"should" is a very big word
August 7, 2018 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Solving The 'Wage Puzzle': Why Aren't Paychecks Growing? With the national unemployment rate in the US at 3.9% in July, and parts of the country nearing full employment, if The Economy Is This Good why Aren't Wages Rising Faster?

EPI's Nominal Wage Tracker

Where’s Your Raise? It Should Be Coming

Ten Years After the Crash, We Are Still Living in the World It Brutally Remade

The Economics and Emotions Behind Slow Wage Growth, Michael R. Strain , Bloomberg
There are currently 6.7 million job openings — a record high. And the rate at which workers are quitting their jobs is higher than it was before the onset of the Great Recession. But wage growth is still noticeably slower than many economists and analysts expect (despite all the stories about employers desperate for workers).

So why does wage growth continue to be so tepid?

As unemployment falls and the number of open jobs increases, businesses should have to increase pay in order to attract increasingly scarce available workers as well as retain the employees they have. And if workers are quitting voluntarily, it stands to reason that many of them are not only confident that they can get another job, but that it will be better and higher-paying as well.

To some extent, reality is conforming to this story. But many who look at the numbers aren’t satisfied. So let’s discuss some possible explanations.
Wages aren’t rising. These theories could explain why., Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post
With thanks and apologies to him, here’s a summary of his summary.

(1) There’s more “slack” in labor markets than standard employment statistics indicate. People who had given up looking for work are reentering the job market. More than 5 million people say they’d like a job but aren’t counted in the labor market because they’re not looking.

(2) Demographics — the aging of American society — distort reported wage changes. As well-paid baby-boom workers retire, they’re being replaced by younger and not-so-well-paid workers, even though their wages may be rising. But the effect is diluted by the loss of retirees’ high wages.

(3) Employers are competing for workers “using levers other than wages” — better fringe benefits, signing bonuses, laxer overall standards in hiring. Although these have economic value, they don’t boost wages.

(4) Some employers refrained from cutting wages during the worst of the recession and are now trying to offset these higher costs by delaying new wage increases.

(5) There is no problem — only a misinterpretation of economic data. Strain cites a study by Adam Ozimek of Moody’s Analytics that examined the “employment rate” (the share of a population with a job), as opposed to the unemployment rate, and found that wages are “growing at a pace you would expect.” Similarly, slow productivity growth implies slow wage growth.
For Wages, a Trump Slump - "The official economic indicators look pretty good. The trends in hourly pay do not."
Job growth remains solid, but workers are still waiting for a real jump in wages
Inflation hits 6-year high, wiping out wage gains for the average American
Paychecks Lag as Profits Soar, and Prices Erode Wage Gains
As Global 1% Seize Economy's Gains, 'Unprecedented Wage Stagnation' for Everyone Else
Amid wage stagnation, corporate leaders declare the end of annual raises triggered by increased profitability
Stock buybacks, explained

Why Wages Won't Rise When Unemployment Falls Teresa Ghilarducci, Forbes
Bottom line: economics is not a science of ethics and justice, but we have opinions about economic growth and fairness and justice. The justice proposition is that “inputs,” including management and labor, should get their share in the production process for markets to work efficiently. Economists are pretty much convinced that worker productivity has delinked from worker pay and that government policies tilted in favor of capital over labor. How the pay and productivity gap, growing since the 1980s, might ignite outrage and political reform is an open question.


California Passed $15 An Hour Two Years Ago -- How's It Working?
The effects of 137 minimum wage hikes, in one chart
Last summer, a paper on the effects of Seattle's minimum-wage increase made national headlines with its conclusion: The change made low-income workers worse off, not better, because it forced employers to cut back on hiring and hours to afford paying higher wages.

Although the finding contradicted years of research showing that the minimum wage had little to no effect on hiring practices, the paper was widely read and generally well regarded because of its reliance on high-quality data and convincing methods. David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not involved in the research, told The Washington Post at the time that the study was “very credible” and “sufficiently compelling in its design and statistical power that it can change minds.”

A little more than six months later, and minds have indeed been changed — among them Autor's. He now says that other recent minimum-wage papers have underscored the limitations of the Seattle study.
Revitalizing Wage Growth: Policies to Get American Workers a Raise
posted by the man of twists and turns (138 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
 
Because higher wages mean fewer profits for the ownership class.
posted by SansPoint at 12:48 PM on August 7 [116 favorites]


I was going to say “capitalism,” but SansPoint answer is more precise.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:02 PM on August 7 [12 favorites]


the point is that the labor supply-demand should force the ownership class to give some of the return on their capital profits) back to labor, and yet for some reason this isn't happening. It shouldn't be a choice for the ownership class. But something in the transaction mechanism is broken and no one really knows why. Policy shouldn't really matter here - if unemployment is low they should be paying up, but yet they haven't. Its a riddle and not one that you can clearly blame on one thing. Maybe we're just too early. I've heard lots of anecdotes about service businesses here in NYC starting to need to pay up for labor (ironically because the ICE crackdown has shrunk the available labor pool)
posted by JPD at 1:03 PM on August 7 [7 favorites]


"Capitalism" is actually a terribly trite answer as ordinarily in a Capitalist economy something that is scarce (labor in this case) becomes overvalued. It should increase the volatility of pricing and supply, not necessarily control pricing - in fact the opposite.
posted by JPD at 1:05 PM on August 7 [11 favorites]


I am excited about this post!

I have been following this for the last couple of years and taking notes as I encounter explanations in the media. I haven't read all of the articles above. The below the fold in the post captures a lot of explanations I have seen. These include: "slack" in the labor market, and Baby Boomers leaving the work force and being replaced with millennials who have less experience and are therefore cheaper to employ. Another one I've seen (and perhaps it is represented in the articles above) is that there is some amount of oligopoly n the labor market, such that in many fields and employment markets there are a small number of employers, so workers have few choices of employer, and therefore employers compete for workers using wage increases less than would be expected. This is due to continued consolidation in markets, where, e.g., there are fewer media companies than their used to be due to attrition and mergers.
posted by chrchr at 1:05 PM on August 7 [11 favorites]


I've only in the past 3 or so months noticed a dramatic uptick in the "help wanted" signs posted here, so maybe it is just too early yet. Owners will let a position go unfilled for a long time before they'll admit that maybe they need to do something different.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:05 PM on August 7 [5 favorites]


Last summer, a paper on the effects of Seattle's minimum-wage increase made national headlines with its conclusion: The change made low-income workers worse off, not better, because it forced employers to cut back on hiring and hours to afford paying higher wages.

This is a bullshit statement - employers chose to do this. Employers could chose to pay living wages right now, but they don't.

Because higher wages mean fewer profits for the ownership class.

Exactly. Wealth inequality graphs should be included when talking about the GDP growth or any other measure of national prosperity.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:06 PM on August 7 [59 favorites]


Supply and demand doesn't work when price-fixing is in play, though. When the ownership class as a whole doesn't want to pay more in wages, none of them have to worry about the only ones paying $8/hour.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:06 PM on August 7 [25 favorites]


They aren't sufficiently afraid of us, that's why.

Bosses never share willingly - this is a lesson the majority of Americans are going to have to learn all over again, it appears. Organizing, solidarity, and pressure are the only thing that will push wages back up.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:10 PM on August 7 [81 favorites]


Where’s Your Raise? It Should Be Coming

I donno. I doubled my salary going into the private sector after getting laid off from a non-profit. If wages are stagnant in aggregate I guess I stole someone else's raise? /shrug

I've only in the past 3 or so months noticed a dramatic uptick in the "help wanted" signs posted here, so maybe it is just too early yet.

Pretty much all the fast food places here I've been to have help wanted signs and near 15 dollar wages. And it's still not a great wage when you consider local rents.
posted by pwnguin at 1:11 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


the point is that the labor supply-demand should force the ownership class to give some of the return on their capital profits) back to labor, and yet for some reason this isn't happening. It shouldn't be a choice for the ownership class.

I feel like this might be one of those things that are currently treated as immutable economic laws of the universe that will turn out not be true, or at least not a complete picture of the world, like how stagflation came as a shock to the major schools of economics in the 70s.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:13 PM on August 7 [7 favorites]


I don't think the labor market functions the way an ideal commodity market functions. Company owners in the same industries often have informal understandings with each other that it is "wrong" to poach workers from businesses that are often owned by their friends, and job searching is time consuming and difficult. It's not as if you can just put your skillset out there somewhere and have employers bid until they hit a wage you agree to. You have to spend time searching for work, and then go through an itnerview process that might require you to take time off, etc, which you might not even be allowed to do without losing your job. And the cost of a lost job is extremely high in a society without sufficient social safety nets.

Basically, I think that employers have realized that if they don't raise wages, it's not like workers are going to stop coming to them looking for work. They have rent to pay and children to support. People *need* jobs, while owners can get by just fine by stretching their workforce a bit until someone agrees to work for the low wage.
posted by dis_integration at 1:15 PM on August 7 [66 favorites]


because the metrics that go into concluding the economy is "good" depend on corporations hoarding profit, buying back stock, etc?
posted by thelonius at 1:17 PM on August 7 [7 favorites]


People *need* jobs, while owners can get by just fine by stretching their workforce a bit until someone agrees to work for the low wage.

