I worked one summer packing Caterpillar parts. Words cannot express how much it sucked. Ten to twelve hour days six days a week standing there counting washers or bolts or wrapping huge brake drums in this paper that you felt was poisoning you with whatever rust-resistor they put on it and then you realized that the summer help was making more money than the folks who had been there for years who were then gambling it all away on the riverboats.
So, it was with some amusement that I followed a link from Salon.com to this post over at Think Progress about Bush’s new USAID nominee. Turns out that Fore has some opinions about her employees.
The trustee, Henrietta Holsman, a 1970 graduate of Wellesley who runs a manufacturing concern in Los Angeles, resigned from the board last weekend after apologizing for her comments, which also cast aspersions on the work ethic of Hispanic and white employees. But in a letter to the college newspaper, Ms. Holsman reiterated her statement that she had trouble keeping black assembly-line workers from going “back to the street to earn more money” selling drugs.
In her lecture, Ms. Holsman also said she had found Hispanic workers to be lazy, white workers resentful of having to work with machines, and Asians, while very productive, likely to move on to professional or management jobs.
Y’all, if there’s anything funnier on this planet than listening to the bossman tell you a thing or two about the workers on the floor, I just don’t know what it is. It may come in a close second to folks who think the whole story here is that she’s stereotyping based on race. That’s a part of the story and maybe it’s the politically expedient part of the story.
But for me, what’s hilarious is the ways in which she reveals that the work environment in her “manufacturing concern” sucks. Seriously, there are lazy people in the world, but most people will work hard for a fair wage in a safe working environment.
What does Fore inadvertently tell us?
1. Her workers aren’t being paid a fair wage. She says her black employees can make more money selling drugs than working in her factory. As the folks who wrote Freakonomics point out, most low level drug dealers don’t make shitloads of money. That’s why they live with their grandmas. It pays a little better than a minimum wage job, but the risks are much higher. That people would return to a dangerous poorly-paying job instead of working in her factory, because they can make more money on the streets, says something about how little she’s paying her employees.
2. It’s no wonder then, that the folks who can move on, do. The Asians leave and the black folks leave, because they have other prospects.
3. The folks who don’t have other prospects have to resort to other means to let their disapproval of their situation show without going so far as to lose their source of income. The Hispanics in her employ are staging a work slow-down. The white folks complain about working with machinery.
4. Who would complain about working with machinery? Machines make most work easier. Unless the machines themselves aren’t safe or the circumstances under which they must operate the machines are unsafe.
So, basically, Fore stood up in front of her college and revealed that no one who works for her wants to work for her. Those that can leave, do, and those that can’t leave sabotage the workday in other ways. That makes her sound like a real treat.