The onslaught of news accounts purporting to blame workers for not rushing back to their former jobs continues.

This is a classic example of framing a complex issue to fit a right wing narrative. It’s a propaganda campaign to undermine a shift in public opinion about the role of government in an almost post-pandemic world.

The Big Picture here is that a year of lockdowns and other public health measures have changed the attitudes of a significant portion of the population.

A Democratic administration has stepped into this change by offering up a slate of bold and mostly progressive proposals, reversing the outflow of wealth from the bottom 90% of the population, along with recreating portions of a social safety net.

And here’s the thing: People LIKE these ideas.

A disappointing (to economists, anyway) jobs report for April has led to a right wing push to curb pandemic benefits; governors in several states have already announced cuts in unemployment benefits.

There has also been a spate of media accounts about businesses struggling to find workers, generally focused on restaurant employers saying disparaging things about the people they should be wooing.

This may seem counterintuitive until you realize that way too many of these bosses never looked at their employees as human beings in the first place. Why else would an employer think they could get away with poverty wages, no benefits, and crappy working conditions?

What’s really going on is a fundamental shift in the way people look at jobs and families. Two thirds of those who lost their jobs over the past year don’t know if they want to return to the same-old same-old.

From the Washington Post 

  • But another way to look at this is there is a great reassessment going on in the U.S. economy. It’s happening on a lot of different levels. At the most basic level, people are still hesitant to return to work until they are fully vaccinated and their children are back in school and day care full time. For example, all the job gains in April went to men. The number of women employed or looking for work fell by 64,000, a reminder that child-care issues are still in play.
  • There is also growing evidence — both anecdotal and in surveys — that a lot of people want to do something different with their lives than they did before the pandemic. The coronavirus outbreak has had a dramatic psychological effect on workers, and people are reassessing what they want to do and how they want to work, whether in an office, at home or some hybrid combination.
  • A Pew Research Center survey this year found that 66 percent of the unemployed had “seriously considered” changing their field of work, a far greater percentage than during the Great Recession. People who used to work in restaurants or travel are finding higher-paying jobs in warehouses or real estate, for example. Or they want a job that is more stable and less likely to be exposed to the coronavirus — or any other deadly virus down the road. Consider that grocery stores shed over 49,000 workers in April and nursing care facilities lost nearly 20,000.

“We’re literally watching the largest labor movement in modern American history happen in the form of paper signs taped to the windows of fast-food and fast-casual restaurants”–Devita Davidson, Director at Detroit Food Lab

Way too many of the news stories, like this one at San Diego’s KUSI, interview employers who repeat the right wing mantra “People don’t want to work.”

The industry publication Plateline did a deep dive into why people aren’t coming back to work in restaurants that included actually interviewing some of those people:

  • For every well-meaning owner who set up a GoFundMe and connected their team with resources, there are many more who ceased communication after March 16. “Restaurants that laid people off right at the beginning of the pandemic are now ramping up hiring and not realizing that people don’t want to be abandoned again,” said Chef Eric Rivera in a recent Twitter thread.
  • Another group that’s sitting out in significant numbers: women. Alexandra Cherniavsky, a sommelier in Philadelphia, is a new mom. When deciding when to return to work, she discovered an issue women have navigated for ages: “The childcare currently available isn’t compatible with restaurant hours,” she says.
  • The pandemic has forced 2.3 million women out of the workforce, according to the National Women’s Law Center, and recent data from Moody’s Analytics shows that mothers of young children lag far behind the rest of the population in returning. “I miss restaurants like crazy, but they don’t seem like safe or supportive places right now,” says Cherniavasky. “Plus, I’m hearing too many stories about nasty, entitled guests to want to be away from my baby and deal with that.”
  • In fact, a recent survey from One Fair Wage shows that 39 percent of restaurant professionals are planning on leaving the industry over “concerns of hostility and harassment from customers.” But the number one reason? Seventy-six percent of survey respondents plan on abandoning hospitality because of low pay.

As somebody who worked at every level in hospitality during my working years, all I can say is ‘It’s About Time.’


Mostly reposted from my daily essay at

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