Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Martin Luther King jr. day Part III

I worked at a temp agency for 3 months, because I was curious about the nature of temporary work, and interested in doing an industrial job. The two jobs I had were both related to the pharmacuetical industry. They each aptly demonstrated how much of a leech these companies are upon world society, given that their aim is no alleviating humans, but profiting off of them.

The labor conditions of temporary work are atrocious. The wages were 2/3rds what full time employees were making at the same job. The jobs include no benefits, except possibly days off, which usually leads to losing the job anyway. The only hope at most of the jobs is that eventually you get hired full time, and get out of the horrible rut of temporary work. I met people who have been stuck in that rut for years, constantly getting dimissed and shuffled around. Dismissal is a one-sided affair, with management contacting the temp agency, and workers left to guess what might have happened to the person they'd only known for a week. Some assignments only last a day! To go day to day, with no security, and only hope of pulling in $60 for 8 hours work if you do get an assignment... undoubtably this puts an immense strain on the victim.

Temp employees were used in a divide and conquer fashion, as they threaten to take any existing positions if someone is declared unfit. More importantly, they represent a new lowering of labor conditions, and a fantastic workforce for any management that somehow doesn't need skilled labor. What boss could complain when he has an unorganized workforce, making low wage, without benefits, and dismissable at a whim?

Temporary labor represents another facet of the continuing erosion of living standards for the worldwide working class. In reference to MLK day, intense struggles were still being waged for labor conditions in his time. Worker's were gaining garuanteed pensions, health care, and other benefits. That these are all now being obliterated is a testament to the futility of such struggles within the outmoded capitalist system, if not based on a larger perspective for social revolution.

Daily work! Daily Pay! That's a way to live a life!

While I was taking these last three photos, a man wondered over, and kindly greeted me and asked why I was photographing the temp agency. He said he gets jobs there, and hoped there wasn't a problem that would close the place down, and therefore eliminate his job. I said, no, I've just worked at such places, and I wanted to try and show what they are and represent. He did it much better:

“man, I’ve heard so many sad tales… you have no idea. Some people have been fired from there before for talking about the conditions. I’m just making sure the place ain’t closing down, I got a job there, and I’m trying to stay clean. I got layed of after ten years, 2 weeks before Christmas! I just came from an AA meeting, I’ve been clean for 6 months, I’m trying real hard. On New Years though, I was feeling really lonely, I went into a hotel room and drank, but that was just one time...after I lost that job I got kicked out for not paying the rent, and whatuya gonna do? The people need the rent too, they need money, that’s their job. i got nowhere to sleep, becuase Salvation Army won’t open the shelter cause it’s not below 35! So people just gotta tough it then! I knew I guy been all up and down the east coast and this is the worst place he knows for that. It's sad this is how things have to be... I was just making sure that wasn't nothing wrong with this place, I know the conditions are bad, but I need my job."

This is what he said to the best of my recollection, though I also talked to him about a few other things. He summed up the day, and also provided a link to 40 years ago when, according to the bourgeois press, racial and social equality was acheived. This man was certainly alive at that time, and now he's stuggling to survive, without a place to sleep, with a precarious job, and perhaps alone. Talking to him though, I was not left with a feeling of desperation, because he didn't seem to be either. Regardless of the protracted crisis he's suffering, he seemed as if he knew his own immense humanity was repeated in others.

Looking at this again, I am reminded of this recent post from Annotated Life: Living in such a precarious financial situation, both miners and this temp worker I met can't, at least yet, see it feasible to oppose the conditions they labor in. Meanwhile:

Just what's needed: more luxury apartments. To be fair, though, I truly doubt this is anything but an optimistic sign. Luxury apartments don't tend to fare well directly next to an abandoned storefront....


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