Tag Archives | Work

The Myth of the Lazy Youth

As we have seen time and time again, one of the challenges of modern myths is their relative invisibility. It is the outsiders of any age, those who are alien to their own times, that make the best artist shamans, and the same goes for mythic explorers. If you are too close to a culture, you will very frequently mistake the truisms of culture, the myths, as a fact. This is true with “human nature” (as we have seen), and it is also true with our myths of labor and work.

Let’s consider the example presented when one generation judges another,

“Twenge and Kasser analyzed data from the Monitoring the Future survey, which has tracked the views of a representative sample of 17- and 18-year-old Americans since 1976. They compared the answers to key questions given by high school seniors in 2005-2007 to those provided by previous generations.

To measure materialism, the youngsters were asked to rate on a one-to-four (“not important” to “extremely important”) scale how vital they felt it was to own certain expensive items: “a new car every two to three years,” “a house of my own (instead of an apartment or condominium),” “a vacation house,” and “a motor-powered recreational vehicle.” They were also asked straightforwardly how important they felt it was to “have a lot of money.”

To measure their attitudes toward work, the seniors rated on a one-to-five scale the extent to which they agreed with a series of statements, including “I expect my work to be a very central part of my life,” and “I want to do my best in my job, even if this sometimes means working overtime.”

The researchers found a couple of disturbing trends.

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Jobs Kill 150 Americans Per Day

800px-Favres_TodVia the Huffington Post:

More than 100 people in the United States die every day as a result of their work, according to a new report from the AFL-CIO.

The union found that about 4,693 workers were killed on the job in 2011, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 50,000 workers per year die from work-related diseases. Combine those numbers and you get about 150 work-related deaths per day, the AFL-CIO report found.

To put that number in comparative terms: Americans are 271 times more likely to die from a workplace accident than from a terrorist attack, according to an op-ed last month from Mike Elk, a labor reporter for In These Times.

The recent industrial disasters in West, Texas, and across the globe in Bangladesh have brought the issue of workplace safety into sharp focus. The fertilizer plant explosion in Texas killed 15 and injured hundreds, while the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh last month claimed the lives of more than 700.

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Smile, Work and Die

Pic: Todd Huffman (CC)

Pic: Todd Huffman (CC)

Via Truthdig:

The 300-plus people killed in the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh this week were not lost to an accident, but are among the many unnecessary victims of predatory, globalized capitalism, argues Vijay Prashad, a professor of South Asian history and the director of international studies at Trinity College in Connecticut.

Prashad informs the moment with an excerpt taken from Karl Marx’s “Capital,” the title referring to the component of the capitalist economy that pushes for maximum industrial output with no consideration for the laborer except that which is required to keep him or her alive and working:

[I]n its blind unrestrainable passion, its wear-wolf [sic] hunger for surplus labour, capital oversteps not only the moral, but even the merely physical maximum bounds of the working-day. It usurps the time for growth, development and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight….

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Supermarket Giant Uses Wristband Trackers To Monitor Employees’ Every Move

If other corporations follow the example of British mega-chain Tesco, the future of working retail will become increasingly similar to being imprisoned. Via Technoccult:

The former Tesco employee said the device provided an order to collect from the warehouse and a set amount of time to complete it. If workers met that target, they were awarded a 100 per cent score, but that would rise to 200 per cent if they worked twice as quickly. The score would fall if they did not meet the target.

If, however, workers did not log a break when they went to the toilet, the score would be “surprisingly lower”, according to the former staff member, who worked in an Irish branch of Tesco. He said the devices put staff under huge pressure and many of his colleagues using them in Ireland were eastern Europeans, with limited English. Tesco confirmed that the devices were also in use across its UK stores.

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Amazon Uses Neo-Nazi Guards To Control Immigrant Workers In Its German Warehouses

Has fascism been privatized? The Independent writes:

Amazon is at the center of a deepening scandal in Germany as the online shopping giant faced claims that it employed security guards with neo-Nazi connections to intimidate its foreign workers.

