Category Archives: Oppression in the Workplace

The Value Of Hard Work In America

I recently received an E-mail from a Wise Sloth fan who identified with my criticisms of America’s predatory economy and needed to vent about their experiences. The letter was so poignant, I asked if I could post it, and they gave me permission. Enjoy and tremble:

 

“I thought I had a secret weapon to make it in this predatory economic system where others went under. How wrong I was. I’m half-Japanese (my mom is Caucasian), and my Asian father raised me with a strong work ethic. In no way do I think this makes me better than the average American. Asians are batshit crazy, and there’s a reason Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. I disagree with the people who think Americans should try to be more like the Chinese or Japanese, because it comes at a price that I don’t believe is worth it. I don’t think that level of discipline is healthy. I think it can be mental illness.

 

 

But anyway, every job I did, I took joy in finding ways to do everything twice as fast as everyone else, and I usually did the work of two people in one shift. I took (an asshole-ish) pride in it. I was still well-aware I was at a disadvantage because of not having a college degree, and I knew the jobs I was at took advantage of workers. I knew the level of output I produced was not worth the pay. But I thought it was worth it because I’d get promoted above the others, because the “lazy Americans” complained about so many things, whereas I “cheated” by working off of the clock. My father does the same thing. Not really “sneaking,” because they know we do it. In Japan, this is culturally a commonplace thing to do. How could they compete with that? It’s unheard of here. Of COURSE I would be promoted when they saw how dedicated I was!

I worked at one job as a middle manager, making $9 an hour, at a franchise store that sells glasses and contact lenses. Overtime was forbidden; they were always cutting payroll. The problem was I would be blamed if the store didn’t run properly, and it was impossible to keep the store in order only working 40 hours. So I worked 60 hours, only clocking in for 40. I can’t sue because I signed the time sheets every week. I’d lose my job if I didn’t. They wouldn’t “tell” you to work off the clock. They’d just make sure to give you an amount of work that was logistically impossible to complete in 40 hours a week, and they knew you’d be afraid of losing your job if you didn’t get it done and that you’d do whatever it took to keep your job.

To add insult to injury, even though I regularly worked 60 hours a week while only being paid for 40, when they had to cut hours, they would often send me home early, meaning some weeks I’d only be paid for 30 or 35, despite the fact the previous day I may have worked a 14-hour day and they owed me for hundreds of hours I would never be paid for. My boss constantly promised he’d look out for me and help me get a promotion, which was why I did this. Later I found out the district manager recommended me a for a general manager position at another store, and he told her no. He couldn’t afford to lose me because I did the work of two people. It would cost him too much payroll to replace me.

Soon after, I ended up in the hospital. The doctor kept increasing the antidepressants and anxiety meds that allowed me to cope with the insane pace of the job, because they’d stop working, until I developed potentially-fatal serotonin syndrome. Then I had to quit the job, so it was all for nothing. My manager was fired soon after that.

A relative of mine got a job at Walmart as a cashier. He outworked everyone else and worked his way up to general manager, making six figures. But they worked him so hard, 70 to 80 hours a week, giving him unrealistic numbers to meet, he developed high blood pressure at the age of 28. Doctors tried everything and couldn’t bring it down; medication wasn’t working. He started having panic attacks and had to go on medication. He finally quit. His blood pressure returned to normal a week later.

(Side note: I used to work for an insurance company, and the Walmart insurance plan was so bad it had its own dedicated department. You had to have special training to learn to work those claims with their special rules, and anytime anyone mentioned the name “Walmart” around the company, people would laugh. It was a running joke, like, “Those poor bastards.”)

After that, I was hired at a franchise convenience store. I didn’t know they’d recently been in the news for a class-action lawsuit for forcing employees to work off the clock. I was hired as a stocker, but after completing training and transferring to my permanent store, I was promoted to a manager my second day on the job because of how fast I worked. Same story again – the workload was impossible. The problem was, at this job, I couldn’t sneak and work off the clock to complete my work. Since the franchise had just lost a class action lawsuit and they used video cameras, if I got caught working off the clock, it would have gotten my manager in trouble; she was just as much a victim as the rest of us. I was the only worker who could complete the nightly duties because I worked at an insane pace; I had to. I had expensive medications to pay for, and I couldn’t risk losing my job.

