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The Myth of Expansive Workers’ Rights

For many, Labor Day is a chance to seize the remaining vestiges of summer- the final trip to the beach, the last picnic before the weather turns too crisp.

But for many politicians and labor activists, it’s a chance to harp on the supposed horrors of American capitalism. Because apparently any wage below $15 an hour is exploitation. As are the lack of mandated benefits like paid family sick leave.

In reality, an employer is only responsible for providing a safe working environment and giving fair value for the work done for their company.

If they, out of empathy or a desire to improve morale or draw workers, decide to provide benefits such as paid maternity leave or family care, then that’s their prerogative. As the president himself point out, many businesses are already going so because they recognize the benefits.

And this organic fluidity wherein values that promote worker-employer harmony and benefit both parties is the free market working perfectly.

Federal mandates aren’t necessary to secure worker benefits. Intelligent business owners recognize what policies make their workers happier and more productive, which in turn boosts their business.

Any other position not only denigrates free market principles but insults business owners. It presumes employers lack even the most basic human concern for their employees and need the gentle nudge of the paternal government’s hand to guide them.

But small business owners have families. When their children are sick, who pays for their time off? Who makes sure they have time off from worrying about bills and complying with federal regulations to attend their child’s soccer game? There would be outrage if, in return for the time taken up in running the business, an owner charged employees a fee so his children were taken care of. And rightly so. So, why is the reverse considered ethical and moral? Small business owners adopt the stress and worry of being entrepreneurs because, contrary to the petty rhetoric of labor activists, they receive pride and satisfaction from independently building their businesses.

But the current American business climate is not one that considers their needs and wants. Rather, American business is seen through a lens of worker “rights,” too often trampled by unsympathetic and profit-driven bosses, as if this were still the era of oil barons.

And as America enters yet another year of a seemingly endless economic malaise, which the economic officials paradoxically maintain is both recovered and abysmal, there can be no mistake that this attitude is contributory to stagnating unemployment.

Employers are treated as parents, responsible for the standard of life their employees and families lead even outside the workplace. They must give and give and give without thought of profit motive or their own wellbeing, lest they be labeled as selfish misers.

But it is not the employer who is indebted to the employee; the real relationship is precisely reversed. Employees must show an employer that they can perform work to a certain standard. They are paid a fair value, which the employee agrees to by accepting the job. And in return, the employee gives the employer exclusive ownership of his time. This is the extent of the relationship. It is purely business-oriented. Whether it is extended to other areas of life is purely volitional, both on the level of employer and employee. And until this is understood, American business will continue to suffer.

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Katherine Revello

A recent graduate of the University of Maine, where she majored in journalism and political science, Katherine Revello is an aspiring political commentator. Her focuses include theory, the philosophy of money and populism. Currently, she is a graduate student at Villanova University. She is the founder of The Politics of Discretion, a blog dedicated to advancing her philosophy of discretionism. Follow her on Twitter: @MrsWynandPapers

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