Modern Day Slave - An Essay
I got very upset at work tonight. The last three hours were a constant stream of customers, missing product, wrongly priced items and more of the usual mess retail employees have to deal with in the period immediately following Christmas.
I’ve worked many days like this before, but tonight I suddenly just started seeing red. Then I realized why: I am a modern day slave and so is everyone in a similar position.
There I was, dealing with a line of customers, destroyed shelves, a messy back counter and a phone that would NOT stop ringing during a holiday while all the people above me, including the store manager, had the day off.
Now I’m certain some of you reading this may feel I am exaggerating a little bit when I say I feel like a slave, but before passing judgment I ask you to read the following definition of slavery:
“Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation. In some historical situations it has been legal for owners to kill slaves.”
I know that on some fronts it seem silly to liken the plight of workers to that of slaves, but consider the general state of business in America and the attitudes of the workers and tell me you don’t see some striking similarities.
Employees by and large, ARE treated as property by their employers. Property, not people. Numbers on a spreadsheet, not real human beings. Expendable assets, not comrades in arms.
There’s a memorable segment of the Michael Moore film “Capitalism: A love story” in which the director discusses a particular dirty little secret of the corporate world: Corporations who take out life insurance policies on their employees. These policies pay nothing to the family of the employee. They are for the benefit of the company. They are also not reserved for higher up personnel either. The film chronicles the story of a wife of a deceased Wal-mart employee who found out the company had an insurance policy on him and is fighting to get a share of it.
Maybe I’m more jaded now because I’ve been doing this for so long, or I’m just so used to the constant stream of bullshit that comes from corporate that it doesn’t affect me much, but part of me is surprised it took me so long to finally get so angry about some of this stuff.
Think about it. Anyone who works on the lower levels of a company, you know exactly where I’m going. You come to work and put in eight hours a day at a no doubt low wage and have no choice but to follow the commands and directives of the elite regardless of whether or not they make sense or seem logical.
Speak up and you aren’t heard, complain too much and you are fired and replaced. As if companies didn’t already have their employees by the balls, the recession has made it that much easier for them and harder for employees. It’s amazing the number of times I have been directed to do something by corporate and have asked a supervisor for a logical reason why we should have to do this thing and watch and their brain shuts down right in front of me. They don’t have an answer. They never have an answer.
Now frontline workers have to do the work of three people, without longer hours and without any wage increase. Still think this doesn’t sound like slavery? Oh and let’s not forget the cutbacks in benefits and health insurance and that’s if you were lucky to have either of those in the first place.
That’s the fun of wage labor. You don’t go in, you don’t get paid. There’s no comprise, no middle ground, no exceptions, just black or white, our way or the highway. There have been so many days I have dragged myself to work when I’ve been sick or deeply affected by a personal issue (I was only able to take three days off when a close relative died a couple of years ago) or dealing with an injury just because I can’t afford to NOT go. It’s misery.
It’s funny to me that this is the system we’ve set up. This is how some people are meant to make a living, working 8 hours a day in some crappy job they don’t really like and working with people they don’t really care for just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table and clothes on their backs.
We work so hard and see hardly any spoils from said work. The spoils all go to the big guys at the top who sit in glass towers and corner offices all day and cook up new and exciting (and often times immoral and unethical) ways to either bilk more money from their customers or squeeze the soul of out of their employees.
Isn’t it amazing that such a large group of people can be treated so poorly and yet this system is defended as “the American way”? Now I understand I’m coming off as decidedly Liberal in this rant but this is not my intent. Quite frankly I think the government has just as many problems, if not more, than private corporations do these days.
I have no issue with capitalism in pure form. I like the fact someone can take an idea, put time and effort into marketing it and selling as they see fit to make a ton of money. You need freedom of ideas to breed creativity and innovation. The problem comes when money gets placed above all else, including human decency and that’s a trend we’ve seen more and more of since the economic downturn.
Consider the fact that many major American corporations made decent profits last year but not many are hiring domestically. Some are STILL cutting workers and benefits.
I believe people should be treated as humans and I don’t understand why bosses can’t be fair with their employees.
Should this really be a foreign concept?
I don’t expect the CEO of a major corporation to be on a personal level with all his employees (this is completely impossible), but is it really unrealistic to say, give an employee a few paid days off every year, regardless of where he or she is on the company ladder?
Is it really necessary to squeeze a few extra hours out of some peon on a holiday when he or she would probably rather be at home or doing anything besides working?
Would it really be such a pain in the ass to respect people a little more for the hard work they do instead of trampling them every chance you get?
I am starting to think you really do have to sell your soul to get the top of the ladder. I don’t see how anyone but a heartless individual could do the kinds of things these folks do. Money is their God. There exists nothing in this world to them except the almighty dollar sign.
They are destroying countless lives and they don’t give a shit. Will it ever change?