One day they left me to run the entire store alone on the day we received our truck shipment. This meant I had to be in the front to ring all the customers, but also be in the back stockroom at the same time to receive the truck, which was absolutely insane, for 12 hours, completely alone, on a Friday, the busiest day of the week. I was proud of myself for how well I held it all together, but as soon as I clocked out and got in the car, something came over me. I’d been running off pure adrenaline, but it suddenly caught up with me, and I began to have a panic attack and cry hysterically. I knew I couldn’t go back to work, that if this level of stress continued, I’d end up in the hospital again, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to afford my very expensive medications and would become a burden to my struggling family.

I went home and attempted suicide by swallowing an entire bottle of phenobarbital, and anxiety med. I woke up in the ICU unit of the hospital, and then they transferred me to the psych ward. When I got out, my doctor cut me off of all my anxiety medications to make sure I couldn’t hurt myself with them, which meant going back to work wasn’t even an option. I’ve been turned down twice for disability, both times due to ridiculous reasons that were simple clerical errors on their part, but they succeeded in dragging the time frame out so long that now they say I’m no longer eligible because of the length of time, even though I applied well in advance of the time frame.

As I’ve mentioned in an email, I now work for less than minimum wage doing transcriptions. Despite all this, I have high hopes for the future. My success in consistently winning Pictofact contests for Cracked.com has given me hope. The point of this message isn’t to be depressing. It’s actually because I thought it might be interesting to illustrate what happens when you combine American predatory capitalism with the insane work ethic of an Asian.

American Conservatives LOVE to preach about how hard work always pays off, and poor people are lazy. But, if anything, my insane work ethic held me back because it made me unpromotable past a certain point – they couldn’t afford to replace me. It made me a scapegoat, because they began expecting more of me than the others, so when things went wrong, I’d get blamed for not saving the day. The others were expected to screw up, so it was my fault for not going above and beyond as always. Finally, the harder I worked, the less others did because they expected me to pick up the slack, so it was bad for productivity all-around.

It also taught me to get off my high horse. I was stupid to think I was better because I was willing to kill myself harder than everybody else for next-to-no pay. I thought my coworkers were lazy because they didn’t work as hard as I did, but now they still have jobs because they didn’t work themselves into a psych ward, maybe because they realized they didn’t get paid enough to do that to themselves. I realize these Americans aren’t lazy. They just realize they’re worth more than poverty-level wages. But my story should be a cautionary tale to anyone who thinks you can beat the system by working hard enough. Sorry this was so long, and thanks for listening, and thanks for all you do.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

Predatory Capitalism Creates Poverty
Socialism and Communism
The Life of the Rich
The Life of the Poor
Oppression in the Workplace
Success and Retirement
The Housing Market
Healthcare in America
The Stock Market
Banks
Taxes
Cryptocurrency
Fixing the Economy
My Tweets About Economics

(Comic) A Brief History Of The Working Class

(Comic) A Brief History Of The Working Class

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A homeless monk and an alcoholic punk team up to create a publishing house to raise money to build a floating monastery.

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5 Reasons Why I Hate Starbucks

Picture of the Starbucks logo

1. Overpriced products

In an impossibly perfect utopia, all prices would be fair and reasonable. In a dystopian world, everything would cost as much as vendors could get away with charging. Starbucks charges five dollars for ten cents of liquid. Even after factoring in the costs of paying employees and maintaining a building, Starbucks is still gouging its customers, and price gouging is immoral.

It may seem like a few dollars for a little cup of coffee isn’t a big deal, but it is. Every dollar a customer spends is a dollar they earned by working.  When you spend a dollar you’re effectively spending minutes of your life, and those minutes are invaluable and irreplaceable.

It took the universe about fourteen billion years of inexplicable expansion and transformation to create the planet that sprouted your family tree. There was practically a one in infinity chance of you ever being born, and now that you’re here you only get a few years to experience the majesty of sentient existence. Every second is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make the most out of life before the future runs out and your past is sealed for all eternity. Starbucks tricks its customers into trading that for a ten cents cup of coffee. Why? So the owners and investors can get filthy rich and live the opulent lives that poor people only dream about.

