Sunday, 29 October 2017

Business fantasies - Benefit Corporations and other thought excursions

In the wake of the latest economic breakdown many have been attempting a facelift for capitalism and the so-called B-corps are one of the latest out of this reformist gate. Simply put, they seek to  rehabilitate private for-profit business by registering those among them who do various good things. There is much that enterprises can do to make their operations more durable and socially beneficial, but if they wish to remain corporations there are several things they legally can't do, within their overall requirements of "fiduciary duty" and fiscal  responsibility, i.e. make as much money as possible for their shareholders, who are motivated by self-enrichment.

Recent changes to law in the U.S. that have been welcomed by B-corps allow them to evade the shareholder benefit maximization provision but whether enterprises in general choose to do that is permissive. As a result, corporations are not required to embed anything like worker democracy, community programming or environmental sustainability unless they choose to. And given the benefits that arise for money-motivated shareholders the majority of enterprises will avoid the administrative overheads of the stringent B-corp registration process.  To believe otherwise, as the B-corporation movement wants, to is to believe in a fantasy, something no self-respecting, let alone other-respecting, enterprises should do.

For now, social economy promoters like TorontotheBetter are left to urge enterprise change hopefully, but at some point comprehensive social economies require more affirmative action akin to the historical accretion of business health and safety requirements. For instance, if democracy is to become more than a periodic ritual it must be built into daily workplace life. Power comes from doing it, not  as a privilege but as a right. The B-corp initiative risks further elitist separation of the fortunate few from the huddled masses of workers. More B-corps are welcome but serious political change is the necessary condition of society-wide "B-corporatization". A simultaneous embrace of necessary social enablers like healthcare, educational rights and environmental protection for all, as well as B-corporate transformation, are the necessary conditions of an empowered working life, i.e, real democracy.         

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Jobs - the thievery of an issue

Once upon a time, jobs were the issue of progressive forces in market economies. Recurrent depressions and recessions removed their means of living from workers, aka "wageslaves", who depend on work for everything from social status to food  and shelter. Since the advent of the neo-liberal counter revolution way back in the previous century an insidious  development has set in in political discourse: appropriation of the formerly progressive jobs/employment subject, of which the more jobs the better was the mission, was appropriated by rightwingers whose primary motivation is to entrench power elites, that is private employers. The engine of  this appropriation was the reduction of job availability, through the demonization of government spending and the proliferation of a work environment in which all jobs are scarce so any job looks better than none. The latest grovelling for Amazon jobs by major cities, including our own GTA urbs, Toronto and Mississauga, is just the one example in a long  thread.

The logic is simple: if you want jobs, which,  thanks to  neo-liberalism''s attack on government investment, are redefined as essentially private sector phenomena, you must make yourselves attractive to private sector employers. There are many ways of doing this but of course opposing unionization and minimizing taxes are popular with right wing job champions. The sad result is that all who seek not any employment but good employment environments becomes prey to anti-job smears.

It's time for more progressives to reclaim the job issue. The alternative is just more of the temporary, benefit-less, union-less and undemocratic workplaces that are the new normal. The solution: an expanded progressive discourse on building a social economy that combines employment and social value, avoiding the false and superficial appeal of purely financially defined work.The problem is clear; the power of enterprises focused on profit is vested in narrowly financial definitions of work, supported by underclasses, be they immigrants or the young, without alternatives. More on the how of opposing this predicament will appear in future posts. Talk of the knowledge economy and the need for workers to transition to new skills is a red herring which blames workers and calls for them to change or disappear (or both).

One immediate solution is a redefinition of work which, in many cases nobody wants to do but has to, to survive. Fewer hours, be it through job sharing or a guaranteed income has little or no impact on productivity. Why don't we do it? The right wing rhetoric of jobs, jobs, jobs and the politics of austerity is the reason. Reading a book is a more socially productive use of time than many jobs. But avoid the many vainglorious books issued by the Trump clan and other such family fortune fueled "self-made" entrepreneurs.       

Sunday, 22 October 2017

"Poor" Bill Morneau - he can't help it

Of course real poor he aint. Here's the quaint location of his villa in France. It's not that the sad federal Minister of Finance, who represents a downtown riding in Toronto  containing lots of real poor people, is much worse than other rich politicians who could not run and get elected unless they  were rich; it's just that as the minister in charge of Canada's financial affairs a neutral observer might expect from him a little more honesty and probity than is apparent in his transparent attempts to hide his conflicts of interest.
Of course, the real  problem is much bigger than Morneau, it is that there is a fundamental  contradiction between shielding one's wealth and serving the public good. In other words, to use the words of another rich man politician, the political  process is "rigged" (he knows cos he's doing the rigging). How can business people who make their money out of various forms of human distress and are appointed as candidates by mainstream political parties largely because of their wealth, honestly work for the interests of those their riches are extracted from? The answer is they can't. And in Morneau's case it is clear he doesn't.
The only way  out of this contradiction is to ensure that businesses serve the broader public good by, for instance, ensuring that the wealth  they make is shared democratically with those who contribute to making it, and this requires worker management/ownership. And the only way of doing this is to  ensure that all workers have a democratic right to determinine  how enterprise revenues get distributed. It's called worker ownership  and it's  one of the values we celebrate in our TorontotheBetter Directory. Future blogposts will explain in detail the other criteria we apply to choose the enterprises in the Directory. A better world requires better ways of creating wealth.           .       

