Cenikor, Rehab, and Forced Labor

A nationally renowned drug rehab program in Texas and Louisiana has sent patients struggling with addiction to work for free for some of the biggest companies in America, likely in violation of federal labor law.

The Cenikor Foundation has dispatched tens of thousands of patients to work without pay at more than 300 for-profit companies over the years. In the name of rehabilitation, patients have moved boxes in a sweltering warehouse for Walmart, built an oil platform for Shell and worked at an Exxon refinery along the Mississippi River.

“It’s like the closest thing to slavery,” said Logan Tullier, a former Cenikor participant who worked 10 hours per day at oil refineries, laying steel rebar in 115-degree heat. “We were making them all the money.”

They worked in sweltering heat for Exxon, Shell and Walmart. They didn’t get paid a dime
Constant work leaves little time for counseling or treatment, transforming rehab patients into a cheap, expendable labor pool for private companies.
Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter,
Reveal

See also: Debtors Prisons, Return of in Mississippi

When Essential Workers Earn Less Than The Jobless – NPR

When the government shut down the U.S. economy in a bid to tame the spread of the coronavirus, Congress scrambled to help tens of millions of people who lost jobs. The government rushed one-time relief checks to all families that qualified and tacked an extra $600 onto weekly unemployment benefits, which are usually less than regular pay and vary by state.

But so far, lawmakers have not passed any measure to increase pay for workers who were asked to keep going to work during a highly contagious health crisis. Some companies did create hazard, or “hero,” pay — typically around $2 extra an hour or a one-time bonus. Most have since ended it.

ALINA SELYUKH
NPR

American Workers – Lost Ground

Long before the pandemic, U.S. workers’ productivity and their median pay, which once rose in tandem, went through an acrimonious divorce. Compensation, especially in some of the country’s fastest-growing industries, has stagnated, while the costs of housing, health care, and education decidedly have not. The federal minimum wage, stuck at $7.25 since 2009, is worth 70% of what it was in 1968, and about a third of what it would be had it kept pace with productivity.

How the American Worker Got Fleeced
Over the years, bosses have held down wages, cut benefits, and stomped on employees’ rights. Covid-19 may change that.
Story by Josh Eidelson
Data analysis and graphics by Christopher Cannon
bloomberg.com

At a Texas Foundry, An Indifference to Life. NY Times 2003

It is said that only the desperate seek work at Tyler Pipe, a sprawling, rusting pipe foundry out on Route 69, just past the flea market. Behind a high metal fence lies a workplace that is part Dickens and part Darwin, a dim, dirty, hellishly hot place where men are regularly disfigured by amputations and burns, where turnover is so high that convicts are recruited from local prisons, where some workers urinate in their pants because their bosses refuse to let them step away from the manufacturing line for even a few moments.


On June 29, 2000, in his second month on the job, Mr. Hoskin descended into a deep pit under a huge molding machine and set to work on an aging, balky conveyor belt that carried sand. Federal rules require safety guards on conveyor belts to prevent workers from getting caught and crushed. They also require belts to be shut down when maintenance is done on them.

But this belt was not shut down, federal records show. Nor was it protected by metal safety guards. That very night, Mr. Hoskin had been trained to adjust the belt while it was still running. Less downtime that way, the men said. Now it was about 4 a.m., and Mr. Hoskin was alone in the cramped, dark pit. The din was deafening, the footing treacherous under heavy drifts of black sand.

He was found on his knees. His left arm had been crushed first, the skin torn off. His head had been pulled between belt and rollers. His skull had split.

At a Texas Foundry, An Indifference to Life
David Barstow and Lowell Bergman
NYTIMES

Two Janitors – Their Prospects and Compensation, 35 Years Ago Vs. Now

The $16.60 per hour Ms. Ramos earns as a janitor at Apple works out to about the same in inflation-adjusted terms as what Ms. Evans earned 35 years ago. But that’s where the similarities end.

Ms. Evans was a full-time employee of Kodak. She received more than four weeks of paid vacation per year, reimbursement of some tuition costs to go to college part time, and a bonus payment every March. When the facility she cleaned was shut down, the company found another job for her: cutting film.

