WORKPLACES ARE CHANGING; WORKERS’ ATTITUDES ARE, TOO

#workplaces #workers #pay #benefits #childcare #COVID19 #coronavirus #FlattenTheCurve
The pandemic changed everything.
First, it gave workers a bit more leverage in how they deal with work/life balance.
That has good, and bad, effects.
Workers are leaving jobs that paid little, with no flexibility in their lives, to either stay home with children – day-care costs are rising and options are limited – or moving on to jobs that pay more and, perhaps, offer some of the flexibility they want.
A story by Marc Fisher for the Washington Post, and a “This Life” column by Nedra Rhone tackle this issue in detail. Both were published Dec. 30, 2021, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Post story focuses on Liberty County, Ga., along the state’s coast. Liberty is a small county, with a major military institution, Ft. Stewart, as its biggest employer.
But the county is growing by adding big warehouses. These allow people to leave the small, mom-and-pop hotel and restaurant jobs for higher-paying, and often more flexible, warehouse work.
That hurts the lower-paying sole-owner businesses, causing them to cut back on hours, service etc., for lack of help.
Some employees had been laid off when many of these operations shut down. When they reopened, many of the workers did not return, for various reasons – not the least of which is the risk of being infected with COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Rhone’s column discusses the differences among various generations in how they react to changing workplaces.
The youngest generation of workers had their world turned upside down. Many now want to be entrepreneurs, meaning they may never work for anyone but themselves in their lives.
(What these young folks may not realize is that working only for oneself may have its own pitfalls. They still have to serve clients, who will be their ultimate employers).
So, all of this begs the usual question: where do you fit in this changing workplace?
Is the idea of going back to work too risky? Or, is it going to cost you more to go back to work (commuting, day care etc.) than you would make?
In summary, workplaces are changing. Workers no longer feel forced to take, or go back to, jobs that put them at risk, will cost them more to work than not, and not get a good return from the employer(s).
Employers currently are adapting by cutting back on things that could decimate their businesses. They have to find more creative ways to entice people from multiple generations, who have different hopes, dreams and attitudes toward the workplace.
To quote Donald Lovette, chairman of the Liberty County, Ga., Commission, from the Post story: “It’s not that people are lazy. It’s that some of them are better off financially by not paying for child care, staying home for a while … It’s simple economics.”
Employers, even those in basic businesses like hospitality and restaurants, have to come up with new ways to get and keep workers.
Peter

LABOR SHORTAGES TO AFFECT SUMMER VACATIONS, TRAVEL

#LaborShortages #SummerTravel #labor #jobs #workers #employers
Resorts, restaurants and other entertainment venues are reporting labor shortages.
These employers say the number of applicants for work at summer hot spots are down. They may not be able to fill the jobs they have available.
NBC News reported on this problem May 15, 2022.
There are a number of issues here. First, these jobs are usually seasonal. The ideal applicant is a college or a high school student out of school for the summer.
Why aren’t they applying? There could be a number of reasons, but suffice it to say that the workplace, in general, is changing.
Since the pandemic, workplace safety is a bigger concern than ever. These young folks may be more cautious about a job that involves interacting with a lot of people, particularly if they don’t know the vaccination status of those people. After all, they don’t want to get sick, or worse, over a job.
Also, many of these jobs, particularly in hospitality, don’t pay well. As employers of all stripes are fighting over fewer workers, perhaps these students may have found other, more lucrative and less stressful job options.
Thirdly, as much as kids want to hang at, say, a beach area for the summer, what are their housing options, and are they affordable? No one wants to spend everything they earn to eat and sleep near a resort workplace.
These labor shortages contribute to the inflation we all see. If employers have to pay more to attract workers, customers will have to pay more.
That goes for every link in the supply chain. If there are labor shortages at the end of the chain, there are probably labor problems throughout.
It’s great for the economy for workers to have options. As an employer, perhaps you have to make working for you a better option. You have to find the “sweet spot” that makes you, your employees and your customers happy. It’s a tough balance for some establishments, so one has to be creative to make it work.
If you are a worker, by all means evaluate any available option you have. Money is certainly important, but a work situation that fits your needs and that you like is critical. Otherwise, you will not be happy no matter how much they pay you.
For the first time in a long time, workers are in the driver’s seat in many instances. These workers, in general, are NOT sitting home collecting government checks. They want to work, but also want to be treated well, want to feel safe and secure and want to feel, for lack of a better term, at home.
It can be a tall order to create an ideal workplace. Certainly, some jobs or tasks will be no one’s favorite thing to do. But the employer has to make those burdensome, necessary jobs and tasks as rewarding as possible.
The old idea of ruling a workplace with an iron fist will not attract or retain the best workers.
You need rules, certainly, but you also need an atmosphere that workers want to be in and want to make even better.
You might be surprised to learn that you can create such a workplace without too much hardship. You just have to think, ask questions and learn what people want.
It never hurts to ask workers what they are looking for. The answers may yield simple solutions
Peter