Also, they will be all the more desperate for work, and thus more willing to take whatever they can get, if they haven't been able to save/can't live on their spouse's income alone thanks to low across-the-board wages.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:18 PM on August 7 [11 favorites]


I doubled my salary going into the private sector after getting laid off from a non-profit. If wages are stagnant in aggregate I guess I stole someone else's raise? /shrug

My salary's increased a lot, too, now that I'm doing a completely different thing than I was doing five years ago, but this is not the normal state of affairs, and statistics involve the comparison of apples to apples. Congrats to us on our private sector tech salaries. They won't last if everybody else starts chasing private sector tech salaries to compensate for flat wage growth everywhere else.
posted by Sequence at 1:19 PM on August 7 [17 favorites]


I'm coming up on two years at a non-profit, making the most I've ever made in a single job, after bouncing between the private sector, government, and back to the private sector.

But the plural of anecdote is not data.
posted by SansPoint at 1:21 PM on August 7 [13 favorites]


In the US, what is the alternative to working for whatever wages are on offer? Homelessness, prison, black market economies? Want to know why employers won't raise already low wages? Because they know these threats (prison, homelessness, hunger & deprivation) will coerce you into working for them one way or another.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:23 PM on August 7 [42 favorites]


I'd be interested in seeing someone deep dive on what impact the massive over-reach in classifying people as non-exempt salaried employees has had on wages. That probably wouldn't be able to have much impact on most minimum wage industries but the abuse in white collar industries is unbelievable. According to the rule change (which the Trump administration stopped) the DOL believed that this represented 1.2 billion dollars in wages that would need to be paid. That's 4.2 million workers who didn't get this 'raise' last year.
posted by phearlez at 1:24 PM on August 7 [30 favorites]


Related: making everyone you possibly can an "independent contractor".
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:27 PM on August 7 [54 favorites]


the massive over-reach in classifying people as non-exempt salaried employees has had on wages.
Non-exempt means you do get paid overtime because you are not exempt from the overtime rules.
posted by soelo at 1:29 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]


Sorry, all the negatives crept up on me. I blame the baby.
posted by phearlez at 1:31 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


It is a common error - I agree that companies are too quick to class people as exempt. I was on a call where someone asked why we had so many non-exempt employees, as if the company itself had choice in how to classify a particular job.
posted by soelo at 1:34 PM on August 7


Well, they do for all intents and purposes. As I have told many a person over the years in response to "I just use that as a tax write-off," you can do it for damned near anything... till you get caught. It's why it's so important to have people who take the law seriously in these agencies and in state-level labor boards. You can pull all sorts of shit on employees and the reality is that this pullback from the DOL on exempt employees came after yeaaaarrrrrsss of over-reach. The Bush II admin signaled that they were cool with it when they expanded the classification and it took all eight years of the Obama administration before anything was going to be done. So if you view the decision as at all absent of basic human ethics, not pushing the envelope leaves a lot of money on the table.

Even if you take a less cynical outlook, a company can certainly structure itself and write job descriptions with a view towards maximizing exempt classifications.
posted by phearlez at 1:45 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]




"Capitalism" is actually a terribly trite answer as ordinarily in a Capitalist economy something that is scarce (labor in this case) becomes overvalued. It should increase the volatility of pricing and supply, not necessarily control pricing - in fact the opposite.
posted by JPD at 1:05 PM on August 7 [3 favorites +] [!]


But the point of capitalism is to have an ownership class. It seems absurd to use the passive voice so much, when the point of capitalism is to (re)create a class of people, the owners, in order to control the economy.
posted by eustatic at 1:51 PM on August 7 [10 favorites]


Point being, wages are low because the people who set the wages low want them to be low.
posted by eustatic at 1:52 PM on August 7 [9 favorites]


eustatic: So, if we want them to make wages higher, we have to force the ownership class to do so. One way or the other. I'm increasingly in favor of methods that involve ropes and sharp objects.
posted by SansPoint at 1:56 PM on August 7 [11 favorites]


@Kitty Stardust: In the US, what is the alternative to working for whatever wages are on offer? Homelessness, prison, black market economies? Want to know why employers won't raise already low wages? Because they know these threats (prison, homelessness, hunger & deprivation) will coerce you into working for them one way or another.

I don’t know about other places, but Portland’s “millennial” group is a lot of people working service industry positions because they pay well via tips, but you lose out on a lot of other benefits. I know people making $15/hr as baristas but can make $80-$100 per day in tips alone. However, if they were ever sick, they may not be able to call out of work because there may not be anyone available to cover their shift (although I’m not sure how legal that is bc AFAIK in Oregon you’re suppose to be able to use your sick pay anytime). When I worked in restaurants I made a “liveable wage”, but I also had people illegally living in my house in order to drive the rent down. Alternatively, these workplaces could be very toxic, and your hours could be very precarious. There are many times I got let off work 2 or more hours early because there wasn’t enough business to warrant paying me to be there standing around doing nothing. But that’s a particular industry and not the work force as a whole.

But when I was unemployed due to my worsening mental health there were many times I considered drug dealing to get by. I knew drug dealers, it was easy, and I had dealt weed before, so selling other stuff wasn’t that crazy to me, but I knew it wasn’t a lifestyle I wanted for myself. The temptation was huge though, knowing I could have a lot of money and never worry about rent or food.
posted by gucci mane at 2:00 PM on August 7 [19 favorites]


But the point of capitalism is to have an ownership class.

The Capitalist class is a feature of capitalism. It is in that class’s interest to drive wages as low as possible, to increase profits.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:07 PM on August 7 [5 favorites]


My daughter is working part-time at Lowes (4.0 recent college grad in a STEM field but struggling to even get interviews in her field) and she was just telling me they had 9 people quit last week. Home Depot allegedly pays worse, so the assumption is they didn't all go there. One data point, but maybe an indicator of job mobility in the retail sector that might start to push up wages.
posted by COD at 2:10 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


GenjiandProust: Which means, summary of the summary, Capitalism is the problem.
posted by SansPoint at 2:11 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


This is the least summary summary I have ever read, at length.
posted by phearlez at 2:13 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


The Capitalist class is a feature of capitalism. It is in that class’s interest to drive wages as low as possible, to increase profits.

No, its in the classes interest to maximize returns to capital. In a tight labor market your ability to add incremental units & profit is limited by a lack of labor supply, so you increase your total profits by increasing wages. (this is of course a massive oversimplification and there are all sorts of expectations that can get into why you don't want to add incremental capacity, which might be the answer here, but its not simply that capitalists never ever want to see wages rise)
posted by JPD at 2:27 PM on August 7 [7 favorites]


GenjiandProust: Which means, summary of the summary, Capitalism is the problem.

IUnderstoodThatReference.gif

My daughter is working part-time at Lowes (4.0 recent college grad in a STEM field but struggling to even get interviews in her field) and she was just telling me they had 9 people quit last week. Home Depot allegedly pays worse, so the assumption is they didn't all go there. One data point, but maybe an indicator of job mobility in the retail sector that might start to push up wages.

Further anecdata: Mrs. Singing Fish was a Walgreens store manager for 7 years. After we moved from a rural area to the DC suburbs, her job became infinitely harder thanks to the company's refusal to pay wages commensurate with the cost of living, leading to turnover on the order of what your daughter describes. The constant churn, and the fact that they couldn't offer a living wage, made it a nightmare to keep the store in decent shape and led directly to her quitting.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:29 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


The constant churn, and the fact that they couldn't offer a living wage, made it a nightmare to keep the store in decent shape and led directly to her quitting.

I wonder how much money they lost due to that churn? Unfortunately, I don't think employee turn-over expenses appear on the books the same way that wages do, so a lot of businesses may not realize how they can spend money on turnover than they would on decent wages.

I read (somewhere, years ago) that Costco paid its workers more than Sam's Club - and continued to make the same profits because they saved on employee turnover.

But maybe when wages are very low and people will still shop there no matter how disorganized the store, how demoralized the staff are, because they need stuff and don't have much choice themselves, maybe the savings on the starvation wages make up for the cost of turnover and reduction in quality of service.
posted by jb at 2:34 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


I suspect there might be a relationship between people accepting lower wages and people remembering how hard it was to find work during the most recent recession.
posted by davejay at 2:41 PM on August 7 [22 favorites]


Stop focusing so much on big business and start asking questions of small business owners - the ones who generate the vast majority of jobs in this country.

I suspect that the flippant "something, something....capitalism" and "because...ownership class" statements will gain a lot more nuance after you speak with those who employ 5-10 people.

Our planet is filled with assholes, but not every business owner is one. There's a mighty broad brush being used to paint business owners around here.
posted by tgrundke at 2:44 PM on August 7 [7 favorites]


My wife was a preschool teacher back before we had kids. She made about $8.50 an hour, in GA in the 90s when the minimum wage was still $3.35. Fast forward to about 2010 when she went back to work after staying home with the kids for 16 years. In VA, in a much higher cost of living area than Atlanta GA, preschool teachers were still making about $8 an hour. As a daycare director now part of her job is helping her teacher understand what government benefits are available to them because they don't make a living wage.
posted by COD at 2:44 PM on August 7 [30 favorites]


In the past, capitalism has pretty reliably led to increases in wages for workers. Is the argument that the U.S. was socialist from 1991 to 1999, capitalist between 2000 and 2004, socialist again until 2007, and then capitalist ever since?
posted by chrchr at 2:46 PM on August 7 [7 favorites]


And, by the way, happy Black Women's Equal Pay Day - from January 1 to today marks the number of extra days the average black woman would have had to work to equal the 2017 earnings of the average white man.
Black women, for example, needed 20 months to reach equal pay. Native American women will hit equal pay on September 27, while Latinas will hit the benchmark on November 1. And while Asian-American women technically hit the equal pay mark on February 22, suggesting that this group faces the smallest gender pay gap of all women, that date overlooks significant disparities in pay among different groups of Asian women.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:49 PM on August 7 [28 favorites]


No, its in the classes interest to maximize returns to capital. In a tight labor market your ability to add incremental units & profit is limited by a lack of labor supply, so you increase your total profits by increasing wages.

