Morning Ed: Labor {2016.03.23.W}


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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48 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Re Will Wheaton: I make similar arguments for theatre artists. I got into a debate with a friend about this yesterday. I’ve written before about the Fkea. The Flea is an experimental but respected off off Broadway theatre that uses an unpaid acting company called the Bats. The Bats also perform menial admin labor for the Flea. The Flea is also building a nice new theatre at 20 million.*

    Lots of people think that it is horrible that the Flea does not pay actors. Myself included. I differ in also placing some blame and pressure on the actors. I think that the best way to get the Flea to pay is to encourage actors to stop auditioning full stop. Apparently this is a bad suggestion in the theatre world because it puts some burdens on the actors/labor.**

    *The Flea’s free actors get paid in exposure. They will almost always be reviewed in the NY Times and will work with established playwrights and directors. As opposed to being in a fifth floor walk-up with an unknown playwright and director. I am also cynical or realistic enough to wonder how many Bats can afford to be “independently employed in the arts.” This is another verboten thing to do in theatre. In theatre, we need to pretend that everyone is a struggling/starving artist.

    **The truth is that for the real artist, their art is a bug and they need to do it, pay or no pay. I miss directing but I am not willing to self-produce to put out the dough to self-produce. The other truth is that people will always pray on this bug for free labor. If actors want respect and money, they need to resist the bug en masse. I suspect this will not happen. Many actors have somewhat kindergarten belief in how labor and management struggles work. They need to think in terms of strikes and sit downs.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Curiously, my actress friend, choose to self product theater and has so for several years now. Low budget, actors paid a little…like a few hundred dollars max for a 6 week run. Most of the behind the scenes folks are not paid but do it because they love it or get experience.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Damon says:

        When I was a gigging musician, I always refused payment in beer (except for my first studio gig, which included my own hotel room).
        When I was offered beer as payment, I would make a point of drinking only water, so I could complain if they tried to short me later.
        Tape sessions of rehearsals that showed the difference between me playing cold sober and me playing slightly inebriated were sufficient to enforce my self-imposed ban.
        It’s a quality issue on that end, and a professionalism issue on the other.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Funny how non-creative people balk at the idea pretty hard.Report

      • “Non-creative professionals”? Oof.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Will Truman says:

          Well, I know what I do involves no creativity at all. Nope, notta, not a lick of original thought…

          Us engineers & software developers are barely a step above Roombas.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Game designers, musicians, etc do this all the time, actually.
        Go create a good fanmission, and you get a REAL job.
        (just, um, TRY not to burn down multiple buildings while getting your videogame/artproject to work).Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        @oscar-gordon @will-truman

        I did not mean to imply that others were less creative in their professions. Yet there is still a strong expectation that actors, writers, designers, photographers, musicians will work for free and/or cheap.

        I am willing to place some blame on creative folk because they seem to love posting cartoons with things like “I got a second job to fill my C.E.O. habbit but labor of love…” but don’t realize that they do have a habit and the best way to insist on getting paid is to only go for projects that pay. Now this is not a perfect solution, it might still mean a lot of second jobs but you still need to break the habit.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          We were picking on the link I posted, not you @saul-degraw .

          We’ve beaten you with that particular club enough already.Report

        • Thinking of internships, which are comparable: it works if you can organize everyone to refuse to work for free. Without organization it’s not going to make a difference, because some people will still work for free in hopes of getting an advantage, or at least getting experience. In the field I studied (international development) it’s next to impossible to get a job without working for free overseas for 1-2 years first – though to be fair, with NGOs that’s primarily because they operate on donations and don’t have a lot of disposable funds, and because donors like to measure how effective an organization is by how much it spends on direct assistance, and how little it spends on “administrative costs” (such as paying your staff).Report

      • Setting aside the “non-creative people” definition, there’s one group of non-fine-arts people that absolutely get hit with having to work for free: law students. You can’t become a lawyer without a year of articling, people often have to move to a different city to find a position, and articlers very rarely get paid.Report

    • Avatar notme in reply to LeeEsq says:

      So what? Are you trying to say that only unprofitable companies should be allowed to move? Or maybe a company should only be allowed to make so much profit? Would it be as bad if they relocated from a state like CA to Miss to make more profit?Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to notme says:

        It would be better for America frankly, if the company stayed put, and just moved the Mexican workers to Indiana.

        This way we still reap the secondary benefits of workers spending their wages here, we get some tax money, and the entire town doesn’t just collapse.

