16 July 2013
Blue-collar new norm America: Dadio’s handy manual to break workers’ spirit – Institutonalized part-time work culture
This entry was posted on 7/16/2013 1:30 AM and is filed under Broken spirit.
It’s no secret by now that Wisconsin’s job situation became a train wreck after 2005. And as I pen this handy handbook in 2013, despite apologists’ claims, it still is abysmal. Some of us have been literally screaming about it for over eight years now – to deaf ears; of course. But in the spirit of this handbook, the architects of this worker hell know damn well what is going on.
But by now the job distress has permeated the culture so profoundly, there are few left who can hawk perpetual optimism (that fake obfuscated happy talk apologists always belch – they usually don’t actually work a real job) with a straight face. Be all that as it may, the real “job ethic” in this state has been exposed as…., naked. It can now be seen as the canard it actually is, and has been for years.
Oh fair readers, you do realize do you not, that I am making a distinction between a collective “job ethic,” and that revered Wisconsin “work ethic” we all know and love with dreamy-eyed fondness? If you do not realize there is a difference, perhaps you should take a good look at yourself in the mirror and ponder if perhaps you might just be part of the banal problem.
I remember moving back to Wisconsin during the Clinton and Tommy Thompson years ( the “roaring Nineties” ) after my wife and I had a work foray in Texas. Jobs in Madison, Wisconsin, were especially abundant. It was true; you could start a job in the morning, quit at lunch, and have another one by afternoon break. But because I was just glad to be home again, I overlooked the ubiquitous poor wages and weekend hours that came with that job culture.
And the 1990s were indeed roaring in “university town” Madison if you woke up in the morning without a job and needed a minimum wage gig by noon. The running joke has always been, Madison has a whole cadre of lawn mower jockeys, cab drivers, and janitors with master’s degrees. But, we all put up with it with a smile because that job market filled a need. It kept students busy, gave them some social work experience, and helped parents pay bills with an extra part-time job.
But, we workers have allowed, and the architects of misery have intentionally crafted, this abysmal “job ethic” and its part-time, benefitless job culture to become our standard ground level norm, despite better jobs being out there.
Drape that 1990s job template over today’s employment wreckage. Madison still boasts more possibility of job offerings than the rest of the state. But is more than zero really a victory? Is the Packers beating the worst team in pro football du jour by two points really an excuse to party down? Is the Wisconsin Badgers beating a high school team 70 to 3 really something to be proud of? Had enough sports analogies? The economy actually is a game – a play house. And right now, all the game pieces and figurines are broken.
Back when I was young, a guy would work a crappy job to get by for awhile – it is what motorcycle fix’n, car repairing, partying young dudes often did and still do. And young women would take that low paying waitress job, the boring receptionist job, or work nights in the hospital to help send the kids to daycare, or pay for college, or both. For the guys at least, it was a right of passage – few thought it was odd back then, and few think it is odd today – especially in today’s world; maybe it is even more mainstream behavior in this today’s world of a person remaining on an adolescent track until they are 35.
But that chosen part-time job behavior in my youth was just that…often a chosen life style. Nowadays however, it has disturbingly become the norm for most of us all. We either can’t find work at all, or, we have no choice but to accept some hell job we once would only take just to round up some funds to fix our favorite pickup truck. Especially, and I repeat “especially” for those of us over 50 years old we must now re-live that miserable job culture from our past we once just joked about.
T’ain’t funny now…is it?
The once middle class, decent-benefited jobs at the automobile companies, and the many other industries Wisconsin had to boast, have been relegated to the “what used to be” category. Candidates and incumbents tout secret plans to bring us thousands of new jobs. Ah, perhaps you shouldn’t have let them go to China in the first place. Good luck with the secret plans. It takes years to nurture a vibrant job culture – you can’t replace something in a month that took 50 years to craft.
Back in the 1960s as the Wisconsin university system expanded and family farms deconstructed, farmers who once worked 14 hour days with no benefits, looked at new graveyard janitor jobs sporting bennies at “The UW” with love in their eyes. Now that trade has been deconstructed too. The University has been bringing in limited term employees ad nauseam for years. Further, remaining full-time positions are under budgetary siege. And, a new generation of beleaguered workers do not interpret emptying professors’ trash cans with the same affection their grandfathers did.
Both the hinterlands outside the pearly gates of Madison, and the Emerald City of Madison itself have been geared up for years to segue right on into the “new norm” of a decimated work force. The part-time job template of misery has been on the reserve shelf waiting to play first string for years. Now it has been pulled out and dusted off. The fast-food-esque Mcjobs with little merit or future have been the option in Wisconsin at large and Madison for decades. Problem is now, it is probably the norm for the rest of our foreseeable lives.
Job (no pun intended) well done, Wisconsin. We now are all permanently sentenced to a new norm of jobs we once only took to work through college, party, pay extra bills, or fix up the old car.
A perfect culture to break worker’s spirit.
Note: This blog “Blue-collar new norm America: Dadio’s handy manual to break workers’ spirit” – book version Category is a work in progress. These original vignettes are being edited for book form. Go to the Cooldadiomedia Web site and the Broken Spirit Page for an ordered chronology of the book vignettes (chapters).