Monday, August 31, 2009

Not Just Globalization

Doug Henwood:

Once upon a time, working for an airline or driving a truck was a pretty good way to make a living without an advanced degree: union jobs with high pay and decent benefits. A major reason for that is that both industries were federally regulated, with competition kept to a minimum. Starting in the early 1970s, an odd coalition of right-wingers, mainstream economists, liberals, and consumer advocates (including Ralph Nader) began agitating for the deregulation of these industries. All agreed that competition would bring down prices and improve service...

On the eve of dereg, hourly wages in transportation and warehousing were about 38% above average, where it had been for years. As soon as regulations were lifted, however, the averages began a long slide that continues to today. That wage premium has now disappeared completely. The pattern in trucking since the data begins in 1990 is pretty similar, going from a 32% premium in 1990 to a 4% discount today. And working conditions have gotten inexpressibly worse—longer hours, fewer benefits, less security. Perhaps there’s a perverse egalitarianism here, the dethronement of a labor aristocracy. Is that the soul of the Democratic party?

This hits home directly for me because many of my former students work at TF Greene airport -- the ones who work for the TSA are the ones I see -- and those are good jobs, but not as good as they should be.

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