Capital asks no questions about the length of life of labour-power. What interests it is purely and simply the maximum of labour-power that can be set in motion in a working day. It attains this objective by shortening the life of labour-power, in the same way as a greedy farmer snatches more produce from the soil by robbing it of its fertility.

By extending the working day, therefore, capitalist production, which is essentially the production of surplus-value, the absorption of surplus labour, not only produces a deterioration of human labour-power by robbing it of its normal moral and physical conditions of development and activity, but also produces the premature exhaustion and death of this labour-power itself.
—  Karl Marx, Capital (1867)
Tools

by Saṃsāran

Men have always loved tools. Now, I grew up on a ranch with a father that could make or fix anything. He taught me how to use tools as a little boy. I love tools to this day. The odd thing is that I actually hate manual labor. I guess it is because I was forced into doing so much of it growing up. It is gratifying to me to have the means to have a professional fix my car or install a water heater. Oh, I can do it. I just choose not to. 

In ancient times tools were sacred. Tools and weapons were the province of men and in many cultures any tool touched by a woman was considered impure and discarded. Now, this certainly seems backward but, I must admit to understanding it. Every time my wife or daughter use my tools they wind up lost, broken, dulled or rusty. Perhaps this is a strategy to get me to fix things. If so it works very well. I used the same strategy to get out of washing clothes or dishes. I just do them wrong. Very wrong. 

One time we were out of laundry soap. I needed to wash some new Levis and Leigh was out of town visiting her mom. So, I figured why not use dishwasher detergent? After all all detergents work the same from the standpoint of chemistry. I came downstairs to see two feet of suds on the laundry room floor. Literally almost waist high. The Levi’s got clean and so did the laundry room floor. As for dishes it is easy. Leigh has a certain way of loading a dishwasher. It makes her crazy if you do it any differently. So, I always do it my way. Finally I was released from that chore.

Hmm. I digressed. This started off as an anthropological survey of tool use and turned into “how Sam gets out of housework”.

It’s National Register to Vote Day! To assist in the get out the vote effort, we’re sharing this World War II-era poster created by the Railway Labor Executives Association, a railway labor union lobbying group which represented labor unions in several disputes during World War II.

This poster is 2013.238, in Hagley’s Audiovisual Archives.

Black Male Sanitation Worker Sentenced to 30 Days in Jail For Reporting to Work Early, Annoying Residents in Predominately “White” Town

This past Friday, a black male sanitation worker was jailed for 30 days because residents of Sandy Springs, Georgia called 9-1-1 when they heard garbage pickup before 7 am, a violation of a city ordinance. The father of two pled guilty without an attorney present but is now, along with a new attorney, seeking to withdraw the original guilty plea. The attempted husband and father of two will be allowed to serve time on the weekend so he can continue to work.

Oftentimes, the so-called mainstream media attempts to obscure the systemic maltreatment of people who are classified as black to maintain the false image of “equal treatment under the law”. The New York Times and The Daily Mail, deceitfully emphasized two well-known black celebrities who live in the area, however according to city-data.com, black people represent a mere 18% of the population. Over 60% of the people are residents who classify themselves as “white”. This predominately “white” demographic is significant since there is a system of Racism (White Supremacy) in place that criminalizes black bodies while selectively enforcing laws.  As such, the White Supremacist enforcement of this city ordinance, which led to the greater confinement of a Victim of Racism for such a trivial affair, should come as no surprise.

Luxury and the consumption of labor.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

I came across this fascinating poster advertising tea at The Coffee Bean in Irvine, CA. The ad features tea leaves balled up into small tea “pearls” and spilled into a person’s palm. It reads:

Three minutes to fragrant perfection.

It takes a full day to hand-roll 17 ounces of our Jasmine Dragon Pearl Green Tea.  But in just three minutes you can watch these aromatic pearls unfurl gracefully into one of the world’s most soothing and delicious teas.

This ad suggests that others’ toil should enhance one’s experience of pleasure.  The fact that it takes a significant amount of human labor to “hand-roll” tea leaves into balls — an action that is in no way asserted to change the taste of the tea — is supposed to make the tea moreappealing and not less.  We are supposed to enjoy not just the visual, but the fact that others worked hard to produce it for us.  A whole day of their labor for just three minutes of curly goodness.

