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10:56 AM Tue, Sept. 18th

Cantlon: Changes that would actually help people

If any candidate or party really wants to change things for people, real change, not phony change or favors to the top disguised as change, there are plenty of ways to do it. Here are two. Do the same with the 10,000 things already on the books that lean against people and we’d really have something.

Example one: When a company hires someone for an hourly job, treat it like they are buying a piece of the employee’s life. Here’s what I mean.

Usually at the interview there’s discussion of the number of expect hours (is it 20, 30, 40?) and schedule (is the manager just talking about the day shift, not the evening shift?). It seems jobs used to be more stable but have grown unpredictable. You get hired for 30 hours of the day shift, then find half the time you only get 20 hours, and are frequently called in for evening shifts.

The employee has to keep themselves available for day shifts, even when they only get half of them. And once they learn they often have to cover evening shifts too, they have to keep that part of their schedule open as well. They can’t commit to a second part-time job, or to night classes.

The employer should need to do two things: One, stick to the schedule. They only bought part of the employee’s life, not all of it. Two, pay for what they bought. The employee keeps that 30 hours a week free for working. The employer should pay the 30 hours regardless whether they need all of them. It’s the employer’s task to determine how many hours they’ll need before they hire, and then own the gamble of whether they calculated right.

Of course people can agree to be flexible, but that should come with a reward. If the employee agrees to anywhere from 20 to 30 hours a week, that saves the employer 10 hours of pay on the short weeks. Split it with the employee. If it’s an emergency and the employer asks the day shift employee to cover the evening shift, if the employee agrees, pay them time and a half.

Example two: This one would help both employees and consumers. If a company shows a repeated pattern of breaking the law in ways that harm or cheat employees or consumers, or harms the environment, then they should be forced to sell to new owners. Any proceeds that would go to the old owners would go to restitution first. This isn’t about minor infractions of regulations but blatant, repeated law breaking. It’s easy to find plenty of big banks and major providers of consumer goods and services that do repeated harm, then pay a fine, and carry on. End it.

Few of the issues that are hot topics of the moment really do much directly for people. They are issues primarily to serve as campaign fodder. It’s not hard to find the real changes that matter if any politician really cares to look, or cares to ask the people who need it. But they don’t, so...it’s up to us to kick them in the butt to get them to do it.