Superstore — Union Busting

One way firms respond to increased union efforts is through managerial opposition. Because it’s illegal to fire workers who try to unionize, firms may use alternative tactics to discourage the formation of a union. An employee has been talking about forming a union and the district manager lets Amy know that the corporate office is considering shutting down stores, and a unionized workforce would make it more likely their store could be shut down. Amy, Dina, and Jonah meet in a backroom to discuss ways to stop the unionization from proceeding.

Superstore — Going on Strike

A lot of the employees walked out while on their shift in the hopes of getting Glenn his job back. The regional manager has arrived and is working with Jonah and Amy to see how they can get the employees back to work. Initially, Amy and Jonah ask only for Glenn to have is job back, but they must sign a letter saying that they apologize for walking out. While it seems like a small request, they decide that the employees really deserve more. Part of the goal of unionization is to turn a competitive labor market into a monopoly provider of labor. Through collective bargaining, Amy and Jonah demand more for their group.

Superstore — Union Memos

The lights are off in the store, but Dina and Glenn are searching for the manual override code to get power back online. While searching, Glenn goes through a series of older memos from the corporate office about how to keep union activity minimized. While stores cannot legally stop employees from unionizing, they have an incentive to keep unionization efforts at a minimum to keep labor costs low. The managerial opposition hypothesis is one explanation for low unionization in the US and primarily focuses on firms taking a proactive role in discouraging unionization.

The Simpsons — Day Laborers

 

In this scene, Homer and Bart are loading construction materials into their car at Builder’s Barn (a Home Depot-type store). Bart isn’t sure his dad is capable of handling the word himself when a group of immigrant day laborers offer their services. The day laborers have come from nearby Barleyville due to a recent “Barley Bust.” Homer accepts their offer and welcomes them to his home. He now feels superior because he’s able to hire workers to do jobs “we don’t want to do,” but then a hoard of laborers rushes the town of Springfield.

For a deeper look at economics and The Simpsons, check out Josh Hall’s book Homer Economicus.

The Pajama Game — 7 1/2 Cents

Asking for a raise is tough, but even a modest raise in wages can have a huge impact on worker salaries. In this scene from The Pajama Game, we see how a 7.5 cent raise can impact a worker’s wage. The cast goes through the calculations of what they could earn with additional income, including an automatic washing machine, a year supply of gasoline, and a vacuum cleaner.

Assessment idea: This is a neat opportunity to calculate real wages and see what 7.5 cents would be worth today versus 1953. The BLS has a calculator so you don’t have to wait!

Looking for more: Do you want to see more economics in Broadway shows? Check out BroadwayEconomics.com

Thanks to Mark Sammons from the University of Arizona for sending this clip in!

Superstore — Handheld Automation

Corporate has created new devices for customers to use that will allow them to look up where items are located in the store, scan the items, and pay for their total. The employees quickly point out that the device essentially replaces the workers and they are left wondering what that means for them. Dina tries to point out the relationship between ATMs and bank tellers, although she doesn’t have it exactly right.

At the end of the clip, Amy points out that corporate has also asked the stores to cut back employee hours, which implies that the new machines are replacing some of the labor in the store.

Moneyball — What’s the Problem?

The study of economics is often boiled down to the allocation of scarce resources, and few media clips illustrate that better than this iconic scene from Moneyball. The Oakland A’s scouts discuss the selection of players based on their appearance, but Beane recognizes that it’s too difficult to replace players using the old method.

Young Sheldon — Haggling Skills

 

Meemaw is having a garage sale and have asked Missy and George to help out. When George questions the pricing decisions of the junk for sale, Meemaw explains that she starts prices high so that people can negotiate and feel like they saved some money, which is another way of arguing that she’s trying to let the customers experience some consumer surplus. When Missy & George try to negotiate for better pay, they realize that it may not work out.

 

Sesame Street — Earning Money

Elmo wants to earn some money, but he isn’t exactly sure how. Luis offers him a chance to earn some money by helping him repair the ice cream machine.

Superior Donuts — Labor Market Discrimination

 

The local flower delivery guy makes racist remarks to Franco because he’s African American. The rest of the characters discuss other comments they have received regarding their nationalities. Labor market discrimination in this scene occurs as Arthur’s donut shop is a customer of the flour supplier. Customer discrimination could persist, but if the customers aren’t discriminatory, they have the ability to take their business elsewhere, which Arthur and Franco try to do. The Becker Model of discrimination argues that only customer discrimination can last in the long run because competition should drive out co-worker or firm discrimination.

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