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January 26, 2021

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likewise, set taxes to zero and make it a crime to be without a gun at all times.

the US won't turn into Somalia. not a chance.

Again, we find ourselves on the same page. A great way to start a weekend! Like supply and demand, there is no such thing as cause and effect.

It's a win, win, win situation. More of everything for everyone. I may stop working.

Why did Henry Ford pay his people $5 a day? That was about double the pay at that time for typical work.

Double.

What happened when he did that? Did he go out of business? Why not?

Ford and the $5 day.

“The owner, the employees, and the buying public are all one and the same, and unless an industry can so manage itself as to keep wages high and prices low it destroys itself, for otherwise it limits the number of its customers. One’s own employees ought to be one’s own best customers.”
“We increased the buying power of our own people, and they increased the buying power of other people, and so on and on,” Ford wrote. “It is this thought of enlarging buying power by paying high wages and selling at low prices that is behind the prosperity of this country.”

Henry Ford, communist

I'm being sarcastic here, but folks arguing for the simplistic model of "higher pay means company goes broke" need to account for Ford's experience, and many similar experiences.

If you put money into the hands of people who aren't already wealthy, they spend it. Most of it, if not all of it, depending on how close to the edge of things they are.

That money gets spent on goods and services and turns into income for other people and other businesses.

Any proposal I've seen to raise the minimum wage, does so over a period of years, typically five years. There is no overnight shock to employers, it happens over time. And it happens over a time scale and a cadence that is not at all unusual in the history of minimum wage policy in this country.

The federal minimum wage has been increased 29 times since it was first instituted in 1938. That's about once every 3 years. And that average includes a nine-year gap during the Reagan years, and a ten-year gap during W's time in office. It was not infrequently raised on an annual basis.

It's been 12 years at this point since the last increase. $7.25 an hour is not a realistic living wage anyplace in this country.

It's time for it to be increased.

A little history may be enlightening. Start with the word: patent: "open to public inspection"

The history of British patent law ought to convince anyone that the whole thing is an abomination.

Patents developed as monopolies granted by kings, to raise money without imposing visible taxes. And industrial patents took off when Boulton and his money persuaded parliament to extend the patent on Watt's steam engine: this, and competing patents, crippled development and deployment of the technology, which took off only when the patents expired. Until then, it was impossible for anyone, Watt included, to make the best steam engine the state of the art would otherwise have allowed.

Start with the word: patent

At the risk of sparking a gazillion comments, I'd like to make a distinction between patents and copyright.

for a lot of working artists - musicians, composers, writers, visual artists - copyright means they get paid for their work. this is especially so now, in the digital age, when duplication of work is trivially easy.

I'm not talking about Disney or Microsoft, I'm talking about individuals whose life's work is making stuff we all use and enjoy.

Just wanted to put that out there.

Like supply and demand, there is no such thing as cause and effect.

unless Jews and space lasers are involved.

especially so now, in the digital age, when duplication of work is trivially easy.

i'm appalled at how many full albums are just sitting there on YouTube.

or maybe i'm just one of those dinosaurs who still buy every record i listen to because i think it's important for musicians to get paid.

If you put money into the hands of people who aren't already wealthy, they spend it. Most of it, if not all of it, depending on how close to the edge of things they are.

That money gets spent on goods and services and turns into income for other people and other businesses.

I assure you that if I were to double my payroll tomorrow, I would not make more money. Ford mass-produced the Model-T and did so using what was at the time an unusually efficient assembly line process. The combination of mass production and production efficiencies allowed him to spread his labor costs over a higher number of units, reducing the labor burden per unit. I sell legal services by the hour. My cost per hour are a known quantity. I can't make a day any longer than 24 hours. I can't ask professionals to work more than 9-10 hours a day Monday through Thursday (Friday's tend to be shorter days) absent emergencies or during trial. I could get more customers if I lowered rates, but I can't lower my cost of services. So, the Ford business model--which worked for a while but not forever--doesn't translate to the service sector very well and doesn't translate to many manufacturing ventures either because, unlike the early Model T days, there is too much competition holding prices down.

