Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Capitalism, A Love Story

I watched “Capitalism, a Love Story”, the excellent Michael Moore film the other day.

Moore talked about the plight of inner-city areas such as Detroit and Chicago, and how greedy corporations shut down factories, and put hundreds and thousands of people out of work, in order to increase their profits and pay higher salaries to their senior executives.

He contrasted this with a bakery in which every worker had an equal vote in decisions made by the company. Moore termed this “democracy”. Yet, I would argue, this is another form of capitalism, one without corporate greed. It’s still about running a business for a profit – and what’s wrong with that?

In this bakery, workers on the assembly line earn £60,000 a year. I want to work there myself. I could bake some bread.

What Moore does not reveal in the film is whether his own production company operates along similar lines.

To read more about the demise of Detroit, click here for Celebrating the Legend that is Motown.

Republic Windows and Doors

Workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago staged a sit-in. They refused to leave the premises after being laid off.

They had been fired without notice, denied vacation and severance pay, and had their medical benefits cut off. They refused to leave until they were paid what they were owed.

Their spokesperson stated that he realised some bad business decisions had been made but, as he said, “We don’t make business decisions. We make windows and doors”. He reasoned that the Bank of America, which financed the company, had been given bail-out money, so why shouldn’t the bank give some of the money to the workers?

Bishop James Wolkowski, son of a Chicago steel-worker, visited them. He told them that they were teaching people that it is jut to challenge what is unfair. He had seen at first hand what happened when the steel works closed down, and the effect this had had on local families and communities.

Click here to read about President Obama’s support for the strikers

After six days, the bank and the company agreed to all of the workers’ demands.

Moore’s grandstanding is always entertaining to watch. In this film, he makes several attempts to arrest senior executives at investment banks for their corporate crimes. Failing at this, he surrounds the buildings with police crime- scene tape.

One shocking element the film reveals is the practice of taking out “dead peasants’ insurance”, whereby corporations become beneficiaries of their workers’ life insurance policies. In other words, the company profits from the deaths of its workers.

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