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Mexican Network of Mining Affected People Tries to Extract a Response from Trudeau

From the blogger:

Mexican Network of Mining Affected People Tries 

to Extract a

 Response from Trudeau

Leaflet | OSM Mapnik
Jen MooreLatin America Program Coordinator Jennifer Moore works to support communities, organizations, and networks in the region struggling with mining conflicts.

On the eve of Prime Minister Trudeau’s first official visit to Mexico, the Mexican Network of Mining Affected People (REMA by its initials in Spanish) has issued a communiqué to call on Prime Minister Trudeau to live up to his commitments and stop the devastation of Indigenous and campesino communities that has enabled Canadian mining companies to make big profits. Canadian investment in Mexico - the principal destination abroad for Canadian mining investment after the U.S. - is expanding precisely in the most deadly places for anyone to get by on a daily basis, let alone speak out in defence of their land and wellbeing. As the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement is uncertain and Trudeau seeks to shore up a bilateral relationship with Mexico, its time to put words into action and answer for lives and livelihoods destroyed or at risk around Canadian mine sites. 
Our English translation of the original communiqué follows. 

Canadian mining is dispossessing Indigenous peoples and campesino communities in Mexico

On the occasion of Justin Trudeau’s state visit to Mexico, the Mexican Network of Mining Affected People urges Canadian mining company invasion of Mexico to stop and withdraw 
October 11, 2017
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has presented himself on the international stage as a democrat, a supporter of human rights and freedoms, and committed to fulfilling the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although on this latter point it is important to mention that the government has taken a weak position, limiting its support for the declaration within the scope of the Canadian constitution, [1] which is not minor, particularly if Canada continues to refuse to ratify Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization and fails to respect the self-determination of Indigenous peoples in practice.
Trudeau’s visit to our country has been announced as an opportunity to strengthen commercial ties between Mexico and Canada, which is bad news for those peoples and communities who have been seriously affected by Canadian mining activities. Today, Canada has become the biggest source of foreign investment in mining around the world and in Mexico, to such an extent that 65% of foreign mining companies in Mexico are listed in Canada. For Canada, Mexico has become the second most important destination for Canadian mining investment abroad, after the U.S., such that 11.3% of Canadian mining assets are in Mexico.
The power that Canadian mining wields in Latin America has been openly and arbitrarily promoted by Canada’s entire diplomatic corp along the lines of its ‘economic diplomacy’ policy through its embassies. Like good colonialists, they continue to propagate racism and hatred toward Indigenous peoples and campesino communities when they encourage mining investment in an area such as Guerrero [2] - where there is tremendous Canadian mining investment -, and then issue alerts to Canadian tourists to avoid traveling to the same place, [3] given the violence and risks that people live with there.
The political and financial weight of Canadian mining companies and the government is a reality that has been used to influence the promotion of constitutional reforms, laws and regulations in the extractive sector to help facilitate foreign investment, as well as to weaken and deny redress for harms, tax payments, or any other condition that might affect company profits.
In Mexico, this has led to an unconstitutional legal framework that violates human rights because, among other things, it gives mining priority above all over activities, which despite being undertaken pretty much exclusively by private companies is also considered in the public interest. This has meant dispossession and forced displacement of legitimate landowners, who when they try to defend their rights, these are denied by the very same companies or through the structures of illegal armed groups or in collusion with diverse actors in the Mexican government.
Health harms, environmental contamination and destruction, criminalization of social protest, threats, harassment, smear campaigns, surveillance, arbitrary detentions and the assassination of defenders are the formula for progress and development that Canadian mining investment has brought to our country. To counteract its brutality, in the media and among the spheres of power, companies gloat about their corporate social responsibility, clean industry certification or safe cyanide use, or their adherence to absurd standards of “conflict free gold” that are supported and certified by organizations largely created by the very same corporate sector. To substantiate claims of dispossession, pillage, displacement and violence caused by Canadian mining companies, it is enough to visit the communities of Carrizalillo [4]and Nuevo Balsas [5] in Guerrero, Chalchihuites [6] and Mazapil [7]in Zacatecas, the northern highlands of Puebla, [8] Tetlama in Morelos, [9] or Sierrita de Galeana in Durango, [10] as well as Chicomuselo, Chiapas, [11] where Mariano Abarca was murdered for his opposition to a Canadian mining company, prior to which the Canadian embassy in Mexico was alerted to the risks he faced as they monitored the conflict.
The abuses of Canadian mining companies have been ongoing, repeated, and have violated human rights such as rights to territory, property, a safe environment, participation, consultation and consent, lawfulness and legal security. For example, we have seen the same company (Goldcorp) break the law repeatedly by purchasing collectively owned lands, first in Carrizalillo, Guerrero and then, three years later, in Mazapil, Zacatecas. Today in Mexico, Canadian companies are operating 65% or over 850 mining projects at different stages from exploration through to construction and extraction.
It is important to mention, Mr. Justin Trudeau, that the only thing that mining investment from your country has ensured for us is dispossession and the risk that thousands and thousands of communities and persons could lose their culture and identity as a result of destruction of their territory; the arrival of organized crime (whether or not companies are signed up to the bombastic conflict-free gold standard); as well as the escalation of violence, repression and criminalization of those who defend their territories and life.
In this context, REMA calls on the Canadian government to stop institutional and political support provided through your diplomatic apparatus to enable private Canadian companies to accumulate profits through dispossession. We also demand that you stop promoting policies and weak laws that legalize the activities of these mining companies, among them voluntary codes of conduct known as Corporate Social Responsibility, in place of mandatory compliance. Instead, corporate accountability is urgently needed to put a stop to the ongoing atrocities and illegalities that violate the human rights of Indigenous peoples and campesino communities.
In addition, beyond the positive accounts of the business sectors and government officials in defence of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), it is important to mention that this pact has only helped to legalize dispossession, enabling more wealth to be accumulated by already wealthy sectors, as well as the gradual displacement of both products and local economies to stimulate a new form of accumulation and control, an increase in the deregulation of land ownership and dilution of protections over the public interest and public good, further enabling private pillage. In sum, the principal objective of NAFTA has been to disappear the countryside and campesino farmers.
Finally, Mr. Trudeau, we would like to remind you that well over a year ago, on April 26, 2016, various organizations including ours sent you a letter [12] in which we requested you to kindly bring your attention to the context of human rights violations of Canadian companies in Mexico and Latin America, just shortly after you had assumed your mandate as Prime Minister when you committed yourself and your party to support human rights. To date, we have never received a response to this letter, nor seen any concrete actions to better protect human rights.

