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Wage slavery – Wikipedia

Wage slavery is a term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor by focusing on similarities between owning and renting a person. It is usually used to refer to a situation where a person’s livelihood depends on wages or a salary, especially when the dependence is total and immediate.[1][2]

The term “wage slavery” has been used to criticize exploitation of labour and social stratification, with the former seen primarily as unequal bargaining power between labor and capital (particularly when workers are paid comparatively low wages, e.g. in sweatshops)[3] and the latter as a lack of workers’ self-management, fulfilling job choices and leisure in an economy.[4][5][6] The criticism of social stratification covers a wider range of employment choices bound by the pressures of a hierarchical society to perform otherwise unfulfilling work that deprives humans of their “species character”[7] not only under threat of starvation or poverty, but also of social stigma and status diminution.[8][9][10]

Similarities between wage labor and slavery were noted as early as Cicero in Ancient Rome, such as in De Officiis.[11] With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, thinkers such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Karl Marx elaborated the comparison between wage labor and slavery,[12][13] while Luddites emphasized the dehumanization brought about by machines. Before the American Civil War, Southern defenders of African American slavery invoked the concept of wage slavery to favorably compare the condition of their slaves to workers in the North.[14][15] The United States abolished slavery after the Civil War, but labor union activists found the metaphor useful and appropriate. According to Lawrence Glickman, in the Gilded Age “[r]eferences abounded in the labor press, and it is hard to find a speech by a labor leader without the phrase”.[16]

The introduction of wage labor in 18th-century Britain was met with resistance, giving rise to the principles of syndicalism.[17][18][19][20] Historically, some labor organizations and individual social activists have espoused workers’ self-management or worker cooperatives as possible alternatives to wage labor.[5][19]

The view that working for wages is akin to slavery dates back to the ancient world.[22] In ancient Rome, Cicero wrote that “whoever gives his labor for money sells himself and puts himself in the rank of slaves”.[11]

In 1763, the French journalist Simon Linguet published an influential description of wage slavery:[13]

The slave was precious to his master because of the money he had cost him… They were worth at least as much as they could be sold for in the market… It is the impossibility of living by any other means that compels our farm labourers to till the soil whose fruits they will not eat and our masons to construct buildings in which they will not live… It is want that compels them to go down on their knees to the rich man in order to get from him permission to enrich him… what effective gain [has] the suppression of slavery brought [him?] He is free, you say. Ah! That is his misfortune… These men… [have] the most terrible, the most imperious of masters, that is, need…. They must therefore find someone to hire them, or die of hunger. Is that to be free?

The view that wage work has substantial similarities with chattel slavery was actively put forward in the late 18th and 19th centuries by defenders of chattel slavery (most notably in the Southern states of the United States) and by opponents of capitalism (who were also critics of chattel slavery).[9][23] Some defenders of slavery, mainly from the Southern slave states, argued that Northern workers were “free but in name the slaves of endless toil” and that their slaves were better off.[24][25] This contention has been partly corroborated by some modern studies that indicate slaves’ material conditions in the 19th century were “better than what was typically available to free urban laborers at the time”.[26][27] In this period, Henry David Thoreau wrote that “[i]t is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself”.[28]

Some abolitionists in the United States regarded the analogy as spurious.[29] They believed that wage workers were “neither wronged nor oppressed”.[30] Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans argued that the condition of wage workers was different from slavery as laborers were likely to have the opportunity to work for themselves in the future, achieving self-employment.[31] The abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass initially declared “now I am my own master”, upon taking a paying job.[32] However, later in life he concluded to the contrary, saying “experience demonstrates that there may be a slavery of wages only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other”.[33][34] Douglass went on to speak about these conditions as arising from the unequal bargaining power between the ownership/capitalist class and the non-ownership/laborer class within a compulsory monetary market: “No more crafty and effective devise for defrauding the southern laborers could be adopted than the one that substitutes orders upon shopkeepers for currency in payment of wages. It has the merit of a show of honesty, while it puts the laborer completely at the mercy of the land-owner and the shopkeeper”.[35]

