I would disagree with this article a little bit. The diverse means of compensation given the “well-off” worker–paid sick leave, paid vacation, healthcare, pension plan, etc–are not really privileges. But maybe we should think of them as privileges because quasi-job-security has a kind of lottery quality to it: Look how few good jobs there really are.
But really, we are talking about the rewards system of global capitalism. It looks the same as the old national industrial capitalist benefit systems that were very hard won by unions and more labor friendly governments. But today, beneath this early 20th century veneer there lies a reward system for settling…
Just settle for how things are… you got a job.
Just settle and don’t organize in solidarity with those who have minimum wage jobs or no work at all.
You remember what that was like… you don’t want to go back to that, do you?
Well, you will if you don’t just settle and take these rewards we are offering you.
The rewards of the ‘well-off’ worker: Higher pay than minimum wage. Healthcare. Maternity/Paternity leave. Paid sick days. Paid vacation. Retirement or pension plan.
These are the little things that global corporate finance give folks to a) keep the hardest workers (who have no real job security no matter how much some might think they do) and b) keep these hard workers working so hard they disconnect from the working poor and see them as the enemy rather than a group with which to have real solidarity. So long as the hard workers can keep up their pace, they will not be replaced. When they cannot keep pace, they will be gone, gone, gone. And welcome back to the working poor without any of these “privileges.”
But again: To think of these as privileges, in my opinion, is only to recognize you are blessed by your hard-work and good fortune. These are not privileges… they are rewards. Not benefits… rewards.
We are talking about “well-off” workers taking bounties for hunting every profitable moment they can give their employers in a forty or fifty or sixty hour work week. And therefore, it is about the worker giving benefits TO someone else. If you call them benefits, the benefit is TO the company for your labor.
The author linked here is at pains–over and over and over– to not say that those who work hard should feel guilty for what they have. She even points herself out as someone who works hard and is proud of what she has been able to do with her life. But this discussion should be totally reframed.
Nonetheless, what she is doing right is asking that ‘well-off’ workers–those who have some level of socio-economic stability with good rewards–take up an attitude of solidarity with the majority of workers who have none or very little of these things.
Unfortunately, as you will see if you read the comments to the piece at AlterNet, the response of most ‘well-off’ workers demonstrates a clear disjunction with the working poor.
…class privilege is about a lot more than big-ticket items, political sound bites, and the divide between the folks who send their kids to private schools and those of us who worked as their nannies.Sometimes, class privilege is about the small, everyday things we often take for granted.