There are a lot of new readers these days, and for Labor Day I want to turn back the clock to 2008 to one of my favorite posts ever: Battered Worker Syndrome. Four years of Koch-o-nomics later, we're one step closer to the goal of complete powerlessness in the workforce. I guess the unemployment rate will start to go down just as soon as it's no longer beneficial to the few people who hold political and economic power in this country to have a surplus of nearly every conceivable form of labor to ensure a cheap, obedient, chronically unhappy workforce.


  • It depends on the job. In retail or food service, you're naturally going to work on days that everyone else has off, because they're more likely to shop. Sears was the worst job I've ever had, but even *they* had the decency to pay time-and-a-half.

    This topic has less to do with the voiding of the 20th century social contract (workers rights, company loyalty, etc.) and more to do with our culture demanding excessive convenience.

  • No, no, no, no, Ed. You've missed the point of the Koch crusade entirely. If we give the "job-creators" everything they could possibly want, then they will create jobs. Simple as that–jobs are good, let the nice plutocrats do what they do while we all reap the benefit of their socially-and-economically-revitalizing work.

    …people can still afford rent, utilities, food, and medical insurance on minimum wage, right? Oh, there *is* no minimum wage anymore? Ah. Well, there's always food stamps to subsidize–what? No? We cut those? Well, Paul Ryan knows what he's doing, I guess. And, I mean, what an incentive to work harder, right? Extra hours, more pay–huh? Oh. The job pays what it pays regardless of the hours? Well…that doesn't seem–no, no, you're right–it's a job, and therefore good! OK, then.

    Say, I know this will sound silly, what with the food stamps being gone and all, but I wonder–since I'm still paying out a healthy chunk of my check to the government–will I be seeing any of that coming back to me in the way of, say, subsidized housing or a public option? Didn't think so. Couldn't hurt to ask, though, am I right? No, no, I'm not "talking union!" No, I'm not a socialist–I don't even know what that word means! Yes, I like having a strong military and–oh, that's where that chunk of change goes to? Well, that's good, sure. It would also be nice–just putting it out there–to have an infrastructure that works. Just saying–No! I'm not "waging class warfare," I just–yes, I know that there are plenty of people who'd like to be sitting where I'm sitting. (Though you're right–I'm on the clock, I shouldn't be sitting. It's just that I've got this chronic–well, you don't want to hear about it–suffice it to say that I can't afford a doctor because–as you've pointed out–I'm not working hard enough.)

    Well, so. I'm just taking stock of how lucky I am. I pay a higher percentage of my income than you, who would take home eight figures if they taxed 90% of your yearly salary. I live in a trailer, which I share with seven other people–we have to 'hot cot' it, and forget about the shower if you're not the first one up at dawn. I've lost most of my teeth, and I'm pretty sure I'm legally blind without the glasses I can't afford. As for the cough I've had for the last six months, I'm a little concerned that it's bringing up blood, but again, no physician will look at me–and I'm not falling for that "any doctor has to treat you" ruse–hah, I went to the ER one time because, frankly, I like having all my fingers and I really needed to get as many of 'em as I can sewed back on (kudos to the cost-cutting at the plant by eliminating safety standards by the way.) I'm several malnourished thanks to a diet of Ramen noodles and whatever the dumpster offers me on my way to work, to which I walk, because "public transportation encourages a sense of entitlement" to quote your latest interview in FORBES. No, I like the exercise, it's just that my route takes me through a neighborhood in which the populace is engaged in the only profitable sector of my socio-economic strata: meth-cooking, and man, do those turf wars never end when the combatants never sleep!

    I cannot afford to have children, and since any woman I sleep with cannot get an abortion, that pretty much leaves me involuntarily celibate. And hungry. And sleep-deprived. And chronically ill.

    But you know what? I have a job. And that's a good thing.

    What's also a good thing is that the local gun show–thanks for endorsing that, by the by–was willing to sell me a total death machine on credit. Because when you've got nothing to lose, well, might as well let the world know you matter in the only way left.

    God Bless America.

  • I misspelled "severely" as "several," and the whole point of the ER experience was that I'm still getting billed for it nine years later, with payments that, according to the latest statement from the care providers, will continue until I am in my centennial years. Forgive the errors–it's hard to concentrate when the last piece of fresh produce you ate was a tangelo you got as a Christmas present from a great-aunt who won a scratcher back in '03. Now, where's that clock tower?