WORKERS HARD TO FIND

#LaborShortage #workers #employers #GreatResignation #BetterJobs #entrepreneurs
Evidence suggests that jobs are easy to find, and workers are hard to find.
So writes Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist and economist in a column also published April 10, 2022 in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Krugman points out that experts, including himself, have been telling the “Great Resignation” tale, saying the pandemic has forced lots of Americans to rethink work, their jobs, child care, going back to unpleasant environments etc.
But he now points out that he has changed his mind, as new data evolve.
He says Americans are switching jobs, but going to better ones. They are not leaving the labor force in large numbers (and collecting government checks to stay home). Instead, they are going to different work.
One reason Krugman cites, attributing to economist Dean Baker, is many workers are becoming self-employed. They are gig workers, to use current parlance.
Employment figures, naturally, do not include the self-employed. “Reshuffling has involved Americans concluding that they could improve their lives by starting their own businesses,” Krugman writes.
The second reason is immigration, or lack thereof, according to Krugman. An immigration crackdown over the last several years, enhanced by the pandemic, resulted in fewer available workers. To boost the economy, Krugman says, “we should really try to reestablish our nation’s historic role as a destination for ambitious immigrants,” he writes.
In decades past, it has been argued that too much immigration takes jobs from Americans and lowers wages for U.S. workers. Today’s immigration argument, though often not voiced aloud, is that it’s less about jobs and wages and more about demographics and potential new voting patterns.
Because the employment numbers are so hidden, they blur the status of the economy. If employers can’t find workers, or have lost the ones they had prior to the pandemic, those employers should spend more time evaluating how to better attract or retain workers, rather than complain about labor shortages allegedly caused by current government policy.
Workers are out there, albeit fewer than there were prior to the pandemic. There are not a lot of eligible workers sitting home collecting checks. They are working on THEIR terms, performing services that they know how to do, for those willing to pay for them.
If employers believe that different government policy can force workers back to old ways, they will be very disappointed when it doesn’t happen.
If you (desperate employer) know someone who used to work for you, but is now in his or her own business, ask that person why he or she made such a move.
Very likely, they will tell you chapter and verse why. You may not like the answer. But, if you are wise, you will learn something from it.
Starting a business when you’ve always been an employee is a big step. Not everyone who does so will succeed. But, even if they don’t, they may never return to what they used to do, or where they used to do it.
Remember, too, that workers have more choices than they’ve had in years. Most will take advantage of better opportunities that are presented to them. Some will succeed as their own bosses. Wishing it were different, if you are an employer, will not make it so.
Peter

RETIRE ASAP? GO FOR IT!

