Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One reason why Steven Slater might have lost it

I was listening to the inimitable Larry Mantle on KPCC this morning. The topic was spectacular job-quitting moments, and was, of course, inspired by Steve Slater's colorful departure from a jetBlue flight.

Because I fly a fair amount, I chat with flight attendants from time-to-time, and I have a few flight attendant friends who I met through other friends. They have been getting hammered: their wages, which were low before, are even lower, and many of the benefits they were counting on, such as pensions, have been severely reduced. At the same time, airplanes are getting more full, which means that the probability of encountering a rude passenger has gone up. It is no wonder people in the business feel more stress.

But it is not just flight attendants: it is workers in general. No matter how one looks at it, workers' share of the economic pie has been shrinking. The graph below is the ratio of total compensation to national income (data is from the BEA):
Note that the ratio peaked in 1980, and has been on a downward trend since.  Even more pronounced is the downward trend in the wage to national income ratio:

For those jobs (such as flight attendant) where benefits have gotten worse over time, the wage-to-national income data may be more relevant. Note that in 2006 this ratio fell to its lowest level in the post-World War II era.