Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day 4: The Unsweet Truth Behind 'I SCREAM', er, 'Ice Cream'..

Here's a funny little post depicting some of the things that ice cream shop employees face in their jobs:

While humorous, it has a great point within it, which is that what is a very pleasant and usually happy experience for a customer, is a rather unpleasant one for the employee. And this is of course actually true for the vast majority of service jobs.

Part of the reason I am here using the specific example of working in an ice cream shop, is because I recently have myself become an employee of an ice cream shop, and so have had the 'pleasure' of discovering the unexpected/unpredicted horrors that accompany this particular job. One thing I have come to learn from having had quite a variety of service jobs throughout my life thus far, is that there are usually all kinds of such horrors that are different and particular to a certain job, which you wouldn't likely have a clue about, without actually being in such a job and experiencing it first hand. Like I have never had a job as a server/waitress, so I wonder what unexpected things come along with that particular venue that I don't know because I've never done it.

So I could pull from any number of my previous job experiences to talk about the horrors that go on, the kinds of things that you just can't believe would be expected of a human being to go through on a daily basis just to eke out a very, very meager living, especially if you are no longer/not living at home/with family covering some/most of your bills.

But I find the particular example of the ice cream shop is cool because it is such a contradiction of experiences, where, as the humorous author of the above article put it, “Everyone who comes in is filled with the joy of getting ice cream while this is your unpleasant job.” This irony has certainly not been lost on me or my fellow ice cream-scoopers, as we sweat and groan and watch our wrists bend in grotesque angles as we try to form the perfect scoop or at least one that is good enough, and hear a very oft repeated comment, “Oh that looks like it's really hard work! Sorry!” phrased in one way or another, and I'm pretty sure I recall having said this myself once when I went to an ice cream shop some years ago, and feeling really bad for what that person had to go through to provide me with a delicious scoop of ice cream.

A lady came into the shop and told us her daughter had worked at a Baskin & Robbins for four years, and now her wrists are so bad that if she picks up something kind of heavy, like a mug, her hands go numb. A doctor had told her that if she had worn a wrist brace while working it might have prevented a lot of the damage. So why is it that such things aren't like a standard piece of equipment that would be supplied for such a job? Or why do such jobs exist that would cause such physical harm as a result of the labor required? Why do we allow such things to exist?

One thing I notice is that when we're faced with an uncomfortable truth about reality, we tend to try to make something positive out of it. Like in the case with the ice cream shop, we very often hear comments along the lines of “Well, at least your arms will be really strong!”, like it is actually a positive thing, but in reality it's not. It's likely leading you to carpal tunnel and possible a host of other problems that can be a result of imbalance in the body say where you are working one side more than the other, like scooping ice cream all day with mostly your dominant hand.

I guess we've never considered actually finding a solution for such situations like this, and that's why they continue. And working in an ice cream shop is not nearly the worst job I myself have gone through, nor anywhere near as bad as many, many others go through around the world. It's as if we've accepted this as the way it has to be, but really it's only this way because we've accepted it and we're not doing anything about it.

Fortunately for us, we do have the capability and the capacity to ensure that our labor is not compromising in any way. I mean, would we want our products and such that we consume to be the product of any kind of suffering, if we are capable of doing it without such suffering and trauma? What I would like to see is a world where we can actually take care of and care for ourselves. Where we are not just batteries providing energy to the system for a moment, to be used up and spat out once we have broken, to use an all-too-true metaphor from one of my favorite movies The Matrix. Because this is what we've allowed ourselves to essentially become. I used to be angry at the system that it was this way, but I've since realized that blaming the system was no solution. We have to become the solution ourselves. So I'll go to here for this post and continue in the next with what this means to become the solution ourselves and some of the things that I am applying myself within my daily living at the workplace.

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Scooping ice cream can constitute workplace hazard: Alberta tribunal

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 3: Do You Hate Working? Do You Know Why?