#EarlyRetirement #retirement #jobs #work #time
Are you planning, or would you like to, retire early?
Most, probably, would say, “of course.”
Others don’t plan to retire, unless forced to.
Still others would insist on a definition of “early.”
Wes Moss, who writes a Money Matters column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and has a same-titled radio show on WSB radio in Atlanta, gives five reasons to retire as soon as possible. He discussed them in his Oct. 10, 2021, column.
Moss’ five reasons: drive time, no love lost for your job, a roller-coaster schedule, a lack of recognition for what you do and being capped out in terms of financial advancement.
Let’s talk about each of these. First, commuting can be a bear. It takes time from your life as a whole, it adds stress to your body and it’s costly, in terms of fuel and wear-and-tear on your vehicle.
Moss also says that grueling commutes can cause stress in a marriage. According to one study, people who drive at least 45 minutes each way to work are 40 percent more likely to get a divorce, Moss writes.
Work-from-home, or remote-working trends inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic may change commuting patterns for the long term. If your employer is flexible in this area, you might decide to work longer. Think of having a beach house, or mountain cabin, from which you could work. Would that interest you?
Perhaps you don’t really love your job, or even like it, as Moss points out. Would working from home change that perception? If you are just grinding out a living at a job that, to be kind, doesn’t inspire you, Moss suggests perhaps finding a new way to parlay your skills by consulting, or starting your own business.
Remote-working options may alleviate another of Moss’ concerns – the roller-coaster schedule. Many people have jobs in which they have to be on site at specific times. Those times could vary from week to week, turning one’s body clock upside down. If you have one of those jobs, chances are you don’t like it. If you can get out sooner, you should.
Being recognized for your good work is also important. Your boss saying nice things about you and your work are fine, but you probably need more tangible rewards. If those are not forthcoming, maybe it’s time to go.
You may also be at the very end of the pay scale for your job category. If so, then ask yourself: am I just marking time for my pension? Or, especially if there is no pension, could I go somewhere else and advance financially? If you are at the top of your pay scale, you may be near retirement age anyway. If you can afford to retire, do it.
There are many things to learn ahead of “early” retirement regarding health insurance expenses and, more importantly, what you will do with your time.
You also have to study the likelihood, even though it’s tough to predict, whether one day you will come to work and be forcibly retired, or otherwise unemployed. Know that if this happens to you, you are not likely to be forewarned.
So, think about your situation, and do what is best for you. At the same time, realize that there are ways to escape bad work situations, if you need to.
In short, if you like your job, stay as long as they will have you. If you don’t like your job, stay open to other options. They are out there.
Peter

MILLIONS QUITTING THEIR JOBS: WHAT WILL THEY DO NEXT?

#AvailableJobs #workers #employment #coronavirus #COVID19 #FlattenTheCurve
A record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September 2021.
So reports Anneken Tappe for CNN Business. Her article appeared on cnn.com Nov. 12, 2021.
She wrote that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 10.4 million job openings that month, because of a worker shortage. The number of openings dropped slightly from the 10.6 million openings in August 2021, the article says.
Meanwhile, employers hired 6.5 million people, while they lost, including those who left voluntarily, 6.2 million, the article says.
Earlier, the Associated Press had reported that employers largely were still looking for workers who had previous experience in the work for which they were applying. Speculation had been that workers were applying for jobs which were totally different from the jobs they had held – perhaps paying a lot more money.
The AP article also hinted that employers believe eventually they will regain the leverage in the job market that workers have now.
Still, if you are a worker and your job disappeared during the pandemic, but may be slowly coming back, you have to ask yourself: is the job worth going back to?
As the cooler fall and winter weather creeps in, are you worried that your kids’ school(s) will close for a period because the virus spreads anew?
If your kids had to do school remotely, could you work at the same time? These questions tell us that the virus has not left us, and, perhaps, won’t for a good bit of time – if at all.
Complicating one’s decision to return to a job is the lack of day-care options, or the lack of places a parent could drop off a child to go to school remotely while they work.
Another factor: have you, as a worker, considered all possible job options? You may actually find an employer, desperate for help, willing to train you to do something different. Perhaps that something different would allow you to work remotely, if you had to.
If you are an employer, have you considered offering better pay, training and work/life flexibility to attract more, or better, workers? Are you willing to invest more to keep the good people you have from leaving?
This push-pull of the current labor market is one reason, along with supply-chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, that prices on just about everything are rising.
Despite short-term pain your wallet may feel, if workers ultimately attain workplace leverage and get more pay and better benefits, everyone – yes, employers, too – will benefit.
Of course, if you are not sure what you should do next, but are willing to explore different alternatives, there are programs out there that may intrigue you.
They require no specific education, experience or background. They allow you flexibility to work from home as needed. They merely require an open mind to check them out, and the ability to be coached. You can even do them part time as you work a regular job.
To learn about one of the best such programs, message me.
This labor market is difficult for employers and employees. It’s one of those transition periods from which good things can result. We just have to be patient in the short term.
Also, the more eligible people get vaccinated, the sooner we can keep the pandemic at bay.
So, what will be your next move?
Peter

