Nobody Wants to Work Anymore

In America’s Lower Caste System

Leo Godin
5 min readMar 19, 2022

We’ve all heard it. Seen the posts. Read the ridiculous signs in front of restaurants and coffee shops. Nobody wants to work anymore. Be sure to tip extra to those who actually showed up. While these businesses truly are struggling to find workers, unemployment is historically low right now.

People are working, they just don’t want to work for you. To understand why, we need to discuss the employment caste system in America. In this system, we find the American dream gained by some and forbidden to so many others. We find the fundamental reason nobody wants to work anymore.

U.S. Historical Unemployment Rate

Let’s Talk about Castes

I know my schedule next week, because I set that schedule. Outside of meetings, no one cares when I work. If I get sick, I let my team know and receive encouragement to get some rest. Of course, if I need a doctor, I just go. Don’t even think about cost or missing work. That’s what HSAs and unlimited sick days are for. Many of you reading this may be jealous, but you should be pissed. This is because I work in the upper employment caste in America. So many do not.

While much has been written about America’s racial caste system, employment castes have remained under the radar in most circles. In case you are like me and have nearly forgotten what it’s like to do real work for low pay in horrible working conditions, hop on over to /r/antiwork. There, you will read about wage theft, jobs with no vacation, no retirement, not knowing your Monday schedule until the Friday before. Bosses who scream, abuse and also feel entitled to your loyalty.

What does this caste system look like? While we can argue about specific tiering, there are two that separate most Americans: upper and lower. One surrounded by safety and support, the other, constant fear and stress. These castes are somewhat flexible, but it is extremely difficult to move between them. Once in the upper caste, your good for life. Those in the lower caste might achieve some of the benefits of moving up, but rarely fully ascend.

The Upper Caste

The upper caste shows up to work sometime around 8:30. Maybe earlier, maybe later. Many of us show up from home. And our bosses? Some are good, some are bad, but we don’t put up with abuse. No yelling, no belittling or we’re going straight to HR. Customers? What are those? Never heard of them.

We all have some assigned work, but most of the time, we set the agenda. We tell management what we will be working and how it will benefit the company. Most days, we are focused and productive for many hours. Some days are a bit off, with procrastination and longer breaks. Guess what? No one cares as long as the work gets done over time. We work in marathons, not sprints.

The upper caste gets vacation time, three-to-four weeks for most of us, and we don’t use any of that when ill or bringing kids to the doctor. No, that’s what sick days and leaving early are for. We are on salary, so our pay never changes based on day-to-day activities. And that salary? It’d doesn’t go as far as it used to, but it still goes far. At the grocery store we buy what’s on our list. We might notice prices and complain about them, but current costs don’t change what we buy. On the way out, we fill our tank. $2.09, $3.19, $4.59, it doesn’t matter, we fill the tank.

Not everyone has the same experience, but most of us in the upper employment caste feel safe and empowered. We are protected with various insurances and time off. Our management cares about us on a personal level. They want us to succeed. If we find a better job, they congratulate us. If they step out of line, we have HR departments to reign them in. If we lose our jobs, other similar companies will hire us. In short we live the American dream.

The Lower Caste

Contrast the above with the lower employment caste. You clock in seven-unpaid-minutes early for your shift — don’t be late! You may have a cool boss or you may have a complete a-hole. Either way, your day will only be as good as that person allows it to be. Are three people doing the work of five? Suck it up buttercup. When I was your age…. Maybe you work on tips, so you put up with the harassment from customers. Maybe your boss loves firing people, so you put up with more.

You don’t get vacation time, but you do get to come in on Sunday to make up for taking Friday off. By the way, you requested Friday off months ago, but they still put you on the schedule. It’s your responsibility to find coverage. Are you sick? Slam down some Dayquil, because you need the money. And doctors? Get real. Maybe you make $15/hr., but rent has gone up 40% in the past two years. $15 doesn’t seem like much. It isn’t. But hey, sometimes the company shows their appreciation with donuts or candy. You are so lucky to be part of the ACME “family”.

The shift is over and management wants you to clock out seven-unpaid-minutes late. You do it, because that’s how it’s done. This is a family after all, and you are loyal. Tired and sore, you stop at the grocery store on the way home. Gas is up to $4.19, so you get by with 5 gallons ’til payday, and that leaves just enough for some processed, boxed food. It’s not good. It’s not healthy, but it is what you can afford.

Finally, you just get fed up and find another crappy job paying $19/hr. You take it against the ranting and railing of your previous boss. After all I’ve done for you. You tell him if he wants to keep workers, he needs to pay more, but he doesn’t listen. Posts the same job at $13/hr. and waits. And waits. Months later, he’s still whining about how nobody wants to work anymore.

Wrapping it Up

Before I leave you with the impression that the castes separate white and blue collar workers, we should discuss something in the middle. Plenty of people make good money and benefits working in the office, yet are at the beck and call of management. Weekends? That’s for work. Promised vacation? Only losers take vacation. They have abusive bosses and no support from HR.

On the other hand, plenty of people who work with their hands have job security, reliable time off, and good pay. They may not be in six figures, but they have safe and dignified working conditions. These jobs are fewer and fewer, but do exist. It is not the type of work that determines a caste, but the environment we work in and the surrounding support structure.

The employment caste system in America greatly benefits some, but traps so many others into lives filled with uncertainty, stress, and minimal survival. Maybe there is hope. With unemployment at record lows, employees are finding themselves empowered for the first time in decades. So, the next time you hear someone say, “Nobody wants to work anymore,” tell them, “Nobody wants to work for you!”



Leo Godin

I’m Leo and I love data! Recovering mansplainer, currently working as a lead data engineer at New Relic. BS in computer science and a MS in data