The most delicate relationship in the world of human interactions is that between employers and workers.
And, in the United States, as millions of Americans cautiously come out of the year of the pandemic, that relationship is in shambles. There was a good deal. He was broken. And it wasn’t the employees who broke it.
“Nobody wants to work anymore.”
That’s the claim on the impressions recorded on drive-through menus in states such as New Mexico and Texas. Shorthanded fast food managers implore customers to be patient with “the staff that showed up.”
All kinds of employers are struggling to find workers. Help Wanted signs are everywhere.
The most recent US Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report was appalling. Only around 266,000 jobs were created in April, a far cry from the million jobs some economists had predicted. As America emerges from the pandemic, the country’s unemployment rate stands at 6.1%.
A McDonald’s restaurant in Florida offers potential employees $ 50 to attend an interview. Another McDonald’s in Pennsylvania is offering a $ 500 signing bonus to anyone who accepts a job.
Some insist that three stimulus payments and an additional $ 300 a week in federal unemployment benefits (on top of whatever states give out), have turned a government safety net into a hammock.
This is how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sees it. He believes Uncle Sam’s boost to unemployment benefits during the pandemic is deterring Americans from returning to work. This is especially the case, the argument goes, for low-paid workers – say $ 15 an hour or less. Those earning the federal minimum wage of $ 7.25 an hour could earn more than their wages by staying home and attracting unemployment.
It’s easy to say that employers should pay higher wages, but customers haven’t shown a corresponding willingness to pay higher prices.
McConnell’s nerve. Apparently the only free government money the 79-year-old is smiling at is the Congressional pension check that will one day land in his mailbox under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Those who have served in Congress for at least 32 years can raise more than $ 150,000 per year in retirement. The Kentuckian has been in the Senate for 36 years, almost half the time he is on the planet. So he’s going to act like a bandit. Rightly so for a politician.
Yet many elected officials are simple-minded. And so it’s no surprise that they are often eager to oversimplify a complicated reality – especially in ways that advance their policies or serve their agenda.
And now that hundreds of thousands of jobs are vacant in the United States, it’s not hard to find hiring managers and business owners – conservatives and liberals – who say Americans are lazy and unwilling. no longer work.
The reality is more complex. Many Americans who are reluctant to return to work may be afraid of contracting COVID-19 or not having childcare or wanting to earn more or prefer to continue working from home.
Then there is the fractured relationship. I suspect that many workers don’t like employers as much as they once did.
These things go in cycles. Right now, it’s a workers’ market. Job applicants and existing employees have leverage. But it wasn’t that long ago that things changed, and it was a employers’ market.
I was fired from my last full-time newspaper job in 2010, after escaping three more rounds of layoffs. The year before I left, my colleagues and I learned that – because of the tightening of the corporate belt – we were going to lose 20% of our salary and forgo a week of vacation. The company just tore up our existing agreements and told us to accept them or leave them. The job market was bleak back then – especially for newspapers. So I took it.
A year later, I was fired along with dozens of other journalists.
During the pandemic, many employers have acted terribly. They put workers at risk of contracting COVID-19, then fire them when business has plummeted – leaving millions without pay or health care. When workers lost their homes, many employers seemed to say, “It’s not my problem.”
Now the roles have changed again. What happened is happening. Employers are suffering and cannot find workers. And you can imagine what many workers say, “It’s not my problem.”
It is not laziness. It’s karma.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is [email protected] His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available on all podcast apps.