An economist could do a much better job of explaining this, but the punch line is, Ford was a one-off that worked out well because of timing and the fact that there weren't a half dozen other car manufacturers offering a comparable product.

unless Jews and space lasers are involved.

So true.

One of the main reasons Henry Ford increased wages was because that the nine-hour shifts on his assembly lines were so mind-numbingly boring his plants were experiencing huge, and expensive, labor turnovers. And he had a 30% profit margin that made it easy for him to do so.

"So in 1914, Henry Ford announced that none of his workers would earn less than $5 a day working eight-hour shifts. He also offered eighteen paid days off for vacation and illness, an uncommon practice at the time, especially for unskilled workers.

The pay increase was set up as a profit-sharing system rather than a simple wage, with conditions attached. Workers still made their original base wages for merely fulfilling their jobs, but those who met certain personal requirements could earn a maximum of $2.70 per day extra, allowing the raise to apply equally to all workers, even those who made more than the starting wages. The strings Ford attached to the raise are a common source of criticism, but it is difficult to understand why. Workers who did not want to meet the conditions could still find employment at the factory at the original wages and still enjoy a slightly shorter workday, and the conditions Ford attached to the bonus included things like contributing to a personal savings account and not physically abusing your family. Of course, those who opposed these strings could still seek employment elsewhere, just as they had already been doing."
Henry Ford Did More for Workers than Unions Did

I assure you that if I were to double my payroll tomorrow, I would not make more money.

McK, I could be wrong, but my guess is that there aren't many, if any, people on your payroll making $7.25 an hour.

And if there were, and you bumped them up to $15, you probably wouldn't make any more money, but you also probably wouldn't make much, if any, less.

But the guy in your area who owns the grocery store, or the auto repair shop, or the clothing or shoe store, might see a little uptick in their numbers.

At the time Ford bumped wages to $5 a day, there were a lot of companies making cars, probably more than there are today. Ford did particularly well because his innovations with the assembly line let him make cars faster and cheaper.

All while paying his people twice what everybody else did.

and Ford is not the only guy who ever hit on the bright idea of paying his people well.

But the guy in your area who owns the grocery store, or the auto repair shop, or the clothing or shoe store, might see a little uptick in their numbers.

I don't see how raising one's cost of labor would cause a profit increase unless it made people more productive.

The key--and you note this--for Ford was making a high number of cars faster and cheaper. This put him ahead of his competition AND, to repeat myself, his labor cost per unit was low. The only way a business can do what Ford did is to make high demand products so efficiently, i.e. with a smaller, better paid work force, that cost per unit allows for either a higher profit margin or the sales volume is so high, a lower margin still returns a high gross number.

Math will always drive the bottom line.

One of the main reasons Henry Ford increased wages was because that the nine-hour shifts on his assembly lines were so mind-numbingly boring his plants were experiencing huge, and expensive, labor turnovers.

absolutely correct.

And he had a 30% profit margin that made it easy for him to do so.

and everybody told him that paying $5 a day was gonna go broke and destroy the company. just like you and McK are saying a raise in minimum wage is gonna make all of America's small businesses go out of business.

But it didn't. And that wouldn't, just like it didn't the last 29 times we increased the minimum wage.

$7.25 is not enough money for people to live on. If you.want a carve out for teenagers, tipped employees, or whatever other special case you like, I have no particular problem.

For adults who are responsible for paying their own bills and those of whoever is dependent on them, $7.25 is not enough money to live on.

Seriously, you guys talk about this stuff like you're the only people who have any experience in a business environment. You're not. Nobody here is a simpleton. We all understand that a lot of small businesses run on tight margins, we all understand that most small business people are not making a ton of money. Some of us have direct personal experience of working in or even owning and running small mom & pops. We get the gist of your argument.

But $7.25 an hour is not enough money to live on. The minimum wage hasn't moved in 12 years, which is the longest period that it's stayed the same since it was instituted.

It's too low. It needs to be raised. If you don't like $15, pick another number. If five years is too fast, do it in 7.

Run the numbers, do the projections, and figure out an equitable plan.

