If you have so much as glanced at social media over the past few weeks, you’ve likely seen one of the countless signs hanging outside businesses claiming that the establishments in question are short-staffed.
“No one wants to work anymore,” some of the signs say and the phrase has become a sort of rallying cry for entitled business owners who feel that people refusing to work for what is often minimum wage or little more is somehow emblematic of a workforce grown fat and lazy off the government’s COVID-19 assistance.
This reactionary narrative has picked up so much momentum that South Carolina’s Republican Governor Henry McMaster has decided to opt his state out of federal unemployment benefit programs with the goal of forcing people back into the workforce. Montana’s Republican Governor Greg Gianforte—a man perhaps best known for physically assaulting a reporter—is pursuing a similar path. These draconian decisions are nothing but a cynical handout to the wealthy business interests that fund and puppeteer the GOP and will prove devastating for South Carolinians who desperately need the extra money.
National Republican figures have been boosting the lazy labor narrative. Earlier today, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), a woman known for her adversarial relationship with the truth, tweeted that unemployment benefits are “killing” businesses that “barely survived the Government forced covid shutdowns.” She went on to whine about “socialism,” which at this point just means anything that doesn’t directly benefit the wealthy backers propping up the Republican Party.
… Small businesses should not be forced to compete with the government handouts that are on average $640/week.
The government needs to stop its job killing socialism and STOP hurting its own taxpayers ability to EARN a living.
Save America Stop Socialism!
— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) May 10, 2021
As is often the case with right-wing framing, Greene’s is a bad faith explanation of the labor phenomenon.
Labor shortages, particularly in the restaurant industry, can be attributed to many factors that have nothing to do with laziness. Many people are still unvaccinated and afraid of contracting coronavirus in crowded restaurants where they sometimes interact with hundreds of strangers in a single day.
Another explanation is that there is simply a glut of job openings right now. As business after business opens up, they’re forced to compete with other similar businesses for the same labor pool. It’s not that nobody wants to work, it’s that they have a lot of options as to where they choose to work.
And while Greene dismissed the suggestion in her tweet, the simple solution to this so-called problem is for businesses to pay better wages. Conservatives love to prostrate themselves at the altar of the free market when it benefits them, but the moment it looks like it might help the working class they change their tune. Nobody should be forced to work for little better than slave wages. Adam Smith wrote of an “invisible hand” that guides the free market towards beneficial outcomes for society. Right now, that invisible hand is flipping a big fat middle finger to the Republican Party.
We're literally watching the largest labor movement in modern American history happen in the form of paper signs taped to the windows of fast-food and fast-casual restaurants! pic.twitter.com/yg393GZG0P
— Devita Davison (@DevitaDavison) May 9, 2021
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Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.