This morning, federal figures show U.S. unemployment at 7.7%, a slight improvement. And we are hearing new calls for a higher U.S. minimum wage.
Yet, as I picked up a warm-up jacket from the seamstress yesterday, I was again reminded of the vast gap between U.S. wages and those overseas. My new midnight blue warm-up jacket from Wal Mart cost me $16.88, plus tax, and seemed like a bargain for the quality and fit. The label says it was made in Indonesia.
Then I picked it up from the local seamstress, where I had taken it to have the sleeves shortened. Her charge for that simple sewing task was $20.00, plus tax — more than the entire cost to me for the new jacket! Most of the alteration cost was for her labor, plus a few cents for thread, and maybe some to offset the cost of her sewing machine and rent for the shop.
The warm-up jacket was nicely designed and carefully manufactured, made of a beautiful soft fabric, with a white stripe sewed on. It had been shipped thousands of miles, then inventoried and marketed in the U.S., and added a little more profit for Wal Mart.
While our workers deserve a living minimum wage most surely, the dichotomy of labor costs between the U.S. and Indonesia is staggering. Clearly, it will take not just a few years or a generation, but hundreds of years of social evolution to bring any semblence of justice to the relationship of labor costs in the economies of the world. Meanwhile, we must each take care of our own as best wee can, and hope for peace in our time. My fine new warm-up jacket will be a constant reminder to me.