This is a rather stunning value pervading U.S. culture.  Luxury may be defined not only as pleasure, or as the consumption of the scarce, but as the “unfurling” of others’ hard work.  What could be more luxurious than the casual-and-fleeting enjoyment of the hard-and-long labor of others?

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

I’m honestly really uncomfortable with all the pressure put on service industry workers by people in queer circles to use gender neutral language when interfacing with customers. Like, using gendered terms of respect (sir, ma'am, etc.) is a part of our job; we’re expected to use language that indicates our class position, and gendered terms of respect (including their plurals, ladies, gentleman, etc.) is part of how it is expected that we do that. If we don’t do that, we come across as rude, we don’t receive as many tips, we risk losing a customer interaction, in which the customer has all the power over us economically, not only by not tipping, but by bringing complaints to our managers and undermining our job security. This is the shit people don’t get about working in service. I can’t just walk into your desk job (provided it’s not a service desk job such as customer service, etc.) and start complaining to your boss about your performance and get you fired. And you’re not expected to treat every asshat who walks in with absolute servility and deference.

Yes, getting misgendered sucks, but the reason this is even an issue, the reason that service industry workers are such a visible target of anti-misgendering activism, is because people feel entitled to demand anything from us no matter what, because that’s how the customer-server dynamic works. I’m not saying that you EVER don’t have the right to demand to be gendered properly. I’m not talking about individual efforts to get your gender respected. I’m talking about these campaigns of card handouts explaining gender theory to baristas, I’m talking about these posts going around on the internet loudly telling services workers they need to educate themselves, and lamenting the fact that everyone at McDonalds and Starbucks hasn’t gone through college level safe space training programs…

Like, I’m one of those college-educated safe space training program coordinators. I’m also a trans woman. And I myself have been witness to the coercive nature of gender dynamics in the workplace in all sorts of ways. YES there are workarounds, yes they are substitutes, but they’re often awkward, hard to get used to, hard to implement, and often are received poorly by our customers. It’s a lot of fucking work to do all that, to be constantly thinking about that ON TOP OF all the other shit we have to think about when interacting with customers (do you know just how difficult it is to memorize an entire menu? Especially for someone with multiple learning disabilities such as myself)?

I once got lectured in my store by an English professor from a very prestigious DC university because I called them “sir”. They told me they’re trying to be a professor outside the classroom (where they teach queer lit theory) as well, and teach service workers the proper way to address strangers when they don’t know their pronouns. They told me, “it’s important to ask people their pronouns and not assume! For example, I go by ‘they’, and you go buy…” I responded, I go by 'she’. They smiled in the most condescending way (this whole lecture was condescending as fuck) and told me, “See?” Like, wow, not only are you condescending and telling me shit that I’ve literally been trained to educate people about, you’re also actively distancing me from my womanhood now by basically saying “See? No one could have ever guessed that you go by she! You don’t look anything like a she!” Fuck off.

As a trans woman in the service industry, I PROMISE you I get misgendered by my customers a THOUSAND times more than I ever misgender them. Being misgendered by a trans person isn’t any less shitty, but it IS less shitty than being misgendered all. fucking. day. Like, believe me, I do my absolute and 100% best to avoid misgendering my customers. I really do. But here’s the bottom line: The reason people feel so entitled to these campaigns criticizing service workers, the reasons you feel entitled to demand this respect from us (which is respect that is yours to demand, in any situation, of course) more readily than you are of say, your doctor, or your neighbors, is because of the nature of service work. It’s because you see yourself as our boss-by-proxy.

I see more posts going around about the need to educate service workers than I do about the need to educate doctors about trans issues. And that’s fucked up, weird, and it says something about people’s expectations from others based on class position and profession.

You’d have to work fewer than 10 hours a week to be as productive as a 40-hour worker in 1950. The number of weekly hours needed for workers to equal a 1950s level of output has consistently declined by at least half an hour per year ever since - so even if you work 23 hours a week, you’re still more productive than you would have been in 1975. Source

4

Huff Post asks author of book about unpaid labor to perform unpaid labor

When U.K. author and columnist James Bloodworth sent out a press release for his new book, The Myth of Meritocracy: Why Working-Class Kids Still Get Working Class Jobs, he was happy to hear back from the Huffington Post, whose editors asked him to write something for the site.

