U.S. Multinational Activity Abroad and U.S. Jobs: Substitutes or Complements?

Source: Ann E. Harrison, Margaret S. Mcmillan, and Clair Null, Industrial Relations, Vol. 46 no. 2, April 2007
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Critics of globalization claim that firms are being driven by the prospects of cheaper labor and lower labor standards to shift employment abroad. Yet the evidence, beyond anecdotes, is slim. This paper reports stylized facts on the activities of U.S. multinationals at home and abroad for the years 1977 to 1999. We focus on firms in manufacturing and services, two sectors that have received extensive media attention for supposedly exporting jobs. Using firm-level data collected by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) in Washington, D.C., we report correlations between U.S. multinational employment at home and abroad. Preliminary evidence based on the operations of these multinationals suggests that the sign of the correlation depends on the crucial distinction between affiliates in high-income and low-income countries. For affiliates in high-income countries there is a positive correlation between jobs at home and abroad, suggesting that foreign employment of U.S. multinationals is complementary to domestic employment. For firms that operate in developing countries, employment has been cut in the United States, and affiliate employment has increased. To account for firm size, substitution across firms and entry and exit, we aggregate our data to the industry level. This exercise reveals that the observed “complementarity” between U.S. and foreign jobs has been driven largely by a contraction across all manufacturing sectors. It also reveals that foreign employment in developing countries has substituted for U.S. employment in several highly visible industries, including computers, electronics, and transportation. The fact that there were U.S. jobs lost to foreign affiliates in key sectors, despite broad complementarity in hiring and firing decisions between U.S. parents and their affiliates, helps explain why economists view the impact of globalization on U.S. jobs as benign despite negative news coverage for declining industries.

Globalization and Declining Unionization in the United States

Source: Matthew J. Slaughter, Industrial Relations, Vol. 46 no. 2, April 2007
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For decades, the private-sector unionization rate in the United States has been falling. At the same time, the integration of the United States into the world economy has been rising. Many anecdotes suggest the latter has played a role in that decline, with unions feeling pressured to reduce employment and/or compensation demands in the face of rising cross-border activity of employers. To investigate this possibility econometrically, in this paper I assembled a panel of U.S. manufacturing industries that matches union-coverage rates with measures of global engagement such as exports, imports, tariffs, transportation costs, and foreign direct investment. The main finding is a statistically and economically significant correlation between falling union coverage and greater numbers of inward FDI transactions. Possible interpretations of this finding are then discussed. Because U.S. affiliates of foreign multinationals have higher unionization rates than U.S.-based firms do, this correlation does not reflect just a compositional shift toward these affiliates. Instead, it may reflect pressure of international capital mobility on U.S.-based companies, consistent with research on how rising capital mobility raises labor-demand elasticities and alters bargaining power.

Who’s on the Line? Indian Call Center Agents Pose as Americans for U.S.-Outsourced Firms

Source: Winifred R. Poster, Industrial Relations, Vol. 46 no. 2, April 2007
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This paper explores the globalization of service work through an analysis of customer service call centers in India for U.S. firms. It reveals a new kind of managerial strategy, “national identity management,” in which employees are asked to subsume different national identities as part of the job. Through interviews with over eighty Indian call center personnel and case studies of three call centers, this paper analyzes how and why ethnicity and citizenship have become crucial elements of the labor process. It builds upon and elaborates seminal theories of managerial control in interactive service work, including Hochschild’s theory of emotion management and Leidner’s theory of scripting. It argues that globalization fundamentally alters the relationship of the actors, the purpose and practice of managerial control, and the outcomes for those involved. In addition, it reflects on theories of advancing information and communication technology (ICT), and global identity. Some scholars argue that the development of ICTs will lead to a homogenization (especially an “Americanization”) of identities, while others see increasing global disjuncture and renegotiation of identities. Instead, this analysis reveals a continuum of responses by workers to the process of national identity management, and the forging of multiple, internally differentiated ethnic identities. It concludes by arguing that customer service work will continue to be globalized, and as a result, issues of “nation” will increasingly surface within interactive service work.

