Pluralistic: Stellantis wants to make scabbing woke; The Lost Cause prologue, Part V (11 Oct 2023)

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A group of striking workers in front of a factory with a General Motors sign. They are confronting a screaming capitalist caricature who is holding a giant loot sack emblazoned with a Black Lives Matter fist. He wears a Pride-flag armband. A full moon rises behind the scene. The strikers bear UAW strike signs.

Stellantis wants to make scabbing woke (permalink)

I know, I know, it's weird when the worst people you know are right, even when they're right for the wrong reasons: like, the "Intelligence Community" is genuinely terrible, pharma companies are murderous crooks, and Big Tech really does have a dangerous grip on public debate. The swivel-eyed loons have a point, is what I'm saying:

When conspiratorialists and reactionaries holler about how the FBI are dirty-tricking creeps who are framing Trump, it's tempting to say, "well, if Trumpists hate the FBI, then I will love the FBI. Who cares about COINTELPRO and what they did to Martin Luther King?"

It's a process called "schizmogenesis": forming new group identity beliefs based on saying the opposite of what your enemies say,
and as tempting as that is, it's extraordinarily foolish and dangerous:

It means that canny reactionaries like Steve Bannon can trick you into taking any position merely by taking the opposite one. Bannon's followers are even more easily led, so it's easy for him to convince them that we have always been at war with Oceania. The right has created an entire mirror world of "I know you are but what am I?" politics.

Anti-vax co-opts "bodily autonomy." Climate denial becomes environmentalism ("wind turbines kill birds"). Transphobia becomes feminism ("keep women-only spaces for real women"). Support for strongmen becomes anti-imperialism ("don't feed the war machine in Ukraine"). These are the doppelgangers Naomi Klein warns us against:

The far right has even managed to co-opt anti-corporate rhetoric. Culture warriors rail against "woke capitalism," insisting that when big businesses take socially progressive positions, it's just empty "virtue signalling." And you know what? They've got a point. Partially.

As with all mirror-world politics, the anti-woke-capitalism shuck is designed to convince low-information right-wing pismires into buying "anti-woke pillows" and demanding the right to pay junk fees to "own the libs":

But woke capitalism is bullshit. Corporations – profit-maximizing immortal transhuman colony organisms that view workers and customers as inconvenient gut-flora – do not care about social justice. They don't care about anything, except for minimizing compensation for workers while maximizing the risk those workers bear; and locking in and gouging customers for products that are as low-quality as can be profitably sold.

Take DEI, a favored target of the right. It's undoubtably true that diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives have made some inroads on correcting bias in hiring decisions, with the result that companies get better employees who would have been excluded without this explicit corrective.

However, corporations don't value DEI because they abhor their history of hiring bias. Instead, DEI is how corporate management demonstrates to workers that their grievances are best addressed by trusting corporate leadership to correct their error of their ways – and not by forming a union.

Before the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, corporations would create fake "Company Unions" whose leadership were beholden to the company executives. These were decoy unions: they looked and sounded like unions, but when they negotiated with management, they were actually working for the bosses, not the workers.

This is more mirror-world tactics. They're the labor equivalent of the "crisis pregnancy centers" that masquerade as abortion clinics in order to fool pregnant people and trap them with endless delays until it's too late to terminate their pregnancies. Company unions get workers to trust in negotiators who are secretly working for the bosses, who emerge from the bargaining table with one-sided, abusive contracts and insist that this is the best deal workers can hope for.

Company unions were outlawed 90 years ago, and for decades, labor had a seat at the table, with wages tracking productivity gains and workers getting protection for discrimination, unsafe labor conditions, and wage-theft. Then came the neoliberal turn, and 40 years of wage stagnation, increased inequality, and corporate rule.

Anything that can't go on forever will eventually stop. Finally, finally, we have reached a turning point in labor, with public approval for unions at levels not seen since the Carter administration and thousands of strikes and protests breaking out across the country:

It's not just the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA, either. For the first time in history, the UAW is striking against all the major automakers, and they are winning:

The automakers are getting desperate. Stellantis – Chrysler's latest alias, reflecting the company's absorbtion into corporate-human-centipede of global carmakers – has mobilized its DEI programs, trying to get marginalized people to believe that scabbing is a liberatory activity:

Stellantis calls each of its DEI silos a "Business Resource Group" (BRG): there's a "Working Parents Network," an "African Ancestry Network," "Asians Connected Together," a "DiverseAbilities Network," a "Gay & Lesbian Alliance" and more:

The corporate managers who lead these BRGs have established a scab rotation for each subgroup, calling on members to cross a UAW picket-line at a Michigan Parts Distribution Center run by Stellantis subsidiary Mopar:

Each BRG will pick a specific day of the week/weekend to volunteer as a team. Help continue to be the RESOURCE the BUSINESS can count on! Stellantis needs your help in running the Parts Distribution Centers (PDC) to ensure a steady supply of parts to our customers while negotiations continue. Working Parents Network has identified Friday, October 13 as WPN’s BRG Day at the PDCs!"

Now, these BRGs weren't invented by marginalized workers facing discrimination in the workplace. They come from literal union-busting playbooks produced by giant "union avoidance" firms that charge bosses millions for advice on skirting – or breaking – the law to keep workplace democracy at bay. All the biggest anti-union consultancies love BRGs, from Littler Mendelson to Jackson Lewis. IRI Strategies touts BRGs as a way to "union-proof" a business by absorbing workers' grievances in a decoy committee that will let them feel listened to.

BRGs, in other words, are the Crisis Pregnancy Centers of workplace discrimination. They're a Big Store Con, a company union dressed up as corporate social responsibility.

Now, let's not pretend that unions have a sterling record on race and gender issues. Giant labor organizations like the AFL had to be dragged into racial integration, and trade unions have sometimes been on the wrong side of anti-immigration panics:

But unions have also been the most reliable way for people of color and women to win better workplace treatment. The struggle for racial and gender justice was fought through labor organizing. Remember that MLK's "I've Been To the Mountaintop" speech was given in support of striking sanitation workers in Memphis:

Black organizers have always been militant labor organizers. Labor Day commemorates the victory of the long, hard-fought Pullman strike, where Black workers brought one of the most powerful companies in America to its knees:

And women have always fought for gender justice through the labor movement: the New York shirtwaist strike is the Ur-example, when women-led unions fought thugs and scabs on icy New York streets:

It's no surprise that labor activism, anti-racism and feminism go together. Since the earliest days, the labor justice struggle was also a social justice struggle. To learn more check out Kim Kelly's Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor:

The most exploited, underpaid, and abused workers in America are also the most marginalized (duh).

From nurses:

To teachers:

To Amazon warehouse workers:

To publishing assistants:

To baristas:

To fast-food workers:

The vanguard of today's labor surge is Black, brown, female and queer. Without a union, workers who face discrimination are on their own, hoping that their bosses will voluntarily do something about it. Black workers in Tesla's rabidly anti-union shops face vicious racism, from slurs to threats to violence. Without a union, they have to rely on the shifting whims of an Apartheid emerald mine space-Karen for relief, or hope for help from the NLRB or a class-action lawyer:

The far right isn't wrong when they holler that woke capitalism is bullshit. As with so many of their mirror-world causes, they've got a point, but only a limited one. The problem with woke capitalism is that it's no substitute for a union. The problem with relying on Business Resource Groups to fight racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia is that these struggles are all class struggles, and a BRG is never going to fight against the company that created it.

To understand how bankrupt woke capitalism is, conside this: Stellantis is calling on its "Working Parents Network" to scab this Friday. Stellantis is also being sanctioned by the Department Of Labor for discriminating against nursing mothers – the same "working parents" that the BRG is meant to protect:

Woke capitalism is just another kind of "predatory inclusion," like Intuit's campaign defending its "Free File" tax-prep scam, where they're claiming that ending this ripoff is racist because it denies Black families the right to be tricked into paying for something they are entitled to get for free:

When I learned about Intuit's wokewashing, I thought I'd found woke capitalism's rock bottom, but I was wrong. Stellantis's call for woke scabbing is a new low.