So umm... why aren't they?
posted by fnerg at 2:51 PM on August 7 [7 favorites]


So, anecdoes/anecdata and all that, but I just hit the point in life where I'm able to freely pick and choose who I work for (non-tech field, more along the lines of "traditional industry" btw), and it's genuinely amazing how many employers are utterly stunned when I tell them their offer is inadequate so I'm going elsewhere.

Not "hey this is a negotiating tactic please sir give me some more pennies" but "your offer is absurd on its face so I'll be leaving now, best of luck to you in your search".

...I mean, full-on, flabbergasted, sputtery, like some kind of 1950s British comedy manager noises. If more of them drank tea I'm sure I'd have had at least one shattered teacup by now.

It's fucking awesome.

(it's especially awesome when I see their position still open three months later, and yes, I realize I'm just unbelievably lucky to experience this).

Point being, I've run into quite a lot of employers who are geared to having highly-skilled people beg for jobs, and who are completely confused when those people aren't begging for their jobs.
posted by aramaic at 2:52 PM on August 7 [80 favorites]


Stop focusing so much on big business and start asking questions of small business owners - the ones who generate the vast majority of jobs in this country.

In my humble experience, these are often the worst & most blatant wage thieves.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 2:57 PM on August 7 [54 favorites]


Is the argument that the U.S. was socialist from 1991 to 1999, capitalist between 2000 and 2004, socialist again until 2007, and then capitalist ever since?

Counterpoint: real wages are still where they were in the 1970s while costs of living, like housing, have far outstripped inflation.

And while it makes some intuitive sense to think that real wages are always going to be constant, they used to rise with productivity, until they didn't.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:58 PM on August 7 [33 favorites]


Stop focusing so much on big business and start asking questions of small business owners - the ones who generate the vast majority of jobs in this country.

You make a good point. Small business owners, how much of the billions of dollars in wage theft are you responsible for? How have you made sure you aren't stealing from your employees in common (but still unacceptable) ways?

Our planet is filled with assholes, but not every business owner is one. There's a mighty broad brush being used to paint business owners around here.

Just like every iteration of "Not all men!", if it isn't about you, it isn't about you (and well done on being a humane small business owner, there's vanishingly few of you & more could learn from you).
If it reads as close to home though, it might be worth rethinking your role in the world.
posted by CrystalDave at 2:59 PM on August 7 [36 favorites]


This is a great occasion for a delightfully dramatic quote from Marx's Wage Labour and Capital:

If capital grows rapidly, wages may rise, but the profit of capital rises disproportionately faster. The material position of the worker has improved, but at the cost of his social position. The social chasm that separates him from the capitalist has widened.

Finally, to say that "the most favorable condition for wage-labour is the fastest possible growth of productive capital", is the same as to say: the quicker the working class multiplies and augments the power inimical to it – the wealth of another which lords over that class – the more favorable will be the conditions under which it will be permitted to toil anew at the multiplication of bourgeois wealth, at the enlargement of the power of capital, content thus to forge for itself the golden chains by which the bourgeoisie drags it in its train.

Growth of productive capital and rise of wages, are they really so indissolubly united as the bourgeois economists maintain? We must not believe their mere words. We dare not believe them even when they claim that the fatter capital is the more will its slave be pampered. The bourgeoisie is too much enlightened, it keeps its accounts much too carefully, to share the prejudices of the feudal lord, who makes an ostentatious display of the magnificence of his retinue. The conditions of existence of the bourgeoisie compel it to attend carefully to its bookkeeping.

posted by One Second Before Awakening at 3:05 PM on August 7 [14 favorites]


Last summer, a paper on the effects of Seattle's minimum-wage increase made national headlines with its conclusion: The change made low-income workers worse off, not better, because it forced employers to cut back on hiring and hours to afford paying higher wages.

In the short term, employers try to juggle their existing "employee" allotment of money to cover higher wages, and this results in fewer people being hired.
In the long run, they adjust that number upwards to the number they need to function efficiently, while paying people (closer to) enough to live on. Announcing "it's not working!" before the wages have even reached the goal level is pointless.

I’m not sure how legal that is bc AFAIK in Oregon you’re suppose to be able to use your sick pay anytime

It is very entirely NOT legal to require people to work when sick; Oregon law requires a certain amount of sick leave granted without penalty. (There are potential waivers; it's complicated. I bet the bosses who do this don't use the waiver system, because that means having to pay people for the sick leave they're not getting.) But especially in a public-facing service job, no employer wants to get hit with the lawsuit for telling someone to come in to work when they have measles, or for telling someone to drive a truck when they've already said they have migraine so bad they can't see straight.

Bosses that tell people to come in when they're sick are counting on the illness being light enough that it only makes the employee miserable, isn't contagious, and doesn't cause them to be a danger to others. I'd recommend getting any such demand in writing, by email or text, and wearing a sign that says, "please no immunocompromised customers today."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:17 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


Stop focusing so much on big business and start asking questions of small business owners - the ones who generate the vast majority of jobs in this country.

Businesses Steal $15 Billion a Year From Employees. Is Your Business One of Them?

Wage Theft is a Bigger Problem Than Other Theft—But Not Enough is Done to Protect Workers. ’Wage Theft’ Prevention Bills Dropped [Michigan] - "Tony Stamas of the Small Business Association of Michigan told MIRS six weeks ago that he saw it as "implausible that this percentage of employers are engaging in this practice. " Wage theft victims have little chance of recouping pay in Illinois. Wage theft: How employers steal millions from American workers every week - " Wage and hour violations are found in small companies and larger corporations, and it affects middle-class workers as well. And as large as the amount of lost wages is, solutions may be possible through employees taking action and improved government enforcement." Employers steal billions from some of nation's most vulnerable workers. How Employers Get Out of Paying Their Workers - "Even using this diminished figure, reported wage theft outpaces reported robberies in the U.S. by nearly 300%."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:20 PM on August 7 [36 favorites]


It's been 5+ years since I or any of my coworkers have received a bonus let alone a raise. In that same five years the c-suite execs have nearly doubled their salary, making a combined $6.4 million more in base salary than they did in 2013.

If that wealth was distributed equally to every employee, regardless of location or need, it's a $1600/yr raise.
posted by nathan_teske at 3:31 PM on August 7 [21 favorites]




Unions were the only thing that workers had going for them.

I personally am waiting for workers to get desperate enough to begin eating the rich.
*waves fork*
posted by BlueHorse at 3:32 PM on August 7 [19 favorites]


So this is some older data breaking down unemployment rates by education level. It ends in Jan 2017.

Unemployment for people with college degrees has always been relatively low - it never went above 5% even in the worst part of the US downturn.

So salaries for these sorts of workers haven't changed much because they were always in short supply. More so now, but it varies a lot by sector and region.

So almost all of the change in overall unemployment numbers has been in the less educated segment, which is mostly hourly jobs. Per the Forbes article below the fold:
"Fourth, new jobs in demand are low-wage jobs. Low-paying jobs will dominate job growth in the next decade. Projections are for 1.2 million new openings for personal care aides and home health aides where the average annual wage is under $24,000."
These people have very little leverage. Per the same article, unions are a shadow of what they used to be and the growing job categories tend not to be unionized. Also, employers have gotten so much better at managing shift work. Employment rules, for better or worse, incentive employers to keep employees well under the full-time limits, typically 30 hours per week. So even though overall unemployment is low I suspect there's a ton of churn and a lot of people working multiple hourly jobs under the 30-hour threshold to keep things afloat.

I think if governments (at all levels) wanted to fix stuff they should try to figure out a way to make the change from part-time to full-time equivalent less discontinuous. A libertarian would say do away with mandatory benefits and protections for full-time employees, but I haven't yet had a stroke, so I won't say that. The tough part is that it's hard to do this without creating more rules, which is really a pain for everyone and just ends up making more employers that break the rules. But yeah, if there's mandatory health-insurance for full-time equivalent hourly workers, then it should apply to everyone. Reduce the incentives to keeping people under the 30 hour cap.

In that same five years the c-suite execs have nearly doubled their salary

Board compensation committees are a fucking joke. Shareholders should vote these morons out. But it's capitalists all the way down. Regulation of executive pay is the only way out.
posted by GuyZero at 3:39 PM on August 7 [18 favorites]


No, its in the [capitalist] classes interest to maximize returns to capital ... but its not simply that capitalists never ever want to see wages rise.

It seems you are contradicting yourself here. Capitalists want to maximize their profits. In order to do that they want to minimize their wage costs. If wages were never to rise, they would be delighted.
posted by JackFlash at 3:48 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


It seems you are contradicting yourself here. Capitalists want to maximize their profits. In order to do that they want to minimize their wage costs. If wages were never to rise, they would be delighted.

Not if the cost of that was stagnant profitability. I'd rather produce 15 widgets at a 12% margin than 10 widgets at a 15% margin.

A counter argument around the shift from high-fixed cost capital intensive businesses to mostly variable cost, low capital service businesses has changed this fundamental math, and that might be the answer. IDK. Its a hard question and it doesn't really make sense that wages aren't rising. My only point is "because capitalism" is a lame answer.
posted by JPD at 3:55 PM on August 7 [8 favorites]


In order to do that they want to minimize their wage costs.

Well no, this discounts productivity. Tech companies pay more than minimum wage for a reason, even ones that don't make any profit.

