A Wikileaks post published on The Nation shows that the Obama Administration fought to keep Haitian wages at 31 cents an hour.
(This article was taken down by The Nation due to an embargo, but it was excerpted at Columbia Journalism Review.)
It started when Haiti passed a law two years ago raising its minimum wage to 61 cents an hour. According to an embassy cable:
[INDENT]This infuriated American corporations like Hanes and Levi Strauss that pay Haitians slave wages to sew their clothes. They said they would only fork over a seven-cent-an-hour increase, and they got the State Department involved. The U.S. ambassador put pressure on Haiti’s president, who duly carved out a $3 a day minimum wage for textile companies (the U.S. minimum wage, which itself is very low, works out to $58 a day).
If I were a pro football player, I’d think twice before endorsing Hanes clothing knowing where the big bucks they give me come from. Human nature is so disappointing at times. I thought Obama was at least (save for his pro-abortion stance) a good humanist. What is he exactly?
More Haitians would have been employed as a result of a lower minimum wage. What people often forget is that a minimum wage must necessarily “price out” lesser qualified people from the market. For, if an employer must pay one group of people above the value of the actual work done, he must necessarily decide to not employ another group to break-even. And who better not to employ than people with little to no academic qualifications? So what the advocates of a high minimum wage prefer are those who not academically qualified to go to their beds (assuming they have one) with an empty stomach. What they much prefer is to be paid above the value of what they are actually producing, at the expense of everyone else. That’s the embodiment of selfishness.
The main root of Haiti’s poverty is not the existence of corporations, but the existence of corruption. And there’s a lot of it, coupled with a plethora of street gangs and witch doctors. The fact that corporations are helping Haitians to stop being idle and/or resort to life of crime and indignity can only be taken as good thing.
God is not impressed with Hanes’ growth or economic performance, but he’s very interested in how Hanes treat the smallest of its employees. The rest is a smoke screen. Hanes can afford to pay the extra money, but is much more interested in max profit than giving back to those who produce the goods. Money:1 People:0
The standard moralist argument. Yet the old adage remains: “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”.
Why should any corporation invest in Haiti, a nation rife with gun crime, witchcraft, burglary and blatant corruption? Corporations seek to make a good return for as little risk as possible, so why should they bother investing in a country where they are more likely to lose their return than make it? Let me ask you this - if you were a small business owner, would you rather set up a business in Haiti or the UK? Let’s be honest here, you would much prefer to set up a small business in the UK because of its developed infrastructure. By setting up a small business, you contribute to the UK’s economic growth performance. Why would you, as a small business owner, want to take the chance of investing in Haiti where you could easily lose your hard-earned capital?
Yet even with the bad situation Haiti is in, Hanes and Levi went out of their way and invested in the country. How this isn’t perceived to be charitable is beyond me. Sure, their pay is “paltry”, but everyone’s pay is paltry at the beginning. Haiti isn’t the US and the US isn’t Haiti. Rome surely wasn’t built in a day, and no doubt that as the demand for Haitian labour increases, the more Haitian wages must necessarily follow. All it takes is time, yet everyone wants to overlook this fact and start giving Haitians pity. Haitians don’t need pity - billions of dollars have been pumped into the country via foreign aid, yet with little improvement to show for it. What Haiti needs is foreign direct investment, and that’s what Hanes and Levi are giving them.
This isn’t a matter about God, although we can make it about God if you wish. Jesus says that we will know them “by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). The Western world loves to give the developing world pity, and the developing world is still in the state it is because of it. Trillions of dollars have been pumped to revive their economies, and it hasn’t worked. That’s bad fruit. Let’s look at the countries foreign direct investment has helped improve: Japan, Chile, Brazil, China, India, Ireland, and a numerous amount of others. That’s good fruit, and only good trees can bear good fruit.
Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1867 The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are “sins that cry to heaven”: the blood of Abel, the sin of the Sodomites, the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, injustice to the wage earner.