A mockup of the hardcover for the Tor books edition of The Lost Cause.

The Lost Cause prologue, Part V (permalink)

In my upcoming solarpunk novel The Lost Cause (Nov 14), we get an epic struggle between the people doing the repair and care work needed to save our planet and species, and the reactionary wreckers who want to kill the Green New Deal and watch the world burn:

Amazon refuses to carry my audiobooks, which means that I make my own indie editions and pre-sell them on Kickstarter, along with ebooks and hardcovers. I narrated this one! It came out great! You can back it here:

This week, I've been serializing the prologue to give you a taste of what you can expect from the book, which Bill McKibben calls "politically perceptive, scientifically sound, and extraordinarily hopeful."

Here's part one:

And part two:

And part three:

And part four:

And now, part five:

* * *

Look, I had weeks to go until graduation. I had a life to live. I had stuff to do.

Gramps and his friends would stew and shout. Idiots on the internet would make dank memes out of Mike Kennedy and deepfake him into a million videos, turn him into a main character whose image would be around long after he left the world.

I just had to keep my head down, collect my diploma, and get the hell out of Burbank. I’d already been provisionally accepted for a Blue Helmets AmeriCorps spot down in San Juan Capistrano, helping to rebuild the city’s lower half a mile inland, up in the hills. I was going to do a year of that and then go to college: I had applications in to UCLA, Portland State (they had a really good refugee tech undergrad program), and the University of Waterloo, where my mom did her undergrad in environmental science. They’d let me declare my major in my second year, so I could take a wide variety of courses before settling on something, and if anything, Canada’s free college was even more generous than the UC system or Portland’s, with a subsidy for dorms and meals.

To tell the truth, I’d be glad to go. My senior year hadn’t been anything like I’d anticipated. Gramps’s health had gotten a lot worse the previous summer and his shitty sexist and racist remarks chased away any home help worker Burbank sent over within a week or two, so I’d been trying to keep my grades up while picking up after Gramps, getting him to take his meds, washing his sheets and cleaning his toilet—­not to mention making sure he made his doctor’s appointments and even bringing him into the office a couple of times a month for the kind of exams you couldn’t do by telemedicine.

I wasn’t sure what Gramps would do without me to take care of him, but at that point, I was running out of fucks to give. Let his asshole Maga Club buddies look after him, or maybe Gramps could figure out how not to offend everyone that came over to wipe his ass and do his laundry. He was—­as he was fond of pointing out to me—­a grown-­ass adult, and this was his house, and he was in charge. So let him be in charge.

I put myself to bed stewing about all of this, thinking of San Juan Capistrano. Some of my older friends had graduated the previous years and had gone down there and I’d followed their relocation of the old mission on their feeds. It looked like hot, sweaty, rewarding work, the kind of thing where you could really measure your progress.

For the second night in a row, I was woken up at 2 a.m. This time, it wasn’t my screen, it was Gramps, who’d stumped into my room with his cane, flipped my lights to full on, and started shaking me and calling out, “Get up, kid, get up!”

“I’m up,” I said, getting up on my elbows and squinting at him.

He was shaking, and he reeked—­of both booze and BO, and I felt a flash of guilt for not getting him in the bath that day.

“God dammit,” he said, and staggered a bit. I leapt out of bed, pulling the sheets off with me, and steadied him at the elbow.

“Calm down, okay? What’s going on? Are you all right?”

“No, I’m not all right. No one is all right. Fuck all right and fuck you.” I’d had Gramps tested for early dementia the previous year, by showing his doctor videos of moments like these. The doc had run a battery of tests before pronouncing, “Your grandfather isn’t senile, he’s just ornery.” Which was undeniable, and also pissed me the hell off. “Ornery” was a polite word for “asshole.” What the doc was telling me was that Gramps didn’t have to be cruel. He was cruel by choice.

I untangled myself from the sheets and piled them on the bed.

“What is it?”

“It’s Mike Kennedy, that asshole. Someone shot him.”


