View Poll Results: Is Labor a Commodity

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  • Yes, it's a commodity subject to the market of wages offered

    10 33.33%
  • No, it's not a commodity, workers should receive a living wage

    12 40.00%
  • Yes, fill in your own justification

    2 6.67%
  • No, fill in your own justification

    6 20.00%
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Thread: Is Labor a Commodity?

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    Re: Is Labor a Commodity?

    Quote Originally Posted by drz-400 View Post
    But you typically don't because it is fungible. If you gave me a gallon of gas one day because I ran out and I came back two days later and gave you a new, different, gallon of gas, you wouldn't care.
    I agree - I wouldn't care.

    But, if I was given the choice to buy one gallon of gas from a reckless and arrogant Brit company that blows up workers and dumps oil in the Gulf of Mexico just because they can, vs a nice US oil company (let's just say that one exists), I'd choose the gallon of gas from the nice US oil company.

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    Re: Is Labor a Commodity?

    Labor as a commodity, to me, suggests that it is something which is bought and sold. In effect, people are then bought and sold, and that is slavery.
    Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité.

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    Re: Is Labor a Commodity?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paschendale View Post
    Labor as a commodity, to me, suggests that it is something which is bought and sold. In effect, people are then bought and sold, and that is slavery.
    Ya, and I blew up that fallacy several pages back. Try again.
    You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

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    Re: Is Labor a Commodity?

    Quote Originally Posted by ksu_aviator View Post
    Ya, and I blew up that fallacy several pages back. Try again.
    If labor is a commodity, why does the company I work for pay a person more money year after year in the same post (despite no talent/skill level increases) - via sort of a 'seniority raise'?

    That's like paying the guy you buy wheat from more and more each year for the same product simply because you've been doing business with him for a long time. Would that make sense?

    No, because wheat = a commodity and with a commodity you will always want to pay the going market rate for whatever you're buying.

    But labor is not always treated that way as in the example I outlined above.
    Last edited by David D.; 09-11-11 at 11:54 PM.

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    Re: Is Labor a Commodity?

    Quote Originally Posted by David D. View Post
    If labor is a commodity, why does the company I work for pay a person more money year after year in the same post (despite no talent/skill level increases) - via sort of a 'seniority raise'?
    Would you rather have the lawyer that passed the bar last week or the lawyer that has been in the field for 10 years? They pay people more each year because the longer they hold the post the better they get at their job (in general, yes there will be exceptions to the rule). They may also get a COLA which is pre-negotiated cost increases to counter inflation. Either way, the value of labor will increase along the same lines as the value of other commodities. Yes, the value of labor will change at different rates than other commodities. But gold doesn't change at the same rate as wheat or toys or water.

    That's like paying the guy you buy wheat from more and more each year for the same product simply because you've been doing business with him for a long time. Would that make sense?
    Depends...is his wheat improving in quality? Is it worth more as the economic realities change? My answer would be a qualified yes.

    No, because wheat = a commodity and with a commodity you will always want to pay the going market rate for whatever you're buying.

    But labor is not always treated that way as in the example I outlined above.
    Each commodity is traded and treated differently. The going market rate does prevail for much of the labor market. However, there may be other aspects to think about. What if the employee needs training? I know my training was $40,000 to start, but only $12,000 each year I'm with the company. If they can increase my wages slightly to prevent me from leaving they can save $28,000 over hiring another pilot. So it makes a lot of sense to dangle the carrot of increasing wages if that means you can mitigate other costs associated with high turn over.
    You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

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    Re: Is Labor a Commodity?

    Quote Originally Posted by ksu_aviator View Post
    Ya, and I blew up that fallacy several pages back. Try again.
    No, you didn't. You made an assertion. You asked "do you not know what slavery is", as if only physical ownership creates a situation of slavery. Use of power, to strip others of control over their own lives, often with force, is slavery. Even if there's no special legal class and formal ownership. In the whole rest of the world that is not the USA, slavery did not look like the way we did it here. A person whose day to day life is spent entirely for the benefit of another, making that person effectively a body to perform labor, is slavery. When one has no effective recourse except to toil, then one is a slave. This is how oppressed farmers in South America live. They have essentially two choices, "work for us, or starve". There is no means to control one's own destiny. That is slavery.

    Broaden your horizons, dude. There's a world outside of this continent.

    Also, learn what a fallacy is. It's not a statement that you don't agree with. It's the abuse of a logical loophole that doesn't present a real argument.
    Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité.

