Recently the Wrestling Fan and I had lunch at a favorite restaurant, where we were waited on by a young woman whom we know.
She proudly announced to us that she had been hired for a position at a local hotel, where she will be supervising certain nighttime operations. We congratulated her, wished her well, and expressed regret at the fact that she would no longer be available to serve us our noontime meals. Oh no, she explained, we didn’t understand: she would be working at that job, and would keep her waitressing gig, and would also continue to work at another job that she already had but hadn’t mentioned to us. Three jobs was a pain, she conceded, but she needed the money and really had no alternative.
Is holding down two, three, or even four jobs becoming “the new normal” for Americans — or, as the Wall Street Journal recently put it, is America becoming a part-time society? Whether you blame the health insurance costs imposed by the Affordable Care Act, or the other health care, benefit, and related employment costs imposed by hiring full-time employees, or just general trends, it’s becoming increasingly clear that many employers that shed full-time jobs in the Great Recession aren’t looking to go back to the way things were. Instead, they are filling their manpower needs with part-time workers, seasonal employees, or workers provided by temp agencies — all of whom receive sharply limited, if any, benefits and can be canned at a moment’s notice. And, without extensive benefits programs to create and supervise, such employers find they don’t need a large HR department, either.
Many of the people who aren’t employed full-time aren’t lazy; they’re out busting their butts trying to find work that allows them to have a happy and fulfilling life. That’s the case with our young waitress and her three jobs. Three jobs! Imagine the hassle of filling out forms for three different employers, dealing with three bosses and their different practices, juggling competing work schedules, and commuting from job site to job site to hold on to each piece of part-time employment you felt lucky to have. It’s probably fair to say that workers who hold multiple jobs in an effort to get close to a 40-hour work week are, in many ways, working harder than people who hold one, blessed, full-time job.
For our waitress, the American Dream of a 40-hour-a-week job, with benefits, is just not attainable. Are we looking at a future in which such full-time employment status will become, in fact, nothing but a dream?