He shoved his giant screen into my hands. I tapped the video window. It was from the POV of a car cam, that weird fish-­eye view of a self-­driving car, split-­screen with the passenger in the front seat, and it was Mike Kennedy, looking even worse than Gramps, bloodshot and trembling, with that under-­chin camera angle that makes everyone look like they’re half dead.

I tried to watch both halves. There was Kennedy, whispering something to him. There was the cul-­de-­sac he was parked in, false-­lit with IR from the cameras. The timestamp was 1:17. Less than an hour before.

Then the external image flickered for a second and resolved itself into a man, who phased in and out. He was wearing a ghillie suit like the one Kennedy had worn on the roof, covered in telltale CV dazzle stripes, designed to exploit defects in the computer vision system. You had to wear a different specific pattern for every algorithm, but if you got the right matchup, the computer would simply not see you. The man was flickering into existence when his posture crumpled up the ghillie suit and made the pattern stop working, then out again when he straightened up.

He straightened and disappeared and Mike Kennedy’s eyes widened as he noticed the man for the first time—­computer dazzle worked on computers, not humans—­and he started to say something and then a round hole appeared in his forehead, his head snapping back against the headrest, then careening forward. The flickering phantom appeared again as the man in the ghillie suit turned and disappeared.

I dropped the tablet to my bed.

“Jesus Christ, Gramps, I didn’t need to see that snuff movie—­”

He tried to smack me then. I was ready for it. I was faster. I stepped out of his reach. I was shaking too.

“You don’t get to hit me anymore old man. Never again, you hear me?”

He was purpling now, and a decade’s worth of fleeing and defusing his rages rose in me, made me want to apologize. After all, I rationalized, he’d just seen a friend murdered.

But I’d seen that friend murdered too, videobombed with a snuff flick at 2 a.m. without warning or consent. It was a traumatizing, selfish, asshole move. I’d be watching that movie on the backs of my eyelids for years to come. And the friend who’d died? He’d been ready to kill me. Gramps had no right. He was a grown-­ass adult. He had no right.

“Listen to me, you little shit, you think you can live under my roof, take my charity, and talk to me like that? Now? With all the shit that I’m going through? No sir. No. Get out, you little bastard, get out now. Get out before I kick your goddamned teeth in.” He was vibrating with rage now, literally, actually shaking so hard his wispy hair swished back and forth across his forehead.

I didn’t say another word. I picked up some jeans and a jacket, put a pair of socks in a jacket pocket, and jammed my feet into a pair of sneakers without bothering to unlace them. I shouldered past him—­still vibrating, stinking even worse—­and banged out the back door and stomped through the nighttime streets.

My feet automatically took me up to Verdugo, and then across the empty road. I turned toward school—­as I did every morning—­and autopiloted in that direction. By the time I reached the Verdugo Aquatic Facility I had calmed down enough to realize that there was no reason to go to school at two thirty in the morning, so I stopped and headed for the playground in the park behind the pool. I sat down on a bench and kicked my shoes off and shook out the playground sand, pulled out my socks and put them on, then put my shoes back on properly. I was still furious, but now I could think straight and my hands weren’t shaking. Gramps and I hadn’t had a blowup like that in years, mostly—­ okay, entirely—­because I’d backed down every time we’d been headed in that direction. I wasn’t in any mood to back down. Not ever, to be fully honest.

Hey look at this (permalink)

A Wayback Machine banner.

This day in history (permalink)

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#15yrsago Comprehensive reviews of jihadi video-games

#10yrsago Super Mario fully implemented in HTML5

#10yrsago Christopher Columbus: raping, murdering, enslaving, genocidal pedophile

#5yrsago Not just Europe: EU Copyright Directive will censor the world’s internet

#5yrsago Homeless people in San Francisco are hotwiring electric scooters

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#5yrsago Bernie Sanders on fighting global authoritarianism

#5yrsago New York’s luxury real-estate market is crashing

#5yrsago Britain’s Corbyn-panicked oligarchs are shifting money offshore

#5yrsago Dystopia watch: American schools are installing anti-shooter smoke cannons and bulletproof doors

#1yrago Antitrust is – and always has been – about fairness

Colophon (permalink)

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