·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

News & Politics

Nobody Wants to Work Anymore

— May 3, 2021

Nobody wants to work? Are you sure it’s laziness, and not low-wage workers prioritizing their health and wellness over taking your crap?

Last month, TikTok user Brittany Logan posted video footage of a sign she found at her local McDonald’s. “We are short staffed,” it said, “Please be patient with the staff that did show up. No one wants to work anymore.” While McDonald’s is to be commended for asking customers to show any level of kindness to front-line workers, the idea that nobody wants to work became part of the zeitgeist in recent days, with memes spreading like wildfire in a California drought.

Naturally, FOX seized the opportunity to fuel the grievances of their fan base, noting that the perceived labor shortage has affected the restaurant industry nationwide. Maurice White, the proprietor of Big White Wings in Prichard, Alabama, told a local FOX affiliate that he’s having trouble finding enough staff to keep serving patrons his signature Stupid Fries. “It seems like nobody wants to work these days,” he said, adding that stimulus payments could be the reason people aren’t desperate enough to work in the service industry yet.

An anti-mask protester, wearing a mask with the center cut out, his mouth and nose plainly visible, and a roll of toilet paper hanging from a string around his neck.
Would you accept less than minimum wage to serve this man? Photo by Neettttttt, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0

The Washington Beer Blog decided to take a different, evidence-based approach, asking service workers why they weren’t returning to the bars and restaurants reopening across the country. The most common reason cited was the workers’ own mental and physical health. Unsurprisingly, servers find it exhausting to babysit cranky patrons and enforce mask ordinances. Belligerent anti-maskers are a particular frustration for waitstaff, which might be why the FOX crowd believes workers are simply lazy and glutted with government cash. Ranking below the soul-crushing plague spreaders and the possibility of bringing the virus home, was the money issue. It’s not that nobody wants to work, but having a small relief fund did provide workers more freedom to choose who they feel is a good fit in terms of trading their time and health for $2.13/hour plus tips. Perhaps the invisible hand of the free market will respond with higher wages and better schedules.

However, you know who else doesn’t want to work?

Anyone visiting a restaurant. Sure, there’s the social aspect, and the atmosphere may be hard to beat, but when it comes right down to it, people eat out because they don’t want to cook and clean up afterward. It’s easier to pay someone else a pittance to cater to our whims, and tell them they should be grateful for the opportunity to mop up our spills, fetch us extra ketchup, and respond in an awkward yet not fully condescending way to our flirtation because rent is due. So if you’re grabbing a burger and the staff is thin on the ground, perhaps the fry guy wants to work more than you do.

Anyone buying food at the grocery store. There was once a time, not all that long ago (historically speaking), when households grew and preserved their own food. Who wants to get up before first light to milk the cow, who wants to thresh the grain before grinding it into flour? Man, nobody wants to work these days. They just want the food to sit, passive and available, on the grocery shelf, harvested by frightened immigrants, prepared by minimum wage workers, and canned by robots, until it’s time to open the pop-top lid and hit a button on the microwave.

Anyone who chanted, “Drill, baby, drill!” The modern economy depends upon cheap, plentiful energy to do the things that we don’t want to do by hand. Oil runs our cars so people don’t have to walk. Coal and nuclear derived electricity powers factories that produce goods for people who don’t want to make everything themselves. Chainsaws, instant pots, accounting software, washing machines, tractors, delivery services, toasters, and so many other energy-dependent labor-saving devices have become popular because nobody wants to work anymore. Not even you.

These examples may sound extreme, but the truth is that people have long preferred to minimize work, especially effort that is painful, dangerous, or futile. We’d all work less now, if consumerism hadn’t caught on a century ago. Don’t be mad because other people aren’t desperate enough to take your crap for less than a living wage. Instead, be mad if your moral system demands misery to keep the economy rolling.

Related: Self-Reliance: A Positive COVID Result


McDonald’s drive-thru customer spots ‘savage’ sign telling people to be patient: ‘No one wants to work’
‘It seems like nobody wants to work’: Local restaurants say they are struggling to hire employees
What’s really fueling the service industry labor shortage
The ‘Capitalism is Broken’ Economy

Join the conversation!