(This column originally appeared in The Washington Times)
In Washington and across the country, we’ve had both new and proposed rules and laws to increase overtime pay, reclassify more independent contractors as employees, remove noncompete agreements and require pay transparency.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, fully staffed with appointees of President Biden, is busier than ever and focusing on harassment and discrimination claims. The National Labor Relations Board has made it easier for unions to sell their benefits on company premises, create micro-unions of employees, require quicker votes with cards as ballots and then provide the defense for unions to do all of this.
It’s the era of the worker, and with this unprecedented support from the highest levels of government, workers are taking full advantage.
They’re calling out employers. They’re proudly advertising their intentions to “quietly quit,” take “Bare Minimum Mondays” — i.e., do as little work as possible at the start of the week — and “rage apply,” which means to pursue as many jobs as possible at the same time.
Workers are refusing to return to the office. And now workers — at least those in unions — are striking.
According to countless news reports, union strikes this year are “making a comeback” and “impacting the economy at a level not seen in decades.” They’re turning 2023 into “one of the most significant years for work stoppages in recent history.”
Everybody’s getting in on the action, baby! We’ve seen striking Hollywood actors and writers, autoworkers, teachers, writers, graduate students (wait, what?), journalists, health care workers, Starbucks baristas, bald columnists (just kidding), bus drivers, Amazon employees and culinary workers. Hundreds of thousands of them! These people are clearly not happy. Even the Major League Baseball umpire Angel Hernandez is calling strikes (but unfortunately, not very well).
Contrary to what many employees may think, the vast majority of business owners (and just about all of my clients) are very pro-worker. We really care about our employees. We want them to be happy. We want them to be compensated fairly.
And of course we want them to work hard, but isn’t that what we want of our children too? To work hard? Everyone should work hard. “Quiet quitting” isn’t exactly a road map for a productive life, right?
But as business owners, we know the market. We read the news. We understand that unemployment is historically low, job openings are up, and the demand for good talent has never been higher. We get it that workers who aren’t compensated fairly or don’t enjoy their workplace have the ability to move somewhere better. There’s a lot of competition. And the reality is that companies with unionized employees generally pay them well, offer good benefits and are sensitive to their needs. They don’t want to lose good people.
So if these workers are so beloved by their employers, why are they striking? Because they can. They’re humans, and humans always want more. Our desire for more is what drives our growth and has fueled the advancement of civilizations.
Why does Tom Cruise still make movies when he already gets more than $20 million each time? Why does Warren Buffett buy more companies? Don’t they have enough?
No, they don’t. Good for them.
I don’t blame workers for striking. They see a golden opportunity, and they’re going for it. They see their city, state and federal officials going out of their way to pass laws and issue proclamations in favor of diversity, inclusion, workers’ rights, prevention of discrimination, a higher minimum wage, forced scheduling, compulsory child care, mandated vacation, obligatory sick days.
They’re saying to themselves, hey, this is a good time to get me a bigger piece of that. They don’t have this kind of support when their elected officials lean more to the right.
And what’s the upshot for employers? We have little choice but to pay more, offer more time off, and increase benefits. And since we’re a stewards of our organizations and act in the best interest of our shareholders (we do, believe it or not, have a responsibility to profit), we will pass these costs on to our customers — most of whom are workers at other companies that are being forced to do the same thing so that they will pay more too. And so on and so on, until the political winds shift back to pro-business again.
And I say: Good for those for taking advantage of the situation. We all know that nothing lasts forever, so grab what you can and when you can. But make sure you save it, people. The tide will turn.
And from what I’m reading, artificial Intelligence is widely predicted to replace hundreds of millions of jobs over the next decade. Guess who’s going to be the first to go? Here’s a hint: Don’t sign any long-term contracts with your union.