There was a thread recently about “Would you cross a picket line?”. The answer was a pretty resounding “Yes”. People argued that unions were uneccesary in today’s oh-so-wonderful labor market. They said that it was the workers’ fault for holding their jobs. They said their need to buy bread without driving out of the way was more important than any need a worker might have. Some even said they go out of their way to buy boycotted products and break picket lines.
I’m shocked. To the point of being sick to my stomach.
How can you honestly believe that a poverty is always the result of being a bad person? How can you believe the children of these “bad people” deserve to live in poverty while surrounded by a land of plenty? How can you believe there are no classes in America, when you can step into any restraunt and see smiling white faces serve you, and not-so-smiling brown ones bussing the tables and washing the dishes? How can you believe that “making it” is a matter of pure self-will when our educational opppertinities are based almost soley on class?
Do you just not know how bad it is? People working in low-wage jobs do not live lives where they sit and browse the SDMB all day till their boss gives them something to do. They work hard- often harder than the people who lord over them. They live with relatives, in garages, in vans, often with their children. They eat rice and ramen and whatever they can get out of a food basket if they have a kitchen. If not, they try to make it on fast food and coffee. Things like doing the laundry are nearly insurmountable obsticles. Keep in mind, these are real people, not cartoon charcters. They have hopes and dreams and fall in love just like you and I. You likely talk to them every day. And this is not the poorest of the poor. This is what is become one of our biggest labor classes- low wage service work.
Sure, they don’t work a ten hour day anymore. That is because hiring full time workers is passe- then you have to give them regular schedules and might have to cough up benefits. Instead, you hire them for a few shifts a week and don’t worry about a thing. Meanwhile they work two or three jobs and never know from one week to another if they will get enough hours to fill their (and their kids’) basic needs.
Of course they can quit. Quitting seems encouraged, in fact. If they quit, the only place that will hire them is another equally crappy job. This garentees and endlessly recycled and ever disposable (at-will labor ensure this) labor force that is given minimal training and worked until they quit. The turnover at these places (places you shop at every day) is a matter of a couple months. It’s a beautiful system that thrives off pure human sweat and then throws them away/
But they don’t need unions. Businesses can organize all they want. Businesses are allowed to look out for their profits. They can hire or not hire as they see fit to make a profit. But if the workers want the same abilities- to sell their labor as they see fit, and to use the fact that they are very essentle to command a reasonable wage- they are suddenly evil? Yes, unions are power hungry and corrupt. They are not the Mary Sunshine Benevolent Society. They are providing a counterbalance to the corruption, cronyism and pure force excerpted by businesses. When MBAs take their business ethics class, they are learning about maintaining good accounting practicies, not being ethical towards their workers. Acting benevolently towards ones employees is not a part of any business practice except when needed to keep profitability. And if this is the way the world is gonna work than the workers are going to have to work that way, too. It’s ugly, but if the free market is so good, why all the union busting?
And dammit, I support them. Without labor- even cheap service labor- nothing would work. We’d stop complaining about bad customer service (of course, a worker is expected to do his or her job well out of duty and provide good customer service even if they are not at risk of being fired because that is what a good work ethic is about, but a company is not required to treat them well except out of profit because that is what good business ethics are about) because there would be no service.
And that doesn’t even begin to address that everything that is ugly in America gets sent overseas. We would never stand for a sweatshop, of course. We just buy our stuff from other people’s sweatshops. And we tell ourselves “They like working for a fifty cents an hour, they are happy to have a twelve hour workday, they enjoy the indentured servitiude that the labor broker situation has created”, but we would never stand for it on our own soil. We’d never be okay with our sisters or our mothers doing it. Even though our wealth is built on these people’s backs, we don’t have to take an once of blame. We get the moral highground and we get all our stuff. And people suffer and die (for example, but dipping their hands in solder as part of the manufacturing process and getting cancer. The girls work in the factories to pay for college tuition, and then die in their third year) because of it. Of coures this has nothing to do with us! This is America! Our workers have it great!
And nobody cares. Nobody cares that their economic actions have consequences that can kill people by the dozen.
The free market, we say, will take care of that.
The free market, it seems, has “taken care” of a few too many people for my taste. I’m not asking you to change things. It all seems a bit insurmountable, and if you don’t believe that human suffering should be avoided on a worldwide scale, I guess that is your think.
But you don’t have to be such a fucking asshole about it. This whole “I got mine” attitude makes me sick. Do people really believe this, or is some kind of cognitive dissonance thing?
I have so much more to say, but it’s late and this is long. Time to nurse my stomach ache and try to figure out where I can begin to regain my faith in humanity.