The media failed to report the big story, which is actually a very good one: American workers are now flexing their muscles for the first time in decades. You might say workers have declared a national general strike until they get better pay and improved working conditions.
My take: workers are reluctant to return to or remain in their old jobs mostly because they’re burned out. Some have retired early. Others have found ways to make ends meet other than remain in jobs they abhor. Many just don’t want to return to backbreaking or mind-numbing low-wage shit jobs.
The media and most economists measure the economy’s success by the number of jobs it creates, while ignoring the quality of those jobs. That’s a huge oversight.
Workers are fed up, wiped out, done-in, and run down. In the wake of so much hardship, illness and death during the past year, they’re not going to take it anymore.
Corporate America wants to frame this as a “labor shortage.” Wrong. What’s really going on is more accurately described as a living-wage shortage, a hazard pay shortage, a childcare shortage, a paid sick leave shortage, and a healthcare shortage. Unless these shortages are rectified, many Americans won’t return to work anytime soon. I say it’s about time.
That’s the good news. The hidden consequences are also good news: higher ‘unemployment’ means lower consumption means lower carbon costs to the environment. The pandemic together with the free money from the American Recovery Act; the realization of just how rigged the economy is and of who benefits from it; that the government can in fact with ease and even efficiency provide a basic universal income, without exploitation of labor; the taste for security, leisure, lack of stress, time with family and friends despite isolation; and perhaps, simply a radical shift in what’s considered ‘normal’; has opened up a space for a protean new political consciousness.
The bad news is that of course it will not last. All the powers of exploitative capital that govern ‘normalization processes’ will return perhaps at a slightly higher wage, with perhaps for some, a few more bones in the shape of benefits thrown in. Those participating in the spontaneous ‘general strike’ will be lured back into the belly of the beast and lulled again into the torpor of normalcy. Their momentary political ‘enlightenment’ will be reconsidered as merely a fantasy or momentary lapse in good, pragmatic judgment; for, whatever glimpse of enlightenment they may have attained will soon be reconsidered as a betrayal of duty to family, party, country – which are essentially simply scale shifts in the same structure that maintain the power of the social Darwinist elite. And for those who attempt to hold onto the vision of a better life beyond capital, Capital will devise ways to hunt them down and either force their compliance, or ruin them.
Reich’s liberalism will be the tool by which that happens, in the form of an inevitably compromised, scaled down to bare knuckles version of remedying the list of shortages that need addressing to bind them again to Capital’s devastating, mind-numbing, managerial, accountant’s conception of ‘life’.