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Monday, April 11, 2011

Labor-Management Relations: Starving Workers as a Childish Tactic

Before the industrialization in the nineteenth century, nothing "intrinsic or permanent separated those who hired from those who hired out" because "many laborers could hope to ear and saven enough to become their own employers." (1) That is to say, the employee/employer distinction was not overlaid with connotations of disparate distinctions, such as child/parent and subject/ruler. Relatedly, the two parties to the economic agreements bearing on labor in exchange for money had roughly equal bargaining power. As the United States industrialized, however, a distinct working class developed as industrial workers found their upward mobility cut off by rising start-up costs and other barriers to entry. Additionally, the advent of the monopolies (and oligopolies) swung the balance of power in contract negotiations strongly in favor of the corporations. With the added leverage came pretensions going far beyond what could be justified by the relation of labor and capital in a commercial contract. The case of the first transcontinental railroad, which was completed in 1869, demonstrates just how distended the pretensions on the corporate side had become.

The full essay is in Cases of Unethical Business: A Malignant Mentality of Mendacity, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.