Would you willingly subject yourself to a work environment in which seeing co-workers cry is the norm; an environment where you are treated as disposable; where you are pitted against your co-workers; an environment where the decision to tend to a dying family member or your own health concerns (e.g. cancer; maternal leave) is followed by threat of your subsequent termination?
Employees of Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) are reporting such grievances. The Internet-based retail giant has come under fire after news of alleged unfair (sometimes cruel) treatment leaked to the public.
Some detractors argue that although Amazon may hold their employees to “unreasonably high” standards in the name of productivity, the company’s workplace ethos is simply a sign of the times and a product of the country we live in today. It may be a case of the grass not actually being any greener on the other side.
Moreover, if one were to venture to any of the other tech firms (Google, Apple, etc.), would they suffer a similar fate? If so, what does that say about the nature of today’s employment climate? Have today’s Americans workers simply run of out of sufficient options?
The Economy and Employment
Jobs in the tech industry, like those at Amazon, are the new cream of the crop in the U.S. economy. Ambitious, talented young minds are drawn to the technology sector for its exciting new developments—and, of course, higher compensation. There are, however, only so many jobs in any given field of work. The reports of employee mistreatment aside, places like Amazon are exactly where workers would like to be; unfortunately, most of the other opportunities out there are mostly mediocre.
Many young people entering the workforce, particularly recent college graduates, continue to ask, “What economic recovery?” Many freshly-minted college grads are finding it difficult to land a job out of college unless it has nothing to do with the degree they studied for. If that trend continues, what’s the point of higher education? Is the nation devoid of skilled workers?—or is it lacking the appropriate job openings to utilize their skills?
Although official unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been showing a drop in joblessness, the reality is that many unemployed Americans are simply giving up looking for work. More telling is labor participation rate, which represents what percentage of the population is currently working. This metric stands at just 62.6%, its lowest in four decades, since the recession-stricken 1970s. This reveals that a record number of Americans are not working.
The level of disillusionment among the American public regarding the economy and the job market is evidenced by the support for Donald Trump thus far in the Republican Party primaries. His surge in popularity mirrors the growing sentiment in the country that politicians can simply be bought, cannot be trusted, and the prospects for economic mobility among the middle class has largely vanished, along with the abundance of jobs that helped modernize the job market after World War II.
Mr. Trump recently made headlines when he told a little boy that he was Batman. Yet, is invoking the hero of Gotham City that far-fetched? Is he not a billionaire playboy on the surface—à la Bruce Wayne—who is fighting corruption and hopelessness as a personally-funded side project? If nothing else, Donald Trump’s performance in the presidential polls is an indication of the disillusionment and dissatisfaction that everyday Americans feel about the U.S. Congress, the government in general, and the country’s economic health. He channels the anger of Americans who have been left out of the current political system, and has perhaps tapped into a new kind of populism that may reshape the political landscape going forward.