By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Writer
Are many employees in America overworked, underappreciated, and at a breaking point?
Recently, a Jet Blue Flight Attendant “took off” from his job in a very memorable way. According to conflicting reports, after an alleged confrontation with an uncooperative passenger as the plane taxied to a gate at JFK Airport in New York, the flight attendant allegedly cursed on the plane’s PA system, grabbed some beer from a service cart, then activated the emergency-evacuation chute and slid off the plane into instant folklore.
The flight attendant – Steven Slater, who reportedly suffered an injury to the head during the incident – was suspended by JetBlue pending an investigation. The event put Slater and JetBlue in the media spotlight and made the flight attendant a working class hero to some. Even JetBlue responded to the event on their blog “BlueTales” with the following:
“It wouldn’t be fair for us to point out absurdities in other corners of the industry without acknowledging when it’s about us….Perhaps you heard a little story about one of our flight attendants? While we can’t discuss the details of what is an ongoing investigation, plenty of others have already formed opinions on the matter. Like, the entire Internet.”
Many on the Internet have voiced an opinion, some of it in favor of the flight attendant. They see the 38-year-old Slater, who according to reports has been with JetBlue since January 2008 and a flight attendant since 1990, as a symbol of the overstressed worker.
There are good reasons for the stress. According to government reports, nearly 8 million jobs have been lost since the Great Recession began in December of 2007. It is becoming more likely that many of those jobs will never return. While there is still work to be done, it is being done by fewer workers, and they are working longer and harder to keep up.
However, the latest Productivity and Costs Report for the Second Quarter 2010 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows these workers may need help. The BLS reported that business sector labor productivity decreased at a 0.9 percent annual rate during the second quarter of 2010, with output (2.6 percent) and hours (3.6 percent) both rising.
Productivity rose by large amounts during the Great Recession, 3.5 percent in 2009 alone. This decline in output per hour follows five quarters of strong productivity growth, and some economists believe the drop in productivity this spring for the first time in more than a year could be a sign that companies may need to hire more workers in the near future.
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