Friday, July 23, 2004

Fantastic jobs?

"It is especially galling to see the governor point at a handful of school bus drivers and excoriate them as 'special interests' that he must fight before we can have a budget. ...

The governor ran for office promising 'fantastic jobs for every Californian.' But his actions are just the opposite. He wants to help a corporation to cut bus drivers' pay. This kind of policy would increase the number of working poor in our state."
Lillian Taiz, California Faculty Association Vice President, and Professor of History at California State University, Los Angeles commenting on Governor Schwarzenegger's insistence that the budget include a provision that would allow local school districts to outsource school bus-driver positions to companies that pay lower wages than those paid by the school district.

I fault Schwarzenegger for tying this issue to the state budget. It has nothing to do with the state budget, and the state should not be held hostage to settling this debate about wage levels.

More philosophically, I'm not sure what my position is on wages. Normally, if I have a choice between similar products at different prices, I'll choose the less expensive one. But what if the price differential is due entirely to a wage differential. Should I care? If I buy the more expensive product, I'm depriving the people who make the less expensive product (and who make less money doing it) of a living. (That's one of the dilemmas we face with regard to labor standards on imported goods.) If I buy the less expensive product, am I exploiting the people who produced it if they work for very low wages?

I basically do believe in market mechanisms. The low price should win over the high price. Why isn't that true for wages?

On the other hand, the growing imbalance between the pay of CEOs and the pay everyone else gets is not healthy. Our middle class is shrinking. That's not good for the country either. I don't have an answer.

Stronger unions would help. Unfortunately, unions abused their power when they had more strength.

In the interest of full disclosure, I belong to the California Faculty Association (CFA), the same faculty union that Lil does. I believe that it is a good and necessary union.

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