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Who Will Look After the Workers?

I’m sure there are lots of stories like this one out there:

After Layoffs, Workers Stay at a Factory in Protest – NYTimes.com

Scores of workers laid off from a factory here [Chicago] that makes windows and doors have refused to leave, deciding to stage a “peaceful occupation” of the plant around the clock this weekend as they demand pay they say is owed them.

I don’t have a good memory of my grade eight history classes when we learnt about the Great Depression, but I imagine there were stories like this from those early days. The photo below is from the trip made by unemployed men traveling from Kamloops, BC, attempting to get to Ottawa to protest at Parliament.

This isn’t likely to be the last story we hear of these passive attempts at some sort of justice from employers who just couldn’t maintain the staff levels or operate the company any longer – but who is going to look after all of these workers? In the Great Depression, the majority of workers were men, now the level of women employed means that the lost or missed income per household has the potential to be even more devastating than ever before.

I think that if things got really out of hand again, like they did in the 30’s, the federal government will respond according to it’s best interests for as long as and as much as possible – which is to provide assistance to the company and the workers. This would have the effect of continuing an apparent normality in the face of an uncertain future, essecnitally passifying the workers. If this doesn’t work, or appear to work, a poice state, even in localized areas would likely be necessary – The US is already well prepared for that eventuallity with a plan to ensure 20,000 battle ready troops to be prepared for homeland security by 2011.

All just my thoughts, but I do wonder which organizations are actually equipped to deal with cases like this across North America in the event of a further economic melt-down precipitated by Peak Oil or other catastrophe.

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Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

4 thoughts on “Who Will Look After the Workers?

  1. It could be argued the other way around – the level of women employed means that the lost or missed income per household can be minimized. If you have 2 incomes and lose one, it is potentially less of an impact on a household than if you have one income and lose it. But if each household only has one earner (female or male) of course the impact is big.
    When it comes to wages, income and expenses we unfortunately have not become more resilient because we don’t live below our means.

  2. @EJ – you are right, we live way above our means, and many people across North America are so extended with credit that a hit like this would bankrupt them. Will there be a bailout for homeowners?

  3. Why bail out homeowners? Our society needs a radical downsizing. The only large group of people I know who live within their means are those who lived through the depression. Maybe its a lesson every generation needs to learn.

  4. I don’t think Mike was suggesting that there should be a bailout for homeowners any more than there should be for car companies! Downsizing is a matter of choice, most people in North America are no where near ready to make that choice and with the amount of investment in suburbanization, it will be tough for people, and the governments that represent them, to let go.

    Just because it is a lesson that probably needs to be learnt, doesn’t make it one that will happen without a fight. Maybe there will be a bailout, but it will have about the same effect as bailing out massive financial institutions or car manufactures, just prolonging the situation.

    Great post and photo Mike.

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