WORKING FROM HOME CHANGING HOUSING MARKET

#WorkFromHome #coronavirus #COVID-19 #commuting
Technology is allowing more people to work remotely.
That’s changing the way people think about where to live.
In and around big cities may not be the only option for those able to carve out office space at home.
Lisa Prevost took on this subject in an article for The New York Times. It was also published Sept. 25, 2019, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of last year, 24 percent of employed persons worked at least part of the time at home, the article says. That percentage has undoubtedly increased as coronavirus (COVID-19) fears and precautions have set in.
Among those with advanced degrees, it was 42 percent, the article quotes the figures.
In a survey last year of 23,000 new home shoppers, John Burns Real Estate Consulting, a firm with offices nationwide, 30 percent worked at home between one and four days a week. Some 13 percent worked at home full time, the article says.
States like Vermont are offering incentives for people to move there and work from home, the article says.
Is this a trend? Let’s look at it from all sides.
In past decades, employers frowned on people working from home for lack of supervision. They didn’t trust that employees could give full attention to their work, or give a full day’s work, from home.
It’s not that people would necessarily cheat their employers , though there are certainly those who might try. It’s more that home provides distractions – kids, TV, personal phone calls etc. – that would prevent an employee’s 100 percent concentration on his or her job.
But longer commutes, or even short commutes in heavy traffic are forcing people to spend more time getting to and from work, adding stress that could interfere with their ability to do their jobs.
Commuting and traffic add to the general societal problem of overcrowding and gridlock in cities, pollution from vehicles and portions of life wasted commuting.
So, the attitude about working at home may be changing, and technology is enabling people to do their jobs from anywhere.
Be careful what you wish for. You pay for the freedom to work from home with the electronic leash from work that never gets removed.
Certainly, technological advancement is a blessing and curse. But it is here, and people must adapt.
But what if you could work from home at a job you enjoyed, and could work when you wanted? There are many vehicles out there that allow people to work independently, yet have a network of colleagues they can call for help. These programs are designed for people who want to be their own bosses. They certainly require work, but, with no one watching you, are aimed at people who are self-motivated.
If you believe you are that self-motivated person, regardless of your education and skills, and want to learn about one of the best such programs, message me.
The bonus with these programs is you can live and work from anywhere.
Business and society are certainly warming up to the idea of having people work from home. They have to evaluate people more on tasks than hours worked.
Is it right for you? Remember, there are benefits and costs – freedom, but loss of interactions and gain of distractions. You have to evaluate your own situation to determine whether such an arrangement would suit you.
Peter