On preview -

the shift from high-fixed cost capital intensive businesses to mostly variable cost, low capital service businesses has changed this fundamental math, and that might be the answer. IDK. Its a hard question and it doesn't really make sense that wages aren't rising. My only point is "because capitalism" is a lame answer.

yeah, this. the issue is that modern service business are basically automated except robots aren't good enough yet. As much as you might love your local barista, as far as Starbucks is concerned they're one of a million interchangeable baristas and their objective is to employ them as cheaply as possible. The equipment and corporate processes around them mean that there's very little they can do to change their productivity and use that to drive a wage increase. Unions would probably help. But I agree with JPD that whatever worked for auto plant workers may not necessarily work for baristas and home health care workers for a bunch of reasons.
posted by GuyZero at 4:00 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


I'd rather produce 15 widgets at a 12% margin than 10 widgets at a 15% margin.

What you are saying is that a company can afford to pay higher wages as productivity goes up. But that doesn't mean that they will pay higher wages if productivity goes up unless forced to. And in fact the last 30 years of history confirms that they will not. Real wages have barely moved at all even as productivity and profits have gone up.
posted by JackFlash at 4:09 PM on August 7 [10 favorites]


My concern about Unions as the answer is that the fungible nature of service workers makes them much easier to replace than the Auto worker, not only that but the cost to GM of shutting down production lines due to a strike is much much much more meaningful than the cost to SBUX of having to layoff and retrain their work force. And the smarter the superautomatic coffee makers get, the cheaper that retraining becomes.

The fundamental math of why collective bargaining works changes for service/variable cost businesses. Again its very much a non-trivial problem - finding a way to re-empower labor. And this is an issue nearly everywhere, just in some countries the safety net is stronger and the unions were able to push through strong pro-worker regulation when they had power.
posted by JPD at 4:09 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]


What you are saying is that a company can afford to pay higher wages as productivity goes up. But that doesn't mean that they will pay higher wages if productivity goes up unless forced to. And in fact the last 30 years of history confirms that they will not. Real wages have barely moved at all even as productivity and profits have gone up.

Real wages went up historically when unemployment was this low. But no I'm not saying they can afford to, I'm saying its rational for them to pay higher wages if it increases output.

Also the blanket statement "Real Wages didn't go up" elides a lot of very interesting points about what wages actually did for different groups of people and why. Its factually correct and very problematic (and also part of why we ended up with the mass financialization of the economy from the 70's to the GFC) but there is a narrative inside of the wage data for the different cohorts.
posted by JPD at 4:13 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Rewards are for owners, risk is for the proles.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:16 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


People can't leave jobs because of healthcare. Employers know this, and so they don't have to pay well.

The answer is unions, and extremely aggressive legislation including, but not limited to, single payer.

Literally every single person I know that's making shit wages is doing so because they can't afford to leave one job and have a gap in their health insurance so they just suck it up. And anyone who is unemployed is strongly incentivized to take the first offer because of health insurance. People aren't able to save enough money to have a cushion to get them through unemployment of any significant length and would like not to be homeless.

This really isn't a mystery to anyone at the lower end of the workforce, and it truly baffles me that there are all these think pieces about it.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:20 PM on August 7 [71 favorites]


You know, I’ve always thought it odd that Charles Murray types equate class with IQ, without discussing the proportionality of it. So, although they insist higher wages are fairly apportioned to individuals who, because of their intelligence, are more productive on a large scale, they never want to break down what the relationship is on an income/IQ point scale.

The (I am sure) exponential relationship is clearly inequitable, even were you to insist smart people deserve more money as some kind of Calvinist reward for their own birth. There is no way it is a linear relationship.

Why are people involved in the upper rungs of capital permitted to do this? I find it baffling that people aren’t already in the street. Did the aristocrats win this time around due to a system of inequality that is too abstract for ordinary citizens to manually deconstruct?
posted by constantinescharity at 4:34 PM on August 7


The Minimum Wage is obscenely low, especially in contrast to executive salaries which are obscenely high. Congress seems to keep giving itself raises and benefits, and denying them to people of lower incomes. Look at President PantsOnFire's Supreme Court picks - you think they'll uphold union rights? They've already shown they won't. Throw them out.
posted by theora55 at 4:36 PM on August 7 [7 favorites]


I find it baffling that people aren’t already in the street.

People get fucking shot for saying the wrong thing to a cop at a traffic stop. People really dislike getting shot and cops are really willing to shoot people.
posted by GuyZero at 4:37 PM on August 7 [64 favorites]


It seems to me that there are two factors to the situation - if workers who are looking for work anyway have more options, that should drive wage growth for people starting new jobs. And if workers are tempted to leave their current position because they think they can get a better deal elsewhere, that should drive wage growth for people remaining in the positions - presumably companies would want to retain valuable workers.

But. But. The current corporate thinking in many sectors is to treat workers as fungible and not assign any monetary value to having the best workers. So as long as they can find someone to do the job, they don’t feel
compelled to offer more. That means it will take a very scarce labor market to push them to raise the wages they are offering.

In some sectors, talent is almost fetishized, and those sectors already seem to have wage growth. Like tech and finance.
posted by mai at 4:37 PM on August 7 [5 favorites]


The answer is unions, and extremely aggressive legislation including, but not limited to, single payer.

While I agree that a US single payer system is way overdue, I don't think that Canadian wages have risen have risen any more than US wages.

That said, at least Canadian baristas don't worry about going broke if they get a burn from the steamer wand.
posted by GuyZero at 4:38 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


With regard to tech, I am convinced that a huge reason why so many places are pushing learning coding is to increase the supply of programmers, making them commodity workers, and therefore driving wages down.
posted by SansPoint at 4:39 PM on August 7 [11 favorites]


I am convinced that a huge reason why so many places are pushing learning coding is to increase the supply of programmers, making them commodity workers, and therefore driving wages down.

Eventually this is the result I suppose, but in the short run it's just people looking to get paid more. I suppose it's sort of arbitrage if you take away the whole humans-learning-things angle.
posted by GuyZero at 4:44 PM on August 7


I find it baffling that people aren’t already in the street.
People get fucking shot for saying the wrong thing to a cop at a traffic stop. People really dislike getting shot and cops are really willing to shoot people.


Plus a lot of health insurance policies have exemptions for "unlawful or disorderly behavior", so even if you don't lose your job+insurance you'll still be on the hook for tens of thousands when an officer beans you in the head with a crowd-deterrent projectile (See: Portland)
posted by CrystalDave at 4:46 PM on August 7 [17 favorites]


I don't think that Canadian wages have risen have risen any more than US wages.

That said, at least Canadian baristas don't worry about going broke if they get a burn from the steamer wand.


this is the trade-off. Higher taxes and lower overall wages = social safety net. And Canada only looks good in this regard compared to the USA. Much of Europe tends to make it work way better. And worth noting to those who seem to be demanding the wholesale dismantling of capitalism or whatever, capitalism is still very much allowed a place in the general order of things in these comparatively functional European economies.

I've said this before, I suspect I'll say it again, capitalism actually does a lot of things very well -- it just sucks as an overall guiding principle.
posted by philip-random at 4:55 PM on August 7 [5 favorites]


Great series of articles, thanks.

I'm not an economist, so I don't know exactly how this fits, but property prices and the property bubble seem like they must fit into this picture in some way. It hits workers in terms of the real impact of their wages and it squeezes business margins to the point where they don't have the money to pay more for coworkers.
posted by frumiousb at 5:03 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


it squeezes business margins to the point where they don't have the money to pay more for coworkers.

Some business yes. WalMart with $9.8B in net income, not so much.
posted by GuyZero at 5:07 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


I don't think that Canadian wages have risen have risen any more than US wages.

In Canada over the last 10 years, real (inflation adjusted) wages have increased 10%. In the U.S. about 0%.

While 1% per year isn't great, it's vastly better than in the U.S.
posted by JackFlash at 5:26 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


Last summer, a paper on the effects of Seattle's minimum-wage increase made national headlines with its conclusion: The change made low-income workers worse off, not better, because it forced employers to cut back on hiring and hours to afford paying higher wages.

Anyone who reaches that conclusion from the chart presented in the link is dishonest or ... not very good at interpreting data The biggest category of job loss is less that 1.5%. Even a 50 cent wage increase is going to more than offset this on average, and even if you're one of the unlucky ones who does lose a job: congratulations, an even high paying position just opened up.

So there is no change in overall employment rate, just some really crap jobs are no longer worth doing and disappear, to be replaced by better jobs.
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:31 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


Some business yes. WalMart with $9.8B in net income, not so much.

No, but the smaller businesses certainly. Even the medium businesses. But then that takes away choice. The large businesses will pay the minimum lowest common denominator, so the property prices keep the smaller businesses from competing for talent on wage and prices stay stagnant. Not all businesses are Walmart. (They can be both better and worse in terms of coworker treatment, that's not the point-- but the forces that drive the giants are different than the forces which drive small/medium business. )

I work in retail, so maybe what I say can be dismissed as the musings of a capitalist overlord, but I think it's important to note that a terrifying number of retailers are actually loss making. The latest UK numbers I saw imply that by the end of the year 30% of retail businesses will be loss making-- and not in a tech company on-purpose kind of way. I'm not suggesting that you weep for these companies, but given that I do not think either that worker rights will improve under the pure eCommerce players (Amazon Warehouses, anyone?) then I would be at least mildly interested in the systemic issues retail as an industry is facing. If businesses keep collapsing, it's pretty easy to keep wages low for the rest. Then combine that with the fact that their competitors are largely platforms who don't have the same wage pressure or property price increases-- at least not today. Well, I wouldn't say it's pretty for retail coworker wages or for retail in general.
posted by frumiousb at 5:55 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


My only point is "because capitalism" is a lame answer.

