I’ve been hearing from my clients for a long time that many local employers don’t train people anymore, so I’ve been listening to the discussion among elite opinion sellers and politicians about the “skills gap” with a healthy dose of skepticism.
While I certainly understand why a business would want their employees or the broader public to pick up the cost and risk of training and new hire selection, I’m not sure that’s properly described as an “employee skills gap.” I think maybe that’s partially described as “employers shifting cost and risk from the employer to their prospective employees or the public”. It’s expensive to train people, and then there’s always risk you’ll train them and they’ll fail at the job or take those skills elsewhere.
In addition to listening to my clients, I’ve also been listening to my son, Joe. He’s 18 and a private person, a genuinely nice guy who probably wouldn’t choose to reveal a whole lot on this blog so I won’t go into details on his life. He’s a high school graduate who has not yet decided what he wants to do. He started working full-time this past summer after he graduated, and he first temped at a local auto parts supplier, a Mexican company. People here tell me this is a “bad” employer, and Joe found that to be true. They had no interest in training anyone, constant turnover and really disgruntled employees. Joe kept looking while working there, and eventually got an interview with another local manufacturer. This employer has a good reputation among the local workforce.
When he went to apply for the new job the woman who did the initial interview was the former director of the YMCA daycare he attended as a child- he was as easygoing then as he is now- and she passed him to the next step. At that point he was given a test booklet. This company tests new hires to see if the employee could be slotted into training programs in areas like machining -paper and pencil test, no calculator allowed, show your work, they score it right in front of you. He did well on the test, and they started him as a “machinist assistant”. He works alongside a machinist who is originally from Scotland but moved here when he met and then married a local woman. Their division makes specialty furniture and equipment for hospitals and nursing homes. I don’t know if Joe will pursue this work. He’s 18. He’s not even past the permanent hire point yet. But he’s making appreciably better than minimum wage and he’s learning something and he accepts what is very hard work and long hours (mostly) happily.
This company still offers training and accepts some risk that this may not work out for one or both parties. Joe’s not taking all the risk. He’s not racking up debt training or acting as an unpaid intern. They’re not insisting someone else train their hourly employees, or demanding an employee volunteer for months in exchange for an eventual paid position. This is an investment they make, a risk they take, and they accept that investments don’t guarantee a return. They’re capitalists, in other words. They’re successful at this capitalism thing, too. They started with 5 employees 70 years ago and now they have more than 3000.
Here’s a different take on the skills gap, where the focus is on the employer rather than the employee or government:
it’s been underway for a while, and the thing that has changed, frankly, is that employers no longer expect to train anybody.
Well, they say the best way to know that is if [that candidate] has done the same job already and you say, okay, well you’ve done the same job already, you’re qualified, but we want you to have had the same job recently. Also, we don’t want you to have been laid off because we are afraid then that you must be rusty or got laid off because you weren’t very good … and I don’t blame them [employers] for trying to reduce the uncertainty, but there are consequences to that
20 years ago you probably didn’t hear many employers saying that – certainly 30 years ago they all said ‘we’ll hire for attitude and train for skill.’ And now, almost nobody says that – they say they expect people to hit the ground running.
Same author. Here he gives employers a simple test. Why should employees take all the tests? We’re coddling these capitalists, don’t you think? Let’s test the employers.
I like this question:
Before any employer jumps to the conclusion that hiring problems are caused by the labor market, take the following test:
1. Have you tried raising wages? If you could get what you want by paying more, the problem is just that you are cheap. The fact that I cannot find the car I want at the price I want to pay does not constitute a car shortage, yet a large number of employers claiming they face a skills shortage admit that the problem is getting candidates to accept their wage rates.
My favorite was some idiot woman who testified a few years ago before Congress. I don’t recall if she was in tech or not, but she had some kind of small business, and testified that her business would not have been able to thrive if she hadn’t been able to hire a sysadmin for the wage she paid, through H1B or something. I don’t remember the wage, but it was a damn sight less than the going market rate.
I’m thriving, too, because I get to tell the supermarket how much I pay for my groceries; the guy I bought my house from how much he would have to accept to sell it to me; …
ETA: I saw that Capelli guy’s work somewhere else and thought of him before I read down into this post.
I think this is the biggest economic story of the financial crisis. The policies of the last two decades or more have been heavily tilted towards capital. Labor has lost out. By this I mean everyone, from a research scientist to someone making minimum wage in a retail job.
There are hard numbers on that, too; the fraction of income going to
capitalrent-collecting parasites has gone up.
I work in a small firm (under 30 people) and I’ve got friends that work in some big Fortune 500 offices. I’d say the biggest difference between my job and my friends’ jobs is that my friends are in a very structured environment where you’re constantly being pushed to develop your skills (particularly when you’re new). The bigger firms invest a small fortune in job training. My small office is willing to split the cost of a certification exam. The difference is monumental.
It’s frustrating for me to carve time out of my own schedule to self-improve. I’m taking a language on the side, and I’ve toyed around with different online courses and programming languages before. But there’s just no substitute for a proper classroom setting with time to develop your skills.
I don’t get that where I work, and I feel like its one reason I’m trapped in a skill set that’s rapidly being deprecated.
working for more than 40 years I have experienced this change first hand. My first real employer would pay for any education that related to a job you could get in the company (really anything, it was Honeywell and they covered soup to nuts). As long as you passed the class they reimbursed you cor the cost. I took advantage of that & got more education and became a better, more valuable employee. I got further education & many trips to conferences where I learned & grew & became more valuable to the company.
Then we got sold out by pirates & all that came to an end. as the company I was sold to went to hell in a hand basket training was cut to save money. I lost any sense of loyalty or indebtedness. Since then I have seen fewer companies doing anything at all like that but whining about employees.
@liberal: It is really short sighted though, our economy is a consumer driven economy. If consumers have no jobs, they cannot consume. And though the consumer class in China and India is growing its buying power is no where as powerful (in terms of $) as the US.
70% of the GDP is consumer spending. How could we increase GDP? Hire more consumers & pay them better.
But thats not our our masters think
@Schlemizel: And this constant stream of manufactured crises by the GOP Congress is unhelpful. Their idea of austerity is like cutting off your limbs to lose weight.
Villago Delenda Est
In short, unless the taxpayer subsidizes her business, her business cannot thrive.
Yet she’s probably screaming about her taxes being too high already.
Employers bitch that their underpaid, undertrained employees will bolt for a better paying, training included position, and they wonder why this might be so.
Their employees are giving the employers all the consideration the employers give them.
Loyalty is, amazingly, a two way street. Our “job creators” don’t seem to grasp the concept.
Villago Delenda Est
I know I keep harping on this point, but that obscure Scotsman I speak of frequently figured all this out over two fucking centuries ago, and our Galtian overlords claim to revere him.
I don’t think so.
I know. Your cost is my income.
@Villago Delenda Est: How ungrateful we all are! Why, our noble, dare I say holy, jerb creators go out of their way to offer a generous (for them) paying position and the ingrate employee moochers do nothing but complain and leave when the next shiny object comes along? Loyalty? You should be kissing their feet every day in gratitude for even HAVING your minimum wage gig!
@Villago Delenda Est:
Smith? Yeah, I love the way “libertarians” claim he’d be a near-Randoid if he were writing today.
I KNOW!!! It is soooo basic and yet I find myself having the same, darned conversations with the same darned Republicans and Independents about exactly this.
Also, Joe’s getting great experience, no matter what he goes into. Most valuable two summers of my young adulthood were spent working as a temp in a powder metallurgy unit with Eastman Kodak. Real life, real skills.
As Norman Maclean used to say, nothing more valuable than a good head-and-hands guy.
the lost puppy
yes!THANK YOU FOR THIS!
