On July 20, 2022, the Great Socialist Cat Memes Facebook page shared a meme that was titled, “Nobody Wants to Work Anymore.” The meme was described as “a brief history of capitalists complaining that nobody wants to work for starvation wages.”
While the Facebook post and tweet displayed the information in a meme, the originator of all of this was a thread by Paul Fairie, who is known on Twitter as @paulisci:
The meme and thread supposedly showed 14 clippings from articles that were printed between the years of 1894 and 2022, all of which appeared to display people expressing the general opinion that “nobody wants to work anymore.” Some of the articles showed the exact words from the top of the meme and thread, while others displayed a variation of the belief. The idea of the meme and thread was to show that, in each of the 14 years displayed, the person who either said or wrote the opinion appeared to believe it to be a novel thought.
With the help of Newspapers.com, we located all of the old articles and applied the above “True” rating as an indication that all of the clippings were real.
The most recent article that was labeled in the meme and thread as being published in 2022 came from Forbes. The piece began, “According to a new survey released by TinyPulse, 1 in 5 executive leaders agree with this statement: ‘No one wants to work.’ These same leaders cite a ‘lack of response to job postings’ and ‘poor quality candidates’ when describing why it’s hard to hire right now.”
In 2014, the Germantown News near Memphis, Tennessee, printed an article that was written by a pastor. Part of the article read as follows: “What has happened to the work ethic in America? Nobody wants to work anymore. It has not always been that way.” The pastor then talked about, “When I first started to work as a teenager,” which kind of read as a variation of, “When I was your age…”
The clipping from 2006 came from a question that was sent by a reader to the Ventura County Star in California. It read, “I can’t believe the bad luck I have had in trying to find someone to do some needed home improvements. It almost seems like nobody wants to work anymore and when they do work, they take no pride in what they do. How does one find a dependable worker?”
In 1999, the Clearwater Times in Florida printed a story about Cecil and Henry Lopez, two brothers who had decided to call it quits after managing a shoe repair shop for 53 years:
Their Service Shoe Repair shop, at 649 Cleveland St., is for sale. Cecil, 78, and Henry, 73, would take about $80,000 for the business, which has been in the same leased space for 45 years. But they don’t seem extremely optimistic about finding a buyer. “Nobody wants to work anymore,’ Cecil said. ‘They all want to work in front of a computer and make lots of money.”
The Miami Herald published an article in 1981 about an 89-year-old man named Sammy James. James had worked for decades as a crate nailer and said his fast moves earned him the nickname, “The Nailer.”
According to the story, James once said, “Farming is my hobby now. But, these rocks — I hired two boys to clear the rocks off this land last week. But they just fooled around. They didn’t want to work. Nobody wants to work anymore.”
In 1979, Ohio’s News-Journal reported a story about a man living in the New Orleans suburbs named Jack Diamond. At the time, Diamond had decided to permanently close his dry cleaning business after managing it for 40 years. He placed a sign in his window that said, “Closing June 5 due to taxes, labor, and robberies.”
The News-Journal’s article included the following mention of the phrase from the meme and thread:
[James] faults the welfare system as one factor in the labor shortage.
“About three months ago a woman came in here and said she wanted a job. I asked her if she knew anything about the business. She said no. So I told her I could start her at $3 an hour.”
“She laughed in my face and said, ‘Mister, I can clear $106 a week on welfare. I ain’t working for no lousy three bucks an hour.’ Now, you ask any small businessman and he’ll tell you. I’m not lying. Nobody wants to work anymore. The government puts everybody on welfare when they ought to be working.”
The Atlanta Constitution, now known as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, once published an article in 1969 about a new local television series:
Atlanta viewers will have an opportunity to listen to the poor talk about the problems of low-income citizens and their communities on a new 10 week series produced by WQXI-TV in cooperation with Economic Opportunity Atlanta, Inc.
Last Sunday, the first of the programs dealt with “how it feels to be poor” and the upcoming Sunday segment is called “Nobody Wants to Work Anymore.”
The Alabama newspaper The Evergreen Courant once printed what appeared to be a letter from a reader that said, “I heard somebody say the other day that everybody was getting too darned lazy and nobody wants to work anymore. That’s the truth if I ever heard it.”
In 1940, The Wisconsin State Journal published that Gov. Julius Heil was speaking about recent legislation when he said, “The trouble is everybody is on relief or a pension — nobody wants to work anymore.” The article ended there without any further elaboration.
In 1937, The Gazette and Daily newspaper in York, Pennsylvania printed an article with the headline, “Orchardists Complain of Shortage of Labor.” The opening paragraph read as follows:
Faced with a shortage of labor when unemployment is widespread, peach orchardists in York and Adams counties are complaining that, ‘Nobody wants to work anymore.’ There is work, it is reported, for 15 to 25 peach pickers in every orchard in the two counties, but only two to five pickers are at work because of the unavailability of labor.
In 1922, The Mulberry News in Kansas, once printed a letter from a reader that contained the phrase from the meme and thread:
What is the cause of unemployment and hard times? The manufacturer and business men say it is because nobody wants to work anymore unless they can be paid enough wages to work half of the time and loaf half of the time. The working man says that hard times are caused by the determined stand the employers have made to beat down wages. Now why is it these things exist during a Republican administration?
The Binghamton Press in New York published the following headline in 1916: “Prices to Be High for Thanksgiving Dinner.” Part of the article showed a small, bolded heading that read, “Nobody Wants to Work.” A person who was interviewed, identified only as a Binghamton dealer, told the newspaper the following:
“What about vegetables? Hasn’t it been a good year for vegetables?,” the dealer was asked.
“Well, as near as I can find out,” he answered, “the reason for food scarcity is that nobody wants to work as hard as they used to. I asked a man who was in here the other day, why he didn’t raise more livestock and make his own butter.”
“Women don’t want to make butter anymore,” he said, and then he asked: “Do you know where prices would go if we raised more calves and pigs, and made more butter? They would go way down.”
In 1905, the Edgefield Advertiser in South Carolina printed a letter from a subscriber. Following a mention of crop yields, the reader wrote, “Labor is scarce, high, and very unreliable. None want to work for wages.”
In 1894 the Rooks County Record in Stockton, Kansas, published a letter sent in by a reader. “With all of the mines of the country shut down by strikers, what will the poor editor do for coal next winter? It is becoming apparent that nobody wants to work these hard times.”
“Beware of Scam Artists Posing as Contractors.” Ventura County Star via Newspapers.com, 14 Aug. 2006, p. B3, https://www.newspapers.com/image/777183341/.
Bozeman, Bob. “The Week’s Wash.” The Evergreen Courant via Newspapers.com, 29 May 1952, p. 2, https://www.newspapers.com/image/538432167/.
Brassell, Jr., Sam. “From the Pastor’s Heart… Work Ethic.” Germantown News via Newspapers.com, 29 Jan. 2014, p. 5B, https://www.newspapers.com/image/409176937/.
Fairie, Paul. Twitter, 19 July 2022, https://twitter.com/paulisci/status/1549527748950892544.
“Heil Approves Cut in Highway Offices for More Economy.” The Wisconsin State Journal via Newspapers.com, 22 Mar. 1940, p. 1, https://www.newspapers.com/image/396758568/.
Knight, Eddie. “Aging Crate Nailer Still Hammering Away.” The Miami Herald via Newspapers.com, 23 Apr. 1981, p. 26, https://www.newspapers.com/image/629185437/.
“Letters to the Editor.” The Mulberry News via Newspapers.com, 5 May 1922, p. 4, http://www.newspapers.com/image/479928386/.
“—.” Edgefield Advertiser via Newspapers.com, 20 Dec. 1905, p. 2, https://www.newspapers.com/image/72226770/.
“—.” Rooks County Record via Newspapers.com, 27 Apr. 1894, p. 4, https://www.newspapers.com/image/379643726.
“Orchardists Complain of Shortage of Labor.” The Gazette and Daily via Newspapers.com, 16 Sept. 1937, p. 7, https://www.newspapers.com/image/64205801/.
“Prices to Be High for Thanksgiving Dinner.” The Binghamton Press via Newspapers.com, 24 Oct. 1916, p. 8, https://www.newspapers.com/image/261057050/.
Rigsby, G. G. “Brothers’ Landmark Shoe Shop Closing.” Clearwater Times via Newspapers.com, 10 Nov. 1999, p. 1, https://www.newspapers.com/image/328409333/.
“Taxes, Freeloaders, Robbers Too Much for Cleaner.” News-Journal via UPI via Newspapers.com, 9 May 1979, p. 39, https://www.newspapers.com/image/295904031/.
“The Poor To Relate How It Is.” The Atlanta Constitution via Newspapers.com, 9 May 1969, p. 71, https://www.newspapers.com/image/398830260/.
Westfall, Chris. “‘No One Wants To Work’: The Why Behind The Great Resignation.” Forbes, 19 Jan. 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/chriswestfall/2022/01/19/no-one-wants-to-workthe-why-behind-the-great-resignation/.