Monday, March 10, 2014

The Star-Ledger Exploits a Workers Death to Attack Big Business

The tragic accidental death of a worker in's Avenel, New Jersey, facility was the prop for the New Jersey Star-Ledger to bash big business. In worker's death sheds much-needed light on worker safety, the editors open:

We may not know for several months exactly how a temporary worker died this month at’s distribution center in Avenel, but there is already a lot we know about how companies like Amazon exploit temps and too often fail to protect them from physical danger.

Notice the word "exploit," as if Amazon forces workers into their jobs and then holds them there against their will, whip in hand. The editorial goes on:

The use of temporary workers has become increasingly popular with big corporations in recent years as a way to boost profits and CEO pay packages by providing lower wages and eliminating benefits.

I left these comments:

I love the one-sidedness and bigotry of this—the Left's—view of productive businesses. What's missing from that description?—the life-advancing value enjoyed by the workers who voluntarily take the jobs and the consumers who benefit from lower prices enabled by the cost-cutting, which increases sales and "boosts profits."

One of the dopiest ideas is that corporations profit by harming their own workers and their own customers, as if workers deliberately seek out bad jobs and consumers seek out the worst products. A few seconds of thought will expose the absurdity. Profitable corporations don't happen at anyone's expense—and in fact, can not. The occasional quick-buck artist notwithstanding, when a corporation increases profits, workers and consumers benefit along with the executives. This is really the essence of capitalism; the win-win-win relationship between business, labor, and consumer, each pursuing their own self-interest. This harmony of mutual self-interest is the basic moral virtue of capitalism.

This doesn't mean the issue of worker safety isn't important. Legal responsibility is a complex issue, and much of that responsibility undoubtedly rests with the corporation that creates and maintains the job position, with all that that entails. But there is no exploitation of temps involved, unless the authors are willing to also argue that the worker and consumer are exploiting Amazon to their own self-interested benefit. But if every voluntary contractual relationship is mutual exploitation, that would demolish the cognitive usefulness of the term "exploit."

Responsibility for worker safety is a complex legal issue. Both the corporation and the worker have certain responsibilities. The editors acknowledge that the facts of the case of this worker are not yet known. Was it his fault, the company's neglect, or some combination. I can tell you, as someone who worked in the construction industry for 46 years, that plenty of times it is the worker who ignores safety procedures put in place by the company. But objectivity is beside the editorial's main point, which is to go after business, as this next statement demonstrates:

OSHA should be commended for calling attention to this urgent issue and for urging host corporations and temp agencies to meet their legal responsibility to provide safe conditions and proper training. But, unfortunately, lobbyists for big corporations often succeed at preventing Congress from providing the safety agency with the necessary resources to make employers obey the law.
At the same time, corporate special interests have been able to severely weaken enforcement of workers’ legal right to form unions in order to insist on safe conditions.

The emergence of regulatory agencies—which are essentially lawless bureaucracies wielding arbitrary power to impose legal mandates—creates the need for special interest lobbies, which try to nudge these agencies in the direction that best suits their respective interests. There are business lobbies; consumer lobbies; labor lobbies; and myriad other special interest lobbies with myriad agendas. Notice only "big corporations" are criticized for protecting their interests.

Who advocates stripping workers of the right to form unions? The only people arguing for violating rights are those who call for compulsory unionization, which violates workers' rights, and those seeking laws legally forcing companies to deal with unions, which violates the rights of businessmen.

The legal issues surrounding responsibility for worker safety are properly handled by objective law—not regulatory agencies wielding arbitrary power—with disputes resolved in courts of law.

Related Reading:

It's Time to Bury the "Trickle-Down" Myth

What is Objective Law—Harry Binswanger

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