Self-employment became less common as the artisan tradition slowly disappeared in the later part of the 19th century.[5] In 1869, The New York Times described the system of wage labor as “a system of slavery as absolute if not as degrading as that which lately prevailed at the South”.[31] E. P. Thompson notes that for British workers at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, the “gap in status between a ‘servant,’ a hired wage-laborer subject to the orders and discipline of the master, and an artisan, who might ‘come and go’ as he pleased, was wide enough for men to shed blood rather than allow themselves to be pushed from one side to the other. And, in the value system of the community, those who resisted degradation were in the right”.[17] A “Member of the Builders’ Union” in the 1830s argued that the trade unions “will not only strike for less work, and more wages, but will ultimately abolish wages, become their own masters and work for each other; labor and capital will no longer be separate but will be indissolubly joined together in the hands of workmen and work-women”.[18] This perspective inspired the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of 1834 which had the “two-fold purpose of syndicalist unions the protection of the workers under the existing system and the formation of the nuclei of the future society” when the unions “take over the whole industry of the country”.[19] “Research has shown”, summarises William Lazonick, “that the ‘free-born Englishman’ of the eighteenth century even those who, by force of circumstance, had to submit to agricultural wage labour tenaciously resisted entry into the capitalist workshop”.[20]

The use of the term “wage slave” by labor organizations may originate from the labor protests of the Lowell Mill Girls in 1836.[36] The imagery of wage slavery was widely used by labor organizations during the mid-19th century to object to the lack of workers’ self-management. However, it was gradually replaced by the more neutral term “wage work” towards the end of the 19th century as labor organizations shifted their focus to raising wages.[5]

Karl Marx described capitalist society as infringing on individual autonomy because it is based on a materialistic and commodified concept of the body and its liberty (i.e. as something that is sold, rented, or alienated in a class society). According to Friedrich Engels:[37][38]

The slave is sold once and for all; the proletarian must sell himself daily and hourly. The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master’s interest. The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence.

Critics of wage work have drawn several similarities between wage work and slavery:

According to American anarcho-syndicalist philosopher Noam Chomsky, the similarities between chattel and wage slavery were noticed by the workers themselves. He noted that the 19th-century Lowell Mill Girls, who without any reported knowledge of European Marxism or anarchism condemned the “degradation and subordination” of the newly emerging industrial system and the “new spirit of the age: gain wealth, forgetting all but self”, maintaining that “those who work in the mills should own them”.[44][45] They expressed their concerns in a protest song during their 1836 strike:

Oh! isn’t it a pity, such a pretty girl as IShould be sent to the factory to pine away and die?Oh! I cannot be a slave, I will not be a slave,For I’m so fond of liberty,That I cannot be a slave.[46]

Defenses of wage labor and chattel slavery in the literature have linked the subjection of man to man with the subjection of man to nature arguing that hierarchy and a social system’s particular relations of production represent human nature and are no more coercive than the reality of life itself. According to this narrative, any well-intentioned attempt to fundamentally change the status quo is naively utopian and will result in more oppressive conditions.[47] Bosses in both of these long-lasting systems argued that their system created a lot of wealth and prosperity. In some sense, both did create jobs and their investment entailed risk. For example, slave owners risked losing money by buying chattel slaves who later became ill or died; while bosses risked losing money by hiring workers (wage slaves) to make products that did not sell well on the market. Marginally, both chattel and wage slaves may become bosses; sometimes by working hard. It may be the “rags to riches” story which occasionally occurs in capitalism, or the “slave to master” story that occurred in places like colonial Brazil, where slaves could buy their own freedom and become business owners, self-employed, or slave owners themselves.[48] Social mobility, or the hard work and risk that it may entail, are thus not considered to be a redeeming factor by critics of the concept of wage slavery.[49]

Anthropologist David Graeber has noted that historically the first wage labor contracts we know about whether in ancient Greece or Rome, or in the Malay or Swahili city states in the Indian Ocean were in fact contracts for the rental of chattel slaves (usually the owner would receive a share of the money and the slave another, with which to maintain his or her living expenses). According to Graeber, such arrangements were quite common in New World slavery as well, whether in the United States or Brazil. C. L. R. James argued that most of the techniques of human organization employed on factory workers during the Industrial Revolution were first developed on slave plantations.[50]

The usage of the term “wage slavery” shifted to “wage work” at the end of the 19th century as groups like the Knights of Labor and American Federation of Labor shifted to a more reformist, trade union ideology instead of worker’s self-management. Much of the decline was caused by the rapid increase in manufacturing after the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent dominance of wage labor as a result. Another factor was immigration and demographic changes that led to ethnic tension between the workers.[5]

As Hallgrimsdottir and Benoit point out:

[I]ncreased centralization of production… declining wages… [an] expanding… labor pool… intensifying competition, and… [t]he loss of competence and independence experienced by skilled labor” meant that “a critique that referred to all [wage] work as slavery and avoided demands for wage concessions in favor of supporting the creation of the producerist republic (by diverting strike funds towards funding… co-operatives, for example) was far less compelling than one that identified the specific conditions of slavery as low wages.[5]

Some anti-capitalist thinkers claim that the elite maintain wage slavery and a divided working class through their influence over the media and entertainment industry,[51][52] educational institutions, unjust laws, nationalist and corporate propaganda, pressures and incentives to internalize values serviceable to the power structure, state violence, fear of unemployment,[53] and a historical legacy of exploitation and profit accumulation/transfer under prior systems, which shaped the development of economic theory. Adam Smith noted that employers often conspire together to keep wages low and have the upper hand in conflicts between workers and employers:[54]

The interest of the dealers… in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public… [They] have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public… We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate… It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms.

The concept of wage slavery could conceivably be traced back to pre-capitalist figures like Gerrard Winstanley from the radical Christian Diggers movement in England, who wrote in his 1649 pamphlet, The New Law of Righteousness, that there “shall be no buying or selling, no fairs nor markets, but the whole earth shall be a common treasury for every man” and “there shall be none Lord over others, but every one shall be a Lord of himself”.[55]

Aristotle stated that “the citizens must not live a mechanic or a mercantile life (for such a life is ignoble and inimical to virtue), nor yet must those who are to be citizens in the best state be tillers of the soil (for leisure is needed both for the development of virtue and for active participation in politics)”,[56] often paraphrased as “all paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind”.[57] Cicero wrote in 44 BC that “vulgar are the means of livelihood of all hired workmen whom we pay for mere manual labour, not for artistic skill; for in their case the very wage they receive is a pledge of their slavery”.[11] Somewhat similar criticisms have also been expressed by some proponents of liberalism, like Silvio Gesell and Thomas Paine;[58] Henry George, who inspired the economic philosophy known as Georgism;[9] and the Distributist school of thought within the Catholic Church.

To Karl Marx and anarchist thinkers like Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, wage slavery was a class condition in place due to the existence of private property and the state. This class situation rested primarily on:

And secondarily on:

Fascist economic policies were more hostile to independent trade unions than modern economies in Europe or the United States.[60] Fascism was more widely accepted in the 1920s and 1930s, and foreign corporate investment (notably from the United States) in Italy and Germany increased after the fascists took power.[61][62]

Fascism has been perceived by some notable critics, like Buenaventura Durruti, to be a last resort weapon of the privileged to ensure the maintenance of wage slavery:

No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges.[63]

According to Noam Chomsky, analysis of the psychological implications of wage slavery goes back to the Enlightenment era. In his 1791 book The Limits of State Action, classical liberal thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt explained how “whatever does not spring from a man’s free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness” and so when the laborer works under external control, “we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is”.[64] Because they explore human authority and obedience, both the Milgram and Stanford experiments have been found useful in the psychological study of wage-based workplace relations.[65]

According to research[citation needed], modern work provides people with a sense of personal and social identity that is tied to:

