Thursday, December 09, 2004

Globalize already

According to the New York Times, Labor Unions are seeking to reorganize in an attempt to regain their influence. In particular, they are looking to increase their membership in "swing states" to help elect a "pro-labor" president, which seems to mean "Democratic".

The unions seem to be missing other opportunities. Aren't they ignoring labor in other parts of the world? Wouldn't it be to their advantage to organize unions in the areas where American businesses are moving jobs?

Imagine if unions organized labor in Mexico, for example. As the Mexican standard of living increases, the cost advantages to American companies moving to Mexico would decrease. Also, the increased standard of living would create markets for more American products and services. Now, imagine that happening on a global scale. The rise in standard of living is already beginning in China and India.

Labor protectionism is counterproductive. It does not address the rapid gobalization of business, and is not likely to be successful. I'm reminded of the Industrial Revolution, when businesses moved to more mechanized forms of production. As labor unions were being formed to address the unfair treatment by these larger, more powerful businesses, the new unions were very selective in their membership admittance, usually excluding minorities. As a result of exclusive membership to unions, business was able to employ the non-union minorities as strike breakers.

In essence, the moving of American jobs overseas is an attempt to decrease the cost of labor. Ultimately, this leads to exploitation of workers where the local governments have not established the structure of worker protections that have been created in America and Western Europe.

Now, here's a quirky twist for you: Labor Unions are anti-Communist, in theory. Think about that. This idea comes directly from the reading of an article on The New Republic's site. Of course, Marx's theory of communism is based on the assumption that the polarization of the "haves" and the "have-nots" would continue until the "have-nots" could take no more and revolt against the system. From a labor standpoint, this seemed to directly reflect their experience with large, industrial businesses. However, the rise of labor unions created a new option: The potential for workers to see the fruits of their labor, to participate -- and profit -- in the growth of the companies for which they worked.

The problem now, though, is that labor unions have steadily lost their effectiveness and membership. New workers are getting the jobs overseas, and Labor Unions aren't there. Consider that the disparity between the "haves" and the "have-nots" in America, and on a global scale, is increasing. Doesn't Marx come back into the picture?

All workers benefited from Organized Labor. I like my Saturdays free. I like working (roughly) an 8-hour shift and (roughly) a 40-hour week. I like health care, dental care, paid sick days, and paid vacation. The organization of labor needs to become another American export. Ultimately, it protects us all. Organized Labor allows us to become partners with business and not adversaries. It protects democracy and probably even protects capitalism.

So, Labor, please, Globalize already.

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