But $7.25 ain't enough to live on.

If raising the minimum wage to $15 doubles your payroll and no one else’s, you’re living in some strange parallel universe. But at least you couldn’t have fired many people.

People making the current federal minimum wage make up less than 2% of the employed. And most of them are teenagers living in low cost of living southern states.

How many people make <$15/hr?

I don't see how raising one's cost of labor would cause a profit increase unless it made people more productive.

I will try to explain.

Let's assume you have 10 people on your payroll who you pay $7.25 an hour. Their annual gross, absent other sources of revenue, is about $14.5K.

You raise their pay to $15 an hour. Their annual gross is now $30K.

What will they do with the money? They'll probably spend it. Where will they spend it? Probably not on luxury goods. Probably they will spend it, in their community, on food, shelter, clothing, and transportation.

They will buy stuff they didn't buy before, because they couldn't afford it. And now, they can.

And, in fact, productivity is a relevant factor. Charles notes, correctly, that Ford's motivation for raising his employee's pay was primarily to keep them from quitting. That is quite right.

If you pay people more, it motivates them to work harder, be more loyal to you, the employer, and generally be more productive, than if you pay them less. Even though you are probably not dealing with a minimum wage workforce, I'm sure you have noticed this as well with your employees.

If you lowball them all the time, you will begin to get lowball quality of work. Even from the same people. And at some point, they'll get sick of it and leave.

You appear to want to come at this like it's some kind of algebra problem, and to some degree it is. But it's also about people, and how they respond to how they are treated, and how they respond to the conditions that are available to them.

In any case, no matter how you slice it, 40 hours a week at $7.25 an hour is not enough to live on, for pretty much anybody. It means you either have to work multiple jobs, or more people in your family have to work, all of which exact their own costs, financial and otherwise.

We've been at $7.25 for 12 years, during which time the cost of living has gone up about 25%.

So if we're gonna have a minimum wage at all, it should go up.

How many people make <$15/hr?

Not many, unless they are teenagers. As people get older, they make more money. Check out this link.

https://smartasset.com/retirement/the-average-salary-by-age

Pay average is $506/week for 16-19 year olds, which is $25,300/yr, $12.65/hr (at 2000 hours a year).

I'm missing the sense of urgency.

I'm missing the sense of urgency.

Ever tried living on $25K a year? Let alone supporting a family?

conversely, I'm missing why bringing the nominal minimum up to something closer to reality is a problem.

How many people make <$15/hr?

In a number of states, $15 is very close to the median hourly wage.

Speaking of the relationship between minimum wage and productivity:

https://cepr.net/this-is-what-minimum-wage-would-be-if-it-kept-pace-with-productivity/

"median" means half the people earn less.

Math will always drive the bottom line.

Like hell.

Research has shown since the early 20th century that productivity drops off sharply around 50 hours/per week. Error rates go up, requiring more quality control intervention to maintain standards, and a cascade on down. Just how businesses ever tell people accustomed to working more than 50 hours to go home, they're costing the firm money and quality?

There are documentable physical harms suffered by people who have to keep changing their work schedule, and who are uncertain about their future schedules, on top of the difficulties in arranging everything from child care to medical appointments to simply having social time.How many firms make a solid commitment to schedules that accommodate people's preferences based on their knowledge of their own internal rhythms, and to as little schedule changing as possible?

How many firms can explain and back up with data whether their sick leave policy ends up costing them more or less than more generous approaches?

And on and on and on. The exercise of hierarchical power (and inequality in the workplace is another well-documented source of stress leading to inefficiency as well as poor health) takes precedence over actual efficiency and therefore financial gain a lot.

Also, all of the above is on top of/alongside shit like this:

https://www.bustle.com/p/a-new-study-on-name-discrimination-suggests-names-signaling-race-are-also-linked-to-social-status-2348497

People making the current federal minimum wage make up less than 2% of the employed. And most of them are teenagers living in low cost of living southern states.

This seems wrong. BLS stats have teenagers total (not just those in the south) as 38% of all workers making the federal minimum and 15% of those making less than the federal minimum.

https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/minimum-wage/2018/pdf/home.pdf

Ever tried living on $25K a year? Let alone supporting a family?

