Hi Mike, really appreciate it to have an expert on this.
Would you agree that the terms should be made clear to the employees? In some cases, it’s clear like what you’ve said. The surplus goes into maintaining different aspects of the business. What I’m concerned here is if the employer’s deliberate effort to obscure information that could blind the workers’ of their own value?
I agree that what you’ve mentioned about things carrying costs that the employer has to bear. But surely there’s a line that once crossed would constitute exploitation. If say, after calculation, the employee takes 14%, 30% goes into everything else and the employer takes 56% as his salary. Would that be fair? Yes, that depends on the nature of the service and product. But if the transaction is heavily dependent on the services of the employee: nursing, teaching, cleaning… would it be fair?
As for your response to my thought experiment, I think you’ve missed the point. If I found out that I could’ve hired someone for $14, of course I won’t pay them $100. But that misses the point. I’m describing a scenario where workers are systemically blinded of their own value. People are willingly paying for $100 thinking the actual value of cleaning is about $100. And cleaners think that their value is worth $14. This is the epistemic injustice I’m referring to. That’s why when the cleaner knows how much the clients are paying, and when the clients know how much the cleaners are paid, they both go “WTF?!” There’s definitely an “equilibrium” where both parties say, “yeah, that’s fine’”
Also, I may have happily agreed to that $100. And the employee is happy with that $14. But I tell this to everyone. Agreement (even though willing) doesn’t ipso facto make things fair. Because that agreement might be founded on such an epistemic injustice.
A concrete example; a young 15 year old girl happily sells her body for money. Everyone agrees to it. I hope you wouldn’t think this right. Why? Because we know the girl doesn’t know better.
Finally, no it doesn’t require third party coercion. All these just require a simple fix of this epistemic injustice. As of things right now, business owners see rewarding their employees as an act of charity rather than an obligation. If your business is heavily dependent on your employee’s standards, like teaching, then it’s a duty, rather than charity, to ensure you’re rewarding them when your business is growing. That’s not happening in where I’m at.
Oftentimes, we put onus on the employee to negotiate. But if we’re deliberately left in the dark about our value, we can never have a fair negotiation.
Also, it’s not that government regulations hasn’t been enacted. Most countries have minimum wage laws. Why enact them? Most countries also have laws against child labor. But we don’t see companies going overseas to find cheap kids to do their work. Why? Because morality and fairness isn’t just about two people agreeing on a price.
Thanks for your input. Do respond if you like to. This really intrigues me. :)