Monday, June 13, 2005

Screw the Workers 

Scary news from USA Today, via Yahoo -- more and more employers are taking the line that they should have control of what their employees do in their off hours.
Lynne Gobbell was fired from her job packing insulation by her Moulton, Ala.-based employer for displaying a John Kerry bumper sticker on her car, according to the Associated Press and numerous media reports. Gobbell could not be reached for comment...

Ross Hopkins, who worked for a Budweiser distributor, sued after he says he was fired for drinking a Coors at a Greeley, Colo., bar after work.

But Jeff Bedingfield, attorney for American Eagle Distributing, says Hopkins was fired in 2003 for making disparaging comments about the company while at the bar wearing a company uniform. The case is expected to go to trial.
This kind of crap started with the "let's pee in a cup" bullshit back in the 80s, and it's only gotten worse over time. Remember the company owner who decided last December to fire any of his employees who smoked off the job, on their own time? Anybody wonder how the hell any company can get away with that?

They get away with it because big business owns the government.
Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little 21-inch screen and howl about America, and democracy. There is no America; there is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. [Ned Beatty, in Paddy Chayefsky's Network]
I long ago chose to refuse to ever apply for any job that would require me to pee in a cup, and have done a pretty good job since then of dodging that crap. As far as I'm concerned, as long as I don't show up at work stoned or wasted, or don't call in sick because of the aftermath of the same, once I walk out the door at the end of the day, it's no employer's business what I do -- and it's especially no employer's place to tell me what bumper sticker I can or can't have on my car. (Haven't heard about anybody being fired for having a Bush/Cheney sticker, have you?) Employers can only get away with what we allow them to, after all, and they can't fire everybody.

Elsewhere, I wrote about Daimler-Chrysler being forced to stop their policy of forcing non-Chrysler employees to park far, far away from the factory. How did it stop? Simple. Tow truck operators refused to tow away non-Chrysler cars parked in the Chrysler-only spots. With no one to enforce their policy, the company backed down.

And here's another way to make them stop this foolishness. If a company wants to regulate their employees' behavior 24/7, fine -- as long as those employees are on the clock, 24/7, and get paid full overtime. Now, since they technically never clock out, everything after the first eight hours is overtime until they take a day off -- which they apparently never do, since vacation wouldn't really count as time off either.

And here's how it works out: for the first week, the employers would be paying an effective 314 hours, and an effective 360 hours per week after that. Even at Federal minimum wage, that's $1,617 the first week and $1,854 per week after that, gross. But, as part of this plan, employers wouldn't be allowed to change pay scales or lower salaries either. But, this way, even minimum wage would be good, with a gross salary of $96,171 per year. If you were getting $25 an hour, congratulations. Your salary is now up to $466,850 per year. Just about enough to afford a modest house in LA.

Of course, a company would have a choice whether to adopt this policy -- either they get to dictate off-hours behavior, or they don't. And employees would have the choice of whether to work for a nanny employer or not. But if companies want to behave in this dictatorial manner, they've got to be forced to pay the price for it. Otherwise, their control over their workers ends the second those workers walk out the door. Period.

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