Keep attention on what's really happening -- and organize to stop it
I just ended an interview with the EEOC relative to a job interview with Chic-fil-a in which I was asked my age, was talked to about the interviewer's religious faith, and asked where I worshipped (which I don't). This is another side of labor issues. I spent 30 years as a middle manager in corporate America and as I look back on those years, I feel I was not treated as a person but as a function. In my dotage, I have eschewed remote work because it inevitably gives the company more excuses to treat me as a function. Unfortunately, at 74 and a recipient of Social Security, I still need to work to make ends meet. Most of all in my mind, the fact that the court passed Citizen United, declaring that companies are people, we are all trapped by the fact that corporations run the government, with the total support of the Republican Party. The whole thing is such a rat's nest! We are people with a heart being corralled by corporations that have no heart and are greedy for money only.
I’ve been in the corporate workforce long enough to recognize these five tricks employers use on a regular basis. While interviewing for a position several years ago, the head of the HR department said point blank that my salary was for 40 hours, however I was expected to work 60 hours per week. I promptly declined their offer. I’ve watched my own employers’ layoff full time staff only to bring in so called “contract employees” to avoid paying the benefits or guaranteed work hours.
The most important thing workers can do is to unionize. There’s nothing better than having the collective bargaining tool available to stop employment abuse and questionable policies. Now is the time for workers to get aggressive and make it happen. Perfect article and so true!
Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and other progressives have been fighting against all the ways that big business and its political lackies have been shafting workers all their careers. Only 6.1% of private sector employees are unionized, so workers are left to fight the bosses and their political shills alone. Starbucks employees have been fighting to unionize around the country, and just in the last few days many have been fired by a Starbucks in one location for trying to create a union. Until workers realize that it’s the oligarchs that are their real enemy, not immigrants or workers of other races or other religions, this won’t change.
Although I absolutely agree with your points, I don't think it's wise to stub away inflation as just an excuse or distraction for bad employers.
Inflation is effectively an invisible, unfair tax, paid for by the poor. Inflation is one of the main reasons the wealth gap has increased so much during the pandemic, yet it's something few people talking about.
How does one protect oneself from inflation? By using hedge-funds, buying real estate, buying gold, buying stocks. People doing these things tend to at least have savings, and resources available. This means inflation is effectively paid for by people who are living hand to mouth, who carries the burden when buying more expensive consumer goods.
So the governments are printing money, the wealthiest are hedging their wealth against inflation, and the workers are paying for it all.
It's so easy to assume the rich have gotten richer simply from selling in-demand goods during the pandemic. But the wealth gap would still increase if they didn't sell anything at all, and just put their wealth in hedge funds. If inflation is 7% and hedge fund gains are 7% or more, the wealth gap will increase by at least 7% every year without a single sold product.
Being a Norwegian employer reading about how things (doesn't) work for employees in America makes me really sad. The fact that it is even possible to have employees and people in general sign agreements preventing them from ever suing, is proof of exceptional corruption. All companies and individuals doing this should get audited, and prosecuted. And all agreements like this should be invalid, regardless if money or other goods has changed hands in the process.
Nobody pays hush money for bad things they didn't do. Or invest in silencing people who has nothing to say.
It's true that inflation is world wide and that people can't keep up with it. But please also call out that COVID is a crisis and that there is unconscionable profiteering.
Dr Reich, as a former employee of educational publisher Holt , Rhinehart, and Winston, I believe you need to write a textbook on labor relations for a beginning level economics course.
Employers should be forced to provide a copy of the above newsletter to every employee before they are hired. Did you see that Starbucks recently fired Memphis workers who were trying to organize for assorted company policy "violations" that have never been enforced before! The coming months will surely prove a tipping point in the labor rights movement - thank you for laying out the facts so plainly!
This information should be featured on the front pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post, among other corporate media titans, but, of course, such economic truth-telling on the brutalitization waged against the American workforce will not be forthcoming from these neoliberal stalwarts.
And don't get me started on Larry Summers' brand of oligarchic economics; it's amazing how corporate media keep quoting him, deliberately obscuring Summers' record of constant wrongness on socioeconomic issues, his antagonistic relationship with the American worker, and his brazen fealty to American oligarchy.
So, I'm thrilled that the American workforce is angry and rebelling, as they realize how American employment policy and its corporate media enablers are. the real villain here.
During my working career I was considered an "exempt" employee. Exempt employees are not covered by the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Most exempt employees are paid a monthly salary instead of an hourly wage. When it comes to overtime, exempt employees have it much worse than non-exempt. For example, the pay rate for any weekly hours over 40 was not time and a half, it was ZERO. In addition to forced overtime, there was unforced overtime -- you were "expected" to work more than 40 hours per week if you wanted a good performance appraisal with a chance for a pay raise and promotion. People who did not cooperate were let go. Several times in my career I worked 7 days a week for many months with no compensation other than my monthly salary.
