Capitalism Only Does This When It's VERY Distressed

Ed Zitron 6 min read
Capitalism Only Does This When It's VERY Distressed

American workers are playing a risky game, threatening their bosses with something utterly morally abhorrent - that they will quit if the compensation for the labor they are being paid for is not sufficient, and even going as far as getting better offers and demanding their current jobs match them. Bloomberg reports further on this disgusting act:

Now, America’s workers want more. Much more. About 55% say that they are likely to seek out job offers from other companies to get raises at their current firms, according to a nationally representative survey conducted by The Harris Poll for Bloomberg News.

If offered outside roles, nearly two thirds said they would quit their current jobs. Millennials are the most likely to jump ship, followed by Gen Z, Gen X and Boomers. Among workers likely to ask for a raise soon, nearly all say inflation is a factor in their decision and a majority cited the current economic climate.

The audacity of these workers - how dare they demand compensation in line with their output for the company, which makes exponentially more money off of their labor than they are compensated for? How dare they choose where they work?

Alright, I’m done being sarcastic.

This Bloomberg article from February has recently resurfaced on Twitter as part of the global capitalist mass hysteria occurring over workers choosing to participate in the free market, selling their labor to the highest bidder in a way that bosses are absolutely not okay with. Despite all the endless crying about employee loyalty, companies have yet to learn that you should pay more for great talent and make their lives easy, so that they don’t choose to go and work somewhere else for more compensation and/or better working conditions.

You see, underneath everything you see in the world, there has been an unspoken scam occurring - the exploitation of labor, particularly in entry-level or hourly positions. Almost every store we shop at involves some underpaid worker (or workers) managed by a faceless corporation that believes (or, if they’re smart, believed) that they could replace them with any number of other desperate workers that will do hourly work for less than a liveable wage.

Cheap labor has always been viewed as disposable, but the pandemic showed blue-collar workers that corporations extended this flippancy to their lives. These people were already underpaid and had little flexibility in their hours. During a period where isolation was recommended, they were forced to see people who regularly treated being asked to wear a mask like some sort of hate crime. And when company revenues took a hit, they were the first to be fired.

These “heroes” were given very little, and as the pandemic eased, they faced a wave of increasingly insane and entitled customers, all while being paid and treated poorly.

Executives believed that these workers existed in some skinner box, where they’d been mistreated enough that they’d just accepted that things were bad and never going to improve.

Except something broke, and workers decided they didn’t want to work for the companies that mistreated or laid them off. And who can blame them? For years companies have sold us things that cost them very little to make off the back of poorly-paid frontline workers that they directly endangered and supported in no meaningful way. Corporations assumed that there was an unlimited blue-collar labor force and acted as such.

And now they’re whining.

Jamie Little owns several Jimmy Johns franchises, as well as a Nothing Bundt Cake in Indianapolis.

While it’s not obvious which Nothing Bundt Cake franchise is owned by Mrs. Little, there is a consistent theme across NBC franchises of paying less than Indiana’s living wage ($10-$13 an hour in a state where the living wage is $14.58 an hour for a single person).  The only people saying “we can’t find anybody that wants to work” are those that refuse to pay living wages and/or provide good working conditions.

And don’t be fooled by somebody prefacing this with being a “small business owner” - a Nothing Bundt Cake franchise costs between $440,800 and $636,000 to set up, making over a million dollars of revenue a year on average. These are not plucky upstarts barely making it by - they are wealthy individuals often franchising from large corporations, a kind of capitalist shit-flume where quite literally only the rich can profit (there’s a required minimum net worth to start a franchise) and where all the real work is done by the exploited underclass of workers.

You’ll notice a direct correlation between people saying “I can’t find anyone to work!” and people paying $10 to $12 an hour for a job they would never, ever do. And their rhetoric is always the same, saying that people shouldn’t “expect more” and should “live within their means” while claiming that not being able to pay people a pittance is a danger to their business.

Let me be perfectly clear: if your business cannot function without paying people below a liveable wage in your state, you are running a bad business, and you should shut it down. If your existence is predicated on direct exploitation, you are a worthless goblin. We are told our entire lives that we should live within our means, that we should be careful with our money, and yet we rarely hear anyone telling businesses to do the same thing.

If anything, the great resignation and “labor shortage” has proven that we need more unions. Despite having incredible trouble hiring people, constantly complaining about not being able to hire people, and whining about how they can’t get any workers, corporations have still not worked out that perhaps they should pay their workers fairly and treat them well. Unions have to exist because corporations will often fail to standardize quality of life for labor, despite it being the literal way they make their money.

The irony is that unions are good for capitalism. A happy and cared-for workforce works harder, and whatever you theoretically lose in paying them more will be saved many times over in employee retention alone. All of the companies fighting unions have tons of profits, and if they put those profits into their workers, they’d spend significantly less time trying to find new ones. But people like Starbucks CEO and billionaire Howard Schultz are incapable of seeing workers as living, breathing humans and thus will always treat unions as an aberration in which an animal has gained sentience.

The big issue - across both white and blue-collar labor - is that many executives believe they are owed labor for the generosity of starting a business. Starting a business is not a moral quest - you are making a company to make money, and by owning said business you are guaranteeing you will make the lion’s share. Whatever vacuous hustle culture nonsense you plug into it about “never stopping grinding” does not mean you are better than anyone else - it just means you had the luck and resources to start a business. Starting a business is only proof that you were able to sell something to someone else, not that you are deserving of any special treatment - especially when it comes to hiring people.

“Nobody wants to work” is just code for a business owner that either can’t afford to pay a living wage (at which point you should either raise capital to do so or not have the business at all, or find a specific (equity) way to compensate the person) or doesn’t want to (at which point they should lose their business). And in many cases, the extra money they’d pay is a pittance to them that would legitimately help most people, because guess what…a liveable wage allows you to live!

And really that’s the point at which you should get deeply, deeply depressed about this. The people complaining about nobody wanting to work are doing so because they want to save a few thousand dollars a year on six figures of earnings, because they believe that a certain job is “only worth” 12 dollars an hour. They are quite literally damaging their companies to save a few dollars an hour, all because they truly, deeply lack any respect for the average worker.

I realize I usually write about white-collar work here because I am lucky enough to be able to do a job on the computer versus being a person that speaks to customers or moves things around a place. This is sometimes used to attack me - that I “don’t know how blue-collar workers feel,” to which I say, “Okay, but what if I don’t?”

Seriously, you do not have to work in a field or in a store or with heavy machinery to be able to work out that someone not being paid a liveable wage is bad. I do not have to make many mental leaps to say that my job sending emails is likely easier than someone working in a factory, and even if it somehow wasn’t, everybody should be paid a liveable wage. And if you work on the computer, you should be intimately aware of how good you have it compared to someone working in a warehouse or a restaurant, and take your position of privilege as a chance to advocate for their happiness and success.

In any case, every time you see someone talking about the “labor shortage,” go and look at what the businesses complaining are paying their workers. Look at their history with unions. Look at their Glassdoor. The only people that get to complain about having a tough time finding workers are those that respect workers, and compensate them as such.

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