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    Re: Is Labor a Commodity?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paschendale View Post
    No, you didn't. You made an assertion. You asked "do you not know what slavery is", as if only physical ownership creates a situation of slavery.
    I wonder where I got that idea:

    slav·er·y (slv-r, slvr)
    n. pl. slav·er·ies
    1. The state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household.
    2.
    a. The practice of owning slaves.
    b. A mode of production in which slaves constitute the principal work force.
    3. The condition of being subject or addicted to a specified influence.
    4. A condition of hard work and subjection: wage slavery.

    slavery - definition of slavery by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.
    Use of power, to strip others of control over their own lives, often with force, is slavery.
    First, no its not. Second, I don't accept the assertion/implication that that is the case in today's workforce.

    Even if there's no special legal class and formal ownership. In the whole rest of the world that is not the USA, slavery did not look like the way we did it here. A person whose day to day life is spent entirely for the benefit of another, making that person effectively a body to perform labor, is slavery.
    No it is not. The day is NOT spent working solely for the benefit of another. That would presume that no wage was earned, and we know that is not the case. If it was, it would be slavery. As it stands, people have the freedom to chose to work or not work.

    When one has no effective recourse except to toil, then one is a slave.
    No they are not. They may not like their choices, but being unhappy with your choices does not make you a slave.

    This is how oppressed farmers in South America live. They have essentially two choices, "work for us, or starve". There is no means to control one's own destiny. That is slavery.
    That may actually be slavery, but you failed to prove that is even happening or that that is in any way related to the labor market in the US.

    Broaden your horizons, dude. There's a world outside of this continent.
    Dude? LOL..whatever...Dude. We aren't talking about outside the US. This is a forum about US politics. If you want to talk about slavery on the international stage, try starting another thread.

    Also, learn what a fallacy is. It's not a statement that you don't agree with. It's the abuse of a logical loophole that doesn't present a real argument.
    Well, I was using the word to describe a false notion...what do you think a fallacy is? You see, I saw your assertion that "people are being bought and sold" as a description of labor and since I know that people have the freedom to chose which jobs they accept and which they don't and that they are selling their time and not their person so I called it a fallacy because it was a false notion.
    You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

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    Re: Is Labor a Commodity?

    Quote Originally Posted by ksu_aviator View Post
    Would you rather have the lawyer that passed the bar last week or the lawyer that has been in the field for 10 years? They pay people more each year because the longer they hold the post the better they get at their job (in general, yes there will be exceptions to the rule). They may also get a COLA which is pre-negotiated cost increases to counter inflation. Either way, the value of labor will increase along the same lines as the value of other commodities. Yes, the value of labor will change at different rates than other commodities. But gold doesn't change at the same rate as wheat or toys or water.
    The point that I was making is that my company - so long as this person is doing their job - will give him/her a raise based solely on seniority and length of employment with the company. The extra money is not awarded for any sort of skill or experience increase.

    I see this ALL the time too; the older lady who is not so great at computers and on her way to retirement is getting paid 35% more than the 28 year old - who got hired onto the position 2 years ago - who's much faster, quicker, and (lets say for this example) a more valuable employee in the eyes of management. Both the old lady and the 28 year old hold the same position which requires the same skills.

    If labor = a commodity, this type of thing wouldn't fly at all because it wouldn't make sense. The company's paying more for the 'less valuable' product?



    Quote Originally Posted by ksu_aviator View Post
    Depends...is his wheat improving in quality? Is it worth more as the economic realities change? My answer would be a qualified yes.
    Nope, same wheat, same provider. In fact, you suspect that the wheat might not even as good as it used be when you first started buying it years ago. Despite all this, you insist that you're going to keep paying more and more for it each year. Doesn't make any sense, does it?



    Quote Originally Posted by ksu_aviator View Post
    Each commodity is traded and treated differently. The going market rate does prevail for much of the labor market. However, there may be other aspects to think about. What if the employee needs training? I know my training was $40,000 to start, but only $12,000 each year I'm with the company. If they can increase my wages slightly to prevent me from leaving they can save $28,000 over hiring another pilot. So it makes a lot of sense to dangle the carrot of increasing wages if that means you can mitigate other costs associated with high turn over.
    Sure, those added costs are a great point, but again my example is of an older employee who would actually be much cheaper to replace with a 25-year old kid out of college who is 10x quicker. And don't get me wrong, I've seen rounds of layoffs where the older expensive folks are let go out of necessity, but when the budget does not call for drastic action such as that, I have seen these older people be kept on board for a much higher salary simply because they have been loyal to the company for years.

    These types of "seniority rewards" don't in any way exist in the world of commodities.
    Last edited by David D.; 09-12-11 at 01:01 AM.

  9. #179
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    Re: Is Labor a Commodity?