  • Ed, Battered Workers Syndrome is the Google search that lead me to your fine blog several years ago. I was trying to define the melancholy that permeated the majority of Gen X and Millennials the magnum opus and politely deferred.

    I have shared this piece with probably 100 people and have received it with nothing less that knowing nods and an appreciation for your prose.

    J. Dryden, once again you have inspired me with your witty commentary. I only wish you would take a tour to the South and try to explain to them that being a sharecropper is not the end all be all and that these pinko northerners may just have some ideas on how to actually live in a condition of abject poverty and squallor.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    I don't remember anymore, what is "a job?"

    At this point, whatever it is they're doing, is working on me.

    Right now, I'd gladly be one of their lowly serf's, rather than sit at home reading blogs, and applying for jobs on-line all day (that no one even calls me back for an interview – since no one wants to hire us 50+ year-olds anyway, no matter now much business or management experience we have), and reading books in the evening – watching every single fuckin' penny my mother and I spend, trying to keep costs down, since I no longer collect unemployment, and we can't afford to exceed her monthly SS payment now that my father has passed away. and she lost her SS payment in lieu of his.

    I don't "live" anymore.
    I just fucking exist.
    And it sucks.

    Today, on Labor Day, serfdom sounds like a pretty good fucking deal to me.

    But the motherfuckers haven't won yet!
    I have plenty of time to sharpen a guillotine – if only I could afford to buy one of the fucking things…

  • I'm confused now – are you saying that we need to blame the Kochs for the economic quagmire we're in? And, if they really are as powerful as you imply, it stands to reason that, given how frequently we've been told that "you didn't make that on your own", they had government help to achieve that position?

  • Middle Seaman says:

    Unemployment, lack of education and skills, low wages and indifference are the goals of the rich (i.e. Kochs). These tools have been used forever. In the past, Democrats were with the 99%. Bill Clinton lowered unemployment, helped education and increased wages. He made mistakes as we all do. He is hated by the Democrats who now are with the 1%. Hell, the Democratic convention is held in a Right to Work North Carolina where unions are the enemy.

    Today, the 99% sit on the river banks; they don't rise with the water, but they get flooded.

    Can it change? Will it go back to FDR when the depression deepens? How many people read Ed or Naked Capitalism? Will the fake-left stop reading the Daily Kos that brought us Obama?

    My sister lives 8000 miles away, she has the same concerns and asks the same questions. Yet, she lives in of the few countries that do well.

  • I guess I'm naive enough to believe that this doesn't always happen. Then again, since I'm majoring in Industrial and Labor Relations, perhaps I'm still living in the days where people named their children Billy. I find it interesting that when we accidentally call our hypothetical employees Talent, or Human Capital, we're quickly reminded that such terms are dehumanizing. That's what MBAs are allowed to call employees, not us. But, with so many MBAs running the Human Resources function, is what you described the result of looking at employees, including your accountants and nurses and college professors, as mere inputs in your balance sheet instead of people?

    Income inequality leads to geographic segregation, but in smaller towns, the CFO's son might play soccer with the child of Pam in marketing. When the CFO lives in Lake Forest, and Pam lives in a condo in Tinley Park, they do not have to encounter each other in their daily lives and interact in an equitable setting. But, when your organization is small and the HQ is in Peoria, you may have to see your workers in other contexts (Bob from Church, Beth from the Star Trek Club), you cannot dehumanize the people who work for your organization. In the 1950s, Civic Engagement was expected of management, but with the 80+ hour work weeks expected of executives, who has time to join the Rotary Club and golf with Ed the engineer & Rotarian in your R&D department? With so few members of management and society being veterans, management won't encounter their workers at the VFW hall. Even Mr. Burns would encounter Grandpa Simpson as a fellow veteran of the Fighting Hellfish.

    To me, the question is how do we get management to see those who work for their companies as people instead of input when we are increasingly an isolated society?

  • Maybe if more history was required to get a business degree? Might MBAs care a little more if they were aware of how often this kind of story ended badly?

