700K Will Lose Unemployment Benefits in June
From Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge:
[U]nlike the bulk of other transfer payment programs (read government subsides) which could be extended with the flick of a switch at the end of the year following the now traditional 1+ month congressional theatrical impasse, extended claims can not. The net result: by June some 700,000 people who are currently collecting benefits will lose everything.
It’s worse than that. Over the last few years, many companies have rid themselves of full-time employees with benefits for part-time workers with no benefits or rights to employment of any kind. New hires are paid minimum wage. Recently, those hours they were getting have been cut back drastically. It is so bad that a lot of these minimum wage part-time workers are getting by on 15 hours per week, or about $100 before taxes. I know people who are being scheduled with four hours per week. Presumably, because these people are employed, they are not subject to unemployment benefits and quietly starving, with more dignity than can be expected.
This state of affairs simply cannot continue much longer. These beleaguered workers are taking two or more part-time jobs, leaving them without sufficient rest. Unsatisfied employers are then retaliating by scheduling even fewer hours to employ those who exhibit appropriate energy. I even know of a situation where workers are being required to move at double-time when putting up stock. The statement has been made that if they aren’t sweating, they aren’t moving fast enough. This leads to unsafe working conditions with a higher frequency of falls from ladders and subsequent injuries. Many of these workers are already up against the wall financially, and not having health insurance, become the responsibility of the state until their injuries have healed sufficiently to work again.
As you might expect, some of these companies, in attempts to shore up profits, are rolling out customer service intensive training programs which require sales associates to perform under rigorous policies regarding greeting, qualification, recommendation, closing and cross-selling of products. Those who for what ever reason cannot adhere to these draconian measures are also falling by the wayside. Many are very young, do not have strong work ethics to begin with, and become easily discouraged by what can only be described as management bullshit. As they attrit, more new hires come on board, usually also very young, become quickly discouraged and leave. The few old hands who remain, along with management, are left to run these companies however they can, often being forced to abandon new regimens which never worked in the first place.
The effect of all this on our youngsters is nothing short of criminal. Auto insurance rates are already so high, many can’t afford it, even if they could buy an old car. Therefore, many ride the bus to work. The logistics of available public transportation then limit the area in which they can apply for work, greatly marginalizing their ability to earn any kind of wage. Otherwise good kids are very quickly discouraged by these daunting challenges and become something less than they had ever dreamed.
The youngsters who navigate this gauntlet and show up to work on time, appropriately dressed, with something in their stomach, energy and inclination to do a job are nothing short of heroes. Management in a lot of these companies therefore goes easy on these kids and takes on parenting roles, both for the survival of the businesses and the communities in which they live. I know of one manager who is so concerned about these at-risk kids that he spends a lot of his time working in group homes and volunteering in church-sponsored activities.
From what I’ve seen, the managers’ hands are tied by having to implement Dickensian employment policies to combat ever-decreasing profits. However, it is the assistant managers and department heads who exhibit real courage in providing a humane buffer between corporate policies and vulnerable subordinates. Often having children of their own, they practice the modified Golden Rule of treating their charges well in hope that someone is doing the same for theirs. And if there is any adherence to the tenets of love and mercy left in corporate America, it lies with these mid-level managers who remain amid drastic cuts of their kind.
This thin line of workplace veterans cannot hold forever, however. At some point and soon, there must be a reckoning with corporate masters who insist upon profitability at all cost, when that bill must be paid by the young and the unfortunate.
I wish I could end this sad tale by indicating the disease of neoliberalism infects only those first entering the workplace. Unfortunately, and perhaps even more importantly, it affects those in college to the point they are often put off any type of corporate endeavor after graduation. I have seen students change their majors from business to the arts and social sciences after being exposed to contemporary corporate methods. My fear is the path to business may be left only to those bereft of any compassion as typified by the sociopath. It is a foregone conclusion that this personality type predominates at the higher end of these companies. The mad dash for profits may be a closed loop which perpetuates itself, to the detriment of product quality and customer service.