The glories of living in a “Right to Work to Work” State”: When men and women become merely “resources” in the work place | Street Jazz

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The glories of living in a “Right to Work to Work” State”: When men and women become merely “resources” in the work place

Posted By on Wed, Dec 12, 2012 at 12:13 PM

"Kids don't have a little brother working in the coal mine, they don't have a little sister coughing her lungs out in the looms of the big mill towns of the Northeast. Why? Because we organized; we broke the back of the sweatshops in this country; we have child labor laws. Those were not benevolent gifts from enlightened management. They were fought for, they were bled for, they were died for by working people, by people like us. Kids ought to know that.": Bruce "Utah" Phillips Biography - Songwriter, Storyteller, Humorist, Philosopher, 1935

Just a question of semantics?

I could write for days about the folks in the Michigan legislature, who have done their best to destroy democracy, by slipping the “Right to Work” bill through like a thief in the night, and making sure that they could be seen voting without being shamed by actual Michigan residents. There is such a think as political karma, though, and it will catch up with them. Besides, hundreds of other writers have already tackled the issue; I would just be one more elephant in the herd.

So today . . .

We used to have something in the workplace called a “Personnel Department,” where we went to fill in our job applications, deal with insurance matters, 401K, pensions, or any of a number of other items dealing with our relationship with our employers.

Over the past few years, personnel departments have been phased out, and they have been replaced by what have become known as “Human Resources.”

Oh, god, more union related drivel, you might be thinking, especially if your life path hasn’t matched mine. But I came to look upon our HR departments in a particular light, Hackneyed Reader, when I was working in the parts cage for Mexican Original, a manufacturer, if you will, of flour and corn tortillas in Fayetteville a couple of decades ago.

Oh, the stories I could tell about MO! And already have, truth to tell. But this specific insight hit me as I worked the midnight shift, helping the folks from maintenance (and production) find the parts they needed to get their jobs done.

Sprockets.

Machine belts.

Wrenches.

Untold thousands (millions?) of hairnets. And those stupid “beard-nets” - because who knows what might fall out of your mustache?

And many other things I could not even name, even if they were plopped on the desk in front of me right now, even though I might recognize them.

Twice a year we would would do inventory, counting each and every item in the warehouse - even recounting the screws in drawers that had not been opened since the last inventory.

We would take them out and then measure long lengths of metal bars, which may not have been used for years, and measure them anew.

My total and utter contempt for those who dog paddle in the waters of the River of Anal Rectitude began in those years.

But that aside, my co-workers and I made the link (especially during those inventories) that we, the workers of the corporation which owned Mexican Original, had become just another “resource.” like any of the parts that we gave out on a daily basis. We had, in short, become as interchangeable as the screws in the drawers that we were counting, the sprockets, or the bearings which wore out on a regular basis.

We had moved from “Personnel” to simply being another resource - “Human” was simply our legal description.

And today, of course, we often hear ourselves described proudly as a city or state’s “Work Force,” which can be mobilized at moment’s notice, should a new employer need us to work for pay and benefits which, well, are the wave of the future.

Work Force.

Human Resources.

How about this? Corporations may be beyond the pale, but politicians can surely resist the urge to descend into Newspeak and use terms that are demeaning to workers, and perhaps use something that may offer more dignity. Like . . .

Working men and women, perhaps?

******

“Would you like a free breakfast?” What? What? What?

So I’m walking down Dickson Street yesterday morning (for about the zillionth time in my life) when I pass what used to be a bookstore catering to University of Arkansas students, but is now a service for students seeking a place to live.

An attractive young woman popped out of the doors, and said to me, “Would you like a free breakfast?”

Now, I look like like a lot of different things, I think. Because of my inherent shyness, a lot of folks think I am arrogant, and sometimes I look just plain befuddled.

And there are times - in the right light - when I believe I look quite handsome.

But never, ever, in my adult life, have I looked like a fellow who needed a perky young woman to lunge out of a doorway and offer him free food.

I paused for a moment and laughed. “I’d never turn that down!”

There was a foolish time in my life when I held to the philosophy that free food has no calories, but several diets later, I realize the folly of that belief.

Continuing on to Faytteville Public Access Television, where my C.F. Roberts and I were to continue working on our production of A William Shatner Christmas Carol, I opened my bag of goodies.

Now, of course, as we all know, it has long been a scientifically proven fact that cold pizza is the world’s best breakfast, so I was sort of hoping for that, but I was sorely disappointed. Instead, I found:

Sunny D Tangy Original (orange flavored citrus punch)

Some sort of cup holder

Ads for Dickson Street eateries - but why? Won’t I be stuffed after I eat all of this?

Strawberry flavored Twizzler Twists

A really, really small, Butterfinger bar

A Jolly Rancher Chew

A Jolly Rancher Hard Candy

A sort of liquidy yogurt thing meant to be squirted into the mouth - oh, NASA, you brought us so much more than just Tang!

A Kellogg’s Strawberry Multi-grain cereal bar - what was this doing in there?

No cold pizza to be found. I think they must have eaten mine.

*****

Quote of the Day

You cannot hold back a good laugh any more than you can the tide. Both are forces of nature. - William Rotsler

rsdrake@cox.net

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