Against the Grain

Dictatorship of the Workplace

When you think of dictatorship, what comes to mind? Probably a repressive state controlling what we can say and do. But acclaimed political philosopher Elizabeth Anderson argues that the word describes the workplace. She discusses how we give up most of our rights when we take a job.

2 responses to “Dictatorship of the Workplace

  1. Very interesting topic for her book and the show. I liked the discussion around so called “at will” employment contracts. I wish she talked more about specific abuses that almost every low wage or contract employee deals with. I had a friend working for around $8/hr at Vons parttime. They wouldn’t give her and other workers fulltime hours so they didn’t have to pay benefits. They also didn’t want them to have a second job so they never gave them regular hours. She got her schedule the day before she worked the week. The schedule included hours from 1st to 3rd shift. Often she would leave work after midnight to rush home to sleep for 5 hrs before her next shift early in the morning. She needed another PT job but since she couldn’t provide consistent availability she couldn’t find one. Vons counted on her quitting and like your guest said, there are people lined up to take those jobs.
    The slaughterhouse workers not being allowed to use the bathroom was an example from the most exploitative industry in the US: Animal Ag. What do you expect when they hyper-confine, torture and murder animals by the millions daily? Mostly immigrant workers are objectified and controlled just like the animals they kill. According to OSHA the industry has the highest rates of severing limbs. it’s because they demand the workers go so fast. The equipment is designed to cut flesh. Animal Ag also exploits the environment and human health. Burgers and tacos should cost $30, but they cost $1.

  2. Also, she didn’t believe worker owned coops/businesses could work, but she didn’t describe fully. She just sort of dismissed the idea. If utilities, which are huge enterprises are publicly owned, why can’t airlines or other huge businesses be held collectively? it seems possible. Also what about the idea of not letting anything get that huge unless absolutely necessary?

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