When It Comes to Employee Benefits, The Left Can't Have It Both Ways
In 2017, the popular jobs and recruiting website Glassdoor listed some of the more generous corporate perks on offer in the workplace. Ikea offers up to four months of paid parental leave not just for HQ employees, but also to part-time workers at its retail stores. Ikea’s benefit is plainly and properly about employee retention, so the only requirement is that the full or part-time employee have already worked at the company for at least one year.
Notable here is that Ikea is hardly alone. While it’s common on the left and right to suggest that wages are stagnant as prosperous companies and their investors capture all the gains, in the real world there’s an endless competition among businesses for the best and brightest employees.
So eager is Facebook to attract and retain top workers that it offers healthcare and free housing…for its interns. Striving mightily to put its best foot forward with the human capital without which companies couldn’t prosper, Glassdoor reports that “many Facebook interns report earning more than $7,000 per month.”
In finance, American Express offers generous parental leave, after which parents “are given access to a 24-hour lactation consultant.” Traveling mothers can ship their breast milk home for free. Goldman Sachs has offered “gender reassignment surgery” since 2008.
San Diego-based Scripps Health doesn’t just provide healthcare. Very aware that there’s nothing more expensive than low-priced employees, the highly regarded healthcare system offers up health insurance for their cats and dogs. Such is life – and work – in a country defined by endless prosperity, along with – yes – the wealth inequality that invariably precedes all the perks.
If anyone doubts the final assertion above, they might read up on rich Americans like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sergey Brin, and then follow that up with research about the employee perks offered by Amazon, Facebook and Google. Study a staggeringly rich company founder, and you'll subsequently discover company benefits that will knock you over.
Which brings us to a recent New York Times op-ed by Moshe Marvit and Shaun Richman. Titled “A Better Way to Protect Workers,” readers can imagine that the two scholars’ faux solution for protecting workers involves endless amounts of legislation from Washington, followed by force from same. To rebut this op-ed would be to insult the intelligence of readers, and also waste their time. What’s useful to bring up is that the left still believe that what’s good in the world can be decreed by thinkers and politicians, as opposed to it springing from market-driven competition. The authors are untroubled by reality, but that’s merely a blinding glimpse of the obvious.
Still, these surely sensitive scholars brought up an interesting point; one that the Times chose to highlight. As Marvit and Richman see it, “You should not be fired for taking a sick day to care for your kid.” About their assertion, there’s 100 percent agreement here. Parenting is a challenge, and looking after one’s sick child should not be the path to unemployment.
More important in consideration of all the work opportunity companies like Amex, Facebook, Goldman and Scripps have on offer, is that they too would likely agree with the scholars. About the companies mentioned, there’s quite simply no doubt that the executives at each would nod along to what Marvit and Richman think about sick days taken to care for ill children.
Yet here’s what Marvit and Richman don’t understand, but that’s crucial. The executives at the blue-chip companies mentioned believe that caring for one’s child is not a fire-able offense out of competitive necessity. Simple feelings don't drive their views in the way that they blur the scholarship of Marvit and Richman. Prosperous companies all, and fully cognizant that their prosperity is an effect of the productive people who show up to work each day, they would never institute policies that might cause their employees to go elsewhere.
Clearly missed by Marvit and Richman is that in the real world, there’s an ongoing war of the non-shooting kind taking place for workers. This war endlessly benefits the worker simply because companies put in a lot of time and effort figuring out ways to attract and retain them.
Stating the obvious, successful, growing businesses don’t need a law. Once again cognizant that perks and benefits matter to what is precious (employees), they understand that Washington is always behind the times when it comes to just about everything. Getting right to the point, if they waited for Washington to decree positive rights, they would be out of business. So rather than wait, they come up with benefits on their own. They have to. Only in an unreal world populated by academics, economists, and scholars paid to spend their days “thinking,” are low-wages and flinty benefits a corporate goal. Where profits are a necessity, it’s well understood that cheap labor is very expensive.
So yes, families matter. So do sick kids. Families are in better shape when parents can stay home to care for their unwell children. But let’s not forget why employees can do these things, all the while enjoying many other corporate perks that seemingly grow in creativity by the day. It’s all an effect of corporate prosperity. So when lefties decry corporate tax cuts, or call for high levels of taxation on the very people (yes, the rich) whose unspent wealth is what makes companies possible to begin with, they’re putting a bull’s eye on the very perks they deem so necessary.
It should be said that an aversion to government force and so-called positive rights dreamed up by lawmakers is not an aversion to people and workers. It’s merely an acknowledgement of reality. The reality is that everything that’s good in the workplace is an effect of profits that made the good possible. In which case the path to amazing benefits is the very corporate prosperity that so many academics, economists, and thinkers decry as the barrier to them.