A little ditty ’bout Jack and Diane
Two American kids doin’ the best they can
Jack and Diane are a typical, young American couple. They share a flare for fashion, so Diane suggested that they both apply for sales jobs at the local department store, where they get a discount on the apparel, so looking cool doesn’t cost them a fortune. But that’s where the benefits end, because their manager varies their hours every week, causing radical fluctuations in their paychecks. Needless to say, lack of steady, reliable pay makes paying their own bills difficult, if not impossible.
Jack and Diane are not alone, according to a report on the pay dynamic from the San Francisco Chronicle,
This volatility helps unravel a persistent puzzle: why a below-average jobless rate — 4.4 percent in April — is still producing an above-average level of economic anxiety. Turbulence has replaced the traditional American narrative of steady financial progress over a lifetime.
“Since the 1970s, steady work that pays a predictable and living wage has become increasingly difficult to find,” said Jonathan Morduch, a director of the U.S. Financial Diaries project, an in-depth study of 235 low- and moderate-income households. “This shift has left many more families vulnerable to income volatility.”
The reason that Jack and Diane are working without a safety net is directly due to the dramatic reduction of private sector labor union membership, declining roughly 75% since the mid-1970s, at the onset of neoliberal, free-market, economic policies.
Solution: a revival of labor unions, and expansion of worker co-ops, and Workers Self-Directed Enterprises, as promoted by economist Richard Wolff, that nourish democracy rather than imprison workers.
I’m working on expanding this project into a book and documentary, as a teaching tool about imprisoning, modern workplace conditions, and the neoliberal (free market) policies that have ushered them in over the past forty years. Please consider helping with the crowdfunding effort to bring the project to fruition.