Posts Tagged ‘labor’

The Case for Reparations – The Atlantic. By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.

Andd if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.

— Deuteronomy 15: 12–15

Besides the crime which consists in violating the law, and varying from the right rule of reason, whereby a man so far becomes degenerate, and declares himself to quit the principles of human nature, and to be a noxious creature, there iscommonly injury done to some person or other, and some other man receives damage by his transgression: in which case he who hath received any damage, has, besides the right of punishment common to him with other men, a particular right to seek reparation.

— John Locke, “Second Treatise”

By our unpaid labor and suffering, we have earned the right to the soil, many times over and over, and now we are determined to have it.

— Anonymous, 1861

Chapters

  1. I. “So That’s Just One Of My Losses”
  2. II.  “A Difference of Kind, Not Degree”
  3. III. “We Inherit Our Ample Patrimony”
  4. IV. “The Ills That Slavery Frees Us From”
  5. V. The Quiet Plunder
  6. VI. Making The Second Ghetto
  7. VII. “A Lot Of People Fell By The Way”
  8. VIII. “Negro Poverty is not White Poverty”
  9. IX. Toward A New Country
  10. X. “There Will Be No ‘Reparations’ From Germany”

via Ode to Academic Labor: Bill Rawlins (music), Lisa M. Tillmann (lyrics), Andie Walla (video) – YouTube.

Union pickets Ocala nursing home

By 
Business editor
Published: Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 7:19 p.m.

Alan Youngblood/Ocala Star-Banner
Members of the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East protest in front of The Lodge on Southeast Silver Springs Boulevard on Thursday May 1, 2014. The workers were protesting low wages and insufficient staffing.

Unionized workers at an Ocala nursing home who say they haven’t had a raise in more than two years answered management’s latest offer loudly, call-and-response style, while picketing outside the facility on Thursday afternoon.

“One dime/Ain’t worth my time,” they shouted as they marched in front of The Lodge Health and Rehabilitation Center at the busy intersection of Southeast 17th Street and Lake Weir Avenue.

Members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East took to the sidewalks outside The Lodge to express their disappointment at Greystone Health Network’s latest offer of a raise of 10 cents per hour.

“That’s kind of ridiculous,” said Jose Suarez, an 1199SEIU spokesman. “This is obviously a profitable company.”

Earlier in the day, speaking by phone as he traveled to Ocala from Miami, Suarez said the 50 to 60 union members at The Lodge and the rest of its employees “want to be respected for what they do.” He noted that the lowest starting wage at the Ocala facility is $7.79 per hour for a housekeeper.

“They’re caregivers,” he said. “I’m not trying to knock another career, but they’re not flipping burgers. They’re caring for our loved ones in these nursing homes.”

Union members also say Greystone’s staffing levels at The Lodge are inadequate, which affects patient care.

Officials with The Lodge and Greystone did not interact with the protesters as of mid-afternoon Thursday, but some did watch the demonstration from the railing of an overlooking building, including Terrie Banks, interim administrator, and Tricia Robinson, regional director of operations for Greystone.

Speaking in an office away from the demonstration, Banks would not address the pay issue.

“I am not involved in union negotiations,” she said. Asked who is, Banks and Robertson declined to say.

When asked about staffing, Banks replied, “We staff to state requirements.” She gave examples of 2.5 certified nursing assistants per patient per day and 1 licensed nurse per patient per day.

“We staff at or above that daily,” Banks said.

Meanwhile, Greystone officials have sent employees letters concerning the union’s protests. One, given to the Star-Banner by Suarez, was signed by “Teresa Evans, Vice President, Human Resources,” and another, furnished by Banks, had her signature Some, but not all, of the passages in the two letters have identical wording:

“The Union seems more interested in playing childish games with tweets and Facebook posts,” one reads.

For their part, the demonstrators were orderly, if boisterous. One man wielded a bullhorn as he led the call-and-response chants. Other picketers waved noisemakers fashioned from empty milk jugs filled with handful of pennies. As the lights changed at 17th and Lake Weir, drivers honked occasionally and some people waved from cars.

The demonstrators included Gloria Weems, a certified nursing assistant who has been a member of the union in its various forms for the 25 years she has worked at the facility.

“Most of us are the family for these residents,” Weems said. “We try to make sure they get the best quality care we can provide, but we all got families, and everything’s going up from the gas prices and everything. We deserve a raise.”

The picketers were not limited to current employees. Diana Rivera said she retired from The Lodge last year as a certified nursing assistant after 36 years, but she was at the demonstration “to help them because I know they need the help.”

