220 Comments

We have a "shit jobs" problem in this country. Every job should be seen as dignified and every worker should be treated with respect. When we tried to raise the minimum wage, Republicans argued that low-payed jobs where workers are treated poorly were a necessary incentive for people to move up, and that young people need to start their working lives at a bad job so they can appreciate having a good one. Ridiculous! And very out of touch with who actually works these jobs.

If you start your working life in a job where you're treated with dignity and respect you will want to work your whole life. If you are abused and under-payed, all you'll learn is that working is unpleasant and something to avoid if possible.

Hopefully this labor shortage leads to more employers treating their workers with the respect they deserve.

Expand full comment
author

I hope so, although I'm not seeing much evidence of that yet. Yes, Walmart and Amazon have increased their minimum wages. But they're still using forced overtime, still imposing unsafe conditions, still penalizing workers who want to form unions.

Expand full comment
founding

Attitudes that I really fail to understand. Don’t Bezos and the Waltons have enough money already? Their selfishness and cruelty boggle the mind.

Expand full comment

They’re crazy. We Need to use force to get a renewed norm in place- It can still be done by voting, but people have to inform/educate and actually vote (imagine that)

Expand full comment

or be allowed to...😢

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

Amen...BOYCOTT like my dad & I did when preteen, for more than 3 years! No tuna, hormone milk, or HIGH priced bread. At one period WE did w/o any of these types except day old bread!!!

Expand full comment

I only use Amazon when it is the only source. Never been to Walmart, they are not in my area.

Expand full comment

America values “working” too much. Eventually we probably will have to switch to the alternative minimum thing. We could stand to be less productive when it comes to things and money, environmentally. You can do so many fulfilling things with free time, self-realize. I don’t understand why the economy has to grow, seems to me we just need to redistribute and subsidize farmers to change their methods, like giving cows seaweed, or just to help them. I guess this is a little off topic. I need to learn more about labor stuff. I see life differently, being hopefully temporarily disabled.

Expand full comment

This is a question I have....how can we address global warming if we insist on market growth and consumerism.

Expand full comment

The people who work in chicken and meat factories seem to me to have it the worst. Often immigrants, obviously. Not that that’s what you’re talking about.

Expand full comment

I DO, my Vocation: @FreedomPleaseOrg Google Maps: 3000 photos =

8 M I L L I O N views,

N🚫T influencer!

Also hike/adventure leader: @WalkwithhimFcbk , but BOYCOTTING FB/IG now!

Do on @Alignable San Diego, and as #7footApartHikes Google & MeetUp.com

https://twitter.com/NewBee4me/status/1447954068555517953?t=6lt8SajXR97NBLN1XIsj-g&s=19

HIT x right corner to NOT go into FB app!!!

Expand full comment

You are talking to the converted (usually) with these posts. You should be writing to the general public in newspapers and tv segments. If they misrepresent the Democratic stance on issues, then we need to write and produce our own stories. The 2022 election is a year away and we need to reach the non-voter, one-issue Republican voter who don't watch or read anything. While Republicans are already airing negative campaigns, Democrats can produce short segments explaining our stance on various topics from the right and far right point of view. There is no time for door to door campaigning. We need a new version of fireside chats to explain hot button words like socialist and the history of the rise of the middle class. Explain Dems vision of the future in the 21st century with new challenges such as climate change, dwindling natural resources, etc. Your clips I've seen on YouTube are a good start for the TV segments but need to be longer and places where people who have tuned out of politics will see them. A more positive future than the doom and gloom old man Republican party. I've been hearing the word nihilist in regard to the extreme right. Try throwing that word at them when they accuse Dems of being socialists.

Expand full comment

Though I greatly appreciate your comment, as someone who receives daily requests from various organizations to write letters or sign and post comments on petitions, I find that my contributions have become increasingly more astute as a consequence of being part of this community. I imagine that others are having similar experiences and that, perhaps, this is part of what Dr. Reich intended.

Expand full comment

When my conservative friends talk about people wanting socialism I always ask if they enjoy their social security. When they ask about all the 'failures' of socialist countries I point out the embargoes and hostile actions by capitalist states and ask them if they think that may be why they have trouble. I point out that there are social democracies in the world that are stable. While I am no economist, it looks like working people pay proportionately much more in taxes than many of the very wealthy who have loopholes and, incredibly, subsidies! those subsidies come from our commonwealth also known as the Treasury, which seems to be contributed to by the millions who do actually pay a fairly high tax rate compared to their means. The rich get richer and workers lose wealth at a very high rate!

Expand full comment

Yeah. Isn’t it only authoritarian socialism that they’re talking about? Ironically, they’re the ones trying to undermine democracy, not that they see it that way.

Expand full comment

He does have a Guardian column, if you haven’t read it. It’s more left than the Post or the Times tho.

Expand full comment

Thanks Robert. Seems like if there was universal child and health care and paid sick leave, it might make it easier for them to get the employees they so desperately say they need. Maybe they should be backing the Build Back Better Agenda.

Expand full comment

That would be interesting! What a neat idea!

Expand full comment

I would add to your observation that workers white and blue collar I’ve come to recognize the disparity of profit and pay. The bottom line of many corporations has gotten pretty wide. Instead of saying thank you to those who helped make it that way the take away was givenTo uninvolved stockholders and grossly to upper management. The disparity between top management and anybody below uses three number percentages too often.

Expand full comment

Yes. I love it. People are finally recognizing the value of their labor. Can I just say, I cackled at reading you say "shit jobs"? lol

Expand full comment

I write this in response to a response to a response below, but I want to make it top line: Another problem is well paid white collar workers such as myself who either perceive unionization as something we are "above" or as tantamount to complaining or having a tantrum. My job requires up to 80% travel and even though we are home-based, there are months when we only see our homes on weekends. The pandemic put many of us out of work because we couldn't travel and now that travel is possible again, companies are having trouble hiring because a year without travel made it gobsmackingly clear that we had no life before - did not see friends or family, could not have hobbies, weekends weren't for leisure but laundry and repacking and doing the office work we can't do on planes and in crowded airports. Our health went to shit because of all the crappy airport and restaurant food, and the noisy light-filled hotel rooms we can't sleep in, and the constant stress of praying the flight isn't delayed or traffic is so heavy you can't get to the airport in time. But we make six figures so it doesn't occur to anyone to unionize to, among other things, hire more people into these well-paying jobs (share the wealth!) and give us some semblance of life back. Can our job be done remotely? As it turns out yes but with difficulty, there are a lot of factors we don't have control over. But we have our friggin' lives back.

Expand full comment

Great post! The funny thing is, work/life balance talk began in the US some years back and was happily embraced in Europe but seems to have disappeared in America and I think maybe the easy-firing syndrome may be to blame. Unions in Europe made that harder for employers to do. Maybe the pandemic ill wind will do some good after all if it makes people aware of what has gone wrong and doing something about it where possible. Best wishes!

Expand full comment

Many of the people toiling at the low wage jobs with horrible working conditions were laid off, unceremoniously dumped on the streets, when the pandemic hit. They could not help but realize that their employers did not care at all about them. Getting by on unemployment benefits through the worst of the pandemic gave them time to reflect on whether these near-slavery jobs were what they wanted to spend their lives doing. Many got better jobs. Some furthered their education or training. Others would like to return to work, but childcare costs more than they would earn.

As for the theory that the extra unemployment benefits were inducing workers to stay home, rather than get jobs, the extra $300.00 per week works out to approximately $7,800 per six months. Even if the theory were accurate, if $7,800 per six months is enough to induce people to refrain from getting jobs, what does that say about the quality of the jobs? Going to work, even without the need for child care, costs money. There is transportation and better clothing required.

To their credit, the Washington Post and PBS NewsHour did do reports on the workers to get their perspective. The top headline from the Washington Post in my inbox this morning is, "America’s unemployed are sending a message: They’ll go back to work when they feel safe – and well-compensated"

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

That’s a bootstrap mentality that just doesn’t reflect today’s employment environment. If there were enough companies “with good benefits” and people were earning enough to have money left over from basic cost of living bills to “start investing in [their] own” we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in now.

