Value and Labor August 3, 2012Posted by johnhemry in Uncategorized.
Here in the US we’ve been downplaying the importance and value of labor for a while now. We’ll pay four bucks for a cup of coffee (or eight bucks if it is a grande triple vanilla frappe) but heaven forbid the person taking the order or making the coffee be paid too much. The universal solution to our problems is to reduce the work force, reduce wages, reduce benefits. Except for the very top tier, who need to be motivated by millions in bonuses even if their company is tanking because of their decisions. I think that’s sad, and not purely for economic reasons. The middle class keeps getting squeezed because it’s easy to cut their wages and benefits, but along with income they are losing respect. I personally believe that anyone who does their job to the best of their ability deserves respect, not a look down the nose because their job involves manual labor or repetitive work or just isn’t upper tier. They also deserve to be paid a reasonable wage. That’s in everyone’s best interest. Almost a hundred years ago now, Henry Ford doubled the wages of his assembly line workers. The Wall Street Journal howled that those were “obscene” wages, but Ford prospered mightily because his workers could now afford to buy the cars they built. He sold a lot more cars. By contrast, we’ve been following the Walmart model for a while. Drive down wages so you can drive down prices. But eventually you reach the point where wages are low enough that people can’t afford to shop at Walmart, either (which is why Walmart is facing a real challenge from Dollar General and similar retailers). Boosting wages too high is a mistake, but so is cutting them too low. As in everything else, there has to be balance. And respect for those who do their jobs well, no matter what that job is.