The Suffering American Work Ethic

May 1, 2021 | Industry

By Scott Robertson Jr.

Most auto recycling facilities are facing similar problems, and the one that might be the hardest to overcome is our understaffed businesses. “Lean and mean,” “getting more done with less,” “cutting the fat,” and “increased productivity” are all catch phrases when looking to maximize your bottom line. But what happens when your bottom line suffers from the lack of employees? Take a look at your facility. How many processes are not getting accomplished because of the understaffed workplace? It’s not just our industry, virtually all businesses today are struggling with the lack of employees. How did we get here? And better yet, how do we fix the problem?

Economists will be writing books on how governments around the word adapted to COVID-19 in order to keep their economies from depression. Here in the U.S., we gave extra money to those on unemployment, allowed many to forgo paying rent and mortgage payments, and gave money directly to those who earned under a certain yearly threshold. It didn’t stop there, the U.S. also gave money directly to businesses under the PPP program.  Initially this started out as a loan, but quickly turned into free money that was not even taxed. I believe that these actions saved our economy… but with every action there are reactions or ramifications that result.

“Inflation” is an ugly word, and it’s one that everyone in Washington, D.C. will not utter. One of the classic causes of inflation is the increased supply of money, either by printing it or giving it directly away. Banana republic counties like Venezuela printed money to pay off debt, thus devaluating their currency and causing inflation. The dollar has not been overly devalued, but our cost of goods (products we buy) have soared through the roof.  Material costs go up from two factors, it costs companies more to make their product, or demand outstrips supply.  Both of these exist today in our economy. In the past our industry has thrived in these conditions.

I wonder when the government is going to stop paying people to stay out of work. If you do something too long, it becomes expected and becomes rooted in society. I hope this doesn’t happen, as there are lots of job openings in the U.S. and too many able-bodied Americans who are getting comfortable living on the government handout. Many people under these conditions look at employment this way… why would I work at a job 40 hours a week for the difference of what I’m already getting from the government for sitting at home? In many cases, the difference is only under $200. The entitlement attitude in today’s society is poisoning the work ethic of many Americans. How do we take away what is now usual and customary?

I’m sure that many have read and heard the phrase “America was built by immigrants.” Do we turn our focus to immigrants to fill the employee void? Most have a desire to work and earn money, but do they have the skill set required for not only our industry, but for the country’s needs. Maybe Americans will break away from their “zombie” handout state of mind and actively seek employment. Maybe we will just need to adapt our business models to the level of employees in our facilities. It’s going to be an interesting couple of years; what happens along the line and where it finally ends is just a guess. My advice is to wake up early and go to work.

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