Ed Zitron on the impending worker revolt in the US:
The whole great resignation conversation we’ve been having continues to miss the obvious problem - that so much of our current capitalism is dependent on people being willing to accept bad wages and bad working conditions. 64% of retail workers don’t get paid a living wage, despite how important retail sales are to the economy, and as Omicron grows within the states during the biggest shopping season of the year, they’re at risk, which is why 685,000 retail workers quit in September.
What I am sloppily constructing here is a series of events that leads to a massive worker revolt - a reckoning like we have never seen in modern society. America’s response to the pandemic has always been half-measures - insufficient stimulus, insufficient PPE, insufficient testing, insufficient safety standards, insufficient everything, all of which most directly hit the people that had to leave the house - retail workers, restaurant workers, hospitality workers, nurses, and so on.
As I’ve said before, this was a time when corporations could’ve proved to their workers that they mattered - that the danger they put themselves was appreciated - and treated them with dignity, by which I mean more money and better working conditions. Instead, members of the government spread a lie that they weren’t working because of increased unemployment benefits, and companies proceeded to do just about anything other than pay them more.
America runs on the backs of poorly paid-and-treated workers, with several of the top 10 companies in America relying heavily on these kinds of poorly-paid customer-facing roles. And yet they seem incapable of accepting their hand in the deaths of these workers, or at least said acceptance doesn’t extend to paying them an actual living wage - $16.40 an hour, by the way, is not close to what a living wage is in most states.
This entire transaction of bad pay for awful work has worked for so long because these companies know that many of these workers don’t have a choice. Except the additional variable of crazed, violent customers and an invisible, murderous virus is enough to make these jobs untenable. It’s grotesque to say, but so many companies calculated pay and conditions for workers based on how little dignity their workers had, and now that calculation is going to bite them on the ass hard enough to make sitting impossible.
Exactly - for the first time workers have real power. Let us hope that the silver lining in all of this misery is that we come out on the other side with real labor reforms and a new found respect for the ‘everyday’ American.