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

Are education, decent health care, glasses and braces for the kids, a place to be when you're old and cannot work, an operation for a hernia, treatment for abuse of drugs or alcohol, a burial plot and funeral, a visit to family elsewhere in the category of wants or needs? And what about the car that you assume is already in the picture but not listed in the food, shelter, utilities and gas...is that a want or a need? We also need companionship as we do not live entirely on our own, no matter how you parse it.

Expand full comment

You have obviously not had to live on a minimum wage job. Putting money aside is impossible when your paycheck barely covers or sometimes DOESN’T cover rent, utilities, transportation, food, clothing, and medical care. If someone has a child it’s even more complicated. We’re not talking about frivolous spending here! Many times in my life I’ve had to decide between paying rent or putting food on the table and many years I had no medical insurance because the premiums were out of reach. That meant that medical care was out of reach. I was lucky that I survived. Now I’m 67 and have Medicare, but I’m still working and will be for many more years because the money I managed to put into my retirement account and Social Security (lower wages mean that less money went in, so my benefits are lower) are about half of what I need to live on each month. And I do not live frivolously! My car is 28 years old and I live in an old house with no central air and appliances that are always breaking down. Or are you going to tell me that a refrigerator, stove, and a washer and dryer are frivolous?

Expand full comment

Thank you for telling Patricia how it really is. Patricia assumes that we are all frittering away our money when, in fact, there is no money to fritter away. I was still working until just before the pandemic hit and I am older than you. I quit because work had become downright dangerous (it was generally retail work and management and customers had no interest in safety of lowly hourly-rate sales associates). When I quit work, I had no car as my car (45 years old!) died five years before the pandemic hit. I occasionally think of returning to work but I would have to find something I could walk to. What Patricia doesn't realize are two things: 1--there is far, far more to life than "building your wealth.: 2--Workers need to be paid fairly (a living wage) for whatever it is they do and, ideally, their work should be something that serves others as well as oneself. I had a small retirement account from one of my jobs and I had put that away for "a rainy day:" or my final expenses. I guess the final expenses will have to wait as the rainy day is here and now. People like Patricia have never really lived where the paycheck-to-paycheck people do or, if she did live this life, she's in denial. In retail, those at the top do none of the work but they have determined that their self-worth entitles them to the lion's share and the perks (and much more) to the disadvantage of millions of working individuals and families in the trenches. All our lives are impacted by such faulty thinking, even those suffering from delusions of grandeur face some sort of impact made more tragic because they live in denial.

Expand full comment

I agree with you on the dilemma of the working class. When you are working, full time, in New Mexico, at the State/Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, it would take you more than a lifetime to save up enough money to live on and pay rent for 6 to 9 months. Now take away that job and close down everything for 6 months because of a pandemic, what then?. That is why they added a federal payment of $600.00 per week to unemployment at first. But as some have said, like the GOP, that is equivalent to a $15.00 per hour pay check, they lowered it to $300.00 per week the next go around or $7.50 per hour equivalent. Landlords and grocery chains have seen that increase is disposable income and raised rents and prices. So who can afford to go back to work for $7.25 an hour. Most of the jobs that are unfilled are low wage jobs that do not pay a living wage. Raising the Minimum wage to $15.00 would be equivalent to the minimum wage in 1964 of $1.50 in spending power in most states except California, Hawaii, New Jersey and New York. but they have already raised their state minimum wages to $15.00 or more.

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

That is correct, Patricia, My daughter is a TA at New Mexico State University and they don't even give health benefits plus pay them only for 10 hours a week but expect 20 hours of TA work plus do all the Astro Physics research. Fortunately NASA and the American Academy of Sciences also give her research grants but is barely enough to pay the rent. Once she gets her PHD, she can either chose to teach at a University or work for "the Dark Side" and make money. It would be nice if we paid our teachers the same as we pay the people who pick up the garbage that make $80,000.00 a year plus benefits.

Expand full comment

No one anywhere, no one working in any set-up, no one studying for a better future, no one trying to get decent health care or a better place to live or a better future for their family, no one working as self-employed, no one pursuing a life of the mind instead of building wealth, in short: no one in the world relies solely on him or herself.

