Tag Archives: baby boomers

Nobody Wants to Work

We’re closed today because nobody wants to work, said the sign on the restaurant’s door.

This lament will be familiar to any restaurant or business owner in an industry that survives on a business model of low paying jobs.  Simply raising wages may not be sufficient to attract workers, even if it were financially feasible, which it usually isn’t.  Working conditions are also important.

So take another look at that statement from the perspective of the workers.  As someone whose been as a short-order cook, a gas station attendant (the only one not robbed in broad daylight by an armed nutjob) and a motel maid, that message is insulting. 

It says I showed up for every assigned shift, pulled double shifts when asked, dealt with horrible and rude customers, put up with unreasonable and demanding bosses, and all for a company that doesn’t value me as a person or an employee. 

Blue collar workers face job insecurity.  Millions lost their jobs during the pandemic and many of those jobs aren’t coming back.  Those still employed worry about losing their jobs even as they work extra hours due to a shortage of workers.   

Blue collar workers face housing insecurity.  Whether paying a mortgage or renting their homes, costs are going up.  Many blue collar workers never earn enough money to build a nest egg to protect them financially if they lose their jobs.  They are always a paycheck away from default and a possible eviction.    

Blue collar workers face food insecurity.  Inflation hits the poorest first and the hardest.  As more of a family’s earnings must go to pay for housing and utilities, there is less to pay for food.  Food pantries say they’ve been overwhelmed with the numbers needing food assistance.

Blue collar workers face a health crisis.  They often lack employer-sponsored health coverage, and even if it’s offered, they probably can’t afford the payroll deductions for their portion of the premium.  But they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, particularly in the states which refused for political reasons to expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor.  As a result, treatable health conditions become life threatening.

All these insecurities pile up to emotional and physical burnout. Blue collar workers are exhausted.  They have spent decades working jobs that paid little and offered stingy benefits, while facing condescension and amused contempt from people who either never worked these types of jobs or have forgotten what it was like.

Blue collar workers are reacting to burnout exactly like their white collar counterparts. The Baby Boomers are retiring and those who can are switching to jobs with better pay, working conditions and employee benefits. That leaves some employers in a bind.  That bind won’t be fixed by accusing the potential workforce of not wanting to work.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps small businesses create human resources policies and risk mitigation programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Finding Hope

An emergency polio ward in Boston in 1955 equipped with iron lungs. These pressurized respirators acted as breathing muscles for polio victims, often children, who were paralyzed. www.apimages.com

When I graduated from college in 1979, the commencement speaker was none other than Dr. Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine. I don’t honestly remember much of what he said, but I do remember being in awe. You see my childhood and, for that matter, the childhood of my entire generation, was in large part defined by the polio epidemic. I recall hearing stories about children living in iron lungs. Former President Franklin Roosevelt used a wheelchair. And the father of one of my friends walked with a leg brace following a battle with the disease. A rite of passage was lining up with all the other pre-kindergartners and our parents and siblings to receive the oral polio vaccine in a sugar cube. I was excited to finally be ready for school. My mom cried because we would all finally be protected from the deadly virus.

Polio was finally declared eradicated in the United States in the 1990s. Still today’s children are vaccinated for polio along with mumps, measles, and rubella, among others. In most public-school districts, many summer camps, sports teams, and universities, proof of vaccination is a requirement for enrollment. Recent vaccine developments include meningitis and HPV which are recommended for teens and young adults heading off to college. I don’t recall anyone I know resisting these basic, preventative, yet miraculous scientific developments. I am aware there are some people who are fundamentally opposed to any and all vaccines for a variety of reasons. While I don’t agree with them and believe they are taking risks with their family’s health, I respect their conviction and support their decisions.

There have been many comparisons between the historic polio epidemic and the current COVID19 pandemic. Both are viruses, can be deadly, can lead to long term damage, and both can be eradicated by vaccine. So why is there so much confusion and controversy around the COVID19 vaccine? In an article in Discover Magazine, Carl Kurlander at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote, “Developing the vaccine was a collective effort, from national leadership by President Franklin Roosevelt to those who worked alongside Salk in the lab and the volunteers who rolled up their sleeves to be experimentally inoculated.” He goes on to add, “That was a time, said Salk’s oldest son, Dr. Peter Salk, in an interview for our film, when the public trusted the medical community and believed in each other. I believe that’s an idea we need to resurrect today.”

For the past year and a half, like many of us, I have felt the weight of so much pain and loss. I’ve been isolated, sad, lonely, disheartened, and disillusioned. When I was finally able to be vaccinated alongside my husband and two of my children, my daughter and I hugged each other and cried tears of relief and gratitude. I waited anxiously until my son in another state could be vaccinated. I continue to marvel at the rapid development of this life-saving vaccine and the ongoing development of treatments for the virus. But I am also angry. Angry at those who have turned the virus and the vaccine into a political cudgel, to be used on either side of the aisle. I am angry that in this time of unlimited potential for information sharing, there is so much misinformation being weaponized to further any agenda other than ending this scourge that continues to kill. In my darkest thoughts, I feel despair about what this means for the future of our country and of humankind, and I pray I am wrong.

I am not a pessimist. Most people who know me would say I am most definitely a cockeyed optimist, often not seeing the darkness in front of me. So, I will finish with something positive. Ann Frank famously said two things that give me hope.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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