When you walk into Starbucks and ask the barista how much a cup of coffee costs they should just spit in your face and shout, “Fuck you. That’s how much.” That would be honest.

2. Their marketing angle is to appeal to vain rich people

Starbucks isn’t honest though. It markets itself as a friendly, happy place that values and celebrates its customers (as it fucks them in the ass). Starbucks lies through its teeth to its customers to manipulate them into paying unreasonable prices for coffee. That’s unethical, and anyone who treats you like that is not your friend.

I boycott Starbucks if for no other reason than I refuse to call a small cup of coffee a tall cup of coffee. It’s not tall. It’s small. The only reason Starbucks calls a small cup of coffee “tall”  is to manipulate its customers into feeling like they’re not getting ripped off. Renaming the coffee sizes is blatant, in-your-face manipulation. It’s unethical and disrespectful.

And yet Starbucks’ customers celebrate being manipulated into paying too much for a cup of coffee. Why? The people who run Starbucks know why: because their customers are vain. I don’t say that to be rude or shocking. Everyone knows Starbucks cups are status symbols. That’s practically the whole point of paying six dollars for a cup of coffee. You’re not even really paying to drink the coffee. You’re paying to hold an iconic white and green cup in your hand that tells the world, “I’m so well off that I can afford to pay six dollars for a ten cent cup of coffee.”

It bothers me that Starbucks’ customers celebrate their vanity, but it bothers me more that Starbucks encourages and takes advantage of its customers’ character flaws. In doing so, Starbucks has helped create a culture of pettiness and irresponsible spending. It has literally made society less mature and thus less civil. That’s unethical, and anyone who would do that is not your friend.

3. Anyone who feeds you addictive chemicals is not your friend

I’ve heard that coffee is actually good for your health as long as you don’t drink enough to get kidney stones. Personally, I’m addicted to coffee. I love it and would never want it banned. I don’t harbor any ill will towards businesses that sell coffee, but let’s just be clear about the fact that Starbucks’ business model is based on selling an addictive chemical to addicts. The people running Starbucks are lucidly aware of this fact, and they deserve a pat on the back for being clever businessmen, but their business model is one moral step below a liquor store. So they don’t deserve a pat on the back for caring about their customers.

4. They pay their workers poorly

Imagine working at a Starbucks and watching customers spend more on a single order than you get paid in an hour. Imagine watching that all day, every day until you start to wonder, “I’m doing all the work here. Why don’t I get to keep more of this money?” The reason you can’t keep more of the money is because the owners and investors of Starbucks need to get filthy rich, and they can’t get filthy rich without paying you barely enough to survive and not nearly enough to build a life with.

This is true of every franchise store, not just Starbucks. I’m as disappointed with those businesses as I am with Starbucks.

5. They force their workers to dress and act like happy slaves

It’s bad enough to pay workers as little as possible, but it adds insult to injury when you force those workers to act like they’re as happy as their wedding day every moment they spend at their thankless, soul-crushing job where vain, pretentious, entitled customers have free reign to bully them. It’s even more unethical to actually succeed at convincing your workers that they should want to act like the perfect, obliviously joyful customer service bitch. Working at Starbucks isn’t an opportunity. It’s an insult. Even if I was willing to pay $5 for a cup of coffee, I can’t go into a Starbucks because the forced smiles on the faces of the wage slaves serving me just break my heart.

 

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Conspiracy Theories and Theorists
My Tweets About Pop Culture

7 Economic Injustices We All Accept

1: High prices

Everything costs as much as possible. When you see a sign in a store that says, “50% off,” what it really means is “Fuck you 50% less than normal.” Extortion is the norm. It’s half the reason the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poor. It maximizes profits for the rich and minimizes what the poor can afford. High prices are cruel. High prices kill people. High prices create misery. Yet, most of the world’s business owners have decided independently to set prices as high as possible so they can live opulently. Business owners wouldn’t do that if people were more important to them than paper.

 

2: Low wages

Business owners know how big their paycheck is, and they know how small their workers’ paychecks are. Business owners know they couldn’t get their big paycheck without all their employees working their asses off day in and day out for barely enough money to survive. That’s cruel, but it’s the norm.