The pool of workers is a resource that is being depleted by individual businesses without any concern for the shared common interest of the commonwealth. I think of it as the Tragedy of Labor.
I’ve seen this dynamic at work in a mid-sized business.
It is a downward spiral. Management starts off by wanting to save just a little bit of money, so they begin by offering a wage that is below market rate, but not by much. Naturally this does not attract the best candidates and the resulting pile of resumes is underwhelming in terms of quality (while being huge in terms of quantity). After sifting thru that and not finding anybody we really can get excited about hiring in round 1, mangement decides, “hey, since we aren’t getting what we really wanted, let’s lowball the salary. No sense in spending all that money if we aren’t getting a real go-getter”. So the offered wage is cut down a bit more in round 2, and now you really are scraping the bottom of the barrel.
The next stop: interns.
@Yutsano: Another aspect of this is employers’ sputtering outrage at people electing to become contractors. Many companies are under the impression that they should be able to flatten pay and slash benefits, but employees should all be scrabbling for the now mini-sized jobs rather than choosing self-employment themselves and calling some of the shots (and escaping much of the internal politics) with clients.
the lost puppy
Better regulation and labor laws wouldn’t hurt. Businesses are always going to try to undermine their competitors in this way. Many feel they really have no choice.
They need disincentives to shaft the public in order to beat the competition, and also to level the playing field, so no employer is incentivized to screw over his workers.
This looks, in a way, like business laying off environmental costs on the public (and then starving public finances by lowering tax rates). A better educated work force is an advantage for everyone– this is what used to be called ‘enlightened self-interest’ and I recall, back in the day, that actual conservatives would cite it as a reason why conservative politics isn’t just an excuse for greed.
Only quible I’d make is that I don’t remember it ever being different and I’ve been working about 28 years. Some employers looked at it as an investment, others didn’t. Always as far as I can tell. I’ve heard it used to be different but I think we are talking my grandparents time or my parents early working days…not recently.
Some businesses should go bankrupt so the smarter ones can get profits. I have noticed the better businesses don’t bother whining or toot their own horns so much. They just produce what their customers want.
@jeffreyw: Thread needs kitteh.
Villago Delenda Est
Actual conservatives, I’m afraid, have gone the way of the dodo and the passenger pigeon.
“Conservatives” nowadays are all Mammon-worshiping maggots.
Villago Delenda Est
I have said this over and over when farmers complain that only illegal immigrants will do the job.
@schrodinger’s cat: Thread get kittehs, lives happily ever after?
Though this can be turned around into an argument for state-subsidized education.
My favorite line of reasoning why education should be subsidized is that the private sector will underinvest in “human capital,” because there’s no asset that can be capitalized. The only way to do it is slavery/indentured servitude, and we (mostly) don’t do that.
@jeffreyw: Kittehs say, snow, do not want. How is Katie?
It’s called full employability. Make sure the labor market is slack, then demand more and more from potential workers. The fantastic book Full Employment Abandoned: Shifting Sands and Policy Failures is a great introduction to how we went from a national policy of full employment to full employability.
The gist of it is that when you have a slack labor market, employers expect the world from potential hires, and the government wastes money paying to train people for jobs they never have. There is also a huge incentive for fraud in job training programs. When you have a tight labor market, employers train the workers themselves, and for the jobs they actually need done.
Here’s a review of Full Employment Abandoned with more info. Sadly the book itself is expensive as all get out. Yay textbook prices.
(see also: http://www.salon.com/2013/02/19/southern_poverty_pimps/ )
Too, conservatives aren’t using it to advance public education. They’re using it to argue that public education doesn’t work, and the private sector would do a better job. They want the whole thing, both sides. They want well-trained workers AND they want education to be a profit-producing entity.
Apprenticeship programs for machinists has a rich, long history, and is still fairly common in Europe. It sounds like this company still appreciates that tradition. There us a wealth of knowledge to be gained from following an old master around compared to trying to lean everything in a classroom plus lab.
A machinist should be a great career if Joe decides to not go to college, or even compared to college with s degree with low job opportunities.
Forum Transmitted Disease
We were huge on training people. We still would be, but two things happened:
1. The government started cherry-picking our people. It’s actually illegal but they don’t give a fuck, the offer is put up with it or lose your contract entirely. We’ve ended up essentially being a hiring hall for the government, who hires our best employees away (the people we can least afford to lose) from us. I don’t blame the people who left; we pay far better but there’s not a private employer in the world that can match the government’s retirement and health care plan.
2. We got cut so badly over the last four years that we now do not have the time to train anybody. We’ve now got two and a half people doing the work that twelve were doing four years ago. We literally can’t afford it. If I hire a guy, he has to know our software system and he has to be ready to go to work the first day or it’s not going to work out, because I can’t even drop what I’m doing for an hour to show the new hire anything at all.
This makes hiring people fucking well impossible. God knows that most of what we do is not rocket science, and we could train people up easily enough, but that assumes time and resources that we simply no longer have.
I think the technical term for this is “death spiral”.
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
@Forum Transmitted Disease: I’m curious about your first statement. Considering that government jobs generally pay less than their private counterparts, how was the government able to pick and choose from your employees? Does this go back to being cheap?
@Kay: That which can be bought and sold must be bought and sold.
That which cannot, is not.
The Republican ethos in a nutshell.
Even raising wages wouldn’t get Americans to do some of those jobs as they found in Georgia after they passed the Draconian immigration bill and food was rotting in the fields.
@gvg: The only thing I notice different about today is the scale.
I’ve run into my share of investing and non-investing employers over the years. But anecdotally/locally it seems like employer assumptions have been tilted to the non-investing side.
Even in the tech sector, which didn’t suffer much from the recession and even as compared to the dot-com bust, in which the tech sector *did* suffer job-wise.
Which is to say that over the last couple years talking to various people at various shops that are hiring, more employers today seem to think they can get better people, more cheaply than even at the bottom of the dot-com bust. And they seem truly surprised that they can’t find them.
I wonder if it isn’t something approaching an echo-chamber effect between employers and HR departments, where they just *know* “recession == better labor, cheaper” and blind themselves to any and all evidence to the contrary.
I am 25 years old and have yet to have a stable job, it’s been nothing but internships, temp work and few-month-long contracts from here on in (ultimately prompting the decision to go back to grad school where I currently am, which may not be the best idea, but… eh).
At this point, frankly, I would probably be ready to stick with ANY employer for a DAMN long time that was willing to take me on in a stable job and ESPECIALLY one that was willing to actually invest in me in that sort of “we’ll teach you new skills if you’re willing to stay and apply them,” even if it was someone with absolutely ZERO connection to my field of interest. I suspect there are tens of thousands of people out there who feel the exact same way. We simply don’t run into those kinds of employers very often. In today’s world, the average employer apparently sincerely expects fully formed whiz kids to fall into their lap, ready, willing and able to expertly perform each and every aspect of the job and about two dozen other responsibilities too.
(And yet, even when whiz kids like that DO fall into their laps, they still fully expect them to work for seven dollars an hour and are absolutely ASTONISHED when the whiz kid quits the job at the drop of a hat to go work for the other company that’s offering him a dollar more).
I’ve been saying this for years in response to people whining about the supposed poor work ethic in our generation; if you invest nothing but the absolute bare minimum in your employees, they will invest nothing but the absolute bare minimum in you. It’s that simple. To you, they’re nothing but a cog in the machine, so to them, you’re nothing but a paycheck-machine. In my opinion, this economy is so insecure and so feudal that any employer who goes beyond that in the way he treats his employees stands to reap a fucking fortune.
Yeah, I don’t know what the employers’ point of view is. But that’s the view from down here, at any rate.
