America’s auto workers and observers around the world have watched with admiration as the courageous young auto workers at Honda’s Chinese factories have in the past weeks risen up in protest against the low-wage system imposed by Honda and many employers, foreign and domestic, in China .
China is a source of immense corporate profits, but too many of China ’s frontline workers remain locked in a labor regime of low wages, speed-up and long hours. Honda forces its many “interns” and contract workers to accept sub-minimum wages, below the already low wages paid regular workers, in violation of Chinese labor law. Aware of their rights as workers and citizens, more and more Chinese workers are now demanding a fair share of the wealth being they produce, decent working conditions and humane hours and the right to voice in the workplace.
Leo W. Gerard: Stewart, you talk about power in a book you’ve written with economist Dr. Richard A. Levins. You called the manual, “Getting America Back to Work.” What’s the relationship between power and getting people back to work?
Stewart J. Acuff: A big part of the problem we have with this economy or the biggest problem is that most of the money has gone to the Financial Elite — and the power as well. To get America back to work we have to reinvest in our country and our workers. That necessarily means that the Financial Elite get less of the wealth generated by the economy and workers will get more. If you intend to take wealth from the richest people in the history of the world, you have to have enough power to do so.
Gerard: You say in the introduction that there are two kinds of power: “The first is lots of organized money. That is the kind of power the Financial Elite have used to bring the rest of us to our knees. The other source and form of power is lots of people: organized, mobilized, united, and taking action.” Do you really think that organized people can succeed in a wrangle with the financial elites?
Acuff: Absolutely! The economic history of the twentieth century is crystal clear. When unions were strong, working people had the lion’s share of income and the economy worked well. When unions were weakened, we have seen the Financial Elite take over and run the economy into the ground.