Yeah, the shaming of the worker classes is getting really old. “Lazy slackers!! Get back to work churning out mass quantities of goods and services to serve ‘the economy’!”
I know I’ve written about this topic often, but I can’t overemphasize how central it is to creating a sustainable society. For people and for the rest of the planet.
I personally hope the labor crunch ushers in an age of worker autonomy, and creative & occupational freedom. Decent pay is one element. But there are many other elements as well. Reasonable breaks during shift; ample time-accommodation for parents to take care of their kids without fearing loss of job; human schedule (a happy medium between zero hours and 60; reasonable notice of upcoming schedule, etc.) — that kind of thing. Nutshell: Treat employees as valued human beings, not machinery.
I respect the establishments that have reduced their hours to avoid overworking their existing staff. Everyone needs a break — including management too.
Here is my wish for everyone in the work force, whether currently employed, unable to find work, or not choosing to work at the moment. A note in advance: When I say “scrubbing floors,” etc., just so it’s clear, I believe that any form of work can be decent and honorable. I have done all kinds of work, from scrubbing floors and toilets to shoveling manure to hauling people around on a bicycle-taxi, to working a cash register to repairing clothes, and many other types of work, and have found dignity and joy and satisfaction in work of all kinds. This isn’t an anti-work speech; it’s a pro-worker speech.
If you’re a parent, may you find a way to stay home fulltime with your kids, if that’s what you want. May you find a way to only have to scrub floors or serve burgers or sling espresso two or three days a week, or one — or none!
Here is my wish for all of us, working people. May the stimulus payments, eviction embargoes, employer desperation, and other manifestations of the “pandemic slack-pocket” give you room to breathe, think, take stock.
May you, if you so desire, find an apprenticeship, classes, or other upward path to a trade that commands respect and allows you to write your own ticket.
If you’re an artist or writer or musician, may you find that you actually can pay your bills this way, and only have to mow lawns or clean houses two or three days a week, or one day a week — or not at all!
If you’re a restaurant worker, may you realize you can easily start your own micro kitchen, alone or with friends, and get by financially while having more say over your own time.
If you’re a metaphysical type, a philosopher, a meditator — may you find a way to spend most of your days channeling your mind in this way, and only have to drive Uber or deliver food or work in a warehouse a couple days a week — or none!
If you’re a writer or other creator, may you find a way to make the Patreon model work for you!
If you’re a landscaper or renovation contractor or painter, may you tap into better-paying clients so you don’t have to run yourself ragged.
If you’re an activist, may you find the leeway to spend as much time as you like engaged in your good work, freed of the necessity to spend most of your waking hours just working to make ends meet.
If there’s a business “pipe dream” you have, may you find the courage and wherewithal to make it a reality.
Whatever your chosen occupation is, may you find freedom and dignity in it. May you never have to put up with ridiculous nonsense like not even getting a 15-minute break on a 10-hour shift. Or being forced to risk your life during a pandemic because some politician labeled your industry an “essential” category.
May you find creative and occupational freedom. May you find your ideal right livelihood. Every occupation is needed in the world, just as every plant and animal has its place in the ecosystem.
On a related note: Some years back, I knew a couple who retired from a large rat-race metropolitan area to a more rural area. One thing they noticed about their new rural life, to their dismay, was that it was hard to get painters, renovators, or other contractors to come do work on their house during the prime hunting and fishing seasons.
I sympathized with my friends’ plight, but could easily see the other side of things.
1) When people can feed themselves without having to go out and hustle for money, they can afford to say no to work. Or they can afford to schedule work according to their own timetable.
2) When people’s cost of living is lower, they can afford to take more time to savor the things that they find meaningful.
Those “hard-to-get” contractors knew what time it was — literally!
I’ve said it about a bajillion times on this blog and will probably say it about a bajillion times more, because it’s so true: Cutting your overhead, to the extent that you are able, is the best way to gain occupational freedom and creative autonomy, not to mention peace of mind.
When you do it voluntarily and deliberately, with a higher goal or purpose in mind, cutting your living costs isn’t deprivation; it’s flat-out wealth creation. Most of us depend to a degree on government, employers/clients, landlords, corporations, centralized systems. But to the extent we can minimize that dependence, we create our own freedom and wealth.
• “Between concerns around health risks and wages, many restaurant workers have used the pandemic as a chance to catch their breath and reevaluate their career paths. Others have used increased unemployment pay as a launch pad to create their own businesses. And some are just plain done with being political punching bags for angry customers.” (“Long hours, health risks and ‘ghost applicants’ lead to desperate staffing situations at Michigan restaurants”; Lindsay Moore, MLive.com)
• “I spent a day talking to servers and bartenders about the times that customers had asked them to remove their masks: The way the request was delivered as a flirt but landed as a threat. The fact that male customers might not realize how much power their demands had over the livelihoods of their female waitstaff — or worse, that they might be fully aware.” (“‘Take off your mask’: Boorish customers have found a way to make sexual harassment even more of a hazard”; Monica Hesse, washingtonpost.com)