One of the common themes that comes up in discussions here is the idea that low wage employees are essentially trapped in their jobs, and have to take whatever shit their employers hand out.
Here’s Don Boudreaux, writing recently at Cafe Hayek.
I’m having some repair work done at my place. The lead repairman, Jose, is a voluble immigrant from El Salvador. Jose told me yesterday that he came to the U.S. in 2000 at the age of 21. For eight years he worked for a local cement contractor. He liked his job until, in 2008, the company was sold. Jose didn’t like the new owner. Jose, soon after the change in ownership, gave his employer his two-week notice. The employer immediately offered Jose a raise. (“It was a really good raise,” Jose conceded. ”But I did not like him. I told him I was still leaving.”)
Jose’s account of his wife’s work experience in the U.S. is similar. She worked as a pastry chef at a supermarket in northern Virginia. When the supermarket began demanding that she work longer hours, she quit and found another job – one that pays as well but has work conditions better suited to this woman’s preferences.
I thought about that Sunday when I stopped at Tim Hortons to get a box of donuts for my family and realized that I didn’t recognize anyone working there. I’m a Tim Horton’s regular. I hit the drive-through so often I recognize the person taking my order by his/her voice. Lately, all the ones I knew are gone, and I’m having to learn new ones.
It’s not likely they were all fired. They were good competent employees, and the customer service was almost uniformly excellent. More likely they got other jobs.
Last summer there was a pleasant young girl working as a cashier at the local garden center. Early in the season I was in and out of there so often that I couldn’t help but recognize everyone who worked there. Later in the summer she was gone, which wasn’t surprising, given how seasonal their sales are. But shortly after I took one of my kids to Hobby Lobby for some craft stuff, and there she was working as a cashier.
Now I’m not saying these employees are moving up to higher paying jobs, just that mobility within that lower wage category is probably a lot easier than a lot of people think.