The sudden shift from “we love our essential workers” to “they’re living off the government dole” seemingly happened overnight.
Across the country, local media coverage has been filled with stories of business owners lamenting that they are unable to fill positions as economies reopen.
“We are short-staffed. Please be patient with the staff who did show up. Nobody wants to work anymore,” reads a sign outside a McDonalds drive-thru window in Texas, according to a viral internet video.
These viral anecdotes, in addition to a weaker than expected April jobs report, have raised concerns over a labor shortage in the United States and how to best address it. The Wall Street Journal reports a record 8.1 million job openings across the country.
But it’s not that people don’t want to work — it’s that they don’t want to work for so little.
Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments who raised the starting wage at his company to $70,000, recently said he gets 300 applications for every opening.
It turns out there’s no “labor shortage” — just a shortage of people who will work for starvation wages, especially during a pandemic that’s hit low-wage workers the hardest. What we are witnessing now is a reckoning and reassessment of the future of work.
But rather than think critically about why so many workers are hesitant to return, some pundits and right-wing politicians blame unemployment benefits. President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan provides an extra $300 a week for those out of work during the pandemic.
The GOP now wants to take that away. Republican governors from Montana, South Dakota, Utah, Iowa, and Arkansas, for example, have already announced they will cut unemployment benefits in order to force more people back to work.
If Republicans truly wanted to abide by their free market ideals, they would recognize that in order to stay competitive, employers must adapt to the demands of the market and pay their workers what they are worth.
Instead, they’re opting to slash unemployment benefits, oppose significant increases in the federal minimum wage, and have the government subsidize businesses by forcing employees to rely on assistance like food stamps to get by. Same as it ever was.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the reality that our economy is dependent on exploitation. As the virus spread, many workers watched their bosses prioritize profit over the lives of employees, who risked their health and lives to work frontline jobs during a pandemic that killed over 500,000 people in this country.
While these low-wage workers braved the pandemic, their CEOs cashed in.
A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies found that among the 100 S&P 500 firms with the lowest median worker wages, 51 rigged the rules in 2020 to award CEOs large bonuses while their low-wage employees suffered. Average CEO pay skyrocketed 29 percent to over $15 million, while average employee salaries fell to barely $28,000.
It’s been well over a decade since Congress raised the federal minimum wage. But meanwhile, the CEOs and speculators who get rich off minimum-wage labor have seen their fortunes skyrocket. If the minimum wage had increased at the same rate as Wall Street bonuses since 1985, it would be worth $44 an hour today.
With all of this in mind, would you put your life on the line for $7.25 an hour? For employers, the lesson should be simple: If you want workers, pay them a living wage.
Rebekah Entralgo is the managing editor of Inequality.org.
They are lazy! They can’t get orders right, they can’t even give you the right change when it’s staring at them in the face.
Morgan Monaco says
Fact, ..Generally speaking born American people are lazy, dumb stupid big mount & ignorant savage with no common sense they’ve got what they deserved. What do you think good job are held by foreigner ???
WILLIAM J NELSON says
So, let’s pay a “living wage” Does this mean no more gratuities? Does this mean you take a job, go to work, and not B it**?
Percy's mother says
Completely agree with this article.
WastePro offering $10.00 an hour for a God-awful, back breaking, exhausting job in heat stroke conditions. Not to mention “some” here in Palm Coast complaining incessantly because their garbage cans weren’t replaced correctly on their driveways or that the garbage wasn’t picked up on time. What’s WastePro’s net profit averaged out over the last 5 years?
Restaurants offering $8.65 an hour to $10.00 an hour for kitchen help that includes cleaning public bathrooms.
Some doctor’s offices here in Palm Coast offering $8.65 an hour . . . or $10.00 for highly experienced medical personnel.
A lot of these businesses want experience, “some” education (a GED is okay, high school is okay).
This is 2021. Not 1972.
To absolve themselves from any guilt, these businesses turn the blame on lack of applicants or a dearth of applicants back onto the workforce. It couldn’t possibly be because they aren’t offering a DECENT wage in 2021 (not even a living wage). Better that they should call everyone LAZY or SITTING AT HOME COLLECTING UNEMPLOYMENT. Then they don’t have to figure in their extremely low wages for their employment ads getting little to no response.
