Listening to Michigan Radio while sitting in my car outside the Grand Rapids public library a few days ago I heard a story run on the new so-called second tier workers at General Motors. These workers are the new hires for GM, after all the financial restructuring that has taken place. The reason the story was run was to highlight the inequalities that are taking place between old hires and the new as concerns wages. For example, while a worker hired in the late 1980’s may be making $28 per hour a new hire performing the same job is making a starting salary of $16 per hour. The implicit unstated addition is that there may not be many, if any, salary raises. This pay difference has the new workers in consternation; why should they be second class? After all, do they not have the same dreams and aspirations as the older workers, do not they have car and boat payments too?
Bear in mind that these new hires are usually young high-school graduates and college drop-outs, or returning workers who were layed off of other jobs. The particular story in question as aired on the news interviewed a young man of 22 years who is making $16 and feels that it is unfair that his older brother makes substantially more. My bewilderment is this: why do we, the educated public, care? The last time I did the calculations such a person is paid, allowing for time off work and a fair work week, at least $32,000 per year. That is equivalent to a starting teacher salary in this state, or a starting professor. Further, the last time I checked, one can actually live comfortably, if not frugally, for a long time on such a salary. Further, the last time I checked, teachers and professors tend to have far more eduction than your average high-school graduate or college drop out. Indeed, by the time I finish my education I will have been in undergraduate and graduate school for a minimum of nine years. That is nine years of intellectual and physical blood sweat and tears, making absolutely no salary at all, so that at the end I can at the age of thirty have a starting salary of $30,000 (IF all goes well!). So, not to sound miffed but why is this a problem that automotive workers suddenly make less money? Is this a social crisis? I should hope not; no one is forcing them to work there and, let’s be honest, it is far better than the vast majority of workers in the world. I bet they even get paid smoking breaks.
I hope that this is my first and only Libertarian sounding post on this blog; I do not intend to comment on these matters. It just irked me the wrong way. I’m sorry that new G.M. workers do not make enough to buy a big house, boat, and expensive car. Guess what? Neither do philosophers, and we don’t care.