Did you note that the 25K/yr cohort is 16-19 years old? Did you read the link? Did you note that people make more as they get older?

I'm missing why bringing the nominal minimum up to something closer to reality is a problem.

What do you mean by "closer to reality"? ISTM, if teenagers are averaging $12.65/hr and everyone else is already over $15/hr, then the law is unnecessary. Higher up in this thread, things were sounding pretty dire. The data don't back that up.

What do you mean by "closer to reality"?

If, in fact, nobody's actually making $7.25 except for teenagers living at home, then $7.25 is not a meaningful minimum wage.

That's what I mean.

Higher up in this thread, things were sounding pretty dire. The data don't back that up.

And conversely, higher up in this thread, raising the minimum wage was going to put all of the mom and pop operations in America out of business.

Which, if everyone is actually already making $12+ an hour, is likely not the case.

Pick which way you want to go.

so, very few people make minimum wage, but raising it is going to wipe out the small business economy? even though it hasn't ever done that when it's been raised before.

Math will always drive the bottom line.

Like hell.

I think you're taking my statement out of context. I was referring to the seller's cost of goods or services and how that drives profit margin assuming a market.

This seems wrong.

I think my figure doesn't include people making less than $7.25 legally or otherwise.

Teenagers were still less than a majority even if you exclude that group.

so, very few people make minimum wage, but raising it is going to wipe out the small business economy? even though it hasn't ever done that when it's been raised before

Actually, no, that's not what is being said. First, virtually no one is trying to support a family on minimum wage. So, that's a red herring. Second, minimum wage is entry level pay for beginners. Third, there are businesses that operate with high levels of young, entry level people who are paid less than $15/hr. What is the point of messing with their operation? Fourth, in some rural areas, the local economies depend on lower wages to allow for more employment--most of East Texas qualifies. People don't make a lot of money but they don't need a lot of money. Forcing a wage hike in those economies makes thing worse, not better.

I've been entertaining myself looking at exemptions to minimum wage laws.

Switchboard operators who work for phone companies with less than 750 stations, for instance. I'm not sure I even understand what that means, or if such a position exists anymore.

Commissioned salespeople, which makes sense, and full time students. But also disabled people, companions for the elderly, newspaper employees of limited circulation newspapers, people who work at home making wreaths (!?!). Employees of religious organizations. All are exempt from minimum wage requirements.

There's another equally odd and idiosyncratic list for people exempt from overtime requirements.

But perhaps most relevant for our modest mom & pop operators, if your business grosses less than $500K a year, you are exempt, you do not have to pay minimum wage.

First, virtually no one is trying to support a family on minimum wage. So, that's a red herring.

actual teenagers making min or less (16-19 yrs): 133,000.

25+yrs making min or less: 331,000

BLS.

Second, minimum wage is entry level pay for beginners.

it's for people who work for people who don't want to pay more.

Third, there are businesses that operate with high levels of young, entry level people who are paid less than $15/hr. What is the point of messing with their operation?

as russell suggested above, it would be easy to carve out an exception for teenagers living with their parents. if you're a dependent minor, you get the 'teenager' wage.

Fourth, in some rural areas, the local economies depend on lower wages to allow for more employment

more employment at shit wages is a terrible way to live.

as a teenager, i worked three jobs at a time during the summers (to pay for college). it doesn't leave much time for anything but passing out from exhaustion. sure i'd still have had to do it if there was a 'teenager' wage. but i know that it would be hell if i had a family.

What Ford said about his employees buying the cars they produced was a load of old tosh.

What he was doing was paying an 'efficiency wage' well above the market-clearing wage. Staff turnover was costing him a lot of money in lost production, so it was good economics for him to pay up to retain staff.

Contrary to what libertarians seem to imagine, there are many markets where letting things find a clearing price is not best. And labour for hire is very obviously one of them.

The reason why there should be a minimum wage is the gross disparity of bargaining powers between low-paid workers and their employers. It is not human to require a person to choose between accepting whatever terms an employer may offer, and going without pay altogether.