 

3: Advertising

Businesses spend a lot of time and money trying to manipulate customers into buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have for reasons that aren’t important. Advertisements warp people’s perception of reality and make them act in their own disinterest. That’s cruel, but that’s the norm.

 

4: Subjugation of customer service workers

When an advertisement convinces you to go to a business and spend money on a product or service, you’re going to be greeted by a customer service representative who will be wearing a monkey uniform. You can yell at that person. You can treat that person like shit, and they’ll have to stand there and take it and smile and act like this is the best day of their life and you’re the best person in the world. Their boss will fire them if they stand up for themselves, and they have to take abuse from their boss too. And their boss will yell at them if they don’t work as hard as possible for longer than is healthy. So their lives just suck on every level every day they go to work. That’s the norm. That’s insane. Our society really doesn’t value people.

 

5: Acceptance of sweatshop workers

Most of the stuff you own was made by slaves in sweatshops. Most of the food you eat passed through a slave’s hands at some point between the fields and your kitchen. We know this. We know our iPods were made by people who live in dormitories with suicide nets outside the windows. If you knew that one of our family members had been kidnapped and was being forced to live in those conditions you’d make it your life’s mission to free them, but we don’t feel more than a slight twinge of guilt over it happening to the people it’s actually happening to. If all people are equal then we should be equally concerned for everyone.

 

6: Unequal rights

We take it for granted that women don’t have the right to take their shirts off where men can. We accept that gays can’t get married where straights can. We get offended at the idea of people from another part of the world moving to the part of the world we live in because we take it for granted that they don’t have the right to move. We accept that soldiers and prisoners have had almost all of their rights stripped away. We make excuses to justify these lapses of equality.

 

7: War

War is hell on earth. It’s the worst thing that can happen, and it’s never necessary, but there are lots of wars going on right now, and they’re going to keep going on, and after they end new wars will take their place. Hell is here to stay, and we don’t care. We don’t even care enough to pay attention to which wars are going on or why. We go further out of our way to find out about the latest blockbuster movie coming out, and we’re more emotionally involved in Hollywood stories than stories of people living in war zones. Where do we draw the line?

How bad of an atrocity has to happen before the world puts its foot down if we won’t draw the line at unjust wars? Based on the precedents we’ve set, we clearly don’t value our fellow-man enough to ever draw the line. If we don’t value our fellow-man then we must not understand why our fellow-man is important.

People are important. Every one of us is an animate, sentient, autonomous cosmic supercomputer. We’re the rarest, valuable and most powerful thing in the universe. Any one of us is worth all the money in the universe.

Being the rarest thing in the universe, we have the rarest opportunity to explore and experience the majesty of the inanimate, unconscious and yet uncannily elegant universe we’ve found ourselves in. There are wonders to behold, and we could have them all. We’ve got about seven billion animate, sentient, autonomous cosmic supercomputers we could use to design and create an interstellar chain of utopian planets. But we’re not doing that. We’re forcing them to assemble cheap junk in sweatshops that customers are going to be manipulated into paying too much for.

Not only are we throwing away the future’s potential but we’re throwing away the present as well. When you’re on your death bed the thing you’re going to remember fondest in life is your friends. Everyone you meet is a potential friend whose wonder you can bask in right now. Everyone is has a beautiful universe in their mind, and even if you don’t like someone, there’s someone who loves them because beneath their faults they’re worth loving. Everyone brings beauty into this world, but that beauty is minimized when you’re worked to death at a job that treats you like crap. That takes a diamond and turns it into coal.

It might seem like a lot to ask everyone to value everyone regardless of how different we are, but you shouldn’t have to be guilt-tripped into doing it, because we’re all family, and you don’t have to be guilt tripped into helping your family. No matter how different we are, we’re still human; we’re not just on the same team, we’re on the only team. We’re all we’ve got.

