Life at Work

The Employees' 2006 Bill of Slights

By Amy Joyce
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 3, 2006

No, tell us how you really feel.

This Labor Day, workers are saying their biggest work problems are mostly economic. Their pay is not keeping up with increasing health-care costs or other increases in living expenses. They are disgruntled enough to look for work on the job. Retirement "security" isn't secure.

These issues and more -- so many more -- are major concerns, show several surveys done just in time for Labor Day.

"Three years ago, workers told us they felt overworked, but they were patient. They realized the economy was getting better and they would share in the wealth ultimately," said Stuart Itkin, vice president of marketing for Kronos Inc., a workforce management company that did a study about workers' feelings this Labor Day. "Last year, the work improved, but they are mad as hell. Their paychecks are no better."

According to the Kronos survey, conducted by Harris Interactive as an online poll without using a random sample, 61 percent of employed adults say they are not experiencing the benefits of an improved economy in their work lives, a four-percentage-point increase from last year's survey.

And there are consequences to that: Fifty-eight percent of workers may leave their employer if the economy continues to improve -- that's up 12 percentage points from the 2005 study. Meanwhile, 74 percent say they are actively or passively looking for a new job, and 41 percent of those 'fessed up to looking for a new job while at work, up from 39 percent last year.

No wonder workers are feeling the pain: Inflation is running at an annual rate of 4.8 percent so far this year, higher than any yearly increase since 1991. But wages are not increasing at the same rate, according to a Labor Department report released last month. Average weekly earnings fell 0.1 percent in July and bought 0.1 percent less in July than a year earlier.

Itkin said a lot of the blame lies in the fact that employees believe that they working hard but are underappreciated. Eighty percent of respondents indicated they wanted to be appreciated, yet only 36 percent thought their employers appreciated them.

In a separate report, almost all (97 percent) of the 23,000 or so female workers who chose to respond to an online survey said they were most concerned about not being able to afford health care, according to "Ask a Working Woman," a survey by the AFL-CIO and Working America, its affiliate.

Many think chief executive pay should be limited when workers are losing benefits or being laid off (48 percent), and nine out of 10 participants said they were more worried and concerned about the future of young people going into the workforce than they were hopeful and confident.

Grim news on this last day of summer freedom, indeed.

Take Meagan Jeronimo, 27, one of the survey participants. She made her mark on Washington several years ago when she founded an Internet community for the area's many working moms.

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