in a public venue, announced in advance with the general public allowed to attend and speak for or against any legislation proposed. Then we would have complete transparency of any lobbying taking place.

Whether by advertising or in public venues, that would completely eliminate any claims by corporations and the rich that their freedom of speech had been impacted. They would have freedom of speech but it would have to be in full public view, not behind closed doors, not using bank accounts. The general public would also have our freedom of speech. With our wallets. If we object to certain legislation, we vocalize it. If our voices are not heard, we boycott. It’s just that simple. Money speaks louder than words (or even human lives) to capitalists.

Now, if you disagree, feel free to say so but include what suggestions you have which you think are better. Dissent without an alternative is worth nothing. It’s all about solutions.

You Don’t Get A Participation Award

America today is the land of the participation award. Or so many Americans think.

Love Trump/Bernie/Warren/Biden? Hate one or all? Hooray for you. Donate $5 to a campaign? Yeah, that’ll show those corporations. Wear a pink pussy hat on a march that has no defining issue? Great. Vote based on gender? Yeah, that’s what we need. Posting disparaging memes 80 times a day? Yeah, that’s politically educational and informative. Not to mention so unifying!

I’ve said many times and repeat it here that all names are cults. Of course, most people want to be in cults of some kind. It’s not a matter of supporting policies or issues. It’s a matter of branding, nothing more. What do you call yourself? Democrat? Republican? Liberal? Tea Partier?

The one place I do draw a distinction is with the majority of Progressives. Progressives are the most informed voters and citizens. The whole point of being a real Progressive is paying attention to policies. Of course, some people call themselves Progressive yet are willing to ignore specific issues, no matter the danger but think they deserve the Progressive label. In favor of universal healthcare, so call yourself a Progressive? Yeah, let’s not talk about the risk of war with Russia. Hint: Many Republican voters support universal healthcare. Participation award denied.

Look, in 2016 most of us made it clear we wanted changes in our political landscape. That was the whole point of Bernie, Jill, Johnson and even Trump. We are still pushing for change.

Hillary was the exception, promising “more of the same”. Yet ultimately nearly every one of her followers had no idea what her policies were. To the point that I asked them directly and they could not answer. Even today I occasionally encounter one and ask what policies of hers they supported and they cannot answer. Just try and change the subject. “I’m not Trump” is not a policy. Once you establish that, they are lost.

Of course, the change we got is not what most Trump supporters expected. Most are still trying to convince themselves he is playing some 85-D chess game but it’s beginning to sink in slowly that this is not the case.

If we really want change, we have to embrace that change and all that it means. We cannot demand our government do better for us while objecting to government involvement in our lives. Instead, we have to be involved with our government. You know, a government of the people, by the people, for the people? Remember that? You don’t get that kind of government without youbeing involved in it.

Being involved means being informed. It means having difficult discussions which do not happen by censoring some voices or rejecting ideas because you don’t like certain words like Socialism.

Change means we have to let go of some of our fears. Such as ending wars and reducing military spending means we have to accept that we are under no threat. Because we’re not under any threat. Not from outside, any way. It means we have to change our electoral system, which ideally would mean all elections federally funded to eliminate corporate money in our elections. It will mean ranked choice voting.

I understand, change is stressful, even positive change. However, we cannot demand change and then oppose change because we are afraid of it. We cannot demand change without being a part of that change. It’s the same as paying off bills. You don’t pay off bills without either working more hours, meaning less time to relax or cutting back on expenses, meaning you may do without luxuries for a while. We have to decide that long term change is worth some trade.

For us to enact realistic change means we will have to let go of labels and reach across aisles. It means we have to be willing to talk with people we may not always agree with. That can be difficult but has to happen. We cannot always wait for them to come to us. How many times have you changed your mind when you opposed an idea at first?

In true democracy, there are no participation awards. We don’t get the society or system of government we want by just showing up wearing a red hat, a pink hat or a sticker. It takes more than that. It takes information ,education, discussion, protest, phone calls, emails, letters, stress and personal change. Democracy is not “set it and forget it”. It means staying involved. It’s not something we do once every 4 years. If you are not willing to do that, then you have to accept the fact that people with other ideas arewilling to do it. If they are involved and you are not, you probably won’t like the results.

