As a writer, I get stuck every so often straining for the right words to tell my story. Over the years, though, I’ve learned when to quit tying myself into mental knots over sentence construction, instead stepping back and rethinking where my story is going.
This process is essentially what millions of American working families are going through this year as record numbers of them are shocking bosses, politicians and economists by stepping back and declaring: “We quit!”
Most of the quits are tied to very real abuses that have become ingrained in our workplaces over the past couple of decades: poverty paychecks, no health care, unpredictable schedules, no child care, understaffing, forced overtime, unsafe jobs, sexist and racist managers, aggressive and rude customers — and so much more.
Specific grievances abound, but at the core of each is a deep, inherently destructive executive-suite malignancy: Disrespect. The corporate system has cheapened employees from valuable human assets worthy of being nurtured and advanced to a bookkeeping expense that must be steadily reduced. It’s not just about paychecks, it’s about feeling valued, feeling that the hierarchy gives a damn about the people doing the work.
Yet corporate America is going out of its way to show that it doesn’t care — and, of course, workers notice. So unionization is booming, millions who were laid off by the pandemic are refusing to rush back to the same old grind, and now millions who have jobs are quitting. This is much more than an unusual unemployment stat — it’s a sea change in people’s attitude about work itself… and life.
Meanwhile, Those corporate bosses are sputtering in outrage at you working stiffs, spewing expletives about the fact that while the U.S. economy has been coming back… you haven’t!
“Labor shortage,” they squeal, lazily accusing the workforce of mass laziness. They charge insultingly that millions of workers got used to laying around during the pandemic. Noting that there is now an abundance of jobs open for everything from restaurant workers to nurses, the bosses and their political dogs bark that you people need to get back in the old harness and start pulling again.
Adding a nasty bite to their bark, several GOP governors cut off unemployment benefits, hoping to force people to work. Other businesses have proffered signing bonuses, free dinner coupons and other lures, while such notoriously mingy outfits as McDonald’s and Walmart have even upped their wage scale in an effort to draw workers.
Yet, no go — the employment flow this year is going the other way! There’s even an official economic measurement of this phenomenon called the “Quits Rate,” and it is surging beyond anything our economy has experienced in modern memory — in April, 4 million workers quit; in May, another 3.6 million left, in June, 3.9 million said adios! The “Quits” are so unexpected and so widespread that pundits have started dubbing this year “The Great Resignation.” The most common comment by those who are walking out? “I hate my job.”