A recent article from Reuters news agency says workers in an Indiana community want a little more out of jobs than just a job. The community has a number of manufacturing jobs so you would think it is the ideal work location but these workers really want something else and it’s easy to understand why.
We’ve heard the post-presidential election analysis that’s about people being left behind from the recession and the need for jobs. But people, such as those in Indiana, don’t want just any job. It is more than “just” a job. It’s about having good wages and good benefits rather than low wages and no benefits which is what happens with some jobs. It’s even more difficult to accept when you had a good paying job and benefits and it went away through no fault of your own. What also is discouraging is the only available jobs may be the low-paying job without benefits.
The lack of benefits means no healthcare, no retirement and sometimes no unemployment if you get laid off. There also may be no guarantee a certain number of hours or longevity of a job. The job could end at any time. It also means someone may need to work multiple jobs to equal one full-time job and it doesn’t guarantee the wage is a living wage.
And more importantly, that also means little time for a father or mother to spend with their children, or there may be little opportunity to get ahead because there isn’t enough money for job training and education or the ability to save money for emergency purposes. It can also determine, without any type of benefits, some workers have to make a decision to not stay home with a sick child or lose wages that could help pay for necessities.
This problem also includes workers deemed as temp workers and independent contractors. They may have their own set of issues. If either classification is lucky enough to have money, they also probably need to purchase their own health insurance or establish funds for their own retirement. That’s good if they can do that but not everybody has enough money. There are other issues, too, such as workers’ compensation and unemployment that may or may not be available to contract workers or temp workers.
In some cases people are able to receive financial assistance if they get laid off through no fault of their own. That’s through unemployment benefits. Not everyone, though, is eligible for it. What’s more is if someone is eligible for it, that unemployment may be half, if that much, of what they earned on the job. That may not be enough to pay the bills and buy food. It’s a horribly demoralizing situation to be in when you have to rely on assistance especially when you’ve been able to depend on a steady income.
We do a great job of providing training particularly if someone is laid off so they will have the opportunity to learn a new skill if need be. That’s great! We need to do that. But, we need to do more. We need to be able to provide an element of security and free of fear of the future.
This is the issue that angers everybody that’s associated with jobs. Those workers in Indiana represent what is important to most people. That is we want sense of security. It’s one of our basic needs. Without it we feel less than whole. People want to be able to live their lives with some level of confidence of the future and free of fear. They’re tired of uncertainty. People don’t want to just get by. They want a decent paying job with benefits, not multiple jobs or low-paying jobs. This is why people feel ignored and they’re lashing out at anybody or anything that appears to prevent that pursuit of happiness declared to be important by our forefathers.
The Roosevelt Institute along with the National Employment Law Project (NELP) wrote a report earlier this year on the inability of workers to rely on benefits that provide a financial safety net for them. The report tells how work has changed in the 21st century and that is because there are more workers with multiple employers or more contracted or temp workers instead of the traditional job that everyone wants with the good pay and benefits.
In addition, the Roosevelt/NELP report says, the model everyone has relied on is one where the employer is burdened with providing benefits. It’s a model that is based on employment laws that now are 70 years old and out-of-date.
It’s understandable some employers don’t have the ability to pay higher wages and benefits. Start-ups and some small businesses may not be able to provide them. That’s only realistic but that doesn’t excuse the wealthiest nation on earth not to help those who need it.
Roosevelt Institute and NELP have some suggestions to help with this important dilemma. One of the things they suggest is to create a portable benefit package. This package would “travel” wherever the worker would go. It would be good for the employer because it wouldn’t burden them with additional costs which is especially good for start-ups and small business employers. It would guarantee workers with a sense of security and ownership to their benefit package. Laws would need to be updated. It also could be a new approach for unions. Unions could not only manage a universal benefit package but they could also be the negotiators for that package. It’s something that could be done per industry and industry wide.
Roosevelt and NELP also suggested incentives for employers that provided benefits. If you have an industry-wide group, there could be a benefit pool where each employer could provide a portion toward benefits and maybe wages.
Something else we have blogged about before is the idea of a universal income. We identified a few locations that were either considering or testing the concept including one in the U. S. This last week Hawaii became the next location to consider universal income. Legislation was approved to look into establishing this benefit for the citizens of Hawaii. They did this all because of what we described above that is occurring. Legislators are concerned technology will change the landscape for workers.
But for all the talk there has been about the presidential election and the anger that is out there, more needs to be done in Washington D. C. to help workers. Some legislation has been created. Some good, some bad but legislation definitely continues to be created to help corporations and businesses “create” jobs.
We play a game with teams called Win As Much As You Can and every time the outcome is the same. Instead of looking for the way everybody can win, it becomes the same old thing – for me to win, somebody has to lose. It seems Washington loves to play that game over and over. It seems as if the American worker is on the losing side. When will we change the game?