LABOR UNIONS GETTING MORE CLOUT

#LaborUnions #MoreUnionClout #workers #jobs
Labor unions, and their power to create a lifestyle for their members, have been declining for years.
And, government has been assisting in that decline by passing laws reducing the unions’ bargaining power. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that government workers who declined to join unions that represent them in collective bargaining cannot be forced to contribute to those unions.
That ruling would certainly have an impact on a union’s ability to raise money to cushion labor disputes etc.
But, according to an article by Nicholas Riccardi for the Associated Press, there’s a little more enthusiasm now for labor unions. His article was published June 29, 2018, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“There’s kind of a spark going on now with unions,” the article quotes Mike Hinton, 39, a UPS delivery driver and Teamster from Campbellsville, Ky.
Whether its Las Vegas workers striking at Strip casinos, and winning concessions, or teachers striking in states that have chopped education budgets for years, unions are trying to make a comeback, the article says.
In fact, the article says labor unions picked up 262,000 new recruits last year.
It’s not clear why unions are making a comeback. “I don’t know if locals have been unusually organized rather than things have just gotten very, very bad,” the article quotes Moshe Marvit, a Pittsburgh-based labor attorney and fellow at the Century Foundation.
Some historical perspective is in order. As the Industrial Revolution took hold, factories – often called sweat shops – emerged. People moved off the farms to get jobs in these factories and, at the beginning, those jobs paid very little for the hard work people had to do.
So, organizers got the idea of trying to negotiate better wages and benefits for the workers. If they didn’t get what they want, they would convince most, if not all, the workers to strike until demands were met.
Over time, those demands created inefficiencies in the workplace, and companies could not change things without union approval. Of course, the unions’ mission was to preserve as many jobs as possible, with the best pay and most benefits.
Technological progress sped up, and companies found ways to produce their goods more efficiently with machines, rather than human power.
As fewer people worked in factories, unions gradually lost their clout, with the exception of the public sector unions.
Some recent improvements in working conditions have taken hold because of a tightening job market. Still, in general, job security is almost non-existent. Raises are few and far between. Employee benefits, pensions etc., have gradually gone away. The income gap between rich and middle class grows wider. The middle class is declining.
Perhaps, with a strong economy and companies unable to find enough workers, labor feels emboldened.
The lesson here might be that, for as long as it took for unions to gain power in previous decades, workers may not want to wait for that to happen again.
If you have a job that doesn’t pay you enough, or give you enough benefits, you might want to find some part-time, off-work hours in your schedule to check out the many ways to earn money that doesn’t involve a W-2 job. To check out one of the best, message me.
Organizing labor is risky, as the article points out. The way things are, or the way things are headed, may make workers believe it’s worth the risk to organize.
Remember, whatever choice you make, think it through and make sure it’s the right thing for you to do. There are ways to bolster your financial future with much less risk.
Peter

ARE OUR LIVES TOO CONVENIENT?

#convenience #inconvenience #tooconvenient
Is there such a thing as being “too convenient?
Eric Weiner refuses to buy an Apple Watch because it would make his life too easy.
Weiner, author of the forthcoming book, “The Georgraphy of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places From Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley,” discussed this in a column he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, published in the June 7, 2015, edition of the News Sentinel in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Though he is not advocating the return of the inconvenient Paleolithic Era, he writes that too often we fail to recognize the full cost of our convenient lives. He cites all the plastic K-cups clogging the ecosystem, as well as personal and social costs of convenience.
The cost to workers of convenience can be harsh. A company can find a machine, or mechanical process, to do the work once done by humans. When that happens, humans lose their jobs and, in today’s world, may not be able to replace them.
Think, too, of all those disposable diapers, which Weiner cites. Yes, diaper pails and laundering cloth diapers is very inconvenient, and can be smelly, too. But those disposables s don’t recycle, though there are experiments around the world attempting to recycle them. Usually, though, they just go into the environment and, hopefully, degrade eventually.
Weiner also cites the convenience of shopping at Amazon. Point, click, enjoy, he says. Online shopping has led to the closing of many stores and placed store clerks, managers, shelf stockers etc., out of work.
Weiner says we, as humans, crave boundaries, obstacles and inconvenience. Buddhism is not an easy religion, as anyone who has attempted to meditate for five minutes can attest, he writes.
Yet, it’s an immensely popular religion worldwide, he says.
If, as Weiner quotes the late philosopher Robert Nozick’s notion that, we could imagine a happiness machine, would we want to be hooked up to it? Though the instinctive answer might be yes, the actual answer is no, because we want to earn our happiness, he says.
That brings to mind the notion that we appreciate more the things that we earn, than those we are given. If a college student has to pay for his own education, the thought goes, he will work harder in school. If the student is given a full scholarship, he may not work as hard.
Obviously, that doesn’t apply to everyone. Those with real gratitude are thankful for any blessings they are given. They will work to ensure that those blessings are not wasted, and will pay it forward as opportunities arise.
If you are looking for such a blessing, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau. You’ll see stories of others, perhaps like you, who have been blessed beyond their wildest imaginations, realized it and worked not only to help themselves, but also to help others take advantage of those blessings.
Yes, our lives are certainly more convenient than those of our parents, grandparents and other ancestors. If you believe your forebears were happily inconvenient, perhaps they were. But true happiness has to start from within, and not necessarily be influenced by the things around us.
So be happy, healthy and prosperous. Choose your conveniences wisely.
Peter