Thus job loss entails the loss of this identity.[66]

Erich Fromm argued that if a person perceives himself as being what he owns, then when that person loses (or even thinks of losing) what he “owns” (e.g. the good looks or sharp mind that allow him to sell his labor for high wages) a fear of loss may create anxiety and authoritarian tendencies because that person’s sense of identity is threatened. In contrast, when a person’s sense of self is based on what he experiences in a state of being (creativity, love, sadness, taste, sight and the like) with a less materialistic regard for what he once had and lost, or may lose, then less authoritarian tendencies prevail. In his view, the state of being flourishes under a worker-managed workplace and economy, whereas self-ownership entails a materialistic notion of self, created to rationalize the lack of worker control that would allow for a state of being.[67]

Investigative journalist Robert Kuttner analyzed the work of public-health scholars Jeffrey Johnson and Ellen Hall about modern conditions of work and concludes that “to be in a life situation where one experiences relentless demands by others, over which one has relatively little control, is to be at risk of poor health, physically as well as mentally”. Under wage labor, “a relatively small elite demands and gets empowerment, self-actualization, autonomy, and other work satisfaction that partially compensate for long hours” while “epidemiological data confirm that lower-paid, lower-status workers are more likely to experience the most clinically damaging forms of stress, in part because they have less control over their work”.[68]

Wage slavery and the educational system that precedes it “implies power held by the leader. Without power the leader is inept. The possession of power inevitably leads to corruption… in spite of… good intentions… [Leadership means] power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self-respect which comes from expressed manhood, is taken from the men, and consolidated in the leader. The sum of their initiative, their responsibility, their self-respect becomes his… [and the] order and system he maintains is based upon the suppression of the men, from being independent thinkers into being ‘the men’… In a word, he is compelled to become an autocrat and a foe to democracy”. For the “leader”, such marginalisation can be beneficial, for a leader “sees no need for any high level of intelligence in the rank and file, except to applaud his actions. Indeed such intelligence from his point of view, by breeding criticism and opposition, is an obstacle and causes confusion”.[69] Wage slavery “implies erosion of the human personality… [because] some men submit to the will of others, arousing in these instincts which predispose them to cruelty and indifference in the face of the suffering of their fellows”.[70]

In 19th-century discussions of labor relations, it was normally assumed that the threat of starvation forced those without property to work for wages. Proponents of the view that modern forms of employment constitute wage slavery, even when workers appear to have a range of available alternatives, have attributed its perpetuation to a variety of social factors that maintain the hegemony of the employer class.[43][71]

In an account of the Lowell Mill Girls, Harriet Hanson Robinson wrote that generously high wages were offered to overcome the degrading nature of the work:

At the time the Lowell cotton mills were started the caste of the factory girl was the lowest among the employments of women…. She was represented as subjected to influences that must destroy her purity and selfrespect. In the eyes of her overseer she was but a brute, a slave, to be beaten, pinched and pushed about. It was to overcome this prejudice that such high wages had been offered to women that they might be induced to become millgirls, in spite of the opprobrium that still clung to this degrading occupation.[72]

In his book Disciplined Minds, Jeff Schmidt points out that professionals are trusted to run organizations in the interests of their employers. Because employers cannot be on hand to manage every decision, professionals are trained to “ensure that each and every detail of their work favors the right interestsor skewers the disfavored ones” in the absence of overt control:

The resulting professional is an obedient thinker, an intellectual property whom employers can trust to experiment, theorize, innovate and create safely within the confines of an assigned ideology.[73]

Parecon (participatory economics) theory posits a social class “between labor and capital” of higher paid professionals such as “doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers and others” who monopolize empowering labor and constitute a class above wage laborers who do mostly “obedient, rote work”.[74]

The terms “employee” or “worker” have often been replaced by “associate”. This plays up the allegedly voluntary nature of the interaction while playing down the subordinate status of the wage laborer as well as the worker-boss class distinction emphasized by labor movements. Billboards as well as television, Internet and newspaper advertisements consistently show low-wage workers with smiles on their faces, appearing happy.[75]