When asked how hard the employees work, Rivera replied “Total hell half the time. Total hell. Push, push, push. It’s terrible.”

Liz Surdam, a housekeeper and a union steward, attended the protest despite having had surgery Monday and being off work under the Family Medical Leave Act. Surdam sat in a folding chair and said while she was in a little pain, she wanted to show support. When asked what the company could offer that would make her happy, Surdam replied, “In all honesty, we’d like a dollar, but hey, if we can get a quarter, we’ll be happy with that.”

The demonstration drew onlookers, including at least one resident. Melvin Goodman, 54, lost a leg to diabetes and gets around by means of a prosthetic and a motorized scooter.

“I came out to watch the picketing,” said Goodman, a onetime non-union trucker. “People say they put too much money in this building and they only gave them people a dime raise. That ain’t fair. Treat these people fairly.”

Thursday’s demonstration was a rare show of union presence in Marion County. 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East — affiliated with the Service Employees International Union — has some 400,000 members in an Eastern Seaboard region ranging from New York to Florida. The union’s Florida Division, which began around 2000 with some 1,000 members, now has about 25,000, Suarez said. Because of the size of the health care industry in Marion County, the area is seen as a fertile ground for organization, he said.

Greystone’s Robinson, on the other hand, downplayed the union’s showing outside The Lodge on Thursday.

“It has no impact,” she said. “We will continue to provide the best quality care, day in and day out.”

Contact Richard Anguiano at 867-4104 or richard.anguiano@ocala.com.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/01/16/wal-mart-joins-initiative-on-farmworker-pay-in-fla/4535805/

Our former guest Tatiana Devia works on this and talked about it here.

In the Name of Love

 “Do what you love” is the mantra for today’s worker. Why should we assert our class interests if, according to DWYL elites like Steve Jobs, there’s no such thing as work?

Illustration by Leslie A. Wood

Illustration by Leslie A. Wood

“Do what you love. Love what you do.”

The commands are framed and perched in a living room that can only be described as “well-curated.” A picture of this room appeared first on a popular design blog, but has been pinned, tumbl’d, and liked thousands of times by now.

Lovingly lit and photographed, this room is styled to inspire Sehnsucht, roughly translatable from German as a pleasurable yearning for some utopian thing or place. Despite the fact that it introduces exhortations to labor into a space of leisure, the “do what you love” living room — where artful tchotchkes abound and work is not drudgery but love — is precisely the place all those pinners and likers long to be. The diptych arrangement suggests a secular version of a medieval house altar.

There’s little doubt that “do what you love” (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time. The problem is that it leads not to salvation, but to the devaluation of actual work, including the very work it pretends to elevate — and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers.

Superficially, DWYL is an uplifting piece of advice, urging us to ponder what it is we most enjoy doing and then turn that activity into a wage-generating enterprise. But why should our pleasure be for profit? Who is the audience for this dictum? Who is not?

By keeping us focused on ourselves and our individual happiness, DWYL distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labor, whether or not they love it. It is the secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.

Aphorisms have numerous origins and reincarnations, but the generic and hackneyed nature of DWYL confounds precise attribution. Oxford Reference links the phrase and variants of it to Martina Navratilova and François Rabelais, among others. The internet frequently attributes it to Confucius, locating it in a misty, Orientalized past. Oprah Winfrey and other peddlers of positivity have included it in their repertoires for decades, but the most important recent evangelist of the DWYL creed is deceased Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

His graduation speech to the Stanford University class of 2005 provides as good an origin myth as any, especially since Jobs had already been beatified as the patron saint of aestheticized work well before his early death. In the speech, Jobs recounts the creation of Apple, and inserts this reflection:

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

In these four sentences, the words “you” and “your” appear eight times. This focus on the individual is hardly surprising coming from Jobs, who cultivated a very specific image of himself as a worker: inspired, casual, passionate — all states agreeable with ideal romantic love. Jobs telegraphed the conflation of his besotted worker-self with his company so effectively that his black turtleneck and blue jeans became metonyms for all of Apple and the labor that maintains it.

But by portraying Apple as a labor of his individual love, Jobs elided the labor of untold thousands in Apple’s factories, conveniently hidden from sight on the other side of the planet — the very labor that allowed Jobs to actualize his love.

The violence of this erasure needs to be exposed. While “do what you love” sounds harmless and precious, it is ultimately self-focused to the point of narcissism. Jobs’ formulation of “do what you love” is the depressing antithesis to Henry David Thoreau’s utopian vision of labor for all. In “Life Without Principle,” Thoreau wrote,

… it would be good economy for a town to pay its laborers so well that they would not feel that they were working for low ends, as for a livelihood merely, but for scientific, even moral ends. Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for the love of it.

