Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Grapes of workamping

The race to the bottom is over. The 1% won. American capitalism - the kind without a human face - looks more and more like the bastard spawn of neo-feudalism and indenture to the company store.

Workampers - some of them, anyhow - are the Okies of the Great Recession. Psst, only white people have RVs. Good demographic!

At least the workampers can go mobile. The locals are completely stuck between penury and abuse as temporary, disposable employees:

Industry consultants describe the temp-staffing business as "very, very busy." "On fire." Maximizing profits means making sure no employee has a slow day, means having only as many employees as are necessary to get the job done, the number of which can be determined and ordered from a huge pool of on-demand labor literally by the day. Often, temp workers have to call in before shifts to see if they'll get work. Sometimes,they're paid piece rate, according to the number of units they fill or unload or move. Always, they can be let go in an instant, and replaced just as quickly.
In another mind-numbing warehouse:
A few days later, I had breakfast with someone who coincidentally works with the CEOs of logistics companies. Telling him about the conditions and the sterility and the mind-numbing sadness of the warehouse made him almost too bummed to eat his oatmeal. "Somebody did studies and spreadsheets and crunched those numbers," he said, "and figured out that the cheapest way to get that job done is to treat people like that." Which is important, he explained, because "the profit margins on those contracts are razor thin." Of course. A lot of the Internet retailers' merchandise is nearly worthless—ice princess star-shaped ice cube trays, cheap sunglasses, anthropomorphic stuffed bacon toys—and is sold for nearly nothing, often with free or reduced-price shipping.
Susie told me it's pretty dispiriting to act as though her workers are as disposable as the products they're shipping. But that's just the way it is, she said. The logistics clients aren't interested in spending money on a better or more sustainable work culture. Nor do they need to. There are 100 people employed in the warehouse I visited, and Susie could fire every one of them today without costing her bosses a dime of lost profits. She has applications from hundreds of people ready to take the job.
And the logistics companies call their abusive work rules their culture.

All I can say is that Americans are heavily armed, and woe be to those who are inflicting this "culture" on us when we finally figure out that it's not the liberals who are to blame for every ill the wealthy are inflicting on us.

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