Whammy Number One: a bill allowing multi-employer pension funds to unilaterally cut the benefits of 1.5 million retirees was sneakily tucked into the Cromnibus Bill. This legislation, co-sponsored by a "liberal" Democrat and a Republican, paves the way for the immediate evisceration, at employer will, of the benefits of 1.5 million current retirees and tens of millions of future pensioners. These workers will not even be allowed to sue. It's a done deal.
Whammy Number Two: In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Amazon warehouse temps don't deserve to be paid for the roughly half-hour per working day that they are forced to remain on the premises to undergo anti-theft body searches. The Obama administration fought hard for Scrooge, and Scrooge won. Besides being anti-labor, this odious ruling also falls neatly into the "pre-crime" rationale for the Surveillance State spying on American citizens. Not only are you presumed guilty for merely trying to live, but the highest court has effectively criminalized labor itself. The unanimous ruling has essentially paved the way for the workplace to become a jail, the boss to become the warden, and for the establishment to create a new tier of work: that of virtual enslavement. The ruling is mission-creep, plutocracy-style.
The pension plan-gutting (Whammy #1) is a double-whammy in and of itself, because the precarious worker-funded retirement plans now on the chopping block were made that way by the very Wall Street malfeasance which is again being handsomely rewarded and encouraged by the Obama White House and both parties in Congress. As David Sirota writes in the International Business Times, this measure in the Cromnibus amounts to "the most consequential change to retirement policy in the United States since the passage of landmark pension legislation 40 years ago. Altering the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act to permit benefit cuts could prompt a slew of efforts to chip away at formerly untouchable guarantees of income to millions of retirees."
Lawmakers pushing to allow benefit cuts are citing the example of the $18.7 billion Teamsters' Central States Fund, which has 410,000 members and is the nation’s second-largest multiemployer pension plan. There’s an estimated $22 billion gap between assets in the Central States Fund and promised benefits to the system’s current and future retirees -- a shortfall that legislators point to as a rationale to pass a new law permitting multiemployer plans to slash promised retirement benefits.
“We have to do something to allow these plans to make the corrections and adjustments they need to keep these plans viable,” said Democratic Rep. George Miller in pushing the plan.
But critics of the provisions say the plight of the Central States Fund is not a cautionary tale about unsustainable benefits but an example of Wall Street mismanagement. They note that Central States is the only major private pension fund where all the discretionary investment decisions are made by financial firms rather than by the fund’s board. Roughly a third of the pension system’s shortfalls -- or almost $9 billion -- can be traced to investment losses accrued during the financial industry’s 2008 collapse. Those losses were in addition to more than $250 million in fees paid by the plan to financial firms in just the last 5 years.
The pension funds controlled by Goldman Sachs alone lost more than a third of their value in the 2008 meltdown. Had this criminal banking cartel behaved itself and not gambled with union money, the funds would now be flush with cash and earning enough interest to keep the workers who paid into them in relatively comfortable retirements. Not only are the banks not being forced pay compensation to their victims, they continue to make obscene profits. CEO Lloyd Blankfein roams free, stuffing his own pockets as well as those of his political enablers in Congress and the White House.Many pension funds followed strategies that involved high fees for Wall Street companies while producing “financial returns that trailed plain vanilla investment strategies,” said Jay Youngdahl, a fellow with the Initiative for Responsible Investment at Harvard University. Central States appears to be a prime example, he said. “Before cutting benefits, we need to examine what exactly has happened.”
Now we come to Whammy #2 -- the plight of the low-wage warehouse workers, who don't even have a pension fund that Wall Street can loot. Therefore, the masters of the universe are doing the next best thing: they're robbing employees of their time and their dignity.
The workers are not even employed directly by Amazon, but by the ironically-named Integrity Staffing Solutions. The case gives a whole new meaning to the word "Temp" and "workplace" (plantation). It also gives a whole new meaning to the argument that we have to elect a Democrat to save the Supreme Court from right-wing hacks. A Democratic administration actually urged its own black-robed appointees to screw the workers in this case.
And boy, did they ever oblige -- unanimously. The Court ruled that because the body searches have nothing to do with actual work, they are not compensable. Being held against one's will does not contribute to the bottom line of the employer, so all's fair in profit and oppression. From David Hensel's blog:
In an Amazon warehouse in Las Vegas, NV, workers for the temp agency Integrity Staffing Solutions have to go through a security screening at the end of each day for which workers are not paid. The process is meant to prevent theft by workers. Workers say waiting for the screening can take 25 minutes. Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, two of these workers, sued the temp agency for the pay they were denied. The question asked is whether the security screening (and thus waiting for it) is an integral part of the principle activities for workers – should they be paid for the time spent in them?
The Court’s decision focused on what “integral and indispensable” work would be: it has to be absolutely central to why the workers were hired in the first place and a key part of completing that job.
In her concurring opinion reversing a lower court ruling, "liberal" Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the forced security screenings were simply part of the exiting procedure, comparable to showering or waiting in line for a paycheck, and therefore not part of official work duties for which the plaintiffs were hired. Being criminalized by one's boss falls outside the category of labor and therefore can't be paid."An activity is therefore integral and indispensable to the principal activities that an employee is employed to perform if it is an intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities."
Wall Street crime pays.
Worker criminalization does not.
In other words, Kafka has infiltrated the Supreme Court to allow a cheapskate version of Orwell's Big Brother to infiltrate the American workplace.
|(Illustrations courtesy of Kafka; Precariat courtesy of the American Plutocracy)|
The working class has been transformed into a post-2008 sub-underclass called the Precariat: officially defined as being only a meager paycheck or retirement benefit away from outright destitution. Even people lucky enough to have jobs are never allowed to forget that there are plenty more people waiting outside, willing to be searched, suspected, and oppressed for even lower wages and fewer benefits. It's how the plutocracy's Divide and Conquer agenda works.