[Excerpt] The U.S. crisis is characterized by growing income inequality, a shrinking safety net, and the decline of worker representation. Like the German crisis, it is caused in part by intensified global competition. Unlike in Germany, problems in the United States have also been exacerbated by deregulation, short-term horizons (e.g., quarterly reports to shareholders), and the decline of the labor movement.
Both Germany and the United States, however, have substantial political, economic, and social resources to use in solving their problems. The contemporary crises do not appear for either of these countries to foreshadow a major collapse like that of the Great Depression. We are confident that actors in Germany and the United States can and will pursue reforms, including policy innovations and negotiation. In so doing, we suggest that these societies—the two strongest western economies—have a great deal to learn from each other and from their common experience in the global economy. They do not need, and are unlikely to get, convergence. Yet, each could benefit significantly by adopting elements and aspects of the other's institutions, practices, and policies.
In this chapter, the focus is on employment relations, which we believe are central to the broader economic and social problems in each society. We consider the following two interrelated questions. First, exactly how do the internal and external pressures on employment relations emerge in each country? Second, in what tangible forms do these pressures appear "on the ground," where labor and business (and, more indirectly, other political, social, and economic actors) interact to perpetuate, alter, or scrap certain modes of production, including service delivery, work organization, and negotiation?