California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis is concerned about the hotel workers in her state. Their days are too long, their lives are too short, and they aren’t even paid “decent wages” for their services. Here’s what Kounalakis did about it: she asked Taylor Swift to cancel six concerts in the Golden State.
Kounalakis endorsed the Unite Here Local 11 “Open Letter From Hotel Housekeepers to Taylor Swift” at the end of July. The letter said, in part:
“We are hotel housekeepers across Los Angeles. We make beds, clean bathrooms, and take care of every guest need. Your shows make our hotels a lot of money. In Los Angeles, hotels are doubling and tripling what they charge because you are coming. They also add junk fees on rooms, just like Ticketmaster does. But we see none of it. When we returned to work after the pandemic, the hotels upped our workload and cut our paychecks by not letting us clean rooms on a daily basis. The hotels are making more money than ever, but we can’t afford to live close to work, so some of us sleep in our cars between shifts. Our paychecks are so small many of us are losing our homes.”
One need not have any knowledge of Causal-Realist economic theory to sense that something has gone seriously wrong in our politically shaped economic-social order when our quest for prosperity involves Taylor Swift self-cancelling shows. (Despite pleas, Swift did not cancel any of her performances.)
To falsely but compellingly channel the great unindicted war criminal Winston Churchill, if we have no sympathy for struggling hotel workers, we have no heart. If we believe government intervention can increase hotel worker pay without wreaking havoc, we have no brain.
Kounalakis was the highest-ranking politician to endorse the Unite letter, but dozens of politicians throughout California joined her. This tracks with our society’s myth of the Benevolent Government valiantly fighting the Evil Corporation™.
Of course, the facts on the ground are quite different. Since 2018—the year Kounalakis was elected lieutenant governor—the hotel industry has donated thousands of dollars to her campaign organizations and millions of dollars to California politicians. This is not to claim that California’s politicians are in the pocket of Big Hotel, merely to acknowledge that the hotels are getting something for their money; access and influence.
Perversely, the economic struggle faced by California hotel workers (and millions of Americans) is driven by government. The federal, state, and municipal governments tax and regulate every aspect of economic life. And the federal government crushes workers through its centralized control of the money supply. The U.S. Treasury-Commercial Bank-Federal Reserve shell game provides funding for endless war and domestic handouts, but it impoverishes the masses.
Politicians then call for intervention to battle the destruction the government has wrought. Looking at the current involvement of government in American labor, one might think the situation would be well under control. Between the National Labor Relations Board, the California Labor Federation, the California Department of Industrial Relations, the National Labor Relations Act, the California Labor Code, the California Public Employment Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Civil Rights Act, one could be forgiven for assuming it to be an impossibility that hotel workers would be reduced to sleeping in their cars.
And yet, somehow the evil corporations keep doing the evil that they do. A standard call from politicians is for the government to have more funding, more employees, more bureaus, more areas of concern, and always more power. Such calls make sense to many Americans because they have assimilated the benevolent government narrative. When government fails, as it recently did in the Hawaiian city of Lahaina, it is easy to think we just need better people in those government jobs. Or we need to get the corporate money out of government and more tax money into it.
What does not make sense to most Americans is asking Taylor Swift to self-cancel her concerts. This presents an opportunity to shift their attention to the problematic nature of government itself. Not that we should excuse the incompetent or malevolent actions of individual government employees or corporations. Only that we should recognize that the very structure of government is contributing to our woes. And we should calmly point this out to suffering workers.
Had Taylor Swift canceled her California shows, it would have made for a nice press release for the politicians and the unions, but it would not have uplifted the hotel workers. It would have also had a negative economic impact on other workers, from concert venue staff to nearby restaurant workers.
Years ago, Swift went up against the richest corporation in the world and successfully pressured Apple into changing its Apple Music payment policy. It’s nice to see her stand up to the government as well.