Work Rules: The Cure May Be Worse Than The Disease

Robert Kuttner's proposals ("Needed: A two-way social contract in the workplace," Economic Viewpoint, July 10) are what helped cause our problems in the first place. Because of legislative edicts, legal precedents, union work rules, and governmental social engineering, employees have become an expensive liability.

The opening of trade barriers and the blurring of national borders will have a balancing effect as a true global economy unfolds. The American worker will be forced to compete for work with an equally skilled "global" worker who has, in the majority of cases, been paid substantially less while producing a similar product. An equilibrium will be reached by higher wages being reduced and lower wages being raised. Unfortunately for the American worker, our wages are the artificially high ones in a global workforce.

What Kuttner proposes will serve only to exacerbate the problem. Additional work rules will quickly force the surviving employers to relocate their businesses outside of the U.S. and away from artificially high wages and benefits.

The reality is that employees need to look at the services they perform as if they were independent contractors competing in a global market. This will be a sobering experience for most of us. To maintain some semblance of the lifestyle that we've grown accustomed to, American workers need to continue improving their skills, pay off their debts as quickly as possible, and get ready for the resultant high probability of deflation.

James B. Harkrider Jr.


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