Stephen Moore’s article criticizes the Biden administration for the current wave of labor strikes by working class Americans. He claims that Biden’s attitude toward labor has opened the door to allowing strikes. He also says that the American economy has largely been without strikes for 40 years. Those 40 years include eight Clinton presidency years and eight Obama presidency years, the latter during which Biden was VP.
What Moore neglects to mention are a number of factors that likely have contributed to strikes.
1. Inflation. Inflation has taken off this year. We have seen large price increases for basic commodities much of which apparently is due to COVID-related supply distribution and source material labor shortages. The seeds for these price increases were planted before Biden became president, the impacts of which were exacerbated by the disjointed, anemic response to COVID by the Trump administration.
2. The wealthy class. The greater awareness by all Americans of the tremendous wealth difference between the working class and the super wealthy. This wealth and income difference has been exacerbated by Trump granting tax breaks to corporations and the super wealthy. The increased wealth of corporations and the wealthy was supposed to trickle down to the working class. That trickling down didn’t happen under Trump any more than it did under Reagan.
3. Corporate profits and the stock market. Corporate profits have been soaring along with the stock market. Informed people realize that most large companies were not negatively impacted by the COVID economy. The enormous gains that corporations and stock market investors have seen shows people that corporations have money. Shareholders are rewarded handsomely while workers — those creating the profits — have been largely left out.
4. Social media. Previous labor movements would require physically disseminating fliers and assembling people to express their concerns. That is no longer the case. While social media sites like Facebook can disseminate erroneous information, it certainly can be used by people to communicate their concerns and gripes and function as a sounding board for those feeling left behind.
5. A time of social protest. When workers see people protesting Black lives, LGBTQ rights and labor strikes and other such causes and getting at least some results, workers are encouraged that protesting their abusive working conditions might be worth doing. And, yes, the Biden administration has been more supportive of these efforts, but they rarely get involved the vast majority of labor strikes.
6. Labor shortages. Perhaps because of the COVID crisis, there is a labor shortage in this country. There are help wanted signs everywhere. This is not a local phenomenon. This situation has put workers in the driver’s seat with many people quitting and moving on to other jobs with higher pay or better benefits. As an IT executive for 20 years, I remember how difficult it was to find technical people during the late ’90s. The division that I worked for bent over backward to find ways to keep people happy. Everything from higher compensation, flexible work hours, relaxed dress standards and other kinds of perks were considered. If someone threaten to leave, we regularly met their salary demands if we knew we could keep the person. Those days didn’t last too long.
In summary, with the labor shortages that companies are seeing, corporate executives should consider strikes a clear signal that their compensation and benefits are not aligned with what they should be. Workers are demanding that companies, like John Deere share some of their enormous profits with the people that build their machinery. Things could be a lot worse if a majority of workers vote with their feet and go to their competitors.