Admittedly, Thoreau had little feel for the proletariat (it’s hard to imagine someone washing diapers for “scientific, even moral ends,” no matter how well-paid). But he nonetheless maintains that society has a stake in making work well-compensated and meaningful. By contrast, the twenty-first-century Jobsian view demands that we all turn inward. It absolves us of any obligation to or acknowledgment of the wider world, underscoring its fundamental betrayal of all workers, whether they consciously embrace it or not.

One consequence of this isolation is the division that DWYL creates among workers, largely along class lines. Work becomes divided into two opposing classes: that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished). Those in the lovable work camp are vastly more privileged in terms of wealth, social status, education, society’s racial biases, and political clout, while comprising a small minority of the workforce.

For those forced into unlovable work, it’s a different story. Under the DWYL credo, labor that is done out of motives or needs other than love (which is, in fact, most labor) is not only demeaned but erased. As in Jobs’ Stanford speech, unlovable but socially necessary work is banished from the spectrum of consciousness altogether.

Think of the great variety of work that allowed Jobs to spend even one day as CEO: his food harvested from fields, then transported across great distances. His company’s goods assembled, packaged, shipped. Apple advertisements scripted, cast, filmed. Lawsuits processed. Office wastebaskets emptied and ink cartridges filled. Job creation goes both ways. Yet with the vast majority of workers effectively invisible to elites busy in their lovable occupations, how can it be surprising that the heavy strains faced by today’s workers (abysmal wages, massive child care costs, et cetera) barely register as political issues even among the liberal faction of the ruling class?

In ignoring most work and reclassifying the rest as love, DWYL may be the most elegant anti-worker ideology around. Why should workers assemble and assert their class interests if there’s no such thing as work?


“Do what you love” disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is an unmerited privilege, a sign of that person’s socioeconomic class. Even if a self-employed graphic designer had parents who could pay for art school and cosign a lease for a slick Brooklyn apartment, she can self-righteously bestow DWYL as career advice to those covetous of her success.

If we believe that working as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or a museum publicist or a think-tank acolyte is essential to being true to ourselves — in fact, to loving ourselves — what do we believe about the inner lives and hopes of those who clean hotel rooms and stock shelves at big-box stores? The answer is: nothing.

Yet arduous, low-wage work is what ever more Americans do and will be doing. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the two fastest-growing occupations projected until 2020 are “Personal Care Aide” and “Home Care Aide,” with average salaries of $19,640 per year and $20,560 per year in 2010, respectively. Elevating certain types of professions to something worthy of love necessarily denigrates the labor of those who do unglamorous work that keeps society functioning, especially the crucial work of caregivers.

If DWYL denigrates or makes dangerously invisible vast swaths of labor that allow many of us to live in comfort and to do what we love, it has also caused great damage to the professions it portends to celebrate, especially those jobs existing within institutional structures. Nowhere has the DWYL mantra been more devastating to its adherents than in academia. The average PhD student of the mid 2000s forwent the easy money of finance and law (now slightly less easy) to live on a meager stipend in order to pursue their passion for Norse mythology or the history of Afro-Cuban music.

The reward for answering this higher calling is an academic employment marketplace in which around 41 percent of American faculty are adjunct professors — contract instructors who usually receive low pay, no benefits, no office, no job security, and no long-term stake in the schools where they work.

There are many factors that keep PhDs providing such high-skilled labor for such extremely low wages, including path dependency and the sunk costs of earning a PhD, but one of the strongest is how pervasively the DWYL doctrine is embedded in academia. Few other professions fuse the personal identity of their workers so intimately with the work output. This intense identification partly explains why so many proudly left-leaning faculty remain oddly silent about the working conditions of their peers. Because academic research should be done out of pure love, the actual conditions of and compensation for this labor become afterthoughts, if they are considered at all.

In “Academic Labor, the Aesthetics of Management, and the Promise of Autonomous Work,” Sarah Brouillette writes of academic faculty,

… our faith that our work offers non-material rewards, and is more integral to our identity than a “regular” job would be, makes us ideal employees when the goal of management is to extract our labor’s maximum value at minimum cost.

Many academics like to think they have avoided a corporate work environment and its attendant values, but Marc Bousquet notes in his essay “We Work” that academia may actually provide a model for corporate management:

How to emulate the academic workplace and get people to work at a high level of intellectual and emotional intensity for fifty or sixty hours a week for bartenders’ wages or less? Is there any way we can get our employees to swoon over their desks, murmuring “I love what I do” in response to greater workloads and smaller paychecks? How can we get our workers to be like faculty and deny that they work at all? How can we adjust our corporate culture to resemble campus culture, so that our workforce will fall in love with their work too?