        I’m being semi-facetious here.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

      That’s terrible. Someone should build a wall to keep this sort of thing from happening.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Mngt is fiduciaryly bound to maximize profits to shareholders/owners, not employees.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon says:

        Only if that’s what the charter? states…Report

        • Avatar Damon in reply to Kim says:

          I’d never create a company that didn’t.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon says:

            You really want a 3 month timeframe for “makes most money”?
            If so, you are a fool.

            Publically traded companies have a lot of inherent disadvantages. Best not to do it unless and until you have to.

            (a friend of mine owns rather a number of businesses, and manages more).Report

            • Avatar Damon in reply to Kim says:

              Kim, you’re assuming much more than I’m saying.

              I never said a three month time frame. I said Mngt has a fiduciary duty to maximize profits. That could be yearly, quarterly, longer term, or for the next generation (family business), etc. Just because big public companies manage income quarterly, solely for a large diverse shareholder base and market rating companies, doesn’t mean every company does or even can.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Damon says:

        Again with this notion that the status quo legal structure is somehow a naturally occurring artifact.

        The corporate form of business is a legal fiction created out of thin air by the citizens, for the benefit of the citizens.

        We could in theory, eliminate all corporations tomorrow if we wished simply by removing the legal structure of them.

        We could if we so chose, require that all corporate charters have some provision for the public good, in order to receive the benefits of liability shield and so forth.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Damon wasn’t saying that, or, more accurately, you are reading an awful lot into a one line comment.

          The reality of US corporate law to mean what Damon says, that they have an obligation to shareholders that is pretty damn simplistic. Not every company takes such a simplistic view, but those that don’t have to make the effort to justify why.

          So yes, we could change it, there is no foundational documents or economic law that would stop us, but we haven’t, and so corporations will play by the rules they have.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Most individual shareholders wouldn’t really care that they could be earning slightly more money if the factory was located in Mexico rather than Indiana. Hedge funds are the real problem. They own enough shares to have a say and the managers of the hedge funds push these types of decisions. If the shares were owned by actual individuals rather than hedge funds, its likely that such a decision would not be made.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

              True, but obsessive focus on shareholder value is what gives the hedge fund manager his influence.

              This kind of power has to be given, it can’t be exercised any other way.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            The argument about corporations having only a responsibility to shareholders is a very precise argument, articulated by Milton Friedman most famously, and is used as a final word, a declarative fact to which there is no appeal.

            Maybe Damon really did intend an assumed suffix, e.g., “…unless the citizens change the laws on corporate charter issuance.”

            But I can’t recall anyone ever saying that in print. And more to the point, the notion that the corporate form of business can be willed into and out of existence is considered shocking, a radical idea in most forms of this conversation about corporate behavior.

            Its considered shocking because the way our political dialog happens in places like talk radio and cable news outlets, it is just assumed that forming a corporation and enjoying the liability and tax benefits is just some sort of inalienable and self evident natural right, like free speech or carrying a AR-15 into Starbucks.

            So I keep harping on this, that corporations have no right to exist, that they exist primarily for benefit of the citizens, and we can demand that they answer to the citizens, not merely their shareholders.Report

        • Avatar Damon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Yah, what Oscar said.

          In addition, I have specific responsibilities related to the correct reporting, recording, and treatment of expenses and forecasts. LEGAL responsibilities. Like I tell folks, “my job is to help other people stay out of jail”. That’s the rules as they are. Change em if you like. I’ll still be doing my job.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon says:

            At least you’re smart enough to not complain about your job being boring…
            (The last one that did that got shipped off to the company auditing Enron… as a relatively highly placed person in the company. It took about a week before the swearing started.)Report

            • Avatar Damon in reply to Kim says:

              Well, my job often is boring, I just don’t complain-about that.

              We had someone who did. A older woman with a CPA that bitched about a lot of work being beneath her education/training. My response was always, Mngt is paying me quite a tidy sum. If they want me to check the VP’s math and his excel chart for correctness, I’m going to do it. Their time.Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          Fact check:
          The origins of the corporation are Dutch, though tied with the origin of the credit union with the French & Germans.
          In the U.S., the history of the corporation pretty much begins with the railroads, as well as the history of the development of tort law.
          Corporations are regulated by the several states.
          That the several states exist to the benefit of its citizens is the real legal fiction.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Another example of the problem with focusing on shareholder value as a metric.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to LeeEsq says:

      At the same time, there’s no news article when Carrier decides to use bolts made in China instead of more expensive bolts made in the US. That’s a sensible and excusable act of disloyalty, but having manufacturing done overseas is not.Report

  2. Avatar notme says:

    Court rebukes IRS for tea party targeting, orders release of secret list of groups it targeted.

