A Record 4.3 Million Americans Quit Their Jobs in August

This is from TIME Magazine yesterday:

If April 2020 was the month of pink slips—as the rapid spread of COVID-19 resulted in the loss of 20.5 million jobs—then Fall 2021 is the dawn of their revenge.

A record-breaking 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August across an array of industries, according to a report released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s the highest level since the agency started tracking such data in 2000, and the sixth consecutive month of sky-high quitting rates. Meanwhile, the 7.7 million people who remain unemployed aren’t, for the most part, jumping at the roughly 10.4 million job openings—leaving business after business with ‘Help Wanted’ placards in their windows.

In August, some 892,000 workers quit accommodation and food services jobs and 721,000 quit retail positions, according to BLS data. The healthcare sector also took a hit: 534,000 U.S. workers resigned or quit from health care and social assistance positions.

Those stats may seem puzzling. After months of economic- and pandemic-fueled uncertainty, things are finally looking up: schools are reopening, the vaccine is widely available, businesses are expanding, and the economy is broadly resurgent. But, labor experts say, that rosy picture doesn’t take into account the national mood. Americans, they say, are simply burned out—and emboldened by the current labor market.

“[Employees] don’t want to return to backbreaking or boring, low wage, sh-t jobs,” Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration, tells TIME. “Workers are burned out. They’re fed up. They’re fried. In the wake of so much hardship, and illness and death during the past year, they’re not going to take it anymore.”

Robert Reich is absolutely correct about this. It’s hard for people to find fulfillment in a primarily service-based economy. Service jobs fucking suck.

As much as people want to demean “backbreaking” jobs, at least in those jobs, a person can actually feel like they’re doing something. You work construction, you build a house where there was previously just an empty lot, and you can feel good about building something for someone. A plumber can feel good after a hard day’s work because he’s helped a family out that was dealing with a problem in their house. If you work in manufacturing, you’re creating something. It’s inherently more fulfilling than a service-sector job, even though it’s more physically strenuous and/or dangerous.

TIME continues to try to get to the bottom of this whole situation:

There’s no single factor driving workforce behavior, economists add. It’s more of a grab bag of diffuse burdens. Wages aren’t keeping up with surging prices. Low-wage jobs often lack opportunities for career growth. A crumbling childcare industry is driving up daycare costs, making work unaffordable. Those who have remained in jobs face increasing responsibility and grueling work conditions punctuated by fears of the next variant of COVID-19. And then there’s just plain old vanilla pandemic fatigue.

But here’s the problem: all those things were true before August 2021, and well before Covid hit. Washington Post ran an article back in August 2018 entitled “In US, Wage Growth is Being Wiped Out Entirely by Inflation.” Real wage growth in the US has been stagnant for decades:

And low-wage jobs have always been sucky, dead-end situations. Daycare costs have been pretty outrageous for a while now.

None of those things explain why people are quitting their jobs at a record pace now.

Why now?

I’m sure we’re both thinking the same thing: vaccine mandates.

We saw this past weekend what happened with Southwest Airlines, where 2,000+ flights were canceled because the pilots rebelled against the company’s unreasonable and draconian vaccine mandates (ironically, Southwest is the company that prattles on endlessly about “Love.” Even their stock ticker symbol is “LUV”.)

But TIME assures readers that, no, these mass resignations that are happening all around the country have absolutely nothing at all to do with the vaccine mandates:

Data from big employers across the country suggest that vaccine mandates aren’t playing much of a role. Roughly 99% of Michigan’s Henry Ford Health System’s 33,000 employees complied with its vaccine mandate, according to the local NBC affiliate. In Washington State, University of Washington hospitals reported 97% of staff were vaccinated by the end of September, according to local NPR station KUOW. More than 90% of Tyson Foods’ 120,000-person workforce were vaccinated in the same time frame.

So TIME cites data from three companies and concludes it’s enough proof that the vaccine mandate isn’t causing workers to quit at record-levels. It must just be a coincidence.

But can you see the problem with that paragraph above? It only counts people who are currently employed at those places.

In other words, it doesn’t count the people who quit their jobs due to, or were fired for not complying with, the vaccine mandate. It’s a classic case of selection bias.

This is like going to Fenway Park and asking 100 people what they think of the Yankees, and then concluding that everyone in America hates the Yankees.

The bottom line is, TIME magazine’s article provides no good explanation for why Americans are quitting their jobs in record numbers.

But we all know the real reason, even if it’s taboo to say it. It’s the vaccine mandate.

If we look at Google Trends, we can see that interest in the term “vaccine mandate” began spiking in late July of this year:

And then, in August, we saw a record number of workers quit their jobs.

You’d have to be pretty dense to believe this is just a coincidence.

Is it so hard to believe that there are people out there who are against the idea of being forced to take a vaccine for a virus with a 99.7% survival rate, or whatever the hell it is? The point is, people can see through the bullshit. They aren’t afraid of Covid, so they don’t feel like it should be mandatory for them to get the shot. They feel like there must be something else going on here. It just doesn’t add up.

Add in the fact that a lot of these workers are just plain sick of wearing masks all day, every day at work. Wearing a mask fucking sucks. That’s why nearly half of the Americans who quit their jobs in August were in the food service, accommodation and retail industries.

As I said above, I think Robert Reich was entirely right when he said Americans are sick of working bullshit jobs for shitty wages. But when you add on to that the fact that they now have to get vaccinated and wear a mask all day, well of course people are going to say “Fuck this.” Many of them already hated their jobs to begin with.

You make them get the vaccine in order to stay employed, and a lot of them are going to conclude that keeping their job just isn’t worth acquiescing to a vaccine mandate.

I guess it turns out that these companies don’t have as much leverage over their employees as they think they do. Americans don’t value their jobs enough to the point where you can force them to get vaccinated.

American workers are now starting to realize the power they have if they just band together and refuse to comply:

Recent months have seen a rise in labor activity, including October strikes facilitated by school bus drivers in Maryland and janitors at a Denver airport, and threats of strikes among film and television producers and John Deere employees.

Reich says the current BLS numbers already point at a nationwide walk-out. Workers, after all, don’t have to picket to flex their power in today’s job market.

“People are quitting and they’re not taking jobs,” he says. “That’s tantamount to a strike. American workers have, in effect, called a general strike.”

And Americans are not going through the traditional labor unions to pull off this “general strike” we’re now seeing. They’re doing it organically and on their own. It’s grassroots. Many workers are banding together and rebelling against their employers even without being part of a formal labor union. And this is good because a lot of the big, well-known labor unions are corrupted and in thrall to the Democratic Party.

If organized labor in this country was still honest and committed to the workers, we would have seen the SEIU and all the big unions organize general strikes over the vaccine mandates months ago. Instead we haven’t heard a peep.

Someone with a bigger platform than me ought to organize a nationwide American Workers Against Vaccine Mandates Union and get workers from every industry to band together over this.

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