Shawn in ShowMe
Real wages increased in this country for 100 years between 1870 and 1970. Why? Because capital accumulation was always running ahead of workers. Then in the 1970s it all came to a stop. Computers started replacing workers. Corporations moved jobs offshore where wages and conditions were more profitable. Women began entering the workforce in record numbers as well as a new wave of immigrants. Our corporate masters no longer needed to raise wages anymore. And if workers are being devalued, why bother investing in them?
Instead of facing the reality of frozen wages at the time and making their collective voices heard, people went into denial. They just worked longer hours or accepted Capital’s New Deal — loaning us our own money with interest in lieu of raising wages.
I can’t really blame most folks for not recognizing what was really going on in the 1970s. When you stop raising wages after 100 years, that traumatizes people.
the lost puppy
@schrodinger’s cat: Kitteh sez “It’s frikkin freezin’ out here, Mr. Bigglesworth! I hope you’ve had yer fun, now lemme in!”
Basically, the problem we’re seeing is that the rich see America in Downton Abbey terms, and they are unable to see the way in which they are destroying their own institutions in order to preserve the illusion that they are superior and removed from the motley multihued rabble of the modern US. They have entered into a suicide cult of selfishness and arrogance, and no one wants to give in to labor or “socialism” because they’ll become the outcasts at the country club. So everyone is busy shaving fine pieces from their proboscis hoping their faces will shape up and agree to go all Galt with them. No one wants to be a traitor to their class. So they betray their nation instead, or “our” nation, since they no longer see themselves as belonging to the same nation as us plebes.
@askew: How much did they raise the wages to? I don’t believe it. When I was in college and there was a recession, I couldn’t get any job but to work at a produce farm picking vegetables, right along side of migrant workers. So I know Americans will do it, especially if the wage is right.
Forum Transmitted Disease
@Belafon (formerly anonevent): You didn’t read past my second sentence, goddammit. From my post:
We’re not cheap. We bend over fucking backwards for our people, but if I give a guy a choice between a Federal retirement pension or a very generous 401k with full matching contributions, what’s he gonna take? If the answer is “401k” he’s too stupid to be working anywhere but fast food, and we don’t hire dumb people.
@Belafon (formerly anonevent): Payscale isn’t everything. A company of 1,000 can’t compete with long term benefits of the U.S. Federal government.
And FTD, we had a contract that was about the same boat, except we had penalties when we couldn’t staff the positions (that the gov’t hired away from us).
And they wonder why we didn’t rebid on the renewal.
There was a story in the LA Times yesterday about how farmers in California’s Central Valley are having trouble finding workers to harvest the crops, now that immigration enforcement is tougher. Predictably, the article was structured to make the reader feel pity for the farmers, and predictably, a commenter ranted against the unemployed fatties who wouldn’t go out and pick crops. Because if you’re unemployed in Bakersfield, it makes total sense to drop $50 into your gas tank and go look to earn $80 in the fields, if you get hired at all, which isn’t likely. If a rich person makes a sensible economic decision, that’s OK, but if a poor one does the same, it’s a shame.
Reducing all of this to ‘skill’ is going to mask any ability to really understand this.
For a lot of jobs these days, you’ve really got 3 vectors to deal with:
1) Understanding of the challenge and the ability to outline a conceptual path to a solution
2) Skill set to either execute that solution, or at least enough of a foundation to easily train up to that point.
3) Personal initiative to stay apace with where the challenge is heading and where the solutions also need to go – lifelong learning.
Employers are usually trading off 1) and 2). They’ll get someone in their industry who has solved problems in different ways and needs to be retrained on the skills for their company, or they’ll get someone with the right skillset who needs to learn what their company actually does. You can’t teach 3) after someone is on the job. Employees need to walk in the door with that one.
Half a century ago, it was easy to find people with enough of a foundation in 2) that you could focus almost entirely on training for 1). Manufacturing companies had no problem finding people with skill in machining, welding, assembly, and so on. White collar hires could be counted on having basic organizational and data analysis skills (this is still true today). But since then we’ve added a lot of much more technical skills – programming, data mining, more advanced statistics to jobs that never would have demanded them. And finding those skills is a lot harder, and finding place to learn those skills is not easy.
And our industries have gotten a lot less pedestrian than they used to be. The challenge for an automaker is pretty straightforward to anyone who has ever worked on a car, but the challenge for Google is not so obvious and very few people actually have any experience with that sort of thing – which is why companies stay in silicon valley – because the people that understand the problem and have the skills are almost entirely clustered in a handful of places.
Higher education has almost completely failed to keep pace with this in two respects:
1) As jobs have gotten more specialized, higher ed went more vertical and worked toward providing students with deep skill sets and eliminating skill building. High schools responded, but social changes eliminated a lot of the ad-hoc skills training that people used to get at home, high schools eliminated the formal training, and universities adapted to live without it. Vocational schools became place where undesirable kids were sent. The whole notion of ‘skill acquisition’ was looked down upon as something that people incapable of success would resort to. It’s a variation on the ‘poor people are lazy and our evidence is that they’re poor’ stigma.
2) This created a chasm in the education tiers, magnified by declining state budgets that shifted the role of community colleges into feeders for the universities and gutted their ability to provide formal skills training or training for specific industries (health care, etc).
So, anyone who needs to build a skill or industry foundation has no place to go short of the for-profits (and they’ll bankrupt you), or devote 4 years to getting a university degree. That’s fine when you’re 18 and know what you want to do. Not so great if you have no idea or if you’re 40 and have become a spectator to the job market.
While not a ton is being done to address this in a formal way, Obama and many other Dems are successfully shifting attitudes, and putting some policy behind it. States aren’t on board yet, so they won’t get far, but it’s a move in the right direction.
I hate the way conservative policies are, when viewed in total, obviously contradictory yet they get bought wholesale.
We can’t have employers that are unwilling to train AND have education prices skyrocketing and educational financial aid being the next investment bubble.
We can’t have deregulation and tort reform.
We can’t reduce abortions with abstinence only.
It only makes sense if you have no particular goals you want to achieve with policy, you simply want to follow arbitrary rules for what is “right”. And if doing what’s “right” leads to lots of unnecessary suffering, oh well.
I’m sick of it.
@Belafon (formerly anonevent):
He actually gave the answer here:
After a certain amount of money, most people (and I stress here the word “most”) start to put a higher premium on something other than money. It’s the whole “utility curve” idea – at some point the added utility of another dollar doesn’t compete with the loss in utility of doing what you need to do to get that dollar.
In the case of government employment you generally have better job security, more vacation time, better health insurance, and better training opportunities than in private sector jobs. In exchange, you get paid less. Depending on who you are, this looks like a great deal – exchanging money for time and security is a no brainer for the most part.
This is also part of the reason why, as pay has been cut in the private sector, people get resentful of government workers. Because now the private sector is paying about the same as the government, but with fewer benefits.
This is a most helpful thread.
@nastybrutishntall: But the real question is why do the non 1% vote for the GOP. Who make even the watered down financial regulation bill like Dodd Frank, impossible to implement.
Davis X. Machina
Even if the flood comes, the tallest guys die last. And if the flood doesn’t come, then they don’t die, plus they get to go through all the pockets of the people who do, looking for change.
It’s a calculated risk. A triumph of the entrepreneurial spirit.
The old joke back in Soviet Russia was “they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work“. This is just the capitalist version of the same thing.
Why we decided to emulate the worst stupidity of our vanquished former foe, God only knows. If I wanted to I could spend all day doing nothing but counting the number of things we’ve fucked up since the Cold War ended.
I can’t remember what they raised the wage to, but unemployed people went out there and tried to do the job and all of them quit because it was too hard. That is a brutal job and I do agree they aren’t going to get enough Americans to do those jobs at any wage. That doesn’t mean that the wages for undocumented workers shouldn’t be increased though.
