My best friend in the neighborhood is my neighbor across the street. I’m a liberal Democrat; he is a conservative – certainly not crazy! – Republican. Long ago we discovered we agree on the overwhelming majority of issues; in fact, we think amazingly alike. Both of our fathers served in the Navy and I’d like to base today’s article on a saying each passed down to us. (Considering they were sailors I won’t be using direct quotes; some adjectives are best left out of this column.) One saying is: common sense isn’t all that common. The other is: I am the government. While seemingly divergent I assure you that I will weave them together and extrapolate a conclusion which you may or may not agree with,
I strongly feel that the in order for the middle/working class to come back in America we need a resurgence in the union movement. I know the timing is odd considering the organized labor movement just suffered another major blow at Amazon. The middle/working class started its decline in the 1980s with the Reagan administration and the correlation of those two facts is much more than a coincidence!
There were other changes, among them the shift away from domestic manufacturing which is relatively easy to offshore. Most of the new jobs are in lower paying service industries. Hence the decline in purchasing power and standard of living. That change presents an opportunity that labor has yet to take advantage of.
It is easy to automate or offshore repetitive industrial jobs. It is often difficult, and in many cases impossible, to automate or offshore service jobs. Since the owners of the entities that provide services cannot avoid employing people at or near the point of service that takes away the threat of moving jobs to a foreign country. It also means they need a local labor force giving that labor force bargaining power if they bargain collectively.
Today may be pick on Amazon day but they are far from alone; they are just a convenient example. Amazon needs to deliver to your door and therefore needs facilities in close proximity to you. The same can be said for most retailers and service providers. How far are you willing to travel for your daily or weekly needs? If you want to go out to breakfast, lunch or supper how much time can you budget to it? Some commerce cannot be done via delivery and even much of that still demands proximity.
Amazon and many others have a business model that is dependent on paying the bulk of their people low wages. (I’ll leave working conditions to another day.) That model only works with the assistance of corporate welfare. Those social safety net programs are paid for by the government. Whether local, state or federal the consumer is the taxpayer and therefore the government – at least when it comes to picking up the tab. In reality you pay for the goods or services either through a higher up front price or taxes that fund the social safety net programs. The only winners in the current model are the exploitive companies who in many cases avoid paying many taxes.
The common sense solution is to unionize, fairly tax the big businesses (and that very much includes ending the practice of states and municipalities giving huge tax concession to lure or retain them). It actually would not end up costing John Q. Public any more and would give dignity to a large portion of the labor force.
Maybe my neighbor’s father and mine were on to something after all.
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