Returning to Work Complications – Mandates, Fear, Politics, & Possible Solutions


The staffing industry like most all sectors of the US economy has had a problem getting enough workers to return to work creating widespread labor shortages. While there are other reasons, I would like to address how mandates and fear of the new covid-19 surges are affecting this troublesome condition.

It is axiomatic that no one likes mandates and, perhaps especially, Americans. The reasons are many, but they are uniquely significant in the current climate of rebellion against government encroachments upon personal freedoms.

If you are already angry at the government for allowing, enabling, and encouraging millions of good paying jobs to be shipped to other countries over the last 30+ years, together with the false promise that this would be good for everyone, the governmental mandates during this pandemic did not help this underlying resentment.

Fear is another factor that is preventing a more complete return to work. The argument that overly generous unemployment and other government benefits are a cause certainly has validity, but it is also true that a rational fear of returning to work amid a continuing pandemic is also highly relevant as studies have confirmed.

These two motivations, i.e., mandates and real, non-neurotic fear get compounded when there is a mix of the two. For example, when millions refuse to be vaccinated or wear a mask, additional people become more reluctant to return to work themselves for fear of the others who are unvaccinated or who refuse to wear a mask.

If, on the other hand, if it were known that everyone returning to work has been vaccinated, real fears can be greatly reduced. Ditto for children returning to school where teachers are not required to be vaccinated. Note the very recent death of 4 unvaccinated teachers in the Miami area. (The vaccine status of one of the teachers was not confirmed but suspected to have been unvaccinated)

Not only is there opposition to mask wearing and vaccines but there is also rising antagonism towards those who refuse to be vaccinated or wear a mask.

So, the hopes of many at the beginning of the pandemic, that a common enemy would finally bring us closer together, have been clearly dashed. The reality seems to be that the pandemic is contributing, and perhaps significantly so, to our political and cultural divide.

This situation may continue to deteriorate as children go back to school and more adults return to work and where mask wearing, and vaccinations become very personal.

This entire situation seems to be exacerbated by the fact that the fault lines are along the same political party, regional, and cultural divide that has already been well established.

This has gotten so bad that many are concerned about another violent event next month as we celebrate Patriot’s Day on 9/11.Instances of political violence are sometimes linked to something symbolic, and this year is the 20th anniversary of that attack on the World Trade Center. The January 6 violence was perpetrated by many who specifically identified themselves as “patriots”

There is already a significant protest planned for that day. While this protest is certainly not intended to be any kind of violent demonstration, the normally expected show of national unity will be somewhat challenged by 1,800 family members of those lost on 9/11and the first- responders who served on that day.

They have formally asked that unless President Biden delivers on a campaign promise to show much more transparency related to the involvement of the Saudi Arabian government in that attack, he should not attend any 9/11 ceremonies.

While this may well bean anti-government event unrelated to any of the long-standing anti-government groups, it is nonetheless a case that feeds anti-government sentiment. The unwillingness of the US government to release these documents after 20 years of court battles could easily be labeled, “deep state secrets” that protect Saudi Arabia because of their extensive political and financial ties to our government.

So, our entire national situation, plus the continuing pandemic with its government mandates for mask-wearing and vaccines, plus the real fear of the pandemic,are all involved in the reluctance of millions to return to the workplace.

There is considerable evidence that these factors are all playing a negative role in defeating  the pandemic and thus complicating a more robust return to work.

So, what is the solution? I will easily grant that I do not know, but I will offer a more long-term idea to surmount our difficulties as a nation or, at least, to mitigate them.

The issues are so many and complex, I sincerely believe we should create something like a “Center for National Reconciliation”. It might begin by running a one-year series of Town Hall style TV presentations confronting every issue that divides us. It would air weekly on all the major broadcast and cable TV networks.

The only requirement for these presentations would be that each one have excellent content and production value. They would not be dull, but neither would they be rants.

Spokespersons for each issue would be chosen for their ability to present their views in a competent and peaceful manner and who respectfully acknowledge that others will disagree. Disagreement, yes, but never demonization.

Some Town Hall sessions might explore well established techniques for “Nonviolent conflict resolution”. All sessions will be recorded to provide ongoing content for in-person study groups, civic groups, schools, universities.

Awards could be given for some of the very best presentations. Also, Certificates might be granted for the successful completion of an online test in topics like “Non-Violent Conflict Resolution” or “Rigorous Peacemaking at Home and Abroad”, “Universal Ethics for Interpersonal Relationships”, etc… There could be a national contest for ideas on possible topics.

But we simply cannot continue to go on like we have been, listening and “preaching” to our own choirs; liberal and conservative, religious and non, rural and urban, wealthy and poor. The stakes are huge. It is nothing short of the need to prevent another civil war. I do not think I am being overly dramatic.

Finally, I would like to add two things:

  1. I did not anticipate ending this way but in discussing our national situation as it related to getting us back to work, I discovered that the same ugly problems were affecting even this. Affecting everything. So, not wanting to simply list problems, I began thinking about how you might fix or mitigate this complex and serious situation and, some of the above ideas just came out.
  2. Looking at possible strategies that might help our national dilemma reminded me of a story: There was an old Italian guy named Michael Pellegrini. He was a taxi driver in New York (before Uber) and at the end of every trip he would say to his customers, with a great smile and strong Italian accent, “You pray-a for me and I pray-a for you, OK?”. Not a bad idea. So, “Pellegrini!” and stay safe.