“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Sunday, September 06, 2015

immigration: what is to be done?

From the working class perspective, then, what is to be done about immigration?

There’s amnesty. There’s changing the focus of enforcement of immigration laws from the immigrant to the employer. There’s increasing the minimum wage.

All of these are partial ways of attacking what is at the heart of the problem of immigration in the US – the stagnation and decline of low income wages. I have a more total solution in mind.
I would require all employees at whatever level to belong to a union of some kind.

This of course is not an idea that anybody important in public life is, at the moment, advocating. Yet it does attack the problem not only of immigration as a tool by which capital lowers the wages of labor, but, even more radically, the division between skilled and unskilled labor.
American unions are, famously, declining. Membership from the glory days of the fifties is down by almost half. Yet, this only tells part of the story. As unions have declined, guilds, defined as means of credentialling that limit labor competition, have become more and more a common part of American life. From air conditioning repair to barbering to doctoring and lawyering, more and more professions require a licence from the government.
The justification for this practice is that the consumer – of hair cuts, cool air, surgery, or legal casuistry – has to be protected. But this justification ignores the fact that guild protection also cuts down on the labor supply and, consequently, raises the price of the cost of these services. For economists, generally, this is a sad. For me, it is one of the most potent ways the American middle class has maintained its status.
Of course, the older guilds were lateral organizations, where the onus was on the relationship between members, while many of the new guilds simply create a relationship between the state and the credentialled person.

It is my simple suggestion that labor unions of one type or another be extended all the way down and all the way up, building on the guild form that Americans have developed. There should not be a single nanny, grass cutter, or roof layer who does not have a membership card in some union. This lays the groundwork for attacking the whole problem of low wages and unemployment in a new way, in which the difference wrought by immigration would simply be dissolved.  

No comments: