You know something is seriously wrong when management at your job fights you about using the bathroom. First, the fact that they freely expect you to ask permission to pee is demeaning, degrading. Then when you do ask, supervisors delay you and stall you, saying they need you at your work station.
You are one of 20 cashiers working in the airport parking toll booths. If you close your window for five minutes to go inside and use the bathroom, traffic will not come to a screeching halt; the cars will simply move into other lanes. Anyway, the cars exiting the airport parking lot have no choice. There's one way out. They have to pay the parking ticket at one of the cashier booths. It doesn't matter which one.
Every shift you sit for eight cramped hours in a phone booth size cubicle, surrounded by car exhaust; breathing it into your lungs. The booth is air conditioned, but your window must remain open, so the air conditioning has its limits. During the day, the sun beats down. Your windows aren't tinted. Do this work long enough, skin cancer is a likely possibility.
If you make a mistake on a ticket, it is deducted from your pay. Customers scream at you, berate you and insult your dignity. Most often, these are the customers driving Mercedes and BMWs. Customers driving thirteen year old clunkers are usually patient and polite.
You've worked here for three years and although you've expressed an interest in training for a supervisory position, you are always passed over. You begin to notice that others, with less seniority than you, do get promoted. You also notice the ones who get promoted quickly are Caucasians, while you and African-American co workers do not.
A co worker has been talking about joining a union. Some others are interested. Union literature gets passed around. There's going to be a meeting soon.
A supervisor takes you aside one night on your break. She tells you she "heard" you were thinking about joining a union. She says she would "advise against it," because "it could mean your job."
The work rules change suddenly. A new manager is brought in. He walks around and watches everyone constantly. He micromanages. The atmosphere at work has become more tense. Breaks are scheduled at different times, to make it harder for workers to meet with each other. Bathroom breaks are timed by a supervisor. When the union supporters go into the locker room or bathroom, they are shadowed by a supervisor. The most vocal union supporters are fired,--some say for bullshit infractions. The most senior workers--who make the highest pay--are fired. Workers with chronic health problems are fired.
A campaign to discredit the remaining union organizers gets underway. Lies are spread to discredit the union supporters. Their work loads increase. They are written up for minor "violations" that other workers get away with. This is how-- through fear, intimidation, bribery, sabotage and financial threats-- the 1% stops the 99% from organizing themselves together to fight for better working conditions, better pay, and respect.
The managers enlist some members of the 99% to spy on, inform on, lie to and lie about, the rest of the 99%. They intimidate and threaten the 99% with loss of their jobs, or with actual physical violence. Workplace health and safety hazards reported by workers are ignored. Managers speak to sources outside the job (the media, family members, police, other employers..) and spread lies about the 99% to discredit them. They attempt to divide the ranks of the 99% and set them against each other in a desperate bid to weaken them.
If they succeed, the workplace remains non union, the union supporters get fired, and are blacklisted from future employment, business as usual descends like a dark cloud upon the 99% and the 1% continues to exploit and enslave them.
(All true, by the way, and taken from my book Diary of a Wage Slave, a book that will never be published, at least not while I'm alive.)
For the 1% big fish the scariest thing is the sight of all those little fishes swimming together as one...
because they know: together we're powerful. In the workplace, in the parks, in the streets, on the bridges, in the pond, across the pond, all over the world.
New Yorker cartoon by John O'Brien