May 2007 Issue: Work Will Set You Free

May 1st, aka May Day – the day on which workers of the world unite, walkmay07 down the street chanting slogans for a couple of hours, then return to work where they enter into confidential negotiations with their employers, sign individual contracts and undercut each others’ wages. It’s a grand old tradition.

But let’s face it – work sucks. Sorry to interrupt this whole “I’m just happy to be productive and contribute to society” circlejerk, but honestly, I think we can all accept that work is the big hairy steamer in the punchbowl of life.

Who can say that if they could live comfortably for the rest of their life, they wouldn’t retire right now?

That’s what I thought.

The only two groups who don’t have to work – the idle rich and the homeless – come from opposite ends of the economic spectrum but actually have surprisingly similar lifestyles. They both have great tans, stand around on street corners talking into thin air (although the rich tend to have one of those bluetooth thingies plugged in their ears) and both spend most of their time planning their next drinking/drug binge.

For the rest of us, the deal with work is this: your boss pays you to do what they can’t/can’t be arsed doing – something you wouldn’t otherwise do if you weren’t getting paid. The amount they pay is a gamble – hoping that you bring in way more than they’re paying out.

And like any good gamble, the house always wins in the end.

The union movement – another sweet idea in theory brought to you by the industrial revolution – has been losing steam over the years. Union membership is dropping across the board in nearly every industry, the one exception being the service industry.

Nobody really understands why, but it’s a safe bet that the hospitality industry is becoming more unionized as its ranks fill out with college graduates learning the hard way that a degree doesn’t necessarily mean a job.

I used to do occasional contract work for a multinational corporation – a decision that I explained in two words – one of them “bling”, the other one being “bling”. The way my sometimes not-really employers got around the whole union thing was by telling us that we were all a big happy family, and there was no need for old school confrontational tactics.

It was a compelling argument, and gave us a warm, fuzzy feeling as we went into confidential negotiations, signed individual contracts and undercut each others’ wages.

Anyway. I should get back to work.

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