Brenda Garcia, who works at Chipotle in Queens, has a surprising-sounding problem in today’s tight job market. She is a part-time employee who wants to work more, but the restaurant still gives her less than 20 hours a week.
“It’s not enough for me,” Garcia told my colleague Noam Scheiber. “They didn’t give me a steady job.”
Garcia is one of the millions of Americans who want an established full-time work schedule and are struggling to figure it out. as Noam explained in a Times article. As a result, these part-timers not only struggle with low wages, but also have to change jobs that are unlikely to change at the last minute, disrupting the rest of their lives. Workers can obviously quit, but they often find that other jobs available to them suffer from the same problem.
How can this happen when the country is in the midst of a labor shortage in which employers are struggling to find work? Because executives at many companies have decided that part-time work is too important to give up just because the temporary labor market is tight.
Working part-time allows companies to reduce labor costs in two important ways. First, companies can reduce their benefit costs because part-timers often don’t get health care and retirement benefits. Second, companies can shift staffing levels quickly, to meet demand on a given day or week, rather than leaving workers idle for slower periods of time.
“It’s ingrained in the employer’s business model,” Noam, who covers workers and workplaces from Chicago, tells me. “They are extremely reluctant to give it up, even if it means suffering labor shortages and increasing revenue in the short to medium term. Essentially, they argue that it makes more economic sense to wait for the current shortage than to fundamentally change their labor patterns.”
It can also be a sensible decision for individual businesses. The shift to flexible, part-time and often outsourced work has been a major reason corporate profits have risen in recent decades. After-tax corporate profits have accounted for more than 7 percent of national income in recent years, up from an average of 5.6 percent between the 1950s and 1970s, according to the Commerce Department.
If employers shift away from part-time work during a tight labor market, they worry they will be stuck with higher labor costs for years. “Employers will often try everything else first – raises, bonuses and other financial incentives, temporarily giving part-timers extra hours,” explains Noam. “All of these measures are reversible and will probably be reversed once the labor shortage subsides.”
Companies have been able to claim more part-time jobs largely because they have more bargaining power over workers than in the past. The business area is more unified than in previous decades, leaving the average employer with more resources and the average worker with fewer alternatives in any industry.
For their part, workers are less likely to belong to a union than in the past. And union members earn more than similarly unorganized workers, like an extensive study of the US economy found by economists at Princeton and Columbia. Unions effectively shift part of a company’s revenue from profits to wages. The shrinking unions, in turn, contributed to Economic inequality is increasing.
One way unions tend to raise wages is by putting pressure on companies to hire full-time people — and threatening strikes if the company refuses.
Last month, union workers at King Soopers, a supermarket chain primarily in the Denver area and owned by Kroger, went on strike. They made the growth of part-time work a central issue. In the strike settlement, Kroger agreed to a contract with the language that could potentially see them add 1,000 or more full-time jobs over the next three years. Much of the work at King Soopers is still part-time, but settlement has shifted the balance.
“Without a labor union that could organize a strike and pay the strike, it is hard to see how most workers would be able to pressure their employers to do so,” says Noam. show a similar change.
In the short term, a tight labor market will raise wages for many American workers. If it lasts for years – which is unlikely – it could shift the balance of power between workers and employers. But the more logical way that the balance might shift is through government policy.
The house is over a bill called the PRO . Act that would make it easier for workers to form unions, and President Biden supports it. Among other things, the bill would ban companies from requiring employees to attend anti-union meetings and would impose financial penalties on companies that fire workers for attempting to unionize. .
The bill appears to be stalled in the Senate, where Republicans oppose it. Democrats could try to pass some of the bill’s provisions along the party lines in the coming months.
The growing inequality of the US economy over the past half century is unlikely to end as the labor market temporarily tightens. “Labor shortages may be a necessary condition for changing the nature of these jobs, but they are generally not sufficient,” Noam said.
‘Not in word list’
If you’ve ever played Spell Bee, you were likely frustrated when the game didn’t recognize a word you entered. Sam Ezersky, the editor of the Bee, is getting a lot of those complaints.
But choosing which words to put on the official list is not as easy as you think, like Sam explained in a Twitter thread. Some common terms are proper nouns (“Barbacoa”); some are two words (“road maps”); and some are modern slang with no official definition (“lagging”), all of which leave them out.
Many of the decisions are more subjective, based on words that might appear in the dictionary but most players wouldn’t know – like “ear surgery”, a shortcoming that Sam’s own father complained to him about.
“I don’t want the skewers to be too easy nor too difficult for everyone to enjoy,” Sam tells us. “Ultimately, that’s why my role exists in the first place: finding a balance for what would otherwise be an unchecked, unfiltered vocabulary.”
And he’s constantly looking for that balance. Sam said he regularly adds words to the list after hearing from readers — as he recently did with Barbocoa, the road map and the delay.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook?
The Pangram from Yesterday’s Spelling Bee is legend. Here’s today’s quiz – or you can Play Online.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/02/briefing/labor-shortage-part-time-workers-us.html Working part-time during labor shortage