Comment: Rebekah Entralgo – Do you want workers? Then pay them fairly



The sudden shift from “we love our essential workers” to “they live on government aid” apparently happened overnight.

Across the country, local media coverage has been filled with stories of business owners lamenting that they are not able to fill positions as economies reopen.

“We are understaffed. Please be patient with the staff who have introduced themselves. Nobody wants to work anymore, ”read a sign outside a drive-thru window at McDonalds in Texas, according to a viral video on the Internet.

These viral anecdotes, in addition to a weaker-than-expected April jobs report, raised concerns about a labor shortage in the United States and how best to address it. The Wall Street Journal reports a record 8.1 million job postings across the country.

But it’s not that people don’t want to work, it’s that they don’t want to work for so little.


It receives 300 applications for each opening.

It turns out that there is no such thing as a “labor shortage” – just a shortage of people who will work for pittance, especially during a pandemic that is hitting low-income workers hardest. salary. What we are seeing now is a reckoning and reassessment of the future of work.

But rather than think critically about why so many workers are reluctant to return, some pundits and right-wing politicians blame unemployment benefits. President Joe Biden’s US bailout is offering an additional $ 300 per week to people out of work during the pandemic.

The GOP now wants to take that away. Republican governors in Montana, South Dakota, Utah, Iowa and Arkansas, for example, have already announced they will cut unemployment benefits in order to force more people back to work. .

If Republicans were serious about upholding their free market ideals, they would recognize that to remain competitive employers must adapt to market demands and pay their workers what they are worth.

Instead, they choose to cut unemployment benefits, oppose significant increases in the federal minimum wage, and ask the government to subsidize businesses by forcing employees to depend on aid such as food stamps. to get by. Like always.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the reality that our economy depends on exploitation. As the virus spread, many workers saw their bosses prioritize profit over the lives of employees, who risked their health and lives to take frontline jobs during a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 people in this country.

While these low-wage workers braved the pandemic, their CEOs cashed in.

A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies has found that of the 100 S&P 500 companies with the lowest median salaries, 51 rigged the rules in 2020 to give CEOs big bonuses while their low-paid employees suffered from it. Average CEO salaries soared 29% to over $ 15 million, while average employee salaries fell to just $ 28,000.

It’s been well over a decade since Congress raised the federal minimum wage. But meanwhile, CEOs and speculators who get rich off working for minimum wage have seen their fortunes skyrocket. If the minimum wage had risen at the same rate as Wall Street bonuses since 1985, it would now be worth $ 44 an hour.

With all of that in mind, would you put your life on the line for $ 7.25 an hour? For employers, the lesson should be simple: if you want workers, pay them a living wage.

Rebekah Entralgo is editor-in-chief of Inequality.org. This editorial was distributed by OtherWords.org.



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