By now, we all know how the Pandemic has impacted our lives, our families, our communities, and most definitely our economy. The impact from shortages of everyday essentials, like bottled water, cleaning products, and of course, toilet paper, was felt immediately by all of us. In addition, we also know that shortages have continued on and impacted other industries…like automotive, furniture, electronics, and building materials, just to name a few. We have also noticed increases in pricing keeping parody with the supply chain shortages.
So, during the pandemic, consumers have been forced to learn to cope with the new increased pricing structures for our needs. As unappealing as that conversation can be, we can complain but that will not keep prices from increasing. So as consumers we just end up going into our pockets and paying more for what used to cost us less. On the other hand, there is a similar conversation that we should consider. During the pandemic, the value of services has also increased. I mean, if the value of goods goes up due to a lack of availability, then wouldn’t the production, service and maintenance of those products be directly connected to this conversation? Sounds like another simple example of supply and demand.
You would think adjusting this would be as easy as changing sales prices on Thursdays in the stores ...
It is not.
What I can tell you is that what has now become known as the “Great Resignation” has left a massive disruption and record number of job openings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021, leaving a record-breaking 10.9 million open jobs at the end of July. That my friends, is what you call a mass exodus.
And whether it was for extra income, a chance to mingle with treasured colleagues or to simply fill a significant void, a significant number of those who left their jobs since the start of the pandemic are only trickling back into the workforce.
You may have heard the expression we “have a person shortage” or a “labor shortage”. To borrow the words from our International President Marc Perrone, “we do not have a labor shortage, what we have is a gap in what employers want to pay and what workers are willing to work for.” Workers in this country are realizing their worth and are demanding more from employers everywhere. We have seen some localities outside of New York boosting their minimum hiring rates beyond their stated minimum wage, to entice people to come work for them. This in essence also boosts current employees’ rates that were below the new hiring rates. This is not a bad thing at all, however, can it be sustained? What happens when the ‘market’ stops calling for those temporary higher wages?
What do we do to combat the Great Resignation? First, having a Union contract ensures that employees are paid strong wages within their industry. Then, by holding employers accountable, and making sure they acknowledge the hard work their employees do, which in turn keeps their businesses running. We also fully understand that many businesses have suffered great financial loss due to the pandemic. But the companies that have profited during the pandemic need to honor the actual people that made those profits possible, and there is only one true way to do that.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have been able to negotiate some of the highest wages that we have achieved in a long time for our membership. We have been able to drive home to your employers that our members are, and will always be, extremely valuable employees. Want proof of that statement? Sure…essential workers, including Local 1500 members, continued to report to work while all non-essential employees in the state were forced to stay home during the shutdown. I don’t think there is need for any further discussion on that point.
We have started to see a shift toward workers once again being recognized for their value, and we must continue down that path. For far too long workers in our industries have been taken for granted, even considered replaceable parts. And now that employers cannot even find enough people to hire, you’ve become even more crucial. It’s simple supply and demand. You have a short supply of workers? We demand you pay them more. If you need and expect your people to show up for work, and new workers aren’t coming in, it’s simple…pay the folks you already have more.
Local 1500 members never cease to amaze me. Working right through the pandemic despite all of the health risks around you. Being bigger than the customers that took you for granted during this time of crisis. Putting aside your fears enough to continue going to work and keep your neighborhoods running. Being the sole beacon for your community in a world full of darkness. Or better yet, an oasis in a desert of nothingness. That’s what it was like when the State shut down, when the city that never sleeps turned out most of its lights. Remember that feeling? We do too. You kept going. You kept us all going. And God forbid it happens again, we know you would do the same. There is an intrinsic, undeniable value to that. A value that goes beyond your employers…to city, state, and federal elected officials. All of these people need to fully understand the role you play, your vital place in every community’s infrastructure and your overall importance to a civilized society, and they can never be allowed to forget what you did for them.
The first ‘everyday essential’ they need to be concerned with running out of –- is you. So just as companies have new pricing structures and expect consumers to go into their pockets and pay more for what used to cost less…we expect your employers, and maybe even the government, to go into their pockets and pay more for what used to cost them less – our labor force!
Thank you for being a true hero to our Union and for society. We will never let anyone forget what you mean to all of us.