Job interviews and other data on requirements for lower skilled workers in developed countries particularly in the growing service sector indicate that the more workers depend on low wages and the less skilled or desirable their job is, the more employers screen for workers without better employment options and expect them to feign unremunerative motivation.[76] Such screening and feigning may not only contribute to the positive self-image of the employer as someone granting desirable employment, but also signal wage-dependence by indicating the employee’s willingness to feign, which in turn may discourage the dissatisfaction normally associated with job-switching or union activity.[76]

At the same time, employers in the service industry have justified unstable, part-time employment and low wages by playing down the importance of service jobs for the lives of the wage laborers (e.g. just temporary before finding something better, student summer jobs and the like).[77][78]

In the early 20th century, “scientific methods of strikebreaking”[79] were devised employing a variety of tactics that emphasized how strikes undermined “harmony” and “Americanism”.[80]

Some social activists objecting to the market system or price system of wage working historically have considered syndicalism, worker cooperatives, workers’ self-management and workers’ control as possible alternatives to the current wage system.[4][5][6][19]

The American philosopher John Dewey believed that until “industrial feudalism” is replaced by “industrial democracy”, politics will be “the shadow cast on society by big business”.[81] Thomas Ferguson has postulated in his investment theory of party competition that the undemocratic nature of economic institutions under capitalism causes elections to become occasions when blocs of investors coalesce and compete to control the state.[82]

Noam Chomsky has argued that political theory tends to blur the ‘elite’ function of government:

Modern political theory stresses Madison’s belief that “in a just and a free government the rights both of property and of persons ought to be effectually guarded.” But in this case too it is useful to look at the doctrine more carefully. There are no rights of property, only rights to property that is, rights of persons with property,…

[In] representative democracy, as in, say, the United States or Great Britain [] there is a monopoly of power centralized in the state, and secondly and critically [] the representative democracy is limited to the political sphere and in no serious way encroaches on the economic sphere [] That is, as long as individuals are compelled to rent themselves on the market to those who are willing to hire them, as long as their role in production is simply that of ancillary tools, then there are striking elements of coercion and oppression that make talk of democracy very limited, if even meaningful.[83]

In this regard, Chomsky has used Bakunin’s theories about an “instinct for freedom”,[84] the militant history of labor movements, Kropotkin’s mutual aid evolutionary principle of survival and Marc Hauser’s theories supporting an innate and universal moral faculty,[85] to explain the incompatibility of oppression with certain aspects of human nature.[86][87]

Loyola University philosophy professor John Clark and libertarian socialist philosopher Murray Bookchin have criticized the system of wage labor for encouraging environmental destruction, arguing that a self-managed industrial society would better manage the environment. Like other anarchists,[88] they attribute much of the Industrial Revolution’s pollution to the “hierarchical” and “competitive” economic relations accompanying it.[89]

Some criticize wage slavery on strictly contractual grounds, e.g. David Ellerman and Carole Pateman, arguing that the employment contract is a legal fiction in that it treats human beings juridically as mere tools or inputs by abdicating responsibility and self-determination, which the critics argue are inalienable. As Ellerman points out, “[t]he employee is legally transformed from being a co-responsible partner to being only an input supplier sharing no legal responsibility for either the input liabilities [costs] or the produced outputs [revenue, profits] of the employer’s business”.[90] Such contracts are inherently invalid “since the person remain[s] a de facto fully capacitated adult person with only the contractual role of a non-person” as it is impossible to physically transfer self-determination.[91] As Pateman argues:

The contractarian argument is unassailable all the time it is accepted that abilities can ‘acquire’ an external relation to an individual, and can be treated as if they were property. To treat abilities in this manner is also implicitly to accept that the ‘exchange’ between employer and worker is like any other exchange of material property … The answer to the question of how property in the person can be contracted out is that no such procedure is possible. Labour power, capacities or services, cannot be separated from the person of the worker like pieces of property.[92]