I think what's being elided here is that "capitalism" in this context isn't referring to the ideal, on-paper system that allocates resources among a group of rational economic participants, but is instead referring to Late Capitalism such as it actually manifests in our current social environment. As far as I can tell, proponents in these discussions of "capitalism" in the first sense make a number of fundamental errors: that the marginal-utility-per-dollar function of each actor in that system is a constant function, so that each subsequent dollar of wealth yields a utility-adjusted value of one dollar (this is plainly false, given that the wealth required to survive divided by total wealth decreases in proportion to the increase of the second quantity); that wealth maximization is the only or primary goal of the actors in the system (witness the popularity in American politics of universally harmful policies that harm marginalized groups more than they harm white people from any socioeconomic stratum); and that those actors that have accumulated large amounts of capital do not collude as a class (consider the distribution of net worth among members of Congress compared to the distribution of net worth among all people living in America, and combine that with the economic precarity of actors who don't control enough wealth to survive solely based on interest earned, and tell me that "policy" isn't a relevant factor in this equation).

I guess I can't imagine, at this point in time in the USA, that one could honestly claim that the current state of wage stagnation and wealth disparity is a mystery. It's implausible to me that anyone could be paying attention and yet retain such an unsophisticated internal model of the economic and social forces at work.
posted by invitapriore at 5:56 PM on August 7 [13 favorites]


This situation is genuinely a mystery, and I think the answer is something about human behavior and psychology, which economics tends to be a little blind to. (Economics assumes people are rational, but we all know they aren’t, hence the popularity of behavioral economics). I’ve experienced a department with dysfunctional leadership and massive, massive turnover - it took the company a ridiculously long time to deal with it. Not rational.

I tend to agree with a bunch of different points above:
- weak unions and worker protections
- rise of “gig economy” and contract workers
- Health insurance is a nightmare (I personally think single payer would be a huge economic boon to the US, in entrepreneurship alone)
- consolidation leading to fewer major employers
- employers haven’t adjusted to the reality of a worker shortage

To the last point, I loved this article making the rounds on Linked in a few weeks ago:

Job Hunters Ghosting Employers
posted by rainydayfilms at 6:00 PM on August 7 [12 favorites]


My concern about Unions as the answer is that the fungible nature of service workers makes them much easier to replace than the Auto worker

It's not about how easy to replace the worker is. It's about the fact that in the current day and age, employers face absolutely no real consequences for hardcore unionbusting.

I was actually doing some serious union organizing recently, and the company, which has a national presence, just decided it was easier to shut down the entire office rather than deal with the union. Is this illegal? Hell yeah, it's illegal as fuck. But it's going to take years to decide fully in the courts, and when that happens, they won't have to pay back wages to anyone who's taken another job in, again, the years before that case gets decided. The company itself has over a dozen broad violation charges with hundreds of incidents under each one. Will it matter? Probably not. They will wind up paying less than a year's salary for one worker, probably, in the end - and in the meantime, everyone who fought them so hard will be scattered to the winds.
posted by corb at 6:27 PM on August 7 [23 favorites]


Remember, econ theory predicts wages will converge to marginal productivity, but the government compares wages and average productivity.

Apple makes $1.8 million on average per employee, but hiring one extra Apple Store worker or even one extra engineer won't result in $1.8 million marginal revenue increase. It'll probably result in $0 marginal revenue increase.

Hiring someone to make more iPhones would result in a marginal revenue increase, but that's all done at very low cost by outsourced providers in China anyway.

The productive thing is Apple's IP (technology, brand name, etc. that have been built up over many years). The marginal contribution of one employee is negligible.

If you really think about it, that applies to most other businesses today. They're not limited by employees, they're limited by IP. The investors who invest in IP are richly rewarded, and the workers who put in labor don't get much.
posted by miyabo at 6:43 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


I admit I'm not an expert on economics, but doesn't this suggest the accepted wisdom about how the economy works is based more on ideology than reality? Like, the theory that higher profits/low unemployment will result in higher wages for workers has been the justification for almost 40 years of tax, monetary, and legal policy; and is it possible it just isn't true? Are the base assumptions about behaviors of business entities/markets resting on faulty principles? It's hard for a semi-informed layperson like me to tell, since my entire lifetime has been soaked in "trickle down" bullshit. In other words, is the belief that markets will force (some) redistribution of profits to workers under set conditions (increasing profit/decreasing unemployment) another hose job?
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:05 PM on August 7 [13 favorites]


Kitty Stardust: The history of modern economic theory is based on the idea that humans are rational. For a very simple example, consider the game show Golden Balls. If players in the final round were rational (in the economic sense), both would always choose to split the pot. That minimizes potential loss, and everyone gains something. In practice, many players try to steal the entire pot. Rather than take a sure, small amount, most people are wired to go for the bigger prize, even if it means losing everything. If someone else gets screwed out of it too, that's either acceptable collateral damage or their fault for being part of a certain out-group.
posted by SansPoint at 7:32 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]



I admit I'm not an expert on economics, but doesn't this suggest the accepted wisdom about how the economy works is based more on ideology than reality?


Well that's the implication, yes. It's sort of like evolutionary psychology in that way.
posted by some loser at 7:34 PM on August 7 [7 favorites]


I may get around to saying something about marginal productivity and elasticity of demand applying to labor and capital supply, but jesus I just read that NPR bit and it is peak NPR, the "liberal" network.

The stats on the story follow.

Intro to wage stagnation: 3 paragraphs
It might be declining unions: 3 paragraphs
It's not a real problem: 13 paragraphs, broken down into
- Speculation on wages and benefits increasing more than people think: 6 paragraphs
- Workers care about culture and purpose, not money: 2 paragraphs
- Humanizing anecdote about an employer: 5 paragraphs

I think the last bit gets me. They couldn't find a worker struggling with stagnant wages to illustrate the story, they need to talk to a small businessman who had a little turnover, poor baby?

NPR news is staffed and especially edited by people who are socially and aspirationally connected to the top quintile. They are more tolerant and empathetic than a neanderthal Republican, but 9 times out of 10 they will connect to the professional and business owner and not a low wage earner, without realizing they are doing it, indeed they probably make things worse by compensating in other stories for what they think is their leftist bias.

Yes hate listening to NPR during my commute may be making me more rant-y than I should be but I swear I didn't click on this one thinking it'd be this bad.
posted by mark k at 7:36 PM on August 7 [45 favorites]


I suspect there's a ton of churn and a lot of people working multiple hourly jobs under the 30-hour threshold to keep things afloat

Yup.
The missus now works for a home health service, and what you describe (churn and multiple jobs) is dead-on, judging from her description. There are many factors at work, of course. Primary among them is what Medicare and Medicaid (which account for the vast majority of income) are willing to pay for any given service, which ain’t much. The service manages to be able to pay $13/hour, which is, sadly, actually a bit more than the competition pays. They are all part-time. The service simply cannot afford for them to be full-time, primarily because of the healthcare mandate. FWIW, no one recieves healthcare benefits, not even the four full-time people (such as my wife.)

Pretty much all of the caregivers work multiple jobs and many of them seem to be living lives on the raw edge, running from one disaster to another without end. Car problems, bills, rent, childcare, family turmoil, etc. And, of course, healthcare. It can’t be emphasized enough how much of a financial relief it would be for everyone involved if we had single-payer.

As an aside, part of my wife’s job is to interview and hire new caregivers. She consistantly has trouble getting people to even show-up to the interview they scheduled. If she has ten interviews scheduled, it’s a good day if two show up. The rest simply ghost it. Not so much as a call to reschedule. They make the appointment, then disappear.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:24 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


is the belief that markets will force (some) redistribution of profits to workers under set conditions (increasing profit/decreasing unemployment) another hose job?

There is no indication that any set of market circumstances results in better conditions for workers; the only thing that's ever worked is legislation kicked off by worker-led protests. There is no level of profit that will be high enough that the top bosses won't insist they need all of it themselves. There is no level of unemployment so low that they can't find desperate people willing to work at rock-bottom wages - and if employment for skilled workers is running high, then they pay those what they demand, and screw over everyone who pushes a mop or answers a phone.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:31 PM on August 7 [7 favorites]


Do you think the wages of slaves went up and down as their supply and demand for their labor changed? Of course not.
In any negotiation, power imbalances determine economic imbalances.

Productivity, cost, supply, demand... these are not determinants of price. Prices can and do move contrary to whatever economic fairytale is popular with regard to them.

We talk about economics as if it were a quantitative science. It is an arena of politics and sociology and psychology. It is power and human behavior that has a psuedo-science PR team that reinforces a status quo oligarchy with non-predictive, inconsistent self-serving numerology.

If supply and demand determine price, ask any decision maker who makes or adjusts a price what the supply of the good is, or what the demand of it is. Many producers don't even know their costs. And the wages people are paid for equal work are anything but equal.

Playing along with the farce by giving credence to market narratives is the life blood of disarming and redirecting demand of workers against their bosses and the poor against the rich and projects it instead against a nebulous inhuman automaton of market forces that we are partly to blame for.

Humans make choices about hiring, pay and benefits, the executives do it for themselves shamelessly and transparently unconnected to their productivity performance supply or demand. They the turn around point to market forces, blah blah blah to deny such hiring and pay and benefits for others.

