Can We Learn Something About An American Salary?

Borger Payroll. The idea that changes the game
MODERN TIMES / brings in connection with the summer and the newspaper's head an extract of the book Borgerlønn.


It was astonishing when Andy Stern in 2010 resigned as leader of the United States' largest trade union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). He had been elected to the union for 33 years, and had much of the credit for the membership having increased from 400 000 to 2,2 million during a period in which the US organization rate dropped from 23 to 12 percent.

Stern was perhaps the most powerful union leader in the country. And then he suddenly gave up – without anyone knowing as much as the scandal of scandal. In the book Raising the Floor from 2016, he explains why. A good and effective leader must see the development twenty, thirty, maybe forty years ahead, he writes. John L. Lewis, manager of the miners, had it clear in the 1930 century. Walter Reuther, manager of the car workers, had it clear in the 1950 and 60 century. Stern believed that he himself had such a long-range vision of the 1990 and 2000's. "But when we got to 2010, the changes and fragmentation of the economy happened at such a speed that I didn't understand where neither it nor the trade union movement was going to end."

Stern renounced himself re-election and spent the next five years exploring what automation and robotification will do with working life. He was looking for a unifying idea to replace the old American dream of social mobility through education and hard work, a dream that had been effectively shattered by decades of stagnant wages and increasing inequality. He asked himself how the economy and social institutions can be organized "so that the new American dream can be achieved for everyone" After visiting universities and businesses all over the United States and a number of other countries, after talking with scientists, social scientists, entrepreneurs, workers , union leaders and business leaders, he could draw the future picture of the community he did not see as clearly when he was still leading the SEIU. He concluded that technology will change what it means to have a job. In 20 years, most people will receive their income from more than one employer. For some, especially those with a high education, it will mean increased freedom. For many others, this will mean increased vulnerability.

We must work more if we are to save welfare, is the message from the government to NHO and LO.

As early as 2020, more than half of the American workforce, 82 million people, will have a looser connection to working life, some predict. This does not mean that everyone becomes a full-time freelancer, but that half will have some of their income from freelance work. This slightly broader definition of what freelance work is, already includes every third employee in the United States, according to Freelancers ›Union. 16 percent of the workforce in the United States today have their main income from freelance assignments or work with a looser connection to the labor market, a sharp increase since 2010. Worldwide, this is not abnormal; according to the ILO, only one in four workers on the planet is a permanent employee. But in the United States, this is a recent trend. It is not the only one. Because wages have stagnated or fallen over the past 30 years, working hours have expanded over the same period. The average American works more hours each week in 2018 than he did in 1979, and the work is increasingly performed for more than one employer.

$ 1000 a month. Like others who have tried to map out what the experts think, Stern also registered that half believe that we get massive unemployment, while the other half think the exact opposite. He registered the claims that the technology may not remove entire professions, at least not so many, but that it will take over sub-tasks in very many professions. Working life will be organized differently, and it will be even more difficult to get workers to gather in unions that can fight their common cause, simply because they no longer have a common employer or common workplace. They are hired or called in, the boss can be an app, and colleagues change from week to week, if they meet at all.

As early as 2020, more than half of the US workforce, 82 million people, will have some of their income
from freelance work.

After letting the new reality of the labor market sink in, and listening to a multitude of more or less creative proposals for countermeasures, Stern concluded that the great idea he was looking for had been there all along. He was convinced that citizens' salaries would be able to create a new, solid financial foundation for everyone. "With a universal basic income, we can raise the economic floor high enough to eradicate poverty for the first time in the history of this nation, while turning the entire economy in a direction that makes it possible to fulfill most Americans' dreams," he writes.


As an old negotiator, Stern immediately began to consider which of the many different proposals for the structure and financing of a citizen's salary are financially, and not least politically, realistic. He noted that popular support for the idea is spreading faster than support for same-sex marriage did in his time, and suggested that someone should run for president with such a proposal in 2020 or 2024. In the spring of 2018, Andrew Yang spoke to him. The businessman from New York announced that he is running for election as the Democratic presidential candidate in 2020. Yang, who has made a lot of money in the technology industry, now runs the humanitarian foundation Venture for America. He is confident that artificial intelligence and extensive automation will eliminate millions of American jobs. "You only need self-driving cars to destabilize society," he said in an interview with The New York Times. The allowance is a citizen's salary of 1000 dollars a month for everyone between 18 and 64 years. "I am a capitalist," says Yang, "and I believe that citizens' wages are necessary for us to continue to have capitalism."


Stern concludes his book by flagging the ambition he has: To accelerate a national debate on whether citizens' wages can be a solution to the ever-increasing economic differences and reduce the uncertainty that seeps into working life. Can unconditional basic pay for everyone be the profound and radical countermeasure to negative changes that are likely to wash over us fairly quickly?

The United States "failed." LO leader Hans-Christian Gabrielsen is not yet convinced by his American colleague. For him, citizen pay is still an "extreme tool." Stern's conclusion only makes him more confident that this is not the way to go. "The trade union movement in the United States has been under systematic attack since the time of Ronald Reagan, or before. Decimation has led to increasing inequality, to the richest running away with the most, while the middle class and those with the lowest wages have not had a real wage development in 15-20 years. What happens then? You get the president they have today, and strong polarization. You get suggestions like this, because you have given up. It is a declaration of bankruptcy ", he believes. Norway will not have to make such a statement as far as Gabrielsen and LO can decide. "We must avert a society with a large proportion of working poor, as the United States has."

"What makes you think that you can close your eyes to a development where the trade union movement has been forced to its knees, first in the United States and so many places in Europe?"

"We do not close our eyes. We work intensively to increase the degree of organization, especially in the service sector, since it is the fastest growing and most disorganized sector. It is also the part of working life that needs the trade union movement the most ", says Gabrielsen. Just roll up your sleeves. We must work more if we are to save welfare, is the message from the government to NHO and LO. Women who work part-time should work full-time, more immigrants must go to work, the elderly must work longer, and those who have dropped out of upper secondary school must be brought into production in one way or another.

LO's policy rests heavily on this one premise: That it is actually possible to create jobs for everyone. But if this basic premise were to fail, if Gabrielsen and his colleagues at Youngstorget also have to reorient themselves, as Andy Stern did, they may also come to the conclusion that the two hundred-year-old idea of ​​an economic floor for all deserves to be tried out.

Excerpts published by agreement with MODERN TIMES.

Also read: Citizens' pay or negative tax? (leader August 2019)

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