On Sunday, April 13, The Chicago Tribune published a long article about a new trend that is taking money out of working people’s pockets, especially those who can least afford it. Rather than print paychecks, companies are issuing their employees payroll bank cards. Employers do this to save the cost of printing, which sounds like efficiency. The problem is that the employee now is paying fees that range from $1.00 to $13.00. Too often, the people holding these bad cards are low wage workers. If the employee lets his balance run below $20, she has to wait to access funds because ATM machines only dispense $20 bills. Another employee noted that the card only has his employer’s name on it, so it cannot be used as a debit card. Does this sound like a convenience for the employee? No. But it sounds like a great deal for the employer. What else should we expect in the Second Gilded Age?
I met a pleasant young man at a neighborhood business. I asked him about the owner whom I had not seen in a while. The young man said, “He’s still here. I really like him because he gave me this job.” Since the young man was pleasant, I didn’t want to confront him, but his thinking is not clear: No business owner “gives” a job. No job is a gift.
A business hires because it needs people to work. The goal is to hire the best employee at the lowest wage. As we’ve seen so often over the last 30 years, companies cut employees whose work is not needed. Offshoring and automation have killed millions of American jobs. It’s no more fair to say those jobs were “stolen” than that they were “given.”
Too often we personalize relationships in a way that confuses them. I have clients who talk about “my” job in a way that increases the pain of job loss and hinders the ability to move forward. Treat a job as what it is, a relationship in which you are trading your skill, time, and effort for a wage. It’s fine to appreciate personal relationships with co-workers, including supervisors. But it’s career-deadly to think about your job in the wrong perspective. Know that every employee is a cost to an employer. If that cost can be lessened or eliminated, any smart business owner will do so. It’s not personal. It’s not about loyalty. Workers need to take the same attitude and keep looking for the best career opportunity.