Science Careers Blog

July 11, 2007

Secretary of Labor to Young American Workers: You Suck

In the 1 July issue of Parade, a magazine inserted into the Sunday editions of many newspapers in the United States, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao says that the bad attitude of American workers, particularly younger workers, contributes to the threat of outsourcing overseas. In a section in Parade's "Intelligence Report" called "How Safe is Your Job?", Secretary Chao says, “American employees must be punctual, dress appropriately, and have good personal hygiene.” Chao adds, “They need anger-management and conflict-resolution skills, and they have to be able to accept direction. Too many young people bristle when a supervisor asks them to do something.”

Parade's online version noted that "Many readers have expressed their concern about Labor Secretary Elaine Chao’s comments" and offered Secretary Chao an opportunity to clarify her remarks. In the follow-up article, she says the article did not reflect her original statements and added, "It is important that first time entrants to our workforce be aware that technical skills, degrees, and a tight job market will aid their success but basic professionalism is also essential to advance and contribute in the workplace. These fundamentals – including punctuality and appropriate workplace decorum – will affect their future."

Yes, punctuality and workplace decorum, along with anger-management, can certainly help one's career.  But they won't help much if the kind of good-paying jobs that encourage hope in the future disappear. According to the Economic Policy Institute, employment rates of college graduates age 25-35 have risen from 84.3% in 2003 to 86.5% in 2006, but are still below the 87.4% reached in 2000.  Moreover, real hourly wages for this group have fallen during much of the same period, from $24.54 in 2001 to $23.60 in 2006. I bet more good jobs with higher pay would do wonders for workplace decorum.

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