Absolutely true, but the flip side of that is that in some cases, the attitude’s not there along with the skills being missing. I’m not falling into the bullshit “Today’s kids are just lazy!” mindset — I don’t mean to impugn people’s work ethic — I’m talking more about communication and personal presentation. I’ve noticed that an increasing number of people just entering the workforce seem to lack basic skills in talking politely and engagingly, much less professionally, to customers, clients and colleagues. Businesses are failing at teaching that stuff, for sure, but it seems as though a growing number of people aren’t getting it in school or at home, either.
God, this onion belt is so smelly, even on this cold day.
@the lost puppy:
What would really not hurt is if they were willing to shift the burden of things like health care onto the federal government, which would spread the burden around and ultimately be better for both employer and employee. But no, that’s communism.
Another reason why I’m so unsympathetic towards businessmen whining about employee costs. The solution is staring you right in the fucking face. You people run all the Chambers of Commerce: use them to shift the burden onto the feds. But of course you won’t do that, because then your taxes might go up a few percentage points and your employees might not be as serf-like anymore.
Back when I worked for Texas Instruments as a software engineer, so many people ended up leaving for better jobs that some said “TI” stood for “Training Institute.” I don’t know how things are today, but I suspect it’s different.
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
@Forum Transmitted Disease: I understand what you are saying, but isn’t that part of the “cost” of an employee? And, considering that we know that a government can work under budget, couldn’t a company compete with those terms?
I know the answer though: If your company offered a pension plan and your competitors didn’t, that would put your company at a disadvantage in the market price wise.
@askew: Well, the actual amount does make a difference to your claim. If they were only going to get a few cents more an hour, then I don’t blame them. It is backbreaking work. The wages for that kind of job should be very high.
Oh, we the people aren’t totally innocent in this either. How many of us still buy the whole American Dream shit, interpreted to mean “it doesn’t matter how the little people are treated because you too can be a Job Creator if you just work hard enough?” Obama may be the beginning of a reversal in this trend, but the days of understanding that the entire nation matters and not just the Worthy Job Creators still seem far away to me.
@Forum Transmitted Disease: Yeah, my state job pays pretty poorly, but I’ve got two people with pre-existing conditions and I’ll never give up the health care the state provides. And after 35 years, I’ll retire at 100% salary (when combined with SS). And that’s all I want. I don’t need to be rich, but I don’t want to find myself 70 years old and begging my kids to support me because we lost everything trying to treat some medical condition or because the stock market ate my retirement.
And the killer for you is that even if you did lower pay and provide a full pension to match the state, I still wouldn’t come work for you because so many people in the private sector got fucked on their pensions by the corporate raiders that private sector promises are completely empty. I simply wouldn’t believe you would deliver 2 decades from now – and not necessarily due to anything you might do. My mom had a bit of a pension from a previous employer who got bought by HP, and HP wrecked it. It didn’t hurt her that bad, but she just shrugged it off. She figured she’d get fucked over on that pension eventually.
The private sector has a long way to go to earn any measure of credibility from the general public.
While not directly related to the principal topics here of employment and skills training, this morning’s column from Greg Sargent/The Plum Line at Kaplan TPD offers unalloyed good news about the Democrats nationalizing the issue of minimum wage for the 2014 elections. Just what one would expect from Nancy SMASH!:
“Democrats are drawing up plans to run hard on Obama’s proposal to raise minimum wage in the 2014 Congressional elections. What few people remember is that there’s precedent for this: The minimum wage hike was one of the key issues Dems used to take back the House in 2006.
In an interview with me, Nancy Pelosi summed up the message Dems used against Republicans in 2006, and will again use in 2014: “Just keep it simple. We want to raise the minimum wage, and you don’t. Why not?”
I’m surprised no one corrected me on my “wracking” for “racking” in the post.
You guys are falling down on the job of training me to proof these posts :)
Oh yeah. And I could spend all day talking about how we’re going down the same path as the Soviets – Orlov’s “Collapse Gap” makes for depressing, but not inaccurate, reading.
Small business would benefit more from single payer than large businesses would. Large businesses would lose it as a benefit for employees and lose the only approximation to loyalty that they continue to have (i.e. the leverage of losing your health insurance when you switch jobs).
The thing that consistently amazes me is how the Chamber Of Commerce – run by some of the largest companies in the country – consistently convinces small business owners that it’s acting in their best interests. It’s uncanny. Another data point in my list of things that prove that just because you can run a business, that doesn’t really mean you’re all that smart.
Then, we’d have to pay $4/apple. The cost of food would go through the roof if farmers had to pay a very high labor cost. Or the government would have to offer huge subsidies to offset labor costs. That’s the reality. Most people couldn’t afford food in that environment.
@handsmile: Good! Although I think even Obama’s proposal is too low. Minimum wage should be indexed to the cost of living.
Forum Transmitted Disease
@DecidedFenceSitter: We’ve had the same provisions in some – we rebid. We bid on everything now; you’re either working in this field or you’re dead, and it’s not like I have too many other options at this age, so I’m glad we’re taking that attitude even though it means that we’re inevitably going to get fucked good and hard every now and then.
And unionized workers, those in the Big Three who survived the recession especially. Kinda what I meant at 59. As long as so much of the public remains obsessed with “if I can’t have a chicken, neither will anyone else” as opposed to “if he can have a chicken, why can’t I have one too?” the country will remain in the ditch.
At the company I’ve worked at for over 16 years (when I started here in ’96 we had 20 employees at one office in Phoenix, now we have over 500 in AZ, CA, TX, and Vegas, so we’re doing something right) and generally in the industry I’ve been in for over 32 years (engineering, construction, and maintenance for commercial and industrial buildings) the “old ways” of employers investing heavily in training their employees still holds true.
On the skilled trades side of things in my business (electricians, pipefitters, and the like) it is also still true – even in “right to work (for less)” states like AZ – that union workers more often provide the best performance. The training is done largely through the union halls, but paid for by the employers. For the many non-union skilled trade shops, the employer still typically pays for most or all of the skill training (it’s just my experience that it is not usually as well-done as union training).
For other “high-value” workers in my business (like engineers, project managers, technicians) there are a number of avenues for entry that typically require significant pre-employment education like college degrees in, say, mechanical engineering or computer sciences, or trade-school or military certs for electronics, refrigeration, and so on.
This pre-employment training is, obviously, “paid-for” by the individual employee (whatever the funding source, like scholarships, student loans, or taxpayers picking up much of the cost of community and state colleges).
However, once these workers are “in the door” there is still a lot of training (and continual education) specific to each business that the employers pay for almost entirely (and the good salaries and wages for these positions also make it very worthwhile for the pre-employment expense).
Much the same holds true for my wife’s industry (healthcare – she’s an RN at a hospital).
@Forum Transmitted Disease:
Actually, no, this one does make your company cheap. You could be offering lower salaries and full pension, but that’s a bit more expensive in the long run so you’ve made the trade-off to a higher payout in the short term that spends less money in the long term.
The fact that “nobody but government does traditional pensions anymore” is irrelevant to the point because “nobody does it” for precisely the same reasons that Kay outlines above for why “nobody” trains their employees well anymore – if it’s about paying your employees less over the aggregate of their careers, then the problem does really boil down to “you’re being cheap”.
Actually, it’s called “taking advantage of people.” And the zeitgeist today says, “If you want a job you have to allow yourself to be taken advantage of for a period of time.” And we accept that as a “reality”, which allows employers to take another inch.
But then, of course, the “period of time” never ends. If the employer is willing to take advantage of you coming in the door, it’s not going to stop just because you’ve been there a while.
Over time I’ve learned that “opportunity” is employer code for “I’m going to take advantage of you and I’m going to give you nothing back.” Long ago I figured out that the cheap clients who talked me down in my rate were going to treat me badly and the the ones who didn’t were going to be good to work for. You’d think it would be the other way around, but it’s really more along the lines of it all comes as a package — if you don’t know how to treat people with respect, the higher the likelihood you’re going to be screwed up in all the other aspects of your business acumen as well.