Ms. Ramos is an employee of a contractor that Apple uses to keep its facilities clean. She hasn’t taken a vacation in years, because she can’t afford the lost wages. Going back to school is similarly out of reach. There are certainly no bonuses, nor even a remote possibility of being transferred to some other role at Apple.

Yet the biggest difference between their two experiences is in the opportunities they created. A manager learned that Ms. Evans was taking computer classes while she was working as a janitor and asked her to teach some other employees how to use spreadsheet software to track inventory. When she eventually finished her college degree in 1987, she was promoted to a professional-track job in information technology.

To Understand Rising Inequality, Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now
Neil Irwin
NYTIMES

Which job is a LOT less fun than most people expect? – AskReddit


Which job is a LOT less fun than most people expect? from AskReddit

Mr_frumpish
Video game tester.

You aren’t spending your time playing completed fully realized games. You are playing the same level of a game over and over seeing if there are bugs.

xenedra0
Archaeologist. Did it during my twenties and that was more than enough. Long, hot days… living out of cheap motels on shit pay, and you typically find nothing more than some pieces of glass and broken pottery. Every once in a blue moon you find something cool, but those items generally end up getting stored away in a box full of other artifacts never to be seen again.

stuckonpost
I went to George Washington’s boyhood home near Fredericksburg, VA, where they were sifting through dirt. I was a tourist by myself, and watched them dig from a distance, nothing amazing. What DID amaze me though was the amount of people that asked “What’chya diggin’ for?” I ended up asking the intern how many people ask that, and she said “too many to count sir…” I felt so bad!

Heir233
After reading through this thread for 20 minutes I’ve concluded that every job sucks

Zep_Rocko
I think doing anything for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week would probably get tiresome.

jo-z
After working in 2-3 hour blocks interspersed with home cooking, walks, naps, and little tasks around the house these last few months, I’m having a hard time accepting that I’ll probably have to endure 5 consecutive 8-hour days again.

Dextrofunk
Seriously though I’m not ready to go back to switching between work and exhaustion with no time to focus on anything else. Even my weekends are just errands and chores. I’ve been taking classes, working out, cooking and I haven’t been this stress free since I was a kid.

PM_Me_Cool_Cars_
Accounting isn’t the adrenaline rush that most people think it is

Pellegrino22
But the glamour! The perks! The respect!

Opinion | Tyson Foods Worker Urges Company To Slow Down So They Can Social Distance – The New York Times

Meat plant workers rarely speak out for fear of reprisal. But in the video above, Jerald and Lakesha Bailey, a former worker at a Tyson plant, urge the company to slow down the processing lines. Chicken carcasses zoom along the lines at breakneck speeds, and workers are often packed shoulder to shoulder to keep up — making it impossible to social distance.

Tyson Foods claims one of its core values is “Workplace Safety,” yet 570 workers tested positive for the coronavirus in a single poultry plant in Wilkes, N.C. And at Tyson plants around the country, over 7,000 employees have tested positive for the virus. Workers continue to die from Covid-19. Despite this, the company recently reverted to its pre-coronavirus absentee policy; workers who fear getting infected will now be penalized for staying home.

NYTIMES

Los Angeles County Unemployment, Coronavirus effect on

Because of the colossal impact that the coronavirus outbreak has had on the U.S. economy, less than half of Los Angeles County residents — 45% compared with 61% in mid-March — still hold a job, a decline of 16 percentage points, or an estimated 1.3 million jobs, according to findings from a national survey released Friday.

Jaclyn Cosgrove
Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2020
Less than half of L.A. County residents still have jobs amid coronavirus crisis

Coronavirus Pandemic and Unemployment – Theatrical Workers

Brown is a 33-year film veteran. He has seen many ups and downs in the industry, from the Writers Guild strike in 2007 to 2008 to the global financial crisis to natural disasters. This one is different. “Our income currently is zero dollars with no end in sight. It’s frightening,” he told CNN Business, “I am going to deplete all my savings.”

Brown is a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents roughly 145,000 entertainment workers working behind the scenes. In March, IATSE announced that more than 90% of its members are out of a job due to the pandemic — that’s roughly 120,000 craftspeople, technicians, and artisans.

Anna-Maja Rappard, CNN Business.
Hollywood Has Gone Dark, And It’s Crushing Thousands

For Many, Getting By Was Difficult Before Coronavirus

In less than two decades, the share of income paid out in wages and benefits in the private sector shrank by 5.4 percentage points, a McKinsey Global Institute study found last year, reducing compensation on average by $3,000 a year, adjusted for inflation.

The result is that a job — once the guarantor of income security — no longer reliably plays that role.

“For many working families, wage growth has not been strong enough to allow them to meet their basic needs on their own,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston concluded in a report last year.

“Straggling In A Good Economy, And Now Struggling In A Crisis”
Patricia Cohen
 https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/16/business/economy/coronavirus-economy.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage.

Trying to Stay Afloat in the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has brought big changes in how Americans work.

Some are fortunate to work from home, while others, including health care workers and delivery drivers, still have to go out in public.

Both women are also supporting children at home.

Humphreys, a single mother who is caring for her son and niece, says she is trying to save money by limiting the use of air conditioning, even though the temperatures in Austin have been in the mid-90s.

She’s also trying to hold off on grocery shopping.

“I started going through my freezer, we are eating everything that’s in the freezer before I have to buy groceries again,” she says. “I’m trying to go through all the canned foods.”

She will lose her health insurance next month, so her son’s father will put her son on his insurance. But for herself, things are uncertain. A survivor of thyroid cancer, Humphreys says she “can’t be without medication.”

“What I tried to do was refill all of my medications for 90 days for now,” she says. “I at least have that for now.”

Lee says she is barely getting by. She has three children and her husband was recently laid off from his job as a trucker. She says he’s receiving unemployment benefits, but combined with her income, that’s “barely” enough to support everyone.

“American Workers Confront Range Of Challenges During The Coronavirus Pandemic”. April 2020. Wbur.Org.

Netscape Navigator and Fax Machines – Filing for Unemployment in NY

As he and many others discovered, the state’s archaic systems were woefully unprepared for the deluge of claims. In Mr. Islam’s case, he said it took him four days to reach someone who could explain what he had to do to complete the application process.

State officials admitted as recently as last summer that there were problems with the technology used for such applications, describing New York’s unemployment-insurance systems as relics from the heyday of mainframe computers.

Would-be applicants’ frustration grew as their computer screens froze repeatedly and their calls went unanswered for days. Some attempts to apply for benefits yielded a pop-up message that suggested using Netscape, a browser that effectively no longer exists.

He Needs Jobless Benefits. He Was Told to Find a Fax Machine.
Thousands of newly unemployed New Yorkers desperate to stay afloat are being frustrated by the state’s 1970s-era technology.
Patrick McGeehan
NY Times

An Instacart worker on why she’s striking.

What do you want Instacart customers to know right now?

They need to understand where their groceries are actually coming from: the same stores that they would shop at. They’re being delivered in people’s personal cars. Shoppers are not paid an hourly wage. We’re paid a flat rate. Tips are very important. We’re considered independent contractors, but many states have already found that to be a misclassification. And I’d like customers to know that we’re doing the best we can. We’re trying to keep us safe, and we’re trying to keep them safe. We’re trying to save our families. We shouldn’t have to rely on tips in order to make it worth it. We should be paid fairly with tips on top of that, but we’re not, and that’s the reality.

Aaron Mak interviewing Heidi Carrico
https://slate.com/technology/2020/03/an-instacart-worker-on-why-shes-striking.html

Tom Colicchio Spent 19 Years Building a Restaurant Empire. Coronavirus Gutted It in a Month.

What it’s like to lay off nearly 300 employees—and rethink unchecked capitalism

Now New York is facing another unthinkable catastrophe — this time, along with the entire world — and the restaurant industry is threatened as never before. Last week, Danny Meyer, Colicchio’s one-time partner, shut down all 19 of his storied establishments, laying off 2,000 people — some 80% of his workforce. Thomas Keller furloughed 1,200. And Colicchio has done the same, laying off all but a few of his 300 employees.