Having said that, I suspect that $15 an hour is too high a minimum wage for rural areas of the USA. I may be wrong.

First, virtually no one is trying to support a family on minimum wage.

That's likely so. But I suspect there are a lot of people trying to support a family who are earning in the $10-$12 / hour range, and whose lives would be materially improved by an increase to $15.

Home health aide, hospital orderly, office or hotel cleaner, line cook. Stuff like that.

How many people make <$15/hr?

My best stab at this. About 83m hourly workers. $15/hour is bit above the 30th percentile, so about 25m.

Since teenagers apparently don't count, there are 4.5m employed teenagers. Noted above, their median hourly wage is about $12.65, so maybe 3m making less than $15/hour.

That leaves about 22m non-teenagers that could benefit from a $15/hour minimum wage.

Cites below:

https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/minimum-wage/2019/pdf/home.pdf

https://www.epi.org/publication/swa-wages-2019/


https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat08.htm

If, in fact, nobody's actually making $7.25 except for teenagers living at home, then $7.25 is not a meaningful minimum wage.

Or, to put it another way, if nobody else is making only $7.25, then raising that minimum will have far less impact. Right?

Having said that, I suspect that $15 an hour is too high a minimum wage for rural areas of the USA. I may be wrong.

Instead of a federal minimum wage, it could be left up to the states. And the states, if they wish, could leave it up to local jurisdictions.

One more EPI link about low-wage workers and age:

https://www.epi.org/publication/wage-workers-older-88-percent-workers-benefit/

Our analysis of workers who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage shows:

The average age of affected workers is 35 years old;
88 percent of all affected workers are at least 20 years old;
35.5 percent are at least 40 years old;
56 percent are women;
28 percent have children;
55 percent work full-time (35 hours per week or more);
44 percent have at least some college experience.

The link by Posted by: Ufficio | January 29, 2021 at 03:52 PM should not go unnoticed. I’m linking again. And thank you for the other more-recent links, Ufficio. Nous, also, too.

https://cepr.net/this-is-what-minimum-wage-would-be-if-it-kept-pace-with-productivity/

I imagine $24/hr would really explode some heads.

Arguments against matching minimum wage rates against aggregate productivity increases.

"Comparing the federal minimum wage to aggregate productivity trends in this way is problematic, though, for two reasons.

First, state, local, and city governments across the country already often set minimum wages significantly higher than the federal level, particularly in higher‐​productivity regions.
...
But a more important flaw in linking the minimum wage to economy-wide labor productivity is that the productivity performance of all workers tells us little about the productivity performance of minimum wage workers. Different industries, different companies, and even different workers within organizations are likely to experience different productivity growth rates over time.
...
Yet labor productivity in the restaurant sector (often regarded as a better proxy for a typical minimum wage industry) rose by an average of just 0.4 percent per year between 1987 and 2017 (with unit labor costs increasing by 3.3 percent per year). If pegged instead to this productivity measure, the minimum wage would have increased by just 13 percent in real terms over three decades, rising to $8.25 by 2017."

Bad Economic Justifications for Minimum Wage Hikes

It's difficult to increase productivity in the labor-intensive service sector where so many people affected by minimum wage rates work.

From the link:

It is worth noting the standard counter to the argument that the minimum wage should keep pace with productivity growth. It would be claimed that the productivity of minimum wage workers has not kept pace with average productivity growth, so that it would not be feasible for minimum wage workers to earn pay that rises in step with average productivity growth.

There is some truth to this claim, but only at a superficial level. The productivity of any individual worker is determined not just by their skills and technology, but also by the institutional structure we put in place. In a world without patent and copyright monopolies, the skills of bio-technicians and software designers would likely be much less valuable than they are today.

Similarly, the skills of experts in stock trading and designing complex financial instruments would have much less value if we had a financial transactions tax in place and allowed large banks to fail when their mistakes made them insolvent. And, the skills of doctors and other highly paid professionals would have much less value if our trade policy was as committed to subjecting them to international competition, as has been the case with auto and textile workers.