I’m sick and tired of hearing how workers are sitting at home doing nothing because they’re LAZY.
Offer a decent wage and you’ll get some applicants. Offer a decent wage and you’ll get some qualified applicants. Offer a decent wage and you might get the employee of your dreams.
Treat workers like dirt and what do you expect? People (workers) are tired of being treated like dirt.
Agree and BTW The 15.00 an hour Minimum wage was passed Florida Legislature get on with it already. OH thats right there too busy screwing with Election Laws, giving away Public School Money, and who knows what else DeSatanis tells them to.
Good points all the way around.
James M. Mejuto says
re: Percy’s mother: . . . What an extraordinary comment you have made.
Everything you say is strait-on.
WONDERFUL ! ! !
James M. Mejuto
Yep, nobody is going to work to be a government recipient.
There’s no such thing as a living wage when the price of everything is going up. There will always be poverty, it’s called the domino affect.
James M. Mejuto says
re: Shelly: A good post . . . I loved reading it because it’s so on-the-point!
First of all: Workers must unite behind a Union fighting for a living wage.
However, they must also fight to include a COLA, which is probably as important as
a living wage. Without it, they will always be behind the eight ball !
A fighting Union is the heart of a vibrant workers’ movement.
Obviously, those working at McDonald’s are getting paid according to their education, experience, and skill level. When they have a ticket for a sandwich with no cheese, and put cheese on it, how do you justify paying them more?
So petty to compare someones livelihood to a piece of F’in Cheese on a Cheeseburger really? You sound like a nancy boy. So you dont get cheese they fix it. That means noone is worth the 15 bucks done in increments over 5 years?? SSMMHH
Charlie Ericksen Jr says
I’m not surprised at all in the false conclusion , reached by a manager at Inequity.Org.. Their sole purpose is to complain, complain,…Just because we think, we are worth more $$, while employed, we need to grow and work more and smarter.. To those who , work harder and get better at their skill. more $$ will come.. When one enters the military, it too is at a ” starting salary” < But Time in grade, more knowledge and better results, produce PROMOTIONS and better money.. The same is true in civilian work.. To those who rise, up, there is better money.. No guarantee, and there are always those, who think, that just showing up, and working at their job produces more.. WRONG.. Most likely those who call in sick regularly ( and normally get paid for that sick day)
When I started out , it was cutting grass. Washing cars, pumping gas, painting , These were the learning days..
Then it came to adult life.. Starting positions , are just a preview , of what "you" might do long term.. Take on more, than just what is expected …Get a second job, at night..
$10-$15 /Hour is more than enough for " burgers"
Government paying for one's college ?? NO WAY…
Get out and put your butt to work!!! Real work , Oh, and educate yourself.. That's a given…
Mary Fusco says
Agree! in 1990 when my daughter was 15 she started working at McDonald’s after school and on weekends for $3.65 an hour. She flipped burgers, worked the register, worked drive thru, cleaned toilets and washed tables. Her manager’s theme was “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean”. She was doing this job for spending $, not to live on. After high school she went on to nursing school. She went to school during the day and wiped butts at the local hospital at night as a low paid aide. She is now an RN Case Manager at Baptist in JAX making very good money. She put her time in and worked herself up. Another daughter went to school during the day for Special Ed Teacher and worked 3-11 at a local hotel for 4 years and graduated with a 4.0. My son was in the Navy and worked himself up by taking every school offered. He opened his own business in NY with the knowledge learned from his Navy stint. Any job is only worth so much. In other words, better yourself and be marketable.
Its the typical Democrat policy, bring America down, be dependenton the government. Its time to get off your ass and go back to work. If your offered your old job back, and you refuse, then all unemployment should be terminated. You worked at.your job before the pandemic and had no concerns, why now isn’t it good for you??? The minimum wage is rising and being fazed in over the next couple of years, and you’ll get $ 15.00 hr before to long. Some jobs don’t deserve $ 15 an hr, hell they can’t perform the basic minimums of the job now. Let’s keep heading in the direction were heading, and more businesses will be shutting down, and prices for even the basic staples will continue to rise.
