Labor Relations Are Fundamentally Misunderstood Whenever Workers Are Called ‘unskilled’

On his second day as mayor of New York City, Eric Adams made an appeal to office-based businesses: He pushed for companies to demand their office workers return to offices sooner than a proposed April timeline.

“You are part of the ecosystem of this city,” he said. “My low-skill workers — my cooks, my dishwashers, my messengers, my shoe shine people, those that work in Dunkin’ Donuts — they don’t have the academic skills to sit in the corner office. They need this.”

Despite being service-based jobs, cooks, bike messengers, and Dunkin’ employees are not “low-skilled workers” lacking the academic skills for office jobs.

Because these jobs require repetitive menial tasks such as making sandwiches and making coffee, they are considered “unskilled” or “low-skill.”

Approximately 80% of American workers are part of this group. And during the height of the pandemic, these laborers were described with one word: essential.

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