The availability of work has been deteriorating, year after year, dating back to the begging of the 20th century. The future of work is being compromised and dismantled by the advancement of globalization, the ever so impactful progression of neoliberalism, and the evolution of the fourth industrial revolution. Technology became the catalyst that advanced and expanded the opportunities for growth on the job market. However, what was once intended to be used as a tool, became the disease that will permanently wipe out the incorporations of humans into this work force. Specifically, the type of work in jeopardy are the jobs that service individuals without degrees, individuals who are minorities, and individuals who work in sectors that could be automated through the use of technology. The removal of humans from these forms of work is part of the capitalist's agenda to minimize production and liability costs, for their own greed of profitable production. Through this development of capitalists' greed, the future of the economy and the need to unionize, will vanish due to the infestation of technological automation.
In order to understand why the need for union will vanish, it is important to understand the meaning of globalization, neoliberalism, and what is meant by the fourth industrial revolution. Globalization can be defined as the prosses in which businesses who manufacture goods make the decision to move their production facilities internationally, in order to minimalize the cost and speed of production. Globalization was one of the greatest's downsides to the advancements of production, because it impacted the quantity of quality paying jobs offered in the United States. However, one of the greatest impacts to the economy derived from neoliberal policies. Neoliberalism is the act of removing the government from having a say in pricing of the goods, meaning capitalists can sell their products through the act of supply and demand. Because of this policy, globalization was attractive to capitalists since they could control their costs of production by running cheaper facilities overseas. This implied less regulation in the work place and employee costs. Lastly, the fourth industrial revolution is the indistinguishable boundary between the interconnectedness of work and our digitally controlled lives. The advancement of technology is believed to outsource and replace humans in the work force. David Dixon Jr. exemplifies this in his article, “A History and Future of the Rise of Robots,” when he says, “rather than tools simply being an inert extension of his own self and expertise, they began making demands on his time.” He is painting the picture of the blurred lines between what a human does with technology and how that shifts to how a human is eventually managed by it. Ultimately, these three terms have been redefined under the influence of capitalism, but the greatest role these three terms played was in the assistance of demolishing unions in the United States.
The rise and fall of service and financial sectors came to be with the developmet of globalization. According to Douglas Massey, author of The American Stratification System, “The international Monetary Fund (IMF) guaranteed the convertibility of currencies and ensured international liquidity to prevent recurrent monetary crises, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) worked to lower barriers to the international exchange of goods, capital, commodities, and services.” Globalization was built on the fundamentals of security, but security limited to the capitalists' profit. The exchange of currencies, and its ability to be liquified, highlights the aspect of how money itself became a form of technology. Removing the physical touch of money made it easier to remove people from the production line in the United States. This form of segregation between reality and the future is a key component to the success of capitalists' engineering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
This evolution dating back to the 1970's is what Massey coined as the “watershed” period. The “watershed” period describes the transformation that occurred due to “computerization, market expansion, and fragmentation.” The act of transforming production line type factories into an entirely automated system was the key impact globalization had in the destruction of unions, further empowering capitalists. The desire to globalize shifted the new economy to soon unravel into a new form of inequality in the United States. The desire was to widen the gap between the rich and the poor in which Bennet Harrison and Barry Bluestone coined the phrase “The Great U-Turn”. This is the term used to describe rate of change in the shift in wealthy taxpayers becoming wealthier after Ronald Regan was elected president. This dismantled any progress made with the New and Fair Deals drafted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, giving rise to inequality and deteriorating any progressing made to help unionize minorities/immigrant workers. The concept of “new inequality,” coined by Massey, highlights the impact powerful corporations have on controlling the livelihood of minority and immigrant workers. According to Massey, “Latinos and Blacks were the lowest earning minority groups, women were at the greatest disadvantage, and class was easily divided between rich and poor. Understanding where one stood in this segregation system allowed for the success of globalization. Fred B. Glass referred to this tactic as “creative destruction” in From Mission to Microchip. Glass touches upon General Motors and the United Auto Workers. Employees of GM were largely Latinos and African Americans who endured the uncomfortable working conditions in the Van Nuys GM factory. However, workers were willing to endure working in this loud and unsafe environment because it meant they could live their “Fordist” dreams. Glass goes on to explain that, although minority workers were ununionized, they were able to climb the social ladder and live in nicer, middle-class neighborhoods. However, this dream came to a halt when GM was being outcompeted by the Japanese auto industry, ultimately causing GM to purchase Electronic Data Systems (EDS) to replace human workers with robots. This is a leading example as to how irrelevant it is to have a union. The advancement of technology is the core reason behind the lack in need to unionize because humans can easily be replaced which leads to the decrease in need to regulate and unionize. It is cheaper and less of a liability for capitalists, ultimately making the conjunction of neoliberal globalism so powerful.
This move towards de-unionization made it far more common for large corporations to do the same. Wal-Mart, being the most profitable company in the world, does not have unionized employees. Wal-Mart is a corporation who built their culture around providing people with the lowest priced products on the market. According to Dixon, “the service sector in the United States accounts for over 78% of the total employment in the United States, and is growing rapidly while employment in production is not growing at all.” This is because companies like Wal-Mart are able to outsource their products to achieve low pricing, ultimately outcompeting the market. According to Nelson Lichtenstein, in his book Walmart: The Face of Twenty-First-Century Capitalism, “small stores complain that they are being driven out of business…which contended that not only is Wal-Mart fiercely antiunion toward its own employees, but that it undercuts unionized competitors and forces them to lower labor standards”. This was the power Wal-Mart could sustain being a private-sector. Wal-Mart utilized its power to undertake and replace people.
The greatest evolutionary form of technological impact on the work force derives from precarious work and the gig economy. The dismantling of the production line sparked the creation of marketing the concept of individuals being their own boss, so they do not have to rely on consistent work to be a source of income. This form of precarious work found success in the development of the gig economy. The gig economy refers to the type of work that is dependent on the individual to source themselves. For example, Uber and Lyft are ride sharing services called Transportation Network Companies (TNC) that connect drivers to passengers through a mobile application. The divide in class is most prevalent in this sector. Just like the automation in factories, the gig industry is removing people from these jobs. Those with degrees are capable to working directly for these companies to develop their software and technology, while those without those credentials work for the companies by being “self-contactors.” Because these drivers are considered “self-contractors”, they cannot be unionized and therefore will not receive any benefits, health care coverages, and raises. Drivers for Uber are furious with this because public sector jobs involving transportations, like bus drivers and train conductors, are unionized with benefits and salary stability. However, it is just a matter of time before Ubers and Lyfts will turn into being self-driving cars and Uber and Lyft can eliminate this problem by eliminating their reliance on humans to run their service.
Overall, the need for unions is useless in this age of advancing technology. Technology does not complain about its wages, work environment, or safety. It simply is able to keep a production line running and eliminate any forms of liabilities that would come with human workers. Although it seems unjust to remove workers from an industry that could provide them with job security, capitalists largely benefit from globalization, neoliberalism, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Unions will no longer be relevant because humans will no longer be relevant in the forms of work that would benefit humans to being organized. Simply put, it is an exceptionally effective method to the success of capitalistic investments.
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