Mollie's Job

William Adler's Mollie's Job exposes the dark side of globalization: its social, economic, and political ramifications. Adler focuses specifically on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in a thorough and thought-provoking analysis. The exploitation of workers like Mollie James, Dorothy Carter, and Balbina Duque remains the central theme of Mollie's Job. Free trade has led to "fundamental changes in the economy," as well as dramatic shifts in political, economic, and social norms (Adler, 2001, p. 16). Mainly, the pretense of free trade has enabled a rise in "plutocracy," and a demise of democracy according to Adler (2001, p. 16).

Workers like Mollie James and Balbina Duque have been systematically disenfranchised, both as citizens of their respective countries of residence and as workers of companies that ostensibly value their labor. For Mollie, the loss of livelihood is more than just a loss of wages. Mollie James was the first female union steward at her company, and her job was a source of "great pride" to her and her family (Adler, 2001, p. 15).

Central to the problems facing Mollie and Balbina is the issue of organized labor and the ways that NAFTA and other free trade agreements undermine the legal rights of workers to organize. The labor market has become far too exploitable under NAFTA, which allows companies to usurp their ethical responsibilities by capitalizing on undervalued labor in countries like Mexico. It is certainly not up to Balbina Duque to extricate herself from a situation in which she has no political, social, or economic power. To overcome her situation requires the cooperation and collaboration of other workers in her position. Yet if labor unions are squelched by governments as well as by corporate management, the result is basically a form of slavery. "The disposability of workers and the portability of work" might not be overt forms of slavery but they are means by which to exploit workers and maintain income disparity (16).

An increased stigma against organized labor has led to diminished democratic rights for American citizens. Citizens of Mexico like Balbina Duque might never have known the power of unions as Mollie James knew. Moreover, Adler (2001) points out that the prevailing political party in Mexico, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, (PRI) was complicit in stymieing organized labor. If organized labor is an expression of democratic ideals, then the governments of the United States and Mexico are acting in overtly tyrannical ways.

What needs to happen to remedy situations like that of the three women Adler profiles in Mollie's Job is a rapid infusion of ethics into the modern political system. Yet in order for that to happen, massive, widespread social change is required. The current Occupy Wall Street protests are a promising example of how awareness is being raised about the pitfalls of capitalism. Without dismantling capitalist enterprise, organized labor can at least make business more accountable to humanitarian ideals. The owners of the means of production have been exploiting human labor since societies shifted from being hunters and gatherers to being sedentary and stable. Workers have periodically been successful in garnering back some of their rights. The past several hundred years have revealed the power of the people in overcoming despotic rule. However, the democratic revolutions that gave rise to the United States of America have lost their meaning. Capitalism has overridden many of the benefits that have been gained by workers, such as during the early phases of organized labor in America. The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)…