Saturday, September 08, 2012

The dignity of labor and the lack thereof

In spite of what the Mitt Romey’s of the world might like us to believe, simply providing work doesn’t necessarily make the providing entity a glorious benefactor to society. Context matters. Dignity matters.

After all, in our nation’s past, Southern plantation owners provided jobs ... with some rather harsh conditions. In the early 1900’s the sweat shops that worked children all day were not only paying those kids, something -- not much! -- they were making sure those little workers couldn’t get an education, to one day maybe get a better job.

Whenever a job is so time-consuming and low-paying that it literally traps the poverty stricken worker into a brutal treadmill life -- without hope of improvement -- then that job is also a powerful instrument of social control. For some of today’s industries to have a steady supply of the kind of cheap labor they want, it calls for them to make sure there is a permanent starving underclass.

That’s part of what some gigantic corporations are still up to. The largest mining industry and agribusiness corporations come to mind, right away. Dignity for their workers hurts the bottom line.

What could be more at odds with the American Dream than deliberately stifling social mobility, by starving families into accepting that treadmill life? Among other considerations, this recession we're experiencing is about keeping the cost of labor down.

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