  • c u n d gulag says:

    They've spent over 40 years DE-humanizing employees (aka: people), so there are at least two generations of 'Job Creators" (aka: the @$$holes formerly known as "BOSSES!") who, with their money, their private planes, their private schools, their luxurey cars, their legacy endowments at Ivy League colleges, and their McMansion in gated communities, do everything they can to distance themselves from, as Charles Pierce so memorbly and eloquently calls us – "The Help."

    There's no quick fix.

    Maybe the only thing that will dent their privileged, entitled, thick craniums, is the sound the blade of the guillotine makes, descending down upon their necks.

    I hope not.
    But the time may be coming when the rest of us have had enough.
    And that time may be coming soon.

    Wealth does, and should, have some privileges – but not at the cost of the human dignity of the rest of us 99%.

    The aristocracy in France learned the hard way.
    Let's hope our rich, entitled folks are different.
    But I don't think so.
    After all, wealth has its privileges. And one of those, is being able to ignore "The Help" at all times – except when we're 'helping,' of course. Then they ackowledge our existance, because they want their coffee, or their hedges trimmed, or their children taught.

    I'm a college-educated, white male.
    I did all of the stuff I was supposed to do to be at least moderately successful – except get married and have children.

    I never had any ambition to be rich. If I had, I wouldn't have led the life I led up until now.
    I'd have been the kind of sociopath it takes to punch-down and suck-up, until I had no one left to suck-up to, and all the world to punch-down.

    And because I'm a college-educated white male, I should, theoretically, have the least to complain about. After all, what is my lot, compared to others?

    Well, tell that to the "Job Creators," who aren't creating jobs for people my age – let alone with my handicaps. Or any jobs at all, except for minimum wage ones – and now they want to eliminate minimum wage!

    Like I said earlier – I'll take a minimum wage job. With no benefits.
    But no one is even offering that.

    So, I hope everyone forgives me for being pissed-off.
    And if not, I really don't care.
    Being pissed-off is pretty much all I can afford as a luxury anymore.

  • "Might MBAs care a little more if they were aware of how often this kind of story ended badly?"

    Naw, I'm going to enjoy the look on their faces when they're lined up against the wall.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    I volunteered to work on Labor Day so I could collect eight hours of holiday pay and eight hours of time and a half for what will inevitably be a not-very-busy day.

  • Davis X. Machina says:

    “It is right to struggle against an unjust economic system that does not uphold the priority of the human being over capital and land.”—Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year) #35, John Paul II, 1991

    Happy Labor Day. Deus lo vult.

    (Didn't close a tag and the whole thing went down the rabbit hole…)

  • Anyone heading to Lake Fingerbang for Labor Day? I haven't heard Ed mention it yet, but it's supposed to be fun in the sun at Lake Fingerbang this year!!

  • I'm confused now

    Dude, you should be. You and your conservatard friends are coming off of a multi-day gathering which was almost completely homogenous and where the most compelling speaker spent over ten minutes arguing his political standpoint with a chair. (Oh, and that link should go to a PDF of the Richmond Free Press with "Ocean of Whiteness" in a big headline. In case it gets updated? I did save it to my hard drive, if anybody wants it.)

  • There is supposedly a joke going around Russia these days. I apologize if I've posted this one before:

    "Everything the Communists told us about Communism turned out to be a total lie. Unfortunately everything they told us about Capitalism turned out to be true."

  • This week at work we had what I call a "You Aint Shit Pep Rally". Income is up (maybe profitable for the first time in a while), a couple of work-related stats at "10-year highs". But one of the figures is down and the board "is pissed at you, and at that level, they don't just get pissed, they look for solutions" ("solutions" emphasized with an ominous tone). A couple of other shifts got some heated exchange going. My shift had no interaction but left the meeting and REALLY stiffed him on that stat he was so concerned about.

  • "“It is right to struggle against an unjust economic system that does not uphold the priority of the human being over capital and land.”—Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year) #35, John Paul II, 1991

    Lovely, but the Catholic Church has a long history of backing fascists and other right wing dictators. Recently I read on a Catholic site that "liberation theology" was a "deviation" which was "corrected."

  • mel in oregon says:

    the koch brother's dad was in the john burch society which was as far right as his two stupid son's tea party. he wanted to impeach chief justice warren. kind of strange too, that canada's union percent is 31% while ours is less than 10%. kind of proves the bulk of our population, especially in the south, is just so damn stupid it's pitiful.

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