Do employers treat workers unfairly to increase profits? An analysis using Karl Marx Theory
The research problem for this paper is possible reasons as to why profitable corporations/employers treat workers unfairly, and how are they able to do so. Based on Karl Mar’s theory of Capitalism, the main thesis of this treatise is that employers treat workers unfairly to increase profits, and constantly look for and find new ways to cut labour costs. As evident from the articles discussed, there is rampant and often unjust exploitation of employees in not only the United States (US) but also in a vast majority of nations across the world.
The five articles from New York Times are all evidences of the work place inequality and unfair treatment in the work place which, for instance leads to the scenario in the first article, the main cause being more hours at the workplace, leading to continued growth of the plant, yet worker’s salaries keeps reducing at the Upstate New York’s Apple Juice Plant by Mott. Basically, the second article is on the same issues, whereby Tory Moore, even though having worked in Kankakee packaged-food warehouse for six years was later on denied apartment rentals and loan upon being told that his job was not real at the warehouse. This is the mistreatment of the highest order at the workplace. The other three articles agitate on low-compensation for temporary workers yet the industry thrives, the findings by study that Workers who are paid low wages are often cheated and the Mexican New Yorkers who are a steady force to reckon with in the Workplace. In the case of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, workers who are paid low wages are continually denied overtime pay that is proper and are often given less payment than the minimum wage according to a recent research (Pierr & Andre 29).
The above scenarios can all be explained using the Karl Marx’s theory and a solution to this unrest can also be sought using the same. In his theory or inequality at the workplace, Karl Marx makes it clear that the world we live in, there is an uneven distribution of power, wealth, resources and various life prospects. More so, in today’s American society, it is more unequal by many measures like the ones mentioned above than the capitalist order against which according to Karl Marx’s writing on revolutionary protest in the mid-nineteenth century attests to. Research has it that as of 2004, the 1 % of the wealthiest United States (US) citizens had an ownership of more than five times of the total that was owned by the distributed half’s bottom half. There has been a continued growth making the middle class levels in the society more vulnerable to inequality in the work place in their efforts to make ends meet. Further in 2009-2010, as the American economy began to recover from the financial disaster that was bank- made from which billions were made by the bankers, the top 1 & of those who earn income in the US captured 93% of the total growth of income. Even as evident from the given five articles, the US is the most unequal of all the nations that are considered as developed in terms of employer-employee relations. Further, the inequality between the U.S and countries that are poorer is even greater. The increasing inequality trend since 1970s has always been increasing (Christensen 47).
This misdistribution has a high likelihood of reflecting a desert measure that is not conceivable or even distributive justice. Marx makes it clear that this inequality arises not from a free market, but from a market that is majorly characterized by oligopolies and monopolies, cronyism and political influence that is bought, collusion and some of this inequality at the work place emanates from the extreme passed lax laws and regulations. Karl Marx opposed the systematic inequalities in the society that surrounds him. In order to solve these disparities, he did an explicit advocate on, at least for the near future, many social measures that are supported by egalitarians (Pierr & Andre 31).
Karl Marx’s concept of Bourgeois equal justice best explains the main motive behind the labour exploitation and violation of workers’ rights as the top class of people in the society aim at amassing much wealth at the expense of the middle and low class levels. The theoretical requirement by Marx in capital that the value of surplus has to be explained on the assumption that values that are equal have to be exchanged between economic agents that are formally free and equal, contrary to the oppressed workers in the US situation. To further explain this inequality, Marx claims that the realm in which the capitalist purchases labour power is a veritable Eden of man’s innate rights namely; equality, liberty, Bentham and property, which has a literal meaning but its content is full of irony. In (Richard 5), more generally, missing the fact is hard and there is also the impossibility of interpreting it away in that Marx does not regard exploitation of a capitalist nature of labour as unjust, or as any violation of rights of labourers. In his view, the only rights that come into question in such a situation is those that correspond to the mode of production by Bourgeois. This makes the top crème of the society who own and manage these companies to exploit the readily available labour force who have limited options as there is a large pool of capital base. This category of people also hold senior position in the government, therefore are very influential and powerful, making the employees more subjective and have little say as pertains to their exploitation at the work place. According to (Baker et al 77) the belief that is widespread among lawyers and specialists in relations among industries is that relationships in the work place are characterized by a systematic imbalance of power between workers and employers the belief traces back to the early industrial revolution’s years at least, after its reinforcement and propagation by Karl Marx. He argued that there is a probability that workers can use their stronger bargaining power in driving wages to levels that are subsistence. He categorizes capitalists into two forms namely; the soft-hearted and incompetent capitalist. The former is sympathetic for the workers who are unfortunate, whose level of productivity is not that high but has to pay heavy medical expenses for a child that is chronically ill. For the latter type of capitalist, he grossly overestimates his workers’ value and as a result of this error makes a payment that is more than the actual values. The former type of capitalists is common in the US and in many parts of the globe (Christensen 55).
From various perspectives on employment relationships, the above situation can be dealt with if it is made known to workers that all contracts on employment between individuals and employers who aim at maximizing profits in industrialized nations like the US are at-will contracts on the side of the employer. Once all employees know their rights at the work place, they will be in a better position to deal with scenarios such as the ones discussed in the articles. Although, the process of hiring then training placement costs can be substantial, in many of the employers cases have less power to reduce the rate of resignations from jobs, except through bettering or matching job offers. In defence of the exploited and mistreated workers, Karl Marx condemns the capitalists saying that they steal labour time from people who are working, however, one can only steal from someone only that which belongs to him properly. Marxist argument has the implication that the employee has proper ownership rights of his labour time and no other party, not even the manager can decide what has to be done with the employees’ capacity to work. This means that, hence the Marxist charges of exploitation are dependent on the proposition that people rightly own their own powers; this is what defines the self-ownership thesis in this article. Further, according to the traditional Marxist thesis, forcible appropriation of another person’s labour time and product by virtue of ownership of production means has always been unfair and unjust, making the above mentioned cases one of the most unjust forms of exploitation (Friedman 113).
Marx could have analysed the situation in the three treatises as cases of unfairness in the work place between the employer and worker. There is a major problem at the work place as shown in the treatises and Karl Marx strongly argues that this is not the way capitalist relations at the workplace should work, that is there should be free market place of labour, competition should be allowed and employees’ choice and rights should be adhered to the latter.
According to most contemporary labour economists, economic analysis that is elementary suggest that, as for other goods and services who’s trading is done in markets, wages and other employment terms which are largely determined through supply and demand forces in the market. It is, therefore, necessary to educate workers on their workplace rights and come up with strict legal measures against those who violate the workers’ rights. Further research needs to be done to cut across all regions of the globe to address the issue of unfair treatment and inequality at the work place not only in the developed nations (Richard 7).
Baker, George, et al.‘Relational contracts and the theory of the firm’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2002: 117(1), 39–84.Print.
Christensen, BJ, et al . ‘On-the- Job Search and the Wage Distribution: ’Journal of Labour Economics,2005: Pp. 31–58.Print.
Friedman, Sheldon &Wood, Stephen, ‘Employers’ Unfair Advantage in the United States of America: Symposium on the Human Rights Watch Report on the State of Workers’ Freedom of Association in the United States’, British Journal of Industrial Relations, 2002:Pp. 113.
Pierr, Cahuc & Andre, Zylberberg, Labour Economics, Cambridge Mass: The MIT Press.2004: Pp. 24-38. Print.
Richard, Epstein .Is There Unequal Bargaining Power in the Labour Market?, Wellington: New Zealand Business Roundtable.2005: Pp. 3-9. Print.