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This post reminds me of BULLSHIT JOBS by David Graeber! The crux of the book is that UBI can tip the scale in power dynamics between employers and employees (which currently heavily favors employers in this age of decreasing unionization and little to no antitrust oversight) so that workers can take more risks with the career decisions and refuse to work "bullshit jobs."
I was wasting away at a "bullshit job" for years and quit right before the pandemic started. I somehow fortuitously qualified for unemployment benefits, and the checks were were more than what I made at the old job. Because of the benefits, I didn't take the next available job that paid just as badly and drained my soul. Instead, I took my time and eventually (10 months no less!) found a job that fits my skills and interests. More importantly, this new job pays me a living wage! I know I'm probably an outlier, but even with the stress that comes with being unemployed during the pandemic, this past year was truly a blessing in disguise for me. I think something like UBI in the after times would allow others to do the same and find work that they find meaningful and fulfilling. As always, thank you for your great insights!
I've been thinking a lot about this issue, as I watch businesses in our town struggle to hire staff. Interestingly, the employers that took care of their staff during Covid-19 (making environments as safe as they could, mandating masks, shutting down their businesses when there were Covid-19 outbreaks while staying paying people, etc.) are not having trouble hiring. I agree with your take that many are taking their time looking for work and looking for work that fits their particular needs. I live in Flagstaff which is tourism driven, and is also a college town. The lack of college labor, with students doing remote school has also been an issue. We have a $15 minimum wage, but we lack affordable housing. All of these factors are contributing to the struggles with finding help.
Personally, I work in healthcare as a behavioral health therapist. I worked in a hospital setting, and worked throughout the first year of Covid. I just quit my job because I'm emotionally exhausted. It's not the people I work with, it's not the patients...its administration that continues to try to solve new problems with old tools, the lack of support, and the complete disrespect and disregard of the community at large in the face of Covid-19. Flagstaff is fairly progressive and was really ahead of the game with regard to safety precautions, but the toxic political climate and the plethora of "muh rights" anti-maskers, just wore me out. I'm taking a year off to travel and decide what next steps are. I'm going to be 60 this year, and I know whatever I decide, it's going to suit my needs and work style, not someone else's.
"If it’s too expensive for businesses to provide healthcare for their workers, maybe we need to decouple it from employment?"
Yes, absolutely! I'm a decently paid remote gig worker, but cost of health insurance plus rent would force me to submit to the will of some corporate overlord (or, even worse, Dale) if I remained in the U.S. Fortunately, my wife is a foreign national from a less developed country and we moved back to her native country 5 years ago, after I quit my job due to largely stress-induced chronic health problems requiring regular hospitalizations.
I now pay around $200/month for international health insurance (accepted literally anywhere in the world except for the U.S.) for my family and about $700/month in rent for a house in a decent neighborhood. At the same time, the reduction in stress has greatly reduced my healthcare needs.
I love many things about America, but simply will not move back home unless and until there is universal affordable healthcare decoupled from employment. The existing system of employer-provided healthcare is blackmail - you sacrifice your sanity, your physical and mental health, and the majority of your waking hours as a precondition to affordable healthcare (and in many instances you still don't even get that). I just can't. YOLO.
Unemployment will run out eventually, and if you willingly quit your job, you're usually not eligible for unemployment. I quit my salaried WFH job last fall (for a "meaningful" nonprofit) partly because it was making me miserable pre-pandemic and became unbearable during the pandemic. I'm going back to school this fall, but in the meantime, I'm working retail to pay the bills and make up for the lost months of wages. The company purports to be an ethical employer, and they're better than most, but they're putting the sales pressure on us to make up for last year's lack of profits. Meanwhile, their president made $3 million last year. All the big retailers and restaurants around me are hiring, but no one is offering hazard pay or good benefits. I assume they're trying to calculate how little they can improve conditions before unemployment benefits end.
I think there is a general conflation of yuppies who are taking a little woo mental health break and low-paid workers whose leverage is contingent on unemployment benefits. Would Roose's white-collar friends be taking a break if they didn't think they could find equally overpaid work when they feel like returning from their screenplays? Will there really be a push for better wages and working conditions once people have to return to their shitty jobs to get by, or will they/we instead be pushed onward to the resurgent economy?
