Monday, March 24, 2014

A Workers' Paradise

Who first spoke the expression “a workers’ paradise” is not certain.  It may have been Karl Marx glorifying a stage on the path to a Socialist Utopia, or it may have been coined (or re-coined) by a very Left Wing American in the 1930’s as a reference to Stalin’s Soviet Union.  Few people today believe that Marxist Socialism would be a paradise, and everyone (even those 1930’s Communists) today knows that Uncle Joe’s USSR was more a workers’ Hell than a workers’ paradise.

But there is a real workers’ paradise, and it is here – in the good old USA.

The American worker has, by law or by accepted practice, 1) 5- or 6-day work weeks, 2) 8-hour work days, 3) 40-hour work weeks, 4) paid overtime, 5) paid vacation leave, 6) paid sick days, 7) minimum wage laws, 8) unemployment insurance, 9) workers’ compensation, 10) maternity (or family) leave, 11) health insurance (paid in part or whole by the employer), 12) no child labor, 13) no workplace discrimination, and 14) workplace safety.  What am I forgetting?  Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  This is indeed a workers’ paradise!

Or it was!  The workers’ paradise still exists, but fewer and fewer American workers still live there.

The worker benefits listed above came about as legislative victories because organized Labor had political clout.  And organized Labor had political clout because the Labor Union movement had numbers.  But Union numbers have been shrinking for decades.  And Labor’s political clout has been shrinking for decades.  Union membership has been as high as 36% of the entire private sector labor force; today it stands near 5%.

But Business does not have to flex its invincible political muscle to get the pro-Labor laws repealed; all they have to do is – not employ American workers with their expensive benefits.

What were once Labor’s victories have become Labor’s undoing.  American Business says: “who needs American Labor with all its headaches, all its pro-Labor and anti-Business laws?  We have – China!”

So, American Business employs Chinese workers.  And our laws don’t protect Chinese workers, who have none of the benefits that American workers have won for themselves.  And our laws don’t compel American businesses to treat all workers the way that they are compelled to treat American workers.  And our laws don’t protect American workers from unfair competition with Chinese workers.  So, without laws that protect all workers, American businesses are compelled – by the laws of the Free Market – to let its expensive American workers go on Unemployment.

And that is a problem!

If you have a solution, join the discussion!