No one is arguing that enjoyable work should be less so. But emotionally satisfying work is still work, and acknowledging it as such doesn’t undermine it in any way. Refusing to acknowledge it, on the other hand, opens the door to the most vicious exploitation and harms all workers.

Ironically, DWYL reinforces exploitation even within the so-called lovable professions where off-the-clock, underpaid, or unpaid labor is the new norm: reporters required to do the work of their laid-off photographers, publicists expected to Pin and Tweet on weekends, the 46 percent of the workforce expected to check their work email on sick days. Nothing makes exploitation go down easier than convincing workers that they are doing what they love.

Instead of crafting a nation of self-fulfilled, happy workers, our DWYL era has seen the rise of the adjunct professor and the unpaid intern — people persuaded to work for cheap or free, or even for a net loss of wealth. This has certainly been the case for all those interns working for college credit or those who actually purchase ultra-desirable fashion-house internships at auction. (Valentino and Balenciaga are among a handful of houses that auctioned off month-long internships. For charity, of course.) The latter is worker exploitation taken to its most extreme, and as an ongoing Pro Publica investigation reveals, the unpaid intern is an ever larger presence in the American workforce.

It should be no surprise that unpaid interns abound in fields that are highly socially desirable, including fashion, media, and the arts. These industries have long been accustomed to masses of employees willing to work for social currency instead of actual wages, all in the name of love. Excluded from these opportunities, of course, is the overwhelming majority of the population: those who need to work for wages. This exclusion not only calcifies economic and professional immobility, but insulates these industries from the full diversity of voices society has to offer.

And it’s no coincidence that the industries that rely heavily on interns — fashion, media, and the arts — just happen to be the feminized ones, as Madeleine Schwartz wrote in Dissent. Yet another damaging consequence of DWYL is how ruthlessly it works to extract female labor for little or no compensation. Women comprise the majority of the low-wage or unpaid workforce; as care workers, adjunct faculty, and unpaid interns, they outnumber men. What unites all of this work, whether performed by GEDs or PhDs, is the belief that wages shouldn’t be the primary motivation for doing it. Women are supposed to do work because they are natural nurturers and are eager to please; after all they’ve been doing uncompensated childcare, elder care, and housework since time immemorial. And talking money is unladylike anyway.


The DWYL dream is, true to its American mythology, superficially democratic. PhDs can do what they love, making careers that indulge their love of the Victorian novel and writing thoughtful essays in the New York Review of Books. High school grads can also do it, building prepared food empires out of their Aunt Pearl’s jam recipe. The hallowed path of the entrepreneur always offers this way out of disadvantaged beginnings, excusing the rest of us for allowing those beginnings to be as miserable as they are. In America, everyone has the opportunity to do what he or she loves and get rich.

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life! Before succumbing to the intoxicating warmth of that promise, it’s critical to ask, “Who, exactly, benefits from making work feel like non-work?” “Why should workers feel as if they aren’t working when they are?” Historian Mario Liverani reminds us that “ideology has the function of presenting exploitation in a favorable light to the exploited, as advantageous to the disadvantaged.”

In masking the very exploitative mechanisms of labor that it fuels, DWYL is, in fact, the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism. It shunts aside the labor of others and disguises our own labor to ourselves. It hides the fact that if we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.

And if we did that, more of us could get around to doing what it is we reallylove.


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There often isn’t agreement about all the sources, causes, and processes of any social problem. This diversity of perspectives leads to disagreement as to what are the best solutions and how to achieve them. I think it’s best to deal with this complexity (if only to point out to students that it is there) from the start. The dilemma is, of course, balancing simplicity with reality in the course, but at least it teaches students that there are multiple points of view to almost everything, and that rational inquiry should be based on a dialectic argument and not submission to authority.

For example, many mainstream economists argue away unequal pay for women with the theory of “compensating variations” which states that women are, on the average, more expensive to private employers because of family responsibilities and reproduction, and thus markets dictate they get paid less. Somewhat more enlightened (but not radical) economists point out that this is a “market failure” since these women DO provide lots of value to society as a whole even if perhaps not to their private employers directly. Finally radicals see this as another facet of exploitation in capitalist patriarchal societies. Each of these approaches has different assumptions, different values, and consequently different proposed solutions…

So I’m suggesting to tackle the diversity of knowledge from the start and throughout… not easy :)

How times have changed…

Posted: 2013/09/04 by Punkonomics (@dearbalak) in Links/Articles/Video
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Young Republicans for Labor