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View Diary: my son fired from a job of grading fifth grade essays (203 comments)

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  •  You are apparently confused. (2+ / 0-)
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    nextstep, VClib

    First this is not about an employee getting sick.  This is about an employee who made a commitment to work every Friday for a certain period of time and then unilaterally decided, for personal reasons (he want to got to something that could help him leave his job for another job), not to work on a particular Friday.

    And I agree that an employer should treat employees with dignity and respect.  That means (1) following all employment laws, and (2) living up to the commitments the employer has made to the employee.

    No one "owes" anyone else a job.  A job is an agreement between person 1 to make certain commitments (including pay, benefits, working conditions) in exchange for commitments made by person 2 (doing so much of a particular kind of work).  It's a commercial arrangement -- like when you go to buy a house or a car.  The employee is selling something -- his time and efforts -- in exchange for something from the employer.

    I agree that in some situations such as in a dismal job market, the employer is in a stronger bargaining position.  That's what the employment laws are for.  On the other hand, people can do things to make themselves more valuable to employers and put themselves in a stronger bargaining position, such as obtaining difficult to acquire, but high in demand, skills.  Here in New Orleans after the Army Corps of Engineers Disaster (what some call Katrina), when a lot of people returned to the Business district, there was a real lack of secretary and clerical type workers.  People who did return were able to command much higher salaries than they did before the ACOE disaster.  That's how the market works.  

    And, of course, people who do not want to depend on someone else to provide them a job can start their own business.  I've seen all kinds of people run their own business, even if it's a business of one person providing personal services to others.  

    I don't know where people get the idea that an employer has some sort of fiduciary obligation to act in the best interests of the employees at all times even if that hurts the business overall.  People who think that way are always going to be disappointed, because that is not how our economic system operates.  Employers have an obligation to follow the law, and to be honest with employees, and to fairly honor the commitments they make to employees.  But they have no obligation to go beyond that in doing what an employee thinks is "best" for the employee even if that is to the detriment of the business.  An employer might CHOOSE to do that for a particularly valuable employee, especially when losing that particular employee would, in the employer's view, hurt the business overall.  It's a contractual relationship, not some kind of obligation for an employer to "take care" of employees.  Anyone who thinks their employer has some kind of obligation beyond following the law and treating the employee honestly and fairly in living up to the commitments the employer made -- that person is just fooling himself.  

    It's ridiculous for any employee to think, well, my deal for my job was to work these times for this much money, but I'm entitled to unilaterally change that in my favor if I think it's in my best interests.  

    •  A good illustration of my point (1+ / 0-)
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      Don midwest

      As you rightly say:

      that is not how our economic system operates
      This was the (I thought obvious) subtext of my response: this is not how our economic system operates, but perhaps it should be.

      The diary uses the specific maltreatment accorded a specific person as a point of departure for a deeper consideration of the prevalence of this sort of mistreatment in our modern economy.  What I am suggesting is that we consider whether these injustices may originate in the system of value that is part and parcel of our economic system today: the mistreatment of employees is an inherent result of a system rigged to consider property before people.   Or more precisely, the system is rigged to favor in the interests of the owners of productive property over citizens in general.

      Example: your references to "contract" as the only relevant criterion for assessing the obligations of employers/employees.  This is a convenient legalism which ignores the fact that the legal apparatus of the contract as arbiter of conduct between employee and employer is not a permanent fixture of reality, but arose historically, largely in the 18th and nineteenth century.  Historically, "contract" became the pervasive legal metaphor for the relationship of employer to employee at the same time that industrialization was taking place. This is not coincidental: for in the era of Lockean political liberalism and the French (and American) revolution, which claimed equality of all citizens before the law, the persistence of the 'master-servant' (or 'master-slave') relationship required justification. Indeed, the rapid growth of waged labor rankled the champions of Lockean liberty - among them Jefferson and Paine, who saw it as a threat to real liberty.

      The "contract" analogy, governing our legal (and social)  conceptualization of wage labor was the effective result of this demand: it makes possible the continuation of an essentially feudal and despotic relationship ('master-servant') into an era dominated by the political ideal of liberty: it preserves the pretense of liberty while denying it in practice.  It does this by (literally) requiring us to separate the realms of "economic" and "political" life, and then insists on the subordination of the political to the economic.  As an employee, you check your rights as a citizen at the door of the factory/office where you work.

      "No one "owes" anyone else a job." That's what YOU say - but this was not always the case. Virtually all of our modern sense of state and social obligation to the poor derives from a pre-industrial context, where the sense of obligation of a community to the economic security of its members was pervasive and acted as a moral and social constraint upon the kind of behavior you wish to insist as your right.  Much of this was lost in the transition to modernity; some was restored, but mainly in punitive form (the 'workhouses' of England a prime example; Clinton's "welfare reform" another).

      "No one "owes" anyone else a job."  Jefferson himself disagrees with you:

      The earth is given as a common stock for man to labour and live on. If, for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be furnished to those excluded from the appropriation.
       -- Letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison
      28 Oct. 1785

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