To be or not to be a worker bee

Working at the bottom end of the economic ladder for the last two years has been an eye-opening experience to say the least. In fact, if not for the humiliation and constant fear inherent in trying to live from shitty paycheck to shitty paycheck, I’d recommend it for everybody purely as a character building experience. Here’s the latest character building lesson I barely escaped …

For the past six months I’ve been in a training program that results in a whopping twenty cents an hour raise when completed. The completion date is right around the corner. By this time next month I’ll be making an extra eight dollars a week! There’s just one catch: back in January I was injured, a nasty fractured shoulder. Because my company has a third-world work camp attendance policy, I had to come in the next day regardless. It was incredibly painful to work on a computer taking customer service phone calls with that snapped bone, the edges would rub together sometimes causing a jolt of pain that would turn my face white and bring tears to my eyes. I managed to hang for the first day, but by the second, with no sleep the night before and no chance for the bones to rest and start to knit, a jolt of pain hit me so hard I literally passed out for a few seconds at my desk.

I went home early that day. That absence, together with one other due to an AS flare up causing temporary blindness, over a six month period was enough to give me a sort of special ‘black mark’. I found out yesterday, just a few days before the six month training deal was up and the shitty raise mine, that if I hadn’t gotten FMLA paperwork moving — which was fought every goddamn step of the way — not only would I not get the shitty raise, I would have to start completely over and serve another six month stint doing the exact same thing before I would get it. That’s if they would allow me to start over.

I get here everyday hours before my bosses or anyone else. I stay later than anyone on my team. But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that I was in the ER and have a CD ROM of the CAT scan showing the fracture. It doesn’t matter that I’m in the top ten producers out of hundreds of people and won an award for that just a few weeks ago. Nope, if not for the Family Medical Leave Act passed years ago I would be out the piddling twenty cent raise — and I might still lose my profit sharing and year end bonus, both of which are  routinely waved around as justification for paying my coworkers and I well below the going rate for what we do.

This kind of shit is just one of many, many ways our system is rigged against the worker bee. For so many of my coworkers who are in their twenties, they’ve never known anything else but this rigged system. They sense, correctly, that something is terribly wrong, that it’s not supposed to be like this, that they work a lot harder for their money than their bosses do and their parents did, but they little or no experience or background to help them understand how much better it could be.


  1. unbound says

    I agree 100%, and I am not a worker bee. We pay our worker bees far too little, and we pay top management way too much.

    In 2007, the top 1% had 42.7% of the total financial wealth in this country, the top 20% had 94% of the total financial wealth…leaving the bottom 80% of the US with 6% to live off of.

    Is a CEO worth paying more than the worker bees? Sure. But when the average CEO makes almost 400 times more than the average worker, something is seriously wrong. The CEO isn’t worth anywhere near that much. 20 times maybe…but nearly 400 times more?

    Unfortunately, it is the golden rule in effect. He who has the gold is making the rules.

  2. robb says

    what shitty company.

    i can imagine a manager saying this:

    “you should be happy to have a job where the company completely exploits you.”

  3. DiscordianStooge says

    But everyone knows if you work hard, you will be successful and make tons of money!

  4. Trebuchet says

    I’d have to say that “otherwise OK” companies do not fight FMLA “every goddamn step of the way.” I had to take five weeks off on FMLA when my wife was critically ill two years ago. My company, fortunately was great. That was a little bit surprising given its labor relations history.

  5. says

    That is a good point Tre, but the HR folks actually went to bat for me on FMLA. Which is fortunate: this particular company farms out FMLA to an insurance ccmpany with predictable results: the insurance company is hard to get ahold of, demands confusing and at times conflicting documents, and then conveniently loses track of it after I run around and get it all signed, sealed and delivered.

  6. interrobang says

    I’m a dumb foreigner and I don’t understand, but why is this kind of thing even allowed to happen? Even the crappiest phone jobs everyone in my hometown spends a stint in their 20s working at don’t abuse their workers like that.

    And I have to say, I agree with Trebuchet — your HR people might be okay, but the company you work for sucks. Your anecdotes read like something out of Nickeled and Dimed, which is horrifying and intolerable enough when it’s happening to uneducated manual labourers (who have, to be honest, never worked under good conditions), but really gross happening to college-educated IT people. (Of course, being IT people, it probably never crossed anyone’s mind to try to unionise, did it? Or do you live in one of those horrible right-to-fire states where that’s utterly impossible? Gut reaction: Good god, man, call the Wobs, they actually have a specific IT chapter…)

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