Actually, service workers are people too

Lexi Schnaser— Staff Writer

The Catholic tradition has long involved itself in issues of social justice, including the dignity of labor and laborers. “The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers” is a teaching in Catholic Schooling Teaching. It reads: 

“The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected—the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.” 

When we claim “this fear of the virus already ruined America’s economy enough,” we place the value of the economy above the dignity of workers. Is it not lazier than these “lazy Americans” to rely on service industry workers to provide for our every whim amid a global health crisis that affects everyone, not just the vulnerable? 

In today’s America, people cannot afford to get jobs. An average working-class person looking for a job (whether a corporate or minimum wage job) must work to simply land a job. If you’ve taken any social work or sociology class that requires you consider the experiences of others or looked for a job yourself, you know the effort is costly. In today’s market, most jobs require references, resumes, professional clothing for interviews, transportation to and from the interview, time out of one’s day to meet with employers, and, for some, childcare. 

The people who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 are also likely struggling to stay in their homes. For example, evictions are prevalent, as landlords do not care whether their tenants have a job. Even housing, a basic necessity for life that we are taught about in kindergarten, is profit-oriented. 

Yes, people may make more from unemployment than working a job. That is the root of the problem. COVID-19 has shown the blatant disrespect and disregard our capitalist nation has for the rights of service workers who, obviously, uphold the fabric of our profit-centered society. 

However, pulling back on federal unemployment benefits will actually hurt consumer spending and incomes, which goes full circle to affect people who are working, according to Business Insider and Bloomberg. If the small business I work at does not have enough customers to support the business, then my coworkers and I will be laid off, which starts the cycle of unemployment all over again. 

An economist’s job is to do solid research on economic topics like labor issues, not just regurgitate tired conservative complaints about the labor force. These experts say there are likely three “mismatches” at fault for causing America’s current supposed labor shortage. 

The first mismatch is in skills. The Chamber of Commerce has issued a concern regarding the need for job-training programs, as jobs at all levels are requiring more skilled workers or filtering out applicants without a college degree. 

Second, throughout the pandemic, Americans with the resources to move have moved out of metro areas into suburban ones, leaving empty jobs. 

Finally, workers, who at every level deserve to be dignified in their work, value optimal working conditions. Perhaps they want improved public health measures during a global pandemic that has killed over five million people worldwide and nearly 800,000 people domestically. They could be wanting fair wages or benefits like healthcare. Workers at all levels are not finding jobs they are equipped for. 

And maybe, just maybe, the shortage is because 800,000 people, many of whom were in the workforce, have died because our capitalist economy values profits, efficiency, and materialism over human life. Perhaps there aren’t enough workers to fill all the jobs that “lazy Americans” want to be filled.

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