The Terrible 2000s: Goodbye and good riddance

As the Terrible 2000s come to a close, it’s fair to say that this has not been a great decade for American workers and workplaces. Consider some of the evidence:

  • Bookend meltdowns — We opened the decade with the dot-com bubble bursting, and we closed it with a catastrophic economic meltdown.  The forces behind greed were once again immune to the lessons of history, and millions are paying the price as a result.
  • Labor — The labor movement, our primary voice for the everyday worker, continues to struggle.  Union membership is largely a public sector phenomenon.  Well under 10 percent of private sector workers enjoy the protections of a collective bargaining agreement.
  • Wages — The wage gap between rich and poor has widened, and the middle class continues to diminish.  Of course, we deny that this has anything to do with the state of the labor movement.
  • Integrity — Even apart from the Great Recession, we saw scandals, corruption, exorbitant executive pay, and pension excesses crossing over the private, public, and non-profit sectors.  What a lousy decade for leadership.
  • Dignity and safety — Too many employers continue to fuel or ignore discrimination, harassment, bullying, and worker safety violations.
  • Toil — Too many workers are toiling at double and triple shifts, because one job is not sufficient to provide a living wage.
  • Retirement prospects — As the population ages, a large proportion of middle aged and older workers are wholly unprepared to finance their retirements.  This was the case well before the markets crashed in 2008.
  • Generations — Older workers are staying in or returning to the labor force because they must.  Younger workers are experiencing difficulty entering it.
  • 9/11 — In 9/11, we saw the some of the most horrific acts of workplace violence in our lifetimes.  In the aftermath of 9/11, we failed to take care of the rescue and recovery workers who put their lives and health in jeopardy.  In the wars that followed 9/11, we then failed to give adequate care to veterans suffering from the physical and psychological mayhem of combat.
  • Health care — As the decade comes to a close, the richest nation on earth is long overdue on delivering quality, affordable health care to all who live here.

I apologize for the negativity, but I do not believe in ignoring the bad stuff.  Only by understanding it can we move forward.  I’ll put forth the outline for a more forward looking agenda next week!

6 responses

    • Marie, thanks for the good words. I hope the next 10 years will signal a reversal of so many of these developments! Best, David

  1. Thanks so much for your post, David.

    We can – and must – do so much better than this!

    This is not the world I want to leave to anyone’s children.

    Best wishes for the New Year – and the new decade. We will meet again in 2020 with better news.

    Time to roll up the sleeves a little further.

    Debra Healy
    Healy Conflict Management Services

    • Debra, thank you, once again, for your good words! I’m sure you’ll be part of the solutions in the years to come. Best, David

  2. David, I might quibble with some of the points, but it is hard to dispute many of the specifics or the fact that there is clearly much that we as a country need to do much better, and what happens in the workplace plays a major role in happens in America. I look forward to your more forward looking agenda. Although no doubt I will quibble (or even more) with some of the methods of getting there, there is likely to be far less difference in what we see as the ultimate goal. I am glad that you have added your voice to the blogosphere. Michael Fox

    • Michael, thank you for your comment. Feel free to quibble or beyond: I welcome your perspective, grounded in insights gained by representing employers, and always accompanied by genuine goodwill. Best, David

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