Why are we seeing help-wanted signs everywhere, and why are fast-food joints all of a sudden offering $15 an hour? Are workers really so lazy they can’t be enticed to take a job for double minimum wage?
The answer is that people are willing to work, but not for a pittance, not part-time and not without benefits and a somewhat predictable schedule. Workers deserve respect, and they’re starting to dermand it.
Employers laid of workers by the millions, and a lot of these workers made more staying home and being safe than they did waiting tables, tending bar or cleaning hotel rooms. And while they were home, nobody trashed them, grabbed their asses or demanded they smile to get a tip — all while not making enough money to survive.
Those workers whose jobs didn’t go away faced nasty comments about keeping their masks on, served people who refused to wear masks, were denied tips (remember, most tipped employees are paid less than $2.50 an hour and often work less than 25 hours a week at this job, so they’re forced to work two or more jobs). Many of them have two or more roommates.
Women face sexual harassment from bosses and customers alike, but they can’t quit. It’s akin to indentured servitude.
This is how business treats human beings when workers have no power to make things better. The dismantling of worker portections that took decades to put into place began under Ronald Reagan, when he broke the air traffic controllers’ union, and conditions have only worsened since. One of the reasons we don’t have a comprehensive and humane immigration policy is because big business doesn’t want it to happen. Businesses hire undocumented immigrants becauase it’s easy to abuse them. They live in fear of being sent back to the hell they came from, which likely is even worse than what they’re experiencing.
Business wants control of its workers lives.
Back when my grandparents worked in the textile mills of New England, children worked alongside their parents in the factory. Mill owners liked having children there because their small hands could reach into the machinery and clear jams. A lot of children lost all or parts of their hands when the machinery started up again. My grandparents witnessed this. My grandmother went to work in the mill when she was 7; my grandfather was 10. Companies provided housing, which was pretty substandard, and many had company stores that charged prices just high enough to keep workers in debt so they couldn’t just pack up and look for better paying jobs.
Today, credit cards do the same thing. We’re not paid enough to make ends meet, so when we need a car repair or a tooth fixed, we have to charge it. Then we have that monthly payment, so it’s even harder to make ends meet. So, we accept the offer to transfer our balances to a lower-interest card — except the bank leaves $1,000 on the old card. Now you have another payment to make. It’s all done to keep us in debt. It’s deliberate. Just look at the ads for apps that help children learn about credit. Get ’em hooked while they’re young.
Look at what happens to people who don’t have a credit rating. You can’t even get a job without one. You can’t rent an apartment or buy something in installments. You can’t get a health insurance policy through Affordable Care Act marketplaces without jumping through a remarkable number of hoops. I know because I helped someone do it. It took weeks. If you pay all your bills on time and save up to buy your car with cash, you don’t exist.
Thanks to the pandemic, workers who were laid off by the millions found better ways to make a living. There’s the bartender who went to work for the wine distributer and tripled his income, plus got benefits like paid time off and access to health insurance. There’s the line cook who decided to open her own catering service, the photographer who opened a small gallery …
How many times have you heard someone say waitstaff should just quit complaing and get a better job? You know, like that’s an easy thing to do when you can’t go to college or trade school because you’re working 70 hours a week and you can’t schedule a job interview because your work schedule changes every week.
Well, these workers got some time off to work on their dreams and now your favorite restaurant can’t find staff to work part-time, with no benefits and a shitty schedule, even when they offer $15 an hour.
Workers aren’t lazy, they’re just doing what was suggested to them — getting better jobs.
When employers offer a living wage, full-time work, benefits and a somewhat predictable schedule, they’ll have all the workers they need. If they can’t offer these things, they don’t deserve to be in business. Workers are not here to subsidize your dream.