The Steven Slater Phenomenon explained

steven slater jet blue flight attendant

All hail the hero of the overworked, underpaid working class.

By now, the folk tale of Steven Slater is probably being told in inspiring sing-song at campfires around the nation.

After a passenger on a Jet Blue flight allegedly cursed him out and slammed an overhead bin on his head, Slater did what most of us only dream of doing: he not only told that bitch off (“To the passenger who called me a m—-f—er, f—- you. I’ve been in the business 28 years. I’ve had it. That’s it”), but also took an exit route that we could only imagine happening in the throes of a Gossip Girl episode: he employed the emergency exit and slid down the inflatable slide with two beers in tow.

Yet for all the hoopla, there were also a lot of raised eyebrows: how could anyone quit a well-paying job in this economy? For all of you tsking tsking, Daniel Gross at Slate debunks that misguided thinking and explains why “more and more workers are unhappy”:

It may seem odd that signs of employee dissatisfaction should emerge at a time of high unemployment, but it’s hardly surprising. That is because the two phenomena—the poor labor market and the sour mood of many workers—are actually connected. Employees are sick and tired of tough conditions and lowball offers from prospective employers.

Last year, productivity—the ability to produce more with less—soared 3.5 percent, up from 1 percent in 2008 and 1.6 percent in 2007. Yes, companies embraced the Gospel of Cost Cutting with missionary zeal—printing on both sides of the paper, eliminating bottled water, turning off the lights. But most of the gains came straight out of payroll. Companies slashed salaries and curtailed benefits, all while asking shell-shocked veterans to pick up the slack for downsized colleagues. Even as business has picked up, companies have been extremely slow to hire; the private sector has added just 630,000 jobs so far this year. And when it comes to wages and benefits, corporate America’s bean counters could make Scrooge blush. Many of the firms that slashed pay or cut 401(K) matches haven’t restored them even though their balance sheets are in rude health.

Many employers are treating existing and potential employees as if they’re desperate for work. And plenty of Americans are. But desperate times can lead to desperate measures. Push your work force too hard without adequate reward, and someone might occasionally tell you to take this job and shove it.

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