It's difficult to increase productivity in the labor-intensive service sector where so many people affected by minimum wage rates work.

Increases in productivity in labor-intensive sectors typically takes the form of automating jobs out of existence.

So there’s that.

Nonetheless, some things seem to resist automation. And, many of those things continue, nonetheless, to be poorly paid.

Here is another way to think about it. Imagine that somebody somewhere has a magic wand that can make an entire job category disappear. Wave the wand, and nobody will be doing that job anymore.

Pick which job you’d like to see disappear. Not that the need for the job goes way, just that the job goes away. Still needs doing, but nobody does it anymore.

Pick one:

Home health care aide.
Hospital orderly.
Office cleaner.
Farm laborer.
Hedge fund manager.

And as a total aside and possible thread jack, allow me to mention that the incoming freshmen (R) House reps include some truly despicable human beings.

I’m referring specifically, in this case, to Boebert’s taunting of David Hogg for his not responding in some asshole-ish way to Greene’s equally despicable taunting of David Hogg.

I guess he was supposed to punch her out, or beat her senseless with a baseball bat, or pull a gun out of some concealed place and shoot her. Instead, he ignored her and went on his way.

Obviously, a display of cowardice on his part.

I don’t know what it’s going to take to purge the (R) party of this kind of puerile assholery, but it needs to happen. The rest of us are freaking sick of it.

Conservatives and (R)’s, clean your freaking house. Please. Or, if you’re a person of any integrity, get the hell out.

The trend is not in a positive direction.

The funny thing is, whether I mean to or not, in the longer term, I want a higher minimum wage to save our capitalistic system, maybe from itself, so the wheels don’t eventually fall off and more human suffering is the result. My thinking is that people at the top, even if they have a smaller share of the overall pie, will be better off, too. It’s hard for me to fathom what kind of commie that makes me.

My thinking is that people at the top, even if they have a smaller share of the overall pie, will be better off, too.

Beyond a certain point, more money just doesn’t mean that much. It just because a dick-measuring contest, a way of keeping score.

Where a ‘certain point’ is, is probably a matter of opinion. Personally, I think of it as the point at which, if you never worked another day in your life, your quality of life wouldn’t change that much.

When you start talking about people with personal or household wealth of multiple millions of dollars or more, it begins to be ridiculous to privilege concern for their financial well-being above that of other people.

Realistically, they’re kind of all set.

My opinion, obviously.

‘becomes a dick-measuring contest’.

One way to increase pay for low-skill jobs is to reduce the number of people competing for them by educating people better.

‘becomes a dick-measuring contest’.

in that the biggest dicks are the ones who do this...

I was wondering how many undocumented aliens get minimum wage. Don't really have the answer, but this article was interesting, a lot of stuff to chew on for those who are actually interested in data.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/25249172?seq=1#

One Biden administration policy I approve of is giving illegal immigrants the opportunity to become legal. Being able to take jobs based on their skills and not their status should give them a boost in income.

My thinking is that people at the top, even if they have a smaller share of the overall pie, will be better off, too.

Or, at minimum, no worse off. Sadly, many of them can conceive of no version of "better off" except "more money . . . whether we have anything we want to, you know, do with it or not."

In short, wrs at 10:20

We obviosuly need a federal maximum wage (wage including benefits like health insurance but excluding bonuses). Since minimising costs is the canonical way to compete (quality is non-quantifiable and thus does not count) the natural way of wages is down. To artificially block that creates an unnatural disincentive to competition. Sinking wages also leads to more competition among the wage workers. The need to work more jobs puts them on the suppply side (through the demand that they get off their lazy unwashed behinds). The trickle-down will be material (blood, sweat and tears*).

*contrary to common belief 'toil' is not a liquid and there is no direct connection to toilets. Btw, toilet breaks are also uncompetitive and should therefore be treated like monetary/noncash benefits, not as bonuses.

Nice to see folks citing Dean Baker here. He's one of my favorite economists. You can download his book Rigged for free. Well worth the read.

bobbyp, are you familiar with Marianna Mazzucato? Some of my reasonably leftyish friends are keen (I, of course, know nothing)....

