What the school bus driver shortage tells us about the economy, this week in the war on workers

What the school bus driver shortage tells us about the economy, this week in the war on workers

You may have heard about school bus driver shortages this year. Maggie Koerth’s fabulous in-depth look at the job shows why that would be. The headline might give you all you need to know: “Would you manage 70 children and a 15-ton vehicle for $18 an hour?” But the headline leaves out a very important piece: It’s a part-time job, so that $18 an hour might only be for four hours a day, timed so that it’s difficult to have another job.

The whole piece is very much worth a read, putting this year’s shortages in context—in fact, there have been shortages for years, with the pandemic creating a tipping point for several reasons. And beyond that, it shows how school bus driver shortages have a domino effect, with some parents having to give up on paying jobs themselves because their kids no longer get to and from school on the bus. 

As Koerth writes, “Caregiving is interconnected. Roberta Steele doesn’t just drive a bus. She drove a bus to pick up and drop off Naima Kaidi’s children. Without Steele’s services, Kaidi still had to get the kids to school. But the task became harder and required her to make more sacrifices.” It’s kind of a microcosm of so many things wrong with the U.S. economy: A job that is both important and difficult is treated as junk, and the problems that result from that are put onto the shoulders of parents—overwhelmingly mothers.

Read the whole thing.

● U.S. workers have been striking in startling numbers. Will that continue? Analysis by Jasmine Kerrissey of the University of Massachusetts sociology and labor studies department and Judy Stepan-Norris of the University of California, Irvine, sociology department.

● Pregnant workers’ jobs and health at risk as bosses refuse accommodations.

● This is horrific, and racist: Contract lawyers face a growing invasion of surveillance programs that monitor their work

We could be looking at a historic health care industry strike, Maximillian Alvarez writes. Stay tuned.

● Dean Baker: The trucker shortage: Why don’t we just let the market work?

Suppose that truckers got $150,000 a year and worked something like regular 40-hour weeks, and weren’t force to drive unsafe trucks in unsafe conditions? Does anyone think the industry would have a hard time finding enough people to work as truckers? (Actually, if truckers pay had kept pace with productivity growth over the last four decades it would be somewhere around $150k a year today.)

The point here is that the trucker shortage is overwhelmingly a problem of inadequate pay. This is what the market is telling us. But rather than listen to the market, we get a grand tour of other possible solutions. Why does the NYT have such a such a hard time listening to the market?

● The Build Back Better Act will support 2.3 million jobs per year in its first five years, writes the Economic Policy Institute’s Adam Hersh.

Why one IATSE member is voting no on the tentative contract.

● John Deere is back at the bargaining table, but in the meantime …

They’ve deemed it illegal for picketers to cross the street against the “don’t walk” sign. Now they say the “walk” sign only comes up every 5-10 minutes. So cars just pass through freely since picketers can’t walk across the road.

— Jonah Furman (@JonahFurman) November 12, 2021

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JPMORGAN: “ .. the working-age population .. has been falling for almost two years .. the vast majority of the shortfall .. appears driven by a decline in immigration to the United States, beginning during the Trump administration and continuing through the COVID pandemic.” pic.twitter.com/DbEegk9VqK

— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) November 12, 2021

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