THE DISAPPEARING AMERICAN DREAM, PART 1: NUMBERS TELL PART OF THE STORY

#AmericanDream #disappearingAmericanDream #economicgrowthrates
The American Dream is disappearing, by many accounts.
America needs the 3.5% solution.
No, it’s not a chemical that will magically remove all our country’s woes.
It an economic growth rate we once saw as a nation, but for which there is no projection to ever achieve again, under current circumstances.
That’s the premise of an article by U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Louis Woodhill, an economics writer and venture investor. The article was published May 1, 2015, in The Wall Street Journal.
Then, on May 3, 2015, Michael W. Kraus, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, Shai Davidai, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Cornell University and A. David Nussbaum, adjunct assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago published an article in the New York Times that says we vastly overestimate the amount of upward mobility in our society.
Finally, Peter Morici, professor of economics at the University of Maryland, says the slow job growth and low interest rates are decreasing the number of “safe” investments for savings, while allowing big companies cheap money for mergers and acquisitions. Morici’s column appeared in the May 12, 2014, edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
What does all this mean for the average working person – or, perhaps, the average person who is no longer working? If you get a new job, it will likely pay less than the one you lost. You’ll struggle to get any kind of return on what little you are able to save, if anything at all. And, the big companies will combine into entities that will put more people out of work.
Cassidy and Woodhill say the Congressional Budget Office projects a meager growth rate of 2.3% for the gross domestic product over the next decade. Meanwhile, from 1790 to 2014, the average growth rate was 3.73%, they say. However, the two men have a way they believe will help generate the kind of growth the U.S. needs to prosper: allow oil exports, and not taxing repatriated overseas profits of U.S. companies.
Cassidy and Woodhill point out another fact: had the GDP grown from 2001 to 1014 at the 3.87 annual rate it had grown between 1993 and 2000, the federal government would have had a $500 billion surplus in 2014, instead of that big a deficit. Certainly, a 1 percent difference in the economic growth rate makes a big difference in the outcome for all of us. The writers also point out that current GDP growth per person is $2,433, lower than Papua New Guinea’s.
If we are truly in for growth rates in the 2s rather than the 3s, we will certainly see a decrease in upward mobility, as the trio who wrote in The New York Times suggest.
To extrapolate more on Morici’s column, low interest rates cannot be sustained forever. Average people usually can’t go looking for riskier investments at higher returns, lest they get burned. Yet, Morici says that is what some are doing.
Let’s look at Cassidy’s and Woodhill’s recommendations. Oil-company TV ads are telling us that the U.S. is currently the No. 1 producer of natural gas, and soon to be No. 1 in oil. The tendency, after decades of buying energy ingredients from countries who hate us, is to keep all that oil and gas we are now producing to ourselves.
But Cassidy and Woodhill say we should sell some of it. Perhaps we should analyze what it would cost us to ship the oil and gas elsewhere, vs. distributing it domestically. It’s cheaper, for example to ship Alaskan oil to Japan and other Pacific nations, rather than getting it to the U.S. mainland.
Then, there are the profits U.S. companies make overseas. There are trillions of U.S. assets awaiting repatriation. But, much of that would go to taxes in the current milieu. One has to analyze whether it’s better to bring the money home, tax-free, and put it to work here, vs. allowing it to sit in foreign institutions while we still collect no taxes on it. That’s certainly worth a full vetting.
As for our own prosperity, you may be among those who have given up looking for work, or who has been forced to take a job that pays less than the one you lost. The good news: there are many ways out there to make incomes without having to have a traditional job. Sure, there is work involved, but no boss and no threat of layoffs. For one of the best, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau.
Sometimes, when all looks bleak, there’s a huge ray of hope that will guide those who would go for it. It may require new thinking and motivation, but sitting around complaining of bleakness and wishing ill on those who have it better than you accomplishes nothing.
Peter

