While this month’s employment report again showed more jobs being created and a falling unemployment rate, wages dropped. According to past trends, wages should go up as labor becomes scarcer and companies want to retain productive employees. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich analyzes this situation in a recent blog post. Reich points to factors that can hold wages down even as unemployment shrinks. Two main culprits are the global economy and automation. Companies can offshore cheaper labor, and they can find new ways to let technology replace humans. Reich scoffs at those who call these factors “efficiency.” Reich concludes by blaming both large corporations and Wall Street for holding down wages. I’d agree with him and add one more culprit: spineless politicians who serve Wall Street and large corporations. Nothing will change until our politicians and laws provide some protection for American workers. Or, to put it another way, nothing will change until American voters elected politicians who represent the interests of working people.
Daily Kos is reporting on candidates for governor in Massachusetts and Georgia who have been responsible for outsourcing jobs from the U.S. to countries with lower wages. To be fair, some corporate leaders who are Democrats have also outsourced jobs. When we go to the polls, we as working people need to ask what politicians are doing to help us. Outsourcing has been very good to the investor class. We need politicians who will do what is best for working people.
I voted early last week. Whatever your political beliefs, I urge you to vote on Tuesday.
Today’s Chicago Sun-Times features a story on United Airlines’ decision to outsource 600 jobs at 12 airports. According to a union spokesperson, employees who make $24 an hour will be replaced by those make $12 an hour. Who will be protected (at least for the time being)? Members of the union who are under contract. Outsourcing gives companies a way to cut costs through “efficiency,” which often means paying employees less. The union spokesperson cited in the article put it best when he defined outsourcing as “a race to the bottom.” Yes, big companies will save money. The outsourcing companies will hire people. But the engine of the economy consumers – working people – are being paid less. They won’t have money to buy airline tickets or cars or homes. Sooner or later, call it outsourcing, efficiency, or a race to the bottom, we will all pay the price for this kind of narrow kind of thinking. We can’t have falling wages and a healthy economy.
The great labor reporter Michelle Chen has written a piece for The Nation that examines the use of temporary labor. She breaks out the various methods large companies use to pay less and not be responsible for worker safety issues or unemployment claims. Many contingent workers have experienced wage theft. In essence, these workers are meant to be replaceable at a moment’s notice. Chen gives a great overview of this disgusting system. I strongly recommend her article.
According to the United Nations, more than 200 million people are unemployed worldwide. Population of adults looking for work is growing faster than new jobs. This problem could mean big problems in the near and long term U.S. job market. Politicians from both parties are pushing a new trade deal with Asia, The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Many critics think this trade deal would be worse than NAFTA as a catalyst for moving U.S. jobs offshore. If the data from the U.N. is accurate, developing nations will have more people willing to work for pennies on the hour. Our leaders need to promote fair trade that protects American workers, not free trade that only serves the interest of investors and their bankers.
A client called me recently because she was having problems with her job search. I asked her what she was doing. She targeted four ideal employers and kept applying for jobs with those companies. The problem with this approach is that it is too limited. My simple advice for those who are stuck in their job search is this: Mix it up.
A good job search should touch several points. Almost every job seeker should network, target specific company, and apply to positions on job boards. Some job seekers can add temporary and staffing agencies to this list. Other (higher level professionals) should contact recruiters. Students and career changers are often using internships as a way to gain hands-on experience to put on a resume. The key is to do more than one thing. It’s also good to use different online tools. For example, someone who only looks for jobs on Monster should try CareerBuilder or another job board. I strongly recommend that all professional build a profile on LinkedIn and learn how to use this remarkable tool.
Bottom line: Don’t get stuck doing one thing. Try something new. No two job searches are the same. What worked in the past probably won’t work this time. Stay light on your feet and keep looking for new ways to find your next job.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said today that he likes to fire people who provide bad service. His opponents jumped on this poor choice of words and linked it to Romney’s past as a venture capitalist for a company that often “reduced headcount” at firms it purchased.
Earlier in my career I was a manager. Firing an employee was a task I hated, even when I disliked the employee and had heavy documentation to justify my action. When I had to let an employee go, it meant that I had failed in hiring, training, and managing that person. Somewhere along the line, I shared the responsibility of the person being terminated. One of the main reasons I hope I never have to manage again is that I never want to fire another human being.