One of the sins crying out to Heaven for vengeance was not “injustice to the wage earner”, but “depriving a worker of his wages” (Malachi 3:5, James 5:4; Deuteronomy 24:14-15). That’s where the important distinction lies. “Depriving a worker of his wages” meant not paying a worker when his/her pay was due, or paying a worker a lower amount than another worker even
though they do the same work and have the same qualifications:
“You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy labourers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.” (Deuteronomy 24:14-15)
This is quite common in the developing world unfortunately, especially for public sector workers due to the nature of corruption. But “low wages” is definitely not a sin, and can not possibly be a sin because it is an economic fact that “natural prices” do not exist. It was commonly thought that natural prices existed (especially by the Classical economists), but this was later rebutted and falsified by the marginal revolution (Austrian School of economics; Neoclassical school of economics). It’s also for this very reason that Marxism is a defunct philosophy, because it’s philosophy was based on the belief that there were “natural prices” and employers (i.e. the Bourgeiosie) exploited workers (i.e. Proletariat) by creating a profit through “surplus-value”. If you believe so-called low wages are a sin, you must necessarily believe that natural prices exist, and therefore you must necessarily be a Marxist. There are no two ways about it. And I’m sure you know Marxism hasn’t been favourably looked upon by the Church as a whole.
It’s important that words do not get muddled up, lest non-Catholics use this as a way to argue against the authenticity of the Church. For instance, it is erroneously thought that the Church declared “usury” as a mortal sin, but then changed it. That’s not quite what happened - the application and understanding of usury changed, but not actually the sin itself. The same thing with wages…the Church does not really teach that low wages is a sin. What the Church teaches is that depriving a worker of his due wages is injustice.
:sad_yes: Rerum Novarum:
“Furthermore, the employer must never tax his work people beyond their strength, or employ them in work unsuited to their sex and age. His great and principal duty is to give every one what is just. Doubtless, before deciding whether wages are fair, many things have to be considered; but wealthy owners and all masters of labor should be mindful of this - that to exercise pressure upon the indigent and the destitute for the sake of gain, and to gather one’s profit out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine. To defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven. “Behold, the hire of the laborers… which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”(6) Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen’s earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred. Were these precepts carefully obeyed and followed out, would they not be sufficient of themselves to keep under all strife and all its causes?”
Whosoever at Hanes or Levi’s decided to have part of their business in Haiti did it mainly because of the cheap labor. Sure there’s a risk involved, but a Haiti worker costs at least 9-10 times less than a worker in the US in wages alone, so there’s your charity. Not saying it’s all black and white and part of the decision was not motivated by a will to make a contribution to Haiti. So when Hanes CEO is in front of God for his personal judgement, God’s not even going to bring up the fact that he enjoyed all the best things in life (fine restaurants, clothes, fancy cars, nice house, luxury vacations, private schools for his children etc.) while paying some of his employees 31 cents an hour and insisting on not raising it to 60 cents an hour? I wouldn’t even bet my spare change on it but I could be wrong.
When you consider that God has let adulterers (King David) and murderers (Moses) into Heaven, I strongly believe that God’s Mercy will also extend to CEOs. The only thing they could morally do wrong in this context is worship money, but paying an employee what you personally consider a “pittance” is definitely not a mortal sin, and I’m willing to bet not even a venial sin, ceteris paribus.
That’s not to mention the fact that most firms give ridiculously enormous amounts to charity. I went to several investment banks and you would not believe the amount these corporations go to be charitable. They have to be charitable to maintain a good reputation, so it benefits both sides believe it or not. I strongly urge you, if you ever have the chance, to enroll on some kind of program in your area that allows you to spend a day or a week at a blue-chip corporation. It really is an eye-opener. I went to 3 and loved it :).
hmmmm, it seems that in Haiti, ANY wage is a just wage. You can’t compare what they get paid there to what they get paid here. The other option is that business just doesn’t invest in the country and they continue on in their misery.