A trade-unionist, Payday member, speaks on the Care income

Sam Weinstein, Payday men’s network

We would like you to see Sam Weinstein’s speech on work and the Care Income at the Care Income Now! Webinar (3 Apr 2020).  Sam is a trade unionist and a member of Payday (his speech is at 30m 10s); the text is below.

And please endorse (as an individual and/or organisation) and help circulate the Open Letter To Governments – A Care Income Now!  Please let us know if you would like to get actively involved in the Care Income Now! Campaign.

As Sam said, “We don’t know what work is really necessary. The military is not. We know that care work is, and a care income is an invitation to do that work – and the beginning of finding out about all the rest … Pay the women properly and the men will come.”

Sam Weinstein at the Care Income Now! Webinar

First let me say that Payday is a network of men working with the Global Women’s Strike internationally. We are delighted to endorse the Care Income Now campaign. While the vast majority of carers are women, there are men who do the work and deserve the money like our sisters. 

But overwhelmingly men are either a reserve army of labour – or locked into jobs that pollute, destroy, police or maim both the worker and her/his community including his own family. As a retired union Operating Engineer From Southern Illinois said, you are “trading your body for money, selling your health to support your family.” But if you are unemployed you feel desperate to get one of those jobs where you spend your time literally wishing your life away while the work itself shortens it.  One guy standing in front of me waiting in a line of several hundred for an assembly line job interview at Chrysler said, “You’ll do anything to get into the motherfucker, and when you’re in, you can’t wait to get out!” We all agreed.

In my experience, most people hate their jobs and spend their lives trying to avoid work. They want to do something else. A care income would be an encouragement and make that possible.

Ever since the industrial revolution there has been a huge social movement to make the environment of the worker safe. Yet to this day 2.8 million people die every year from work related disease and injury, and 374 million suffer non-fatal injuries on the job.

Sam Weinstein

I carry permanent injuries and scars from nearly every manual labour job I ever did.  On the blast furnace the heat was so intense that despite protective clothing, it dried my knuckles up and I literally had to ply my fingers open every morning.  When I blew my nose, it came out black and that continued for weeks after I quit the job. I won’t bore you with the rest.

One job with untold casualties each year is not counted in these work-related stats, but is particularly associated with being a “real man”:  it’s the military.  Be all you can be. They don’t want us to know the total number of either military or civilian casualties of endless wars. We do know that the US military, the single greatest polluter on earth, has been fighting environmentally devastating wars in the middle-east to protect the largest polluting industry of all – oil and gas.

Payday has a long history of supporting whistleblowers and people who refuse to do the killing work of the military, like Stephen Funk, Ehren Watada, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and the Israeli conscripts who have gone to jail repeatedly rather than participate in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Payday’s slogan is “Refusing to kill or to be killed”.

And I suspect the earlier statistics don’t include so called “factory farms”where much of our food is grown and harvested often by migrant workers made up of whole families that take the brunt of literally back-breaking work and oceans of poisonous pesticides with which the crops are bombed, and which all of us later consume. There is now a massive movement for regenerative farming, about which Dean who is on this call, will hopefully say more later. [1]

The occupational disease and injury stats are dwarfed by the nearly 4 million deaths annually from exposure to household air pollution due to the unpaid work of cooking on inefficient coal, wood and biomass stoves, overwhelmingly done by poor women of colour in the Global South.  Talk about needing a care income and a lot of workers compensation!

On top of pollution and destruction of the worker is the pollution and destruction of the worker’s community. The most polluting factories are inevitably located in the poorest areas.  Bhopal and Chernobyl are 2 of the best-known industrial disasters, each costing thousands of lives in their surrounding communities, but they are only the tip of the iceberg.

A lot of white-collar work is also unnecessary, mind-numbing, or support for the deadly physical work I mentioned before.  A few words about “unnecessary”.  When I was a gas man, a lot of the work I did, was on meters, or collecting bills from people who couldn’t afford to pay.  It was useless work done to make a profit for the company by policing consumers based on their need for heating and cooking – things that should be a human right. There are lots of jobs like that. 

But there are notable examples of men making a fight for the right to be carers or to make things not destructive of society. The Lucas plan in the 70’s was just such an attempt. Faced with downsizing, workers at Lucas Aerospace making military equipment proposed to management that they stop producing weapons, but instead retool to develop socially useful goods, like solar heating equipment and artificial kidneys.  They wanted to design the work so that the workers would be motivated by the social value of the work they were actually doing. Unfortunately these workers, including shop stewards, got little support from the union hierarchy, and some were fired by an outraged company.

Most unions have been unwilling to challenge management’s prerogative to manage what is produced in the workplace: the bureaucracy is terrified of both losing it membership and therefore the institution and their jobs, but also of their members being driven into the ranks of the unemployed. Blind to campaigning for something like the care income, they end up supporting the employer however harmful to their members and the community at large. But not all. It is wonderful to see that the Bakers Union in the UK have endorsed this campaign!

Also, in Germany a few years ago 11/2 million members of IG Metall, a heavy engineering union, went on strike for the right to work only 28 hours per week at full pay with the intent of taking more responsibility for their families. The men believed that the way to achieve a shorter workweek was to demand the time and money for caring work. They didn’t win everything, but as one union spokesperson said, “we want employers to recognise that traditional gender roles in modern families are changing, and we want workers to have the chance to do work that is important to society.” Obviously caring work in the family was a lot more important to society than what was being done in the engineering sector.

And a few days ago workers building military aircraft engines at a General Electric plant in Massachusetts walked off the job demanding that production be shifted to the urgent necessity of breathing ventilators. A demand to invest in caring not killing!

However automation is changing much of the work that men do, particularly in the Global North. The heavy industrial work which paid relatively well in a unionized environment is being replaced by various kinds of service and technical work which tends to be non-union, paid much less and have even less of a connection with producing what people really need. Instead of scientific advance threatening our ability to feed our families while it destroys our environment, we need caring to become the focus and the master and technology the servant which makes caring work possible.

Margaret mentioned that I was involved in a huge pay equity settlement.  We put the largest classification of women (those who worked in the call centre) on the same pay scale as the largest classification of men who worked as I had, in and around customer’s homes – a raise of 13% for the women.  The methodology [2] broke the jobs down into their constituent parts and showed that the women in the call centre, the shock absorbers for the gas co., were multitasking in a similar way to managers, a skill that most of the women used regularly doing unpaid work in the home.

But once we raised call centre pay, guess what? Men poured into the job. Pay the women properly and the men will come.

Let me end by saying we don’t know what work is really necessary. The military is not. We know that care work is, and a care income is an invitation to do that work, – and the beginning of finding out about all the rest. Thank you.


1.      Dean, himself a farmer, notes that ‘a massive grassroots movement of small-scale farmers, farmworkers, fishers & herders – who still feed 70-80% of the world’s people – is gaining strength as it fights to restore the health of the soil and water, to produce abundant nutrient-rich food and cool the climate’. [see more]

  1. The methodology used in this particular case was developed by Jeanneret & Assoc. Using an employee survey it broke each job into approximately 189 different constituent parts including general categories such as decisions demands, sensory and postural activity, object of work, and equipment