Author Topic: i got laid off so now i have (even more) time to come up with very dumb ideas  (Read 609 times)

tyrannosaurus vex

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does this belong in this forum or Aneristic Illusions? I do not know.

One thing this pandemic has shown us (in the US, particularly) is that labor practices and worker protections are abyssmal, and that they need to improve -- not just for the human sake of the workers and their families but because of the added unnecessary strain on the wider economy when an event like this forces people out of the workforce.

Maybe when this is over, assuming society survives in some form that more or less resembles its pre-pandemic form, businesses will realize that they could have been more resilient if workers/consumers were more resilient, and change their ways. I say "maybe" only because a 0.3 probability sounds like good news these days. We know it won't work out that way. There will be humanitarian carnage, and a lot of fancy euphemisms from HR, and the train will keep on rollin'.

The reasons for this inability for profit-centric economies to change are obvious and not worth exploring here. What I'm (vainly, to be sure) imagining as a way around this is a simple idea and at first glance seems to work out mathematically, given some appreciable stretch of time where things are more or less stable. As always the hurdles are of the human motivation and PR variety.

In 2019 there were about 132M filled full-time jobs and somewhere around 28M part-time jobs. For my purposes I count each filled position separately, even though many people have multiple jobs and some combination of full-time and part-time employment.

If we take a conservative estimate, we could say there are somewhere around 140 million positions at a given time in the US economy, not counting gig work and the like. Now, imagine some kind of organization that acts like a combination of union and insurance that collects dues from workers. Say, $30 per week for fulltime and $20 week for part-time employees. Given an average adoption rate of 50% across the workforce, such an organization would collect about $2.1B per week, or $110B per year.

These funds could be used as an independent unemployment fund to provide or supplement unemployment payments to displaced workers, and to drive adoption this would probably have to be a selling point, but I'm wondering if this kind of money is large enough to strongarm industries into taking better care of their workers. For example, here's what I'm imagining:

- this organization could negotiate its own separate medical insurance plans, like an employer would but with a vastly higher pool and therefore more negotiating power, and enrolling in one of its plans would insulate workers from loss of coverage due to being fired or laid off or whatever. that in itself would eliminate one of the chief means employers use to coerce workers into unfavorable conditions.

- given a long enough time without catastrophic economic failure, the organization could accumulate large enough stockpiles of cash to organize walkouts of workers while paying 100% of their salaries. these walkouts could target individual employers or whole industries, and because the strikers aren't losing income, the strikes would be far more dangerous to employers than traditional union protests.

- subscription to protection by the organization would rise as its members are able to demonstrate the economic security associated with membership.

- eventually, the organization could publish its own fundamental bill of workers' rights which every employment position must satisfy in order to be certified or something. though there would be no regulatory or law-enforcement power, there would be the economic power of simply directing workers to positions that do qualify and effectively blacklisting positions that don't.

Anyway, yes, this is very rainbow flavored unicorn farts and rose-colored glasses and everything, but it's fun to imagine while everything is on fire. I do think the basic concept is sound, but since nobody has ever tried it (that I know of), I'm probably wrong.
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You have designed a great mock-up of a VERY powerful concept here. Do not sell yourself short. Obviously such an organization would need to be nonprofit in nature and it just SO happens that I have been working on a methodology for accessing capital and mutual strengthing of nonprofits specifically. It will take a bit to write up, but in a day or so I will post a concept that will be able to greatly empower such an organization. You have Iron Man's suit, I may have a compact reactor that will make it go.
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What you describe is an insurance.
An insurance may only work out, if the mathematics behind it's model is correct in every detail, so you can implement it into reality without blowing up yourself.
Such a large-scaled idea requires a lot of considerations, mostly the adaption into the current capitalist market. If it turns out this idea of insurance is plainly irreconcilable with capitalism and would require some good ol' planned economy, sadly as it is, you can blow it, unless we kill capitalism beforehand
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I'm not clear - what's the difference between this idea and a labor union? (other than the size - what you're describing sounds like a very large labor union)


tyrannosaurus vex

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I'm not clear - what's the difference between this idea and a labor union? (other than the size - what you're describing sounds like a very large labor union)



The difference is in tactics. A labor union only works if everyone at a particular employer organizes and starts bargaining with their employer, and in a lot of areas that's more or less impossible because of union-busting legislation ("right to work", etc). In contrast, this is a fund that individual employees could pay into that provides a safety net outside or in addition to the pitiful one provided by state-run benefits. Fairly early in its existence, it would be able to offer some of the same protections to workers that unions provide, but without needing to organize entire companies. It also would have a few features that unions typically don't - paying unemployment and paying wages during a strike, primarily. Because it wouldn't be limited in contributor base to a specific employer or industry, it could build the resources to dictate terms to employers, not just "bargain". And because it would be centrally planned, it could (in the long term) engineer strikes and other actions across the entire economy in a methodical way rather than hoping for some association of independent unions to cooperate.
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got it -- I like it.

really, any organized structure representing labor seems like it would have its work cut out for them in this day and age. Especially for folks that don't traditionally have union representation, like most office workers.

you really need a trustworthy leadership though - if the org is not trusted by its members, or if the org gets effectively smeared, the whole thing will fall apart like cotton candy in a rainstorm

tyrannosaurus vex

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got it -- I like it.

really, any organized structure representing labor seems like it would have its work cut out for them in this day and age. Especially for folks that don't traditionally have union representation, like most office workers.

you really need a trustworthy leadership though - if the org is not trusted by its members, or if the org gets effectively smeared, the whole thing will fall apart like cotton candy in a rainstorm

That's true, and why if I ever embarked on such a journey, I'd have to make sure it had solid legal representation and a PR approach that put miles and miles of distance between it and "unions". It would probably need to hob-nob with traditional insurance companies for a while to build a rep as one of the guys (except nerdy because non-profit). Nonthreatening, like "hey we'll try to tackle this thing where your system leaves millions of people writhing in the gutters so you can get on with your yacht parties and cocaine". And when approaching workers it would be framed in a "do this because you are a Responsible Bootstrapper, protect yourself and your family from unemployment" way, and definitely not a "fuck them capitalists let's take 'em down" way.
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