A departure for the Dude today. With all the economic turmoil, the concept and foundations of work are being reexamined, and discussed. In an OpEd he read in The NY Times this week, there was an argument that the covid pandemic was emphasizing the past trends of creating a lot of low paying jobs, and how those jobs weren’t paying enough for people to be functional in the current economy.
But it wasn’t the article that caught the Dude’s eye. As is his wont, he glanced at the comments. Near the top was a small manufacturing operation owner in Philadelphia who had to pontificate about his struggle to find employees, and why that is driving him to ever more automation.
It was how he bragged that he paid $18 an hour to start, and most of his staff made a little over $20 an hour, that he provided health insurance, and - the Dude is getting the vapors - that he even provides PTO benefits.
Yet this comment author complained that he couldn’t find people for these great jobs, the last “good" hire was over two years ago.
Plenty to unpack there, but, the one that really stuck in the Dude’s craw was that at $18 an hour he couldn’t find employees. He was indignant that people weren’t flocking to his doorstep clamoring for those jobs, forcing him to invest in more automation instead.
The Dude’s take
While this small manufacturing concern’s owner felt he was being generous with his initial offer of $18 an hour, in reality, if he wasn’t able to hire people at that wage, perhaps it is because he isn’t paying enough? Before the COVID-19 blew up the labor market, the unemployment rate was the lowest it’s been in more than 50 years, and that means you have to compete for employees.
You do that by offering more money. $18 may seem like a lot, but that translates to $37K a year, hardly a “good” living, especially in Philadelphia.
If you are struggling to fill positions, you are either too picky in what you are looking for (the unicorn syndrome) or you are grossly underbidding.
This isn’t the only time the Dude has seen this argument bantered about. Just about every article on employment and the economy that has comments open are full of comments by these altruistic business owners crabbing about how they can’t find people to fill jobs for salaries they believe are good.
Then they go on to say that they will either buy more automation, or move to contract manufacturers in China, clinging to this argument that they couldn’t find Americans to fill roles that would allow them to remain in the USA.
Cry the Dude a fucking river, go outsource, but we know that it is because you were too cheap to pay enough to find workers.