Do we really not like working? There is this general perception in many minds that people just don't like to work. I hear references to this quite frequently. One comment that sticks out, that was said to me recently is, “That's why it's called 'work' - you're not supposed to like it.” Implying that there is something inherently within 'working'  itself that we don't like or it's something we just don't want to do.

It's actually become a rather generally accepted belief that we don't want to work. It is a frequent, almost daily, occurrence where I hear a fellow employee say things like 'I wish I wasn't working right now', 'I'd rather go home and sleep', 'I hate working' and so on. Occasionally, when one says 'I just want to go home and sleep' it's because they work multiple jobs and have only had 3-4 hours of sleep. But more often, it's because sleep seems like a nice option compared to working. And often, the tendency would be to judge this from an outside perspective as 'lazy', but judgment never leads to understanding, and therefore to solutions. So, when we rather ask 'how does a person come to see sleep as a better option?' well, this has a lot to do with the fact that most people don't really have much other options. When you're a low paid employee, you don't have any money to do anything with, so sleep is an affordable way to pass some time. There are of course, other dimensions to that point specifically related to sleeping, which we won't get into here but I do recommend a google hangout that talks about the topic of Sleep Addiction to get further insight into that relationship: Are You A Sleep Addict? Tips and Support

So how is it that we came to believe that we 'don't like to work' in general? Some of this has to do with how we as children are raised in such a way that is often about letting us enjoy ourselves without any responsibilities and being free to just play however we like, before it's 'too late' to do that anymore, and we have to buckle-down and get jobs to support ourselves or at least to get some spending money so we can stop begging mom and dad for this or that. So already we start to see working as something we don't want to do, because of this initial emphasis on 'being free' vs. 'play time is over', and then when we suddenly have to earn our own way. It can be quite a shock to our system, because suddenly you are very much not free to do as you please, and in your typical job you're not even free to just go to the bathroom when you need to, or to take a break, or have something to eat.

In looking back at my own experience, as I was coming into my teen years and starting to get an idea of what I was going to have to do, in terms of 'going out into the world' and getting a job, and starting to look at what kind of jobs there are and what options are available to me, it really didn't look so good. I mean, I had a lot of interests that I would have been very interested to pursue, but when I looked at how such jobs actually existed in reality, it didn't seem so cool. So for example, I found working with plants and animals to be really fascinating, and really liked the idea of therefore becoming a farmer, but when I started to learn in school what farming is really like in the system and that it is really not about being close to the plants and animals and getting to learn about them and work with them to support their growth and provide us with quality nourishing food, but rather is about operating large machinery and factory farms (this is back in the 90's before organic farming was on the map or at least not in my textbooks) and using chemicals and basically a rather impersonal large scale process, this was not interesting to me at all. So I thought, I guess I don't want to be a farmer.

The idea of cooking well crafted and quality meals was also interesting to me, I found a passion for baking and exploring what is possible within that, but it was the same thing here where this doesn't equate to for example wanting to serve people fast food that we push out like a factory that is low quality and with no room for any personal expression whatsoever within it.

Also the idea of becoming a doctor sounded really nice, getting to help others and make a difference in lives. In fact such jobs are some of the most satisfying according to polls. But such jobs are simply out of reach for so many who don't have money for the many years of college required to get such a job.

I mean it's like, anything you might have a passion for, has been tainted by the desire and focus for profit first above all else and made into a high production industry, even though much of what is produced is in fact wasted anyway. And that is what most of our available jobs exists as. I mean, who facing these options, really wants to be a part of any of that?

And since this is all that is available to you as 'work', and this is what we've collectively agreed upon as  valid 'work' you come to think you 'don't like to work' period. Because, most of us have never actually experienced a positive work environment, where you can do quality work, where you are valued, where you are properly compensated for your time and labor, where you have the ability to really put yourself into your work and see a result. We've never had real fulfilling quality work, so we don't even realize it exists, or has the potential to exist, and that even the jobs we have today don't even have to be so bad. 