Expand full comment

shaming is not helpful. It is like saying if you didn't buy that coffee every week you could buy a house!

Expand full comment

I'm happy for you. Most people do not have the opportunities available and the good fortune to do this. Many people have physical, educational, commuting, etc. limitations. Your statement is a bit insensitive and dare I say ignorant.

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

I lived in two supposedly socialist countries for over five years. Those countries were NOT perfect by any means and I don't think many citizens claim perfect. Neither was "God's own Country" as there is no such thing. The economies of both countries were mixed but the public service/social sector/health care sectors were part of government. That is why such functions were funded by heavy taxes (50% of income). However, there was no such thing as a tax write-off or tax loophole or way avoiding taxes, the wealth did not breeze on by paying $750 per year while the less wealthy were taxed more to pick up the slack...what this system did was provide excellent free education, good health care, decent (not fancy) housing, and exemplary transportation through both countries. The country also valued education to the point where foreign affairs and diplomacy were handled by skilled diplomats with years in foreign service, not by political appointees. Both countries also engaged (and still engage) in advanced r&d programs. There have been considerable difficulties in assimilating the many refuges now flooding in to the two countries as these refuges do not come from countries with the same social systems and views of the human condition. People in the two countries have the right to protest and they have complete freedom of expression. To dismiss the two countries as socialist (on a par with Venezuela) is to discount the progressive agenda that manages to include and meld socialism with modern, progressive, and generally functioning democracies. I doubt seriously that there are many in the two countries in which I lived that would trade their mixed socialist/progressive economies and states for the sheer chaos and collapse of all of American society.

Expand full comment

Love your perspective of having lived abroad.

Expand full comment

Do you plan on collecting Social Security or availing yourself of Medicare? Do you plan on driving on any highways, crossing any bridges, or going through any tunnels? Is it possible you'll develop a degenerative disease or have a terrible accident and need Medicaid? Zero population growth does not help an economy. Do you want children to have a good education and healthy food even if their parents can't afford it? (Perhaps you'd like them to become ignorant Trumpers.) These are social programs. Don't use the word "socialist" as a pejorative. I suggest you stop watching Fox News.

Expand full comment

Thank you!!! Lanae

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

It would be a cheap trick to blame Bernie Sanders, the left-wing, and socialists in or out of public service for the present state of the economy but, well, we came into the administration of the 45th president in far better shape than we are right now. It is true that the pandemic created chaos and undid our economy and society but we elected the 45th president to take charge, we did not elect Bernie Sanders or any socialist to the top spot in the country. The 4th president made it quite clear by word and deed that he accepted no responsibility whatsoever for anything that befell the public he was elected to serve and he kept his word in that respect if no other. He proceeded to spend his entire four years watching, tv playing golf, holding campaign rallies, and kowtowing to foreign potentates. He chose to ignore the stipulation in the Constitution against emoluements and eagerly took money from foreign potentates in order to enrich himself and his sycophants who eagerly bought into this deal. He went far beyond the race card to pursuing active measures to disenfranchise and deny the rights of minorities, of immigrants and the undocumented but also the rights of citizens and people of color. He washed his hands of the pandemic, denied the danger, and denigrated scientists in favor of quacks and charlatans. He is now attempting to thwart an investigation into his role in the Jan 6 insurrection, again denying the responsibility that was his to restore order and peace. He is responsible for all of or, as Harry Truman put it: the buck stops with him and his failure to abide by the Constitution he swore an oath to defend. It is right and proper that the insurrection and the appalling situations past and present be explored and discussed in our public schools...students can deal with the truth (whatever it is) and it will better prepare them to deal with the future and participate in public life. Oh, I might note, not all of us have investments and stock portfolios and IRAs we have to protect and build...I don't, for one, and I strong suspect I am not alone. Much of the current multiple difficulties stem from someone eager for the trappings of leadership but unwilling to accept the heavy burden of that position, the 45th president of the United States. I suspect that the right-wing media has hidden the truth while the left-wing contingent has generally tried to keep on board, not an easy feat with such a hostile and incompetent leader.

