I’ve been resisting the temptation to write about the latest ‘Walk for the Cash’ - the slow-motion invasion that’s gradually approaching our border from Latin America. Illegals have already taken over large swaths of our country, instituted Central America’s wage scale in construction, eliminated high school kids as a viable lawn-mowing alternative, flooded our schools, made hit-and-run a popular pastime and annexed California.
So I was darned if I would allow them to dominate my column, too.
But maintaining my willpower is a constant struggle.
It’s a shame both Democrats and Republicans aren’t as eager to defend citizens who have jobs.
Jay Shambaugh and Ryan Nunn, writing in The Hill, explain that although the economy is booming and unemployment is down, “real wage growth has drifted toward zero. ...it has been just 0.4 percent in 2017-18.”
Two of the reasons for the lack of wage growth are systemic and a product of the vast imbalance in power between the job seeker and employer. Regular readers know I’m a conservative and resist government interference in the market. That doesn’t mean I believe individual workers should be at the mercy of soulless Human Resources drones hiding behind the hiring dictates of the executive floor. Currently employers have a de facto union that protects them from employees.
Government at the state level can play an important role in returning competition to the hiring process, which will increase wages as employers are forced to bid for workers. Unfortunately, to date all blue states have done is force nonsensical “ban the box” measures on employers, while red states sleep in the bosom of their corporate donors.
Leftists pushing “Ban the box” want to prohibit employers from asking applicants if they have ever been convicted of a crime. This is a sideshow affecting a small portion of the population.
The question Republicans and Democrats should be banning is the one asking the salary of the applicant’s previous job. This invasion of privacy question gives the employer an insurmountable advantage during salary negotiations. The question immediately sets a ceiling on the salary offer and leaves the applicant has no recourse.
If he refuses to answer the salary question he may as well have put “murder” as his answer in the banned box, because neither he, nor a real murderer, will be offered a job.
This collusion has a major impact on worker’s economic lives and helps to reduce wages. And that’s only one of the ways employers conspire together at the expense of job seekers and job holders.
Another way employers limit competition and keep wages artificially low are industry-wide, no poaching agreements where employers informally agree to avoid hiring workers from competitors in the same industry. No poaching edicts bar an employee from seeking a job with another employer in the same industry where he already has all the relevant experience and expertise and is the most valuable.
It’s as if the industry is running its own NFL, where employees are pledged to a single company, only without cheerleaders and kneeling during company functions.
A great employee, working for a lousy widget manufacturer, is stuck without any hope of moving to better working conditions, because none of the competing widget makers will hire someone from within the industry. Changing jobs forces them to look outside the industry where their experience is discounted. The situation has all the disadvantages for the employee, of an H1-B visa without the airplane trip.
The best part is instead of torturing the law to help gangs cross the border, leftist AGs can use existing statues to prevent employers from ganging up on employees and Republicans can demonstrate their “bi-partisanship” by joining the movement.
The best avenue for leveling the employment playing field is the legal concept of ‘tortious interference.’ Wikipedia defines this as “when one person intentionally damages someone else’s contractual or business relationships with a third party causing economic harm.” That’s a perfect description of a no poaching agreement that prevents an employee (the third party) from changing jobs within an industry and improving his salary and job conditions.
Eliminating the salary question is harder. At the state level, government could expand the definition of privacy to include salary. That would solve one problem, but I fear mission creep in the future.
Results for employees would begin to be felt after the first subpoenas arrived in Human Resources. How about it attorneys general? Why not stop chasing headlines and start chasing employee equality?
Michael Shannon is a commentator and public relations consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.