  3. Avatar Damon says:

    Cage: Monitoring has been going on for ever. I’ve been presented with “acceptable non company use of company IT assets” policies and procedures for the last 20 + years. But I’ve never know anyone to be fired for trolling on their lunch hour.Report

  4. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The no paid sick time should be a no brainer. Many people can’t afford to miss out on a day’s wages and will go to work even if they are feeling horrible and really should rest. This will of course expose others to their sickness and if they have to handle something like food than things get worse. Not having any paid sick days is good example of a penny wise, pound foolish policy.Report

    • Avatar El Muneco in reply to LeeEsq says:

      The misstep was categorizing sick days as an employee perk. That means that the bean-counters are going to try to take them away. And there will be both management and peer pressure to use them as little as possible (from the people who always manage to let slip a reminder that they’ve maxed their vacation days).

      It’s really for the benefit of the company, to minimize the lost productivity from the other people the poor sod is going to infect, not just about the first sick person. The policy should be more along the lines – you’re sick, you stay home. Not categorized separately, not even counted separately.

      So how to prevent abuse? What is the negative if someone does abuse such a policy? Their job doesn’t get done. And we already have a procedure in place for that. What if their job does get done even with extra slacking time? Well, then they’re underemployed, so maybe you should look at giving them a responsibility it would take them more than 20 hours a week to get done… But the company didn’t lose out, since they still did everything you asked of them.

      I realize this won’t work everywhere. And there’s an argument that having uniform rules of work (for a large enough employer) outweigh the benefits of crafting more situational rules. However, the differences between exempt and non-exempt already make “uniform work rules” a polite fiction.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    And vaguely related to labor — my own, upcoming — the measuring stick on the table on our deck says 15 inches of snow so far, and it’s still coming down.Report

  6. Avatar notme says:

    For Obama it’s mind over matter. I guess his “defeat Isis with better ideas” strategy didn’t work.

    Obama: Defeat ISIS ‘By Saying You Are Not Strong, You Are Weak’

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to notme says:

      Here’s what I find interesting about your views notme: the people with the most at stake wrt the terrorism unleashed bu the O Mighty Rise of ISIS are Syrians and Iraqis; next up are other stakeholders in the middle east; third are western european nations; lastly are countries like the US and Canada and Mexico.* Given that, I wonder why you think that Obama failing to take unilateral action against ISIS is some sorta devestating criticism.

      *Unless you concede that US meddling in MENA going back to the early aughts – 1900s I mean – is a primary cause of Muslim extremism against the US. In which case you’re conceding they have a point.Report

      • Avatar notme in reply to Stillwater says:

        Here’s what I find interesting about your views notme: the people with the most at stake wrt the terrorism unleashed bu the O Mighty Rise of ISIS are Syrians and Iraqis; next up are other stakeholders in the middle east; third are western european nations; lastly are countries like the US and Canada and Mexico.* Given that, I wonder why you think that Obama failing to take unilateral action against ISIS is some sorta devestating criticism.

        I’m not sure what you are referring to as my views. It would be nice if Obama would take ISIS seriously and not sound like a clown with his ideas about how to defeat them.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to notme says:

          Doesn’t that just beg the question I asked, notme?

          Did you read Goldberg’s piece on Obama’s ME policy? He’s reluctant to throw more treasure down a rat hole when the actual stake-holders aren’t contributing to the down side risk, which derives from his view that any unilateral US action has grave downside risks.

          Again, you’re bleacher-seat criticizing him for not engaging an unarticulated policy.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:


            My God, man, how many times do they have to say GET TOUGH, with CHURCHILLIAN RESOLVE, and fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here, and turn it all to glass and identify an Axis of Doctor Evil, and form a Rebel Alliance to achieve Victory Through Strength?

            What more do you want?

            Why do you hate America by criticizing our Commander In Chief during a Time of War?

            Uh, wait.
            Hold on, this went in an unexpected direction…Report

          • Avatar notme in reply to Stillwater says:

            I didn’t see a question to beg. All I see is an incorrect assumption from you about what my views actually are. I’m not “criticizing him for not engaging an unarticulated policy.” I’m criticizing Obama for sounding like a buffoon about what it’s going to take to stop ISIS. Ideas and words aren’t going to stop them.Report

    • Avatar Fortytwo in reply to notme says:

      Daesh is weakening. That’s why they’re doing suicide bombings in Europe instead of controlling more territory in their home lands. It’s terrible for those who have been killed or injured, but from their point of view of establishing a caliphate they are losing badly.Report