Remember before the pandemic when that one-term loser of a president used to brag about how stellar job growth was in the United States? That used to make me so cranky because, the part that was always left out of the conversation was what exactly those jobs were. Just because something is a “job” doesn’t mean it’s a good job. It kinda reminds me of sandwiches.
If I put a turd between two slices of bread, technically it’s a sandwich. But what it really is, is a shit sandwich. If you’re hungry enough, and you don’t have any other choices, you’re gonna eat that shit sandwich, but I think all of us can agree that nobody should have to do that.
Same goes for jobs. Yes, there was a bunch of job growth before the pandemic, but much of that growth was gig economy jobs: Jobs without health insurance, 401k, paid time off, sick leave, maternity/paternity leave. …. basically shitty jobs.
Now I’m not denigrating the workers or the work they were doing. All work and all workers deserve respect and fair treatment, but that’s exactly my point. What makes these jobs shitty is that the people working them are viewed as disposable and undeserving by the companies that make money off their labor. In short, they are being exploited.
And companies like Uber, Lyft DoorDash, TaskRabbit, etc. know this too. When they say things like “Our business model can’t support treating everyone like employees,” they are literally admitting that theirs is an exploitative business model. This is even further demonstrated by the way these companies flourished during the pandemic. People literally put their lives on the line to work for companies who were making record profits, yet still refused to give them extra hazard pay.
Then there’s the hospitality industry. We’re lucky in California that people get a full minimum wage while also making tips, but 42 states and territories have a tipped wage where people who earn tips have a lower minimum wage than traditional employees. In 16, that minimum wage is $2.13 an hour without any guarantee of any other acutal income. On top of that, most service industry jobs in the U.S. don’t come with health insurance, paid time off, sick leave, etc, meaning they too are shitty jobs. Couple all that with the fact that, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, “Full-time minimum wage workers cannot afford a two-bedroom rental anywhere in the U.S. and cannot afford a one-bedroom rental in 95% of U.S. counties.”
So, is it any wonder why we keep hearing “Nobody wants to work” from idiot pundits? We’re currently living through the biggest Universal Basic Income experiment in history, and it’s wildly successful! People are using the stimulus checks and unemployment money to get themselves out of the cycle of working shitty jobs. Some are using it as an opportunity to go back to school and get a degree. Others are using it to stay home with their kids instead of having to scramble to find child care. Still others are seizing this moment to create new businesses doing the things they are passionate about instead of working to fulfill someone else’s dream. And yet people are mad because the workers they told to “get a better job if they weren’t happy” decided to do so?
Look, nobody ever wanted to work. People want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives that bring them joy. Nobody ever said, “I want to spend my life making $2.13 an hour while serving jumbo Dr. Peppers with extra ice to people who look down on me because I only make $2.13 an hour serving them jumbo Dr. Peppers with extra ice.” Our entire system has been built to keep people in positions where their only option is to work these jobs.
So instead of listening to millionaires on TV talk about how nobody wants to work, you should be celebrating the fact that regular working people are finally catching a break. While this isn’t technically Universal Basic Income since not everyone is getting it, it’s a damn good start. Hopefully, if enough people take this opportunity to make a new reality for themselves the people in charge of these jobs will finally be forced to give workers what they deserve: dignity, respect, and no more shit sandwiches.
Stuart Schuffman is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com and join his mailing list at http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. He is a guest columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner.