The Devaluation of American Workers | The Economic Populist:
As a result, there has been an average transference of $7,000 every year from lower and middle income earners to the top. How the hell did things get this bad for middle and working class labor? It has been a long time coming, but numerous processes were at work:
- Cutting employee benefits, i.e. health plans — even after employees have retired with them.
- Eliminating defined benefits plans, such as provided standard corporate pensions — in favor of defined contribution plans (such as 401ks) in which workers are in it for themselves to accumulate adequate savings for retirement.
- Cutting wages — either de facto, or through eliminating labor unions which protected them (much exacerbated after Reagan ascended to power).
- Firing/downsizing workers just before their retirement dates, so the company is free not to have to pay retirement plan benefits, or provide stock options, as per contract clauses.
- Re-engineering the workplace to increase its automation factor in order to dump workers, so as to increase profit margins by not having to pay benefits, etc.
- Shipping as many jobs as possible overseas, to places like India or China, with labor costs barely 20% of what they are in the U.S. (and with no benefits to factor in).
- Firing — downsizing workers after mergers and acquisitions, as dictated by Wall Street interests, in order to enhance a company' profits through higher Wall Street share prices.
- Identifying older (over 50) workers as "surplus" so that they can be replaced with younger workers for whom half the wages (or less) can be paid, with fewer benefits. (A recent 5-4 Supreme Court ruling a few years ago exacerbated this by asserting anyone claiming "age discrimination" could not file a suit in standing if that was the only charge)
- Eliminating nearly all permanent jobs which carry health and pension benefits, in favor of using temp workers, outsourcing/offshoring, or some other device not requiring benefits. On the academic (university) front: by using "adjunct" professors, hired on a per-hour, per-course basis, without benefits and with no possibility of "tenure".
- Tying health insurance to employment, so that when let go or fired, workers are waylaid again by having to do without critical protection — and hereby driving them into bankruptcy and/or poverty if they should get seriously ill or seriously injured in an accident.
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