The US Way: Workers Produce More, Earn Less = Company Profit

This post is part of a series on Stakeholder Engagement sponsored by Jurat Software.
Credit: Mother Jones (July/August 2011)

Mother Jones talks about the “dirty secret” of the jobless recovery in its July/August issue but many stakeholders—employed and unemployed—that are engaged in any way with life as brought to you by corporate America might say it’s dirty all right but not really much of a secret.

The article shows in graphic and excruciating detail how US workers must do much more with a whole lot less if they want to hang to hang on to their jobs. While corporations are asking and getting more work and increased hours from employees their profits are up 22 percent since 2007. Meanwhile wages remain stagnant.

The article, “All Work and No Pay: The Great Speedup,” by Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffrey says, “We’re not just working smarter, but harder. And harder. And harder, to the point where the driver is no longer American industriousness, but something much more predatory.”

They point out that while productivity has surged, income and wages have stagnated for most Americans. “If the median household income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, it would now be nearly $92,000, not $50,000.”

Their research litany of woe goes on:

  • Americans put in an average of 122 more hours per year than Brits and 378 hours more than Germans.
  • Almost everyone—except U.S. workers—have a right to weekends off, paid vacation time and paid maternity leave.
  • After a sharp dip in 2008 and 2009, US economic output has recovered to near pre-recession levels—“we did better than most of our fellow G-7 economies. But not so for American workers: Far more people here lost their jobs, and fewer were hired back once the recovery began, than anywhere else.”
  • While offshoring is a factor relating to the jobs picture the article notes that US workers are also prey to what the authors call offloading: “cutting jobs and dumping the work onto the remaining staff.” A recent Wall Street Journal report about so-called superjobs says that more than half of the workers it surveyed said their jobs have expanded, but usually without a raise or bonus.
  • Among college graduates, unemployment is twice what it was in 2007, “and those statistics don’t take note of all the B.A.’s stocking shelves and answering phones.
  • “US productivity increased twice as fast in 2009 as it had in 2008, and twice as fast again in 2010: workforce down, output up, and voilá! No wonder corporate profits are up 22 percent since 2007, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute.”

We’re reached this parlous and perilous state in large part due to political decisions that have chipped away at the things that created a prosperous middle class: Virtually no limits on election financing by wealthy interests and corporations; the destruction of unions; deregulation of Wall Street and then mostly passing on a golden opportunity to reregulate; Congressional kowtowing to whatever corporate America desires.

Is this any way to treat the American worker? The answer from corporate boardrooms and the halls of Congress is, “Sure, why not? Who can stop us?”

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writer, editor, reader and general good (ok mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by

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