by Pavlo Kuliuk
There has been no war on the continental US territory in the past 150 years. There has never been a full scale enemy invasion of the US. People here don’t know what it’s like to have Silicon Valley, Wall Street, or a Ford plant taken over by the enemy. And this is very bad! Because US law is not ready for such an event.
Laws are usually passed to deal with already accomplished facts or events anticipated in the near future. Therefore, the War Hazards Compensation Act, (1) Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (2) and Dismissal Pay and Industrial Reconversion (3) were created (in 1942 during World War II). These laws were meant to protect the rights of workers in the US and outside the US during times of war. But these laws will do nothing when the loss of territories becomes a threat to the US itself.
When there is a threat of destruction of the state in the labor market, a perfect storm arises. Rules and laws are no more! You can only hope that your boss is a good person. If this is not so, then say goodbye to yourself.
This is exactly what many Ukrainian citizens did when the Russian army launched a military operation against Ukraine. Thousands of enterprises in Ukraine fired their employees without paying salaries or compensation. Businesses were destroyed or captured by the enemy. Business owners fled the country or closed their businesses. In such conditions, no one wanted to pay their employees. Game over. That’s what many bosses thought.
Labor during the war faces disappointment and impotence
Lyudmila Brovko, a salesperson in one of the large retail chains, suddenly became unemployed. The management of the store where she worked said that the store was closing because of the fighting that was approaching. The management unilaterally terminated the employment relationship without paying compensation.
Lyudmila’s husband Sergey Brovko was a manager at one of the factories. At the beginning of the war, the company stopped functioning. Management gave employees unpaid leave. A month and a half later, because of the fighting, the management decided to evacuate the plant. Employees were fired without compensation.
Anna Sharkova, a sales agent in a wholesale company, had worked for only a month since the beginning of the war. Then, management ceased operations. Anna was fired without compensation. All these people are residents of Kramatorsk, Donetsk region. Of course, they could file claims in court. But…. In Kramatorsk, the court stopped working. The Supreme Court of Ukraine adopted an order dated 03/15/2022 No. 8/0/9-22 This law changes the jurisdiction of the territory. Now the residents of Kramatorsk must defend their rights in the courts of the Industrial District of the city of Dnipro. This is another major city in Ukraine, 152 miles (244 km) from Kramatorsk. It takes almost 4 hours to get there. (10) The threat of hostilities is the reason for the evacuation of the court. This happened in mid-March. Even before all these people were fired in violation of the law. (9) Strikes, mass meetings and actions are prohibited. Such conditions of martial law. Martial law was introduced at 05:30. February 24, 2022 for a period of 30 days. And then regularly extended. (15)
The lawlessness of bosses, ban on strikes, rallies and the flight of judges is one example of how war can break the rules in the labor market. The large scale of the economic catastrophe worsens the situation. 4.8 million Ukrainians lost their jobs because of the war. (4) 41 million people live in Ukraine. (5) The number of able-bodied population (15-65 years old) is 25 million. (6) At the end of 2021, unemployment in Ukraine was 10.3%.
The total number of unemployed was 1.5 million people. As a result, the unemployment rate in Ukraine during the war increased from about 10% to 27-30%, while the employment rate fell from 56% to 40%.(7) For comparison, the maximum unemployment rate during the Great Depression in the US was 24.9%. (8)
In the conditions of chaos and lack of resources, the Ukrainian government tried to help unemployed citizens. 10 days after the start of the war, on March 4, the Ukrainian government adopted Decree No. 199. (11) The document provides for a one-time payment to those insured Ukrainians who have lost all or part of their income. The amount of the payment is equal to the minimum wage. This is 6,500 hryvnias, or $224 at the then current exchange rate. (12)For comparison, the average salary in Ukraine at the end of 2021 was UAH 17,453 (13) or $646 at the then current exchange rate.(14) In total, UAH 21.5 billion, or $724 million, was allocated for payments.
State assistance allows Ukrainians to live modestly for only a couple of months. This is so if a Ukrainian spends money only on himself. If a Ukrainian has dependents who do not receive state support, or if a Ukrainian needs to rent housing, then the Ukrainian will not be able to live even a month. This little help is a disaster.
But even worse is that there are no alternatives. The war is not very popular. Therefore, President Zelensky banned men aged 18 to 65 from leaving Ukraine. Men run away from Ukraine because they do not want to serve in the army. Ukrainian men cannot find work abroad because of the travel ban. Before the war, the opportunity to earn money abroad was popular.
Finding a good job in Ukraine is not possible. The labor market is shrinking. Soon the total number of unemployed will reach 7 million people. (4) The reason for this the war is coming and the end of agricultural work. A lot of seasonal workers worked in agriculture.
Hell needs workers, but the pay is low
The only way to earn money is to serve in the army. However. The basic salary of a military man is only 30,000 hryvnias (16) At the actual exchange rate, it is only 777 dollars. (17) The military who participate in the battles receive 100 thousand hryvnias or 2331 dollars. The average care fee in Ukraine at the end of 2021 was UAH 17,453. (13) or $646 (14). In Europe, where Ukrainians loved to make money, the average salary in 2021 was 2078 euros or 2327 dollars. (19)
As we can see, the Ukrainian government uses labor resources effectively and cynically. During the war, when there is no possibility of earnings, President Zelensky offers to kill and die for the average salary in peacetime. No overpayments. I will be frank. Many Ukrainians rejoice at this opportunity. Zelensky correctly assessed them. Ukrainians who know their worth illegally leave the country or look for remote work. However, both categories of people are in poor condition. After all, their common home Ukraine is now a bad place to live.
War gives big earnings only to those who steal or are engaged in military supplies. All other victims of the war. The Ukrainian labor market does not satisfy the interests of Ukrainians.
Ukraine’s troubles can instruct the US
These are just a few examples of what the US labor market could become as a result of a military invasion. Most participants in the labor market will become its victims and captives. These people will be fuel for the monster called war.
Of course it can be stopped. For this, it is necessary to study the experience of Ukraine and other countries in which there were military incursions. Then it is necessary to adopt laws protecting the rights of workers. These laws should eliminate the problems that workers have during a military invasion. The lessons of war in Ukraine could help protect workers in the US. It is necessary to prepare for war in time of peace. Otherwise, everything will depend on the actions of your boss, when he sees enemy tanks in the window.
10) Google data query “distance from the Dnieper to Kramatorsk”