^ Target workers vote to unionize in search of higher pay and better benefits

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News comes today, via the Wall Street Journal, that workers at a Brooklyn-location Target store have voted to join a union. They join a growing number of retail and fast food service workers who are unionizing in search of higher pay — maybe even much higher. I applaud their effort.

A link to the story : http://www.wsj.com/articles/target-workers-at-brooklyn-store-vote-to-join-union-1442445420

I have editorialized several times in favor of raising the minimum legal wage to $ 15.00 an hour here in Massachusetts. I see service worker organizing as crucial to that policy goal. I even prefer it, because a one-size minimum wage isn’t as efficient as a union bargain. A $ 15.00 minimum wage may be too small for some cities, such as Boston, and maybe too generous for others. Union bargaining store to store can achieve a wage more effectively location-based.

Retail and service workers have for too long been paid far too little. many have needed taxpayer-funded public assistance merely to get by. Workers in that situation cannot participate in the discretionary economy, the chief locus of economic growth. (the other engine of economic growth is immigration. More about that later.) Unionized service workers can more effectively. bargain for useful incomes than workers on their own, and they should be encouraged to do so,not only in order to spend into the discretionary economy but also to boost the esteem in which the public holds service workers. There is no objective reason why service work should be judged inferior to managerial work. The chief cause is income. Low paid workers can’t socialize at restaurants and pubs as readily as high paid workers and thus become socially isolated. We tend to look down upon those we see only in a crowd, passing, or behind a service counter. It’s completely different if the person who serves us at a service counter someone we know and socialize with.

I support unionizing service workers for both reasons : enabling such workers into the discretionary economy and boosting the respect in which service workers are held.

The second reason also has economic consequences. Those whom we respect, we do socialize with. The wider the circle of respect, the larger the party we can gather, at a pub or restaurant, or at a golf course, or on a trip, all of which means money is being spent into the economy.

The results that I support do mean important changes in the way businesses are governed., For smaller businesses and the privately owned, workers must be considered a major business asset, not a burden or a cost. As higher paid workers are more loyal and more enthusiastic, they help a business to avoid the vast costs and time wastes occasioned by high employee turnover. This holds true for large, publicly traded businesses as well, but the large issue here is that stockholders of such businesses can no longer be free to impose short-term earnings results in search of rapid speculative arbitrage. (Donald Trump, oddly enough, has it exactly right when he criticizes hedged fund speculation;’s ruinous impact on business operations.)

Some businesses complain about having these changes imposed on them, but their plaints fall flat. How can improving a worker’s ability to buy stuff be bad for any business ?

I briefly mentioned immigration  as a vital source of economic growth. This isn’t difficult to see. Every immigrant, no matter how he or she got here, is a customer. The more customers a business has, the bigger it grows. Immigration does not merely grow our economy; it created it. Immigration created America. To impede immigration is to impede us.

Many accusations are hurled at immigration; one that merits a response is the claim that immigrants take jobs that Americans already here would otherwise get. I oppose this claim. Immigrants do not take existing jobs, they create jobs that didn’t exist : working in businesses serving the immigrant community itself; doing work that other workers won’t do, such as cleaning toilets at 5;00 o’clock in the morning and picking crops at farms; as language interpreters and community information centers. Immigrants also create new businesses — indeed, more new businesses than are started by Americans already here.

But it is true that many immigrants work in regular service jobs that people already here might take. As I see it, tahts’ a problem that boosting service wofrkjers’ income can relikeve. As service workers gain more income, their spending into the discretionary income boosts businesses and thus creates jobs that Americans already here can get hired for.

I don’t say that boosting the income of service and retail workers will bring Nirvana. But it sure will boost then economy for lots and lots of people who are waiting to see their own economies improved. Let’s support service workers as they unionize to bargain better wages and benefits.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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