Davis X. Machina
@NonyNony: Class solidarity. The people-who-run-things have to stick together, and this impulse is strongest right at the dividing line, the place where the people-who-run-things and the people-who-get-run meet.
In our corner of gubmint contracting, anyway, the government is squeezing labor rates and increasing the emphasis on best-price technically-acceptable bids, instead of best technical solution. Essentially, we can’t use a whole slew of labor categories because anybody qualified to be in that category would never work for that salary, and our company would be taking a loss on every contract.
Between this and sequestration, new grads are being hired in at the lowest salaries I can remember, and anybody between contracts (“on the beach”) for more than a couple of weeks gets a lack of work notice. Obviously, any benefits including training are being squeezed and any significant administrative overhead charges get you hauled in before management. So, yeah, not real conducive to company loyalty.
Even when we could afford training and overhead, we still had the “purple squirrel” attitude problem toward hiring. For those of us in the trenches, it drove us crazy. We kept passing up perfectly decent candidates who would take a few months to spool up, and wasted more than that amount of time trying to poach someone doing the exact same job in another company. My guess is that it’s management’s way of shirking responsibility: if the new person ends up being a dud, hey, you can’t accuse the hiring manager of hiring someone unqualified for the position.
Don’t worry, help is on the way. The GOP is doing everything within its power to destroy the credibility of the public sector. That will even the playing field. Mission Accomplished!
Well, the national Chamber of Commerce is that way, but what about the state ones? I thought there was a much bigger share of small and medium sized businesses there. Hypothetically, that’s where you could begin to push.
And I wish I could say I was surprised but I’m not. The Rockefeller types are living idols, the embodiment of what many small and medium businessmen wish they could be and think they could be if the Damn Gub’mint wasn’t keeping them down. (The fact that the super-rich were able to prosper EVEN with these Gub’mint regulations in place just makes them that much more impressive, and that much more worth listening to).
I’ve noticed this among my Republican friends and acquaintances – the most reactionary among them are always the middle class ones, not the rich ones. The middle class ones have the same entitlement mentality as the rich ones, but there’s also a huge dose of bitterness and resentment thrown into the mix because they think they’re entitled to more and it’s only because the market’s been skewed that they’re not getting it.
@schrodinger’s cat: The minimum wage in WA is indexed to inflation, which is why it’s currently $9.17 an hour. Yet businesses are still hiring at pretty much the same pace as before and the world hasn’t ended.
And we might be jumping on the single payer bandwagon. I’m giddy.
This. Even well-meaning business owners are getting screwed by the business practices of the past 20 years.
I’m eligible for a pension from the Giant Evil Corporation, but we’re also very unusual in that we’ve never been taken over or sold to someone else in 80 years, so I have some confidence that the pension may still be there 20 years from now.
This is the conservative argument: “We need to keep people in poverty or else the people in poverty won’t be able to afford to eat.” It’s self-contraditory.
The only way to resolve the problem is to flatten wages – raise the bottom, lower the top, or use the wages from the top to subsidize those at the bottom. Pick one. And which of the 3 do you think is most politically achievable?
Forum Transmitted Disease
@? Martin: Can’t be done. We can’t find anyone who can set such a plan up and administer one anymore, and that’s something we did look into. They’re all gone.
Your concerns are completely valid. My father and father-in-law worked for the same airline; my dad knew he’d get fucked on the pension at some point and lived pretty poor to provide for retirement, which in retrospect was a very smart move. You sure wouldn’t have known we were an airline pilot’s kids!
The airline stole his entire pension.
My father-in-law thought it would all be kosher, hasn’t even been retired five years and he’s about a year out from being stone-cold fucking broke.
So yeah, a private company’s pension isn’t worth shit, although that’s something no one has to worry about anymore, as the infrastructure to give employees such a thing is gone.
@Chris: A great deal of the “we’re all in this together spirit” requires the (re)definition of “we” to include all of us. Having a person of color elected does much to establish a wider-diameter Venn circle of “we, the people.” This is a generational shift. Some day, the trodden-down, chronically underempolyed Millennials with multiracial cultural identities and a jaundiced view of the free market will ascend to political power, and the cynical, laissez-faire mercenaries of Gen X (yo!) will have to accede to greater interdependence. Either that, or we’ll all kill each other in the name of freedom before our Chinese robot overlords come to our rescue and employ us in their satanic mills. 50-50 odds.
@ThatLeftTurnInABQ: Yeah, good point.
I have a close political….accomplice here locally who is a union electrician. He told me a couple of years back that they were getting hired by “big box” stores because retailers found it was cheaper to just do the work once, so they were hiring union.
He is a maddeningly precise and deliberate person (which may come from 30 years of avoiding electrocution) and a very good Democratic and labor canvasser. Trudge, trudge, trudge. He’ll walk for hours.
@cathyx: This issue has been identified numerous times yet “amazingly” the mainstream media is not picking this story up! Whooda thunk it?
What is even stranger is that the exact reverse philosophy seems to be at work for upper management positions. They must be paid huge salaries, bonuses, with all the perks because they are just so freaking valuable.
No disagreement there, but then again I think the US should have a national, single-payer healthcare system. Squeals from the Confederate Party over raising the minimum wage will be similarly strident, but likely much less effective. Which Pelosi shrewdly understands.
@Yutsano: The fear mongering about the minimum wage is not based in fact just like their fear mongering about the deficit and debt.
Picking fruit and vegetables is hard work, but it requires a skill set as well. A mix of skilled and unskilled labor can be justified, but unskilled labor alone is unproductive and often harmful to future production (in fruit trees at least.) The fact you were working along side of people with skills helped you work better and cause fewer problems than a group of novices. It isn’t easy to develop the workforce from scratch for any job.
@Chris: Agreed about the chicken analogy.
BTW, does anyone else remember that public sector employees have been laid off by the hundreds of thousands, while many of the rest have been furloughed or had pay cuts, etc. Because I do.
The comparisons between safe, protected public sector and exploited private sector employment don’t hold up as well as they once did. In today’s economy, if you’re labor, you’re screwed.
Workers of the world, unite….
@schrodinger’s cat: By substituting racial / religious resentment for class resentment in the working classes. See: Marx, Karl.
@schrodinger’s cat: No change in the situation with Kate. Still comes around, eats, plays in the yard, hightails it away if anyone tries to approach her. She has been holding just a wee bit better if I come bearing dog food bowl.
Yeah, I’m semi-hopeful that my generation is the beginning of a shift. But I’m still staggered by the number of people I meet, even after all the shit the robber barons have put us through, for whom resentment of unions, regulations, etc are still a thing.
We’ve managed to overcome earlier generations’ racial resentments to quite an extent, but we need to relearn the entire economic solidarity thing. And it’s definitely going to be harder to do in a more middle class society.
comrade scott's agenda of rage
This. I’m on this from the Federal side and the overall cost to us contracting out for IT (what I do) is considerably more than if we did it in-house, even with the pension and “generous” 401K. The Bushies tried (and largely succeeded) in outsourcing most of this. Now Obama has been trying to bring it back in-house.
The irony is that back in the 90s, the people flow was in the opposite direction: Beltway Bandits sucking at the federal teat could offer more of everything for IT people…and people left Club Fed in droves for it.
Great gig for maybe 5 years then IT changed significantly and now we see what’s been described in this thread.
What I see in an office far removed from DC is former state gubmint employees who retire on 80% salary but with piss poor health benefits, try to hook on with us for 5 years. That gets em vested in the health care plan and nowadays, that’s all anybody cares about.
