Thursday, October 21, 2021

What rises in America?

Moonrise over Cambria East Village

          For more than 20 years she had served her customers, cooked their breakfasts and lunches, knew their likes, kept coffee cups full and heard about their lives. Tonight, somewhat retired, she sat at the long table, having catered a meal, relaxed, sipped a glass a wine and told a story that revealed a great truth about what's happening to workers, and what will change our economy

       She's resilient and street smart. She ran a good restaurant, but the building owner had different plans. With little notice a community favorite was closed. 
        She was tired, had worked hard and said it was time to give her mother the attention she needed, so she moved her from Mexico. Last week they were having lunch at a little restaurant over the mountain. Seeing tables that needed to be cleared, her old instincts kicked in and she went to work.                                    Shortly she and the manager were conversing, they had a lot in common. Her host  complained about not being able to hire help. It's the common business malady of the day, coast to coast.

        As she nursed the cabernet, she told us the restauranteur didn't understand why she couldn't get help offering pay of $12-13 an hour. 
        "She won't be able to hire anyone for that. Servers today will make $25-30 an hour. They have choices now."

SHIFT by Warren Hamrick
San Simeon CA

choices now
        Things are out alignment, out of whack; it's a new day and that is especially so for the working class.
        Bars, coffee shops, restaurants, medical offices, retail businesses, trucking companies, warehouses and more are hammered by a dwindling work force. The Pandemic sickened economy is changing work in America. 
        In 50 years of reporting I've not seen the rise of such an attitude. 

        Workers are taking a break in what has become a kind of rolling grassroots labor action. They are holding out for better pay, a once in a lifetime chance to even the balance. This is a unique time for workers to close the wealth gap.

        We've all been surprised by product shortages, longer delivery times, restricted hours, brith pains of a profound change in the economic equation. 
        Burned out, stuck in careers, piqued over a lack of management concern, fighting for child care, wanting more pay, and more respect the work force understands they are needed. They know they have a bargaining chip, leverage. 
        During the pandemic employees changed attitudes about  work, where they work, how they work, and how much they are paid. Some have a bit of a savings cushion since they spent less over the last year and half so now they wait until they get a better offer. The bidding is on. It is a workers market.
        It remains to be seen if corporations, businesses, managers, executives, boards of directors or even congress act on increasing a minimum wage, paying more equitably, and addressing working conditions. A shift seems to be underway.

trumpers and progressives align

        Nothing like a neighborhood issue to bring political opposites together.
        It can happen anywhere. In this case Cambrians huddle with a parks official to let him know their opposition to a plan  from another neighborhood.

             Non-neighbors want to turn the local park, a well used and popular picnic ground busy with weddings, reunions, concerts, parties, dog and human exercise, and just chilling, into a pool where she and her friends can swim laps.  


            It's also home to the traditional Fourth of July festivities,

        and it's already got a pool. Doesn't matter to the fomenters who want a new pool, their lap pool, in someone else's back yard. So, opposites on other matters make alliance on this one. 

        If it happens here, there is still hope. 

        As our quiet village and neighboring San Simeon is beset with tourists, acting as erratic hordes and traffic hazards as they take in our annual scare crow festival, I'd like to offer my nomination for the best.
        No official entry here. No, this creature is the work of an artist who found a windswept beach, far from mapped displays. You have to walk a ways, out of the way to find it.

        Stay safe. Be patient.
        See you down the trail.


  1. Love this. So well, you have defined a very real pandemic positive. Everyday I’m working with a range of young entrepreneurs, immigrants, retirees who have turned to their, self respect, talents, skills, creativity and work ethic to break though and build a new pathway for supporting themselves and their families. What a joy it is to see a butcher buy the butcher shop he worked for 39 years. How cool it is to see a young military couple open a successful enterprise creating work space for those with similar aspirations. I love the story of your friend…and the good news, this new dignity for workers is happening all of the county and I expect all over the world.

    1. Thanks Terry. You are on the front line of seeing this change emerge. Sometimes unplanned changes are the best.

  2. Did you see the story last week about the guy in Tampa who was fed up seeing and reading sorties about employers whining about being unable to find workers? During the month of September, he targeted 60 employers who the most prominent complainers and applied for the jobs they claimed they couldn't fill. He was qualified for all the jobs, over qualified for most. He sent out 60 resumes, he got 14 responses and one interview. One construction job offered 12 bucks an hour, but you had to work for $8.50 an hour for 3 months to see "if you'd work out". They are all lying. On another note, my nephew and his wife have three girls under school age. Their childcare costs $2,000 a month. The 24k a year is over half of my nephew's school teacher wife's take home pay. If she was single, she couldn't do it. The woman who does Jan's hair, husband was a drug and alcohol counselor, the facility he worked for closed because of Covid. He went to truck driver's school, he's making 80k a year, his schedule, 30 days on the road, then 4 days home. Imagine when we went to work for Fairbanks and being required to live in the two story brick 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and then going home for 4 days and then back at it. The truck drivers at the Port of LA were being paid by the mile, 55 cents a mile, it takes 2 hours to drive from the intersection of 101 and 405 to the Port of LA if traffic is good, the works out to 19 bucks an hour, then they wait to be loaded (an hour or two) and then back on the road. Their real wage is just above minimum and under if they run into a jam.

    1. It's time for the disparity in wealth to be narrowed. This would have happened sooner if union power was stronger. No wonder the big money is so fearful of organized workers.

  3. I have a hobby job and it seems I constantly have to listen to people complaining about not being able to hire. The complainers seem to believe the old rules apply, low wages, repetitive boring work with no say in their work conditions. A past due attitude adjustment is in their future.

    1. Dean-Thanks. You've got that right. The adjustment is past due!