Things got so bad that we finally got together to try an form a union. I covered this in a post a few weeks ago, but the bottom line is that we failed to get a union, but the company got scared and made major improvements in working conditions, including paying "some" overtime and adding "flex hours".
Any proposed changes in labor laws should address overtime rules for exempt employees.
It is amazing how people are not informed about their rights as workers, at minimum. There have been efforts locally to educate, especially high school age people, about fair labor practices, and wage theft. Our local paper has had a number of articles about wage theft, even keeping the public updated about a specific business owner who has been proven guilty and must pay restitution and fines. Why have labor laws to protect worker's interests if they are not told their rights and the laws are not enforced? If workers depending on jobs can even legally be fired by employers who are breaking the law? No wonder there is so much anger!
I would add to the just-in-time scheduling problem the corollary of what you described: Workers arrive for their shift, having arranged for childcare, etc. and ready to work and be paid for a full eight hours. The employer then suddenly decides that business is slow, the employees are not needed, and sends them home without pay.
It looks like legislation prohibiting forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims may pass Congress, but unfortunately it won't apply to other workplace abuses.
I agree with a previous comment that a business model that fails to provide employees with a living wage and humane working conditions is not a viable business model and should not even be contemplated. Unfortunately, in this country, ordinary workers are not seen as human beings with human needs, but rather as a necessary business expense that must be minimized to the extent possible. Maybe this attitude is a lasting legacy of slavery that was so widely embraced for more than 100 years.
I was an MD in a large medical practice. We hired a CEO, whose only response to a question was that we need to hire a consultant. CEO's are highly overpaid, as they add little of value. For every $1 million in CEO yearly bonuses, we could employ 10 workers at $100,000 or 20 workers at $50,000. we need to get our economic policies in order!
Thanks for this Robert, really organized and clarified a lot for me. I didn't know that three of those labor issues were perfectly legal, also that the US is an outlier for them. I hope you will discuss Right to Work states at some point. Labor abuses allowed in those states, 28, I might add, are pretty stunning. However, I'm writing today to tell you that I think it's worse than you think.
My daughter-in-law lost her low paying administrative job during the pandemic when they cut employees, those still there, then to remain working, needed to find a lower paying job somewhere because their job was chosen by another employee who was pushed out of their job. Are you following me? People had to push other people out of jobs to survive and remain employed! At lower paying jobs that had nothing to do with skills or education. This is the Hunger Games! You can't make this shit up! Oh, the employer? A museum run by the University of Minnesota.
Locally (Portland, OR) we are experiencing shifting schedules at the Oreo factory. https://www.opb.org/article/2022/02/07/mondelez-workers-at-portlands-nabisco-plant-say-theyre-forced-to-work-overtime-with-little-notice-or-face-penalties/
Workers are subject to forced overtime, even though they are due to pick up their kids from day care. This adds to the costs for workers and profits for the owners.
This topic also has to do with need for so many charities in our society. Isn't it so convenient for big-time, big-bucks celebrities (Shaquille O'Neal, Oprah, comes to mind as I see & hear about them all the time) to feel bigger, and stronger, and sooo generous, so philanthropic when they start up their charitable organizations!! Wow! Aren't they saints!!? This pisses me off. They put their big names on these organizations to boost their huge egos and PR. And nothing in our society gets better.
If these rich, egotistical celebs REALLY wanted to better society, they would be supporting unions, help to start up co-ops, supporting progressives who believe in taxing the greedy rich.
Having a needy, struggling middle-class gives rise to narcissistic celebrities so they can also profit off of workers pain.
This is also the world, a society made up of charities--NOT GOVT intervention, that the Koch bros see as their ultimate goal of what America should become, only charity for the working poor, government stay out, no stinking regulations needed here.
If you are middle class, worked a lifetime, contributed to Social Security, ended your career with a relatively well-paying job, and if you expect to live at least 20 years after retirement, your total benefit is less than $800,000. (These are just rough estimates to make the point) If you also had private savings of $200,000 and equity in your house of $500,000 your total dispensable wealth is around $1.5 Million. By this math, anyone with wealth over $1.5 MM is relatively rich. Higher taxes on wealth could justifiably start at that level. But even Warren and Sanders allow much higher amounts of wealth to be accumulated before a higher tax bracket would kick in. The Biden bill allows $100 Million in annual income for gosh sakes! Up to $1 Billion in assets. These are eminently rational and practical proposals!