August 4, 2004
Globalization at Fourth and Broadway
By Doug McGill
The McGill Report
ROCHESTER, MN -- "Globalization" is
so fuzzy word, I need to visualize it residing at a specific address
in order to understand it. For me, that
address in Rochester is the corner of 4th Street and Broadway, smack
The shops and buildings
on the four corners of that intersection tell the whole story of
globalization in a nutshell Ð its possibilities
and its pitfalls, the bounties it brings to our community but also
On the southwest corner
you have Rice & Spice, an Indian grocery
and deli where customers line up six deep on late workday afternoons
-- Mayo Clinic and downtown office workers picking up the latest
curries direct from New Delhi, rubbing shoulders with Indian housewives
in colorful saris.
Across the street on the northwest corner there is Tejano Western
Wear, a one-year-old Mexican boutique that offers imported fashions
ranging from sombreros and striped blankets to snakeskin boots, string
ties, leather vests and tooled-silver belt buckles.
Catty-corner from Tejano Western Wear is the Rochester location of
Rocco Altobelli's, the well-established Minnesota chain of beauty salons
whose name bespeaks an immigrant success story somewhere in its past.
Across from Altobelli's on the northeast corner is a building that
speaks as much about the challenges of globalization as the opportunities
-- the Union Labor Center -- home to a half-dozen local unions including
the Teamsters, the UAW and those unions representing laborers, painters
There are more winners than losers from globalization, they say, but
tell that to a factory worker whose job was exported to Tijuana. Whether
in terms of lost jobs or the weakened state of unions caused by abundant
overseas labor, every labor union today is coping with the pressures
of globalization, often more than any other economic trend.
The northeast corner of
4th and Broadway reminds us to pause every time we hear a new economic
development in the state being justified
on the grounds that it will "make Minnesota more globally competitive."
Bit by bit -- family farm by factory by retail shop, pine forest by
river by prairie, city bus line by job zone by biotech corridor --
our allegiance to this mantra is utterly transforming the economy,
the culture and the landscape of our state. But even when we succeed
on purely economic terms in our global competition, are the overall
changes to our state positive ones?
Each of us sees the changes
differently. A union man sees "corporate
globalism" pushing wages lower, destroying jobs and forcing painful
dislocations. A medical researcher sees her job enhanced because her
colleagues, immigrants from Japan, teach her skills that increase her
expertise. A farmer grits his teeth and plants more row crops, which
are bad for the land but good for his pocketbook at least in the short
Success as well as failure can rend a society. Too-sudden and too-great
changes can open social and political vacuums that demagogues and tyrants
can exploit. In China, which has been growing at more than 10 percent
a year for several years, the government's biggest worry now is that
the poor and the unemployed, whom the boom has left behind, will trigger
a violent revolt.
The writer William Greider
has described globalization as "a
wondrous new machine, strong and supple, a machine that reaps as it
destroys. As it goes, it throws off enormous mows of wealth and bounty
while it leaves behind great furrows of wreckage."
How to Compete
There is a saying, "You become what you resist." Thus, if
we compete in the wrong way with China, such as by joining an endless
race to the bottom on prices, we'll inevitably become more like China
and our other "race to the bottom" competitors in our values
and every other way.
So what is the right way to compete? By recollecting, as we slug it
out in the global marketplace, that our ultimate competitive strength
lies not in our low prices but in our high values -- of democracy,
community, unity and equality.
At the corner of Fourth and Broadway, Rochester has become more like
India and Mexico than ever before -- much to our benefit.
But only for some of us, that is. How do we make sure that every tenant
at the intersection enjoys the rewards of globalization?
Copyright @ 2004 The McGill Report