Saturday May 08, 2021
New stories that repeat this trope are being published every day, each of them featuring frustrated business owners and spokespeople for local chambers of commerce moaning about how hard it’s been to lure people back to the low-pay jobs that tossed them overboard last year. What none of these stories offer, however, is a single quote from an actual worker. Every single journalist is simply taking business owners and their lobbyists at their word, resulting in bad-faith psychoanalysis to stand in for the voices of the workers who should be at the center of the story.
Unsurprisingly, the data makes it clear that the labor shortage is a bogus trope based on anecdotes and narratives pushed by interest groups. Top government officials say so, too. But because it’s been allowed to fester and take root in the national conversation, it has provided Republican lawmakers to begin to strip their constituents of the unemployment benefits provided to them by the federal government. Montana was the first state to pull the plug and earlier this evening, South Carolina announced that it was taking the benefits away from people.
In fact, after the Department of Labor released much weaker than expected jobs numbers on Friday, the national Chamber of Commerce turned the whisper campaign into a screaming hissyfit, demanding that all Americans be stripped of the $300/week bonus people are receiving right now.
“The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in the hours after the Labor Department released its April 2021 employment report.
“One step policymakers should take now is ending the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit,” the lobbying group added. “Based on the Chamber’s analysis, the $300 benefit results in approximately one in four recipients taking home more in unemployment than they earned working.”
First, that is not at all a flattering statistic! They’re not doing themselves any favors by outwardly admitting they pay people poverty wages.
For devotees of the free market, this sure seems like market manipulation to me. If people don’t want to take low-pay jobs, the rules of capitalism dictate that employers should start offering higher wages in order to better attract employees. And that’s exactly what’s happening in many places, like this amusement park in Minnesota and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
On the other hand, plenty of corporations and other employers are complaining while openly refusing to provide incentives:
Like other businesses, 7-Eleven franchises say they are having trouble recruiting workers and are squeezed by price and costs.
While they could raise wages and increase prices, “that creates a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace, which can adversely affect sales and profits,” the letter said.
At this point, employers are simply asking the state to force people back into poverty-wage jobs, with no willingness to look at what’s actually causing a so-called labor shortage (if there even is one). Other more obvious reasons include:
States are still dealing with Covid and half the country isn’t vaccinated.
Childcare is hard to access right now.
Many small businesses have closed permanently.
Covid has long-tail impacts from which many people are still suffering.
But in too many places, those benefits are going to be taken from people anyway. And Republicans in Congress are already going on the warpath to make it easier to happen in states:
I don’t think the journalists writing these stories want to see people stripped of benefits and stuck back in shitty jobs, but reporters often have a subconscious bias towards those with power, as if proximity and access equate to equality. The destruction of the news industry via consolidation and hedge funds makes it clear that those in power don’t care about reporters and see them as disposable as anyone else.
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