One of the things our conservative friends bring up when discussing income/wealth inequality is that, even if the people at the bottom have a smaller piece of the pie than they used to, it's a bigger pie, so they still have more in absolute terms. (This ignores the number of people who still struggle on a daily basis and are forced to make very hard choices out of desperation, but I'll leave that aside for now.)

What I am saying is that, if people at the bottom had more money, it would benefit the economy by stimulating demand. So, even if the people at the top had a smaller piece of the pie than they otherwise would have, they would still be better off in absolute terms. And it's a lot easier to be less well off in relative terms than would otherwise have been if you're still better off than everyone else.

It's hard to imagine someone saying, "Oh, look! That guy has a nicer car than he used to. It's not as less-nice than mine as it should be! I'm being left behind!"

In the proper past it would have not been necessary to say that since there simply would have been laws forbidding the lesser beings to display such symbols of status.
Some companies still impose such rules, e.g. employees are not allowed to use cars above their status (and that includes their private cars) when coming to work or doing company business. Such rules apply in reverse on the upper management of course, i.e., they have to use cars that are up to their status.

bobbyp, are you familiar with Marianna Mazzucato?

No. Looks to be well worth reading some of her writings. Thanks for the heads up.

Some companies still impose such rules, e.g. employees are not allowed to use cars above their status (and that includes their private cars) when coming to work or doing company business. Such rules apply in reverse on the upper management of course, i.e., they have to use cars that are up to their status.

That's fascinating. And not, thankfully, something I have ever encountered in my own career. Can you offer some examples?

Siemens used to do this in Germany, although it was not officially put into writing. Violators got strong hints what was expected. This system of unwritten law seems to have been quite common at big companies around here. Iirc there was a case of a merger where the car hierarchies of the two companies were different and there were some complaints by high ranking emplyees that they got 'demoted' as far as their vehicles went. I can not name specific US companies without looking it up but given that US companies tend to have much stricter codes (older Dilbert cartoons are full of real-life examples) with often explicit rules what kind of office chair each employee can use depending on rank within the company (worse than in Versailles)* etc. I assume that the car hierarchy also runs on formal not informal guidelines. I know that several big US companies ran into trouble around here because this kind of rules clashed with German customs and occasionally written laws. Walmart gave up completely and withdrew after courts intervened on behalf of (German) employees**. Given the choice of adapting to local customs or to withdraw the company preferred to go instead of giving an inch on outwardly visible and inwardly strictly enforced hierarchy. Walmart was also so extremly inflexible in how they ran their shops that customers quickly turned their backs on them even independent of the negative headlines about the employee treatment.
Rule #1: do not put it into writing and in particular not into (German) employee contracts that you consider the people working for you as bondslaves. Wink wink nudge nudge is OK though.

*over here it is the traditional 3 ranks of chairs and it very unlikely that an employee gets a notice that a broken office chair cannot be replaced because none for his specific rank is available (I have heard of some US companies that have a ranking list of no less than 12 different chairs and of course the same for desks).
**The straw that broke the camel's back were attempts to control the private life of employees too.

i just steal a chair from an empty office when i need a new one

I think that is comon practice in most places. ;-)

In some US tech companies, if the executives want to park near the entrance of the workplace, they have to arrive at work before their employees do. Otherwise, they have to scramble for parking spaces like everyone else.

I can see discrimination regarding what kind of chair the company will provide. Not least because I've seen it. But then the company is buying the chairs.

However, what kind of car an employee can buy with his own money and drive to work? Not in the US -- or perhaps I need to get out more.

I’ve worked in one or two places where folks who had an office with a door would also have one of those swanky mesh back hyper-adjustable chairs, while everyone else made do with... a perfectly good chair. I’m not sure anybody cared one way or the other.

In one place, they shelled out for cool chairs for the meeting room, and one of the managers got all pissy about everybody having to remember to push the nice chairs back under the table after meetings. That lasted about a week.

This stuff must be important to somebody, because enough places do it, but it seems dumb to me. Worrying about whose chair is nicer than anybody else’s seems kind of childish, to me.