I can’t seem to get enough of these stories of the mystery of why food service and bar work is no longer attractive. There is a guy in Boise who owns 3 bars in downtown Boise. He can’t find enough workers and he complains.
He’s had COVID twice, possibly three times but he wasn’t hospitalized the first time. On his last hospital visit (lasting 9 days and time on a ventilator) he was featured in the paper admitting, “COVID is real. I didn’t believe it but now I do.”
Masks of course are not a serious requirement in his bars, still. A man of libertarian values. This story is not unique in conservative Idaho.
This one is tough. Because once we pay worjers, especially service workers, what they deserve (at least a living wage), and the prices of goods and services rise in tandem, then those with money to spend can’t afford as much. Boo-hoo, right? I definitely think that. And then I order tacos, which I couldn’t afford if they cost more than they do now. But I want the people making them to make more. I make a decent living, but I’m a single parent, sooooo...I guess I don’t get tacos? I don’t even know. I’m exhausted and everything seems wound up in terrible.
If they Cant afford those vacations, the restaurant meals, the movie tickets, etc. they (the middle class) will see rising wages as both a threat and a punishment. With a middle class that’s consistently panicked about their status, they see any gains to the lower as a loss of footing.
Because as much as it’s about lack of government support and infrastructure, it’s really about wealth hoarding at the top, and using that wealth to control government policy.
I should have suggested you interview my sister! The Jessie Farnes in this article: https://flatheadbeacon.com/2021/04/21/now-hiring-2/
Great, great piece. Yours is almost the only thing I've read that focuses on the needs of workers rather than employers.
The flaw in any system ends up being the selfishness, lack of compassion, and ego-driven tunnel-vision of people. Democracy and especially capitalism need to evolve, and I hope that's what happens here, instead of a new group of foolish and corrupt elite leading us down a worse path of ruin with righteous anger and cool-sounding ideals.
You could have been reading my mind with this today. Some days I have been so close to quitting. For now, I am holding onto my public sector job until FedLoan processes my PSLF paperwork.
This is the power of Basic Income. Workers workers wouldn't have to put up with being treated like a disposable resource. Companies are angry because people have a *choice* to work for them now or not; they're not desperate for any old job just so they can survive.
I work for a company that has great benefits which start on day 1 of employment, starts any employee at $15.00 an hour, has a dozen jobs at $18.00 + an hour and we have had ZERO applicants who can pass a basic drug test and background check. This is in a sustainable manufacturing setting not food, retail or other dead end jobs.
I'm reading more and more content like this, and although it could be because I'm more tuned to the idea of "controlling your own work" á la Noam Chomsky, it seems there's a bit of a movement here. That's a good thing. Here's a good clip from him on the topic from a few years ago... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wudZzIuhKoc
I agree that if Walmart and Target, etc can't pay a living wage they should not be in business. However, that will drive them to additional automation cause self serve checkout kiosks and robot pallet unloaders are cheaper and easier than people. So what happens to those people who cannot work in entrepreneur or knowledge jobs? Basic income? And programs to help them do some valued work in their community? Not sure.
Capitalism isn’t broken. The labor market is simply exercising its power to determine its own worth (unfortunately, it has been quite awhile since hiring firms have had to cater to that market). Firms need to keep up with that demand if they want to remain competitive.
As a leader of a nonprofit preschool that employs a lot of low-wage workers, I really struggle with this. We are a non-profit so there's no reduction in the profit to make. We've survived the pandemic but not intact, and still struggling. For years we have provided paid vacation and sick leave, paid holidays (3 weeks/yr), health insurance, and we have regular business hours and no weekends. So we aren't (IMO) a "crappy job" but we admittedly pay poorly. What is a "livable wage" when it also comes with those benefits? It is a continually-moving target.
That said, I feel strongly that our particular issue will only be solved with government intervention - either by offering/providing health insurance for all, and/or supporting early education in a way that allows us to professionalize the workforce and provide livable wages in a sustainable way. We can't raise tuition 15%/yr - no one's income is rising to meet costs in that way.
This is the dumbest article I have ever read. Capitalism is broken? At what point have we been in a capitalist economy? Get out of here. This is socialism and basic income ruining our economy. The fact that you didn't mention any of this is crazy. We haven't had a capitalist economy for a long time. Write a balanced article that actually has some facts.