If you're in the United States, you're probably in one of three job situations:
- You are in a full-time, 40 hours/week job (but there's a good chance you're putting in unpaid overtime) and stressed out of your mind. You might be seeing a counselor or taking medication to cope with the stress, but what you really need is some downtime. You struggle finding the time to keep up with friends and family, and at the same time keep your life in order. Try to keep up with paying bills, making dinner, vacuuming, getting the car fixed... and before you know it, two months have gone by without having dinner with friends. But when you make a point to see them, next thing you know you've missed bills, been assessed late fees, and the pantry's bare but there's ants everywhere because you haven't vacuumed.
- You are in a part-time job (maybe even two), not making enough to earn your keep. You have time to spend with friends, and time to keep the pantry stocked (and actually cook, too!), which is good because eating in is more affordable. Still, no matter how you scrimp, you always seem financially behind the eight-ball.
- You are without a job and scrambling to find one. If the other two seemed bad, that's nothing. Because if you don't join the ranks of one or the other real soon now, you might lose the house. You've applied for tons of jobs (plenty below your skill level, too), and you're even willing to compromise on pay to avoid going further in debt. At least you've had time to catch up on the house in between job-hunting—too bad you couldn't tackle that project that needed attention, but without work money was just too tight.
Some would say it's just economic pressures that are outside our control. But is that really true?
Faced with possible layoffs, well-paid, full-time employees (situation 1) are willing to work harder to ensure they retain their present income. When the layoffs occur, those effected become unemployed and start a job search (situation 3). Unemployment makes it difficult for people with jobs to bargain for more wages—if they become too expensive, they could be laid off and replaced; others are willing to work for less.
Those who have lost their jobs are forced to accept lower wages—after all, they weren't wanted by their previous employers, so they must be the least productive workers, right?1 They may accept underemployment or part-time jobs to pay the bills until something better comes along, taking jobs away from less skilled or less trained individuals. A trickle-down effect happens.
It's just the way it is, right? We don't have power, so we're at the mercy of those who do.
But what if we weren't at their mercy?
We're at the mercy of those with money because we don't have it, we need it, and there are limited things to do to get it. But what if you didn't need it, or didn't need as much?
In this society, we're encouraged to spend, spend, spend, so even if you're in a full-time, well-paid (but probably overworked) employee, you're probably struggling to make ends meet. Getting spending under control is a complicated matter, and that's what the rest of this website is about. You can do it, though it's not easy clawing your way out of debt when every advert tells you to buy, buy buy! But when you do, you are no longer a slave to the whims of the bourgeois.
Imagine after the layoffs, when things are falling behind and the boss wants to know why things aren't getting done, being able to say, "Perhaps you shouldn't have laid off those people if these things are so important."
Imagine when the new pay scheme is introduced, ostensibly to create fairness but clearly to cut payroll, and being able to stand up and say, "This is dishonest. I work hard and I know we're plenty profitable. I do my job well. Do you really want to lose my skills?"
Imagine the combined power if many of us were out of debt. Workers become less disposable if we won't put up with abuse; they treat us the way they do because they can. The less dependent we all are on a job to give us immediate income, the more power we have to bargain for wages and demand reasonable working conditions and hours.
A better life
The 80% of us with jobs are, on the whole, working 20% too much. If you could give up 20% of your wages to have 20% more time, would you do it?
What if you could give that 20% of your job to the 20% of people that are out of work?
What if the 20% of people that are out of work, had jobs and paid taxes instead of collecting unemployment paid for the taxes of the 80% with jobs?
In a better life, we'd work fewer hours, have time to cook (thus keeping budgets in control), clean, and tend to life's obligations (thus keeping our lives in good order), and have time to spend with friends and family. In a better life, we'd have time to rest and relax, time to enjoy life. We'd sleep enough instead of paying psychiatrists to sell us medication to fix the complications of the stress and insomnia.
The life of working and spending is not working out. It's time we find something different.
The employer-employee relationship, like many things, is supply and demand. When in balance, wages stay fair. In poor economic times, there are fewer jobs than workers, and those without jobs become desperate for an income. Wages go down. When times are good and near full-employment, pay increases to fill positions by stealing from the competition. Fluctuations are normal, but excessive unemployment or extended full-employment creates an imbalance and harms one side in favor of the other.
The current problems:
- Credit and consumerism keep workers in desperate need for income.
- Companies have globalized, but labor has not. Reasons include language barriers (companies can afford translators), ideology (workers have seen competing foreign workers as the bad guys, preventing collaboration), laws restricting unions in other countries, and labor unions focusing on protecting local workers rather than globalizing.
- Our economy has homogenized instead of diversified.
- Technological advances improve worker efficiency, allow a an unskilled/unspecialized employee to do a job, or eliminate positions altogether.
- Economic regulation strives for a moderate level of unemployment, but when it's failing, errs in favor of unemployment. Full employment is more successfully prevented. In recent decades, this has favored employers.
- 1. Rhetorical.