A Postcard From The Unemployment Line

Help Wanted Sign

There’s been a lot of talk in the past months about how Americans don’t want to go back to work.

I say bunk.

Americans want to work. They need to work. Not just for the paycheck, but for the pride of accomplishment and the upward mobility it provides. It’s ingrained in our DNA, all those descendants of seekers who came from all over the world to this egalitarian utopia.

OK it’s not egalitarian, it’s not utopia, and there are just as many current immigrants these days as descendants but go with me on this.

Companies are complaining they can’t get people to work for them. Imagine that. For years companies molted workers every time the economy went the least bit south, disregarding years of service and the effect on not just the workers but their families and their communities, all so the company could show a healthy bottom line to the stock market.

And I say that as someone whose main source of income these days comes from the healthy bottom line those companies show the stock market.

It’s my main source of income since like so many others I am on that unemployment line, right behind the waitress from my favorite restaurant and the guy who used to work at the gas station. OK it’s no longer a physical line, it’s the cyber-line of the California Employment Development Department website. The line stretches over a million people long at the moment. The EDD is so overwhelmed that getting a straight answer has turned into many people’s full time employment. And not just those trying to get their accounts straightened out. A new industry has popped up to take advantage of the state’s fumbling response to an unprecedented need and a massive amount of fraud. For a fee someone will robo-call EDD for you till they get through then stay on hold till an actual human answers the call. Then they patch you in.

American ingenuity at it’s finest. Find a need and fill it as dentists and cement contractors say.

Meantime there is an enormous surge in post COVID hiring needs. The most ubiquitous sign in the state at the moment is “Help Wanted”. Conservatives are blaming the state government for this shortage of workers, saying the combination of unemployment insurance and extra money being doled out to keep people afloat is causing workers to not want to go back to work.

First of all let’s get this out of the way. No one is getting money just handed to them by the state. They are getting the benefit of the money they have invested in unemployment INSURANCE, money they had no say in it being taken. For me that is over 40 years of paycheck dings every week to pay for something that up until a year ago I never put a claim in on. I’ll also add that for over half of those 40 years I was an employer so I personally got dinged twice every week. This is the rainy day fund you were taught to have “just in case”.

Well for the past year the rain has been a deluge.

And now that the rain is beginning to abate, employees find themselves in a new position. They don’t have to take any job that comes along in order to pay the rent. With the back up of unemployment benefits they are able to pick and choose where and for whom they want to work. Employers are calling foul, demanding an end to unemployment benefits because, well, no one wants to work for the below living wages being offered.

Now when I studied economics I was taught supply and demand. If the demand is high and the supply is limited, the cost will go up. Workers, many for the first time in their lives, are in demand. Supply side economic theory is now on their side. The employment interview has been turned on it’s head; instead of the potential employee having to prove themselves to the employer it is the employer who must show the potential employee why he or she should work there.

In the Before Times this was pretty common for highly skilled workers with proven track records. Now it’s the case for the janitor. Or the burger flipper.

Take a look at the picture above. That’s an In ‘N Out Burger. $17 an hour to start, going up to $19.50 an hour with experience. To flip burgers and ask if you want fries with that (yes please, Animal Style). Local McDonald’s are fighting against not just In ‘N Out but with each other; corporate owned not wanting to go above $15 an hour versus franchise owned wanting to match In ‘N Out.

And they still can’t find people to work for even those wages.

So how does corporate America react to this turn-about? Do they increase wages even if it means they have to cut back on some executive perks (like overblown salaries) or have lower earnings reports to show the stock market?  Of course not. This is America where if labor gains any sort of advantage over management, management gets the rules changed.

Repugnicant governors and legislatures in states across the country are beginning to refuse the federal grants that maintained and/or increased unemployment checks. All in the name of corporate and personal greed layered over a veneer of American Values and anti-socialism. One, West Virginia’s Jim (I’m Not At All About) Justice said:

“West Virginians have access to thousands of jobs right now. We need everybody back to work,” he said on May 14. “We’ve got to have you back to work. America is all about work. That’s what has made this great country.”

Yeah, well, “access to thousands of jobs” is not quite the same as “at a fair and living wage”. This is yet another attack on not just the poor but the middle class, the class they most want to vote for them but who they really just want to get rid of. An American Utopia for Repugnicants would be the wealthy being ruled by the super-wealthy and the poor working their asses off just to keep from starving.

So to the Repugnicant Party and governors like Jim Justice all I can say is…

Shapiro Out

One thought on “A Postcard From The Unemployment Line

  1. I agree with 100%. Pay workers a living wage. If you were trying to put food on the table, pay your utilities and house payment, wouldn’t you chose the bigger paycheck, i.e. unemployment check. They say small businesses will have to shut because they cant’ afford to pay more? Their workers spend all they make on consumables which helps the economy. Here is an idea that many will hate: The only way to get welfare is to get a job. Think about that, One of the reasons people go on welfare is they make more than a low paying job, Why not make welfare a Supplement to your income. I bet more people will find a job pretty quickly. Of course. this makes too much sense. Who am I to suggest such a thing. Well, guess what, Welfare as it stands is not working very well, now is it?

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