White-Collar Sweatshop
(Top Posts - Social/Legal - 030101)

by Jill Andresky Fraser


"Bullying bosses, 24-hour on-call weeks, shrinking
benefits -- and corporate workers never got their cut
of the '90s boom. ...

White-collar males make on average only 6 cents
more per hour than they did in 1973, when America
was on the brink of the worst economic fallout since
the Depression. ...

Between 1989 and 1997, entry-level wages for male
college graduates actually declined by 6.5 percent.

Women graduates watched their paychecks fall by
7.4 percent.

Fraser cites two Labor Department economists who
found that 'unmarried men and women between the
ages of 18 and 29 were significantly worse off econo-
mically during the 1990s than they had been in the
1970s or 1980s.' ...

What she found was that during the past decade of
grandiose IPOs and fine young millionaires, life has
gotten significantly worse for a whole lot of workers
-- and not just economically. They're unhappier, too.

There's a numbing similarity to most of the individual
stories Fraser relates -- tales of stress-related illnesses,
24-hour on-call weeks, shrinking pension plans, Big
Brother-style e-mail monitoring, a temporary workforce
completely bereft of benefits and upward mobility, and
bullying workplace atmospheres, not to mention smaller
paychecks and harrowing staff purges. ...

Not surprisingly, Fraser concludes that workers' morale
has plummeted. ...

How did things get so bad? Fraser traces the degradation
of the white-collar workplace back to the 1970s, when
a brutal recession scared the paternalistic britches off
corporate America and encouraged it to cast off legacies
of the postwar era such as leisure time, hearty benefits
and comfortable retirements.

She specifically targets the '80s, a decade of hostile
takeovers and colossal mergers, along with mounting
foreign competition, as the years when white-collar
workers' lives were changed forever. ...

According to Fraser, the IBMs, AT&Ts and Intels
of America have demoralized a newly technologized,
stressed-out, paranoid and cynical production line of
human cogs solely for the benefit of Wall Street, the
economy's 'ultimate arbiter,' and a handful of CEOs.

In the past decade, the latter group watched their salaries
jump 490 percent while many of their own companies
struggled to survive.

Massive layoffs emerged in the '80s as the cure-all for
companies in distress.

Forty-five million Americans -- many of whom believed
they were exchanging their devotion and doggedness for
long-term employment -- got the ax in the past 20 years.

During the prosperous years between 1995 and 1997,
6.5 million people were handed pink slips. ...

'White-Collar Sweatshop' offers such a convincing
case for the plight of white-collar workers, and paints
such a good portrait of their strange resolve to stick it
out, that you're left with the indelible image of a pasty-
faced worker hiding behind cube walls, hunched over
the keyboard (in an ergonomically incorrect posture,
of course) and passively e-mailing friends about how
much life, and his job, sucks.

The very fact that she directs her most constructive
advice to CEOs rather than to their minions unwittingly
betrays who holds all the cards. Perhaps Fraser's feeble
call for white-collar sweatshop workers to strike back
serves as a testament to how truly defenseless they
have become."

- - -

A few comments - excerpts from a newsgroup post
I made back in August, 2000, reflecting the spirit of
the feeling of the American middle class white-collar
worker as described in Jill's book (edited to remove
the more stark and upsetting nature of the post as,
believe it or not, the original was a lot darker than
the following) ...

I have a sneaking suspicion that the mundane and the
mediocre and the average and the blah and the dark
and the dull are the creeping and enveloping somas
that we've all been subjected to recently, especially
since the Columbine nightmare ...

But I could be wrong (or maybe I'm just getting ... hold
on ... RAP CRAP ... sorry, just tuned into one of the
music channels ... now, what was I saying, oh yes,
maybe I'm just getting a little up in years and all of the
asinine shinola that passes for entertainment is wearing
a little thin these days or ... maybe I'm going through
a stressful time of career revolution [trying to depart the
humdrum inane nature of the data processing abyss but
having difficulty finding something economically viable
to replace that fix with]) ...

or maybe, you know, life's a bitch and ... but that would
be directly opposed to my optimistic lovey-dovey nature
but maybe that optimistic lovey-dovey nature is just a
cover for ...

The emptiness of a lonely, miserable, desolate, dead-
end, mundane, average, ... jeez, this is sounding terribly
downbeat ... OK, smiley face time, you know, one must
keep up one's appearances ...

But really, it's not all that grim, sure, life sucks sometimes
and I really hope this low mode of mine helps someone at
least to relate to that dark side of what life can be at times
but never fear, I'll be back to shape after I dump this god-
awful dead-end job/career I'm stuck in and find, probably
for the first time since graduating college in '78, something
worthwhile to do with my life, career-wise ...

Oh well, stuck in a rut in the land of the free and home of
the brave, with the consolation of knowing IT'S ALL MY
FAULT and I'm to blame for, well, everything that's wrong
in my life (oh, stop it, get over yourself already) ...

I suppose I'll just mozy on off to try it again (the life thing)
tomorrow (and I'll just be happy that as miserable as I am,
there are a lot of people a lot more miserable than me, isn't
that uplifting?) ... )-:

OK, obligatory smiley (-: ... I'm OK, really ... (-: life is
grand (-: ... so, I'm lying, who cares?

- - - end of self-centered downer portion of post - - -

For the fans of "anyone can be rich - just grit your teeth
and try really hard and kiss the right butts and forsake your
moral foundations and live for money and greed", consider
the following ...

Where is this money tree and where are the values of those
who submit that living for the money tree is the be-all end-all
of life?

An artist, for example, must be an artist to fulfill his/her dreams.
He/she must eat, drink, sleep, have shelter, have health care,
and have other basic human necessities, too. He/she is not
about the money tree (required for life), although those needs
must be taken care of in order for him/her to continue. He/she
is about art and nothing short of art will fulfill him/her.

Same for every individual. We're not objects to be manipulated
for someone's money tree, we're sentient creatures with needs
and wants far beyond the advocacy of living life for that money
tree as an end in and of itself.

Money is a means to an end and that end is, for each of us,
quite different.

To thine own self be true, and if one must deny oneself and
submit to slavery in order to play the money tree game, count
life as one big mind-fuck to nowhere.

For those of us who are not about the money tree, but are,
instead, about values and freedom and being all that we can
be in this, our one and only sure shot at it, count us in as
living human beings with worth and value for what we really
are, not what some damnable market demands that we must
be in order to satisfy the self-centered and self-enriching
conceptual identities and ego-trips of those with the power
and the money trees.

We just gotta be what we truly are in our hearts and minds,
and to fall short of that destiny is but to live a life of futility
and despair.

IF we alter our priorities from consumption/money trees to
real worth and value of individual human beings, we'll all be

If we switch from a slave-based, rich-promotion economy to
a pro-human self-actualization economy, we'll all be enriched.

If not, if we continue our current ways, the few will be happy
and the many will live empty pointless lives as slaves to an
economic system which promises the world and provides
nothing but a feeling of failure (for not becoming rich) and
contempt for being about anything other than centering your
life around the money tree.

- - - end of advocacy for 'a better way' portion of post - - -