After Amazon Workers Union Victory, Fed Must Stop Tipping the Scales in Favor of Bosses | Robert Reich

On Friday, Amazon – America’s richest, most powerful and most ferocious anti-union corporation, with the nation’s second-largest workforce (the largest, anti-union Walmart), lost to a group of warehouse workers in New York who voted to form a union.

If anyone had any doubts about Amazon’s determination to prevent this from happening, its scorched-earth anti-union campaign last fall at its Bessemer, Alabama warehouse should have dispelled those doubts.

In New York, Amazon used all the tools it had used in Alabama. Many of them are illegal under the National Labor Relations Act, but Amazon couldn’t care less. He’s rich enough to pay any fine or take any public relations hit.

The company has repeatedly fired workers who report unsafe working conditions or even suggest that workers need a voice.

As its corporate coffers overflow with profits, and its founder and CEO engage in conspicuous consumption on a scale not seen since the robber barons of the late 19th century, Amazon has become the poster child for 21st-century corporate capitalism gone mad.

Much of the credit for Friday’s win over Amazon goes to Christian Smalls, who was fired by Amazon in the spring of 2020 for speaking out about the company’s failure to protect its warehouse workers from Covid. Smalls refused to back down. He went back and organized a union, with extraordinary skill and tenacity.

Smalls had something else going for him, which brings me to Friday’s excellent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report showed that the economy continues to roar back to life from the Covid recession.

With growing consumer demand, employers are desperate to hire. This has given American workers more bargaining power than they have had in decades. Salaries have risen 5.6% in the last year.

The sharp demand for workers has bolstered workers’ courage to demand better wages and working conditions from even America’s most virulent anti-union corporations like Amazon and Starbucks.

Is this something to worry about? Not at all. American workers haven’t had much of a gain in more than four decades. Most of the economy’s gains have gone to the top.

Furthermore, inflation is so high that even a 5.6% wage increase over the last year is minimal in terms of real purchasing power.

But American companies believe that these wage gains are contributing to inflation. like the new york times solemnly reported, wage gains “could heat up price increases.”

This is pure rubbish. Unfortunately, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell thinks so. He concerns that “the labor market is extremely tight” and “a unhealthy level”.

As a result, the Fed is on track to repeatedly raise interest rates to slow the economy and reduce the bargaining power of American workers.

Pause here to consider this: The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that corporate profits are at their highest point in 70 years. You have read well. Not since 1952 have corporations been as successful as they are now.

Amazon’s profits are in the stratosphere, but it’s not just Amazon. In general, American corporations are flush with cash.

Although they are paying higher costs (including higher salaries), they have managed to increase their profits. How? They have enough pricing power to pass on those higher costs to consumers and even add a few more for themselves.

When corporate America is flush with money like this, why salary profits heat up price increases, as the Times reports? In a healthy economy, corporations would not pass on higher costs, including higher wages, to their consumers. They would be paying the highest wages from their earnings.

But that is not happening. Corporations are using their record profits to buy back huge amounts of their own shares to keep their share prices high.

The labor market is not “unhealthily” tight, as Jerome Powell claims; corporations are sickly fat. The workers don’t have much power; corporations do.

The extraordinary victory of Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island is cause for celebration. Hopefully it will mark the beginning of a renewal of worker power in America.

The reality, however, is that corporate America does not want to give up any of its record profits to its workers. If he can’t fight the unions directly, he will do so indirectly by blaming inflation on wage increases, and then he will root for the Federal Reserve while slowing the economy enough to remove the new bargaining leverage of American workers.

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