Every parent wants to provide security for their children. A good home, food on the table and a bright future, these are just of few of the things that parents work hard to supply. Any UPS driver out on the road for 11 hours a day will tell himself that he’s doing it for his family. He’s working like a dog to give his children a shot at a better life.
But when it’s all said and done, are we leaving our children a brighter future? I fear not. I’ve always judged a bright future by what it promised in the areas of comfort, security and wealth. The more of these I could obtain, the brighter the world seemed. But I’ve watched with apprehension for the last 20 years as comfort, security and wealth became less obtainable for the average man.
UPS today seems to be one of the last really good blue collar jobs left. It’s the kind of job where you can walk in off the street with no college education and in 3 years be making $70,000 a year with free health insurance. There used to be a lot of jobs like that. Auto workers and airline workers are just two of the many jobs that provided comfort, security and opportunity to thousands. But through apathy and indifference, our generation has allowed the American Dream to slip away for children. We’ve sat at home and watched American Idol instead of taking our demands into the streets. We’ve argued amongst ourselves while the captains of industry marched away with the money. And our children will pay the price.
In a telling aritcle entitled “The rise of the permanent temporary workforce”, Peter Coy, Michelle Conlin and Moira Herbst detail the coming era of the disposable worker.
“You know American workers are in bad shape when a low-paying, no-benefits job is considered a sweet deal. Their situation isn’t likely to improve soon; some economists predict it will be years, not months, before employees regain any semblance of bargaining power. That’s because this recession’s unusual ferocity has accelerated trends — including offshoring, automation, the decline of labor unions’ influence, new management techniques, and regulatory changes — that already had been eroding workers’ economic standing.
The forecast for the next five to 10 years: more of the same, with paltry pay gains, worsening working conditions, and little job security. Right on up to the C-suite, more jobs will be freelance and temporary, and even seemingly permanent positions will be at greater risk. “When I hear people talk about temp vs. permanent jobs, I laugh,” says Barry Asin, chief analyst at the Los Altos (Calif.) labor-analysis firm Staffing Industry Analysts. “The idea that any job is permanent has been well proven not to be true.” As Kelly Services, CEO Carl Camden puts it: “We’re all temps now.”
Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, says the brutal recession has prompted more companies to create just-in-time labor forces that can be turned on and off like a spigot. “Employers are trying to get rid of all fixed costs,” Cappelli says. “First they did it with employment benefits. Now they’re doing it with the jobs themselves. Everything is variable.” That means companies hold all the power, and “all the risks are pushed on to employees.””
It’s sad to contemplate. It’s not what I had planned as a gift to my children. How bad will things have to get before the American worker wakes up? I don’t know, but it’s not going to be fun to watch, I can tell you that.