Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/06/24/now-still-good-time-raise-minimum-wage
Its essential that we raise the minimum wage to a wage that people can live on everywhere because that wage may end up becoming “the” wage thats used in computing wages in a number of different situations so it better be enough to live on Those situations are -
1.) Its the right thing to do.
2.) It may become the wage paid to millions of professionals - guest workers brought in to do professionals jobs in many services we’ve committed to trade in services in. Since foreign firms charge a lot less for workers and we’ve (already) signed and are planningmultiple new trade agreements that likely will further commit us to do this. they are still working the bugs out so so far only a few service sectors have seen much of this, (IT, nursing, and few others) but ultimately its expected to become much much more popular. Our workers may have to go to other countries to find work (as many workers in the rest of the global precariat do already) if this happens, because the fair market value of many jobs, and so the wages may fall a lot. Profits its claimed will rise substantially if that happens, so its claimed to be an “efficiency gain”. Look that phrase up. This shift has been planned since the mid 1980s and (WTO) was signed into law in 1994, its just been delayed because of negotiations having collapsed several times over terms…
3.) If our country is subject to an economic crash and has balance of payment issues due to 2, (2 may mean massive job losses) the wage paid many many workers - especially in the former public services may be tied to our official minimum wage while we pay back these debts.
4.) Due to massive outsourcing the money being paid into Social Security will fall a lot so it will be necessary to increase the money paid in a lot, since if there is a crash we wont be able to change anything then (it may already be hard because trade agreements may lock in minimum wages if they apply to foreign companies! In other words, our signing trade agreements might have an effect on the legality in international law terms of raising minimum wages, I dont know and am not a lawyer but Elizabetrh Warren is and she mentioned this possibility several years ago in an article in the Washington Post, bringing up an ISDS case where Eqypt was sued by a French civil services and water company for raising a minimum wage that applied only to some specific kinds of workers after the Arab Spring uprising.)
Totally agree, and while we are at it, let’s index a $15 minimum wage to the CPI, so the amount will adjust annually. Otherwise, in a decade we will be faced with yet another political dogfight to raise a wage floor that time has rendered inadequate.
Bernie’s proposed legislation earlier this year tied it to the median wage which, historically, has risen more than the CPI.
They may run into opposition from trading partners due to the impact on the wages paid by outsourcing firms. They have already made committments to outsource and offshore a great many jobs, based on arguments that our high skill workers dont want jobs at such low pay.
See this report from the ILO - an authoritaive source on labor and wage related matters
GATS, Migration, and Labor Standards
Philip L. Martin
International Institute for Labour Studies Geneva
For example, Page v
"Third, GATS liberalization may run headlong into the ILO push for more decent work.
Differences are the fundamental basis for both trade and migration, while ILO standards
rest on equality of treatment. Proponents of more GATS Mode 4 migration sometimes
make frontal assaults on laws and norms calling for equal treatment of workers. For
example, instead of equal wages for migrant and local workers, they sometimes advocate
allowing foreign-service providers to work for below minimum wages so that developing
countries can exploit their comparative advantage.
A simple equation underlies much of the argument for GATS liberalization: more trade is
good, Mode 4 is part of trade, ergo, Mode 4 liberalization of service provider is good. But if
GATS were to liberalize the migration of service providers, there could be WTO-ILO conflicts,
as when GATS commitments violated the bedrock equal treatment principles of Convention 97 2
and other ILO conventions. There could also be tensions if e.g. developing country service
providers arrived in higher-wage countries and were exempted from the taxes and benefits of
work-related benefit programs. GATS liberalizers aim to avoid such conflicts by creating
separate procedures and regulations for the movement of service providers, which they define as
a movement separate from labor migration even though 70 per cent of employment in
high-income countries, and all of the growth in employment, is in services.
This paper urges caution in seeing GATS Mode 4 liberalization as a missing engine for
development and a guide for managing labor migration. Most Mode 4 liberalization so far
involves easier cross-border movements for managers and professionals employed by
multinational firms. Expanding movements under Mode 4 could lead to more professional
migration, settlement and fewer remittances and returns.
There are dangers in the other major proposals as well. Freeing up the movement of
independent contractor service providers such as architects or accountants is likely to lead to the
emergence of hard-to-police brokers who capture some or much of the difference in labor costs
that motivates migration. 3 Broadening GATS to include less-skilled service providers, from
domestic helpers to janitors, produces much of the estimated US$150 billion (1997) gain cited
as a justification for liberalization, but also arouses the greatest concern in receiving countries,
especially if accompanied by elimination of economic needs tests and wage parity or minimum wage rules that were established to curb worker abuse."
*1 In answer to the question “Are we looking at tens of millions of people moving around in the future? [under Mode 4],”
Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh, director of trade in services at the World Trade Organization said “Ah, yes – it could be hundreds [of millions] if we liberalize.”
John Zarocostas, Migration helps export services, Washington Times, January 3, 2005, p. A10.
So, the push for better conditions and wages for US workers is running headlong into a push to replace US workers with low paid high skill temporary labor via treaties that take over non immigration related temporary work travel.
The supplying countries contend that it would be cheaper to just hire them than educate our own workers. That has a lot of appeal to neoliberals who just want to make more money, and dont want complicated emotional issues revolving around workers and work.
For some context on what wages are permissible and why the US minimum wage is important in this context,
Its important to recognize that powerful foreign countries like India, (among the largest in the world in terms of population) are arguing that US minimum wages (and requirements that workers should pay into Social Security) should not apply to them because their workers, who may eventually number in the tens of millions or more because of the lower cost advantage, argue GATS is the repayment of an obligation and a different sutuation than the one with US workers who they argue are less skilled and more costly.
the trade agreements often may give them a legal right to the jobs, IF they are better qualified, (in terms of education, licenses, professional qualifications, etc) and cheaper.
. In other words they want their workers - who often hold degrees, to be able to work for less than the present US minimum wage, which they frame as being too HIGH.