I admire former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’ ability to take complex ideas and present them in language that should be accessible to most working people. Citing the coming of Labor Day, Reich reflects on the “shared” or “on call” work models that are becoming more and more popular as ways to staff and manage employees. He cites studies that say 40% of Americans can be working under such conditions over the next five years.
From the employer’s standpoint, this model makes sense. Why pay people to work when they are not needed? The problem with this business model, as Reich points out, is that it gives the loyal no security. They don’t know when or how they will earn their next dollar. The worst part of such a work schedule is that it leaves works panicked about their future. We need to respect labor and have laws that limit employers’ ability to offer “uncertain” work.
Today’s top story is all about the world’s greatest basketball player, LeBron James, who has decided to return to Cleveland because he wants to raise his children where he was born. This story warms the hearts of people, especially for those like me who root for rust-belt cities like Cleveland and Detroit. There’s a deeper story that the media is not covering. As a free agent, James was able to move to the team he choose. Once upon a time, pro athletes were tied to the same teams for their entire career. Players organized in unions and sued for the right to control their futures. The most important names in this struggle were probably Curt Flood and Marvin Miller, of the baseball players union. Flood prematurely ended his career to sue and break the “reserve clause.” Many of the people cheering for LeBron James are probably anti-union. They’ve been influenced by more than thirty years of propaganda funded by large corporate interests. When they cheer for James, they should think about the freedom and security he has because of those who came before him and fought for his right to choose where he wanted to work.