Every one of us count. We should value each other and treat each other accordingly. When we treat people badly we should be reminded how important we are so we don’t waste the opportunity to live, grow and experience the majesty of existence to the fullest extent possible, together.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

Predatory Capitalism Creates Poverty
Socialism and Communism
The Life of the Rich
The Life of the Poor
Oppression in the Workplace
Success and Retirement
The Housing Market
Healthcare in America
The Stock Market
Banks
Taxes
Cryptocurrency
Fixing the Economy
My Tweets About Economics

The Customer Is Not Always Right

"Am I the only one around here who believes the Golden Rule applies to customer service workers as well?"

 

There’s a mantra in America that says, “The customer is always right.” This idea is so ingrained in American culture, it’s taken for granted by customers and service workers alike. You can walk into almost any business where people make minimum wage, yell at whoever serves you, and they’ll apologize to you. Frankly, I’m a little surprised politicians haven’t written it into law that customers have the right to treat employees like 18th-century slaves.

This traditional American value is flawed for several reasons I thought went without saying, but given the way I see retail and fast food workers getting treated, apparently, this needs to be said. All people are created equal and endowed with the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Your local fast food chain’s company policy doesn’t trump this fact because the value of a human life isn’t determined by employers. The value of human life is determined by the rarity and brevity of its existence. If there is a God, then humans are sacred projections of God’s love and power. If there is no God, then humans are the universe incarnate, an inexplicable miracle 14 billion years in the making. That’s what you’re bullying when you treat a customer service worker like shit. No human being deserves to be treated like that, and you don’t deserve to treat any other human being like a second class citizen who is beneath you.

Sure, you deserve to get your money’s worth when you pay a business for a product or service, but that doesn’t trump your customer service representative’s right to be treated with basic human dignity. This is especially true when your customer service representative is getting paid minimum wage, which is so far below the cost of living it’s wage slavery. They’re not making enough money to live healthily, enjoy luxuries, save for retirement or invest in continuing education. They’re ruining their bodies working as hard and fast as they can with as few rest breaks as the law allows. They’re watching their infinitely valuable and fleeting life end as fast as the clock turns.

For all they sacrifice to bring you a burger, they’re not getting financially compensated to get treated like shit by selfish, spoiled bullies. They endure it though because if they don’t they’ll get thrown out in the streets and die of starvation in the cold. But just because you gave their oppressive employer a few dollars, and they, in turn, gave you permission to kick their wage slaves while they’re down in life, doesn’t mean you have the God-given right or philosophical justification to do so. If you think customer service workers are lazy bums who deserve everything they get, then walk a mile in their shoes and find out how hard and thankless their lives truly are.

We shouldn’t have to have an argument about whether or not you get to treat other people like dirt. You should simply care about people. Most human beings believe in religion, and every religion mentions somewhere in their holy texts that you should love other people. I think Sam Harris (an atheist) put it best when he said, “…every person you have ever met, every person will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?”

 

tim-and-eric-mind-blown

 

Look at life from the point of view of the people who are serving you. They’re sweating and bleeding for you. They’re busting their asses to fill every order as quickly and accurately as possible. Inevitably they’re going to make mistakes, and while it may be in your right to ask politely to have your order modified or remade, you’re inconveniencing your already overworked servants. You’re making their lives harder by sending them back to the kitchen than they’re making your life harder by getting your order slightly wrong. If you’re kind enough to give money to charity at Christmas then why not extend that kindness to let a few mistakes slide? You can take more genuine joy in helping your servers by not making their job harder than you can by getting your order right. The least you can do is not go out of your way to belittle them.

Despite what I’ve said so far about the righteousness of treating other people well, we’re all human. And when you treat people like shit they tend to respond in kind. Customer service workers have to put up with abuse every day at their dead-end jobs that they dread going to and know they won’t have forever. If you consistently inconvenience and bully them, it’s only a matter of time before one of them spits in your food or worse. I won’t say their retribution is right or wrong, but I will say that you brought it on yourself.

Also, be vividly aware that the consequences of your negative behavior don’t stop in the kitchen. Every time you treat someone poorly, you weigh down their mind with another negative experience that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives. These experiences add up and color the way they see the world. They can only endure enough abuse before their soul turns dark and they begin lashing out at other people. The people they take out their anger at you on will, in turn, be haunted by their own karma ghosts that will affect how they treat others. That’s how the world turns into a bad place to live. Your childish behavior isn’t just part of the problem. It is the problem.

