Sunday, September 4, 2022

Skewering More Myths About Post -Pandemic "Missing Workers"


Never let it be said that the WSJ's Op-ed battalion of hacks won't fall short of peddling baloney and twaddle about labor and productivity.  Especially in the wake of a once in a century pandemic. What is more atrocious is how some of these hacks don't even know what's on the other pages of the same journal which refutes their arguments.  Take the case of WSJ contributor  Nicholas Eberstadt who writes  (The Americans Who Never Went Back to Work After the Pandemic,  p. A13, Sept. 3-4):

 "We now face an unprecedented peacetime labor shortage, with employers practically begging for workers, while vast numbers of grown men and women sit on the sidelines of the economy—even though job applicants have more bargaining power in the “Great Resignation” than at any time in recent memory. Never has work been so readily available in modern America; never have so many been uninterested in taking it.

Since Labor Day 2021, unfilled nonfarm positions have averaged over 11 million a month. For every unemployed person in the U.S. today, there are nearly two open jobs, and the labor shortage affects every region of the country. Major sectors are now wide open to applicants without any great skills, apart from the ability to show up to work, regularly and on time, drug-free."

 Eberstadt  likely did not see, or worse - ignored, this WSJ  piece from barely a week earlier (Aug. 24):

The Surprise in a Faltering Economy: Laid-Off Workers Quickly Find Jobs

People losing jobs are rapidly landing interviews, multiple job offers and higher pay, holding down unemployment totals

But, more to the point, he probably didn't see or else ignored an even more relevant actual WSJ front page news piece (not Op-ed)  from Sept. 1 ( 'Companies Struggle With an Influx of New Hires.')  wherein we learn:

The U.S. economy has recouped the 22 million jobs lost early in the pandemic, but the tight labor market means many employers have unseasoned staff

On paper, many companies’ workforces are close to prepandemic strength or have even surpassed their early-2020 head count. In practice, companies are thrusting many workers into roles they aren’t entirely ready for to satisfy demand for goods and services ranging from burritos to travel and healthcare.

Companies have been laser-focused on filling job vacancies for most of the past year. They have raised wages, lowered barriers such as experience requirements and retooled hiring to make on-the-spot offers in an effort to reduce shortages that kept them from filling orders and keeping customers happy.


"They didn’t just vanish. Many found ways of working that expose a blind spot in government policy while transforming the economy. They signed up for flexible working apps such as DoorDash, Amazon Flex, Trusted Health and the one from my company, Instawork— apps that match hourly workers with local businesses on a shift-by-shift or task-by-task basis."

The problem, as Alman pointed out, is that Trump's Labor Dept. had not been publishing any stats on flexible work, despite the Instawork app popularity.

Back to the WSJ news piece (9/1,  p. A1))  that preceded Eberstadt's misfire about missing labor. We read:

"Newer workers aren’t yet as proficient at their jobs as the old hands who left during the pandemic, airline executives and union officials said. Some things, such as baggage handling, customer service calls and boarding, aren’t going as smoothly as they once did, which has at times contributed to delays and lost luggage,"

Oh, and the airport ramp workers too, who may have been hired after stints at Burger King or Subway.  Now they must get accustomed to doing a totally different hands-on job but in a much larger, more critical scale.  Going from a 200 sq. foot fast food kitchen to a 10,0o0 sq. foot airport runway or tarmac is going to jar perspectives.  So yeah, they are likely to underestimate plane dimensions, wing dimensions - especially when the planes taxi.   But then it is the job of airlines and the airport services to train these guys.

See this is what one gets when airline execs go for cheaper labor too. As we also read. (Ibid.):

"Delta Air Lines Inc. Chief Executive Ed Bastian in October 2021 touted the potential “juniority benefit,” lowering labor costs as new hires at the lower end of the pay scale replaced more experienced, highly paid workers who had left."

And, not to be left out, the new fast food workers  (often oldsters needing $$$ to help with inflation) who've taken the place of those who might have departed to become airport ramp workers:

A lot of these folks haven’t experienced how fast the line can move,” Chief Executive Brian Niccol told investors in July. “Folks think they’re moving pretty quick when in fact we can be moving a lot faster.”

This is not good enough. You can't expect a 65-year old to move as fast - dressing burgers or flipping them - as a 19 year old.   But again, this is where company training comes in and it is quite evident businesses now - as well as manufacturers - will have to shell out billions to properly train these new hires, who are quite willing to work.   They just need the back training to show them how to work better and smarter than they have been.

See Also:

by Jaime O’Neill | September 5, 2022 - 7:30am | permalink


Ain't it great that we have a whole three-day weekend to honor the long and violent struggle for the rights, dignity, and fair compensation of laboring men and women in this country? Were the churches full of sermons yesterday, all praising God and Jesus for the advances made in this country to eliminate sweat shops, and to stop the practice of sending very small children deep into the mills and the mines? Should God and Jesus be given credit for preventing more company towns being created where workers were paid in company script that could only be spent in company-owned businesses? Was it the generosity of Wall Street capitalists who stood against literally squeezing the lives out of the people who worked for them? Forgive me if I find that to be seriously unlikely. In the class war, God and Jesus have been co-opted by "the man." And the man never gave a good god damn about those whose labor enriched them, so long as they could work another day and supply children to do likewise.


by Robert Reich | September 5, 2022 - 7:24am | permalink

— from Robert Reich's Substack


Yesterday I went into a local Starbucks and asked the barista behind the counter a simple question: “How is it to work here?”

He was understandably cautious in answering me. After all, I could have been a corporate stooge (Starbucks is doing whatever it can to bust unions, including firing workers who appear to be disgruntled and may be trying to organize a union).

Then he said, reluctantly, “they treat us okay.”

They.” That was the key word.

In honor of Labor Day, I want to give you a simple way to test for a good workplace.


Gen Z workers demand flexibility, don’t want to be stuffed in a cubicle


by Chuck Idelson | September 3, 2022 - 5:33am | permalink


Reports of the biggest rise in public support for unions in a half century is an encouraging response to the chokehold the policies of neoliberalism have held over U.S. workers for decades that led to a staggering inequality, the weakening of unions, and facilitated the ascendancy of the right.

It should also serve as a signal to Democratic Party strategists. Commitment to the growth of unionization is an essential component of a multi-racial, working class coalition needed to fight off the rise of what President Biden calls the threat of "semi-fascism" from the Trump cult's acceptance of repressive legislation and political violence, and a shift toward a more humane public commons.

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