“If your boss says, ‘I want you to come in the next two Saturdays,’ what are you going to say—no?”

That quote is from a Mother Jones article on how American workers have been squeezed by the recession into working longer hours, for less relative compensation, than before.

Meanwhile, the NYTimes tells us that

Americans now feel worse about their jobs — and work environments — than ever before. People of all ages, and across income levels, are unhappy with their supervisors, apathetic about their organizations and detached from what they do. And there’s no reason to think things will soon improve.

This sort of shit just utterly breaks my heart. The American ethos of personal responsibility tells you over and over that you have to meet every requirement asked of you, no matter how unreasonable.

The worst thing about this ethos is that it obscures the structural components of your relationship to your employer. If you work 60-70 hours every week, your manager has failed. It’s not that you can’t meet the requirements of your job, it’s that your job has been mis-allocated to one person instead of two. Everything about the American working environment is designed to make you forget this, but it’s true.

This is an inevitable consequence of building an economy on the backs of employees that are terrified of losing their jobs. You’ll lose your healthcare if you lose your job. You know this, and so does your boss. And so does his boss. And so on.

Just like providing worker housing allowed factories in the late 1800s to push their workers ever harder, the American system of employer-provided healthcare and meager unemployment benefits allows employers to squeeze you as hard as they can: You, the employee, are easily replaced. We, the employer, aren’t.  

It might not be as stark as child labour or forced labour, but it’s exploitation just the same. I hope that in the near future American workers start seeing it as such.

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