Recognizing an existential crisis for his industry — with many other sectors of the economy sure to follow — Colicchio has turned his attention to defending independent restaurants and their 11 million employees around the country from total devastation.

Aaron Gell talking with Tom Colicchio, March 27 2020
Medium

Freakonomics, Andrew Yang Interview

YANG: Now, I studied economics. And according to my economics textbook, those displaced workers would get retrained, re-skilled, move for new opportunities, find higher-productivity work, the economy would grow. So everyone wins. The market, invisible hand has done its thing. So then I said, “Okay, what actually happened to these four-million manufacturing workers?” And it turns out that almost half of them left the workforce and never worked again. And then half of those that left the workforce then filed for disability, where there are now more Americans on disability than work in construction, over 20 percent of working-age adults in some parts of the country.

DUBNER: So the former manufacturing workers, a lot of them are on disability, a lot of them are also — especially if they’re younger men — they’re spending 25 to 40 hours a week playing video games.

YANG: Yeah so it did not say in my textbook, half of them will leave the workforce never to be heard from again. Half of them will file for disability and then another significant percentage will start drinking themselves to death, start committing suicide at record levels, get addicted to opiates to a point where now eight Americans die of opiates every hour. When you say, “Am I for automation and artificial intelligence and all these fantastic things?” of course I am. I mean, we might be able to do things like cure cancer or help manage climate change more effectively. But we also have to be real that it is going to displace millions of Americans.

People are not infinitely adaptable or resilient or eager to become software engineers, or whatever ridiculous solution is being proposed. And it’s already tearing our country apart by the numbers, where our life expectancy has declined for the last two years because of a surge in suicides and drug overdoses around the country. None of this was in my textbook. But if you look at it, that’s exactly what’s happening. The fantasists — and they are so lazy and it makes me so angry, because people who are otherwise educated are literally wave their hands and be like, “Industrial Revolution, 120 years ago. Been through it before,” and, man, if someone came into your office and pitched you in an investment in a company based on a fact pattern from 120 years ago, you’d freakin’ throw them out of your office so fast.

freakonomics

Academia from Adjunct Perspective

The halls of academe are known to be hospitable to people with radical views on power relationships between capital and labor, but colleges themselves are often merciless actors in the labor market. Many adjuncts earn only a few thousand dollars per course, with no health insurance or retirement benefits. Twenty-five percent of part-time faculty receive some form of public assistance.

But there’s a crucial difference between schoolteachers and college professors. Elementary, middle, and high school teachers all have versions of the same job. They sink and swim and bargain together. The academy is a two-tier caste system, split between those who won the tenure tournament and those who lost.

From the comments:
I had a philosophy professor in college who said “if you’re thinking about a PhD in Philosophy, let me talk you out of it.” Great advice.

The Bleak Job Landscape of Adjunctopia for Ph.D.s
Ruthless labor exploitation? Generational betrayal? Understanding the job crisis in academia requires a look at recent history.

Kevin Carey, NYTIMES

Socialists and billionaires in presidential politics. Open Source, Christopher Lydon

The New Red Scare
“The winter round of the presidential race goes to Bernie Sanders, not so much for winning the most votes from Democrats as for coining the key word, the big theme for 2020, which is: billionaires! Not just the billionaires on the ballot and billionaires backstage, it’s billionaire-ism coming to be the argument of this election in a country at odds more and more about money. We’re used to anger, right and left, but suddenly there’s alarm in the air – at MSNBC, the Democrats’ TV network, the bold march of Bernie’s anti-billionaire army reminded Hardball‘s Chris Matthews of the Fall of France to Hitler in 1940. It’s scary, and there’s a pick of scarecrows in this race: the Plutocrat; the Democratic Socialist, and the President.

This was wake-up week among the Democrats nominating a presidential candidate. Some woke up cheering that Bernie Sanders looks like the choice of the people. Some woke up screaming in horror that the rebellion against the Clinton era is real, that their party has been dying for four years, that the end is near. The sound of battle has gone raw, with survival at stake, not just egos.”

Radio Open Source