Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Workers' rights, students' training

Thanksgiving is the most respected holiday in the US. It is the one day on which every non-vital service is closed in the afternoon. It is the main family holiday in this country. For many people it is part of a 4-day weekend from Thursday to Sunday. The next day is traditionally devoted to shopping at heavily discounted prices. Because of the crowds in the stores, it is called Black Friday.

Some retail store employees have complained that for Black Friday (the day of frenetic shopping that follows Thanksgiving Thursday), they are required to start a full day's work beginning at 11pm on Thursday evening. Indeed, stores open as early as 1am on Friday morning.

I have been shocked to see the public reaction to employees' complaints. A typical reaction is: "If they don't like it, they can quit, and there will be plenty of people ready to take their job!". In other words, the market economy rules. It dictates what's right. At a time of high unemployment, workers have no rights. This is one of the situations when, in spite of having lived here for many years, I still feel that there is something alien about this country.

Sometimes I wonder if the students' training is a little bit similar. They cram a perhaps excessive workload, then they become highly marketable and get good jobs: not just because they know a lot and are well trained, but also because they have demonstrated their compliance with the demands made of them, even if those demands are unreasonable. They'll be good software engineers, always willing to put in long hours without counting, and the occasional all-nighter when a deadline is coming up. They are being trained for a way of life in which, in exchange for a good salary, they will basically belong to their employer.


  1. But some of the customers are with the employees!



  2. The Thanksgiving situation you describe is especially hard to reconcile with all the talk on "family values".


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.