Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Exploitation of the American Worker

Let's start with the upside. For two years, I have been willfully unemployed. Loosely translated, that means that I have enjoyed absolute freedom. No scheduled hours, no commute, no nasty ass or diminishing remarks made by co-workers, no deadlines or ass munching by bosses. I have been free to live my life, exercise, read, write, take naps. Travel when I want to. Not answer to anyone.

Shangrila. I would also like to say, I have enjoyed all of this on my dime. Not one government cent. I actually planned for the possibility of a depression. Yes. Let's call it what it is.

For the last year, I have dangled a toe in the employment pool. What I have found is some of the worst jobs, worst wages, and poor hours of any period in my 50 year life span. When a decent job comes open, hundreds apply for it. Somebody's nephew or friend gets it. And if a greedy or inconsiderate employer actually takes a minute to thank you for your one hour online application, cover letter, and resume- it is a victory. To get an actual interview is like winning a silver medal.

Exploiting an ever expanding pool of talent, employers are trying to protect existing incomes and margins. This is a symptom of greed gone wild. Offering 1970's wages some thirty years later, employers unashamedly and confidently look at you and say take it or leave it. Trying to negotiate something even remotely livable is beyond comprehension. I tried this once and watched a manager's eyes glaze over. A whopping 18k a year, with no benefits. I should be thankful, he said.

We concluded our conversation.

That millions of unemployed workers find themselves collecting checks and submitting themselves to ridiculously low wages to enlarge corporate margins is the last act of attrition. It is the last indignity. Farm everything to the Pac Rim. Open the Mexico floodgates.

If this is the best that corporate America has to offer, then I'd like to see corporate America go away. I'd like to return to a fantasy induced world where people are valued. Where the upper echelons of management return their fat paychecks to the people on the ground who actually do the work. Where the wealthy and elite are not given free reign and the power of law to exploit people beyond the boundaries of good conscience. I am not talking about some socialist theme, I am talking about a sense of fair play in a world that thinks fair play is a mansion sized driveway lined with Mercedes Benzs acquired with workers who can't even pay the rent. Runaway and government sanctioned greed. It's a virtue.

I'd like to help people. I look for jobs that improve lives because that is where the lessons get learned and that is where those lessons get passed on. Making the world a better place is not a fantasy. And as I write this, I simply can't enrich the lives of the haves anymore while they get fat on my labor. Thankfully, I don't have to. I'd just love to find a boss that thinks like me. A boss that drives an ancient pickup truck, helps people and believes in the mission. Show me that boss and I might work 80 hrs a week for next to nothing.