One of the clients I met today was fired and replaced by a relative of his boss. He understood the “game,” but the dismissal still hurt. He put in extra time to complete a special project only to be told: “Thank you. There’s the door.” Many American workers over the last 35 years have heard that line. They build profitable companies only to see executives pursue even greater profits in low wage countries.
Mitt Romney’s choice of words was telling. He didn’t say, “I like to change companies or vendors when I get bad service.” He used the word fired. For many Americans, that word brings anger and tears, bad memories of an economy that puts profits over people and cheers for “job creators” who don’t seem to create any jobs. I liked hiring people because that was a hopeful activity. We need more hiring – more hope.
Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos has written a very informative article on changes in union contracts, especially in the auto industry. New assembly workers sacrificed 50% of the previous starting wage ($30) under a new contract. In California, BMW outsourced a logistics operation rather than negotiating with the Teamsters. Clawson cites writers who point out this irony: BMW could not treat its employees this way in Germany.
Why can they do this in the U.S.? Laws here are not written to protect workers. They protect the employer, or -- more accurate -- the people who move the jobs out of the U.S.
One of my favorite magazines is the Utne Reader. The latest issue covers different aspects of work in America. Betty Lynch Husted focuses on the shock and grief related to job loss. She recalls her own history of being laid off: “If I wasn’t a teacher, who was I? Anyone who has been unemployed has asked some version of that question.” We often get lost in the statistics of employment rather than thinking about how joblessness affects real people.
Andy Kroll from TomDispatch examines how unemployment is having the greatest impact on middle-aged members of the middle class. He looks at the human costs related to job loss, which includes increased suicide. The prospect for this age group is bleak: “In the end, what we may be seeing is the creation of a graying class of permanently unemployed (or underemployed) Americans, a genuine lost generation who will never recover from the recession of 2008.”
What went wrong in America (and the U.K.)? Chicago labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan considers the demise of unions and how it has affected worker income and security. Geoghegan compares the U.S. to Europe where workers are higher paid and have better protections. While they pay more taxes, Europeans have less inequality and more security. Geoghegan writes, “I have spent my life watching plants close in Milwaukee and Waukegan [a northern suburb of Chicago], where skilled labor was paid $26 an hour, only to reopen in Georgia and North Carolina, where it was paid $8 an hour.” What Geoghegan doesn’t say is that those $8 an hour jobs have now often been “offshored” to countries where labor is even cheaper. Unions protect workers; many of our largest corporations have sold out their country and fellow citizens to increase profits.
Finally, Peter Dreier of the American Prospect asks readers to think critically about our obsession with the word jobs. Bad, low wage jobs will not solve our employment problem. Too many people (many of them as working couples) now have to labor at two or more jobs just to get by. Unless American workers can have protection of unions, their wages and standard of living will continue to decline. The impact will not just be their personal dilemma, but the decline of our country as a whole.
I strongly urge you to buy a copy of Utne Reader and think about what these writers are saying. Just as government’s failure to regulate the banks helped lead to the financial collapse, in a similar vein government has watched as American workers have lost their jobs and incomes. Some tax laws actually benefit companies’ moving their operations out of the U.S. Have we gone mad as a nation? The writers in Utne have not. They have a vision of a better future for working people in the U.S.
Yahoo Education lists jobs that “aren’t going away”: police officers, accountants, nurses (see the link for the rest of the list). This claim is undeniable. However, as jobs become more scarce in other professions and industries, more and more people are moving toward the kind of service industry jobs that can’t be offshored.
Don’t assume that any profession is “recession-proof.” Over the last year, thousands of teachers have been laid off across the U.S. My clients who are nurses are still finding jobs, but the opportunities are fewer. Two clients I have worked with in the last six months are software developers who are creating software that will automate accounting functions, which means fewer jobs in that industry.
If America does not rebuild some kind of industrial base, we will have an unemployment problem for a long time. Our leaders – Democrats and Republicans – have to address this serious issue with something other than words.
- 1 of 2
- next ›