Mike Rowe: ‘The Biggest Work-Related Challenge Facing America Today is the Lowest Workforce Participation Rate In Memory’

Photo from Mike Rowe’s Instagram

Mike Rowe: ‘The Biggest Work-Related Challenge Facing America Today is the Lowest Workforce Participation Rate In Memory’

By Movieguide® Staff

Although DIRTY JOBS alum Mike Rowe tries to avoid politics on his social media, the recent decision by President Biden to forgive student loans across the U.S. directly impacted his organization, Mike Rowe Works.

Rowe made it known that he disagreed with the decision and that it goes against everything that his organization works towards. The Mike Rowe Works’ site reads:

We’re on a mission to help close the skills gap by challenging the stigmas and stereotypes that discourage people from pursuing the millions of available jobs. We’re redefining the definition of a good education and a good job, because we don’t think a four-year degree is the best path for the most people. We want people to understand the impact of skilled labor on their lives, and we’re convinced that the solution has to start with a new appreciation for hard work.

Read More: Why Mike Rowe Doesn’t Support Canceling Student Debt

In a recent Facebook post, Rowe discussed his legacy on DIRTY JOBS, and the future of work in the United States.

“Aside from ‘What was your dirtiest job,’ the most common question I’m asked today is, ‘What was your hardest job?’ There are many worthy contenders. Cleaning the inside of a cement mixer is certainly up there. So too, is hot tar roofing, especially in July, and maintaining the Soo Locks, especially in January. But for sheer, backbreaking manual labor, it’s tough to top the business of transplanting a cactus,” wrote beneath a segment of his podcast with producer Charles Klausmeyer.

“This week on the podcast, I commemorate Labor Day by reading a short account of my day in the desert with a rancher turned landscaper. The story is called ‘A Prick in Congress,’ which I wrote several years ago to commemorate the launch of mikeroweWORKS, which also coincides with Labor Day,” he said. “A Prick in Congress is followed by a conversation with Chuck about that first official Labor Day in 1894, back when most workers were laboring 12 hours a day in conditions that would be illegal today.”

“It was a hell of a time,” he continued. “A time before occupational safety was a concept, much less a reality. A time before labor laws and workers’ rights. A time before pensions, vacation days, sick days, health insurance, and so many other advancements made possible by the work of many excellent trade unions.

“I probably should have left it at that, but I’m afraid our conversation took a turn that some will object to. Because in it, I shared with Chuck my opinion that Labor Day has become an occasion to honor America’s workers, not just by recognizing their fruits of their labor, but by vilifying the people who employ them.”

Rowe went on to explain that DIRTY JOBS is meant to highlight the benefit of hard work and hard-working people, but that the media often misrepresents skilled labor.

“Fans of Dirty Jobs know that I’ve spent most of my career highlighting the very people to whom this holiday is dedicated,” he said. “That’s probably why Discovery runs a Dirty Jobs marathon every Labor Day, including this one. But Dirty Jobs was a love letter not just to workers in someone else’s employ – it was a love letter to anyone who got dirty in the course of making a living – including entrepreneurs, independent contractors, freelancers and small businesses owners. A lot of people are surprised to learn that many of the workers we featured on that show were in fact, millionaires. Many get upset when I point this out, because they don’t want to hear stories about individuals who prospered as a result of working hard. It doesn’t fit their narrative.”

“What I really hope comes out in this week’s episode, is my belief that many trade unions are still relevant,” he added. “I know lots of hardworking people who prefer to be part of a team, to stay in one job for most of their working lives, and to let someone else negotiate and lobby on their behalf. But I know lots other workers who have prospered outside the unions. These people are constantly retooling, retraining, and mastering a skill that’s in greater demand than whatever it is they’re being paid to do at present. These people tend to see jobs like rungs on a ladder. They don’t look to an employer to take care of them, or to a union to lobby on their behalf – they look to themselves. They learn a skill that’s in demand, they go to where the work is, and then, they make themselves indispensable.”

To conclude, Rowe said that employees and employers should not work at odds with one another but should appreciate the hard work each of them had to do.

“The bigger point is this—union or non-union—it makes no sense to constantly pit the employee and the employer against each other. Labor and management are two sides of the same coin, and without both sides, America has no workforce,” he said. “Labor Day should remind us of that – especially this one. Because today, the biggest work-related crisis facing our country has nothing to do with occupational safety or 12-hour workdays or 7-day work weeks or a higher minimum wage. The biggest work-related challenge facing America today is the lowest workforce participation rate in memory, and the undeniable existence of 11.5 million good jobs that no one seems to want.”

“Look around. Every single construction company in America is struggling to hire right now. For every five skilled workers who retire from the trades, two replace them. Tens of thousands of restaurants have closed because they can’t find people willing to work,” he continued. “At Apple, many employees have ignored Tim Cook’s request to come back to the office, demanding instead to work from home – apparently for the rest of their careers. The same is true in thousands of other businesses, large and small. Something is happening to our workforce, and with it, to our collective work ethic. And whatever it is, it isn’t good.”

“As some of you will recall, mikeroweWORKS began in 2008 as a public awareness campaign for millions of good jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. Today, we award work ethic scholarships to those who wish to learn a skill that’s in demand,” Rowe added. “We do this, because most of those 11.5 million jobs currently open don’t require a diploma from a university – they require training, and more importantly, a willingness to work. Last month, we awarded over $1.5 million to 300 applicants who demonstrated the kind of work ethic I hope to encourage. To them, I say congratulations. To everyone else, I say Happy Labor Day, and cordially invite you to join me in a place called Congress, where the pricks are literally everywhere…”



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