While it is now only just over a year since the Occupy Wall Street movement began to draw attention to the wide and growing gulf between the 1% and the 99%, many have been quick to dismiss its staying power. After all, it was pointed out from the very beginning that the Occupy movement really did not have much to offer in terms of concrete policy proposals. Asked by the Wall Street Journal last October about his views on OWS, Martin Feldstein, the prominent Harvard economist, could only say: “I can’t figure out what that’s all about…I haven’t seen what they’re asking for.”
But the vagueness OWS projects in terms of its policy proposals is hardly a basis for dismissing its significance.
President Barack Obama had it right Monday when he told the people of Michigan that so-called right-to-work legislation is about politics, not jobs.
Such legislation, now in place in 23 U.S. states, undermines union finances by giving members the right to withhold dues, even though they continue to enjoy the rights and benefits of a union contract.
These laws are pretty effective in undermining unions. The unionization rate in right-to-work, or RTW, states averages just 7.6 per cent, compared to 18.6 per cent in the non-RTW states.
But independent research shows that jobs, even in manufacturing, do not flow to states that pass anti-union laws.
Governments at all levels in Canada have embarked on an austerity agenda that includes reducing public sector employment and efforts to privatize public services. This policy direction will slow economic growth, harm the quality of public services, and the loss of services will have a larger impact on low-income Canadians than higher income Canadians. Along with these other impacts, this austerity agenda will increase income inequality.