This is sinful. Setting aside the likelihood that the average high-tech worker has squirreled away enough savings to withstand a few months without a job, the typical unemployment experience for the typical retail worker is still very different from those laid off by Meta, Google, or Amazon. That disparity is much worse than is commonly understood.
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai recently promised his firm’s laid off workers will receive at least two months’ notice, severance packages starting at 16 weeks salary (which increases by one week for every year worked at the company), their full 2022 bonuses, and any accrued paid vacation time. On top of this, employees can claim up to six months of Google-sponsored healthcare benefits and are eligible to seek job placement assistance. Better yet, even as the tech behemoths are laying people off, tech start-ups are eagerly hiring new talent, with nearly two open job postings for each worker laid off in 2023. Many won’t be in the wilderness for long at all.
Laid-off retail workers face very different prospects. Even for those lucky enough to be making what amounts in many states to the poverty wage of $15 per hour (a rate that equates to a miserly $27,000 per year for a full-time employee), many will get nothing but a week’s notice before being out on the street. Very few will receive severance, let alone a bonus for the following year. Instead, they will be invited to tap into their state’s unemployment system, which will provide somewhere between $196 and $473 per week for a maximum of six months. If they received health care coverage from their employer — and, of course, many were not so lucky — they will lose it almost immediately. This is a tragic state of affairs.
The Biden administration’s recent proposal of a framework for a “good job” — one that entails just compensation, comprehensive benefits, and ample training opportunities — is a real step forward in many ways. However, this framework does not seem to address the critical question of how workers who face layoffs in economic downturns, like the one fast approaching, are treated. In this important respect, the Biden good job framework should be clarified so it incorporates the concept of humane treatment if the employee is laid off.
Fairness for hardworking Americans who, through no fault of their own, are laid off should not be exclusive to those industries that cater to highly-trained workers. Taking steps to ensure our fellow citizens who are laid off are well treated is a matter of fundamental fairness for all hardworking Americans.