View from Away: The Societal Change Behind Canceled Southwest Flights and Clogged California Ports
Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights over the recent holiday weekend. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and others with no particular knowledge or involvement were ready with a politically practical explanation: It was a surreptitious work stoppage to protest against corporate and federal vaccine mandates affecting company employees. airlines and air traffic controllers. Never mind that company executives and the pilots’ union, who were quick to differ from each other, agreed with the Federal Aviation Administration that the vaccine’s mandate had caused no such action.
The most credible consensus attributed the delays to a combination of adverse weather conditions, complexity of the flight network and understaffing. And the first two problems are not unrelated to the third: an airline or government agency with sufficient staff would be able to withstand logistical and weather complications.
As union representatives noted, understaffing in the era of the pandemic makes airlines more vulnerable to disruption, irritating travelers who, in turn, often blame their frustrations on airline workers and passengers. companies and agencies that support them. Throw in airports full of people being told by people like Cruz that they shouldn’t have to wear masks or do anything else they don’t want – or just can’t. not getting a beer or a cup of coffee because of the understaffed airport concessions – and that’s a recipe for even more misdirected rage and increasingly miserable job attrition.
As Captain Casey Murray, leader of the South West Pilots Union, told National Public Radio last week: âStaffingâ¦ in the macro environment across the country is a challenge. Indeed, compared to the pre-pandemic workforce, more than 4 million American workers are still “missing” – even though they aren’t exactly missing the jobs they left. On that note, many Americans quit their jobs in August alone, according to a federal survey, the highest number in the two decades the government collected the data.
The repercussions are far-reaching. Just as the southwest swerve to normal old-fashioned vacation traffic washed up on still-abnormal jobs, the revival in consumer demand overwhelmed depleted trucking, warehouse and warehouse workers. and factories that serve as vital links in the global supply chain. As President Joe Biden scrambled to clear the backlog at southern California ports, Teamsters President Jimmy P. Hoffa blamed a shortage of port truckers who “aren’t getting paid a living wage and are largely treated as indentured servants â.
He was not alone in his grim assessment of the prevailing working conditions. Kaiser Permanente, Hollywood productions and the University of California system are all threatened with strike action.
Vaccination warrants were not the only unsubstantiated hypothesis of the great resignation grasped by those who prefer not to acknowledge the obvious. Maybe Americans are just losing their good old-fashioned work ethic, some say, or buried it under mountains of overly generous supplemental unemployment insurance.
But the end of that aid last month has yet to show signs of easing labor shortages. More likely, too many American workers are being paid so poorly and treated so miserably that any cost-benefit assessment of their work was a tall order even before the pandemic. Add in the stresses of the COVID era such as sick or lost loved ones, home schooling and childcare, and the risk to health and family of simply showing up in a workplace, and this is not so close anymore.
Fortunately, companies have the opportunity, if not always the inclination, to improve pay and conditions. Most importantly, governments can demand decent wages and enforce overtime rules, fund child care and preschool education, and demand paid sick leave and family leave. A bill recently opposed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom attempted to make the leave possible for more Californians, and the “Build Better” legislation blocked by Republicans and a few Democrats in Congress would ease child custody and other pressures on the national workforce. Such measures would tip the balance significantly in favor of labor. Wacky theories won’t do it.
Sacramento Bee Editorial Board Editorial
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