R.I.P. workers. You live a reasonably decent life, roughly 2000 B.C. to this moment.
Because now that even doggy day care workers have to sign non-compete agreements, it's safe to say that management has decisively won its age-old battle with employees.
It's so absurd it almost seems like a Woody Allen-esque meditation on the limits of capitalism. But here it is: Camp Bow Wow, a dog-sitting chain, makes its workers sign non-compete agreements that bar them from plying any of the "trade secrets" they learn walking dogs at any other animal day care centers for up to two years, according to the Huffington Post. The company declined to discuss the matter with HuffPo.
This is about power, pure and simple. Companies have it, and workers don't. Not when globalization has forced more and more people to compete with low-wage workers overseas. And especially not when there are still two unemployed people, and even more discouraged folks, for every job opening. That's why employers are throwing non-compete clauses, which used to be reserved for top executives who were actually privy to sensitive info, into all their contracts: because they can.
Well, it's not just that.
Why, after all, do companies do anything? To make money, of course. So firms are using non-competes not just because they can, but because they think these will help their bottom lines too. It's pretty easy to see why. Non-competes create a Balkanized labor force where you're not a sandwich maker, but either a Jimmy John's or Subway sandwich maker. Workers, in other words, are being forced to pledge fealty to companies that can still fire them at will. The payoff, of course, is that workers who, practically-speaking, can't switch jobs are workers who can't ask for raises. Not that companies really need any more leverage than they already have when middle-class incomes have been flat for 15 years now.
Corporate America's victory is the economy's loss. Job-switching, which has already been declining, is how people find out what they really want and can be paid the most to do. And that increases worker pay and productivity, which is good for everyone—well, except maybe for CEOs. That's why these kind of quasi-feudal non-competes should be illegal for everyone other than senior executives who really do know trade secrets without the scare quotes. They serve no purpose other than to keep wages down in an unfair way.
Somehow, I think doggy day care companies will survive if they have to—gasp!—compete over the best, or at least willing, dog walkers.