When work is no longer valued….

Work is under attack.  It doesn’t matter what kind of work that you do, if you work as an employee, you are probably in a bunker hoping things just don’t get worse.  It all began in the early 80s and after more than a generation of decline, we are now watching the middle class is in its death throes.

A  New York Times  editorial  Under My Thumb by Timothy Egan discussed the latest salvo in this all too familiar pattern when Boeing announced they had earned record profits.  They had also  just won an $8.7 billion tax break from  Washington State – the nations single biggest tax break.   So one would think that they were in a perfect position to offer a few crumbs to their employees – you know, the people who work hard every day to make those fat profits possible.  NO!!! Instead they  shut down the pension system, slashed benefits and offered paltry to no pay increases and told their workers that if they didn’t agree, they would move operations out of state.

So let me get this straight:  Instead of a just reward for all the work that created such a wonderful largesse, instead of sharing the hard-earned profits with those who helped make it all possible,  the employees were offered a lump of coal?!  If pension freezes,  benefit cuts and virtual wage freezes  are the new normal when companies are riding high, its unimaginable to consider what they would do should we have another recession.

There are several issues that are significant here:

  • There is an utter moral and ethical bankruptcy in a company that earns record profits  and massive tax breaks and then thanks its workers by telling them they are totally expendable. It  is quite simply breathtakingly amoral.   If this isn’t a “let them eat cake”  moment, I don’t know what is.
  • When there is no reward for a success or a job well-done, employees will respond by striving for mediocrity.   Why  stick your neck out if your only reward for making things more efficient is likely to be a pink slip or a further reduction in benefits?  Sliding by will become the norm.  Unfortunately, in this case, that could potentially lead to  planes falling out of the sky.  As someone who has to fly occasionally,  I have to admit that I find that prospect distinctly disturbing.
  • There has been a complete abrogation of the social contract between big business and “we the people”.   If big business isn’t interested in raising the floor for their workers  when times are flush, they are simply not interested in doing so. Ever.  The days when what was good for business and Wall Street is good for “we the people” are over.
  •  The fact that Washington State caved to Boeing’s demand for massive tax cuts at at time when all states are in need of revenue means that our government is firmly under the thumb of the financial elite. Any notion that our government can control corporate excess, malfeasance  or outright criminal activity should be laid to rest.  It can’t.  And if that doesn’t frighten you, it should.

How we got into this sorry state where a group of ludicrously wealthy amoral sociopaths have come to control the legislative process to the point where the will of the people is almost irrelevant will be the subject of debate for generations to come.  How we wrest control back from these gluttonous thieves is the most urgent issue of our time.

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