Saturday, March 11, 2006

Race, Class And Wage Labor

A strange quirk is being noted in comparing the February 2006 labor statistics against those of February 1998. In February of 1998, unemployment rates stood at 3.9% for White Workers, 9.7% for Black workers, and 6.8% for Latino workers.

In February 2006, the statistics stood at 4.1% for White workers, 9.3% for Black workers, and 5.5% for Latino workers.

On the surface some would think that this represents some level of advance for persons of color. But in other ways it probably does not. Very likely many persons of color may now be more employable by business interests because their wage labor costs may tend to be lower than that of many comparable Whites workers.

With a larger growth of "service" jobs in the economy with lower wages generally paid than comparable manufacturing jobs which are in a decline, with 3 million disappearing since mid2000, many persons of color may find their employment more likely, but only because their labor may be valued for less. This is hardly the advance and parity of all persons to be expected in a truly egalitarian society.

In fact, according to AFL-CIO statistics, union workers as a whole have 28% higher wages than nonunion workers. And Black union members have a 29% higher wage than nonunion Black workers. With Latino workers the difference in wages between the two households is 59%. Only in the case of Asian American union members is the difference the less significant 11%.

Some entire businesses will hire all Black or all Latino workforces, not as a sign of racial equality, but as a sign that they are offering low wages to a workforce that will accept the wages, but that do not allow for much class advancement.

And when using race as a class of low cost labor is not cost effective, then outsourcing to labor in China at 24-40cents an hour becomes the next alternative for business seeking to maximize profits while offering little class advancement to workers. Despite all the advances of capitalism within China, for many in China, conditions such as full literacy, life expectancy and other factors as a whole still remain at 100 years behind the U.S.


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