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Relevance and trend


Do you know children and teenagers still a major victim to employers'exploitations?


Despite all the brouhaha the labor market is still rife in instances of exploitation of unorganized laborers, especially the children and teenagers. True that the Fair Labor Standards Act(FLSA), 1938, provides for a minimum wage and overtime pay and places strict limits on child labor. True, President Clinton has proposed to raise the minimum wage for this underprivileged to $6.15 per hour soon. Yet despite this raise the payment would work out to be far less than the monthly average hourly wage for production workers. It is also hard fact every year several hundred thousand unrepresented American employees are discharged without proper causes. Despite the social and political power enjoyed by the labor organizations Job security has turned out to be a passť. In fact as the American labor movement crosses the second century it is confronted with more challenges than cheers.

Let's take a look at the trend:

The American labor movement has historically derived its organizational strength from the Northern blue-collar workers. Today things have changed drastically. As the US continues its transformation into a post-industrial society with knowledge-edge the job as well as the labor profile has changed quite a lot. Keeping pace with these changes the number of white collar and service positions has increased while the number of blue collar production jobs has shrunk sizably. Accordingly, the condition of the organized labor force in the US has improved compared to that of their brethren some hundred years ago. The government extends newer benefits to help American workers acquire the skills and get the information they need to succeed in the 21st Century. Recently Vice President Al Gore announced a new website, www.workers.gov, that connects workers and their families to government services and information.

Over the recent past a broad consensus on the employer-employee relationship has developed. The consensus begins with a recognition that market processes, including labor markets have created enormous wealth. But in fact, the markets are yet to be based on perfect, self-regulating mechanisms. And the axe of this imperfection often falls on the weaker sections of labor force. For instance, see the plight of the labor force, not coming under the purview of organizations or unions.
The galloping pace with which this unorganized labor force is growing has become a cause
of concern. Unions now represent about 13 per cent of the work force. Thanks to the changed psyche - the growing awareness of the possibilities for individual advancement and the tendency to dissociate one's future from collective actions. Result, there has been an alarming fall in the membership of the labor unions over the recent past. This decline in union strength has deprived most workers of meaningful collective representation. However, if labor organizations become ineffective, many of the employees will exploit the situation. If there is no statutory minimum wage, many workers, especially those with little or no bargaining power would be subject to the whims of market and would be forced to accept earnings that are considered socially unacceptable. Finally in the absence of total labor movement the federal and the state legislators will be less inclined to support statutes protecting workers' interests.

While promises are still there, the lurking perils over the labor are no less significant. So the writing on the wall is even after a couple of centuries of morph sis America can hardlydeny the need and relevance of organized labor movement.

Ganesh Chaturthi
Eid-ul-Adha
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