Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 10:42:20 -0800 (PST)

Bill Kiesgen

Hey Al. All power to the people.

What really strikes me about the "McJob" trend is the downward economic spiral such a system virtually guarantees for all those who are trapped in it. Consider, for instance, the other main appeal of fast food: if you want food cooked for you (and who has time to do it yourself) it is markedly cheaper to eat crap than it is to eat something with some semblance of nutritional value. Wal-Mart, Target, K-mart: all significantly cheaper than the department stores that used to thrive among the middle-class. The explosion of discount food, discount sundries, Eyeglass Factories, Gaps, T.J. Maxx's and on and on-- it is all indicative of a burgeoning sector that has fewer funds at its disposal but is constantly bombarded with the idea that it must spend spend spend to garner a shred of personal dignity. Where exactly did this sector come from? Quite simply, the largest area of job growth in the United States has been in service and retail; this means that people need to buy from McDonald's, Wal-Mart and Target because they work at McDonald's, Wal-Mart and Target. Here in Mt. Pleasant, where CMU provides the service sector with a massive pool of minimum-wage labor, the situation is particularly extreme. Businesses that hire students are the same businesses that cater to students. Thus you have people scraping for $5.15/hr, and then at payday, turning around and giving their money right back to the businesses that employ them. Are workers in the service industry gaining an advantage in such a system? Are they improving the quality of their lives, ensuring opportunities for their children, exercising their minds and hearts in the warm glow of capitalism? Golly, what are the odds...

Part of what drives people into economic sectors that would be (charitably) described as cannibalistic is a short-sighted profit motive that has no interest in expanding efficiency technologically (which costs development funds and requires expanded education of the workforce), but is extremely committed to driving its employees to work longer for less money. It is so profitable for them to do business this way that it is considered a stronger investment to expand middle-management and bombard employees with slogans, platitudes and seminars, than it is for them to make an investment in improving the actual quality of their employees education and involvement. The best single way to expand productivity (and I cannot imagine you disagreeing) is to apply technology intelligently and train employees to use it wisely. The worst, and most common way, is to roam the production floor with a megaphone bleating "work smarter, not harder", pledging your desire to be an "employer of choice" while cutting benefit programs, giving drug and honesty tests, and eliminating employer-funded pensions in favor of (primarily) employee-funded 401k's. Nobody working for these companies is fooled for one minute by the propganda spewed from management, but organized labor has grown so weak that there is no perceived alternative to smiling and keeping quiet while your real wages (adjusted for inflation) go down every year. At least you're not working at McDonald's.

I'm not advocating communism, or an expanded level of socialism in the United States, don't get me wrong. What I am advocating is a fundamental cultural shift in American Labor, one that recognizes certain facts. Corporations are chartered by the government, by a society that is supposed to serve the interests of the majority of its members. That is, the very idea that we should charter corporations is that it is supposed to be beneficial to the majority of citizens, not harmful. We do not have to do so, and we have the right to revoke those charters if we feel the public interest is being abused. Also, we did not create the United States in order to have one more master to serve-- it is supposed to serve us. Why is it then that social welfare programs are being slashed left and right while corporate welfare programs burgeon and expand? Welfare, demonized by the right wing, costs us almost nothing-- it is an insignificant portion of our tax burden. Corporate tax cuts, investment incentives and government loans and grants cost the average taxpayer hundreds of dollars each and every year. And with a political system where money equals access, with corporate lobbyists actually writing legislation, and with most Americans believing incorrectly that the bottom would drop out of the economy if we held anyone accountable for this prolonged public screwing, there is truly no end in sight. So just buy a new TV, watch Regis, eat your Big Mac in your La-Z-Boy, get an SUV and a 2nd mortgage and shut the fuck up. Just don't forget to super-size it.

WPK