In order to think about ways to align labor rights and human rights and create the changes needed to eliminate the poverty and oppression caused by those ignoring the basic rights that all people should reasonably expect to enjoy; we must address the concept of Intellectual Imperialism.
Intellectual Imperialism is the exploitation of intellectual capital by focusing our best and brightest scientific and engineering minds on developing innovations in labor saving, rather than life saving, technology. The mindset that only by reducing the number, and cost, of workers can a mature industry remain profitable, is a perception in dire need of change if international labor and human rights standards are to be effectively implemented and enforced.
We invest our government and corporate research funding capital, and the efforts of our best people, creating new and improved ways to have fewer and fewer people able to run our industrial plants, rather than focusing that same set of limited resources on discovering innovative ways of employing the same number of people to create more, better quality, more useful products, whose production would create even higher levels of employment.
Better products increase demand, greater demand increases industrial employment to meet that demand, higher employment increases disposable income, more disposable income creates more consumer spending, and all contribute to higher profits, and therefore a stronger economy.
This is not to say that progress and innovation, geared towards increasing profit, is any way a bad thing. The profit motive has served to create the funding for all manner of innovations.
From early civilizations prior to the first time an ancient Greek, Phoenician, or Norse sea captain asked their kings and queens to sponsor exploration to find new trade routes, products, and treasure, profit has driven innovation.
The reallocation of capital and human resources to maximize education and employment opportunities is vital to the health and prosperity of our nation and the international community.
A greater percentage of corporate and public research and development funds must be used to improve training and education. This is essential to properly prepare our young people for their place in the future work force. Keeping the skills of today’s work force vital and current, so their skill set can continue to evolve, is key to keeping them prepared for the constant work place change that is the hallmark of the 21st century global economy.
Corporate funding to permanently endow innovative elementary and secondary school programs; corporate and union funded endowment of professorships, teaching assistant-ships, and research staffs at universities; government, corporate, and labor partnerships in the endowment of international educational exchange programs will create a permanent environment for ongoing educational innovation.
In order to foster the cultural and core value changes required, it is imperative that governments, multinational corporations, organized labor, human rights organizations, academia, and community activists begin the dialogue necessary to form the consensus needed to implement meaningful, lasting, change.
A key element is the agreement and commitment by all International Labor Organization (ILO) member nations to implement changes in their domestic labor laws and trade policies to create the ability for workers everywhere to have the protection of, and means to enforce, the four conventions comprising the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
The commitment to enforce the right to freedom of association and the right to engage in collective bargaining; elimination of all forms of compulsory or forced labor; abolition of child labor; and finally, elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation with serious penalties universally imposed on violators is essential.
Further, enforceable legislation needs to be passed guaranteeing that workers employed by international corporations anywhere in the world should be paid a wage that creates a standard of living equivalent to that enjoyed by that company’s workers with the best pay, benefits, and conditions employed in similar jobs. This is the only way to bring the race to the bottom to a halt and put an end to social dumping.
An international coalition of government, industry, and labor must come together to create a plan to design and implement a worldwide program of green infrastructure construction projects to replace outdated, crumbling, bridges, roads, railroads, water treatment, and power delivery systems in developed countries, and bring renewable, green, transportation, water and power delivery systems to developing nations.
This will create new business opportunities for capital investment as well as millions of management, administrative, technical, skilled, and unskilled jobs around the world. The investment in education will create the innovations needed to create this green transportation and utility infrastructure, which will create opportunities for capital investment in green mining, agricultural, industrial, and service industries, resulting in more employment, more corporate profits, and a higher standard of living for people everywhere.
If we do not, if we continue to ignore the ever-increasing hunger, squalor, sickness, ignorance, and worldwide economic and ecological damage, caused by the unregulated greed and shortsightedness of so many in political, industrial, labor, and social leadership, if we continue to march, with flags waving and bands playing, obliviously backward into the dark ages, the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren will be a millennium of darkness and despair.
About the Author: Robert Daraio is a Local Representative of The Newspaper Guild of New York, CWA Local 31003; the Recording Secretary of the New York Broadcast Trades Council; moderator of theBroadcast Union News website; and a 2011 graduate of the MALS program at the CUNY Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies.