Of Mice and Men presents us with a suitably grim picture of life in Depression-era America. This was a time when millions of people were unemployed, with many previously hard-working folk wondering where on earth their next meal would come from.
In such a desperate situation, those employers who'd managed to remain in business found themselves in a position of greater power over their workforce. As unemployment was so high, employers knew that they could hire and fire at will, safe in the knowledge that there'd always be many others willing to take the place of those dumped on the scrapheap.
Such rampant exploitation is much in evidence throughout Of Mice and Men. Pay and conditions for the ranch hands are very poor, but due to the Great Depression they have very little choice in the matter. Given the economic catastrophe that has descended upon the country these men are lucky to have a job and they know it.
It's notable that Lennie and George dream of owning a ranch of their very own, where they will get to do the hiring and firing. George knows that this is the only way for someone to lead a truly independent life. He understands all too well that, in the midst of an economic depression, it pays to be an employer and not a worker.