early TVA job applicants

Future Hinge: The Workplace Now

The beauty queen favors world peace. Go ahead. Laugh. To those in the real world, that seems funny, doesn’t it? But people in the real world engage in sophistry every day and call it being serious.

We kid ourselves into thinking that going for the main chance means concentrating on politics, mistakenly believing that’s where the action is or even that getting public policy right means everything else will follow properly in its wake. We’re not paying attention.

Rich people overwhelmingly identify economic manipulation as their primary goal. They have the money and influence to prove their point, wanting politics only to maintain their position and expand the edges of their economic dominance. What do they care if a This or a That wins an office when they maintain real control of the economic levers? And they certainly don’t give a hoot who marries who or crosses the border or has an abortion.

The only thing that concerns the economic elite is maintaining a lock on financial control. They have the overwhelming majority so distracted by political and social issues that they are able to monopolize financial power. They think they’re made in the shade while politicals and socials battle it out for king of the impotent. But they’ve become distracted, too, and overlook an emerging development that can, in less than a generation, turn their world upside down just as it is now changing for workers: the changing workplace.

By seeking profit to the exclusion of value and by delegating workers to the management of HR departments, the financial elite have bought the lie that they can ignore workers by contracting cheap far away and by doffing domestic workers, hiring only their freelance labor without the strings of social contract. Public policy has encouraged the lie, its activity and the consequences, all true enough in favor of the elite — so far — and they are not yet aware of their potential for failure.

Only a handful of economic elites understand that they have gone too far, permitting the first step necessary in allowing workers to emerge as a reconstituted force. It took a long time, but workers are now fed up with being fed up. Originally, we took the bait and many of us shifted from factories to fast food, or no job at all. Others took the bait and went freelance and hungry. Many are living on their parents’ resources or their own previously accumulated and rapidly dwindling savings. The ranks of the needy and discontented will swell in the near future as the land between shining seas goes awash with the newly precariat.

As the disaffected population increases and as their tribulations mount, they are preparing to overcome the fragile structure of paper entitlements held together by nothing more than offensive spit in the face of workers. For some, that will mean unions doing what unions do. For others, it will simply be the union of many overwhelming the few in disarray. For yet others, it will mean becoming stakeholders in the mighty engine of effective work instead of being trampled upon and laughed at.

Ultimately, all three courses will join together in a mighty sweep of workplace justice that builds, not hollow mansions, but abundant lives. Therein lies the true beauty of fruitfulness. Because world peace is surely possible when workers, unafraid of each other and uncalloused by jealousy and greed, can stand together. Establishment of just and righteous universal basic income governed by workers will secure the future.

The warning for workers is that there is only a short time, a single generation at most, in which to affect the needed change. The only other choice is to continue acceptance of ever smaller portions as they become mere crumbs. Regardless of which route is taken, within a single generation, the toll of neoliberalism and artificial intelligence will require the institution of a basic income to staunch the upheaval inherent in massive unemployment and dislocation of resources.

The workplace has become the point of central importance. The object is for workers to win control of the workplace gaining dominion over their work and reaping the fruit of their labor, bringing with it the terms and conditions of an abundant future. Loss of the workplace means a return to the feudal past and a future marked by misery. In one instance, workers can influence the equitable foundation and administration of basic income, in the other, they cede their future to the greed of an economic elite hostile to justice and fairness. It is the workplace where the battle will be fought with politics and social concerns trailing.

Civil rights and labor activist Bayard Rustin understood. “It will be precisely in the degree that action takes place outside Washington that Congress will act on legislation,” he wrote. “To assume that in the absence of such pressure one can ‘trust Congressmen to vote right,’ is the height of folly and weakness.”

Now is the time to join a union or form a labor organization tailored to a specific workplace. Now is the time to expand flexible education capable of adapting to changing circumstances. Now is the time for stakeholders to assert their talent in the workplace. Now is the time for all workers to control their workplaces. Now is the time to put conditions into place that raise workers to the most favorable possible position and advance basic income plans that are advantageous.

What workers do now is the hinge that will determine which way basic income swings, toward justice and abundance or toward inadequacy and depravation. Now is the time to make that choice. Now is the time to lay the foundation for beauty, life, peace and abundance that is not mocked.

copyright © 2015 by Michael Driver

Michael Driver is author of Own Your Employment: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century Workers available on AMAZON. Follow him on Twitter: @mdMichaelDriver.