Why workers aren’t loyal to companies anymore

In the old days, a young man could graduate from high school, get a job in a factory, support a wife and five kids, and had a job for life as long as he showed up and did the work.

That was before Wall Street financiers bought and sold companies like trading cards, Reagan broke the unions, and “free market” types offshored America’s prosperity.

For nearly all Americans, there’s no such thing as “lifetime employment” anymore, for the simple reason that most workers outlast the companies they work for. Even when the companies survive, they typically have new bosses every few years.

And every time there was another debt-financed acquisition, those new bosses came in seeking more ways to cut costs. Wages, pensions, and health benefits were sacrificed to bankers and the bottom line. Workers learned there was no corporate security blanket, and they were on their own. Guys on the shop floor had to become entrepreneurs responsible themselves for their financial security, health care, and retirement.

Loyalty is always and everywhere a two-way street; otherwise it doesn’t work. Soldiers on a battlefield look out for their buddies who look out for them. A cheating husband can’t expect to have a faithful wife. Trump has a frayed social contract with his once-devoted followers. And workers have little or no loyalty to the companies that employ them because they know the front office doesn’t care about them.

Here’s a case in point. The day before Thanksgiving 2022, United Furniture Industries (profile here) of Belden, Mississippi, sent emails just before midnight to its 2,700 workers firing them without notice, informing them they would receive no severance pay, were being denied the COBRA health benefits required by federal law, and were locked out of the plant and would be notified at some indefinite time in the future about when they could retrieve their personal belongings. (Read story here.)

Like I said, American workers have learned not to trust employers or give unquestioning loyalty to any company. This is how they learned it.

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