And this causes a rift, because there are those who have managed to find somewhat more satisfying work, at least because it pays well enough, and where they are valued somewhat and not just treated bluntly as a resource to be used up and spat out and manipulated through the fear of being so easily fired and replaced, and not having to work in typically unpleasant and harmful conditions which can lead to all sorts of problems like arthritis and bone spurs in your joints due to performing repetitive motions over and over, and not even being able to afford proper benefits to care for yourself, to name just a few things that so many are experiencing in our low paid jobs. Those who have never gone through such adverse conditions are disconnected from that experience and don't even realize that it exists, or just how bad it is, and therefore can believe that people who don't want to work are just 'lazy', not realizing that if they too were in that same situation they would not want to do such work either.

This also has to do with the idea or belief that because a job is low paid, that must mean that it is easy, but this is so rarely the case, and again you can only believe that if you haven't actually experienced such a situation for yourself. So something to watch out for is where we would make assumptions about what something is like without any direct experience or cross referencing with those in the actual experience. This ties in also with the myth of so-called 'unskilled labor', but this is a topic for another post to come.

So when we look at how 'work' exists at the moment, the vast majority of it is not what anyone would want to do, and for good reason, because it hasn't been designed in such a way that is supportive, to ourselves as individuals, or to our world as a whole, but are geared simply for the purpose of maximizing profit, and for the most part we do our jobs simply out of sheer necessity for survival. Yet, you can imagine, if our jobs were actually aligned to be supportive, then that resistance to working would simply not be there, because we already see that happening from just comparing jobs that are more compromising with less pay to those with better conditions and better pay, and people are generally less disgruntled, there is less turnover rate, so I mean, when we look at these points it's really quite obvious, and we should know that no one wants to work in poor conditions for low pay, and no one deserves to for any reason. You just have to ask yourself if that is what you would want for yourself? This is why I support the Living Income Guaranteed movement, which calls for a living income for everyone who needs it, and would raise the minimum wage to a real living wage, because through that we will be able to change our relationship to labor and sort it out so that it really is supportive and not something we dread to do but have to just for our survival. I mean, is that really the kind of world we want to live in?

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 2: How To Cope With Your Low Wage Service Job

Here, continuing from the previous post in which we were getting into the topic of how to manage to do a low wage service job day-in and day-out while keeping one's sanity. I used to build up such an enmity for jobs until I had to virtually had to quit, as I just couldn't deal with the experience I would have going in there. But yet you know you have to do it, so it's like this constant war going on inside oneself. Like this extreme hatred for what you have to do, but knowing there is really not any other option.

For a few people it is not so tough somehow, but for most it does not sit well at all, and this is why these types of jobs will often have such a high 'turnover' rate because, frankly, nobody likes doing this kind of work, and most people have a hard time coping with it day after day, for an extended period of time. It's like this resentment just builds and builds until you really can't take it anymore, and then you find a way out. Probably another job in yet another low paid service position, where it's not going to be any better, but it's new for a time, and it's like you get a 'reset' or 'start-over', until the resentment starts accumulating again and you repeat the process.

This is what I did for some time, bouncing between jobs and it was really a vicious cycle, where nothing essentially changed. The pay was usually roughly the same, the jobs were all pretty crappy. The consequence of this being that it doesn't look good on your resume to have bounced from job to job, to employers it looks like you are a more risky hire that may not last long. So this can really have a negative effect with no benefit in the long run. I didn't know how I was going to 'make it' if I had to do this forever, or at least for the foreseeable future.

It's a very hard situation to be in and not stress about it heavily. In most, if not all, of the corporate run, low paid service jobs I've done, almost on a daily basis, someone says “I hate this job.” Which is often met with a response from another employee, such as “I know” or “Tell me about it”. In the past I myself said all these words as well.

It's no secret, these jobs really are unpleasant. I mean, I don't know anyone, who when they were younger, said, “You know, when I grow up, I want to serve fast food. I want to do a job that will draw its profit from my labor, yet not even pay me enough to live effectively.” No. No one says that.

I was wholly unprepared for the degree of compromise I would have to go through within such jobs, where your physical and mental well-being is completely disregarded, and you are literally treated as just a 'battery' for the 'machine', so to speak. I mean, if I hadn't gone through this myself I would never have even guessed that these sort of situations even existed or were taking place, it just blew me away, the level to which we've accepted and allowed ourselves to be so abused.

Within all this, I went into a reaction towards this situation, where I experienced various emotions like hopelessness, despair, rage, hatred, defiance, powerlessness, because I saw no solution to get out of this situation. I didn't have any experience or training or degrees that I could use to try to get a better paying job, but I knew I was capable of far more than this menial work. The fact of the matter is, there just aren't enough 'good' jobs to go around, more and more the jobs that are increasing are these menial service jobs, and that means that no matter what your experience, background or ability, many, many individuals are only going to get into these types of jobs. And that's what we're seeing today where we have people with master's degrees working at McDonald's.

What I came to realize though, is that this is the situation at the moment, and that no amount of being upset about it is going to change it. It's going to take actual actions to change our system. And going through all these emotions toward the situation was only adding further consequence and stress to an already crappy situation, because the fact is, I have to do it for now. The key was really to stop making it worse than it already is, making myself a victim to it, because that was just pointless.

So, essentially, it's to take self responsibility for my own experience, so that instead of getting lost in an experience toward my situation, I can rather do what I need to do and focus on solutions. And that is what this whole blog is for/about. It is the process that I walk to redefine my relationship toward work/labor/the system, to stop being a victim to it, and to 'take back' my power that I gave away to the system.

There are really many dimensions to this point, that will be opened up in more specificity in many posts to come, in looking at how we can transform who we are within our relationship to our labor, to bring it from what it exists as today which is essentially enslavement and disregard for life, and correct it so that what we do here is an expression of ourselves that works in harmony with the each other, earth, nature and the animals here, so that we can exist in a way that is beneficial and worthwhile instead of this pointless seemingly never-ending rat-race through which we are bringing down the whole world. So stay tuned..
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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day 1: Do You Care about Your Low Wage Job?

I was recently watching a Google Hangout from the
LIG channel on youtube (for those who don't know LIG or Living Income Guaranteed is a form of a basic income which you can read more about by following the link) called Bridging the Income Gap - Living Income Guaranteed in which an interesting point was brought up, about how for those of us who have less money, we feel left out of the system because we don't have a stake in it, we effectively are left out of it, and I saw how this could be one of the main components behind why we don't seem to care at all for our environment as the buildings and infrastructures that make up our town/city/local social environment. Like, when I look at what goes on behind say, vandalizing a bus stop or graffiti-ing up the side of a building, it's like we're trying to have an impact, an effect, to leave a mark and put ourself into our environment in some way, because we are essentially separated from it.We don't have a stake in, and essentially our only role is as a consumer to it.

So this led me to why do we tend to not care about the very physical buildings of where we work? The equipment we have to use, and even the building itself. We tend to allow things to go undone and uncared for. There's a tendency to do 'just the minimum' at our jobs. And my primary justification for doing so, was that I wasn't being paid enough to care anyway. I mean, if my job couldn't pay me enough to be able to pay my bills then why should I do any more than I absolutely have to, since that is all I have been given – as little as possible. It's no secret that so many of us employees get paid according to the least that is possible to pay while managing to retain employees.

So, essentially, our 'jobs' don't really care about us. We are usually quite expendable/easily replaced and so there's really no regard for you as an individual human being who is giving their labor to this company so it can make a profit. If you don't want to do the job, then you can just be fired and the next one brought in.

