Protectionism alone is not a magic remedy. It should serve as a guiding stick alongside careful self-examination: Can we improve? Can we shed some unnecessary weight? Why would we want to migrate jobs in the first place? Can it be avoided? The respondent must be willing to take the sometimes-painful steps necessary.
I have never understood the inclination to shift American jobs overseas. American t-shirts are the best, although much more expensive than imported ones. They carry a tag “Made in America” and they last much longer than most imported ones. They look better after many laundries, unlike their foreign counterparts. Instead of paying less than a Dollar for a t-shirt, we pay ten. Possibly the fault is that we have not branded American products appropriately? The same t-shirt albeit with a logo or a brand name could fetch $50 at a store, so the difference in costs pales in comparison to the huge profits.
The argument in favor of cheap foreign labor, we learned, does not fit our liberal taste. It is the same labor that is made to work 18 hours a day in horrible conditions so that we can later wear a $120 sweatshirt, a $240 dress or a $150 pair of jeans without a second thought as to the conditions in which these garments were made. A drive to maximize profits at all costs, neglecting any corporate responsibility has helped bring us to a twisted logic: We were doing a favor to the poor foreigners who for cents each hour labored for us.
A movement arose as an outcry against corporate greed at all costs. It then extended to coffee plantations, responsible farming and “blood diamonds” to use a few examples. The implications are far and wide and the message is simple: It is much better, in fact we, the American consumers, require, to act responsibly. This is not an argument against profits, it is definitely an argument against profits at all costs, irrespective of those who pay the price – they are, after all, on the other side of the world and will never enter our comfortable world.
While I do not advocate restrictions on trade, my consideration as an American is first and foremost local jobs. This is not retaliation by survivability.
We err in taking things for granted, until they are gone. If we export jobs, we throw people out of the job cycle. We may increase profits in the short run, but we cause irreparable damage to the very fabric of our system. People who are proud of their work and their workplace are loyal, although often they do not express this loyalty until it is too late.
People will do whatever it takes to defend their employer and place of employment, the source of their paycheck. If necessary, they will come earlier to work and will stay longer hours. They will try to find innovative cost cutting measures. They will skip or contribute a vacation day and share by bringing food to the office – each day a different employee. They will cover for a fellow employee when that person is sick or has to attend a funeral and celebrate together a birthday, a son’s graduation, a daughter’s first play at school. “They” are we, and “yes, we can!” if we only realize now is the time to act.
We must always think several steps ahead. Things are not “standalone” but come in a context, often very complex. Short-term cost-cutting measures simply to increase profit margins while reducing loyalty – both of the employee and customer bases – is plain wrong and will cost many times more when the final tally is taken.
Protecting American jobs is plain common sense. The best customer service is the one with the customer in mind. We do not need to assume a different accent or a fake name. We do not have to use scripts. All we need to do is to be ourselves and to provide the very best service we would expect ourselves. Then we need to remind ourselves that times are tough, so if we need to be more efficient, more productive, more eager to do things differently and to demand less, we will.
We are grateful to have a job in the first place, a regular salary, some benefits. We – those who actually work – are the engine of the economy and the source for its growth and ability to emerge stronger from the current crisis. We are hurting, but we are willing to participate since we have a stake in this enterprise called the United States of America.