Please stop claiming a normal balance between work and non-work is nonsense - part 2

More mush from Carmen Sample, in response to my ‘toxic thought bombs’

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Chaplin being eaten by the Machine

— the writer of the original screed that precipitated my earlier with her post entitled (you can’t make shit like this up) — responded to my riposte in her new piece, .

Basically, she answered none of the questions I asked about her operation and her treatment of workers. She sidestepped the observation I made about workers with children or ill family members, who might need to work something like normal 40 hour weeks. She really didn’t respond to what I wrote at all.

What she wrote was instead a repetition of her earlier points, such as the ‘right’ of entrepreneurs to lay out the rules of employment however they want and any employees who don’t agree can go pound sand. Her exact words:

Hear this: No one is a victim in the workplace… If somebody doesn’t like the pace they should quit or ask for a different position. The point is that a business needs to find the people that are excited about doing the work of the business.

I especially liked how she claims that I am ‘work shaming’ her by asking the questions I did, and her perception that my points are ‘toxic thought bombs’.

Then she poses hypothetical comments that I never made, and knocks them down, like this:

You are implying that hard work=suffering. This is a ridiculous statement in itself.

Well, it’s not a statement that I made. And I am not opposed to so-called ‘hard work’ per se. I am against overwork, like demanding that people must work 80 hours a week, or quit.

Finally, I don’t think what Sample is advocating is ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. It’s simply exploitation. She may not have been in social studies class when the history of the progressive era was covered, but I will fill her in.

  • After decades of efforts to drop the workday to 8 hours, on May Day 1886 labor unions across the country rallied across the country in favor of a shorter work day. The average workweek at the time was 100 hours. That effort failed, but changed the discussion.
  • Ford instituted a five-day, 40-hour workweek in September 1926. Other companies began to follow suit, seeing the benefits for the workforce and society.
  • On 25 June 1938 Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards act limiting the workweek to 44 hours, amended in 1940 to 40 hours.

So, in my earlier piece I was a bit harsh when I said Sample was medieval in her outlook. But she is trying to rewind the clock back to the 1800’s, in the name of ‘entrepreneurialism’.

Dear Carmen Sample, saying that workers — or social critics like me — who argue for fair labor standards are ‘work shaming’ business owners shows an bottomless, self-centered disdain for the lives of others. A worker that simply wants to do their work and go home at a normal hour is not harming the company or its owner, no matter what the boss, the chamber of commerce, or all the other business owners in town think.

What really underlies Sample’s agenda is raw greed: the desire to get more from employees than they want to give to the benefit of the company and its owners. That’s what motivates speeding up the assembly line, demanding people come in on Saturday, arranging for daily status meetings at 7am, and the rest of the workist agenda. And people have forgotten the hard won rights fought for in the early industrial era, or simply choose to ignore them.

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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