In a modern liberal capitalist society, the employment contract is enforced while the enslavement contract is not; the former being considered valid because of its consensual/non-coercive nature and the latter being considered inherently invalid, consensual or not. The noted economist Paul Samuelson described this discrepancy:

Since slavery was abolished, human earning power is forbidden by law to be capitalized. A man is not even free to sell himself; he must rent himself at a wage.[93]

Some advocates of right-libertarianism, among them philosopher Robert Nozick, address this inconsistency in modern societies arguing that a consistently libertarian society would allow and regard as valid consensual/non-coercive enslavement contracts, rejecting the notion of inalienable rights:

The comparable question about an individual is whether a free system will allow him to sell himself into slavery. I believe that it would.[94]

Others like Murray Rothbard allow for the possibility of debt slavery, asserting that a lifetime labour contract can be broken so long as the slave pays appropriate damages:

[I]f A has agreed to work for life for B in exchange for 10,000 grams of gold, he will have to return the proportionate amount of property if he terminates the arrangement and ceases to work.[95]

In the philosophy of mainstream, neoclassical economics, wage labor is seen as the voluntary sale of one’s own time and efforts, just like a carpenter would sell a chair, or a farmer would sell wheat. It is considered neither an antagonistic nor abusive relationship and carries no particular moral implications.[96]

Austrian economics argues that a person is not “free” unless they can sell their labor because otherwise that person has no self-ownership and will be owned by a “third party” of individuals.[97]

Post-Keynesian economics perceives wage slavery as resulting from inequality of bargaining power between labor and capital, which exists when the economy does not “allow labor to organize and form a strong countervailing force”.[98]

The two main forms of socialist economics perceive wage slavery differently:

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Wage slavery – Wikipedia

8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

Literal slavery is a horrible practice that still persists into the modern age. But, I want to talk about another form of human exploitationemployment slavery, which can also ruin a persons life. Generally, I consider this a self-inflicted slavery because its ultimately a persons choice to work under such conditionsbut I also understand that brainwashing can occur, creating the illusion that theres no way out.

Slavery (in general) exists because of the inclination among people to obtain the benefits of human resources, while providing little (or nothing) in return. Human work is the most intelligent, efficient way to create a system of wealth and power. For the morally bankrupt, such benefits are sought for free.

Employment, in the best case scenario, is a business deal of mutual benefit. But in other instances, the company is expending such minimal resources that they are taking advantage of you. In the worst case scenario, through a combination of slave-driving principles and psychological techniques to break you down, such a job can morph into something very similar to actual slavery.

If you dont know any better, its easy to fall into slavery conditions. Here are signs that your sense of freedom in life is totally gone:

Because of the way employers conveniently ignore yearly inflation, todays minimal wage is not enough to maintain any semblance of a normal lifestyle. Minimal wage makes some sense in small businesses just starting out. But, In America, $8.25 an hour, or less, from a large, billion-dollar corporation is inexcusable. In this case, your annual wages cost a second of the companys hourly profits. In other words, your hard work is a very bad deal for you, and a killer opportunity for the suits upstairs.

Youre lucky you even have a job! is a psychological taunt that bad employers use to try and keep their wage-slaves from believing they can do any better. Such statements are made to maintain a sense of control. Understand, voluntary slavery is not a rare phenomenon. It happens when a person is brainwashed into the belief that they have nowhere else they can go.

If your manager uses psychological put-downs like this to denigrate your professional abilitiesunderstand that its being done for a reason.

The idea of getting a raise and a promotion may be dangled in-front of you, but youve seen no evidence to suggest that it really happens. In fact, only a very small percentage of your co-workers ever obtain this goal, and they tend to be the cronies of upper-management. If this is the case, then what exactly is your reason for working at this company?

Inconvenient hours are inevitable in jobs, but some companies will abuse the system. This ranges from illegally denying overtime pay, to scheduling month-long bouts of cloping (working until closing hours late at night, then opening hours the next morning) that leaves the employee physically and emotionally drained.

