Fighting Skills, Narcotics and Stolen Goods: Would You Pass This Test?

794981_f496“How would you rate your fighting skills?”
“What types of narcotics have you recently consumed?”
“What would you estimate is the cash value of all the goods you have stolen from work sites in the last six months?”

If you answered “D. none” to all of the above you just might qualify for a job cleaning up construction sites, digging ditches, or dismantling a restaurant. All for minimum wage, of course. But the good news is wages are paid daily at the office, with a convenient ATM on site that will cash your check for a small fee. I know because I passed.But I never used that ATM, because luckily a bar down the street cashed Labor Ready checks. Nothing like a cold beer after a hard days work! (and 46 dollars in my pocket!)

Gabriel Thompson of “Mother Jones” Breaks down the life of the modern day Laborer

It’s still dark when I show up at the Labor Ready storefront in downtown Oakland, California, just a few blocks from the plaza where the Occupy crowd threw up its tents against the one percent. From the sidewalk, the place looks vaguely illicit, with minimal signage and floor-to-ceiling shades that remain drawn 24/7. Later, I will come to think of this as the company “look”—unwelcoming and easy to miss—often tucked alongside a check-cashing business or payday lender.

The office opens at 5:30 a.m., but job seekers start appearing an hour early, hoping to snag a top spot on the sign-in sheet. By the time I arrive, 20 people, all but one of them men, are already inside—the space is essentially a waiting room with a long counter—standing or slouching in white plastic chairs. Behind the counter sits an African American woman with short hair and a bearing that suggests a low tolerance for bullshit. “I can’t remember the last time I got eight hours sleep,” a bleary-eyed man behind me announces to no one in particular.

Keep reading.

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  • Ted Heistman

    I like to think of the test as either a “behavioral assessment” for borderline retards or an IQ test for petty criminals (I assume high level criminals aren’t applying to work at Labor Ready)

    • Simon Valentine

      sticky static

      lots of job opportunities open to pop balloons
      sticking to cotton shirts
      rubbed on colored hair
      and a vice-verse in there, somewhere

      where is a missing link of the evolution of a slave trade vision
      i’d like to make knuckles out of it and punch some traitor faces
      with my rating of fighting skill rate

      i rate my fighting skill “according to a linear basis, null subspace, infinite hyperspace, and adjacency matrix superspace”
      oh Coliseum
      the emperor’s new thumb is in lieu

  • Ted Heistman

    To be frankly honest, for whatever reason, I worked my ass off at Labor Ready. When I got hired on by one of the companies that contracted to Labor ready, for $12 an hour, I got a sinking feeling in my gut. I Knew a measure of my freedom was gone. A month Later I quit in exchange for the freedom of the road.

    • echar

      $12 is decent, considering where I am it’s $9.00 to start. How long did it take to get hired? How long before you were eligible for benefits? What were the work conditions? Was it OSHA aproved?

      • Ted Heistman

        here’s my point. I was unemployed and homeless and living in Anchorage when I first applied at Labor ready.There you only get paid minimum wage put not much is expected of you. You might work for a day or two and then get a day or three off. You might get a steady couple weeks and then the assignment would end and you would go do something else. When I got hired on as a Carpenter’s Helper Working 5-6 days a week 8-10 hours a day got to be a bit of a grind. So after a month I wanted to hitch hike around and see the rest of Alaska. So I quit and hit the road. The next few years I drifted around the country living in a tent, doing day labor or working for cash.

        • Ted Heistman

          “Hired on” means the construction company that hire Labor Ready hired me. Labor Ready lets them do that.

        • echar

          I understand. Some states have a lower minimum wage, however everything is more expensive in AK. So I imagine $12/hr is akin to $9.00. There’s a lot of homeless camps there. I went with my Winnebago indian friend to have lunch at the mission. It’s a free lunch that is sometimes decent.

          Anyhow, while there I spoke with a guy that was camping at the time. He said summer he camps, and winter he hits the mission. It’s a hard go, but running water is king when you have none.

          Day labor and temp work is tough, and a person doing that is not even on the totem pole. Let alone being low man on it. In my opinion and experience, these kinds of services are a direct link to low wages, and unhealthy/dangerous working conditions.

          • Ted Heistman

            Yeah I know all thse places, plus Bean’s Cafe next door to the mission, had jobs for cash you can get there. I found a lady that needed help with her horse and doing yard work.

    • Calypso_1

      I think every man who has the inkling and soundness of body should spend a stretch of time as an unskilled laborer.
      If you are, as you said ‘self-actualizing’, doors to many unseen worlds open up. It can change your worldview and sense of self tremendously. Slavery is alive and well in this world.

      • Ted Heistman

        Yeah, I guess what I got out of it is knowing if I am ever in a really bad situation I can walk off with just the clothes on my back and know I can survive. The article is more of an expose’ but really skid row has its own charm.

        • Cortacespedes

          Damn Straight!!!

        • Calypso_1

          “I can walk off with just the clothes on my back* and know I can survive.”
          It’s something that many fantasize about but few of the privileged, and let’s face it that means the vast majority of mericans, have yet to face.
          ….then again it’s not that hard. You just live. The human organism was designed to cope with not knowing where it’s next meal is coming from.