So yeah, Capitalism.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 8:34 PM on August 7 [16 favorites]


What's the impact of increasing automation, especially as "higher value" jobs start getting chipped away at?
posted by Mogur at 8:38 PM on August 7


is it possible it just isn't true?

I guess anything is possible but we have actual data over 30+ years that strongly correlates low unemployment with wage growth. (from here)

There's a whole branch of economics that actually doesn't try to predict anything but that just measures stuff. I get that the supply-side voodoo bullshit might give economics a bad name, but relatively few economists actually believed that stuff. Economics is a big field and contains a lot of people with even more opinions.
posted by GuyZero at 9:26 PM on August 7 [5 favorites]


Wages aren't rising because people will do anything for health care. It makes no difference if you make $30k or $80k in the long run without health insurance.
posted by fshgrl at 11:50 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


the whole thing where people accurately point out "Captialism" and then other people point out that under True Capitalism no such thing could ever be and it remains a mystery unresolvable by mortal man and whatever could it be? Actually still funny! I guess maybe I will never tire of that joke.
posted by mwhybark at 12:58 AM on August 8 [8 favorites]


This situation is genuinely a mystery
... :
- weak unions and worker protections
- rise of “gig economy” and contract workers
- Health insurance (...)
- consolidation leading to fewer major employers
- employers haven’t adjusted to the reality of a worker shortage


Why, it's almost as if the economic and political policies of the American political class and parties which have loudly and proudly identified themselves as capitalist for the past, what, century or more have brought about these conditions, which explicity protect and enable employers from wage cost growth! What a shocking mystery this is! Whatever could be the cause?
posted by mwhybark at 1:27 AM on August 8 [12 favorites]


My job just cut starting wages by 10 percent, while increasing healthcare costs and I'm in a union.

Doesn't feel like it.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:05 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Come on, this isn't rocket science. It's basic negotiation theory.

The division of wealth between employers and employees is only about bargaining power.

That bargaining power depends upon:
- unions
- employment terms
- health insurance (in the US)
- social support and security

There's a clear correlation across many countries where the stronger these protections, the less income inequality.
posted by happyinmotion at 2:35 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


The same phenomenon (low unemployment but little wage growth) is occurring in the UK, so it’s not likely to be something that relates to the US situation specifically.
posted by Segundus at 3:13 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


if The Economy Is This Good why Aren't Wages Rising Faster?

Because all that time and effort spent since the 80s on completely gutting the union movement is still paying off handsomely.

The same phenomenon (low unemployment but little wage growth) is occurring in the UK, so it’s not likely to be something that relates to the US situation specifically.

Reagan and Thatcher saw pretty much eye to eye on most things, and their administrations both went after their local union movements with an axe and wild abandon, ably assisted by endless propaganda from the Murdoch death star.
posted by flabdablet at 3:53 AM on August 8 [6 favorites]


Thorzdad:
As an aside, part of my wife’s job is to interview and hire new caregivers. She consistantly has trouble getting people to even show-up to the interview they scheduled. If she has ten interviews scheduled, it’s a good day if two show up. The rest simply ghost it. Not so much as a call to reschedule. They make the appointment, then disappear.

That was the gist of the linked in article I posted, but for engineers basically. The funny thing about it was all of the recruiters complaining and moaning in the article, with one true comment (Peter Cappelli:“I think [job seekers] have learned it from the employers,” He added: “The employers have been far worse about this than any of the job seekers.”). Besides some ridiculous complaining about entitled millennials in the comments, lots of people point out “hey, employers treated us horribly for the last decade, so what do they expect?” And also, “make your jobs better” which is really the point - we all know that if employers are really suffering from a lack of employees they could just pay more and make the job better. But they aren’t.

I listened to the radio version of the NPR story and it was also ridiculous- baseless speculation that benefits are better (doubtful, my cost of health insurance goes up every year in a % more than my wages) and people don’t care about money (?!?). The answer is, just pay more & make the job better if you need workers.

And I know there are tons of structural reasons it’s not happening (non competes, policy, healthcare), but I also think employers are not adjusting to the reality of actually needing workers, rather than dismissing people who are not perfect purple unicorns. The recession was ridiculous - people who were laid off through no fault of their own were then having a horrible time getting interviews because they had a “resume gap.” The power imbalance between employers and employees was intense and long. But they need workers to keep the doors of their businesses open, whether you believe in capitalism or not, and the employers will need to adjust. Maybe they can spend a little of their tax cut windfall instead of doing endless stock buybacks.
posted by rainydayfilms at 3:56 AM on August 8 [8 favorites]


I suspect there might be a relationship between people accepting lower wages and people remembering how hard it was to find work during the most recent recession.

&

Wages aren't rising because people will do anything for health care. It makes no difference if you make $30k or $80k in the long run without health insurance.


Are basically what I think. Terror makes people behave in a way that looks irrational (Actually with a good behaviour economics model that takes into account marginal utility curves, risk of ruin etc. these are perfectly rational behaviours.)

As the cost of being short term unemployed and therefore ineligible for health insurance goes up, and as savings levels go down, and as the perceived length of a likely job search goes up (the terror angle), people will be less likely to negotiate aggressively. They will 'stick' with lower paid jobs for longer and be more likely to take a new job at the offered wage immediately.
posted by atrazine at 4:52 AM on August 8 [5 favorites]


The article about ghosting made me smile, since that has become routine on the hiring side, only contacting people if they are advancing in the process. From what I can see, most places have stopped even sending out a "thanks for your application but we have filled the position" form emails. Serves them right to have candidates doing the same thing.

At the household level, the precariousness of benefits/healthcare is huge, raising the risk of quitting a job or starting a business. I can see how this benefits specific companies by helping them keep some employees who might otherwise leave, but it hurts us as a national economy because those people might otherwise be considerably more economically productive.

At least at the company where I work, it feels like "they" (meaning HR and the top executives who set policy) are still in a 2009 mindset. We made a hire recently, and it took a huge battle with HR to get the starting salary bumped up a few thousand, which is still lower than it should be. I expect there to be a wave of departures over the next year or so, because even if salaries aren't higher down the street, there will be competition on time off and other goodies.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:50 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Company owners in the same industries often have informal understandings with each other that it is "wrong" to poach workers from businesses that are often owned by their friends, and job searching is time consuming and difficult.

Informal? Try formal! The silicon valley giants actively conspired to suppress tech employee wages (in writing! like they had never seen The Wire) and got caught. They got a teeny tiny fine relative to their capital hordes.

The entire industry of employees affected got?
posted by srboisvert at 5:59 AM on August 8 [6 favorites]


it took a huge battle with HR to get the starting salary bumped up a few thousand, which is still lower than it should be.

That's the situation here, too. This is a public institution so budget is always (claimed to be) an issue, but it's also a place where the time it takes to go from "oh shit one of my reports just gave notice" to "a job posting has been put on the website" can take literally months. I can tell you that no one over there is adapting to a quickly-changing employment environment, or a quickly-changing anything.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:04 AM on August 8 [5 favorites]


it took a huge battle with HR to get the starting salary bumped up a few thousand, which is still lower than it should be.

It took years of our local management badgering upper management that they couldn't recruit and retain people before they finally relented and gave us a bump about 18 months ago. The counter argument was that we work for a non-profit so we should expect lower pay but seeing as the CEO makes $5M a year and they just announced that they're going to be spending $2 Billion on new hospital buildings, that seemed pretty like a pretty weak argument.
posted by octothorpe at 6:26 AM on August 8 [7 favorites]


That LinkedIn article was refreshing. As a freelance/contract worker, I have had to interact with that horrible cesspool very regularly over the past ten or so years. I loathe it for its fawning approach to "thought leaders" and revolting careerism and group-think, but I will admit it's been good as a source for leads from time to time.

When I've been solicited for a gig on LinkedIn, almost without fail the recruiter will "ghost" me at the precise moment they decide, on the basis of anything or nothing, that I'm not the best fit for a position. Almost none of them are flexible on pay or schedule, and typically they will avoid actually telling you this, rather leaving you waiting for a communication from them until you eventually realize it's never coming.

Though I personally can't imagine accepting a job and not showing up, I am surprised to learn that recruiters are surprised by this behavior; you'd think they would have noticed how common it is in their colleagues.
posted by lackutrol at 6:31 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


If memory serves me correctly, Paul Krugman has been pointing out since the economic recovery of nearly a decade ago that the so-called "liberal media" runs stories about $EMPLOYER not being able to find skilled labor, and yet rarely asks if the employer is willing to offer more pay and benefits to attract jobs. Which, for economics reporters, should be basic supply and demand.

"Employer unable to attract needed skill set by offering below-market" wages" is a dog-bites-person story, yet the media returns to that well, if not framed that way, time and again.
posted by Gelatin at 6:36 AM on August 8 [9 favorites]


sotonohito's fantastic post from one of the 45 mega-threads is where I begin in most discussions about wage increase. It gets the rage up to a nice rolling boil and I can move on from there.
posted by snwod at 6:42 AM on August 8 [9 favorites]


Atrios has been hammering on the "Worker Shortage" myth for a long time too. There was this local story here about a cubicle factory owner who seems mystified why he can't get people to take $12 an hour jobs to work as laborers.
posted by octothorpe at 6:43 AM on August 8 [8 favorites]


While I do think healthcare issues pretty obviously hurt American workers ability to organise, as others have noted, these issues are common to many nation-states that have things like the NHS and Medicare

Those of us who are concerned about this need to not only trust to electoral politics. Organising in our unions is crucial. Whether you're waiting for the Dems, Labour, Labor or another party, when they're in, they're not going to do anything about this without workers pushing them. They may pass those laws if we put them under pressure, that's why they're preferable, but they're also not going to do it of their own accord.