Canadian mining investment is destroying our country

Canadian mining companies violate human rights

We will fight for territories free of mining!

Mexican Network of Mining Affected People (REMA)

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Global economy requires new/old style labour solidarity - the message from"Confronting Global Capital" conference in Hamilton, Ontario

International solidarity among all workers was the clear message of the important "Confronting Global Capital" workshop held in Hamilton from October 12-14. After decades of neo-liberalism have battered workers in all sectors, from airports to universities and beyond the only way to  hang in is to hang together. Above Steve Tufts of York University introduces Dan Jannsen (seated) of the Toronto Airport Workers Council, an innovative multi-union body created as a united voice for workers at Toronto's Pearson Airport. Reaching out beyond organizational borders, the TAWC has already connected with similar workers in the Phillipines and Turkey. With members unionized by the Industrial Workers of  the World (the Wobblies) TorontotheBetter welcomes solidarity among workers as an important part of a better city for all. We here recognize Toronto Wobbly brother Paul Bocking for his workshop presentation about the impact of neo-liberalism on education workers.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Common Ground Co-op's 7th Annual Bowlathon Fundraiser

Common Ground Co-operative, the folks behind the social enterprises Lemon 7 Allsprice Cookery, The Coffee Sheds and CleanABLE are having their 7th Annual Bowlathon Fundraiser this month.

See their page on CandaHelps here for more information...

Sunday, 1 October 2017

School librarian takes on US president's spouse and gets famous

If ever two unlikely figures were made to share the limelight together it is Melania Trump  [no description or image required] and Massachusetts school librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro [no image available at this time], Both are unabashed seekers of fame, the first by a well known marriage and the second by rejecting a gift of books to her library from the first. The fittingly clownish figures that brought them together are Dr. Seuss's children's book characters like Cat in the Hat. The point here is that the Trump disease of self-promotion at all costs and irrespective of  minor dangers like nuclear conflagration are likely furthered, not impeded by acts like Soeiro's that champion her professional status rather than exposing the cynical do-gooder tokenism that motivates the Trump gang and their donations.          

Uber forced to unionize - the beginninng of the end or the end of the beginning for one kind of "sharing economy" enterprise?

First they start up and make profits by evading labour standards that workers fought long and hard to gain, then their workers start to realize they're getting exploited, then...

See for details and for the real struggle
behind the struggle.