Blondie defends manual labor

I sometimes hear white-collar workers speak disparagingly about manual workers whom they see relaxing. They seem to think that such people should be working non-stop even though they are doing extremely difficult and tiring jobs, often in terrible conditions, while their critics push paper around in air-conditioned workplaces where a lot of time is spent in idleness. I, for example, have never really done a hard day’s work in my life and am aware that I am very fortunate and am grateful for being so lucky.

I was glad to see that the creators of the Blondie comic strip were taking a stand for manual labor against this unfair criticism.


  1. flex says

    Growing up outside of the suburbs of Detroit, I heard on occasion the complaints from automotive engineer’s who were friends of the family about union workers always goofing off. Including an oft-repeated story from one gentleman who walked into a plant and found people sleeping there.

    It was much later in my life, when working as an automotive engineer myself and visiting plants at various times, that I learned that it is not uncommon for people to be on a schedule where they would end one shift, and start the next one four hours later. For example, finish one shift at eight in the evening and start again at midnight. I could understand people not wanting to go home, but staying and catching a few hours of sleep.

    Which explains why someone who doesn’t know this could walk into a plant, see people sleeping, and think people are sleeping on the job. The person who told the original story about lazy union workers has since died, but I know the story still lives on.

  2. says

    @flex, that is a jarring story. That shit is illeagal in Germany, it is mandatory to give workers at least 8 hours free time between shift here.

  3. says

    I had a conversation once with a guy who does road repair in Pennsylvania. You know: the guys who stand around and watch the one person who has a shovel use the shovel? It turns out that they are restricted as to what tools they can have in the truck, and how many, so they have to stand around and spell eachother. Or, there is only one person qualified to use a certain tool safely so they stand around and watch them work. Meanwhile, people drive by and scream “lazy!” out their car windows.

  4. colinday says

    Is Dean Young actually defending manual workers, or merely calling out the office workers for their hypocrisy?

  5. says

    That’s not OK towards sloths, they are cute.
    I’m a “first in the family” university graduate and even though my parents supported me a lot I was also always expected to earn part of my keep as an adult, mostly because they did not want me to turn into an arrogant white collar worker*. Until my education had progressed enough that I could earn my money teaching, I did a couple of manual jobs, from waiting tables over working at a styrofoam factory (2 cubic metres of styrofoam combine weight with difficult to handle) to working at a sausage factory (only in the packing department, so I don’t have any horrible stories to tell).
    This filled me with life-long respect for people who work a hard job for little money. I wouldn’t say my job is easy now, it’s damn exhausting (though that’s more psychological than physical), but at least I get paid a middle class salary.

    *My in laws didn’t and as a result my brother in law is at times a pampered idiot. His parents, his brother and his aunt all invested a lot in his PhD and he thinks he earned it all alone.

  6. Onamission5 says

    My spouse works in landscaping and hardscape installation which, while not building contractor work, is contractor adjacent. A lot of what those on the outside might see as “standing around doing nothing” is in fact a group of people problem solving an issue such as--
    — an underground utility that wasn’t on the plans nor caught on survey, so now they have to call in the appropriate government worker to inspect so they don’t accidentally blow up, flood, or electrocute anyone
    — soil quality different than anticipated, e.g. higher water table, more sand, less bedrock, et al
    — there’s a potentially archeologically or criminally relevant find on the job site
    — waiting on the inspector to arrive and clear your work thus far so you can continue
    --waiting on a delivery

    As anyone who’s watched home renovation shows or done even minor remodeling knows, some problems don’t reveal themselves until you actually open a thing up and look inside. That seemingly minor pothole repair may have unearthed a broken water main beneath a roadway which it turns out was waiting to collapse, or upon removing the broken pavement, the crew who was sent to do a quick patchup might have realized the whole substrate is broken down, or, and this is probably more common that one might think, the design element that looked cool on paper turns out to not work so well structurally. Doing one’s homework ahead of time can cut down on time delay issues but it doesn’t eliminate them entirely.

    Other potential issues which can result in appearance of slack are common situations like, one of the materials suppliers sent the wrong delivery so half the crew can’t do their jobs yet but they have to stick around because the correct materials are “on their way” per the supplier; a critical piece of equipment has broken down or is stuck in traffic; there’s a trainee on the job so for safety’s sake they are taking things more slowly; and, like Marcus said above, there’s a specialist needed for this stage of work and no one else can do the thing so they’re acting as spotters in the meanwhile. Sometimes the people standing around while the labor crew digs the hole or nails the wall are subcontractors waiting for x to finish so they can do y, sometimes they’re building inspectors or supervisors or OSHA monitoring progress, and sometimes, yes, they are the laborers. Who are legally allowed to take breaks.

  7. jrkrideau says

    “Everyone knows that those guys in the office don’t really do much except drink coffee and go out for long lunches”.

    “The last time I was in the office, there was some guy with his feet up on the desk reading a book”!

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