Expand full comment

I drive an 18-year-old Honda Civic. I get great gas mileage. I do not like that Trump has made it acceptable for people to be rude, ignorant, violent bullies. It has pervaded our society at every level. You won't hear this on Fox News. In fact, you don't hear it outright, often enough, on any media outlet. Twitter is a social/news medium where people will call out the rude and ignorant but there is an equal amount of people who have no problem saying "Fuck Joe Biden." and believe in their Christian hearts that it is right to do so anytime and at any venue. Since Trump, our society has truly deteriorated. What kind of example does Trump set for our children and even the adults who should know better. And what is wrong with Ethnic Studies, we are a globally intertwined society and economy. Republican tax breaks for the rich and corporations and social policies have decimated the lower and middle-class. There is your communism run by an oligarchy.

Expand full comment

That is what many of the laid off people have done, when they can. It is not always possible. As for relying on yourself, I would point out that the wealthiest and large corporations don't rely on themselves. They send battalions of highly paid lobbyists flooding into Congress and Executive Branch agencies looking for special government favors and handouts, to benefit themselves at others' expense.

Expand full comment

We are social creatures dependent on each other, on the willingness to sacrifice our own self-interests for the greater good of all in society. That is why: we wear masks and get vaccinated in a pandemic; why we protest cruelty and inequity against others but not necessarily ourselves; why we seek jobs in health-care; education; social services; counselling; environmental and charity npos; religious organizations devoted to others; why we seek to work in public service of all sorts; why we pursue lives in the arts and humanities, in music and entertainment. That is why we give up naked self-interest and building our own wealth in order to share with others. There is more to life--and more that is rewarding and uplifting--than feathering your own nest. If we had more people devoted to education and health care and fewer concerned with building their own wealth (as you propose) and if the government sought to encourage social service instead of self-enrichment at the expense of others we would be better off.

Expand full comment

As usual, you provide the context that should be provided by the media reporting the numbers. Unless you understand the underlying story of the numbers reporting the numbers is meaningless.

Expand full comment

I know I wouldn't go back to Walmart for lousy pay for back breaking work. And heaven forbid anyone ask for workings tools that make sense for short people like me - like step stools for simple reaching. We're forced to use BIG pieces of equipment that cause more injury than help. I'm encouraged that the working class is waking up and sticking up for itself.

Expand full comment

Both of my sons worked for a time at Walmart. My oldest lasted 6 months, years ago. My youngest worked there for years. He was unloading trucks and stocking when he got Covid May 2020. He was wearing a mask and Walmart had just started to ask their employees to mask. It took him 3 months to be well enough to go back and they threatened to fire him because he could not hold up his job and another person's who was out with covid. He now works for Fedex and it is better paying but another shit job. In the meantime my oldest son with the stimulus and he and his wife's back unemployment from Idaho with the enhanced addition managed to start their own businesses. And they are doing great. And they are receiving the childcare credit for my grandchild and it really has taken them from poverty to a better life...although the rent in Idaho doubled and the house they were renting was sold and they had to come up with 4k to move! Ouch! Between the wages being too low and housing being too high..Walmart, Amazon etc are in my mind, thieves of labor.

Expand full comment

Wishing for an edit button. Was forced, not we're forced. No longer at Walmart.

Expand full comment

I have been saying for a very long time that the,only solution is a general strike . The workers are the ones that make the economic wheel turn , and when that stops , wallstreet and Congress will start paying attention to the demands of the working class . The French proved that and now it is time for the American workers to demand fair livable wages and health care and safe working environments, and forcing employers to cut the pay of CEO's and tax the wealthy to pay their fair share instead of the average worker shouldering the tax burden.