If you’re truly selfish enough to justify treating other people worse than you expect to be treated, then you need to recognize that this manifestation of your selfishness is merely a symptom of a greater flaw in your character that is affecting other aspects of your life negatively. For your sake as well as everyone else, see a therapist and get help. You and everyone else will be happier for it.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

Predatory Capitalism Creates Poverty
Socialism and Communism
The Life of the Rich
The Life of the Poor
Oppression in the Workplace
Success and Retirement
The Housing Market
Healthcare in America
The Stock Market
Banks
Taxes
Cryptocurrency
Fixing the Economy
My Tweets About Economics

We Need To Do More To Help People Get The Job They’re Suited For

In order for our economy to function at its highest potential, everybody needs to do the job they’re most suited to. In order for our world to move closer towards Utopia, we need our economy to operate at its highest potential, but our education system and standard business model does more to stop people from getting the right job than it does to help them.

It’s not standard practice for schools to administer professional personality and aptitude tests to children once let alone doing longitudinal studies on the student body. Children are just judged by whether or not they’re good at math, science, history, and arts. Then they’re given a piece of paper that says they’re either dumb, average, or smart… then they get thrown to the wolves.

Kids who are either rich or happen to be smart in the right ways get to go to a university where they’re pushed to the breaking point intellectually and financially. Half the classes they’ll take will be completely random, and their professors will take great liberties with what/how they teach. Students will learn how to cite essays and regurgitate technical terms. The students who do the best will be the ones who stop asking questions and give their superiors what they want.

Once they graduate they’ll get a piece of paper that says they’re a higher form of life than people who only have a high school diploma. With that ticket through the glass ceiling, they’ll enter management jobs where they’ll be tasked with whipping poor, uneducated people to work harder and make their employer richer.

The poor, uncredentialed workers who are turning the cogs of the economy will have to take whatever job they can, and it won’t be doing something they enjoy. They’ll have to give maximum effort for minimum wage, and every time they quit their job to go find a better one they start back at the bottom of the pecking order, and their resume will look more and more unprofessional.

Our economy isn’t designed to put people in the right jobs. It’s designed to make the rich richer and to keep the poor, poor. We have the tools and reasons to make sure people get into the right jobs. We just need to prioritize people over profits.

 

 

Here are a few steps we could take to help people get into the right jobs:

 

1: Free education

The glass ceiling of higher education is probably the greatest obstacle to a smooth-functioning economy. We have the technology to provide free online education to the entire world for a fraction of the cost of our current, predatory higher education system. We just don’t have the funding to fulfill the potential of online education. You can help fund it though, and every little bit helps.

 

2: Longitudinal personality/aptitude testing

We can’t help people get where they are if we don’t know what they’re capable of. We’d know if we asked everyone, and if we kept testing them we could track where they’re going and then point them in that direction. If they take a job that doesn’t fit their personality profile we could warn them that they might be happier somewhere else.

 

3: Civilian AFPC

The United States Air Force has an office called the AFPC (Air Force Personnel Center). Every airman that joins the Air Force gets a file there. It includes all their military training records, job performance reviews and records of awards and reprimands. It’s a cradle to grave tracking system that helps the military keep track of its members and get them to where they need to be. The civilian sector doesn’t have an equivalent office, but if it did it could help people get to where they need to be.

 

4: Central job board

There are millions of job boards in America alone. This literally makes it impossible to search all the job openings in the country. If there were one central job board the entire economy would be open to everyone.

 

5: Apprenticeships/mentorships

The glass ceiling of higher education splits the workforce into castes separated by levels of management. The standard way to make more money is to move up in management. This forces the best and brightest workers to stop working and start micromanaging slaves. This is inefficient and unfair on a thousand levels. People wouldn’t need expensive credentials to get good jobs if employers hired workers under an apprenticeship program similar to how the military takes people off the street and grooms them through short educational courses and on the job training. If the best and brightest workers could keep getting pay raises without having to change jobs they could keep doing what they want and what they’re best at.

