Nancy Fraser, Susan Neiman, Thomas Piketty, and 3000 scholars from 600 universities around the world
‘Humans are not resources. Coronavirus shows why we must democratise work‘, Guardian, 16 May 2020
For a while (2014-17), Honest History ran ‘Inequality’ as a special subject. We stopped doing it because, as one report followed another showing the extent of inequality, there seemed to be less and less progress in reducing inequality and increasing equality. We noted the many dimensions of inequality – income, wealth, housing, education – and how one’s chances in life were influenced by, for example, where one lived and how one’s community and government coped with climate change.
This piece in the Guardian, supported by thousands of academics from universities around the world, looks at a post-coronavirus world where we deal with some forms of inequality – the article mentions ‘the yawning chasm of income inequality’ but there is clearly more to it than that – by making workplaces more democratic and shifting a degree of control from the investors of capital to the investors of labor. It spells out one way in which ‘getting back to normality after coronavirus’ just does not cut it.
[Workers in the current crisis] are demonstrating, day and night, that workers are not one type of stakeholder among many: they hold the keys to their employers’ success. They are the core constituency of the firm, but are, nonetheless, mostly excluded from participating in the government of their workplaces – a right monopolised by capital investors …
In the name of the democratic societies they serve, and which constitute them, in the name of their responsibility to ensure our survival on this planet, our governments must make their aid to firms conditional on certain changes to their behaviours. In addition to hewing to strict environmental standards, firms must be required to fulfil certain conditions of democratic internal government.
* David Stephens, author of this note, is editor of the Honest History website. He recalls writing, as a young public servant, in 1979, a pamphlet for government use on ’employee participation’.