In which job hunting is pissing me off, or maybe bumming me out, or both.
I get these emails with exclamation points in them from various temp agencies — well, there don’t really seem to be any temp agencies anymore as much as recruiters — telling me about jobs I may be suitable for! When I reply or go to the listing, it invariably turns out to be temporary full-time work outside of the city doing something mindless and repetitive, like scanning documents eight hours a day for three months.
Not that I wouldn’t scan documents eight hours a day for three months — now that I’ve done warehouse retail, I’d do anything, no matter how soul-killingly dull, in an office setting and be grateful — but business seems to have left the city center, where I now live, and is now located in a giant ring outside the metro. You basically can’t get to Plymouth by bus, and the places you can get to are an hour away even though it’s only a few miles.
Eight hour day plus lunch plus two hour commute; pay is eleven bucks an hour because the agency gets its money off the top. So nearly 12-hour days, 5 days a week, for a quarter of a year: less than five grand, after taxes. AND the work sucks, too!
I applied for a tech job at a downtown bank. HR replied, we chatted on the phone, it sounded like a good fit… then I found out they were moving in January, leaving their iconic tower downtown for some cheaper, newer, roomier digs in a suburb I can’t reasonably commute to.
“Kelly Services is currently hiring for 40+ Call Center Customer Service Reps in Plymouth!” Ah, Plymouth, the bus-less suburb I spent an hour in, in a pantsuit, getting rained on; the suburb I took a cab home from, a cab that cost nearly fifty bucks.
Downtown jobs are mainly food service. Selling lunches and after-work cocktails to the recruiters and retail workers who haven’t yet been relocated to Eden Prairie.
My rants about entry-level part-time work, with shitty hours and pay so low workers have to be subsidized by someone or something in order to survive aside, it’s just bafflingly difficult to find work even in a city said to have a healthy job market. And then yesterday I rediscovered Amazon Mechanical Turk, a site where you can get work crowdsourced for really cheap.
The people doing the work are making five bucks an hour or less. They do it, a lot of them, according to news articles, as a time-killer, something to do in lieu of video games or television. The demographics show that most Turks are educated Americans, and yet they’re willing to do low-quality work for almost no pay.
Some of the jobs pay a penny each and take several minutes to complete, jobs like typing up grocery receipts (which makes no sense at all, when you could scan and OCR that shit instantly, but maybe at these artificially low rates it’s cheaper to have people do it than it is to buy software).
Estimates of what workers can earn on these crowdsourced tasks range from about $1.20 to $5 an hour without any benefits. Employers treat them as independent contractors not covered by federal minimum-wage legislation. A standard terms-of-use agreement gives employers the freedom to reject an employee’s work on any grounds; workers (oops, I mean contractors) have no easy recourse.
Amazon’s built this entire reality in which work that only humans can do is distributed and done by a massive hoard of university-educated, computer-owning Americans… for a non-living wage. I couldn’t figure it out until I signed up myself, figuring if I can’t get a real job and I’m online all day anyway, might as well make twenty bucks a day rather than none.
It’s there and it’s robust because it’s better than nothing. Same with Leapforce and oDesk and so many other so-called crowdsourced marketplaces. More workers than work, all the workers are “contractors” and so receive zero benefits or rights, the employers can take finished work and reject it but keep it anyway without paying for it… and the pay. Oh my God, the pay is less than half minimum wage. It’s between $1.20 and $5.00 an hour. I’ve been scouring blogs and forums and nobody claims to be making more than $500 a month, and those people are working all the time.
And yet millions of people are doing it. And idiots like this retard think it’s because they love it?
His entire premise is that because people can be seen to be doing a thing, in this case taking slave wages, that they love it, they enjoy it, they’re “perfectly happy” about it.
It takes only a few minutes of searching and reading blogs and forums to find out that nobody who has ever worked for Mechanical Turk or Leapforce or similar have loved it, nor were they ever “perfectly happy.” There is zero evidence that anybody “loves” these jobs; only evidence that people have been grateful for them because that extra $14 was the difference between life and homelessness.
Seriously: how fucking precarious is your life when FOURTEEN DOLLARS makes a difference?!
They do it because they’re un- or underemployed and desperate, or because they’re disabled and need money and have literally no other way to get any, or because they’re the sorts of personalities who would rather earn change while fucking around online than not. Nobody LIKES being underpaid, nobody LIKES having no worker protections and no recourse, nobody LIKES being exploited.
And yet there appear to be no jobs of the sort I stupidly thought I could find: jobs like my last one at the newspaper. Part-time, reasonable hours, reasonable commute, reasonable pay. A decent balance. I gave my employer something it needed, it gave me something I needed. Win/win.
Not any more. I can go out, take a job at a grocery store or a restaurant and make nine or ten bucks an hour, deal with shitty and random schedules and working every holiday and commuting on buses during blizzards. Or I can stay home and do intellectually complex work and earn even less?!?! As a “contractor” who is not a contractor and whose employer — excuse me, “client” — is breaking the law because it just doesn’t give a fuck?
Companies have become immoral. There’s no social contract. Most workers are being subsidized by entities that are not their employers: families, friends, EBT, Medicaid. No one can earn such wages and survive without additional money from the government or other people, and so many people work these jobs.
So you’re either the car-driving, full-time job with benefits-having worker, or you’re everybody else. And if you’re the former, YOU’RE subsidizing the rest of us, and by extension the shitheads we work for. Those of you with holidays off, paid vacation and sick time, regular hours, HVAC and indoor plumbing: your “cushy” jobs are literally and directly making money for Walmart and Amazon Mechanical Turk, because your taxes are going toward our EBT cards.
Last year, my partner subsidized The Home Depot for 14 months. I worked my ass off in there; it was probably one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had. They paid me a non-living wage and gave me shitty schedules; my partner drove me to work at 5:45 in the morning and bought me groceries so that Craig Menear could take home three hundred times my income every month. That asshole’s bonuses were paid for by my boyfriend.
This is untenable. This is why the middle class is disappearing: directly and literally because of corporate greed and lack of responsibility. Yes, market factors are there, sure, inflation plays a part, whatever, but the bottom line is that corporations and businesses have abdicated their responsibility.
FUCK Citizens United.