Expand full comment

Yes! Years ago, a co-worker and I at a national retail chain got the idea of marching over to the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) headquarters and investigating the possibility of unionizing the store where we worked. (There was some precedent for our action as the chain had (has) two flagship stores that are unionized, one on the East Coast, one on the West.) We both signed union cards and I arranged for a sort of party in the lounge of my apt building and promoted the party off-work-site. The two guys in the union headquarters did nothing to run the gathering but they did show up. They promised support from the union flagship store nearby. They must have known that neither of us had experience with unions; we were well-meaning but hugely naive, so naive that we did not realize that the two union guys had been "bought" by the store and would keep "hands off," thereby dooming our efforts. As it was, our very modest initial effort brought the wrath of store management down on us and we were badgered and threatened by local mgrs and the store mgrs. The workers who did come to the party were very disgruntled by the starvation wages, the lack of benefits, the hazardous working conditions, the lack of promotions and rewards, the general hatred that mgmt had for its own workforce but they also knew there was nothing out there besides the pittance they had. Needless to say, without consistent support from SEIU and the two union guys or the unionized folks from the flagship, the union effort died. But now, because of the pandemic and the fact that hourly wage earners are sick (literally at times) of scrapping to get by and going without, we are on the cusp of a kind of strike and I cross my fingers that the strikers get further than my colleague and I got. Retail is set up so that the ceo and his associates get more than the lion's share (and take it as their due) when, in fact, they do precious little and, to my knowledge, have done precious little through life. (Donald Trump was and is a good example of the way the system, er, functions. When I left the company that I had tried to organize with my co-worker, the then-ceo was on the verge of retiring. He was given a retirement package which we lackies routinely discussed, namely: his regular salary of $18 million per year; a one time-retirement bonus of another $18 million; and, a new consultant position for the new guy of yet another $18 million. He would accrue $54 million for his retirement and, thereafter, would have to squeak on by on $36million per year. At the same time, another of my co-workers (aged 71) was within two months of retirement and drawing her pension from 31 years with the firm; she was fired two months before retirement because she did not leave through the employee door but the customer door when she was there as a shopper. She must have been making an hourly rate of $20 after her 31 years. As far as I know, she decided to take it to court but I never found out how this happened. Whatever the end result was, she would have done well to gain her pension but I doubt that the company allowed her that. The fact that workers in retail are finally staying away is not by itself surprising....what is surprising is that they put up with this for so long.

Expand full comment

Yes, the average American worker has had a gutful of being kicked around by bosses with unliveable wages and conditions. A National basic wage of $20 / hour would be more appropriate, & not stagnate for the next 30-40 years like the $7.25 / hour.

K

Expand full comment

In the small town I live in the Ford dealercan’t schedule timely service, restaurants cannot maintain regular hours, drug stores are closing and cannot fill prescriptions. It goes on and on with the cause being cannot find workers. Your comments are spot on! Shame on the news media for giving us such lackadaisical, misleading, insufficient, and insulting “journalism”. Those employment numbers mean nothing contrasted against the reality of the true economy.

Expand full comment

Considering the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), that passed in the House over 200 days ago and has been held up in the Senate ever since, it should come as no surprise that workers across the country are showing more and more signs of strain and discontent and are not waiting on Congress to act. Adding insult to injury, the pandemic further exposed the inequities of our society with those at the top continuing to prosper while, quoting Mehdi Hasan, “burning through our resources and burning out their workers.”

Expand full comment

A contrast from reporting on new jobs after the 2008 crash where the media focus was on how many of the jobs created were minimum wage, low wage jobs vs. the higher wage ones people had lost. The message that people couldn't afford to work in those jobs (transportation, child care costs, etc.) was understood. Not as much of the media was owned by corporate conglomerates then who may wish to push as normative a labor marker resembling slave labor for profit.

Expand full comment

What a great idea--a general strike! Bring the moguls to their knees! As a member of SAG/AFTRA I fully support this! With more and active unions again we may be able to create a new Bourgeois Spring such as we had from the 40's to the 80's! Let's go for it!

Expand full comment

In March 2001 in Silicon Valley I was worried I didn't have enough cash to pay for property tax, income tax and mortgage. Then I was laid off! My severance pay and unused vacation amounted to 6 weeks of pay so I was suddenly able to pay all of my bills! I got a new job in 4 weeks. That was when Silicon Valley was going through it's biggest bust so far.

In May 2020 I was laid off due to COVID-19. I haven't worked since. I'm 63 now and companies don't seem to want to hire someone at my age. Fortunately I now have enough savings to make it if I have to but every day without work cuts into my future retirement. I have a good 7+ years of work still in me

I don't get it when everyone says that finding a job is so easy. Just look at all the jobs available...

Expand full comment