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What Studs Terkel's 'Working' Says About Worker Malaise Today

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Snellius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-31-04 07:03 AM
Original message
What Studs Terkel's 'Working' Says About Worker Malaise Today
Babe Secoli, a supermarket checker for nearly 30 years, is proud of her dexterity in moving items along the conveyor belt. If asked, she will do a little dance, showing how she hits the keys on the cash register with one hand, pushes the food along with the other and intermittently whacks the conveyor-belt button with her hip. She knows what everything costs the price list on the register is, she says, only "for the part-time girls." Almost everything amuses her, especially the rich ladies who drop in to shoplift meat. "I'm a couple of days away," she says, "I'm very lonesome for this place."
...
The 1970's were a slower age, and much of the workers' pleasure in their jobs is related to the less-demanding time clock. A hospital billing agent can take time off from dunning patients to look in on a man whose leg was amputated, who has no one to care for him. "If he's going to live in a third-floor flat and he doesn't have anybody home, this bothers me," she says. A stewardess says she is supposed to spend a half-hour on a Boston to Los Angeles flight socializing with passengers.

Three decades later, we are caught up in what a recent book dubbed "The New Ruthless Economy." High tech and new management styles put workers on what the author Simon Head calls "digital assembly lines" with little room for creativity or independent thought. As much as 4 percent of the work force is now employed in call centers, reading canned scripts and being supervised with methods known as "management by stress." Doctors defer to managed-care administrators and practice speed medicine: in 1997, they spent an average of eight minutes talking to a patient, less than half the time they spent a decade earlier.

It is much the same in other fields. There have been substantial productivity gains. But those gains have not found their way to paychecks. In a recent two-and-a-half-year period, corporate profits surged 87 percent, while wages rose just 4.5 percent. Not surprisingly, a study last fall by the Conference Board found that less than 49 percent of workers were satisfied with their jobs, down from 59 percent in 1995.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/31/opinion/31MON3.html
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rfkrocks Donating Member (846 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-31-04 07:22 AM
Response to Original message
1. Short term Profit -short term morals
This is the great GOP economy that saps creativity and independence from the great american worker-its all about the damm stock prices and not about the quality-what a great post and how it speaks to our country and the absolute wrong direction we are going in-there was a post a few days ago about how the Pope said America is souless-well instead of branding pro-choice Catholics as not worthy of Communion and banning gays from the communion rail he should take a look at the corporate life of this country and how it uses the poor worker up-this country is suffering from the GOP political "black death"-can November come any sooner?
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-31-04 07:29 AM
Response to Original message
2. Gee, what a surprise
I can speak to what's happened in medicine. If you've been a hospital patient recently and felt like you were dumped into a bed and put on an assembly line, that's just about what's going on. Staffing has been cut to dangerous levels. Nobody's got time to schmooze, to sit and find out what's bugging you. It's get that physical exam done, write that note, and start pushing pills, and hope nobody decides to go sour and throw the schedule off, because there are only enough people to cover a routine shift with no surprises. This sort of thing might work in a discount department store, but it can be deadly in medicine. Literally.

We're stuck with an ingrained management philosophy that people who do the actual work are the enemy, looking for any opportunity at all to slack off and rob the company of precious minutes and cost them profits. Many at the top call people who work for a living "useless eaters." One wonders what they'd do without all the useless eaters who support every facet of their overpaid, overprivileged lives.

This system can't continue for any number of reasons. The mistreatment of the many by the few is only one of them. Since any attempt at unionization is fought tooth and nail to the tune of millions of dollars, I think we'll see personal acts of vengeance instead, an increase of monkeywrenching cases.
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KoKo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-31-04 10:16 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. Making "People fit the System...Instead of the System fitting the People."
I was just talking about this with a friend the other day, about how many changes we've seen since the late 80's in how "customers" are treated everywhere. And by customers, I mean those of us who are patients in this assembly line medicince where one is treated like "clinic" patients used to be treated where even with insurance or money in your pocket, you wait hours and see someone who doesn't spend more than a couple of minutes with you. Hospitals are dreadful with over-worked staff and very few volunteers like the "candy stripers" (nurses in training) and the volunteer older women who would stop by and bring you magazines or fluff your pillows and water your flowers asking if you needed anything. People are too busy to bother and "nurses in training" don't wear those cute little uniforms that made them "special." Even the professional staff show up in outfits with bunnies and happy things printed which look like little kid's pajamas.