The downside is that they effectively keep younger employees out of a career track position. Of course I blame the pointy-haired mid-level Club Fed managers who do this kind of hiring.
@Jay S: Are you kidding me? There are no skills needed to pick tomatoes, beans or strawberries but a strong back and a lot of stamina.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that politics in America is different from Europe because race over here substitutes for class over there. Again, maybe it’s just a generational thing, but speaking as someone with heritage in both societies, I’m not seeing it. I think it’s the opposite, actually. I can’t imagine any politician back in France, from any part of the spectrum, saying anything as jaw-droppingly elitist as Romney’s 47%er speech (which was a popularly accepted wingnut meme long before it was a Romney quote). On the other hand, for their hard right, it’s all about race. (They’re actually pretty good at recruiting from all social classes, and not at all unwilling to use anticapitalist rhetoric. But race, they draw the line).
So I think it’s the opposite; America as a society is class-conscious as hell, far more so than France at least. The contempt for the 47%, as racially tinged as it is, definitely is meant to include poor white people as well, especially the uppity ones who join unions or go to work for the government. And we show far more deference towards our Job Creator class than Marine Le Pen and her supporters ever would.
I think that raising the bottom/lowering the top works in most industries, but not farming. These farmers aren’t making insanely huge salaries that they can lower to raise wages for workers. The situation with farming is unique and discussing the reality that food prices would skyrocket if labor costs go up isn’t conservative, it’s reality. If you want to argue we do that and screw over poor people who can’t afford to pay for food, that’s fine. But, someone is going to get screwed here consumers or workers.
This is kind of my hobbyhorse, but I do think that our race and class issues are mixed together in a fairly unique way. The mixture is simultaneously used so the middle class and upper class can look down on all of the lower classes, regardless of color, but then the race part gets mixed in so the lower classes have someone to look down on and don’t stop to realize that they’re getting screwed by the upper class.
Plus, of course, the French violently overthrew their aristocracy, so they don’t really have a history of deference to the upper class. We had the Puritans in the northeast (Calvin says rich people are God’s favorites!) and the plantation owners in the South, so IMO there was a strain of “rich people are better than us” all around the 13 colonies that didn’t get much better after the Revolution.
@comrade scott’s agenda of rage:
Of course, the government side of the house has been taking a beating as Congress’s whipping boy, with pay freezes, hiring freezes, and now possible sequestration semi-funemployment. Some of our guys have hopped the fence, but it’s not all strawberries and cream working for Uncle Sam either. It’s also very top-heavy and will be until a lot of GS14 and 15 boomers retire, which will be as late as they can manage it.
I don’t know of anybody who’s not grandfathered in who’s got a defined-benefit pension on the federal side; it’s all TSP (govvie 401k equivalent) now, isn’t it?
@? Martin: Same old same old. Except that we don’t see the salaries skyrocketing (save in a few niches).
@Kay: I saw it but ignored it, because you are so cool.
@danimal: Yes, and those state pensions aren’t always safe in perpetuity, either, as we’re learning here in Illinois. I don’t want to Debbie Downer you, Martin, but do think about your Plan B.
I think it is a generational thing.
I’m guessing the big divide is whether you were around for the 1970s or not, or at least close enough in time to be strongly influenced by people who were.
The 1970s was really the point when the great American economic gravy train not only stopped, but derailed and crushed a lot of people’s hopes and dreams in doing so, and took our national optimism with it. That’s when we became the crab-bucket society. Racial attitudes today are strikingly different from what they were like back then, so when the gravy train crashed a lot of angry, hurt and confused people went looking around for an explanation as to what the fuck had just happened, and race was the first thing they tripped over because it was already there.
Because they don’t see: 1) how the money spent out by them in this fashion comes back into their rather than someone else’s pocket; 2) how they aren’t put at a competitive disadvantage doing so competing against lower-wage rivals. In short, it’s a variant of the “tragedy of the commons”, except in this case it’s the supply of labor that’s the “commons”.
The entrepreneurs and companies who are able to see past this narrow sort of pragmatism to take the Henry Ford view of paying labor a wage enabling their labor force to be consumers…tend to be the leading-edge successful companies in a new field (even one with competitors), as was Henry Ford with car manufacturing in the early 1900s. This perspective tends to erode as a product/service field (and the competitive environment) become more mature, and is further accelerated once vulture capitalists are attracted to the field and begin to buy out these companies and apply harsh bean-counter logic to them to severely lean them down and strip off some of their assets for their own profit.
@cathyx: You’ve never picked tree fruit commercially then. The difference in an experienced picker and a novice is amazing.
I suspect working along side of people who have done ground fruit before made you work smarter as well. You can waste a lot of energy doing things badly.
And even strong backs and lots of stamina are things that take time to develop.
Pay alone will not kick start foreign labor replacement. It’s a necessary but not sufficient condition.
@askew: “Then, we’d have to pay $4/apple. The cost of food would go through the roof if farmers had to pay a very high labor cost. Or the government would have to offer huge subsidies to offset labor costs. That’s the reality. Most people couldn’t afford food in that environment. ”
IIRC, studies have shown (sorry if everybody just winced) that higher wages wouldn’t raise food prices much.
@askew: “Even raising wages wouldn’t get Americans to do some of those jobs as they found in Georgia after they passed the Draconian immigration bill and food was rotting in the fields.”
Ummm, where is the evidence that wages were raised that time?
How much were they raised? Not enough, apparently.
comrade scott's agenda of rage
It’s not all TSP. Lemme clarify, I’m a federal employee who’s been around long enough to not shed any tears for the so-called travails of gubmint contractors.
Back to retirement. We still have people under the old (CSRS) system which was a classic defined-benefit plan with the added wrinkle that CSRS employees didn’t have to pay into Social Security. In general, if you retired with around 30-33 years of service, you got around 60% of your salary and of course continued employee contributions to your health care coverage.
Reagan changed all of that with FERS (of which TSP is a component). We pay 0.8% of salary toward the defined benefit portion of the FERS retirement plan. We also pay into Social Security (typically 6.2%). CRSR employees pay 7% of salary toward their pension but remember, don’t pay into (or collect) Social Security. Their pension is worth about twice what mine will be.
The Repups last year passed a law which now makes any Fed hired this year and afterward to contribute an additional 2.3% toward the defined benefit portion of the retirement.
The TSP portion of the retirement is outlined here:
I remember back in the 80s when both me and my wife went to work for Club Fed, her uncle, a VP with GE and as a conservative asshat as they come, gave her endless grief about “wasting” an engineering degree with the government. She eventually quit after 11 years (for other reasons) but over the last 5 years, we’re the ones who’ve “thrived” as so many of my private sector peers who used to sneer at us for our gubmint jobs, have been laid off, watched their 401Ks evaporate and lose their homes.
@ThatLeftTurnInABQ: After the oil shock of the 70s the New Deal needed to be tweaked, but not in the direction that Reagan and Co. tweaked it.
Forum Transmitted Disease
@askew: What would you call the profit that goes to farmers using illegal laborers now? Profit that comes from not having to pay workers comp, healthcare, retirement, adequate pay…hell, that’s a subsidy and we are all paying it right now.
@comrade scott’s agenda of rage: “We pay 0.8% of salary toward the defined benefit portion of the FERS retirement plan”
Which is about 1% of final salary per year of service.
So 30 years service gets 30% of final salary as defined benefit pension. Not 80.
Another part to the race vs class equation is that our increasing class conciousness is probably being driven by our increasing inequality in wealth and income.
It was easier to ignore class issues back when the CEO only made x20 as much as the workers and wasn’t that far from middle management either socially or economically. Fast-forward to today’s environment in which the folks at the top are multi-billionares on a James Bond villain scale, and we’ve got more layers of readily distinguishable economic niches than Eskimos have different kinds of snow. Our vocabulary has adjusted to fit.
