American life is portrayed as a series of binary choices. Defund/Support the Police, Red/Blue States, Liberal/Conservative Agendas, Free enterprise/Socialist solutions, CNN/Fox news ad nauseum.

Reality is much different than these “keep them watching, keep them angry, keep them donating, keep them distracted” scenarios.

In its March digital edition, The Industrial Worker, the official magazine of the Industrial Workers of the World, founded in 1905, and still going strong despite every attempt by government during the Wilson years to discredit it, contained an interesting article entitled, The Value of Labor.

That article, in part, pointed out the continuing wage and income disparity that began in the 1970s which is closer to the real ills of our society. Along with it is a financial capitalism that has created immense wealth that is not being invested in the world’s economy, a disparity that “marginalizes, belittles, and dooms millions of men and women to a life of hopelessness and despair.”

Coupled with the bailout of the large corporate banks by the U.S., an act of corporate socialism, and oligarchs whose wealth is in part based on research from government funded institutions, the public is demanding answers to this very real economic crisis.

One solution proposed in The Value of Labor article was the Labor Dividend. As explained in the article:

“Wages have not satisfactorily addressed the workers’ financial interest in the product of their works.

The exertion of labor is compensated by wages, but the labor dividend, inherent in the produced product, has never been adequately compensated for nor properly addressed. In actuality, wages are in a real sense nothing more, nothing less than compensation for the exertion of a worker’s labor. The worker has earned, however, an additional compensation, a value of labor in the product itself.

If wages are the compensation in fact for the exertion of labor, there must be due the laborer an added labor dividend, which is the compensation due for the value of labor in every product produced. In this sense labor has an ownership and possessory interest in the product itself through this labor dividend.

In other words:

If W= compensation for the exertion of labor

and LD= compensation for the value of labor in every product produced

then the formula that can be inferred is:

W+LD= Y of the individual laborer for work preformed. The definition of wages, property, possession, ownership, and control must be readjusted to include the Labor Dividend in every product produced. The Labor Dividend should be clearly reflected in every collective bargaining agreement.

Our definitions of property and possession and indeed control over production must be re-adjusted to include the Labor Dividend in every product produced.

The right to Wages earned, has been protected by state and in some instances federal law. The definition of wages must be necessarily broadened to include the labor dividend.

In the case of what constitutes “ownership” and “property” and the premises, assumptions and laws that follow therefrom we have reached a point where those understandings and those definitions no longer justify nor bring about a fair and equitable result, to the degree that they ever did. We must recognize a new understanding of possession and ownership, by the redefining of wages and means of the establishment of an Industrial Workers Constructive Trust or expanded statutory wage remedy to recognize and protect the Labor dividend.

It is up to the people and their collective representatives to insist on the inclusion of the Labor Dividend. It is time for an awakening amongst all the people that economic remedy is in their grasp. People are on the move to end racism and redefine policing policies, and economic reform along democratic principles must surely follow.

Despite their immense power and wealth, ironically, it is that immense accumulation of the unproductive wealth of the powerful oligarchs and multi-national corporations that embody them which are rendering these financial capitalists antiquated and therefore under the scrutiny of mankind because of their utter irrelevance in engendering positive economic distribution to the many.

They are very relevant in the services they provide, but over-all the accumulation of wealth they obtain does more harm to people than the services received by them. They and their financial allies have been favored for far too long.

As Professor Yannis Varoufakis and others have pointed out, much of the recent oligarchies, technology has in large measure been the fruits of government and government-sponsored research. To the degree that public investment has been utilized, the public is entitled to a return on that investment. The time for change is upon us.

Labor Day is not simply a long weekend, but a reminder in this time of reexamination of the roles of policing and the greater good, just how much life unfortunately repeats itself. The Red or Crimson banner stood proudly for the rights of working men and women. Theodore Roosevelts Progressive Party for example proudly displayed the red flag. It was not as it became later through a whitewashing of history, a code word for Communism.

On September 5, 1882 the first Labor Day was held in New York. On May 1, 1886 the first May Day strike in support of an eight-hour workday was held in Chicago. Two days later six workers on strike at the McCormick Reaper Works were killed by the police. On May 4 th a rally was held that was quite peaceful at first. One of the speakers, Albert Parsons, who had fought for the Confederate States in Texas, after the war became a Republican and supported reconstruction efforts to provide equity for the freed slaves. He and his wife Lucy Parsons moved to Chicago to work for the rights of all workers and their families. He spoke at the rally and left with his wife. Shortly after, a bomb went off, policemen were killed and many other workers and police were injured. Unfortunately, we know this event today as the ‘Haymarket Riot’. Ironically, a police memorial statue stands today, in remembrance of the seven policemen killed from the bomb.

Although he was not there, nevertheless he was tried in Chicago with others and sentenced to death.

Let us look squarely at the serious economic discrepancy that is the real issue of our day.

As Churchill said, “…we ought to rejoice at the responsibilities with which destiny has honored us, and be proud that we are guardians of our country in an age when her life is at stake.”

President Eisenhower in his farewell address not only warned of the dangers of the Military-Industrial Complex but the danger that Democracy itself may become the bankrupt phantom of tomorrow.

The article asks of us: Did we leave behind a new understanding of property and possessions, and that every product produced contains a labor dividend to which a worker is entitled?

When one industry was displaced to another nation or region “to keep labor costs” down did we provide for those displaced workers compensation in an amount equal to the value of labor in the displaced product as if it were made here?

Did our new understanding cause definitions of property and possessions to be altered reflected in law in order that the law provide a true spirit of equity?

Did we leave behind a new understanding of property and possessions recognizing the worth of every man and woman?

Did we build a new world based on love, justice and understanding or simply replace the domination of one people by another so ingrained in us is the desire to possess and control?”

As we ponder the present, let us think about the challenges that face us in a new way. For me, I am reminded of the famous slogan of the National Urban League, “You are either part of the solution, or you are a part of the problem”. Let us be part of the solution. Let us remember “the Value of Labor” because every Laborer has value”, and contemplate the last words of Albert Parsons:

“To other hands are now committed that task which was mine, in the work and duty, as editor of this paper. Though fallen, wounded perhaps unto death, in the battle for liberty, the standard, the press, which my hands bore aloft in the midst of the struggle is caught up by other hands, and will be again and again, if needs, till the crimson banner waves in triumph over the enemies of peace, brotherhood and happiness…”

“And now to all I say: Falter not, lay bare the inequalities of capitalism; expose the slavery of the law; proclaim the tyranny of government; denounce the greed, cruelty, abominations of the privileged class who riot and revel on the labor of their wage-slaves.”

In essence, every human being has value and should be so recognized in our eyes.

Take a moment, to remember those ‘Labor Warriors’ who have gone before us, for the contributions they made to make it possible for many of us to enjoy the fruit from trees we did not plant.

Until next time.

Michael Murphy is a former special assistant to the Cobb Chairman. He’s lived in Cobb County for over 20 years.

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(2) comments

Butch Smith

Actually when you analyze the pay an employee receives "labor dividend" is included in there. What you are proposing is nothing more than an attempt to raise labor cost. It would also raise the cost of the product.

Butch Smith

You need to revisit Econ 101.

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