Our stores are filled with bored checkers, folks trying to earn a living but have to pass the customer through faster and faster. Many stores have new immigrants checking out who can't really understand what you are saying.

The "casualness" of our society where someone coming to repair an appliance or handle a home repair job, doesn't bother to introduce themself and never addresses you by any name whether Mr. or Ms. or Joe or Sally....they just don't acknowledge you and don't want you to acknowledge them.

Alot of "professionalism" has been ripped out of workplace. Taken over by the swaggering folks who think their money and power is more important than the "jobs" of others.

I could go on with my observations....but my friend and I agreed, that
America is not a nice place to live these days, and there aren't any places we've found where this "culture of systems" hasn't pervaded everything in it's final onslaught particularly since Bush usurped the Presidency, but it started earlier..about when Studs noticed it. :-(
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-31-04 10:31 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. Candy stripers are high school kids who are volunteering
..NOT nurses in training. They are also disappearing, as kids would far rather work less hard at a less potentially disgusting job in fast food or retail and get paid for it.

If you ever run into these kids, thank them profusely. They're passing up money in favor of pure altruism, and that is an uncommon thing to do.

The hospital scrubs with the bunnies and kitties are worn because juvenile patterns are favored by companies that produce hospital scrubs, not for any preference of the wearer. The days of starched white dresses are OVER. Nurses are stretched too thin and have to work far too hard to wear anything but scrubs.
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put out Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-31-04 04:07 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. I thank you for pointing this out.
Nursing students are not volunteers. They are paying dearly for the privilege of caring for patients. They are under the same constraints of time, dealing with the same lack of personnel, trying to meet the same unrealistic expectations, as licensed staff.

Nurses today need to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound every shift they work. Yes they wear scrubs, and the scrubs ought to have big frowny faces on them.

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ThoughtCriminal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-31-04 03:49 PM
Response to Original message
5. I plan to quit next month
Self-employment seems to be the most practical escape from this idiot management philosophy. The income drop will be huge, and finding adequate health insurance difficult if not impossible, but life is too short to put up with 50-60 work weeks and get little or no respect or appreciation.

This is probably one of the un-spoken reasons why corporate conservatives oppose national health insurance. If our health care did not depend on our employment and if the rates weren't stacked against small business and individuals, I think a huge portion of the work force would leave.

One way of looking at health care is that being overworked is probably worse than losing the health insurance.
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bobbieinok Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-31-04 06:53 PM
Response to Original message
7. add teachers k-12 and university professors (most)
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KoKo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-31-04 09:09 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. This "Editorial" is really "onto" something. Wonder how long before folks
wake up to how crass and selfish our society has become here in America.

My husband is working with clients in France and Germany. They come here and ask not to be taken to "Mickey Mouse" Restaurants. This was at a convention in Florida...but "Mickey Mouse" could apply to our whole society.

Do you really want to take "foreignors" to the "Chick-Fil-A" or "Texas Steak House?" It's not like this is "special" is it? And, even though we have great "Steak Houses" that are more upscale, it seems these folks only get taken to "Steak Houses" when they come to America.

Why don't we offer better? More diversity?

What about the "diner down the street" who used to serve really good food...maybe not fancy but "REAL." This is what these clients were asking for. They weren't "snobs" looking for meals like at Le Cerq in NYC (if it still exists) they just wanted REAL FOOD and REAL PEOPLE serving it. Micky D's and Red Lobster...just are sort of "Micky Mouse."

:shrug:

Where is AMERICA? Walmartization? Every place looks the same with "strip malls" and "franchises." It wasn't always this way. :-(
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