As I’m writing this, there are heavy winds in Oklahoma and the southern plains. Meteorologist are forecasting the Plains and Midwest states may have worst weather than what happened on Dec. 10-11 that caused fatalities at an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Ill. and a candle factory in Mayfield, Ky.
Reports are coming out that workers weren’t allowed to leave or even seek shelter before it was too late. Because Amazon has a strict no-phone use policy, people there are saying they didn’t know anything until the wall collapsed from the force of the tornado. But did a manager or shift supervisor not have access to anything?
When people have to make a choice on losing their jobs if the weather is bad and losing their lives or even being seriously injured, it’s obvious we are at the point were things have to change for the better because if we leave it the way, it’ll get worse till the point more deaths, destruction and injury cause it to change for the better.
In the early part of the 20th Century, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire on March 25, 1911 killed 146 people and injured 78 more. The exterior doors and even windows were chained and locked to prevent workers from stepping out for a minute or leave early. This led to sweeping safety changes in the workplace.
But with all regulations, there’s always a few loopholes to exploit. Most states now have become right-to-work, which cuts down any rights people have in the workplace.
“A tornado is about to hit your office? Maybe it will miss. Work until it hits.”
“A heavy blizzard has blocked the highways from your house? Well, others made it to work. I made it to work. If you’re lived where they lived, you’d been able to make it into work.”
Yes, companies can even dictate to you where you have to live without helping you out with one cent. A lot of news organizations had major hard-ons for this. I used to have to deal with it. Even though I lived on the county border of the town I worked in and some of the other lake-area communities in the coverage area were farther away, my publishers more or less frowned on the fact that I lived 10 miles away.
But most industrial parks don’t have the best of housing nearby. It’s like in The Grapes of Wrath, Matewan or Coal Miner’s Daughter where people are living in substandard housing because it’s the closest to a mine or factory. In fact, most people have to commute up to an hour if not longer one way to a job. One of my neighbors had to commute at least two hours to his work before he retired due to health issue. When I lived in Americus, Ga., one of the school board members worked in Warner Robins, Ga., about 60-70 miles away depending on which route he took.
I’ve seen the Atlanta metro area around early morning rush hour and even people who live 20-30 miles away from their workplace usually spend longer than one hour because of traffic. It you’re spending one hour one way going to work, you’re spending one hour the other way to come home. That’s at least 10 hours a week of your own time. And let’s say you’re fortunate to get two weeks off each year, you’re spending 500 hours at least in your vehicle or carpool. Factor in the occasional problems with rain, snow, construction or traffic accidents, you’re probably spending a cumulative amount of 11 days out of a year just getting to and from work and spending your own gas money and the toil on your vehicle.
This is why people don’t want to go back to the office after the Covid-19 pandemic forced them to do remote work. You could sleep in or if you’re used to getting up earlier, do a little exercise, drink some coffee, watch the sun rise all before clocking in. And when you stopped working, there was no tired frustration of having to go home where you’re drained by the time you walk through the front door.
I’m just wondering why people who grew up during the economic prosperous times of the post-WWII from the mid-1940s to the late 1970s/early 1980s, were so willing to let the era crumble. I think I know that it was greed. If you can cut a few corners here and there, then so be it.
You move one-hour lunches to 30-minute lunches. That’s 30 minutes less a day you have to keep the lights on at the office and can turn the heater or AC down. You’re saving two-to-three hours of electricity a week and can just pocket that difference. I’ve even heard it’s gotten worse where some employees were only given 20-minute lunches and had to eat their meals at their desks or work stations because there are no more breakrooms. Or even walking to and from the breakroom shaves minutes off of that lunch break.
I mean, seriously, how much longer did people expect workers to put up with it? They’re literally spending money they don’t have on gas and buying new clothes to come to work. They’re more or less paying money for permission to come to work. And then, you can’t take a break if your bladder is about to burst.
This is forced slave labor. Waiters and servers are only paid $2.13 an hour and expecting to make money off of tips. But even if they get big tips, they’re expected to pay the proprietors for permission to work. Take what’s happened at Oven & Tap, a restaurant that is in Bentonville, Ark., which came under scrutiny when the owner/operator fired a server for “not sharing” her $4,400 tip with the rest of the staff, including the owner/operator, even though she did give some money to a fellow servers. It must be noted they had served a party of about 30 people. Unless everyone had water and crackers, I’m going to say the restaurant had a good profit return on the meal costs alone. I’ve eaten at several places in Bentonville. The food is rather high and many restaurants can be pricey as Bentonville and other cities in northwestern Arkansas are tourist attractions.