I have worked in three places where good parking places were reserved for special people. In two of them, the ‘special people’ were the founders of the company, and in one of those, parking was very limited, so it seemed reasonable. In the third place, the ‘special guy’ was a new CEO brought in by new management after the company I worked for was bought. Reserved parking had not been part of the culture there up to then, and introducing it basically reinforced the impression of one and all that the new guy was a jerk.

I have never worked anywhere where anyone cared or really noticed what anyone else drove, at least as far as it being a marker of your rank or status in the organization.

All of this stuff just seems like evidence of dysfunction, to me. It’s like turning your workplace into some kind of adult variant of junior high school, where everyone worries about whether they’re one of the cool kids or not. It seems like a great way to foster whatever the opposite of team building is.

Working for a large corporation, such petty rules would not fly. But all the “team building” stuff is BS. Having managers that have the authority and ability to treat their subordinates with respect and rewards is a lot more effective than a departmental bowling night.

FWIW, in my experience, the bigger the corp, the pettier the rules. Petty might be the wrong word here - the bigger the corp, the more formulaic the rules, and the more seriously they are taken.

Also in my experience, team building is actually kind of critical, but I agree that bowling nights are not the way to do it. Respect is a very very large part of it. Rewards can be, but are less critical than respect, and in fact can work against team cohesion if they are not clearly designed and implemented to be fair. Again, all in my experience and opinion.

I can't find the quote, but I think it was Vonnegut, something like you are in elementary school, you think everything is run the way things are done in jhs, when you are in jhs, you think high school is how it works, HS, university, you get out of university, you realize that everything is run like junior high school. Obviously, his version is a lot pithier, but 'my chair is nicer' seems like evidence to support the observation.

"This place is like high school.

Even on the House floor that is the only time that we’re all together — usually for votes — and you’ve got everybody, all 435 members there, and you see the little cliques gathering in their designated corners like the cafeteria tables." —Tulsi Gabbard

Also in my experience, team building is actually kind of critical, but I agree that bowling nights are not the way to do it. Respect is a very very large part of it.

that's why we did an axe throwing competition for our last team building afternoon.

nothing builds respect like seeing someone you don't know so much handling an axe.

I knew I was pretty oblivious as an adult. But apparently I was oblivious as a kid, too. Because if any of this was going on in my jhs or hs, I totally failed to notice.

Maybe some in university, where most people avoided the frat boys (and, I suppose, vis versa). But that seemed more behavioral than status. At least on our part.

wj, it's the work of generations but understanding does seem to moving fitfully. You had people going along with hazing back then but now that same mass of people might be more squeamish. Some might try and assert power by defending the people bullied. Would this clip from Malcolm in the middle have been as funny if the show were 10 years earlier?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pisw94dhm6w

Late to the party, but:

> low risk school situations

In the UK's recent experience, there are no low-risk school situations. I don't think the US will have the money or willpower to do the amount of retrofit, crash school facility expansion, crash hiring of new teachers, etc. to approach low-risk, either.

Our primary school was, compared to its peers, a model of controlled COVID - but before the current lockdowns there were regularly 25% of the staff out for two-week isolation periods due to exposure. Our secondary school was worse; most of the cases of COVID at the primary school that we had some reasonable idea of were coming in from older siblings' schools.

Hi Tom, thanks for joining in. Not sure where you are quoting, I largely agree with you, but I think they say low risk because children and adolescents are at low risk. I totally agree with you that this is a poor descriptor, though it might be used because there is an assumption of a nuclear family with grandparents living separately and a relatively young teaching staff, largely because pay scales are so shitty in the US and UK. Here in Japan, where the Ministry of Education is trying to push f2f learning for the new school year that begins in April, Japanese families are often multi-generational and at most universities, the demographic is sharply skewed to teachers closer to retirement, so 'low risk school situations' is pretty laughable here. Secondary and elementary schools are meeting in person, and social pressure on mask wearing seems to be keeping COVID at bay, but it is a hell of a gamble imo.

Anyway, thanks, and don't hesitate to comment again!

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