Rant ahead

Most folks who’ve interacted with me for any length of time on the internet probably know I’m a small business owner, making jewelry and parasols.  IRL,that’s just my side job, and my “real” (full-time) job is working in the food manufacturing industry.  And that’s part of the reason why I’m so much of a proponent for raising the minimum wage, because I see the work that the folks who actually make the food do, versus the work that the upper management does.  (And I feel like I should put the word work in quotes too, because upper management’s work day usually involves answering emails and talking on the phone while sitting in expensive office chairs.)  I’ve worked mainly with family-owned independent firms and small corporations over the last 12 years, and here’s what I’ve seen:

For starters, the majority of the folks out there on the production floor at the companies I’ve worked with, the ones actually doing the work, are minorities.  If they’re “white” in appearance, they’re usually from a former SSR or a country in Eastern Europe.  English is not their first language.  Folks who are making the product are slinging around 50-pound bags of raw ingredients all day long.  One fellow will spend an entire shift just dumping bottles or jars out of boxes onto a conveyor belt.  They freeze in the wintertime and bake in the summertime, unless they’re making one of those “all-natural” products in the refrigerated deli section, in which case they work in a production environment that’s around 40F for the whole day, or work in a bakery, which means they sweat in the wintertime and broil in the summertime.  If they get a national holiday off it means they’re busting their butts for the days before and after to make up for lost production time.  They’ve probably got to be to work at their regular time the days after Christmas and New Year’s too, and probably worked late on the night before Thanksgiving.  (I know this for a fact, yes.  I got stuck at work until 2:30am Thanksgiving morning one year when some machinery broke down.)

Next, you’ll have the supervisors.  Some of these may be line workers that have moved up, but a good portion of them will be white males who may have put in a few months on a production floor in their late teens or early twenties.  After the supervisors will come the managers, and most of these are also white males, with maybe a white female or two thrown in, and then the corporate folks.  And guess what their ethnicity is?

Now at a company I used to work for, the folks on the floor were getting a few quarters over minimum wage.  The folks in more skilled positions, like machine operators and those that made the product, were making a few dollars over minimum wage.  The supervisors were making between $25K-$40K.   Middle management ran between $60-80K, upper management was ~$100-175K, and the CEO was making $675K, including salary, bonuses and stock options.  (It was a publicly traded company, so we could look this upper management shit up.) 

So at this company, let’s compare one of the higher paid, skilled floor workers to our CEO.  This guy showed up around 4:30 in the morning and spent the entire day working hard manual labor.  He got two paid fifteen minutes breaks and had to clock out for lunch.  He may’ve gotten time and a half whenever there was any overtime.  He was getting paid pretty well for the job, at $10/hour.  This was in 2006, so at the time that was almost double the Federal minimum wage!  Wow!  He also got three sick days and five vacation days a year.  But without overtime, that put his base wage at $20,800/year, before taxes.  Compare that to the CEO’s salary, who didn’t have to worry about that sick time thing, because he was salary, and got 3 weeks vacation a year too.  That meant the guy actually doing the work, without whom there would be no product to sell, was making only 3% of what the old white guy who showed up at 9am in his Lexus and sat at a desk all day was making.  (And remember, we’re just talking about a smaller business I’ve worked with here, not the huge corporations.   The differential there is even more sickening.)  (And you want to get even sadder? I know there are plenty of folks out there that would love to actually make a whole $20K a year.)

I’m sure there are some of you reading this who are thinking “Well, they should go out and get better jobs, then!”  Well, I’m sure they’d like that too.  But in the meantime, I’m sure they’d also like it if they got paid a fair wage for the work they do in putting the food in the grocery stores at which you shop.  I’m sure they’d love it if we hadn’t created a demand for this labor pool, with our love of cheap ready to eat foods that we can just pluck off a shelf and put into our mouth, with maybe a pass through a warm oven or microwave.  But since they don’t get paid enough to support themselves and their families, let alone get ahead, they’re pretty much stuck. (There are some exceptions, and they usually involve unions.)  Small business may buck the curve, but a lot of these get bought by larger corporations and over time they’ll weed out the folks who actually make living wages and replace them with cheaper employees.

But anyways, the tl:dr version? The people who make the shit we eat get paid dirt.  And that needs to change. 

How do averages and bra sizes play out?

a.k.a. “The average bra size is X so every company should automatically make this size/debut with this size/purchase more of this size!”

Bra sizes are not sensible. Your cup size depends on your back size, so the same volume cup has a different label depending on what back size it’s stuck on. Under these circumstances, how is anyone claiming to make an average? Do they add up all the back sizes and then divide them, then do the same to the cup sizes? Cup sizes aren’t even a number, so how does that work? Also, that ignores the fact that they are related. Perhaps they average out the underbust and overbust measurements of women, and then work it out from them, but with half the UK using  the +4 method and the other half using the +0 method, which are they using to do a theoretical average from? ARGH!

So let’s ignore all of that. Let’s imagine I hid in under the sofa, and let’s imagine “the average bra size is 36DD” or whatever else you’ve heard.