The rise in Cost of most goods at the moment are transitory. In other words more likely temporary due to C19 coming to and end and the beginning of reopening demand spike. Once the Global Economy gets stabilized the Costs will come down IMO. Its too early to tell but thats how I see it. We Voted this in it is what it is.
James M. Mejuto says
YEP! . . . You owners of fast food restaurants, if you want your business to continue, pay your
workers a LIVING WAGE ($15) not a minimum wage. There are other benefits, such as medical, overtime
at time and a half, paid vacation time, paid sick days, etc. Things you owners failed to provide since
the day you opened shop.
If you’re crying ‘poverty’ then I suggest you contact the home office . . . they’re making billions in profits!
Maybe they can get off their fat asses to help.
Exactly. You cant build a house without a foundation. Wall Street and Corporate America have been bailed out twice in recent memory.. Its payback time. Wall Street didnt build America People did. Its a mute argument because its already Voted in and probably soon at the Federal level. The 70s Wages should be long gone by now, move on and up.
Ray W. says
Out of curiosity, I looked up the minimum wage in 1971: $1.60.
At age 14, I was a busboy working about 20-25 hours per week at a second job during the summertime in a Daytona Beach Shores restaurant for $1 per hour, not knowing that the owner was exploiting me. I suppose the free shift meal in a seafood restaurant (usually fried scallops) was part of the pay, but still… . My primary job was working as an independent contractor for the News-Journal on a route requiring newspaper delivery of the Morning News and Evening Journal 12 times per week, plus collecting on Saturdays, netting another $35 per week after expenses, including tips. The News-Journal required me to buy rubber bands, canvas paper bags, and all other supplies at their prices. Such a deal. Adjusted for inflation, my restaurant job would be paying $10.47 per hour today, if only I was receiving the minimum wage back then. I can’t complain. My then-12 year old brother spent that summer at the old Steak and Shake near the Boardwalk; he put in an almost 80 hour week once, standing on a milk crate at his grill so he could flip the burgers.
For a 14 year old, I sure was living in high cotton. I bought a new 1972 rotary-valve Suzuki TS-90J, plus a candy-apple red metal-flake helmet, for $504 on my 15th birthday. I should have done what one of my older brothers did on his 15th birthday; he bought a used beach-rental 100cc motorcycle for $25 and all five brothers happily chipped in with the cleaning, using metal polish to brighten the tarnished and rusted bike to a much cleaner state, but that shiny new Suzuki just begged me to buy it. Both of us bought factory engine kits and both bikes were soon on the track, one roadracing and the other motocrossing. First engine I rebuilt. I put an old sheet on the garage floor and lay out the parts as they came off the engine. I replaced old parts with race kit parts and reassembled the engine in reverse order. Started right up. No parts left over. I hope to always remember that first scream of an unmuffled expansion chamber followed by my mother running into the garage waiving a broom at me.
At 14, I happily accepted what the restaurant manager paid me. Seems to me that many of today’s comparatively older prospective restaurant employees can spot a boss who is willing to take advantage of them a mile away and won’t take an offer of lousy pay to go with ever changing shift times, no overtime work, and being subject to being sent home whenever the restaurant slows down for the evening because the business model requires shift labor costs at or below a pre-set percentage of receipts.
It may very well be that many people who formerly worked in restaurants found non-restaurant jobs with better pay and more normal work hours; they just won’t go back to their old jobs now that they know that better jobs are out there. I recall a number of articles about a lack of construction workers when the housing market was rebounding from the slump brought on during the Great Recession of 2007-09. Many former construction workers had found other work and a proportion of the older construction had retired. Home builders were complaining to reporters that few applicants were responding to their help wanted ads. Time passed and builders found a new batch of workers. Reports of 10 million women leaving the work force during the early stages of the pandemic, with only 2.5 million of them back on the job now means that there is a huge 7.5 million worker hole in the potential labor pool. If these reports are accurate and if many women are still home caring for children and elderly family members, then it is reasonable to argue that the worst jobs with the lowest pay will be the last to be filled.
