I briefly worked in the trucking industry in what turned out to be a disastrous career move. At that time, a rumor was swirling around (which might’ve been true, but I didn’t care and I don’t fact check anything) that then President Obama was going to initiate an order that would have resulted in a massive pay increase for my coworkers.
Good news right?
Well I worked with mostly white men, aged 25-60 with moderate or no higher education, that worked in the industry most of their adult lives and lived in a red state. That’s pretty far from what you’d call an Obama supporter. Despite doing something that would have in theory directly benefited them, the rumor was mostly mocked. At best, people just kept their mouth shut because they didn’t want to admit that the President was doing something for them. This was a $10,000 raise for many of us, and most hated it.
Would they have supported it had Trump initiated the plan? Probably. But their justification against it had nothing to do with Obama, at least when discussed out loud. Many didn’t think employees deserved it. Were they other excuses? Probably, but I don’t remember what the fuck they were. Still though, it’s strange that people have to make up excuses to decline something in order to comply with their bullshit ideology. If Trump wants to give me a $10,000 raise, I’ll accept it. No questions asked. But this is how low the American workforce feels about itself.
This was a problem long before the Great Recession, but it certainly exasperated the issue. Labor unions have been long in decline. I worked for one company (won’t say which, but you can probably guess) that abhorred unions by using the sinister logic of “the individual employee can best represent themselves”. When the recession hit, that only brought the workforce’s worth even lower, and now workers feel so worthless that it’s not even questioned. We’re living in an Ayn Randian wet dream where workers should feel privileged to even have a job. The recession was the final knockout in worker pride.
The author of Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich recently gave an interview (which you can read here.) with Slate discussing her undercover work as minimum-waged employee. She mentioned the many abuses taken by low wage employees by management as well as frequently working unpaid overtime. I should mention that I have worked in many industries over the years, and everywhere I’ve worked, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, it has been extremely discouraged to work off the clock. I’ve seen many fired for doing so. That’s how big of a no-no it is. Mind you, I started working about 5 years after Nickel and Dimed was published, so a lot might’ve changed. But I must say that I’ve always been skeptical of such journalism work, especially is the journalist is highly educated and comes from privileged background. Although I don’t question the findings of their work, I don’t think they truly get the “unprivileged” experience considering that they’ll be going back to a privileged life. The working class doesn’t have such luxuries. Additionally, although I take shots at middle management from time to time, I don’t think they’re intentionally being sinister. They’re trying to earn a paycheck like everyone else and most are overworked and overstressed. They’re getting duped like the rest of us. But then again, I’m a man. Maybe not the most intimidating man, but a man nonetheless. Rarely have I been threatened and when I have been, my response is usually a “fuck off, go ahead and fire me” type of attitude. I don’t have children to provide for and I’ve been fired before, so good luck intimidating me with that tactic. Others, notably single working mothers, can’t afford to be so carefree with their bosses. That in addition to sexism, sexual harassment and other problems they face in the workforce, women have a much harder time in their employment. So I very likely have it much easier than most. But sometimes I feel as though exaggerated claims of abuse in the workplace can work against the pro-labor cause, especially those by privileged white liberals that never had to accept a low wage job as a means of survival. Regardless if you’ve never experienced harassment, intimidation, or deception by your employers, your pride has still been slowly stripped away…. Your work slowly devalued. You are seen as one body out of millions, you can be easily replaced at any time. Nevermind that it’s the low men and women on the totem pole that make the company operate. We bitch about lefties wanting to pay burger flipper minimum wage…but to serve burgers is why that company exists. I doubt the lawyers and top floor executives would be willing to operate the fryers despite their fat paychecks. That is the biggest crime of corporate America…the nickel and diming of their employees.
I see people give heart and soul to their company, giving hours and hours of overtime yet still can’t pay the bills. We’ve degraded low wage and physical labor to the point where workers have degraded themselves. It would be nice if this became the rallying cry for the Left in the upcoming elections. Everyone hates Trump, but that’s a hollow message to rally around. If we want to “Make America Great Again”, perhaps we need to bring pride back to the workforce.