The Widdershins

Archive for January 6th, 2022

If Time Magazine truly wanted to impress in 2021, they would have made the American Worker Person of the Year. With all its ferocious ups and downs, what stood out in my mind the most about 2021 was the way workers were able to shift the balance of power from all in favor of corporations, to mostly in favor of people. And no, SCOTUS, corporations aren’t people, no matter what you say!

The media characterized this long-overdue re-balancing of power by calling it a “worker shortage.” There was no worker shortage; there was a shortage of people who were willing to work for less than a living wage. What the corporations were feeling was the impact, of course, of the Democrats’ infusion of tax cuts and cash that directly benefited the poor and working classes for the first time in decades. This gave people working in low-wage jobs the freedom to catch their breath, look at their lives and demand better treatment for themselves. In fact, the Democrats’ New Deal-style policies caused huge changes in the way many industries paid workers – and have impacted state legislation as well. In 26 states, the minimum wage will be raised to $15 per hour in 2022 – and employers in many cases are raising the floor above that.

A tight labor market resulted in many companies, ranging from banks to retailers to pizzerias, hiking wages for hourly workers to attract and retain staff. This year marked the first time that the average wage of restaurant and supermarket workers rose above $15 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wages and salaries increased 4.2% for the 12 months ended in September 2021, the BLS found.

Other employers have surpassed the $15 benchmark already. Amazon has paid its workforce at least $15 an hour since 2018 and began offering new hires an average of $18 an hour this September. Costco raised its minimum wage to $17 an hour in October. Full-time employees of crafting retailer Hobby Lobby will earn at least $18.50 an hour starting Jan. 1. T-Mobile is paying its 75,000-person workforce at least $20 an hour. And Bank of America has pledged to pay hourly workers $25 an hour by 2025.

“It’s a job-seekers’ market, which means competition to keep and find top talent is competitive — and as a great employer, we like it that way,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert wrote in a letter to employees announcing the wage hike on Dec. 10.

As world-changing as all of this has been, the Democrats could not have made their investments in working people without the G-D pandemic, which highlighted the plight of “essential” workers in a way that really hit home for most Americans. (I say “most” Americans because as we know, the MAGAts don’t care about anyone but themselves.) The unprecedented upheaval of COVID-19 had us questioning everything about our society. This includes not just people who were underpaid and under-respected, but information workers (like me), who decided we really didn’t need to live in super-expensive cities and suburbs when we have proven we can do our jobs remotely. We reclaimed our lives from our punishing commutes, which in cities like San Francisco and New York can extend to 3 hours round trip. The benefit to our quality of life was huge. I have many colleagues who live in Utah or Montana, where you can realistically buy property as a young person just starting out…in the Bay Area, to buy the house I’m renting (not big or super fancy) would cost almost $1M, and it’s 60 minutes from San Francisco on a good day.

So let’s raise a glass to the American Worker – may the power we gained continue and increase in 2022.

Open thread as always.

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