A Living Wage Vs. The Global Labor Market

  • At times the light,
  • offers comfort,
  • only in,
  • reflection

Have you ever noticed what the odds are to win a lotto? The odds are already known by the producers of the lotto tickets. They are masters of the ‘numbers’ game. Still, even at a chance for success of 2 million to 1, people continue to buy a lotto ticket. They are driven by advertisements and news stories of the successful winners. There are few posts that tell the story of the worker who spends five and 10% of his weekly income with hopes of success in the lotto market. Money better spent contributing to the health and well-being of their wards.

What are the odds of a worker in the United States to make a living wage in the global labor market? Or put another way, how does a worker in the United States compete with a comparable worker of another country with an average 2015 income of $400 per month? This is the dilemma of the American worker today.

When I read posts of the pros and cons of free trade agreements between America and other countries with lower standards of living it seems that most articles brush over the detrimental effects to the American worker. These trade agreements certainly benefit those of lesser developed countries who are able to produce goods for export at lower prices. Those in the USA that are not affected by the loss of their job look at this as a benefit for they can buy more for less. This is not true of the worker in the USA that either has lost their job or is forced into a lower paying field of work.

If the NAFTA agreement had ensured that those workers in Canada and Mexico would be paid on the same scale as those workers in the USA it may have been a fair agreement. This was not the case, and many factories that were once located in the USA have relocated to Mexico or Canada. The countries of Canada and Mexico readily agreed to NAFTA and saw it as a boom to their countries economy. This may well be the case in the short term. However, neither the worker in Canada nor Mexico is much better off.

The economic gains to these countries was sucked off by the globalized corporations but not passed down to the workers of these companies. For when it became convenient the companies once welcomed with lavish tax incentives move their factories to other countries paying even less compensation to their workers.

And so, in the short term both Canada and Mexico had seen gains. The USA suffered a demise in the industrial workforce and consequent payroll reduction. These schemes are unsustainable in the long term. As the USA worker compensation remains stagnant or is reduced so too is the viability of any free trade agreement. The USA worker affected by this Treaty can only conclude that NAFTA is a dismal failure. The same might be said of any trade agreement that does not consider the USA standard of living as a basis of wages paid in the treaty partner countries.

Today, as the campaign for a new president of the USA is in full swing we have candidates from both parties who view Free Trade Agreements detrimental to creating good paying jobs in the United States. It is doubtful that either Sanders or Trump could agree on many other public policies. They do agree that contributions to our elected officials drives public policy. I would suggest that even honest politicians have failed to take the care necessary to understand all of the facts and underlying detrimental consequences of a free trade policy to the American worker.

Labor in the leading industrial countries of the world are threatened by the globalization of the labor market. Free trade agreements are not the answer to these countries for although they do benefit the developing and underdeveloped countries of the world they do not benefit the workers of those industrialized countries. The problem, then, is how we move forward with the globalization of the world markets without unduly jeopardizing the standard of living in the existing industrial countries. The answer is complicated. However, we cannot assume destroying the standard of living in the most industrialized countries of the world is an acceptable policy. This is a result of uncompensated free trade agreements, such as NAFTA.

Finally, it takes energy to solve problems. What we should demand of our political leaders is that they put aside the contributions that put them in office and look at their job as American-Statesman but not as harlots being bought for the highest price. If your representative does not expend the necessary energy to move this country forward, you have the responsibility to vote them out of office. It’s not enough for them to say, “I’m voting in favor of this corporate policy because it will create more jobs”. If they favor globalization of the labor market, by casting a vote favoring free trade agreements, they are at odds with the American worker, you should not vote for them. What affects your neighbor today, will affect you tomorrow.

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