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Comments by coal mine owners in the early 1900s - relevant today.

Submitted by edmund_the_destroyer in anticapital

Last week I went on a tour of an old coal mine in Pennsylvania. While waiting for the tour they played a video about the labor movement at the beginning of the 20th century and many of the strikes for workers' rights.

One of the objections the coal mine owners raised against better worker treatment is that it would force them to raise prices and thus hurt the economy. Of course that is the same garbage we hear from people against better worker treatment even today.

Never mind that workers are human beings, or that not all costs in capitalist production are labor, or that the owners are pretending their own massive profits either don't exist or must not be reduced.

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RedEmmaSpeaks wrote

That's the strategy the businesses have been using forever. With every new regulation that advocates "Hey, maybe you should lessen the odds of your workers dying on the job?" or "Hey, maybe you should make your project safer for the consumers?" they throw massive hissies and wail and whinge about how doing X would destroy the business, put workers on the streets, and cats and dogs will be sleeping together, and blah-blah-blah...

Here's the shocking truth: they are always wrong. It turns out that consumers tend to be more willing to buy a product if they're certain of its safety (thus making the corporation more money) and will pay a little more, if it better helps out the workers.

Workers will also be more productive and have better morale, if they don't have to worry about them or someone else getting maimed or killed at work. It turns out if the the higher-ups are basically like, "Meh. We lose one, we can find ten desperate schmoes willing to take their place, so it's no loss," this feeling spills over onto the workers and they will find it increasingly difficult to give a shit about a job that doesn't give a shit about them.

But though they are always wrong, media/culture still acts like the argument has merit.

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edmund_the_destroyer wrote

I think you're only partly right. Walmart conquered the US with cheap Asian goods made by child labor and slave labor, and American shoppers didn't care because of the prices and shopping convenience. So people won't always pay more just to support better working conditions.

That said, I think we were in a bit of self-perpetuating cycle. Worker inflation-adjusted earnings were in a free fall so people flat out couldn't budget American market products, so they bought cheaper foreign products, which depressed American wages further, and so forth.