Worker nirvana and owner angst
There was a brief time in American history, 1950’s – 1980’s, when life was almost perfect for the American worker. They had shelter and food. Dad went to work, Mom stayed home, the children went to school and on to college. After college, in a plentiful job market, young adults found work, often out-earning their parents, had families, and repeated the cycle of life.
This same period irked capitalists and titans of industry. Financial returns were not as high as they might be. They initiated studies to find the magic key to unlock the stagnant bottom line. Efficiency experts counted phone calls, bathroom breaks, and sick days. They measured the length of time people were away from their desks, monitored supply pilfering and off-topic conversations. Nothing was outside the scope of optimizing employee performance to breathe life into that bottom line.
It’s all about the bottom line
In the end, after the accountants and forecasters finished evaluating all the data, the thing that stood out was – wait for it – wages. The touchy-feely stuff distracted from the obvious. However, before the wage cut, owners had to “break” employee unity, aka the unions, which they did.
Middle managers and high wage earners below the board and top management level were fired. There were many words for this process to make it seem less horrific, but, everyone who lost their job knew they’d been fired.
Jobs were renamed, reclassified, reimagined, robotized or reduced. Fewer jobs fostered an economy that lacked opportunities — an employer’s market. “Here’s the job. “The salary, far less than you deserve, is what it is. Take it or leave it.” Most applicants took it and found themselves working long hours for less pay with “benefits” of more stress, less sleep, failed relationships, and no joy.
Lower wages caused social changes
The family, if it were to keep up with the loss in pay and rising costs for housing, food, and education, had to pitch in. Mom had to get a job. The children became either self-sufficient, went to daycare or after/before school programs, or took to the streets. Often the stresses blew the family apart.
Even though the paid time-off and indirect costs of a worker’s absence cost the companies an average of 20.9% and 22.1% in addition to the worker’s salary according to a Society for Human Resource Management study.
Instead of lowering costs by tracking causes and alleviating pressures, this particular study said, “This makes tracking paid time off pertinent in not only ensuring consistent treatment of employees but also controlling costs associated with paid absences.”
Profit turned into wealth which turned into Greed
Despite workers’ issues and the costs of absenteeism, corporations got richer and richer as wages dropped. The closer they got to free/slave labor, the higher their profits. In fact, the wealth of America’s three richest families grew by 6,000% since 1982 — “…the Waltons of Walmart, the Mars candy family and the Koch brothers, heirs to the country’s second-largest private company, the energy conglomerate Koch Industries… These three families own a combined fortune of $348.7bn, which is 4m times the median wealth of a US family… Meanwhile, the median household wealth went down 3% over the same period.”
With wealth comes power
With so much money and power, the wealthiest families used their fortune to “buy” the government, reduce taxes that only the richest paid, pass legislation the benefitted only the top income brackets, loot American natural resources, deny climate change, and shirk all social responsibility. As a result, the richest nation in the world also has citizens, including veterans, homeless and hungry. This is appalling.
Plight of the American worker
Employees continue to drain their paid-leave days and healthcare allowances with stress-related issues. Sickness proliferates in the workplace as ill workers spread germs – every day’s pay necessary to keep them from the poor house. The more days missed, the more stress on workers who showed up.
The disappearing middle class, the bulk of consumers, will soon to be a concept rather than a reality. The “haves” are the owners and shareholders, the “have-nots” — everyone else.
Disappearing disposable income
To have consumer status, one must first have money for basic needs and disposables. Food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare top the list. Today, “responsible” adults at jobs paying less than fifteen dollars an hour a must have three jobs in a market where getting one job is like winning the lottery. In this dire situation, there’s not a lot of money left for items that enhance one’s life experience – aka disposable income.
Recycle and reuse
Inexpensive Solar powered anything will reduce utility bills. Small appliances to ease those daily or occasional tasks will be rusting on shelves. It’s is fix or throw out. Replacement is not an option. People will resort to hand power. Amateur or professional cobblers and seamstresses will be the norm for recycling as shoes while new products gather dust or companies become dependent on pre-orders and/or production on demand.
Migration stretches resources
Housing needs will be redefined as masses of refugees leave storm battered shores, lifeless land, and dead seas. Indoor vertical home and commercial gardens that recycle air and water will supply most vegetables and fruits because mass farming has depleted the soil, or heat has baked the earth, or there is not enough water for large-scale processing and packaging.
Manufacturing models change
Manufacturing will have to adjust to the diminishing and disappearing consumer needs. There will be layoffs. Bikes and walking will replace expensive solar/fossil-fueled transportation. In fact, the stressors on industry may see government take over ownership so that it can allocate remaining resources to vital resources.
A preindustrial future overshadowed by climate change
In effect, we will return to our pre-industrial way of life. The wealthy may survive for a while living on hills and in castles. But nothing will save them when the air turns foul and the potable rivers run dry. Nothing will save them when the waters rise and decimate coastal cities, vital ports, and islands.
Capitalism with a social conscience and responsibility
There are real consequences to capitalism at any cost. It costs less to pay workers a living wage, support universal healthcare, supply child daycare, and offer time away from the workplace. Removing the stressors of living, allows people to concentrate fully on their job. There is greater productivity during the normal workday often relieving the necessity for overtime. Men and women are then free to choose a balanced life, maintain individual and family-related relationships.
This is not a dream. It is happening now in much of Europe. Countries have taken our American Dream and removed the toxic parts while incorporating the positive ones.
If capitalists won’t change, the PEOPLE must
We can do the same. It is not going to be easy. It’s going to take voices, marches, data, and maybe even country-wide walkouts. It’s going to take a movement to Amend the Thirteenth Amendment, ending essentially free prison labor, aka slavery, so those jobs can go on the open market and end mass incarceration and overwhelming poverty.
Here are the key components of the Workers’ Bill of Rights as put forth by the AFL-CIO at its 2017 convention:
- A Good Job with Fair Wages: Everyone who wants to work has the right to a good job where we earn a fair return on our work and receive a wage that allows us to support ourselves and our families.
- Quality Health Care: Regardless of income, job or a pre-existing condition.
- A Safe Job: Free from harassment and violence.
- Paid Time Off and Flexible Scheduling
- Freedom from Discrimination: In hiring, firing and promotions.
- Retire with Dignity: And financial security.
- Education: Public K-12, higher education and career training that advances our knowledge and skills without leaving us in debt.
- Freedom to Join Together: To negotiate with our co-workers for better wages and working conditions, whether we are in a union or not.
- A Voice in Democracy: To freely exercise our democratic voice through voting and civic participation so that we can make sure our government stands up for this Workers’ Bill of Rights.
If we don’t make societal and climate changes as soon as possible, there won’t be anyone alive to ask, “Where have all the consumers gone?” #VOTE #VOTE #Vote
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