poor.jpgToday’s job summit will have President Obama listening to a bunch of people offering advice on how to create jobs. But a bigger question might be: Are we going to be creating good-paying jobs?

A growing number of American working stiffs are being asked to take less money for jobs than what those positions have paid for decades.

It’s a disturbing inverse of the American dream. Today’s workers are supposed to make more money than their moms and dads did for the same work. Well, many are making less.

Say hello to the “casual” worker. And I’m not talking about people that wear flip flops to the office. The term should strike fear in all rank and file employees

“The term ‘casual worker’ is too often used to denote a ‘disposable worker’ who can be discharged without guilt by companies that think the road to recovery means simply cutting costs and getting smaller, rather than competing smarter in product design and marketing,” said Gary Chaison, professor of industrial relations at Clark University.

“All workers should be worried about the term because it implies the end of the ‘social contract’ at work, the belief, once widely shared, that workers will receive good pay and benefits and job security for their loyalty and hard work,” he continued. “The ‘casual worker’ term implies that workers are often temporary, that they should not expect career paths, and that the company owes them little beyond the day’s pay.”

The latest example is concessions made by Harley-Davidson’s union this week. This from the Wall Street Journal today:

The contract institutes a new category of “casual” worker to be used on an as-needed basis and who will earn about 30% less than first-tier production workers. The company eventually expects to employ about 250 casual and 750 full-time production workers.

That means a whole generation of manufacturing workers will do worse than those before them.

The lowest-paid production technicians in the first wage tier will earn $24.10 an hour as of February, when the contract takes effect, while a comparable new hire would earn $19.28 an hour, and a casual worker would earn $16.75 an hour.

This is happening in a variety of industries, and it’s just part of an overall decline of the economic well being of the middle class. Rank and file workers have seen their wages decline in recent years, while upper management has seen unfathomable gains.

Today’s job summit, added Chaison, “won’t look beyond how to create more jobs to the really important questions of how to ‘enrich’ the jobs that are created, and how to regain the lost ‘social contract’, how to revive the workers’ understanding that their job was something valuable that they could keep and pass on to the next generation.”

Stay tuned. I’ll be updating the blog today if anything substantive actually emerges from the summit.

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