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The basic thing about work and employment is the asymmetry in the relationship between employer and employee.  That is why this relationship is challenged by some proponents of Socialism.  But now we are seeing the degree of this asymmetry becoming an issue rather than the relationship itself.  Here is an example:How companies force ‘emotional labor’ on low-wage workers

A Starbucks barista’s job is more than just serving coffee. She also needs to be polite, even friendly, to the customers. If she does her job correctly, then maybe the customer will walk away feeling like the barista was actually happy to serve him—that it was not only her job, but a genuine pleasure. In many jobs, that sort of projected enthusiasm may just be a way of earning some additional tips on top of the employee’s base pay. But in other lines of work—including the occupations which fuel America’s growing low-wage service sector—proper emotional responses are mandatory.
 Maybe I am missing the point but low wage workers are exploited in many ways.  The notion of "customer service" has been around for a long time and has, in fact, been cut down in some areas because the employer has cut the work force and loaded the "servers" with a lot more work so that time consuming niceties are not encouraged.  This article seems to be saying that there is a new side to this, but I miss the point.  Read on below and we can try to understand this.

You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

Very often issues like this can serve as a distraction from what, to me, has always been the deeper problem.  It seems clear that people like Marx also saw problems in the capitalist employment relationships.

One time min my life when I got into this deeply was the 1960s.  I was faculty adevisor to SDS at SUNY at Buffalo when the women began to be tired of cooking meals while the men had these big important political conferences.  It was part of a wider reawakening among women that they were in a subservient role even in the radical movement.  As the feminists got rolling again it became clearer and clearer that the employment situation we all took for granted was biased.  The obvious bias has always been those aspects that put women down, but what about men?  I began giving talks about how women's liberation had to be men's liberation as well.  What was a woman going to gain if she won job opportunities that took for granted that your job deprived you from a lot of the time you needed to parent?  Men were taken for granted and their role in the family was expected to be diminished in order for them to be good employees.

The idea that employment should be an integral part of a whole existence as a human being is rather new historically.  The Starbucks example along with others in this article ask questions like these:

The sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild coined the term “emotional labor” in her 1983 book, The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, where she described it as ”management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display … sold for a wage.” The term can apply to work in a variety of professions, from escorts to doctors, but it is most often used in reference to the sort of attitude management which occurs in low-wage service sector jobs. Josh Eidelson and Timothy Noah recently discussed two prominent examples in articles for The Nation and The New Republic.
In The Nation, Eidelson highlights Starbucks’ famous “come together” cups as a perfect example of emotional labor. When the CEO of Starbucks required that DC area employees write “come together” on every paper Starbucks cup served until the fiscal cliff negotiations were over, writes Eidelson, he was forcing those workers to “act out a part—from speaking from a company script, to smiling despite verbal abuse or physical pain, to urging that Congress embrace a deal that could imperil their retirement.”
Meanwhile, in The New Republic, Timothy Noah observes that the sandwich shop chain Pret A Manger aggressively monitors its employees’ displays of enthusiasm. If any worker at any particular store seems insufficiently pleased to see their customers, he and all of his coworkers could suffer the consequences. Pret CEO Clive Schlee even monitors whether his employees are making enough affectionate physical contact with each other.
 Forgive me for being cynical, but being an employee has often sucked!  Why do I see this article as a smokescreen for the real problem?  The gap between management and worker has grown but was always noxious.  Since my youth the nature of employment has changed for the worse in so many fundamental ways.  Yet we see the concerns expressed here put forth as if there is nothing else to complain about.

I am wondering if slaves who smiled about their situation were treated more favorably than those who resisted and complained.  I suspect it was true then and always has been.  

What is it we should be struggling for?  I would say that what we want is to put the division between management and employees into the same unacceptable category as the master and slave relationship.  If I can create the wealth with my labor who is more entitled to it than I?  If my working is for my gain and not some boss won't I treat my customer as I should?  How can people swallow this stuff?  We need a big change in the system!

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Originally posted to don mikulecky on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 06:02 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.


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