business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Associated Press writes about the "underlying factor driving a surge of labor unrest: The cost to workers whose jobs have changed drastically as companies scramble to meet customer expectations for speed and convenience in industries transformed by technology."

"The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated those changes, pushing retailers to shift online and intensifying the streaming competition among entertainment companies … Overworked and underpaid employees is an enduring complaint across industries — from delivery drivers to Starbucks baristas and airline pilots — where surges in consumer demand have collided with persistent labor shortages. Workers are pushing back against forced overtime, punishing schedules or company reliance on lower-paid, part-time or contract forces."

While "efforts to organize at Starbucks and Amazon stalled as both companies aggressively fought against unionization," the story says, "labor protests will likely gain momentum following the UPS contract, said Patricia Campos-Medina, executive director of the Worker Institute at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, which released a report this year that found the number of labor strikes rose 52% in 2022."

KC's View:

In the end, I think, most labor unrest can be traced back to company leadership that took its eye off the ball and lost touch with what things are like for people on the front lines.  At UPS, it is staggering that leadership didn't realize that drivers dressed in dark brown uniforms and driving around in dark brown trucks might actually be more productive and happy if their vehicles were air conditioned.

At Starbucks, leadership didn't understand the degree to which how patrons' interactions at stores was changing, and how much business in cold drinks was being done in stores designed to make hot drinks.

The lesson is important - there may be no more critical function for a leader than to make sure that the people on the front lines are fully supported and appreciated.