Dear Capitalist, Leave Me the Hell Alone on My Day Off
This first appeared in Skewed News.
It’s apparently not enough that you consume all our hours and energy, squeezing us so hard that we turn into miserable wrecks just so you can stuff your face with gourmet food and pay your golf club membership. It’s not enough that we that we work so hard at your crappy jobs that we become dry exhausted husks at the end of a working day, barely alive enough to pop a microwave burrito and zone out to “Mr. Robot” before bed.
After being exploited all day by your greedy ass, did we think we could have at least a few hours or a couple days to call our own, to recover and get our own shit done? Did we plan to catch up on all the errands and housework we’re too tired to do during the workweek? Or even try to squeeze in something fun, relaxing, and social, perhaps take our kids to the movies? Ha ha, joke’s on us—you want that too. You want it all.
Work has taken over our entire lives. Even when we’re not working, we’re on call. Always ready to take on that next project or shift. Always at your beck and call, available to drop everything to answer your fucking texts, calls or emails. Always having to show just the RIGHT ATTITUDE, the right mix of subservient enthusiasm and eagerness to jump at your command, or risk being thrown out of a job altogether.
Who’s on call at less than a week’s notice? 66 percent in food service, 52 percent in retail, and 40 percent of janitors and house cleaners, and many, many others. It’s mostly people with low-wage jobs, making it even harder for those who need it most to schedule reliable additional work to make ends meet.
Some employees even have to call in just before their shift to see if they’re needed, which pretty much makes their entire life subordinated to the job. After being sent letters by the Attorney General telling them they may be violating that state’s labor laws, a few retail chains recently announced they’re going to stop this kind of on-call scheduling in New York. Whoop-de-do. This is a slight improvement, but not nearly enough. What about all the other states? What about all the other ways you seize control of our time?
An x-ray tech (who with his wife have four jobs between them) described being told at the last minute to work another shift. “They’re not really asking. It’s kinda like an understood thing that if I go, ‘look, I want to go home,’ which I do because I’m exhausted, they give me this feeling that if you’re not going to stay, then we’re not giving you any more hours. If I say no, I’ll pay for it, one way or the other. Their attitude is like, ‘well you want work, right?’ Yes I want work, but I don’t want to get worked into the ground, like an animal.”
He talked about being stressed out having to juggle the rest of his life around whatever the manager wants. Working people aren’t permitted to make our own plans any more, but are expected to wait around, hovering by the phone, in case capitalists decide they need us. Everything we try to do is contingent on your last minute whims. Our lives have become unstable and unpredictable, not knowing from day to day if we’re going to be able to fix the car or find childcare or what maddening new hassle will overwhelm us. We’re in a constant state of uncertainty, flaking off from social engagements, unable to sleep enough, settling for fast over healthy food, getting high blood pressure, missing our kids’ baseball games, canceling meetings to plan how to overthrow all you motherfuckers. …
Well, that’s the whole point right there, isn’t it? You want to keep the ground shifting under our feet, keep us too busy to think straight, too busy to organize. Because if we succeed in that, then we, not you, will decide not only when and how much we work, but also what we produce, which services we provide, and how to distribute the fruits of our labor. We won’t be paying your golf club membership any more, that’s for sure.