Government Of The People

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people..”

These words of Lincoln should stand tall and strong in the minds of Americans. Unfortunately, that is not true. Some will say any longer but I’m not sure just how much they ever truly sank in to the American consciousness.

Those words indicate that we, the people of this country are the true rulers of our own country. Yet too many in this country make reference to “our leader/s” when referring to elected officials. Elected officials are not our “leaders”. They are our employees. In voting, we hire them. If we are collectively unhappy with their job performance, the next election and sometimes even before that, we can fire them via recall elections or impeachment. Elections are really little more than performance reviews in which we determine as a group whether elected officials job performance merits their continued employment.

Consider the job title for them. Representatives. Not manager, not dictator, not supervisor. Representatives. Meaning they are supposed to be there to vocalize and act on what is best for our interests. Not the interests of their biggest donors. It is exceedingly rare that it works that way. This is what should be the part of Lincoln’s statement, “For the People”.

Merriam-Webster defines a congress as “a formal meeting of delegates for discussion and usually action on some question”. Discussion. Not argument. Meaning multiple sides should be represented in a rational manner. I typically refer to our legislative body as CONgress because too many members consider “con” to be the operative part of that word. The literal definition of the word from Latin means, “To act together”.

What amazes me is the fact that so many Americans believe elected officials are educated or endowed with some special knowledge or power. There is no special education, no specific qualifications to hold any office in our government. Any citizen of this country can run for elected office. If there were any special education necessary to hold office, that education should be not only available to all citizens but mandatory in basic education. Yet it has been decades since even Civics was required in our school system. Public understanding of the workings of our government being so illiterate at this point is a clear indication that we need to bring that part of our education back. However, civic ignorance was literally the goal when that class was removed from the national syllabus. So it is up to us to educate ourselves and one another on this subject. Happily, there has been a resurgence of interest in the subject for some.

Of the People.” As I stated, there is no special education, knowledge or power to hold office. Yet we elect people to office and then allow them to use powers and terms such as “executive privilege”, “classified” and “privileged information” to hold over us on a continual basis. This is absolutely wrong. In a government of the people, no such special privileges should exist. Elected officials are accountable to us. They should not have any right to refuse to answer any question which does not place human life in eminent danger.We, the people of this country should have access to most of the information generated by our government and especially elected officials. We should have the right and ability to check on what is allegedly being done “on our behalf” at any time. FOIA requests should not incur formidable costs for the press, leading to weighted access to only the most wealthy press sources, which are typically corporate. Any independent media should be able to file information requests and receive answers. That information has already been compiled under our own expense.

By the People.” Many elected officials refuse to hold town hall meetings. Even if they do, they are more likely to tell voters we are wrong, even with overwhelming support on a topic. Call them and you get automated systems or flunkies reading a script. Email or write and you may get a form letter in the mail or email in response, often not even addressing that specific topic. Try social media and you may get blocked.We have seen time and again other countries conducting public referendums on various major issues. We live in a time when we can access bank records securely online, we have block chain technology, a continuous push for voter ID and a national ID card. Yet we have no national referendum on anything. There is no valid reason that we, “the most powerful country on earth” cannot implement methods whereby each of our voices are heard. A system which recorded each individual’s choice on any issue could be recorded and identity verified. The problem is, if such a system were implemented, we would have concrete public records when officials went directly against the popular will and instead acted in favor of corporate donors.

Of course, the biggest problem with having a government of, by and for the people is the personal responsibility involved. It would mean we had duty and responsibility to be informed, a commitment to be involved citizens. Many Americans do not want that. They want “leaders”, without truly paying attention to where they are being led. They want to vote once every 2–4 years, hand power and control to their anointed cult leader and then passively-aggressively complain when things become worse. Find someone else to blame. Yet they will praise themselves excessively when anything improves, cheering how “we” had anything to do with it. Even though they exerted no additional effort than submitting a ballot. If they even did that.

If we want the way our government operates to change and be more reflective of our collective will, more responsive to what the people want, then we mustdo something to make it that way.

I’ve said numerous times, we have no heroes. We are our own heroes. It’s time for us to act like it. No more blame. No more excuses. No more whining.