Friday, October 13, 2006

Proposed Better Wages and Job Security for "Made in China" Making Western Nations Cry Foul

Yes, you read it right. According to this article in today's New York Times, The People's Republic of China, one of the last holdouts for Communism and long seen as the world's biggest, most misguided country, economically, for being so, may actually be surpassing the United States and many European nations in its recently proposed law to make labor unions there much stronger... and impose much greater fines on comporations, the vast majority of them American and European, that do not comply.
One would think that with all the recent and current attempts to jam democratic ideals down the throats of Asian nations from the Middle East to North Korea, that, from a moralistic standpoint, everyone in the "Free World" should be applauding the Chinese government's recent drive to strengthen labor unions and end the horrible, dehumanizaing practices of sweatshops and sweatshop, again the vast majority of which are factories producing goods for American and European conglomerates. Well almost everyone does--from a moral standpoint. But then there's the corporate side: if the proposed law goes through, all that cheap labor won' be as cheap and American and European companies have alredy threatened to pull out of China partially if not entirely if the law is not thrown out, or at least heavily amended. And you think we (as in Americans) have it bad?!
Well actually we do. This story is right in line with an interview I saw last night at the 7:00 pm repeat of the 11:00 Wednesday night edition of the Daily Show with John Stewart, an interview of the author of War of the Middle Class, whose name I forget at the time being. Long-story-short, paraphrasing directly from the interview, wages have been "stagnant" for the last 35 years or so and labor unions in the private sector are at an all-time low, meanwhile inflation and the cost of living seem to not even follow the Law of Diminishing Returns (i.e. rise steadily, if not in leaps). Switching back to China, most laborers, for sure, have had it much worse, at least since the 1980's as the Times suggests, but the government is making a move on that--with the new proposed law.
To be blunt in my opinion, God forbid the average Chinese worker at least make wages comparable to our minimum wage--wages that, with two jobs or significant overtime, a man and woman (or other version of couple--this is the Millenium), can actually be able to effectively provide not only for themselves, but for their dependents. It'll be interesting to see how this whole issue plays out, especially if the American labor unions are watching, because the repercussions could lead to something as extreme in America as a "revolt" as mentioned on The Daily Show, although I suggest something more along the lines of longer, bolder striking, as New York City Transit workers did last Christmas season (interesting how it's been almost a year now). "How people vote on November 7th," as the interviewed author suggested as a "revolt" isn't, I feel, anything of real substance unless you're that heavily into politics. I think it's going to take more than the title "Democrat" versus "Republican" to get wages and job security going again.

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