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The mainstream media continues to focus our attention on stories about Syria … meanwhile back home — the job numbers are out for the month of August. Headlines in major newspapers read: U.S. creates 169,000 jobs — unemployment down to 7.3 percent. Economists had predicted we would gain 180,000, but who will quibble over a difference of 11,000? That’s not the issue; the issue is the drop in unemployment. The numbers are deceptive. The biggest reason those numbers changed, is because people gave up looking for work. On average there are at least three unemployed people competing for one job (I am willing to bet the numbers are higher; that’s just what is being reported).
The businesses who are hiring, are in the service industries, where the average hourly wage is $13.80 an hour. Most job seekers today are hired as part time or temps. It looks like full the 40 hour week is now gone for many workers. The number of Americans finding part-time jobs has surged this year, with more than three times as many getting only part-time work as opposed to full-time jobs, according to Labor Department data. At the same time, the ranks of temps has exploded: A record 2.7 million people held these positions in July, up from 2.5 million a year ago. The trend of hiring temporary workers, meanwhile, has broadened beyond the traditional fields of office workers and manufacturing, Watt said. Now, temp employees can be found in the engineering and information technology industries, for instance.
A few days ago, employees from fast food restaurants went on another strike to bring attention to low wages. They are asking for a raise to $15.00 an hour. Currently fast food workers are paid $7.25 an hour and are usually employed part time. Experienced cooks are paid $9.00 an hour and food servers receive $2.13 an hour plus tips. The people who serve us our “McNuggets” on a daily basis, often have trouble providing food for their own families. How ironic is that?
I worked in the restaurant sector for twenty years and most people who never served food to the public, think that food servers make a great deal of money in tips. Not so. If the restaurant is slow… meaning no customers, the floor is “cut” and servers are sent home, which could mean the server’s scheduled eight hour shift is now cut to four — can you imagine showing up to your job and being told to go home because there isn’t enough work for the day, especially when you depend on getting paid for eight hours?
Here’s another way a server can lose money. If the server was not tipped by a customer, she is still liable, tax wise for that check. The government automatically charges the server a 9% tax on the checks total, whether or not she gets that much in tips to cover the cost. I worked in restaurants in Florida that paid the Federal minimum of $2.13 an hour (back in the 70s)… notice how it has not budged for 40 years to keep up with inflation? I finally started making a decent wage when I moved to San Francisco which has a restaurant union, and I earned $8.00 an hour plus tips, but if the restaurant was slow I still went home early. And by the way, my restaurant was not union, but all the restaurants in S. F. benefitted from union bargaining, just like the private sector; weaken the unions and the private sector gets hurt as well. When I moved into management, my salary was less than my employees wages and my schedule was erratic, with long hours.
There are those who will argue, like, Bill O’Reilly to just “get a better job.” That sounds so easy, but these type of jobs are the only ones hiring. Employers argued that they have to cut back employee hours due to the Obama care mandate (now postponed to 2015), but according to an article by the Arizona Star, ” a closer look at the rise of part-time work makes clear that the decline of hours and the rise of low-wage work reflect structural changes in the U.S. economy.” A study published by the National Employment Law Project states, “wages of all American workers declined 2.8 percent from 2009 to 2012.”
I used to hear that people over the age of 50 have a harder time getting a job, but now I hear the same from military vets, recent college graduates and even high school kids. Everyone seems to be fighting for the same low wage jobs. As of 2010, nearly half of all college students who graduated that year are working jobs that don’t require degrees. Many are trying to repay student loans, which on average are $40,000 — a loan that has to be repaid to the government — no excuses.
Economists have referred to this phenomenon as “degree inflation,” and it has been steadily infiltrating America’s job market. Across industries and geographic areas, many other jobs that didn’t used to require a diploma — positions like dental hygienists, cargo agents, clerks and claims adjusters — are increasingly requiring one, according to Burning Glass, a company that analyzes job ads from more than 20,000 online sources, including major job boards and small- to midsize-employer sites. This up-credentialing is pushing the less educated even further down the food chain, and it helps explain why the unemployment rate for workers with no more than a high school diploma is more than twice that for workers with a bachelor’s degree: 8.1 percent versus 3.7 percent.
This is not just an American problem. Low wages and part time work seem to be trending world wide. Although one country, Australia, pays their workers a minimum wage of $15.00 an hour, and that includes McDonalds. How can Australians afford to pay employees a decent wage and still have 5% unemployment? Can we learn from them? Or is it easier for Washington to continue to spin the jobs report, hoping the American public won’t notice? Will the Obama spin doctors continue tell us that our economy is on the upswing because unemployment is down?
You won’t find any mainstream media coverage in the United States asking the White House tough questions… like — where are the real jobs that pay a living wage? Why are all the available jobs only part time these days? Exactly why are people giving up looking for work? Why are the corporations (who taxpayers bailed out) making record profits, and our paychecks are shrinking? That will never happen… after all, it’s not their job to ask the real tough questions; its their job to make chicken shit look like chicken salad.