But when Bloodworth’s publicist followed up with the Huffington Post about pay, they were told there would be none. Bloodworth then took to Twitter to air his frustration, and within 24 hours, his tweets went viral.

Housework is not work. Sex work is not work. Emotional work is not work. Why? Because they don’t take effort? No, because women are supposed to provide them uncompensated, out of the goodness of our hearts.
—  Jess Zimmerman, “Where’s My Cut?”: On Unpaid Emotional Labor, TheToast.com, July 13, 2015
vine

Perhaps
you’re waiting for me
to tell you
that your mother 
did not endure
23 hours of labor
for you to burn yourself
to the ground,

but I will not.

Just let me remind you

you do not owe
anyone 
anything.

Save yourself
and do this for yourself.

—  Michelle K., Incase You Needed a Reminder.

1) Low pay

In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported average wages of $10.29 per hour for retail workers. This above federal minimum wage but still below the minimum wages in some areas, like Seattle and San Francisco, both of which have approved $15 minimum wages; San Francisco is gradually escalating until it reaches $15 in 2018. However, this falls far below the so-called “living wage,” the amount of money workers need to survive comfortably in a given region.

2) Part-time scheduling

The abuse of part-time employment and scheduling practices is a perennial problem in the retail industry. Hiring multiple part-time employees tends to be less costly than hiring full-timers, especially if a company offers benefits; keeping hours just below the part-time limit ensures that an employee isn’t entitled to health care subsidies, sick days, and other benefits options. In regions where municipalities haven’t moved to aggressively promote employee benefits—San Francisco’s mandatory health care for employees is an example—retail employees are often forced to spread themselves thin across several workplaces to make ends meet.

3) Anti-organizing practices

Many major corporations are involved in union suppression and anti-organizing practices, such as misleading employees about what can happen under unionization and intimidating organizers. Walmart is one major offender, and the company is in the news not just because of the Alameda County suit, but because during the years Hillary Clinton sat on Walmart’s board, she said little on the subject of its anti-union activities. Instead, she watched the company suppress labor organizing. That could become a contentious issue in the election, as Democrats have historically relied on union support.

4) Wage theft

In Walmart’s case, the firm is avoid paying part-time workers by shifting additional work onto assistant managers, thus depriving part-timers of pay. Because these workers are paid on a salaried and not hourly basis, they accrue overtime without receiving overtime wages, representing a significant savings to the corporation. This is just one among many tactics used to squeeze unpaid hours out of workers, and as Steven Greenhouse reports at the New York Times, workers are fighting back. Critically, he noted, regulatory agencies “assert that more companies are violating wage laws than ever before, pointing to the record number of enforcement actions they have pursued.”

5) Unpredictable scheduling

In addition to putting workers in an awkward position with part-time scheduling, companies also create an even more troubling dynamic in the workplace by making schedules highly unstable. They’re often issued week by week without notice, and employees may find that they don’t work a steady, predictable schedule from week to week—which makes planning ahead very difficult. Sometimes changes are made even after a schedule is issued, and employees are required to accommodate them or take unpaid days off if they need to attend doctor’s appointments or meet other obligations.

6) Racism and sexual harassment

Cases of racism, sexual harassment, transphobia, religious discrimination, and more regularly crop up in the news. In 2013, Target was called out for a racist training document that made disparaging comments about “Mexicans” and “Cubans.” Samantha Elauf made headlines for being one of many employees or applicants to Abercrombie & Fitch who was rejected on the basis of not fitting in with the company’s “look”—in her case, because she was a hijabi and she refused to remove her scarf for work.

7) Little to no benefits

Many retail firms don’t offer benefits at all, even to full-time employees, unless they are required to do so. Employees may not be eligible for health care, paid sick days, vacation time, and other benefits; consequently, many feel under pressure to work every day because they can’t afford to take time off and they don’t want to be fired for needing to be out of the workplace.

Read the full article.