Lament of the Bosses

Noa Osterreicher
Noa Osterreicher
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A surfer walks near a display showing losses in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, March.
Noa Osterreicher
Noa Osterreicher

We have no workers, employers moan into every microphone in sight – we actually have to chase after them to get them to come in for an interview. Some set up an appointment and don’t bother to show up! They all demand high wages, and want benefits, a generous savings plan from day one. You need to court them, offer them stuff, sell them on the privilege of working for us. What will we do? The employers pull out their hairs: We won’t survive without workers.

Oh, the antichrist, the worker aware of his necessity. Nothing is more dangerous to the neoliberal world order that has been ruling us since the 1980s. You workers, say thank you for having a job – at wages insufficient to finance anything without loans – and we’ll do you a favor each day we keep you on. That was the deal. Don’t like it? Leave. There’s a line around the block full of people just waiting to replace you.

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Well, basta. The coronavirus pandemic – an easy scapegoat for any change, big or small, in the world over the past two years – is the culprit here as well. Suddenly they need us. That is, they needed us before too, but somehow they managed to instill in us a belief that we’re replaceable. That there’s no point in organizing, that it’s better to keep your head down.

And forget about Israel, where one can still find pockets of reason like universal health care and sick funds. Imagine the astonishment of employers in backward countries such as the United States, where even paid maternity leave is a revolutionary idea that has yet to take hold. They’re coming out from under every rock, these horrible proletarians, demanding sick days and paid leave, health care coverage, the right to unionize, daycare. Is there no end? Is this, I ask you, what we came from Europe with all our diseases and annihilated the Native Americans for? For this Lincoln abolished slavery? So the great-great-great grandchildren of those slaves could come to Jeff Bezos demanding two bucks more a week? The nerve.

Here, too, the experts in the studios furrow their brows significantly: It’s because they’re spoiled. Or because of the money the state wasted on furlough payments. Or because we didn’t adopt the German or Chinese or Alawite model. We should have nipped it in the bud, maybe added penalties. It’s clear who is to blame: Today’s youngsters, who spurn tenure and stability (as if they were offered such options). They don’t think about tomorrow (as if you allowed them one). The financial press is aghast as well: After wallowing and writhing in the sickening riches of high-tech and real estate, leching over every exit and lustily licking up every last crumb of PR, it scolds anyone who hasn’t been fortunate enough to be born the way they should. Up you go, lazybones, get thee to a full-time job for 6,500 shekels (a little south of $2,000), before taxes. The party’s over.

Over? Who are you kidding? Every three minutes we hear the slot machine ring, a mighty shower of cash rains down, just never on us. And those same people who a moment ago called on us to come to our senses and troop back into our cubicles like good little children, now run to the studios to explain the financial miracle du jour. A unicorn, bruh!

It seems that the employers’ turn has come to recall their beloved principles of supply and demand, which served them in recent decades with a creeping contraction of working conditions, contempt for workers’ rights and a near-complete freeze in wages, while the cost of living rose by dozens of percentage points. Remember that – and open your wallets.

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