Germany’s ARD television channel made the allegations about Amazon’s treatment of more than 5,000 temporary staff from across Europe working at its German packing and distribution centers. ARD’s film showed omnipresent guards from a company named HESS Security wearing black uniforms and boots with military haircuts. They were employed to keep order at hostels and budget hotels where foreign workers stayed. “Many of the workers are afraid,” the program-makers said.

ARD said Amazon’s temporary staff worked eight-hour shifts packing goods at the company’s logistics centers in Bad Hersfeld, Konstanz and Augsburg. Many walked up to 17 kilometers per shift and all those taken on could be fired at will. On arrival in Germany, most were told their pay had been cut to below the rate promised when they applied for jobs at Amazon.

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Workers Spend 60 to 80 Percent Of Work Time ‘Cyberloafing’

FEMA - 32323 - FEMA photographer Mark Wolfe working at a computer in Findlay, OH JFO“They” are on to you, disinfonauts … via Newswise:

Businesses must deal with weary-eyed office workers who are sitting behind computer screens and watching cat videos, shopping online and updating their Facebook statuses.

A Kansas State University researcher studied cyberloafing — wasting time at work on the Internet — and the effects of Internet use policies and punishment on reducing cyberloafing.

Joseph Ugrin, assistant professor of accounting at Kansas State University, and John Pearson, associate professor of management at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, found that company policies are not enough to stop workers from wasting time at work and that sanctions with policies must be consistently enforced for policies to be effective.

The study will be published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Cyberloafing results in lost productivity and could put companies in legal trouble when workers conduct illegal activity or unacceptable behavior like viewing pornography on work computers.

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What Would A World Without Work Be Like?

What comes next? Via the Guardian, Nina Power argues that work is becoming obsolete:

As with all major institutional entities – law, prison, education – to question work is to tamper with reality itself. As with law, prison and education, it is almost always “never a good time” to talk about reform, or the abolition of existing structures.

But as wages bear less and less relation to the cost of living, it seems as good a time as any to ask if the underlying fantasy is that employers will one day be able to pay their workers nothing at all, because all those issues like housing, food, clothing, childcare will somehow be dealt with in another, mysterious, way.

Against the backdrop of rising inflation, increasing job insecurity, geographically asymmetrical unemployment, attacks on the working and non-working populations, and cuts to benefits – a debate about what work is and what it means has been taking place.

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Corporate Workfare Arrives In British Classrooms

Red Pepper explains the United Kingdom’s new “studio schools,” under which teenagers spend half their day performing menial jobs for corporate sponsors for little or no pay, with the (accurate) purpose being to prepare them for the real world:

Launched quietly in 2010, studio schools allow private businesses to run state education for 14 to 19-year-olds with learning ‘on the job’ and not in the classroom.

Almost any business can set up a studio school by paying a voluntary subscription of just £8,000 to the government. In return, the government builds and maintains a school, but the power to run the school remains firmly in the hands of private sponsors. National Express, GlaxoSmithKline, Sony, Ikea, Disney, Michelin, Virgin Media and Hilton Hotels are just some of the corporate players who have bought into the scheme.

Predictably, these sponsor firms only pay the minimum wage – and that’s only for their over-16 students.

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Are We Headed Toward An Economy Based Around Serving Rich People?

Via Alternet, Sam Pizzigati ponders the jobs of the future, with masses clamoring for the opportunity to cater to the rich:

We’re well on the way to becoming a full-fledged “servant economy.” Most Americans no longer make things. They provide services.

Young people can become engineers and programmers and spend their careers in pitiless competition with people all over the world just as smart and trained but willing to work for much less. Or they can join the servant economy and “service those few at the top who have successfully joined the global elite.”

In this new “servant economy,” we’re not talking just nannies and chauffeurs. We’re talking, as journalist Camilla Long notes, “pilots, publicists, art dealers, and bodyguards” — a “newer, brighter phalanx of personal helpers.”

Want to see the world? In the new servant economy, you can become a “jewelry curator” and voyage to foreign lands to pick up gems for wealthy clients.

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