The Great American Walkout

Business woman throwing work papers in the air.People are leaving the workforce in droves. In fact, the quit rate is the highest it has ever been since the Department of Labor began collecting data on it.

Leaving your job is no easy feat. I started my career 25 years ago as a union organizer with nursing home and meatpacking workers. I saw first-hand how workers in low-quality jobs were reluctant to walk off the job, individually or collectively, even when the working conditions were deplorable.

The number of people we see quitting today signals a broken economy.

While the pandemic replicated job class disparities — with higher-wage, professional workers able to safely perform their duties from home and those deemed essential workers forced to face heightened COVID dangers — all types of workers are now quitting.

People across industries are burnt out, worried about their health and safety, unable to find or afford child care, and reevaluating what they are willing to endure in the workplace.

We cannot allow this moment of reckoning to pass without making significant changes in the economy.

I have seen what happens when workforce issues linger. The nursing home and meat packing workers who I organized with early in my career have had some of the highest rates of COVID infection and death. I can’t help but wonder if things could have been different for them if the health and safety issues we raised decades ago had been better resolved.

We can and must do better. As we continue to rebuild, we must listen to what workers have been saying: it is not just about pay, it is also about providing jobs that offer balance, flexibility, and respect.

It is time to build an economy around working people; one that is holistic and recognizes workers’ humanity. I’m hopeful that we can get there together.

Amanda Cage

-- President and CEO, National Fund for Workforce Solutions