Working harder for less in the end
"ADVICE TO a grocery store customer" was nice to read. I've had nearly the exact same thing happen to me before when a rich client walking through my shop gave me (a coppersmith/sheet metal worker) similar advice, after asking me a question and apparently not finding my answer acceptable to his expectations of what a good wage slave should provide.
Not because of that jackass, but I did work my ass off, learned everything I could, and eventually became foreman of the nonunion (this is Memphis) shop. Then, after I'd been there nearly a decade, the recession hit, and the shop went from 55 people to 15. I was among those laid off because I cost the company too much money, or so I was told.
After I got my first unemployment extension, they hired me back, part-time, at two-thirds the hourly rate I had been making, and no benefits.
It turns out the "Christian businessman" who owned the company didn't believe in unemployment, or so a production manager told me. So the owner hired a bunch of us back part-time, only at just the wages and hours to equal what we had been making on unemployment. Because unemployment requires you to take jobs offered to you, we had to take the work, even though making the same amount working 22 hours a week as being on unemployment actually is a net loss, because now you have to pay for gas to get to work and child care.
So, yeah, I'm happy as hell that I spent those years working my ass off to do the best job I could and learn the shop as best I could. It really paid off great. I worked harder than the guy next to me, but in the end, I was just as expendable.
When I work harder, it puts a lot more money in the bosses' pockets, and the slight bit more they pay me ends up hurting me in the end, making me a bigger target come cut-back time. Never again will I "do more than I was paid to do."
One benefit did come through all of this--with my newfound spare time after my initial layoff, I started reading Karl Marx and books from Haymarket, including the Sharon Smith's Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States. That has helped clarify a lot of things for me.
Thanks to Steven Wyatt for the article.
Owen White, Memphis