Low-quality jobs are increasingly the norm out there.

December 30th, 2017 | Posted by Mush in Soapbox

In which I wrong a Facebook response so long I didn’t bother to post it.

“Uber pays out $200mm per month to drivers.” And? To how many drivers and for how many hours of work? The grand total is irrelevant, it merely indicates the size of the racket.

I don’t use Uber because their model is utter rot. I don’t use DoorDash, and now I don’t use Instacart, either. These jobs are awful and these companies should die, because their aim and goal is to put billions in the pockets of a few app bros and some shareholders/investors by effectively stealing it — primarily from their own employees, but also from the communities they operate in by ignoring and circumventing licensing and regulatory requirements with douchy legalese.

Uber, for example, is not a free market solution to a real market pain point — we already had licensed and regulated cabs and taxis — it’s theft. Calling an employee an independent contractor to avoid paying them for their work is illegal, and it’s why all of these gig economy companies have been repeatedly sued.

“Not happy that your employer is illegally not paying you? Well, go improve yourself and get a better job” is crap advice when better jobs increasingly do not exist.

One, more people go to college than ever before, so much of the workforce is already degreed, and going back to school does little to increase hireability and just increases debt (unless you happen to trade in your lit degree for a specialized, high-demand engineering degree, not easy when you’re a mature adult). Two, decade upon decade of automation and international outsourcing mean vastly fewer decent jobs overall. Three, the jobs that do exist pay what they did 30 years ago, because wage growth has been stagnant that long.

For example, being a warehouse worker was once a decent so-called unskilled job; you could work an honest day and support a family modestly. Today warehouse work is likely to be for Nike or Amazon or Walmart and part-time, temporary, and terrifically stressful, paying less than a living wage.

When economists talk about the number of jobs added every term it seems like net growth, but the majority of these jobs are low-quality, temporary, part-time or gig economy jobs, lacking security, bennies, or even reasonable scheduling.

If you haven’t worked a random schedule, week after week, in a shitty or dangerous or high-stress environment, for years on end, you are probably incapable of modeling how exhausting and stressful and inhumane it is.

Try working every single holiday for five years straight like the support technician you spoke with on the phone who solved your internet issues. Try closing at night and then being forced to open the next morning several times a month for several years straight like the home improvement store associate who solved your DIY plumbing problem or the young mom who made your latte.

Hell, try making $15 an hour working required 24-hour shifts like the EMT who stabilized your uncle after his heart attack. Try working 60 hour weeks for decades like the nurses who tended you at the hospital.

Telling people in those circumstances to try harder is pure asshattery. For a lot of the middle-sliding-rapidly-into-lower class workforce, there simply isn’t better work. The jobs are gone. There’s other, different shitty work, but millions barely have time to even look for other, different shitty work anyway, because scheduling is so terrible for everyone who isn’t fortunate enough to have a job with banker’s hours… which is the overwhelming majority of the workforce, skilled or unskilled, these days.

I realize that many white men still have good jobs, and believe they have them due to merit and skill and self-effort (rather than privilege and luck, which is actually the case), but even despite these beliefs they’re not inherently better than everyone else.

Stating that there are plenty of great jobs out there if only people would try harder is untrue, no matter how much they believe it. The facts are the facts: wage stagnation, automation and technology, outsourcing everything from manufacturing to call center jobs, the death of unions, the gutting of worker protections: low-quality jobs are increasingly the norm out there.

And suggesting that people up sticks and move to where the good jobs are is more elitist bullshit, considering half the nation doesn’t even have $400 on hand for an emergency. Moving is expensive and presupposes a financial buffer that just isn’t there anymore.

So I repeat myself: people don’t take shitty jobs because they’re idiots. They take them because they have to earn and, increasingly, that’s all there is.

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