Friday, July 13, 2018

Optimizing the Human Supply Chain

nakedcapitalism |  No, though this is about as good — and as neoliberal — as it gets (even though the phrase “human supply chain” is not used). I don’t agree that “The key to any market correctly operating is information.” For one thing, “correctly” is doing a lot of work in that sentence. For another, the key to the way markets operate is not information, but power. I mean, does Prepscius really believe that “reputational enhancement…, risk mitigation[,] and workforce retention” pose “significant business value” when put beside profit?

All of which brings me to the single, solitary on-point source I was able to find: Fordham’s Jennifer Gordon’s “Regulating the Human Supply Chain,” 446 Iowa Law Review, Vol. 102:445-503 (pdf)[5]. I highly recommend that anybody who has read this far give Gordon a look. From the abstract:
In 2015, the number of migrant workers entering the United States on visas was nearly double that of undocumented arrivals—almost the inverse of just 10 years earlier. Yet notice of this dramatic shift, and examination of its implications for U.S. law and the regulation of employment in particular, has been absent from legal scholarship.
This Article fills that gap, arguing that employers’ recruitment of would-be migrants from other countries, unlike their use of undocumented workers already in the United States, creates
a transnational network of labor intermediaries—the “human supply chain”—whose operation undermines the rule of law in the workplace, benefitting U.S. companies by reducing labor costs while creating distributional harms for U.S. workers, and placing temporary migrant workers in situations of severe subordination. It identifies the human supply chain as a key structure of the global economy, a close analog to the more familiar product supply chains through which U.S. companies manufacture products abroad. The Article highlights a stark governance deficit with regard to human supply chains, analyzing the causes and harmful effects of an effectively unregulated world market for human labor.
That’s the stuff to give the troops! And here is a worked example, from page 472 et seq. I apologize for the length, but it’s lovely because all of the links in the chain are displayed:
Apple Fresh is a (fictitious) apple cider maker in Washington State…. Like all employers, Apple Fresh is responsible for ensuring that its employees’ wages, benefits, and working conditions comport with legal and contractual minimums. It must also pay social-security premiums on its employees’ behalf and cover their unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance. … As part of its effort to meet those demands, Apple Fresh decides to outsource its apple pressing to one of several food processors in the market, Presser Inc., which can produce the cider more cheaply and efficiently. Once it signs a contract with Presser, Apple Fresh is released from responsibility for the social insurance and many of the working conditions of the workers who press its apples, because it is no longer their employer. Presser now bears those obligations. …
In year two of the contract, Presser decides to try to decrease turnover and increase its profit margin by using temporary migrant workers to staff its plant. Its owner had been contacted not long before by the U.S. agent of a labor-recruitment firm in Mexico City…
Oooh, lookie. Rent-seeking intermediaries!