An employee in this system may feel the intense pressure by the bosses to conform to abusive hours, under the threat of being denied promotions or even getting fired for seeking better treatment.

Americas two-week annual vacation time is one of the weakest in the Western world, and American workers tend to not even use it. This is because many employers will hint that vacationers are likely to end up on the shit-list of not getting promoted. They may even hint that unruly vacation-seekers will be the first to get laid-off or fired at the earliest opportunity.

A system of slavery does not allow free-time for individuals to maintain their own lives outside of their work. This could cause dissent and break the system of total control. An unspoken methodology among abusive managers is to destroy the lifestyles of employees so, instead of tending to family or hobbies, they work at full capacity.

Feeling motivated based on high-standards and being scared to go below those standards is one thing, but being genuinely scared of the people youre working for is another.

Slave-masters maintain systems of fear, to break down their subjects and perhapsin timebuild them back up. For the best example of thisplease see Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

Psychological and verbal abuse is usually what occurs. An abusive employer understands exactly what strings to pull to generate feelings of shame or guilt, and theyll use the professional context to destroy a subjects sense of self-worth, perhaps by implying worthlessness at the vocation theyve devoted their life to.

In other instances, the abuse is very overt and could include yelling, tantrums and even physical assaults. But the outcome is the same: the employee living in a constant state of paranoia, fear, and subservience.

Read carefully the ten warning-signs youre in a cult by the Cult Education Institute. Some of these that could be very applicable to a workplace include: absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability, no tolerance for questions or critical inquiry, the leader (boss) is always right, and former followers (employees) are vilified as evil for leaving.

If the job feels less about, you know, getting the job doneand is more about the influence, charisma and infallibility of the bossthen get the heck out of there. This means the person in charge is getting a side-benefit to running or managing the workplace: power and dominance.

The number one sign youre a slave and not an employee is that youre working an unpaid internship, and its not for college credit. You may be promised great benefits and valuable connections, at what amounts to harsh workplace conditions, long hours, and zero pay.

A huge mistake I see young professionals make, and it really irks me, is naivety about peoples intentions. I went to film school for my bachelors, and many students I knew lusted after top internships at film studios or with big names in the entertainment industry. Such internships are often offered regardless of college credit.

When a person is blindsided by their desire to make it and get in with big names, they are likely to make bad decisionsand unscrupulous employers will prey on this desire.

Internships are great IF its part of a students actual curriculum. It means hands-on work and real experience versus useless classrooms. But, the questionable non-credit internships I warn about also exist to lure young people into systems of slavery. Its gotten so bad these types of arrangements are quickly becoming illegal in California.

The reality of such internships is that the slave-drivers only desire one thing: unpaid work. There is NO promise that you will move up or land any type of a paid job. When your internship finishes, they will discard you and find the next victim.

The biggest reason to avoid internships is the mentality behind the deal. Imagine a law firm or a film studio that is a multi-billion dollar operation. How hard would it be to throw their new recruit at LEAST minimum wage? The fact such a company would, despite their huge profits, still desire unpaid labor is indicative of a slave-driving mentality that funnels wealth to the top at the expense of the people on the bottom making it possible.

As a professional, it would be best for you to avoid doing any type of business with any individual or company that possesses a philosophy like this.

Employment-slavery situations are common. Very common. But ultimately, the biggest factor in determining how bad it is, is a single question: are you happy?

If you are happy at $8.25 an hour with no benefits, because you like the people you work with, you like the nature of the work, and you feel its moving you somewhere you want to bethen its not slavery. Youre making an investment thatll either pay off, or it wontbut at least you enjoy what youre doing.

However, if you are miserable in your current conditions, its quite possible that the uneasy feeling in your gut is your intuition telling you that someone is taking advantage of you.

Employment is supposed to be a business contract, and an exchange of services. Never a system of control. Sometimes, just the willingness to walk away is your strongest defense against a terrible job situation.

