Tuesday, August 23, 2011
In hard times, management hold all the cards
The cafeteria on campus at my place of employment is operated by an independent catering company. The staff --the people that cook, run the cash register, prepare the salad bar, and make the sandwiches --are hard-working folk. Mostly Latinos. Generally popular with the people they serve. They earn $10-$12 per hour. They are not organized in a union. This morning, when I went over for a breakfast burrito, I found them in turmoil.
Management informed them that some of them will, over the course of the next year, be transferred to other sites around town, to be replaced by new workers. Or, they can resign. No reasons given. No further discussion.
Never mind that the decision will disrupt the lives of those hard-working folks that make the catering company profitable. Never mind that they will have to spend more time and money getting to and from work, or may even have to change residences to make their new commute feasible. If they don't like it, there are plenty of desperate people who will gladly fill their positions.
This case is, no doubt, one of myriad other similar cases around the country. It is a clear example of how, in this economic climate, management holds all the cards. Management makes a decision and hands it down to the workers, confident that the workers will have no choice but to accept the new terms.
I remember back in the late 90s, when the unemployment rate was below 5%. I had a great job, working for a great company. Besides having fantastic bosses and coworkers, the economic conditions of the country were so favorable that I had complete confidence in my ability to find work. I didn't live in fear that I might join the ranks of a growing army of long-term unemployed people with no hope for the future.
Things are different now. These days, when management announces bad news (denying cost-of-living pay raises, demanding longer hours, requiring increased co-payments on employer-provided health care plans, etcetera), the follow up line is usually "I'm just glad to have a job."
Folks, they've got us right where they want us.
Capitalism at its finest.