The business website 24/7 Wallstreet reports that retailers expect to make major increases in hiring for the Holiday season. That’s good news for people who will get jobs, but it can lead to happy media reports that mask deeper problems in the economy. Why? First, these jobs are not permanent and generally low paying. Second, the unemployment rate and related news will sound better than it really is. For my money, watch the manufacturing sector to understand how the job market is doing. More importantly, watch changes in wages and benefits. Until America gets a raise (at least 99% of America), we will not have significant changes in the economy or in real opportunities for working people.
Michelle Chen of In These Times (reposted on Common Dreams) reports that workers at musical instrument retailer Guitar Center are striking a power chord for wage justice. Workers at two of the chains +200 stores have unionized. Now others are joining the fight. Chen notes that these employees often are connected through interests outside of work, such as bands, which will give them even more reason to show solidarity when the going gets tough.
Expect the going to get tough – Bain has owned the business since 2007. However, it’s important to note that the unionized stores organized during Bain’s ownership. When workers hang together, they are impossible to stop. Are you listening, McDonald’s? Walmart?
Huffington Post has posted a Reuters report that Walmart is only hiring temporary employees in several states. This move lets the retailers staff busy times without taking on full time employees, The report also notes that hours of some full time employees are being cut. Other retailers are following a similar model.
As I blogged yesterday, the biggest problem facing workers today isn’t unemployment. It is wages. It doesn’t matter if someone is at a low wage job or if they are paid a decent hourly wage with limited hours, in either case, the worker is not making enough money. Walmart and other companies are looking ways to push up profits and share prices. Too often they are doing so on the backs of working people.