.

WORKERS, CONSUMERS, VOTERS AND POWER

#workers #consumers #voters #power #RobertReich
As a worker, consumer and voter, do you feel powerless?
Do you feel that the world favors those with more than you, and tramples you because you might be in their way?
Robert Reich, the former U.S. secretary of labor and current professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley – and a frequent commentator on TV news programs — discussed this in a May 3, 2015, column in the San Francisco Chronicle.
“A large part of the reason” that people feel their voices don’t count, “is we have fewer choices than we used to have,” Reich writes. “In almost every area of our lives, it’s now take it, or leave it,” he continues.
Companies are treating workers as disposable cogs, and most working people have no choice, he says. The once-powerful private-sector unions have lost much of their clout, he adds.
As consumers, we find that as companies merge and deliberately create fewer choices, we pay the price. “U.S. airlines, for example, have consolidated into a handful of giant carriers that divide up route and collude on fares,” Reich writes. In 2005, there were nine major airlines. Now, there are four, he adds.
Even in the political arena, there is less competition because so many districts have been gerrymandered to be safe for the incumbent – or at least the incumbent’s political party. “(More than) 85 percent of congressional districts are considered ‘safe’ for their incumbents in the 2016 election,” Reich says.
What’s the average person to do? Certainly circumstances have occurred that are beyond the average person’s control. But there is also good news: the average person can take advantage, if he so chooses, of ways to combat the apparent lack of choice.
As consumers, we can, as individuals, adjust our behavior to fight the put-up or shut-up attitudes of the companies that serve us. Using the example of airlines, there isn’t much an individual can do about delays, whether they be caused by a mechanical problem, weather or some other issue. No one would want to fly unsafely just to get to a destination sooner.
But, as an example, to combat the big airlines’ recent policy of charging a fee to check a bag, we can learn to pack more carefully, so that everything fits into smaller luggage that can be carried on the plane. On full flights, if people come prepared to carry on their luggage, airlines will ask that some of the suitcases and other items be checked. Then, they cannot charge you.
As voters, we can vote defensively, if we don’t like the ideology of the candidates most likely to win. How? If your state laws allow, vote in the primary of the political party whose ideology is generally opposite yours. Find the candidate(s) with records of statesmanship, i.e. working with the other party to get things done. Vote for those candidates, even if they would not be your choice in a general election. Negotiation and compromise are the essence of governing. The problem in politics, regardless of one’s political beliefs, is too much ideology and not enough statesmanship.
Finally, as workers, we need not to think of a job as the only way to make an income. There are many other ways out there with which people, regardless of education, background or skills, can earn substantial income without having to put up with an employer’s whim. For one of the best, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau
As for unions, they did wonders for workers and the middle class many decades ago. However, today’s global business world requires companies to have extreme flexibility and efficiency. Unions decrease both of those things, but years ago, productivity gains and other business progress occurred much more slowly. It’s best to presume that no matter what your job, and no matter how good you are at it, it will probably go away before you want it to.
In conclusion, Reich is largely correct about the state of the world, and our place in it. But, just as circumstances we can’t control can hurt us, the world has provided more options for those who choose not to tolerate those circumstances, and want to make their lives much better.
Peter