Anecdotes about people sitting on couches might best be explained as noise by those who are accustomed to exploiting their employees, noise that is parroted by others in a manner that my mother used to describe as talking to hear their head roar. This, too, will pass.
If you desire a living wage, you should have finished school, stayed out of trouble, learn to read write and speak proper. Get a skill with education and you will get a living wage job. You reap what you sow.
aaron moore says
The meritocratic claim that people are paid what they are worth in the market is a tautology that begs the question of how the market is organized and whether that organization is morally and economically defensible. In short, income and wealth depend on who has the power to set the rules for the game
CEOs of top corporations, Wall Street’s top traders, and portfolio managers set their own pay, advance market rules while using insider information to boost their own fortunes While at the same time, the pay of the average worker has gone nowhere because they have lost the countervailing economic power and political influence.
The simultaneous rise of both the working poor and the non-working rich offers further evidence that earnings no longer correlate with effort.
The resulting skewed pre-distribution of income to the top inside the market has generated demands for larger downward re-distributions outside the market through taxes and transfer payments to the poor and middle class – which have only added fuel to the fire of “big government’ Time and again – American history shows us – we have saved Capitalism from its own excesses – it is time we do it again. We have periodically re-adapted the rules of the political economy to create a more inclusive society while restraining the political power of wealthy minorities at the top.
— 1830’s Jacksonian targeted the special privileges of the elites so the market would better serve ordinary citizens
— In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, progressives enacted anti-trust laws, commissions to regulate monopolies, and banned corporate political contributions
— 1930’s New Dealers limit the power of large corporations and Wall Street while enlarging the countervailing power of unions, small business, and small investors.
We have the power to create an economy that works for the many, not just the few. The basic rules of capitalism are not written in stone, they are written and implemented by human beings (Government does not “intrude” on the ” free market”, it creates the market) — Saving Capitalism
These are dangerous times for democracy. We live in an age of winners and losers, where the odds are stacked in favor of the already fortunate. Stalled social mobility and entrenched inequality give the lie to the promise that “you can make it if you try” — The Tyranny of Merit
Florida is low pay at best. 8 years ago my wife made $23 an hour as a home care nurse in Pennsylvania, now it’s $19 in Florida after starting off at $17 with two years of nursing school. Most low pay jobs are for low skilled, low educated or young kids starting out. Pay $15 at fast food places and you will see many skilled, educated workers revolt and walk out.
Now how about a really NICE SOCIAL SECURITY RAISE. A couple hundred would be nice, after all its my money and I want it now ! The Govt needs to adjust the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) since its tied to a federal index of prices for select consumer goods and services called the CPI-W. Cost of goods is going up and what we get a few cents not dollars. Pay me please.
Thanks Percy’s Mother and Ray W. for thoughtful, rational comments. Unfortunately the “usual” cult members have taken this opportunity once again to spew their hatred of their fellow human beings. How terrible and tragic for our entire society.
Another important part of the cause of this supposed labor shortage is the lack of the cheap labor that once was provided by un-documented (illegal?) immigrants. Many employers exploited those workers who they paid cash and less than minimum wage. . . all while doing all in their power to keep those immigrants on the other side of trump’s wall. Now, that source of “cheap labor” is drying up and the market for American citizens is becoming more competitive. What in the hell did you expect? Now you are forced to start sharing the wealth by paying a living wage. After all, we are a capitalistic country. . . for better or worst. Do try and think beyond the end of your nose and be very careful what you ask for. . .
Adding some facts to the discussion since I was told yesterday by a Publix employee while asking why my online order made 3 hours ago was not even started when I got there 3 hours later – and in a very nasty tone, “We’re shorthanded because people don’t want to work, they’d rather sit at home and collect unemployment” – I also saw a note expressing this on the door of a St. Augustine restaurant, by the way.
Making more on unemployment and other free government handouts will end soon lol… Those jobs will be filled! This article is just too much entitlement BS!