          *I had a survival training course that involved 1 month, a knife, and boxer shorts. Fun stuff. It was in your new neck o the woods (actually swamp).

          • Ted Heistman

            yeah I think you are right. I keep forgetting that most people haven’t experienced this. That’s why people say I should write about it.

            We are meant to survive. I thought of it as being a hunter gatherer going on a walk about. I didn’t hunt but I still ate!

      • Cortacespedes

        Takes a lot of skill to be “unskilled” labor at times.

        • echar

          It takes having a stomache for shit sandwiches too.

          • Calypso_1

            Shit sandwiches have a way of hitting you pretty hard across the chin as well.

          • Ted Heistman

            It ain’t all shit sandwiches though.

          • Calypso_1

            No, there is a very real dignity to this work as well. It uplifts the soul, there is brotherhood in the exertion (except for the 0800 winos).

          • Ted Heistman

            Yeah, i felt a brotherhood with the Mexicans mostly because they were the only ones who really worked. They would be working for the company and I would be working for Labor Ready.

          • Ted Heistman

            They said I worked like a Mexican. I take that as a pretty big compliment. I’ve been so poor I’ve had Mexicans and Native Americans and poor black people help me out out of the kindness of their hearts. To me that’s equality.

          • The Well Dressed Man

            The “lazy” stereotype is ridiculous. Every nametag job and bar/restaurant gig I’ve had, it takes real effort to keep up with them.

          • Calypso_1

            The stereotypes of laborers standing around while one guy works, etc… people just don’t know how damaging the work is to the body. You swap out. I’ve worked with men that had been laborers their entire lives and they will school you. It looks like they may be slow but these guys have had to do the work for decades, no medical coverage & they still get more done over the long haul.
            If you read accounts of laborers from the first half of the 20th century, a man’s body was often used up by the time they reached 30.

          • Ted Heistman

            Yeah that’s no joke. I really don’t know exactly why I’ve led the life I have.I have a weird knack doing the hardest most dangerous stuff for the least amount of pay, often for free. Not sure why, and then I get called lazy.

            Its a weird thing. Myst be my dharma.

          • Ted Heistman

            I think in my past life I was a man of leisure.

          • Cortacespedes

            For 7 years I lived in a single bedroom slum apartment house outside of Los Angeles with anywhere from 20 to 32 undocumented workers from Mexico.

            Good times. And man, do I have some stories. Holy shit, do I have stories.

          • Ted Heistman

            That’s awesome man! I bet a lot of them are doing sheet rock now and making Bo-cue bucks!

            really when it comes down to it they are a bunch of farm boys. That’s what they seem like to me. That’s why they work so hard. That’s why our Great Grandfather’s worked so hard too. People in gangs and shit, those are the spoiled Americans.

          • echar

            They can take your head off, if you’re not careful.

          • Calypso_1

            Ever had a cow pie fight on the farm?

          • echar

            Sorry, I am a suburban slacker. I shoplifted from the mall once.

          • Calypso_1

            Damn John Brown & all ye lilly livered city slickers!

          • echar

            The first time I was around cows I was stepping over the stream of cow shit. The locals would walk through it. One guy said… “It’s just cow shit man”. This was at a job filling up containers on the back of semis with cow shit. I had the sweet job of sitting in a tractor, and pulling a lever. I joked that I got paid to give people shit.

          • Calypso_1

            See there, how many suburbanites can talk about shit like that?

          • echar

            Not too many, but I’ve actually been places and done things. Got out of my comfort zone. Faced death, met evil, danced with the devil, etc. I read books too.

          • Cortacespedes

            I grew up working on a dairy farm, trust me, I know shit. One time I fell face first into a two foot deep pool of liquid manure.

            Some would call it bad luck, I called it baptism.

        • Calypso_1

          Amen brother.

  • Unlicensed Dremel

    Why are we discriminating against people with fighting skills?

    • Matt Staggs

      I’m wondering what they do if you say that you’ve studied a martial art. Plenty of happy, well adjusted people do so as a pastime. I’d hardly think that you’re a violence risk if you have a belt in some kind of combat sport or self-defense system.

      • Ted Heistman

        Not a real high percentage of self actualizing people at Labor Ready. I mean not putting them down, but its a place for people who are ex-cons, like to drink, can’t read, things like that. I had a lot of fun with a lot of these guys. though.
        (when I say like to drink I mean…Gin…at 8 am)

    • Calypso_1

      They are not. They are selecting against those hard cases who would choose to answer the question on a labor screening questionnaire.

      Having said skills ≠ a need or proclivity to ‘rate’ them.

    • DeepCough

      To answer “yes,” to any or all of these inquiries would actually determine what kind of government position for which a person could apply.

  • txtist

    those who choose to be serfs should realize they are selling themselves short

    • The Well Dressed Man

      How many laborers are getting a fair wage for the hours of their lives?

      • InfvoCuernos

        “Trade in your hour for a handful of dimes.”

        • The Well Dressed Man

          Gonna make it baby in our prime

  • The Well Dressed Man

    I don’t know karate, but I know cuh-rayzee… UH!

  • jnana