If the servers are making less than a third of minimum wage and they’re expecting a pay from customers, restaurant owners are actually making a good profit. They can charge more on the food, pay less for the servers, and still expect money for customers. This is like when someone sells you a dime bag of cannabis, then tries to coerce you into staying and smoking a bowl with them. If someone sold you an SUV to use the money to put into their payment for their sports car, and demanded that you had to still take their kids to and from school and to other events in it, you’d flat out refuse to buy it.
And we still have people who patronize restaurants and others in the food service industry and then balk at the notion of even putting $1 down. The rationale is that people have these jobs because they couldn’t get higher paying jobs. The irony of this is that people with bachelor or master’s degrees with over five years experience are still being expected to work on entry-level wages.
When I started working out of college in the early 2000s, it was two or three years experience for higher paying jobs. Then, when I started to look for jobs in the early 2010s as things were going bad at my job in Wagoner, it seemed you need to have at least five years experience. Yet, they were preferring eight years. By the time, I left in April 2014, one month short of eight years, I still had the time in Americus as well as in college. So, I had over 10 years of experience. Yet I couldn’t get many callback. (And at the college newspaper, we weren’t just reporting on Professor Haggle’s Labradoodle that comes with him to class. In 1999, some kids tried to firebomb a building. Classes had to be canceled as a hurricane was predicted. There was also a serial rapist in the area. So, we were covering hard news even then.)
But regardless, like a lot of people, I found I was “over-qualified.” That’s the funniest part. “There’s no shame in flipping burgers,” they say. The problem is if you work in the fast food industry to make ends meet, people say “It’s not a real job.” And that’s how they keep you down in America.
They say you’re expendable.
Candles have to be made. People have to have their DVD boxed set of According to Jim as soon as possible. People need their Big Macs and their Papa John’s Pizzas at the expense of other people. What happens if someone wrecks their car on the way to work and it causes a traffic jam that injures others? Someone couldn’t use a personal day or even take a day off. Now, they’re dead or severely injured. There goes the mortgage payments and Christmas gifts.
In a perfect world, we’d put people over profits. But greed is dangerous, especially when those who exploit others don’t see their actions as exploitation. When they’re line items in a ledger, it’s easier to get rid of them.
So, what’s going to happen next? I anticipate a lot of civil lawsuits to spring up about what happened in over the past weekend. But the laws might be on the sides of the companies. The best way to stop it would be to pass criminal negligence laws but I’m almost certain that could cause more problems. Anyone who is slightly overweight or walks with a minor limp wouldn’t be hired out of fear something could happen and a middle management supervisor has to spend time in prison.
Unfortunately, companies that still push how far their employees can work know they’ll only face a fine, that can very easily be paid off by firing or cutting the hours of other employees. Purdue Pharma was charged and convicted but it was a shitstorm of legal investigations that took years.
What will work is to go after the legislators at the state and federal offices. On Feb. 20, 2022, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) will turn 80. He was elected to the Senate when he was 42. I’m 43. He’s spent almost half his life in the Senate and he workforce has changed considerably since the early 1980s. So, deregulation and avoidance of climate change concerns more or less led to the Mayfield, Ky. tragedy.
We need to start taking climate change and workers’ rights more serious. I feel the more some people laugh off Covid-19, it’s going to be harder to eradicate it. It’ll take at least two more years, because we still got people in Congress and state legislatures opposing anything and they won’t get out of office until January 2023. Then, it’ll take time for policy changes to take effect.
The good news is that many Gen Zers, Millenials and even Gen Xers are feeling the awful effects of climate change and the dismal employment outlook. If The Great Resignation turns into The Great Reshuffling like some people say it should be called, it will make a change. But until the same people who want Donald Trump back in office see that’s not going to happen, we’ll change. The recent news that his chief of staff Mark Meadows did little while people were texting him about the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt should hurt his changers. The low turnouts at the Trump rally with Bill O’Reilly shows his star is fading.
Trump won’t be a big name in 2024 as the Republican Party is fighting amongst themselves. Some don’t even want McConnell to remain as minority leader. This is why the Republicans are passing voting restriction laws. They know they’re going to lose in 2022 and 2024. Change is coming. It’s just going to take a lot longer.
They say things get worse before they get better, but I feel we haven’t seen the worst of it all yet.