Episode 135: The “Labor Shortage” Ruse: How Capital Invents Staffing Crises to Bust Unions and Depress Wages


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"Trucking Shortage: Drivers Aren't Always In It For The Long Haul," NPR tells us. "The U.S. Is Running Out of Nurses," reports The Atlantic. "There's A Nationwide STEM Teacher Shortage. Will It Cost Us The Next Einstein?" Forbes laments. '"'The Future Depends on Teachers,' PSA launched targeting teachers amid shortage," notes a local FOX affiliate.

Every few weeks, we hear about an essential industry suffering from a critical "labor shortage" –– nurses, truck drivers, software engineers, teachers, construction. According to corporate trade groups and their media mouthpieces, these industries simply can’t find trained workers to fill their ranks.

But a closer examination of "worker shortage" claims reveals that there’s very rarely an actual worker shortage –– what there is, time and again, is more accurately described as a "pay shortage": industries not wanting to provide adequate compensation or safe work conditions for the available labor market that is perfectly willing and ready to work. Instead of a "worker shortage," there's a “"not hyper liquidity in the labor market" problem for capital –– the perfectly capable and trained workers industries do have are not easily replaceable, potentially or already unionized, and making demands of capital those industries simply don't like.

In an effort to increase recruiting of new potential employees, promote legislation that loosens licensing or health and safety standards, and reinforce media-ready memes that American workers are lazy and greedy, industry lobbying groups constantly whine about "labor shortages," knowing the media will mindlessly repeat these claims without any skepticism or curiosity as to why they're reporting on the exact same "labor shortages" every year for 40 years.

Our guest is CEPR's Kevin Cashman.

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