Educating Immigrant Workers for Action

Source: Kent Wong and Victor Narro, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 32 no. 1, March 2007

Ironically, the largest May Day march in U.S. history was not led by the American labor movement, but instead, by a broad-based coalition that included immigrant rights organizations, community and religious groups, some unions, and the Latino media.

This extraordinary movement confronts labor educators with new opportunities and new challenges. At the conference of the United Association for Labor Education in Seattle in May 2006, we launched a task force on immigration to share resources among labor educators. In this article, we would like to present some of the work of the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education on immigrant rights. We would also like to present our proposal for launching a new Immigrant Worker Resource Center. Our hope is that this can begin a process of discussion among labor educators who are interested in promoting work on immigrant rights.

Labor Organizing Among Mexican-born Workers in the United States: Recent Trends and Future Prospects

Source: Ruth Milkman, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 32 no. 1, March 2007
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This article surveys unionization patterns and other workplace-oriented organizing among Mexican-born workers since the mid-1990s. Although the number of Mexican-born union members grew during that decade, the unionized proportion declined, especially among noncitizens. The decline reflects the large proportion of new immigrants in the Mexican-born population and the increased geographic dispersion of immigration in recent years away from highly unionized states such as Illinois and California. Another factor is that recent Mexican immigrants are underrepresented in the most unionized sectors (such as government employment). However, unions, especially in California, have effectively mobilized Mexican immigrants into electoral politics in the 1990s, and new community-based organizations with a focus on economic justice have also recruited low-wage Mexican immigrant workers in occupations such as day labor and domestic service, in which conventional unionism is rare.

“Fighting for Our Share of the American Pie”: The 1985 Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Strike

Source: Jennifer L. Worley, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 32 no. 1, March 2007
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This article analyzes the 1985 Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel strike and places it in the context of the declining American steel industry and deteriorating relationship between the steel companies and the United Steelworkers of America. Within the hostile 1980s economic and political climate, steelworkers at Wheeling-Pitt unleashed a repertoire of bargaining tactics that would help them achieve at least some of their demands while preventing the company’s liquidation. Besides exploring the reasons why steelworkers struck a bankrupt company and how they secured their demands, the article demonstrates how the strike offered new strategies for negotiating with capital at a time when unions’ options were severely limited.

Giving Labor the Business? Changes in Business and Labor Reporting from 1980 to 2000

Source: David J. Park and Larry M. Wright, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 32 no. 1, March 2007
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This study empirically examines the extent to which business journalism has taken over labor reporting between 1980 and 2000. The authors conduct a content analysis of The New York Times , The Washington Post, and Associated Press during this time frame. Our results note a widening gap between labor and business coverage dramatically in favor of business-oriented journalism. Business journalists now cover labor issues. Qualitative and quantitative changes in coverage are discussed, as well as the implications from these trends. The authors suggest that labor groups invest in more media and/or public relations to better convey their messages.

Cowboy Campaigning: Patriotism, “Freedom,” and Right-to-Work in Oklahoma

Source: Judith L. King and Laurel C. Catlett-King, Labor Studies Journal, Vol.. 32 no. 1, March 2007
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The 2001 right-to-work referendum in Oklahoma provided unique challenges for the labor movement. This article examines the Oklahoma campaign in the context of right-to-work and other labor referendums and discusses the consequences of particular strategies used by the labor and business campaigns. The authors argue that despite a strong member mobilization campaign, the impact of September 11 and the influence of the print media may have been determining factors in the campaign.

2007 Employer Bargaining Objectives

Source: Joshua Joseph, David J. Group, Berenice Eberhart, Robert Combs, Daily Labor Report, BNA, no. 25, Wednesday, February 7, 2007
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BNA’s 2007 survey on employer bargaining objectives is based on survey responses from 105 participating employers with contracts expiring in 2007 and covers wage adjustments and other pay provisions, insurance and health benefits, pension and retirement plans, paid leave, other benefits and services, and job security.