Again, just because it’s the average doesn’t mean it’s the most commonly worn size. And it doesn’t mean it’s the size bought most often by your customer base. To make the most money, you want to find two things: 1) a range of sizes the factory is happy to make and 2) the range of sizes you can sell at full price the easiest.

Even if your customer base is large, it might not make sense to cater to all of it. For example, if you have 4 customer groups, some core sized, some plus size, some petite, and some small back/full bust …which will you choose? Because doing ALL of them will cost you a bomb. You need 4 different patterns for each bra style you do, plus fittings and samples, plus you’d have to grade (and possibly make) all the sizes in between for the factories minimum amounts, even if actually you knew only 3 sizes would sell.

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You may not know the name Homer Laughlin, a china factory in Newell, W. Va., but you’ll likely recognize — or have eaten off of — its most famous product: brightly colored, informal pottery called Fiesta.

While most of America’s china factories have closed, unable to compete with “made in China” or Japan or Mexico, Homer Laughlin, which set up shop on the banks of the Ohio River in 1873, is still going strong. It employs about 1,000 people.

Linda Wertheimer takes us into the depths of the factory — which feels like a relic from a different time — to show us how Fiesta has kept this company going.

Photos/GIFs by Ross Mantle for NPR

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You haven’t experienced “BIG” until you are in a dry dock with a finished aircraft carrier. One year ago, Newport News Shipbuilding was getting ready to flood the dry dock where Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) was constructed. Here are eight previously unpublished photos of the ship right before the flooding of the dry dock on Oct. 11, 2013. [Photos by John Whalen and Chris Oxley]

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Several years ago, South Carolina had a problem: a shortage of skilled workers and no good way to train young people for the workforce. So at a time when apprenticeship programs were in decline in the U.S., the state started a program called Apprenticeship Carolina.

"We were really, really squarely well-positioned at the bottom," says Brad Neese, the program’s director.

From the beginning, South Carolina took apprenticeship beyond the building trades — that’s the traditional route for apprentices — to fields like nursing, pharmacy and IT. As the number of apprenticeship programs has fallen nationwide, it has taken off in South Carolina.

In South Carolina, A Program That Makes Apprenticeships Work

Photo credit: Mike Belleme for NPR

How to Make Rubber

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Vulcanization is the process by which natural rubber, tapped from trees, is transformed into a malleable product that is more durable and flexible. Vulcanization itself is named after the Roman fire god, Vulcan, which correctly suggests that the main bulk of this process heating. However, since heating the rubber itself is not sufficient, curatives and/or accelerators are needed to further change the chemical properties.

Natural rubber (isoprene) is not the best for molding products because its primary (linear) hydrocarbon structure gives the rubber limited mobility. Chances are, if you bend it the wrong way, it will break! We solve this problem by adding curatives like sulphur molecules, allowing the linear structures to bond together and form a much larger and flexible molecule. Specifically, cross-linking sulphur molecules creates disulphide bonds between the carbon molecules of two or more rubber structures in multiple areas, forming a tertiary structure: polyisoprene.

Another property gained through this process is the ability to stop the linear structures from moving independently, so that when the rubber changes shape, it can reverse back to its original shape.

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[Image source]

The one issue with this process is its speed. While heating the rubber does increase the surrounding energy so that the sulphur can bond, the heat added isn’t quite enough for this process to be fast. This is where accelerators come in. Example of accelerators include catalysts like zinc oxide or stearic acid. Remember, all reactions require a certain amount of energy to perform. By using a catalyst, the amount of energy needed is lowered, which means less energy is used for the same reaction. This makes the process more efficient as more bonds can be formed with the same amount of energy. Accelerators are able to change the chemical bonds of the rubber to speed up the process and make it more efficient without affecting the outcome.

Plastics undergo a similar process in order to produce all the different shapes imaginable. For example, thanks to this process, polyurethane can come in many forms, ranging from tennis grips to wheels, woodwork glue, or foam bedding. Because of its flexible properties, polyurethane paint is also widely popular. Both water and oil based, it is used for busy indoor environments such as kitchen tops and bookshelves. The plastic aspect allows for durable use and abrasion-resistant properties. However, polyurethane paint should not be used in places that will be exposed to the outside environment, because it is temperature-sensitive, especially if exposed for long periods of time.

Sources: 

https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Vulcanization.html

http://www.diynetwork.com/home-improvement/whats-the-difference-between-polyurethane-varnish-shellac-and-lacquer/index.html

By Asta M., Staff Writer

Edited by Peggy K. 

vimeo

the manufacturing and staging processes of the leica m9-p hermes edition camera as shown here are utterly hypnotic

FCKH8's clothes are made by American Apparel, A4 and Bella + Canvas

This information was in response to a direct inquiry about where their clothes are made:

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((We know it is impossible to only buy/consume products that don’t contribute to exploitative labor and poor working conditions (“ethical consumer”) etc somewhere along the line. This information is shared because it has been requested by followers and is not readily available elsewhere.))

American Apparel:

A4:

  • There are lots of ‘A4’ companies that deal in apparel, we’re not sure which one is associated with FCKH8.

Bella + Canvas:

  • Bella prides themselves on eco-friendly manufacturing, but we cringed to find their social responsibility page doesn’t state them as having any interest in making sure the people who makes their clothes are paid or treated fairly:

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