Yesterday I sort of jumped off on a bit of a rant that was derived from a Rick Salutin column. I ended up talking about the working conditions in retail jobs. Rick was talking more about the global economic structure and I suppose I should clarify that what I’m saying doesn’t necessarily go against what he’s saying. Nonetheless, even if we recover some of our manufacturing jobs it seems inevitable that many more of us will spend more of our working lives in the service sector.
If you work in some areas of the service sector this does not exactly fill you with hope. We seem to have accepted this sort of cultural expectation that this kind of work has poor pay, inconsistent hours, little opportunity for advancement, and not much security. The companies that manage to buck this trend are out there, but they are rare. The “floor” for what you can expect in retail is quite low: minimum wage, no guarantee of benefits, no guarantee of hours – you get the picture. Those companies that are above this sort of floor are of their own volition. What we ought to do is find ways to raise that floor.
Some have called for increased union involvement in the service sector, and yet I don’t see much evidence that unions are terribly interested in this (correct me if you know of a union that is). Should unions be a part of the solution here? Are they interested? Are retail workers interested?