LABORIOUS

As one of the growing number of Americans who work on Labor Day, join me in stealing a few minutes of company time to re-read this classic post on Battered Worker Syndrome and why nothing about the Right to Work-era attitude toward employment makes any sense.

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14 Responses to “LABORIOUS”

  1. Mo Says:

    Speaking of deathless classics, here's one from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=3454#comic

  2. carrstone Says:

    Six years on and it still takes two to tango.

    Omnipresent efforts of employers to make employees give a shit are necessary because employees still don't – give a shit, that is; “team building” is more certain to sustain the company than trade-union instigated obstructive behavior, retreats encourage dialogue untrammeled by intermediaries adding color, do-your-best motivational talks are still necessary because employees need to be reminded where their loyalty should lie. And yes, it's unmistakable that "THEY" consider some individual employees expendable, but, because they're too intelligent to cut off their noses to spite their faces, never all the employees – not even Bain does that.

    So the dance goes on with employers paternally providing the venue and the music and the employees maximizing their return for minimum effort, like the six-year old at the wedding, by standing on Daddy's shoes.

  3. Mo Says:

    Thanks, carrstone, for the reminder about the connection between patriarchy and the smug reactionary mind.

  4. Mo Says:

    Charlie Pierce is a genius, of course:

    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/Happy_Labor_Day

    People loved their work once, and it didn't matter if they worked in the public sector or in the private one. The men who worked in the CCC would take their grandchildren to see the forests they planted, while the men from the auto plants would point out the cars they'd built as they passed them on the new interstate highway system. The women who fastened the engines on the wings would watch the B-17's fly off to make a liar out of Goering, and the women who taught in the public schools would point with pride when one of their old students got elected mayor. Work was about making money, certainly. It was about feeding the family and keeping the roof where it was, and maybe having a little left over at the end of the day, or at the end of the week, for some amusement. Maybe a trip to Lincoln Park or White City or a hundred other places, where you could take a moment and enjoy the cool of the evening, music riding the nightwind from a dance pavilion down along the lake.

    But it was also about Doing A Job, and doing it well, which was different than simply Having A Job. It was about making good cars and strong steel and sturdy furniture. It was about learning a craft, even if what you were doing wasn't recognized as one. There was a craft in tightening rivets, or feeding the open-hearth furnace, or planing the wood just so. You had your craft, and the person next to you had theirs, and, when all the work was done, and all the craft was practiced, and practiced well, there was something you could look at with pride and say, that is something I have given to the world. Job well done, as they used to say. You could teach seventh grade civics and then, one day, you're on a podium outside of City Hall. That kid right there, you could say. That kid is something I have helped give to the world. Job well done, as they used to say.

  5. Mo Says:

    OK, last post, I swear. Until the caffeine wears off, at least.

    Just a reminder for those too young to get Pierce's "Thug for J. H. Blair" reference:

  6. Graham Says:

    You nailed it back then. Only now we have internships, slavery, in which you get all of the above – only you don't get paid for it.

    What a brave new world.

  7. ronzie9 Says:

    "So the dance goes on with employers paternally providing the venue and the music and the employees maximizing their return for minimum effort, like the six-year old at the wedding, by standing on Daddy's shoes."

    Um, actually, "maximizing return for minimum effort" or "buy low, sell high" is the prime directive of a capitalist society, and is what every executive who wants to keep his job seeks to accomplish. That's why they pay workers as little as possible for as much work as they can get out of them. But when labor does it, we're "lazy", "parasites", and "thieves" trying to live off the ingenuity and hard work of the "job creators". Funny how that works, isn't it?

  8. carrstone Says:

    Well, faintly risible, anyway.

    Just goes to show, both sides have great labels to hang on the other guy. By quoting hoary old statements like "maximizing return for minimum effort" or "buy low, sell high" is the prime directive of a capitalist society" doesn't mean you're right. Both sides say it or haven't you heard about demands for wage increases (as in buy low, sell high) and reductions in working hours (as in maximizing return for minimum effort)?

    It's just a question of whose prayer book provides the most warmth that determines your stance. In your case, brother, you're just a faint echo of a talentless era, soon to be a footnote in history.

  9. Mo Says:

    Homework for carrstone:

    This is a point often lost in the debate about unions: they're an international phenomenon that has flourished almost everywhere that capitalism has flourished. And that's because they've played a critical role in making capitalism work for the people who make capitalism work.

    Capitalism can generate more wealth and faster advances in living standards than any other economic system yet discovered. But it doesn't share that wealth and those advances naturally. Bargaining power is a crucial mediator in capitalism, and workers often end up with too little of it — and if that imbalance persists, then the entire system is imperiled, as capitalist systems can't survive without the support of the working class. Unions are one way to correct that imbalance. They've often saved capitalism from itself, and done so over the objections of the capitalists.

    Plus, a great graph about the shared prosperity that we used to enjoy

  10. quixote Says:

    There was another big factor in the old pride-in-work that Pierce is talking about. The boss was one of the people recognizing the job well done, and you didn't get fired the minute there was somebody cheaper to take your work.

    That's important.

  11. Xynzee Says:

    @Quixote:
    "…and you didn't get fired the minute there was somebody cheaper to take your work."

    And of course we know the answer why this was true… Unions and Labour movements.

  12. Lless Says:

    It seems to me that a rider to every "Right to Work" bill should repeal at will employment.

  13. democommie Says:

    Dear Carrstone:

    Fuck you and your liberpublican friends, very much.

    Have a nice Labor Day, asshole; do you know why MOST people have the day off?

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