Over the course of the pandemic, workers have been resigning from their jobs en masse. According to data gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics , a record number of people quit their jobs in November 2021, hitting 4.5 million. The previous record was just a month earlier, with 4.4 million resigning in September 2021. At the same time, there has been a growing unionization effort throughout the country, with workers demanding more for their labor. The pandemic has spurred an unprecedented movement for workers’ rights, which has been largely absent from contemporary discourse for decades.
According to a recent survey, 1 in 5 executives agree that “no one wants to work.” These same execs name a “lack of response to job posts” as their top challenge when hiring. Right-wing outlets like Fox News have echoed these points and promoted the idea that workers are simply too lazy to work. Fox News host Laura Ingraham posed as a solution: “What if we just cut off the unemployment? Hunger is a pretty powerful thing.” This type of rhetoric does not fix any problem at the root and ignores the many systemic issues that minimum wage workers must face.
According to analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, workers’ compensation roughly tracked alongside worker productivity up until 1979, with their analysis starting in 1948. However, past approximately 1979, there was a sharp break between the two. Since then, this gap has only grown, and productivity is up 159.7% since 1948 while workers’ compensation is only up 113.7%. In other words, wages have been stagnant for decades when compared to worker productivity. This can be linked in part to decreased worker power in the last couple decades and lower union rates, which have nearly halved since the early ’80s.
The last year has seen a noticeable rise in unionization efforts across the country. In March, Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama rallied for a vote to unionize their warehouse – which would have been a first for Amazon. They ultimately lost the unionization vote, in part due to interference from Amazon. However, workers will be allowed a second vote on Feb. 4, only the first of many high-profile efforts in the coming months. In Buffalo, New York, two Starbucks stores won their fight to unionize, even though the company tried to squash it. Inspired by the possibility of unionization, 17 more stores currently have votes filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
The great resignation of minimum wage workers should not come as a surprise. Working conditions are currently abysmal, and the results speak for themselves. More must be done to attack this problem at the root instead of blaming the unemployed.