Blue collar workers are the key to economic recovery

Truck driver Tom Gaffney on the road in East Dubuque, Illinois in 2015. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Often forgotten, blue collar workers are the key to reviving our economy.

Owith the world is heading towards a supply chain free fall, it’s worth remembering that we’ve only gotten the sour headlines so far. Soaring energy price, threadbare feeding with milk staffs, languishing shipping containers – everything seems rather gloomy.

But the precursors of our globalized the economy owes us an apology. Constantly touting theknowledge economyand the value of a University diploma by validating its social value, they practically pushed blue-collar Americans into the pouring rain. Remote work and the pandemic have only accelerated this fetishization; like a Forbes proclaimed the columnist, 2020 was “the year of the knowledge worker.”

It’s not entirely their fault. Many blue-collar strongholds, such as manufacturing and mining, have decreases over the past decades. Timeless concerns on health and safety remain. And the golden age of national self-sufficiency, frozen in the radiant glow of postwar america, now seems hopelessly distant. As a result of stagflation and trade deficits, labor sectors lost not only profits but, perhaps more importantly, social prestige. Yet, in the rush to inaugurate the “future of workwe prematurely signed the death certificate of working-class America, and we are now counting on the price of our error.

Lost in the talk of knowledge workers and their “YOLO Economy” was what we (surprisingly!) needed other people too. Indeed, despite the first impressions that White collar The American desire for new horizons and a better working life balance was driving”The big resignation“, the blue collars. The others didn’t like the way they had been treated – and they were right. While life as a knowledge worker bee was going relatively smoothly, with no unnecessary trips or meetings, life ratchet for American blue collar workers.

The pandemic has highlighted the social inequality of “essential work” – the jobs most of us rely on but can’t imagine doing – often done by people of ethnic diverse workers from low-income households, but not exclusively. The latest book by journalist Eyal Press, Dirty work, explored this emerging tension: “Dirty work is work that society in a sense depends on and tacitly tolerates, but does not want to hear too much about and certainly does not want to see. For the press, this covers a wide interval of professions, from slaughterhouse workers to prison guards and military drone operators.

Unlike their well-paid white-collar colleagues, front-line workers often had little to hook them into their jobs. Overworked and disrespected, from retail and shipping to healthcare and hospitality, many decided enough was enough. Six months after the start of the pandemic, more than three quarters of US healthcare workers surveyed said they felt exhausted and exhausted. The next year, McKinsey found that well over a third, and in some cases almost half, of employees surveyed in education, manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality and transportation were at least “ quite likely” to quit their job in the short term. Therefore, in April 2021 alone, almost 650,000 retail workers quit.

These developments have brought to the fore the “dirty work” that most of us keep out of everyday life. Truckers, long prophesied by experts as being the first victims of automating, have the last laugh now. The United Kingdom, “short of tens of thousands of truckers”, supplements the military to help alleviate a national fuel and logistics crisis. the United States was short by 60,000 truckers two years ago, with projections reaching a shortfall of 100,000 drivers by 2023. Canada saw pretty much the same thing. Similar labor shortages in health care, retail, railway, and platform workers arise now all over.

The story of today’s truckers is the story of blue-collar America. Our disdain for manual labor has led us to ignore the contributions of American blue collar workers, especially their crucial role in modern economies. Talk with NPR, Garret Morgan, an ironworker, explained that he was given the advice that most teenagers hear today: “Throughout my life it was, ‘If you don’t go to college, you you’ll end up in the street.’ . . . Everyone is so excited about going to college. Mike Rowe, known for hosting the show dirty jobs, recognized much the same during a PBS Newshour interview. “The push for some form of education, in my view, was really the start of a long list of stigmas, stereotypes, myths and misperceptions that to this day deter millions of children from pursuing a legitimate opportunity to make six figures in the trades.”

Now, thanks to blue collar job boom, Many are doubting the myth of success on the one-way road to college. “Blinded by taboos” Amitai Etzioni written in 2010, white-collar workers overlook the possibilities and potential of manual labor. Indeed, Chris Cortines from the education research organization National Student Clearinghouse points to these misconceptions as one of the driving forces behind college dropout rates. Lack of awareness and the social taboo of dodging college, Cortines fears, lead many to ignore other valid options, such as trade school.

The stigma is now coming home to roost. In 2017, Associated General Contractors of America found that 70 percent of companies are struggling to find skilled craftsmen. A similar survey of retailers revealed that 94 percent of them expressed difficulty in filling vacancies, with about a third seeing it as a “significant challenge”. Trucking HR Canada reported in the second quarter of 2021 that more than 75% of employers expected a driver shortage to be a challenge over the next six months, with 50% ranking it a top priority.

Facing the prospect of a Christmas– shortage of purchases in a year that badly needs a boost, we are finally starting to face the legacy of our blue-collar blind spot. Once they were undervalued and overlooked, but now the economy clings for life to the backs of nurses and truckers, dockworkers and tradesmen – no longer remote and dirty jobs, but much needed essential workers who make buzz our world. It’s a decent reward for white-collar America.

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Ari David Blaff is a Toronto-based freelance journalist. His writings have appeared in keel, Tablet, and city ​​newspaper and at the Institute of Family Studies. Ari is currently a Journalism researcher on tablet. You can follow him on Twitter @ariblaff or correspond with him at [email protected]


Elizabeth J. Harless