    Quote Originally Posted by David D. View Post
    The point that I was making is that my company - so long as this person is doing their job - will give him/her a raise based solely on seniority and length of employment with the company. The extra money is not awarded for any sort of skill or experience increase.

    I see this ALL the time too; the older lady who is not so great at computers and on her way to retirement is getting paid 35% more than the 28 year old - who got hired onto the position 2 years ago - who's much faster, quicker, and (lets say for this example) a more valuable employee in the eyes of management. Both the old lady and the 28 year old hold the same position which requires the same skills.

    If labor = a commodity, this type of thing wouldn't fly at all because it wouldn't make sense. The company's paying more for the 'less valuable' product?
    I'm going to go out on a limb and guess there is a labor agreement in place. If that's the case, it may not be stated, but they are assuming that experience = increased production. In addition, labor agreements are designed to benefit the employee.





    Nope, same wheat, same provider. In fact, you suspect that the wheat might not even as good as it used be when you first started buying it years ago. Despite all this, you insist that you're going to keep paying more and more for it each year. Doesn't make any sense, does it?
    Nope. Fire them. That's what happens in the labor market if there is no contract. Contracts change the dynamics. I get the feeling you are comparing a free labor market to a labor agreement and that doesn't fly.





    Sure, those added costs are a great point, but again my example is of an older employee who would actually be much cheaper to replace with a 25-year old kid out of college who is 10x quicker. And don't get me wrong, I've seen rounds of layoffs where the older expensive folks are let go out of necessity, but when the budget does not call for drastic action such as that, I have seen these older people be kept on board for a much higher salary simply because they have been loyal to the company for years.
    Well, the labor market isn't exactly like other commodities in that there are loyalties to individuals. Although, there can be loyalties to products. The best example is the old feud between Ford and Chevy owners. They had brand loyalty that led them to purchase vehicles that may have been over priced or poorly produced.

    Even if there are some differences between labor and product, the similarities are too great to dismiss.

    These types of "seniority rewards" don't in any way exist in the world of commodities (which I can think of).
    So? How is that important?
    You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

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    Re: Is Labor a Commodity?

    Quote Originally Posted by ksu_aviator View Post
    I'm going to go out on a limb and guess there is a labor agreement in place. If that's the case, it may not be stated, but they are assuming that experience = increased production. In addition, labor agreements are designed to benefit the employee.
    Well, let me just say that it's pretty clear to management that these people aren't getting any more productive after a certain point (and maybe even getting less productive), yet they continue to get paid more money than the young guns in the same position who are clearly more productive to management.

    I think that in an implicit way, the company is taking care of those who have put many years of loyalty by paying them more money, not because they are assuming that with each year of experience = increased production.

    When the company knows that these people are not gaining experience after a certain point, yet is continuing to pay them 35% more than a younger person in the same role, what's the motivation to offer a labor agreement if the assumption that experience = increased production no longer holds true in this case?



    Quote Originally Posted by ksu_aviator View Post
    Well, the labor market isn't exactly like other commodities in that there are loyalties to individuals. Although, there can be loyalties to products. The best example is the old feud between Ford and Chevy owners. They had brand loyalty that led them to purchase vehicles that may have been over priced or poorly produced.
    I don't know KSU. For one thing cars =/= commodities, and for that reason it's easy for me to think of brand loyalty when talking about a product like Lazyboy's vs something like salt which is virtually exactly the same wherever you get it from.



    Quote Originally Posted by ksu_aviator View Post
    So? How is that important?
    Look. I understand that especially in the low skilled world labor is going to be treated 'like' a commodity at times and certainly can see the relation. If 600 people can turn a lever 500x a day for $40, why employ the guy who's demanding you pay him $60. But we're missing a key element of my argument here.

    Do we want to perpetuate the idea that labor should be treated like a commodity and wages should be continually worked downwards, or should we consider this idea that perhaps people and the labor they provide are something just a bit different than just sugar or a bottle, ect, and embrace an idea that a company can be treated a bit more like a 'community' when fiscally possible.

    Perhaps if companies take care of people a little better, the gov't might not have to.

    Also, I realize that this is not a fantasy fairy world of glitter and that companies are not in business for the purpose of taking care of their workers, and that it's just not possible to keep paying a premium to people just because they're older and have been with the company a long time - I get that.

    However, when it is possible, and perhaps before the CEO decides to give himself a big raise/bonus/whatever, perhaps he/she can pass up on that raise and let a little bit of those profits trickle down to a loyal worker, creating a wage that is slightly more than what the worker is worth on a purely economic standpoint.

    Realize I'm ranting vs debating, time for bed!
    Last edited by David D.; 09-12-11 at 02:06 AM.

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