 

6: On-site housing

People leave jobs they love and take ones they hate because they need as much money as possible to survive since they have to pay as much as possible for everything they buy. The biggest expense in life is rent/mortgages. If workers didn’t have to worry about paying to keep a roof over their head they would be free to work for lower paying (but more fulfilling) jobs. If every business were required to offer free on-site housing for its workers then everyone would be free from the yoke of the landlord. This would free employees to choose the career that suits them.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

Predatory Capitalism Creates Poverty
Socialism and Communism
The Life of the Rich
The Life of the Poor
Oppression in the Workplace
Success and Retirement
The Housing Market
Healthcare in America
The Stock Market
Banks
Taxes
Cryptocurrency
Fixing the Economy
My Tweets About Economics

The Injustice Of Employee Contracts

Cartoon of a man stringing up a slave saying, "If you don't like it you can just get a job somewhere else." Another slave owner is standing by saying, "Yeah. I'm hiring slaves too."

 

I got a new job recently doing back-breaking farm labor, which is great because it means I’m not going to starve (yet), but my excitement was dampened a little bit when I read my contract, which makes the following statements:

1: “You will not be entitled to sick leave, bereavement leave or annual leave, paid public holidays, parental leave, overtime or any other paid leave. As you are a casual employee, you will have no right to any compensation for redundancy.”

2: “Breaks: An unpaid break of 30 minutes (longer by agreement) and a paid break of 10 minutes taken at or about the midpoint of the morning and afternoon.”

3: “As a casual employee your wages are based solely on the hours worked or the amount of work completed on each assignment and you are not entitled to remuneration when you are not working on an assignment.”

4: “Notification of termination to the employer of 5 days is required. If insufficient notice is given by the employee they shall forfeit payment of five days as compensation to the company.”

5: “The use of mobile phones and personal music devices during working hours is prohibited.”

6: I “agreed” to these conditions and signed my work contract because I need to work in order to survive. Unfortunately, this job only pays enough to survive. It doesn’t pay enough for me to eat well and have any fun in my free time or cover health care or retirement. It certainly doesn’t pay enough to take care of a family, but I don’t have a family to take care of. So that last bit doesn’t apply to me.

I’m not complaining about my contract because I can’t just suck it up and deal with it. I’m complaining because the conditions stated above would never appear in a C.E.O.’s contract. In fact, they would never appear in most college graduates’ contracts. So why were they in mine? More importantly, why are these conditions allowed to be in anybody’s contract? These conditions appeared in my contract because I’m doing a job that’s almost exclusively done by migrant aliens. The people who do migrant farm labor can’t afford to stand up for themselves. So governments allow them to be taken advantage of, and nobody else complains.

You could argue that anyone who agrees to a work contract has no room to complain about the conditions they agreed to, but that attitude values semantics over human life. You could also say that if you don’t like the terms of the contract you can just get another job, but if it were so easy to get another job nobody would do migrant farm labor or entry-level service work. The reality of the world that we live in is that millions (if not billions) of people must agree to substandard contracts or die. The economy we’ve created for our children is a cruel place, and if you want to survive you’re going to have to agree to working conditions you don’t agree with. The only question is how inhumane those conditions are.

While you’re voting for your next politician, take a moment to acknowledge that they’re not going to do anything about unfair contracts. They’re going to keep allowing the rich to exploit the poorest and neediest members of society, and they’re going to stand by silently while the media calls the poorest and neediest members of society “entitled.” The next time you eat any food from the grocery store, stop and acknowledge that it was almost certainly harvested and processed by people who are perpetually working themselves to death with no hope of saving for a better future so you can have cheaper vegetables and farmers can buy a bigger house… and you don’t care.

But the next time you sign a work contract that says you waive your rights to vacation time, realistic wages, benefits or legal protection, stop and acknowledge that you’ve already silently consented to the exploitation of everyone poorer than you. So you don’t have any room to complain. By the categorical imperative you’ve already set, the value of human life is determined by how high much financial leverage one person has over another.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

Predatory Capitalism Creates Poverty
Socialism and Communism
The Life of the Rich
The Life of the Poor
Oppression in the Workplace
Success and Retirement
The Housing Market
Healthcare in America
The Stock Market
Banks
Taxes
Cryptocurrency
Fixing the Economy
My Tweets About Economics

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