Labor Flex

As an advocate for labor, I can’t tell you how giddy I get driving around town these days. Everywhere I look I see fast food places needing to advertise starting rates of $16 - $18 an hour just to get applicants through their doors. I love how the pendulum has swung to the side of the workers who, thanks to stimulus, savings, and a fresh lease on what’s important in life, are able to be selective on when and where to go to work.

A person's work should be rewarding in one way or another. It should be either intrinsically satisfying or, absent that, should provide for financial security and economic mobility. As the presumed “richest country in the world,” it's ridiculous that some are suggesting we should force people back to work for wages that keep them in poverty. And that’s what I feel that some Governors are doing in states that are about to cut off their constituents from federal unemployment aid. They are siding with corporations instead of the people. They want to talk about how high unemployment insurance is a "disincentive to work." That’s nonsense. What those governors are doing is creating a disincentive for corporations to treat their workers with dignity and fair pay. Let’s be clear about something: THERE IS NO LABOR SHORTAGE. There is a shortage of good wages.

People want to work. They want to find rewarding and enriching careers. They want to feel useful and productive. Unfortunately because America has such a diminutive social safety net, work is usually just another day closer to death for people that have no choice but to take certain jobs in order to survive. And most employers don’t seem to care. This is the first time in a long time that they are have been put on the defensive and are seeing their businesses suffer because their employees have finally developed a backbone. I find that to be delicious.

A couple of my friends brought up a salient counterargument: it is unfair for taxpayers (all of us) to subsidize people who sit on the couch instead of taking a job. That’s a fair point. In a way, we are subsidizing people and paying for their ability to be more selective regarding their job opportunities. But I’m ok with that because it is far better than the alternative. For too long, we’ve been subsidizing major corporations like Wal-Mart and McDonald's who paid their workers so low that they couldn't even afford groceries and had to apply for food stamps. I’m tired of subsidizing restaurant worker pay through tips while they pay their staff as little as $3 per hour. I would rather (for once) have business owners have to sweat and be subjected to the desperation that they have put their employees through. I will gladly have my tax dollar subsidize people in pursuit of an honest day's pay if the alternative is subsidizing the companies who prioritize stock buybacks over improving employee salaries.

With some of these enhanced unemployment benefits, a lot of Americans are finally enjoying true freedom. The freedom to be able to say “No. I will NOT spend eight hours a day sweating next to a deep-fryer for $7.50 an hour.” The freedom to negotiate for decent salaries and benefits that they were in no position to ask for earlier. It’s not freedom to have to clean bathrooms for pittance or else end up homeless ⏤ it's downright extortion. Every American citizen that works full-time deserves dignity in their lives and their finances. This is the first time in a long time that they have the capacity to stand up and fight for it.

I hope we can make business owners sweat it out through the summer. They should have a choice: either pay workers a fair and livable wage or go through the summer’s economic boom short-staffed and unable to meet consumer demand. Many stores (even McDonald's) branches are losing money already because they can’t even open at certain hours because of lack of staff. As their commercials say: “I’m loving it!”

Speaking directly to the working class: Even though the enhanced unemployment benefits will eventually expire, I hope your resolve and pursuit of fair treatment will not. Throughout COVID and now during the economic recovery process, you have proven your value. Your employer needs you. In fact, some of them are so pathetic and desperate that they now are lobbying Congress to force you to return. Say strong and never forget that!


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