Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Service with Dignity

There's a lot of talk right now about whether rescinding trade deals really helps or hurts workers.

There's actually another discussion we should be having:  how can we realistically make a service-based industry a better thing for workers?  For one thing, there's no guarantee we can bring substantial manufacturing jobs back home.  Secondly, many jobs were replaced by automation/computerization.

It's helpful to look at other examples.  While we cannot be exactly like other countries, we can learn from them.  In Germany, about 71% of the workforce is in service jobs.  Yet,  having a job like this is not taken as a mark of "shame."  In fact, if you see German wait-servers at work, you can see they treat it as a real profession.  (Unfortunately, Germany has resorted to a trickle-down economics type plan. They now have more workers needing food pantries to get by.)

Although politicians can't change our behavior directly, they do seem to exercise outsized influence on people.  Maybe if they came out and talked about our "nameless, faceless" service industry workers, if they reminded everyone of the respect that McDonald's and Wal-Mart workers should have, maybe that would make a difference.

And, once again, dumping supply-side economics would be a good thing.  There are many articles coming out where a few radical, open thinkers in the "1%" are saying the same thing.  They value a stable society and argue that better wages are part of this.  They admit that huge windfalls for the wealthy don't "trickle down."  They remind their audiences that the wealthy need middle-class customers to buy their stuff.  They remind others that, if the middle class isn't stretched so thin time-wise, they can volunteer in ways to make the world a better place.

Some of these thinkers admit where the windfall to the rich goes:  it goes to buying up stock in their own companies.  This artificially raises the price of stock, which gives the CEOs, who get part of their income off their stocks, more money.  One of these enlightened one-percenters pointed out that every Wal-Mart employee could have gotten a raise of over $4000 with the money Wal-Mart spent to buy up  and inflate its own stock.  Finally, Wal-Mart listened, and there have been some pay raises there. Wal-Mart must hustle more to compete with other corporations.  But some consumers are rewarding Wal-Mart by using their services more since they've given raises.

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