Disposable workers


I read both this letter and the original story that prompted it in the New York Times, and was shaking my damn head. This is the economy that’s forced so many people over 60 into the gig economy, precisely at a time when their bodies are screaming at them to slow down. You can see the problem:

If the most critical issue this article is highlighting is how disposable employees are in the technology world, I think it would be wise to consider the macro trends in the economy, all of which point to a more distributed, happier work force of people who use their skills across dozens of companies in their working lives.

The author, of course, is a young guy who’s the CEO of exactly the kind of company that’s exploiting workers.

Then there’s this guy:

It’s been observed that companies have no social compact with employees anymore, so it is incumbent on individuals to set limits and stick to them. I did so and never once got fired for it. Even if I had been, who wants a job that robs you of any personal life? After hanging on to my first job, one that made me soul-sick, I was determined that I would never repeat that mistake again, and didn’t. My career may have suffered some, but I gained immeasurably. I refuse to work for any entity that doesn’t recognize that I am a human being who not only has a life outside of work, but also that I work in order to have that life. I don’t live to work. No one should.

I’m going to assume that he’s young, not married and doesn’t have kids. Because there’s only a brief period in life where you can actually afford this attitude (unless you have a trust fund).

This guy nails it:

This article doesn’t dissect technology work per se but rather the kind of boiler-room sales activity that you can find today in almost all businesses and that has long been exploitative — you saw it in the movie “Wall Street” (1987), with kids pitching stocks. Capital has always exploited labor, to one extent or another. And as we automate more and more, the exploitation will become more pervasive, and wages will suffer as labor becomes more commoditized to better compete with hardware and software — until there is largely no labor left.

3 thoughts on “Disposable workers

  1. Agreed. Seeing it in multiple tech fields. More and more programmers and engineers are temporary “consultants” who periodically have to rebid to keep their jobs. The displacement of being between jobs, trying to maintain mortgage payments and COBRA, stressing over not enough savings for retirement and their kids’ education, is not something even acknowledged by the first two authors.

    Recently read an opinion piece in the local paper while traveling, the author complaining about how overpaid the local transit authority employees are, “down to the janitorial workers!” So not only is capital pushing workers out of long-term jobs, they’re creating this mindset that everyone else is overpaid (just ignore that executive over there, look how overpaid the JANITOR is!) I guess until the janitors (the bottom of the pay scale) are paid less than the average Indonesian/Chinese/Indian/other foreign worker, our janitors will be overpaid. Race to the bottom indeed.

  2. The limiting principle always forgotten by these charlatans is aggregate demand and the lesson will take the form of the next depression.

  3. How many jobs did automated assembly lines in factories eliminate?
    How many brick-and-mortar stores no longer exist because of online shopping?
    How may jobs have been relocated to foreign countries as capitalists follow cheap labor?
    At what point will having a job even be necessary?
    China has begun the shift away from an export economy to a consumer economy.
    Some northern Scandinavian countries are beginning to mandate, by law, a yearly governmental minimum salary for each of their citizens.
    The handwriting is on the wall, we are entering the age of a workless society. All of those out of work people are going to require money from somewhere in order to survive.

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