If union action is hard, and it is now in so many places, then we have a fairly obvious first thing to organise around. Here our goal is an unlimited right to strike. This, and any progress towards it, like the limited Change The Rules campaign, can help empower workers to do and ask for more. The only way we'll win a right to strike is taking illegal industrial action. Then, when people can see the power of collective action, union numbers rise again. Wages will come with them.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 6:52 AM on August 8 [7 favorites]


All that is solid melts into air.
posted by The Whelk at 6:53 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


The same phenomenon (low unemployment but little wage growth) is occurring in the UK, so it’s not likely to be something that relates to the US situation specifically.

Median real (inflation adjusted) income in the UK has been rising about 2% per year. UK median income has been rising pretty much in parallel with GDP as you would expect. In the U.S. it has been about 0%. There is something unique about the stagnation of wages in the U.S.
posted by JackFlash at 7:34 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


All that is solid melts into air.

An evocative translation, yet I'm partial to the "steamed away" translation, with the Industrial Revolution and the concomitant reliance of the last days of ancient sunlight.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:46 AM on August 8


There is something unique about the stagnation of wages in the U.S.

Lack of universal healthcare traps workers in their current jobs - it stagnates the ability to move from one employer to another easily. That is one of the factors that limits the "free market" for labour.

Canada, the U.K., Australia and anywhere else in the world with access to universal medical care are not as bad - hence the never ending stream of corporate lobbyists chipping away at these systems and attempts (successful or not) to introduce "multi-tiered" healthcare, where citizens get to "choose" improved services/reduced wait-times, provided by "for profit" companies.

No one questions that a society needs a road transportation network - it is a valid government service, yet in the U.S., healthcare is simply not a universal, basic human right.
posted by jkaczor at 8:14 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


Anyone surprised at NPR's pro-capitalism stance needs to remember that Koch Industries now sponsors MarketWatch and provides underwriting for NPR in general.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:39 AM on August 8 [9 favorites]


Reagan and Thatcher saw pretty much eye to eye on most things, and their administrations both went after their local union movements with an axe and wild abandon

yeah, I'm anything but an expert on labor history, but Ronald Reagan's war on organized labor should be at least as common knowledge as his "bringing down the Berlin Wall" or whatever.

Here our goal is an unlimited right to strike.

Bluntly, no power should be unlimited. It gets very ugly, very fast.

On a small local scale, I've experienced two transit strikes in my town. The first, where for whatever good reason, the union was thoughtful, imaginative, and never forgot that the public were their allies (ie: they kept the services going for the most part while screwing with their bosses anyway they could) was very successful and earned them long term good will. The second, where for whatever bad reason, they just shut down altogether and forced a brutal stalemate that stranded all kinds of people who had no other means of transport for four f***ing months -- well, let's just say it murdered all that good will. Not saying the union were the only villains in that scenario (they most definitely were not), but they definitely played their part.
posted by philip-random at 8:46 AM on August 8 [6 favorites]


The silicon valley giants actively conspired to suppress tech employee wages (in writing! like they had never seen The Wire) and got caught.

The so-called STEM Crisis, ginned up as part of this effort, will live on zombie-like in education policy discussions for decades, I'm guessing.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:53 AM on August 8 [9 favorites]


4 months is a brutal strike. Those poor workers. I hope they had healthy strike fund or something. Still, I hope the boss broke first. Still, the employer made the whole community suffer, so I'm sure you organised in support of the workers. Public transport should be free and plentiful , and those who provide it deserve good conditions.

It was a transit strike being crushed that provided much of the impetus for the right-to-strike. Train drivers are so overworked that its a safety risk. The govt would also like to decrease the safety delay between trains. The union was going to strike over conditions and wages, but it was ruled that it would cause too much economic damage.

The unions are saying "that's the point of a strike". Workers are essential. Society depends on them. Production and services will halt if workers are mistreated. You make it cost more not to pay workers well.
People would rather be at work. No-one goes out for 4 months for the hell of it.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:40 AM on August 8 [12 favorites]


My workplace recently went through the process of hiring new staff. My direct supervisor told me the biggest problem they had was people who scheduled interviews and then just didn't show up. She was pretty understanding, though, that when you're offering less than $15/hour and only 24 hours a week without health benefits, plus requiring a BA (Masters preferred, though it doesn't change the pay scale), and teaching experience, candidates aren't all that eager to come on board. Compensation is set by the HR department, though, and my supervisor is not authorized to negotiate salaries. There is fairly significant turnover, but the administration doesn't seem to care.
Oh, we are also a Right-to-Work state run by Rick Scott so that makes perfect sense when you think about it.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:51 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


As a counterpoint: I lived in Vancouver, the same city philip-random is talking about, during that transit strike, and yes it sucked royally as a transit user. But I wasn't angry at the drivers; I was angry at the employer for not bargaining in good faith and instead CHOOSING to strand transit riders for four months. Workers and employers don't have equal power without strong unions and the ability to strike.

Why were the drivers striking?

Because the transit authority wanted to cut routes, contract out, and replace full time workers with part time workers. The workers went on strike because the employer was insisting on privatizing, cutting services, and reducing stable, full time employment to precarious, part time jobs. These drivers in had already seen what happened to their counterparts in a similar city one province away: when Calgary's transit authority privatized and reduced work to part time, it had serious, long term negative economic consequences for drivers. When the Vancouver transit authority wouldn't back down, what were the workers supposed to do, just accept the devaluing of their labour in order not to inconvenience riders? As Anhydrous Love said, that's the point of a strike, to illustrate how essential the workers are. When their labour is removed, it becomes glaringly obvious to everyone how essential they are.

[the union] just shut down altogether and forced a brutal stalemate that stranded all kinds of people who had no other means of transport for four f***ing months

It was not the union that forced the stalemate. That kind of rhetoric creates division between workers; it encourages people to somehow see themselves as separate, with separate interests from other workers.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:12 AM on August 8 [30 favorites]


offering less than $15/hour and only 24 hours a week without health benefits, plus requiring a BA (Masters preferred, though it doesn't change the pay scale), and teaching experience

That is ridiculous. Exactly how was getting the required education for that industry a worthwhile investment? (Ok, I speak from the perspective of Canada/Ontario where minimum wage will *maybe* shortly hit $15/hr... Your location it is probably less)

Personally - one thing I have seen from places with a high minimum wage AND strong labour laws (one that seemed to make it nearly impossible to fire a "poorly chosen" employee), is that businesses tend to run under-staffed, with reduced customer service. (Or maybe that was just a cultural difference Australia - but, Ontario seems to be headed in the same direction) It seemed to mean that most small/mid-sized businesses would only hire/employ family members, because you wouldn't want to fire them anyways...

Considering the whole ballooning of the cost of education - and that most institutions prefer foreign students anyways due to their much larger tuition costs - recently, Ontario began free post-secondary education for low-income students - I don't know if it has been in-place long enough to make any sort of noticeable difference - also, interrupted last fall by a strike - and the entire scammy student load industry is not helpful (nor the fact that most governments removed the ability to wipe out student loans via bankruptcy), this whole system is beginning to look extremely rigged...
posted by jkaczor at 10:39 AM on August 8


hurdy gurdy girl -- I specifically didn't mention Vancouver, because I didn't want to get into negotiating something that happened fifteen plus years ago. My roommate at the time happened to be a bus driver, who had friends over often who were also bus drivers, and needless to say, they had lots to talk about when that strike was on, and were hardly in agreement on any of it beyond the whole thing being a clusterf*** that probably had more to do with the cynicism of the provincial govt at the time than any other single factor (ie: past strikes had always ended up being good for the overall provincial balance sheet).

Long story short -- it took more than even two sides to make that mess.
posted by philip-random at 11:12 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Personal anecdote on ghosting: I'm a professional with 15 years of experience in the architecture/design/construction field, and I'm currently in the fourth month of underemployment following a no-fault layoff. I've picked up a gig for approx 16 hours per week doing contract work.

I have more than 75 applications logged in a spreadsheet, all of which were relevant to my experience, location, and seniority level. I've received fewer than ten rejection emails, two or three personally written by a human. Out of the four interview processes I've been through, one company knowingly paid 40% under scale, another ghosted me after the second interview with owners/principals and only confirmed they'd selected a different candidate when I followed up two weeks later, and a third had a recruitment agency vastly misrepresent the role and responsibilities of the posted position which became clear during our conversation. The fourth is my current gig, which is a cool project with a lot of flexibility but my rate is 2/3 of my prior rate (staffed thru a temp agency) and my billable hours are not long-term sustainable. Fortunately I still have health care through my working partner.

It's real out there. We're considering moving to other cities at our own significant expense for better prospects. If I'm not earning more in two months when unemployment runs out, we'll have to take on a roommate to keep our house. I'm in a space where I'm overqualified for junior and some mid-level positions, but I don't have the personal contacts locally to be top of mind for senior management roles, or the tech-specific background to apply my otherwise transferable skills to that arena.

I understand how and why job seekers give up, and fall into a descending spiral of depression. The process is demeaning. I've thought about how ineffective and unpleasant some of my former coworkers are and wonder why they're still employed. My partner has talked me off the ledge several times and without her positivity and support I would be in a much worse place emotionally.

Our economy is broken.
posted by a halcyon day at 11:29 AM on August 8 [18 favorites]


No one questions that a society needs a road transportation network - it is a valid government service, yet in the U.S., healthcare is simply not a universal, basic human right.

