Saturday, September 24, 2005

The American Dream

Liza Featherstone has a list up of the worst jobs in the U.S. Its a shocking list, not only because of the suffering that those who have to do these jobs go through, but because they speak to the horror that is the American ruling class' racism, sexism, and class exploitation.

A few below:

1. Poultry processor These folks quit their jobs five times as often as other workers, and it's not hard to see why. This job boasts an impressive "ick" factor -- you can imagine how gross these plants smell. The workers -- two-thirds of whom are black women -- are surrounded all day by gizzards and offal. The pay is lower than any other job in the manufacturing industry, except apparel. It would be tough to decide which was the worst task in a poultry plant -- would you rather be crapped on and scratched by live birds; slaughter and behead them; or pull their guts out? The work is repetitive, with relentless pressure for profit-maximizing efficiency. Bathroom breaks are discouraged and often punished. Because of the brutal pace and casual safety training (portrayed in a Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal investigation of the industry) one in four poultry workers are injured or made ill by their jobs. Cuts from the equipment -- knives and scissors -- are common, as is carpal tunnel syndrome. Many poultry plant workers live in trailers on the premises, paying their rent through pay deductions. Alarmingly, this has been one of the fastest growing factory jobs in recent years.

2. Sewing machine operator There's no offal on the factory floor, but the upsides to this job end there. Garment workers' wages are even lower than those of poultry workers. They also face a constant threat of unemployment; because of unregulated overseas competition, apparel is expected to lose 245,000 jobs by 2012, probably more than any other industry. Sewing areas are the noisiest parts of the factory, and operators must sit for long periods leaning over machines and work under intense time pressure; repetitive stress injury is common. Their average wage is about $7.72 an hour; of course, in illegal "underground" shops, even lower -- or unpaid -- wages are common. Only 8 percent of U.S. garment workers are covered by a union contract; even those who are union members have found it almost impossible to bargain for better wages and conditions in recent years, because of global economic pressures. Most people doing this job are women, and in large cities like New York and Los Angeles, most are immigrants. There are about 140,000 sewing machine operators in the U.S. garment industry today.

3. Mississippi prison inmate/forced laborer Prison labor isn't always an atrocity; when it's voluntary, and paid, many inmates welcome it. They have, after all, little else to do, and may wish to get some job skills, work experience and save some money, either for their families or their release. Prisoners in the state of Mississippi, however, receive no wages or benefits. Their work conditions are hellish: they are often forced into outdoor agricultural labor in heat exceeding 100 degrees, and made to work far longer than a 40-hour week. Most people doing this job are black, and verbal abuse from white supervisors, including racial epithets, is common.

4. Nanny on a temporary visa Over the past decade, tens of thousands of women have come to the United States on temporary visas to work as live-in maids and nannies. Usually, they work for foreign diplomats, businesspeople or officials of international organizations. What these women endure sounds like something we expect to hear in accounts of human slavery in Saudi Arabia. Sometimes bosses lie to the women about the terms of their employment and imprison them in their homes, forbidding them to speak to anyone outside the family. These real-life Dickensian sickos could legally be prosecuted under federal human trafficking laws (and it sure would be nice to see them out in the Mississippi sun wearing stripes), but as Debbie Nathan recently reported in The Nation, enforcement agencies and many advocates are slow to act when the cases don't involve prostitution or other lurid sex allegations. Whether they are technically "trafficking" victims or not, workers on these visas are often reluctant to report abuse because if they leave their jobs, they can be deported. Human Rights Watch reports that these workers' wages average about $2.14 an hour, their workday lasts about 14 hours, and they are rarely allowed to leave the employer's home without permission.

5. Street prostitute Sex work takes many forms, many of which can be safely and profitably negotiated by consenting adults. But streetwalkers have little control over their work conditions. They are frequently cheated out of pay, raped and sometimes even murdered on the job. (Most street prostitutes report having been assaulted by a client at least once, according to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing.) They must also work under constant threat of arrest and police harassment; serving time in jail is an integral part of the job, while paying fines is an expected business expense. While the hourly pay isn't bad, it seems low considering all the indignities involved; a blow job is about $20-$50, intercourse $50-$100. Still, this profession has one advantage: demand remains constant."

[Liza Featherstone, "The Ten Worst Jobs in America," AlterNet, Posted on September 13, 2005, Printed on September 24, 2005].


Blogger Love but Hate said...

Awesome, once again!

cheating housewife.

9:34 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home