Make Labor Great Again

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.

What Did the Poor Ever Do to You?

I had a cushy seat job. Then I got laid off.

Now I’m back to doing what I was meant to do: warehouse labor.

I’ve held managerial positions. And one thing you learn quickly about the job is that it’s all bullshit. You only do things to make the company look good. It doesn’t actually contribute to any sort of “material bottom-line” if you will.

In fact, the higher up the ladder you climb…the more useless you become. Hell, I’d venture to say that the most useless person in the company is the CEO. Yet that person is probably the most expensive item in the ENTIRE COMPANY.

The far more important people are at the bottom. But don’t tell anyone in America that because that sounds WAY too much like “socialism”.

Sure, developers, engineers, planners, etc. all design a “product”. But it’s really just an idea. Technically, you can “own” an idea, but who actually has to execute the plan? Usually, it’s the mechanics and hard laborers that have to execute YOUR idea. And for some strange reason (because America hates poor people), the laborers who actually physically execute the purpose of the company are the low men (and women) on the totem pole.

And it’s because they aren’t “skilled”, even though that’s an idea that doesn’t mean shit. That’s a term that people use to help themselves sleep at night because they’re essentially ripping off poor people.

“So you want to pay people $15 an hour to flip burgers?” Some asshole is asking me.

Yes.

What purpose does McDonald’s serve? Come on, we all know why they exist. It’s to fucking serve burgers to their customers who demand their product! And who is serving those burgers? Is it the CEO? Is it the accountants and legal staff? Is it the developers?

No. It’s the mother fucking laborer that’s flipping the burger and serving the customer. That person IS McDonald’s.

And as a side note, every time I go into a McDonald’s…it doesn’t matter where….yes, there are usually fuck-ups, but guess what? Those assholes are actually WORKING their asses off to deliver YOU a product that you can shove into your fat fucking pie hole. And for some reason, people like to give these employees shit for fucking up an order that will probably only end up killing you later.

But think it through!

What if you were getting paid $7.25 an hour to serve the VERY REASON THE COMPANY EXISTS?

Honestly, I’m surprised people aren’t absolutely PISSED about this. Well, to be fair, there are people who are pissed. But how is this not an international outrage? The people who actually execute the purpose of the company, or the “unskilled” labor force…are the most expendable people in the entire organization.

That’s insane. But when you grow up under insanity, then insanity appears SANE. Which is why minimum wage has failed to keep up with the times and labor unions have dwindled. Because we’ve convinced ourselves that the strongman at the top is the true genius…the REAL shaker and mover of the universe.

And we’ve taken the power out of our own hands.

The CEO might conceive an idea. But does he execute it?

No.

It’s you and me that have to do his bidding. And we accept whatever compensation that he offers.

So again, we’ve convinced ourselves that we aren’t in control…even though an “unskilled” labor force greatly exceeds any “skilled” one. We’ve allowed those at the top of the ladder to peddle their fairy tales of “genius” and “hard work”….that they are the true saviors of modern society because they “sacrifice” capital to employ the labor force that is the majority population.

Capitalism is a religion. And we are being duped.

ANYWAYS….

Even though my cushy desk job was nice, it felt like I “sold out”. It was devastating when I got laid off, of course, but what was that job leading towards anyway? A career?!

In what?! Pretending to work?!

And I got paid WELL above minimum wage to do it. So because I was a college graduate, with a certain “skill set”, I looked the part. And on that criteria, the company felt justified to pay me what they did. Because there is no way they would pay a non-college graduate without a “skill set” to do that job. Even though a perfectly unskilled laborer could have EASILY done that job.

Why?

Because  that job existed only to make the company look good. It served no vital function whatsoever. (Which would likely explain why I was laid off)

And I had co-workers…that did the EXACT same job: nothing. Not only did I have co-workers, I had MANAGERS! What did they manage? I suppose all of our collective productivity of nothing. But someone had to do it. And they got paid A LOT of money to do it. So we had a lot of people getting paid A LOT of money to basically make the company look good which is pretty much a non-essential function of the organization.

Meanwhile, the entry-level employees that carry out the purpose of the company are getting shafted.

Look, maybe the company realized that they were basically flushing money down the toilet and laid us all off. But this just goes to show that just because someone has a fancy title and a fat paycheck…that doesn’t mean that they actually serve a purpose. And in all likelihood they probably don’t.

When I lost that job, I thought that my career was over. But those ambitions were only a mirage. Best case scenario, I would have continued being promoted….higher and higher to the point farthest away from any purpose.

The labor I do now is demanding. It isn’t “skilled”, and some dickhead would probably think that this work is beneath me. And if you think that, then go fuck yourself. But this is REAL work. I’m contributing to the “material bottom line” or to the purpose of the company’s existence.

We may be the “low men on the totem pole”, but without us….there wouldn’t be a company.