The private public partnership toll roads beg to differ. People question every possible social good and their alternatives are almost always much much worse for everyone but the private owners of the solutions.
posted by srboisvert at 1:26 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


I blame 2008. We know that there is going to be another recession. It likely won't be as bad as then but who knows. Companies are still hoarding cash.
posted by gregjunior at 1:38 PM on August 8 [4 favorites]


As much as you might love your local barista, as far as Starbucks is concerned they're one of a million interchangeable baristas and their objective is to employ them as cheaply as possible.

The president of a college with which I am familiar (because I work there) has made it clear that we are all one of a million interchangeable faculty and his objective is to employ us as cheaply as possible.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:29 PM on August 8 [10 favorites]


The system is doing what it is designed to do. By those who it is designed to benefit and be controlled by. The propoganda doesn't match reality, because having people believe in fictions makes them easier to exploit and makes it harder for believers to form an effective reality based strategy.

You'll all get your raises in the afterlife, but only if you do your unpaid overtime as penance in the here and now. Hail Friedman.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 5:27 PM on August 8 [4 favorites]


I can’t say exactly what got us here.

But one reason we are still here is that the 99.9% of people who need it are too divided.

Somehow the fact that 99.9% of women don’t benefit from this system is a good reason to not coordinate with the 99.5% of men who also don’t benefit from this system.

Add in further distinctions for race and age and class & and the complete unwillingness to consider anything other than oppression.

The corrupting influence of power crosses all lines. Man/woman, black/white. If you got power you would end up abusing it too.
posted by KBGB at 5:58 PM on August 8


the whole thing where people accurately point out "Captialism" and then other people point out that under True Capitalism no such thing could ever be and it remains a mystery unresolvable by mortal man and whatever could it be? Actually still funny! I guess maybe I will never tire of that joke.

I'm working on finishing my degree and this was the sum of my Macro and Microeconomics classes. "Here are the rules of economics. Here are some situations where they didn't work. How could this ever be? The world may never know. Anyway, here's why economics is great."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:23 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


Basically, I think that employers have realized that if they don't raise wages, it's not like workers are going to stop coming to them looking for work. They have rent to pay and children to support. People *need* jobs, while owners can get by just fine by stretching their workforce a bit until someone agrees to work for the low wage.

And as the corporate raiding and downsizing proved in the 80s, employers also found that they can eliminate one position of three and then make the other two pick up the slack. So-called "exempt" employees -- the definition of which has been extended to include basically any white-collar job at all -- means that employers get to steal labor from their employees in the form of uncompensated overtime.

40 hours should mean 40 hours, and employers should have to pay extra for even one minute above that. Then they'd have more incentive to hire, because it actually coasts more to overwork your labor force. That issue seems like low-hanging fruit for Democrats to campaign on, since no Republican would countenance it.
posted by Gelatin at 5:34 AM on August 9 [6 favorites]


I have more than 75 applications logged in a spreadsheet, all of which were relevant to my experience, location, and seniority level. I've received fewer than ten rejection emails, two or three personally written by a human.

One of the more despicably evil developments in the job search arena is the automation of resume screening. A great deal of the time, you are weeded out, not because you don't have the qualifications, but because your resume wasn't worded or constructed in a way that the screening software was programmed to accept.

If, for instance, a job listing asks for 5 years of experience, and you have over 10 years experience, you are far better off to list your experience as "5 years +" than to crow about your ten years. The chances are very good that the software was set to accept a range of, say, 5-7 years and, if it sees any other number, that resume is rejected. And, the system isn't going to send out rejection mails to the hundreds (thousands) of auto-rejected resumes.

Similarly, your cover letter and resume better be worded almost exactly as the job listing. Quite often, the system is set-up to look for similar wording and might reject anything else. If the listing states that you need to have a BS for the job, you might be cutting your throat if you state that you have an MS in the same field.

It's an insane, maddening dance job-seekers are forced to put themselves through. Certainly, it's an example of how technology has made things worse, not better. Sure, from an HR point of view, it makes things more manageable by cutting down the number of applications an actual human has to review, but it also stands a very good chance of weeding out some of the best candidates, simply because they didn't word their resume exactly right in order to please a chunk of software.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:47 AM on August 9 [9 favorites]


One of the more despicably evil developments in the job search arena is the automation of resume screening. A great deal of the time, you are weeded out, not because you don't have the qualifications, but because your resume wasn't worded or constructed in a way that the screening software was programmed to accept.

I met someone who worked in SEO (search engine optimalization) who recommended invisibly copying large parts of the job ad into your cover letter/resume in 1pt white font, in order to fool the computer weeding.

That said, he was applying for jobs in SEO - it's not like they could complain if he gamed their 'system'.
posted by jb at 7:25 AM on August 9 [4 favorites]


Ironically I feel like all of this makes strikes and labor actions more effective, fewer workers with more responsibility, a reliance on just in time supply chains, the increasingly precarious position of middle management.

Workers of the world unite.
posted by The Whelk at 8:49 AM on August 9 [4 favorites]


...invisibly copying large parts of the job ad into your cover letter/resume in 1pt white font, in order to fool the computer weeding.

Such tricks don’t work anymore.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:30 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


Such tricks don’t work anymore.

Why is that? How have they changed the systems?
posted by jb at 1:44 PM on August 9


Why is that?

While I cannot speak for all of them, the ones I'm passingly familiar with are "smart" (note: they are not actually smart in any reasonable definition of the word) enough to detect such obvious tricks and discard the enclosing resume. If you're sending them a Word file or PDF, they can scan the formatting tags, so they know you've made something 1pt white, and then they ditch the file ("it, uh, *cough* had some ... errors ... in parsing so we, um, *cough* decided it was probably, uh, malware? Yeah, malware, that's it. It was malware. Better to be safe than sorry, and all that, you know.")
posted by aramaic at 2:36 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


To the last point, I loved this article making the rounds on Linked in a few weeks ago:

Job Hunters Ghosting Employers


In fields ranging from food service to finance, recruiters and hiring managers say a tightening job market and a sustained labor shortage have contributed to a surge in professionals abruptly cutting off contact and turning silent — the type of behavior more often associated with online dating than office life.

Good -- recruiters routinely do the same thing; job applicants often get no communication at all beyond an automated "thanks for applying / do not respond to this auto generated email" message. (I'm currently in a job search, so I know.)

Which means the last sentence is nonsense. That type of behavior is more often with recruiters and employers than employees, and as the hiring people themselves established this pattern, it's hardly surprising that employers with economic clout to do so do the same.
posted by Gelatin at 5:09 AM on August 10


Automation of resume screening originally evolved as a way to avoid racial bias in the job search process.
posted by JPD at 5:51 AM on August 10


Automation of resume screening originally evolved as a way to avoid racial bias in the job search process.

Then it's a shame that it's been so problematic.

When thinking about barriers in employment that people of colour I've known have talked about, it's not just straight bias (against names, etc.), but also bias against people who have taken different paths to where they are. Like someone who has very strong skills, but may not have a BA or Masters in the field; they learned what they needed to know on the job. A lot of older people of colour in my local area have talked about being pushed out of social services, for example, because they lack educational credentials that younger people have.

If I were trying to improve the equity in my hiring, I would move away from standardizing requirements, especially in terms of formal education, and think more about what skills and experience the position needs. An office manager doesn't need a BA; it's more important that they can google answers to Excel challenges and implement them - and are generally a self-teacher, because things are always changing.

But that kind of personal touch in hiring takes more time and money than people are willing to put to it - and when you're hiring because you're understaffed, it's even worse.
posted by jb at 7:44 AM on August 10 [2 favorites]


more on precarity and distributional national accounts...
-Many Americans Still Feel the Sting of Lost Wealth
-Democrats Must Reclaim the Center ... by Moving Hard Left (via)
Centrist Democrats weren’t blind to this inequality. They just refused to believe that it was a product of the economic rules they helped write. Working people weren’t falling behind because markets were structured to funnel all the rewards of growth to the top, centrists told themselves; the middle class was falling behind because it lacked the skills to compete in the new “knowledge economy.” After all, wages were rising for highly-educated Americans—you know, like centrist Democratic politicians—so middle-class Americans just needed to become more like them. Companies said they were desperate to give high-paying jobs to American workers, if only they could find workers who were qualified to do the jobs. None of this meant that centrist Democrats were blaming the middle class for its struggles. They didn’t expect working Americans to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” without any help from Uncle Sam (they weren’t Republicans, after all.) They just thought that the median worker needed a better education or retraining, not a modicum of bargaining power with her employer. It wasn’t rapacious economic elites who were preventing workers from getting reasonable wages and benefits. It was the damn teachers unions.
-The Radical Labor Policy That Every Democrat Should Run On (via)
As Tuesday night’s election results in deep-red Missouri made clear, when American voters are asked to take sides between management and labor, there isn’t much of contest. The GOP owes its grip on power to racial, cultural, and regional polarization. If class identity were more salient in American politics, a party as fervently committed to upward redistribution as the Republicans wouldn’t have a prayer of competing in national elections.

And there are few better ways for Democrats to increase the salience of class identity in our politics than to start a national debate over whether workers deserve a seat in corporate boardrooms. Progressivism isn’t always pragmatic politics. But calling on workers to seize (influence over their employer’s small share of) the means of productions sometimes is.
> People really dislike getting shot and cops are really willing to shoot people.

also because police unions are exempted from efforts to gut collective bargaining rights?
posted by kliuless at 4:56 AM on August 15 [5 favorites]


Don’t Expect a Big Raise Next Year - Annual compensation budgets are stubbornly hovering around 3 percent.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:14 AM on August 16






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