07 November 2008

Some labor-related observations

Yesterday, as I was traveling to Techno Mall in the subway, a man next to me was reading a pro-labor newspaper, put out by an association of labor unions. I stole some glances, and while many of the articles were certainly a bit of a stretch (as is usually the case with almost all pro-labor or pro-corporate articles), two articles had me nodding 100%.

The first is the mental trauma suffered by subway train drivers, as many people commit suicide by jumping from the station platform into the path of an oncoming subway train. About a hundred or so people kill themselves that way in Seoul every year, and a hundred more try; everyone knows that suicides are a major epidemic in South Korea (and the leading killer of twenty- and thirtysomethings). The sudden jump is something that the train driver cannot do a thing about, and he will stay traumatized for years afterwards. Now that I think about it, this does qualify the job of a Seoul subway train driver as a mentally taxing job, and calls for hazard pay and increased benefits (including comprehensive counseling after a passenger suicide attempt) definitely make sense.

The second article was extremely critical of 2MB for trying to capitalize on the Obama victory. 2MB has certainly made a number of comparisons between himself and Obama, pointing out to successes in their youths, support from women voters, and winning on a mantra of change. But the article argued, and I agree, that 2MB is more of a W carbon copy, in his anti-labor and pro-corporate policies and in his tax cuts for the rich. He certainly pushes the very same economics that the Reagan-Bush wing of the Republican Party has pushed for 30 years in the US, with devastating consequences. The article finished by saying that 2MB should go ahead and claim one more similarity to Obama: that both are nonwhites.