With the way the economy has been over the past few years, I’ve been involved in a lot of conversations with people about work, or more accurately, the lack of work. Unemployment seems to be as common as employment, or it at least it feels that way.
Many of the conversations revolve and evolve into discussions as to how people define themselves. Some who define themselves as carpenters or auto assemblers or welders or furniture makers have seen their livelihoods and their identifications leave. They are no longer important, no longer viable.
Where can they find the importance in their lives they once enjoyed? It used to be people did the same things all their lives and they retired, elevated into worker emeritus, someone to be respected for the work they did, the things they built, and the family they supported.
So, here we are, in an economy that reports that one in eleven is not employed, is not economically productive, and is dependent on the State to support themselves and their families.
The jobs that are available don’t measure up to how they see themselves, that they are somehow better than what is being offered. And, the jobs that are available, barely cover what they are being paid on unemployment. Why should a person work when they get paid nearly as much, or less, not to work?
And, there’s the rub. In an environment where workers have been treated like machines, where they’ve been disposed of like last week’s trash, where economic considerations only put them into this position; we’re asking them to make economic decisions that don’t make sense in a business way.
We’re asking the worker to act differently than the corporation who taught them to think in a “me first” way, taking the tax break, moving offshore. We’re asking them to work when work is not the best deal for them.
While we feel it’s the corporation or the government who should lead us from the morass we’re in, it’s the worker who must. We must rebuild our country from the ground up, not the top down. We must rely on the dignity of the worker to do what sometimes doesn’t make sense.
Because, it’s the person who builds things, who gets dirt under the fingernails, who provides for his or her family who defines this country. There is dignity in the worker. There is dignity in work, no matter the task. Let’s never forget that.