Forum Transmitted Disease
@catclub: They weren’t raised at all. The governor of Georgia emptied the state prisons and got chain gangs out on the fields, and when even that didn’t work, then Georgia very quietly quit enforcing the laws.
What I find amazing is how many college grad applicants we get (all) that miserably fail to follow even the most cursory application instructions.
I must admit, that a lot of folks we hire struggle with the basic work details – NOT staring at the personal cells and texting during meetings; being on time consistently; being proactive about workloads and deadlines; working as a functioning and productive team member; acting appropriately as a member of the larger work community…
When I pointed out to our assistant director that it should be OUR responsibility, in an effective, proactive way to provide valid learning opportunities about workplace expectations, behaviors, rules, and regs she seems to think people will find it offensive and invasive. WTF??? Is it any wonder good workers are frustrated?
Oh, and regarding the ‘kids are lazy’ argument. They aren’t. But they need guidance, and they aren’t getting it. Kids don’t have skillsets because their parents either don’t, or don’t have the time or inclination to teach them. Throw an opportunity to learn it in front of them, though, and they pounce on it like cats.
Shithole America’s dysfunctional economic system is “You train, I’ll hire.” This leads to employers poaching off each other and nobody getting hired.
In Europe and Asia, they do it differently. In Germany, companies get government subsidies to train employees. In France, the government applies a tax to businesses and if the business trains its employees, the tax gets remitted. In Singapore, candidates sign a contract saying that if they train for X years for some job, then the employer gets to hire them at wage Y for a certain number of years.
Shithole America doesn’t have the brains or imagination to implement any of these policies. Now the U.S. economy is circling the porcelain bowl, and the suction is pulling it down.
Obliteration seems just.
Anna in PDX
@Belafon (formerly anonevent): I know for me government jobs are all about the benefits. To me benefits benefits benefits means even more than in real estate they say location location location. You can’t buy a good benefit plan for all that extra money you might be making in the private sector.
It’s really quite amazing how you manage to be completely off-putting even when saying things I agree with.
comrade scott's agenda of rage
Yes, I know that. The 80% number is typical of many state gubmints, not federal.
Unless you’re exaggerating for obvious effect, I call bullshit.
Let’s assume apples are now $1 (for sake of argument). You’re claiming that the increase in wages would be equivalent to $3 an apple? How many apples are these people picking per hour?
His/her “$4/apple” doesn’t pass the laugh test.
But we pay large farm subsidies already. We pay them to the “job creators” who don’t pass on some of the money to farm workers. We pay large sums to grow corn and soybeans but not to pick fruit.
Maybe if our priorities could be corrected HFCS might cost a little more but fruit would not and workers could make at least closer to a living wage.
This interview is one of my favorite bits on the myth of the skills gap.
Basic summary: Employers only want people who have done that exact job before, because they don’t want to bother with training. Who has done that exact job before? Workers from direct competitor companies. So employers really want to poach those folks. Great idea, right?
But in order to successfully poach people, you have to offer them something they aren’t currently getting – usually, a big fat raise. And of course, no company wants to pay a higher wage than a direct competitor company pays! So they can’t get those folks, and they don’t want anyone else because training is hard. And then they whine about a skills gap and wring their hands in angst about the quality of the workforce. Rinse, lather, repeat.
I see this all the time. Employers can’t find people who can meet their qualifications who are also willing to work for their crappy wages. People who are that well qualified want to be paid a good wage.
“As a professional critic of life and letters, my principal business in the world is that of manufacturing…ideas so novel that they will be instantly rejected as insane and outrageous by all right-thinking men, and so apposite and sound that they will eventually conquer that instinctive opposition, and force themselves into the traditional wisdom of the race.” — H. L Mencken.
Good catch on the avoiding electrocution. The wider point is that people who work years in more dangerous jobs is that to survive you have to work carefully and deliberately. Having done both electrically and mechanically dangerous work, I get the methodical connection.
Good point. I’m guessing that having an experienced worker show a newbie the best spot to cut the tomato vine can make a big difference in efficiency. Heck, just hanging back for a minute and watching how the experienced workers arrange themselves was probably very helpful.
If all you have is a bunch of people who’ve never done the work before milling around trying to figure out where to start without anyone around to show them the ropes, what you’re going to have is a mess.
Not to excuse it all, but the hiring systems now, with the problems everyone’s been discussing here, essentially demand spamming your resume to a lot more positions than people had to years ago. So your amount of attention per application is going to go way down.
Yup. With attendant whining about the applicant pool. And for government contracting, you can add security clearances into the mix as well. Contracts are demanding clearances day one from all staff, and companies either can’t or won’t wait the six months to a year with new staff to get them cleared.
Anna in PDX
@Chris: This. Why is it always a race to the bottom? Our daily paper has at least one front page article a week bashing the state pension system instead of asking why private sector does not have pensions.
Forum Transmitted Disease
@ericblair: Not an issue (everything else you mention is). You get an interim clearance and that’s a one week process, maximum – unless you’ve got an arrest or something similar, and then you probably ain’t getting a clearance anyway. Anyone who uses lack of a clearance to avoid a hiring decision doesn’t want to hire, period.
Yeah, well, I just applied for a job online last week. The intro page says that a cover letter is necessary. Then having completed the process, it’s clear that there’s no point in the flow using the GUI that there’s an opportunity to post a cover letter. And there’s a note saying not to contact HR via email unless you have questions.
So I guess the people who can’t follow instructions might also be the same people who can’t write them.
@Anna in PDX:
Frankly, I don’t see how pensions make any sense anymore.
Yes, there are nasty aspects to defined contribution—you’ll start drawing down after a market crash; people make ill-advised investments; etc.
But pensions…aside from the fact that most people simply don’t have life-long employment opportunities anymore, you don’t own the notional assets in your pension. If the company goes bankrupt, bye-bye pension. Yes the PBGC or whatever it’s called will chip in, but not nearly anything approaching 100%, IIRC. And there’s tons of moral hazard; maybe they have a system forcing companies to pay into PBGC based on risk of bankrupcy, but if they do, I don’t see how it would work very well.
I work on contract for a federal institution, and because I “make too much” I can’t get a 401k from my company (the pass-thru—that’s another bullshit story). I _could_ get one of those nonqualified plans, but if the company went bankrupt, I’d have to get in line as a creditor. No thanks.
Someone I know was complaining about that as a reason not to have electronic application. This was probably 1990 or 1991.
Amanda in the South Bay
Meh, a lot of that sounds like the usual “get off my lawn” schtick people say when they get older, and realizing that people OMG checking their FB status on their phone isn’t going to cause the company to go under.
This is an artifact of current law. If we wished to do so, we could legislate that defined-benefit pension plans are first in line during bankruptcy, ahead of all other classes of creditor.
If that had been done before it became fashionable for corporate raiders to loot a company’s pension fund, thereby choking off the incentive to do so, imagine how much of the social and economic damage discussed in this thread we could have avoided.
Amanda in the South Bay
Also some job application websites really, truly, honestly suck.
“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” – John Steinbeck
This is just flat out untrue. Who do you think did these jobs in California before the massive influx of illegals?
Okies. And they earned dirt while doing it.
Agricultural work is hard, but they currently cannot attract legal labor at minimum wage, and bumping it up a dollar or so still will not cut it. You have to pay in relation to the alternatives for your potential workers, and if your work is the most difficult and punishing, you need to pay to attract the needed labor. People have just gotten so addicted to the benefits of illegal laborers that they have lost all perspective on the real costs using properly documented workers.
@Forum Transmitted Disease:
COMSEC, TS/SCI. Also, interim clearances get denied even when the final clearance comes through (20% to 30% of interims get denied versus 1% of final clearances). There’s enough uncertainty around the process that hiring managers want to avoid it.