What happens then is that we take this lack of care for us and use it as the justification to do the same, to not care either. Where, if my job doesn't care about me, then why am I going to care about it. Why would I do more than I have to? Why am I really going to put myself into it and do my best, when it's perfectly happy to take the profits from my labor and not pay me enough, not pay me the true value of what I put in? I mean, you are not going to feel like a valued and appreciated integral part of something when you are treated like you can just be replaced. What's interesting within this is how many of those in more elite positions, such as business owners, would see employees as generally being lazy and ineffective, and using this behavior to justify paying low wages, but not even asking themselves, how would they be if put in the same position? The owner of a business is actually tied into the profit and gain of the company, so they have a stake, they care. But as a bottom-wrung employee, you make the same pitiful wage regardless of how much profit your labor brings in. And then when business is down, your hours get cut.

So, I mean, why would we feel any sense of caring for an establishment that just takes for itself without regard?

But this is really just an excuse, and wanting 'the job' to do something before I do it. How can I expect another to do something I myself am not even doing? This is quite a common a tendency, which holds us all stuck in a position of never changing, because we're always waiting for someone else to do it first, expecting others to change, without even changing ourselves. That's like wanting your reality to change for you, just to suit you and what you want without you having to do anything yourself. Which is a lot like employers wanting employees to work diligently and reliably, for very little pay. It's the same point. And so of course if we're all each waiting for our reality to change first, for others to change first, then no one is changing.

I mean, do we expect that all of a sudden our job is going to change and start caring? I mean, we have to look at, how did we even get here to where we are now, where our labor is undervalued and not properly remunerated, and our right to make a decent living is not even guaranteed, which puts us in the rather 'life or death' situation of being one step away from living on the streets. Literally, so many individuals are one paycheck away from financial collapse. And it is not so great for businesses either, where to be able to stay afloat you have to make everything as cheap as possible, because as consumers we can afford less and less, and so that's where our dollars go, to whomever can provide it for the cheapest. This leads to many small businesses being bought up by large corporations, practically the only ones who are able to survive anymore. So that's a vicious cycle going on, digging us a big hole in the ground.

So we need a solution that can work with all of this, and that's why I support a proposal such as the Living Income Guaranteed, which in a nutshell provides a living income for all who need it, that is who doesn't have a job or lots of money, which is enough to live properly with all the necessities, and also calls for the minimum wage to be double that of the living income, so that there is incentive to work, and you will actually get proper remuneration for your time and effort spent laboring. This would essentially eliminate the life or death situation of having to do whatever it takes to hang on to your job, even if it is an abusive job in some way, or worrying that you hours are going to be cut, and if you did lose your job, there is the living income to support you, so you will always be able to have proper housing, enough food, water, electricity, etc, everything you need. Not like the woefully inadequate welfare we have today, which I've seen the time it takes to get it set up has landing some people on the streets while they were waiting, something that is really difficult and unnecessary for anyone to have to go through, and can be hard to recover from.

Within the point of using the excuse that the job doesn't care so why should I – what I found was that if you do have that attitude you are setting yourself up to be more likely to get fired or given less hours. The best way to make yourself useful and valued is to really do your job effectively, because you can be sure that if you take every opportunity to slack off, you are really not going to progress beyond where you are. And within this, the time spent on the job is actually more stressful and unpleasant, when in that mentality of slacking off.

I mean, until we have a solution in place, we have to realize the situation we are in and we do depend on our jobs currently, so it's not to judge them but to use what support they do provide while working on a solution. So, with that, I will in the next post cover the topic of how it is that I managed to find a sustainable way to do a repetitive low wage service job, and not practically go insane, or get frustrated with the deadend-ness of it all to the point of quitting or getting fired and winding up in just another low wage service job. Because the fact we have to admit is, you just may have to do a low wage service job for a while considering that that is rapidly becoming the most popular job available in this country and the competition for higher paid jobs is so steep that even college graduates are working at McDonald's. So we'll continue from here in the next post.
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