Monday, May 26, 2008

Which Came First, Higher Wages Or Skilled Workers?

After reading the AP story, “Wisconsin workers' wages less than national average,” I was struck by not what has been obvious for years for those of us who have worked here, but by the solution touted by corporate executives and free marketers.

First the bad news: “In a Department of Labor report released last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the average weekly wage earned across the United States is $818. But no counties in Wisconsin matched that figure…Residents there average $814 week.”

For example, the menial job of a morning weather anchor at a local Madison television station had to move to a market similar in size, South Bend Indiana, to double his salary. I knew that to be true of radio wages as well from my days as a political talk host. From that experience, I concluded that because Wisconsin provided more entry level jobs in media, once these novices honed their skills, they moved on and up into higher paying markets. In this case, states that had higher wage averages.

What struck me was this well accepted point of view from this same article;

“Alec Loftus, a spokesman with the Department of Workforce Development, says the state is working to raise wages by training a highly skilled
work force.”

But if you have a highly skilled work force in a state with low pay, no matter how much training you provide, those workers will leave for greener (money) high wage pastures.

The “great sucking sound” of jobs moving overseas we know now are the high wage positions moving to markets where they can do the same job for less, while the U.S. cuts wages and benefits for current and future skilled labor. It’s a no win situation for citizens of this and other countries that have bought in to the neo liberal policy of trade.

The solution is now a lost opportunity; Instead of trade deals that forced developing global markets to establish a wage floor under threat of tariff equalizers, raising the boats of all, the allure of dollar-a-day labor proved too strong and profitable to resist.

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