@Forum Transmitted Disease: The Federal government no longer has a retirement plan. They have the “thrift Savings Plan,” a401K, which is worth about as much as any other 401K, that is, nothing. This has been the case at least since 1990.
Great post, Kay. I wish your son well. A hesitant start to life is nothing when a old person looks back. It’s the long distance that tests the runner.
IMHO, the “shortage” of nurses is explained by the same dynamic. There are tons of people with nursing degrees who no longer practice. The pay and working conditions were too crummy.
@ThatLeftTurnInABQ: “The 1970s was really the point when the great American economic gravy train not only stopped, but derailed and crushed a lot of people’s hopes and dreams in doing so, and took our national optimism with it.”
When I was a teenager in the 70s, my father was bewildered that I couldn’t easily find a job at a fast food place. The oil shortage, Prop. 13 in California, and the election of Ronald Reagan (for whom my father voted) really did signal a sea change.
The bad guys in this drama have been very patient, long-term thinkers. Which is strange because their goals have been very much about the next quarterly report.
Don’t forget, there was no such thing as a federal minimum wage until 1938. Those Okies basically had the same deal that today’s migrant workers had — crap wages and mistreatment, or starvation.
The problem is that the farm industry depends on paying people below minimum wage. Once you had to give a minimum wage to American workers, they started hiring illegal or guest workers from Mexico and Central America who didn’t have to be paid minimum wage.
So (and I think this is what you were saying) it’s not that you can’t get Americans to do the job, it that you’re no longer allowed to pay American workers sub-minimum wage.
Well, yeah, I forgot about that alternative. That would fix things quite nicely (no snark).
I don’t think that’s strictly true.
A large fraction of the flagrantly rich got that way by owning valuable land. That’s a longer-term game.
@Amanda in the South Bay:
The one I mentioned in another post somewhere above was really outsourced, insofar as the link to start the GUI going led off the employer’s website onto some company that does that for a living.
@mclaren: Holy christ, do not flatter yourself so. I was referring to your demeanor, not your ideas. “America sucks and does it all wrong” hardly qualifies as a “novel” thought, even if it does hit the mark alarmingly often.
Which is why all the anti-immigrant hysteria is just racist claptrap: there’s an anti-immigration argument that can be plausibly made, but it’s clear that if you’re interested in that, you’d legislate draconian penalties on employers.
Right, if you look at wage data, I think it pretty much completely stopped at about 1973.
I would think that the influx of women into the labor force did contribute something as far as wage rates are concerned, but I don’t see why that would result in labor actually taking home a smaller chunk of GDP, which is what we’ve seen.
I remember the same thing, and thru pretty much every twist and turn in the career path since then I’ve been bumping into people 10+ years older than me who have been somewhere between surprised and incredulous/in-denial about how it doesn’t work like it did back when they were younger.
It would be an exaggeration to say that in their day all they had to do to succeed was to show up on time, but they certainly didn’t get the crab bucket treatment either.
@Mnemosyne: Point of order here — does the law say minimum wage only needs to be paid to American workers, or all workers?
What I’m thinking here is that (a) hiring illegals is… well, illegal. (b) If an employer is going to break one law, why not break another? It’s all off the books, right?
(Offered with the intent to educate myself, not be contrary.)
In today’s giant-foam-finger-hoisting “America Number One!” society, the notion that Shithole America might have turned into a mecca for failure, a cultural Chernobyl and a necropolis built from coprolites qualifies as a thought more revolutionary than special relativity.
Shorter different church lady: mclaren is usually right but I can’t stand to admit it.
What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?
@ericblair: Yes, if you were hired in the past couple of decades, you’re pension maxes out at 30% of your salary. The bulk of retirement income comes from TSP – the federal government 401(k) plus social security (provided the Republicans don’t manage to destroy that). Yeah, we still get a small pension, which is better than most people get, but given the lower salaries it’s probably a break-even.
The big difference (and why I made the jump) is job security. Sure, we may get furloughed some, but that’s a lot better than getting laid off and having to find another job. If you work for a contractor, you could get let go at any time. So far, for federal government workers, layoffs haven’t happened. But no one thought they’d have massive layoffs at the State level and that happened, so who knows?
@ThatLeftTurnInABQ: thru pretty much every twist and turn in the career path since then I’ve been bumping into people 10+ years older than me who have been somewhere between surprised and incredulous/in-denial about how it doesn’t work like it did back when they were younger.
Yup, that’s the Clueless Boomer attitude (which is not to say that all Boomers are like this), and it’s only gotten stronger among its practitioners.
@liberal: Point taken–especially regarding agribusiness.
Not really. The people who AFAICT have made the most on land own commercial real estate. Farmland is probably the smallest profit center (ie after residential), though I guess that could be changing.
Okay, that’s true. (And I admit France is an extreme case even for Europe).
And yeah, there is definitely the generational thing – wasn’t even born yet in the seventies.
At work, can’t look for the video to link. Richard Wolff has been giving talks about this, and I’ve watched a few on YouTube. Really worth the time to watch him. I’ll add a link when I get home.
@askew: The ‘top wages’ in farming aren’t the farmers, but rather the distributors, processors, and input companies. That is where the fat has to be cut.
I think the bad guys then were different from the ones now. They lived in an era when society had been defined by seventy or eighty years of liberal economic activism, resulting in a world where unions and the welfare state were solid and popular “establishment” institutions and regulations a normal part of the landscape. They knew that if they were going to reverse all of that, they had to play a very long and careful game.
Our current MOTU, on the other hand, have grown up in a world where it was conservatism that had the wind in its sails, was constantly redefining the political landscape, and was taken for granted as the ideology of “all Real Americans.” They just take it for granted that the world is the way they wanted to be, and they get petulant and start throwing tantrums when it’s not exactly the way they want. That explains a lot of the teabaggers’ lunatic intransigence, IMO.
@liberal: Isn’t commercial real estate overvalued and waiting for the bubble to pop, as happened with housing?
@Li: The ‘top wages’ in farming aren’t the farmers, but rather the distributors, processors, and input companies. That is where the fat has to be cut.
I remember reading somewhere that if farmworkers got a significant raise, the price of food would be affected only slightly–because they are such a small part of the price of food at the grocery store.
@BethanyAnne: Hopefully this thread is only mostly dead. :) Here’s the video I liked so much. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-KqeU8nzn4
I saw an article somewhere (I’m sure I’m not the first person to mention it) where they wanted to higher folks for running high tech manufacturing for $10-12 an hour… which is about what a manager at McDonald’s made in that region. The same conclusion was made – there wasn’t a skills shortage, there were people unwilling to pay the market price for skills.
The department of labor won’t proactively investigate complaints. So, basically, “yes, they can pay undocumented workers lower than minimum wage”.
I’m at one of my jobs tonight, having a smoke. This thread’s tooo long to read all the way through but I’d like to throw this out there…
To get a job in the microbiology lab at this plant I clean on the weekends, you only need to take a microbiology course. So if you decide today you want to work in the lab & make ~$19/hour, it’ll take you 32 weeks, maybe less if you’re motivated/lucky. Except…
You also need 2 years of experience in a manufacturing environment. Get hired on in the warehouse (@ ~$13/hour, work yr way up, etc.).
Is this normal? I know from talking to the plant workers they always need people in the labs. I get that they want people that can deal with rotating 12 hour shifts, but it seems a little wacky to me.
This is in NE OK, an hour outside Tulsa, if it matters.
@LongHairedWeirdo: Thanks, but my question was de jure, not de facto. Obviously plenty of hiring goes on for less than minimum. What I wanted to know is if this level of pay was legally allowable because they were non-citizens, or whether employers who are willing to break the law to hire undocumented workers are also willing to break the law regarding wage.