Writing in the New York Times, Susan Lambert, a Professor is the Social Work Program at the University of Chicago, explores the issue of women who work low wages and work “flexible” schedules. Flexible sounds warm and fuzzy. Everybody likes things that are flexible. The problem is that employers are using this word to mask the fact that employees will only work when there is work – on call.
Once upon a time, I managed a phone center that offered on call positions. My bosses called the position flexible. After about six months of lying to people, I put my foot down and started telling prospective employees the truth. An on call position can be a good thing for someone who’s working full time and looking for supplemental income. For someone relying on a job to pay their bills, an on call position doesn’t work. You can’t tell from week to week how many hours will be available. It is impossible to budget for rent, food, and other essentials.
As Professor Lambert attests, more hourly employees today are given no option. Their schedules are flexible. She suggests that the government must legislate a solution. I’d like to agree, but the idea seems beyond utopian given our current political climate.
What we need is real solidarity. When a company treats workers like dogs, it needs to be called out and boycotted. As long as consumers want cheap at whatever cost, the cost will be the exploitation of their fellow workers. We need to stop blaming the employer and the government. Look in the mirror. If you shop at a company that pays its workers wages that force them to use food stamps, you are supporting exploitation. Worse than that, you are saying its o.k. for your tax dollars to supplement what the employer pays workers, which is nothing more than corporate welfare.
American workers need to wake up. It’s not the fault of big corporations. We know their games, and we have to put an end to them. Solidarity.