I’ve been on a documentary binge again. It’s so nice to have my brain working well enough to do that! So I’ve been sitting here slicing blueberries for the dryer- it’s as tedious as it sounds and requires a very sharp knife- and watching tv. I’ve ended up with several documentaries today with subtitles, which is challenging while you’re cutting things up, and this one was no different. However, this one also inspired me to set aside the blog post I started this morning so I could go in another direction.
As a wage worker, I am, in essence, renting myself to a company for a set amount of money. The pay might be per hour or per week, but it’s not tied directly to how the company is doing or, strictly speaking, how well I’m doing my job. If I do my job badly enough, or if the company does badly enough, I might lose my job, but it’s not a very tight correlation. The first thing I realized is that I’m renting myself out way too cheap, and I need to figure out how to fix that.
The second thing I remembered is that it’s always a bad idea to buy a second-hand rental car. Why? Because people tend to be rougher on rental cars than on their own cars. Why not? They don’t have to deal with any long-term consequences. As a rental body, my employer has every reason to feel the same way about me. Sure they doll up the situation by talking about perks and benefits, but when it really comes down to it, I am there to get as much out of as possible and if it leaves me with structural damage? Eh, easy enough to rent a fresh one.
The reason we put up with it, as they point out, is because the consequences of walking away are even worse. As the richest country in the world, why do we have a massive amount of our population- they quote 20%- living in poverty? Because that is the whip the companies wield to make us put up with pointless jobs that don’t pay what our time is worth. Take what they deign to give us or risk living on the streets. No wonder the lobbyists- I mean government- fought so hard against Obama Care. Anything that strengthens the social safety net even a little will weaken their ability to abuse us.
So what’s the solution? Instead of renting ourselves to investors (business owners/management), we rent the investors. They give us x amount of capital with, I assume, y amount of return either in fixed percent or in percent of profits- but they don’t get any votes. The people that are doing the work make the decisions. All of a sudden, shifting crates around a warehouse on a forklift isn’t a pointless job because your income and employment is tied quite directly to what’s in those crates and how quickly and safely they get to their destination. And if the warehouse is being used inefficiently, you are the person who will see it- and who will be expected to speak up about it. A couple of the side effects they’ve seen are also more efficiency and fewer managers. Imagine- fewer managers.
There are even larger impacts that turning our workplaces from dictatorial institutions to democratic ones could have. From a political perspective, if we gain some sort of control over where we spend 40 or more hours of our week, we might believe we can have control over things like our government on small and large scales. From an environmental perspective, we can ditch the idea of perpetual growth because we need to produce enough for all of the workers to live well in their community, not enough for the owner to buy a second yacht for the Bahamas. From a happiness perspective, as the company becomes more efficient, we don’t need to invent busy work to justify our incomes- we can shorten work days and lengthen vacations. We might even end up with enough time and money to start a small business of our own.
Goodness. No wonder the worker rental prices are so low. When people have the time and energy to do more than drag themselves from one work day to the next, who knows what else they might come up with! They might start demanding unrigged elections and clean water! No, best to keep things the way they are. After all, we wouldn’t want to go changing the things that work so very well for only the very rich.