For more about avoiding systems of employment-slavery, please see my short books: Freedom: How to Make Money From Your Dreams and Ambitions, and How to Quit Your Job: Escape Soul Crushing Work, Create the Life You Want, and Live Happy.

(For more books, also check out the Developed Life bookstore, http://www.developedlife.com/bookstore).

Related

Continued here:

8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

Wage slavery – Wikipedia

Wage slavery is a term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor by focusing on similarities between owning and renting a person. It is usually used to refer to a situation where a person’s livelihood depends on wages or a salary, especially when the dependence is total and immediate.[1][2]

The term “wage slavery” has been used to criticize exploitation of labour and social stratification, with the former seen primarily as unequal bargaining power between labor and capital (particularly when workers are paid comparatively low wages, e.g. in sweatshops)[3] and the latter as a lack of workers’ self-management, fulfilling job choices and leisure in an economy.[4][5][6] The criticism of social stratification covers a wider range of employment choices bound by the pressures of a hierarchical society to perform otherwise unfulfilling work that deprives humans of their “species character”[7] not only under threat of starvation or poverty, but also of social stigma and status diminution.[8][9][10]

Similarities between wage labor and slavery were noted as early as Cicero in Ancient Rome, such as in De Officiis.[11] With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, thinkers such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Karl Marx elaborated the comparison between wage labor and slavery,[12][13] while Luddites emphasized the dehumanization brought about by machines. Before the American Civil War, Southern defenders of African American slavery invoked the concept of wage slavery to favorably compare the condition of their slaves to workers in the North.[14][15] The United States abolished slavery after the Civil War, but labor union activists found the metaphor useful and appropriate. According to Lawrence Glickman, in the Gilded Age “[r]eferences abounded in the labor press, and it is hard to find a speech by a labor leader without the phrase”.[16]

The introduction of wage labor in 18th-century Britain was met with resistance, giving rise to the principles of syndicalism.[17][18][19][20] Historically, some labor organizations and individual social activists have espoused workers’ self-management or worker cooperatives as possible alternatives to wage labor.[5][19]

The view that working for wages is akin to slavery dates back to the ancient world.[22] In ancient Rome, Cicero wrote that “whoever gives his labor for money sells himself and puts himself in the rank of slaves”.[11]

In 1763, the French journalist Simon Linguet published an influential description of wage slavery:[13]

The slave was precious to his master because of the money he had cost him… They were worth at least as much as they could be sold for in the market… It is the impossibility of living by any other means that compels our farm labourers to till the soil whose fruits they will not eat and our masons to construct buildings in which they will not live… It is want that compels them to go down on their knees to the rich man in order to get from him permission to enrich him… what effective gain [has] the suppression of slavery brought [him?] He is free, you say. Ah! That is his misfortune… These men… [have] the most terrible, the most imperious of masters, that is, need…. They must therefore find someone to hire them, or die of hunger. Is that to be free?

The view that wage work has substantial similarities with chattel slavery was actively put forward in the late 18th and 19th centuries by defenders of chattel slavery (most notably in the Southern states of the United States) and by opponents of capitalism (who were also critics of chattel slavery).[9][23] Some defenders of slavery, mainly from the Southern slave states, argued that Northern workers were “free but in name the slaves of endless toil” and that their slaves were better off.[24][25] This contention has been partly corroborated by some modern studies that indicate slaves’ material conditions in the 19th century were “better than what was typically available to free urban laborers at the time”.[26][27] In this period, Henry David Thoreau wrote that “[i]t is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself”.[28]

Some abolitionists in the United States regarded the analogy as spurious.[29] They believed that wage workers were “neither wronged nor oppressed”.[30] Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans argued that the condition of wage workers was different from slavery as laborers were likely to have the opportunity to work for themselves in the future, achieving self-employment.[31] The abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass initially declared “now I am my own master”, upon taking a paying job.[32] However, later in life he concluded to the contrary, saying “experience demonstrates that there may be a slavery of wages only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other”.[33][34] Douglass went on to speak about these conditions as arising from the unequal bargaining power between the ownership/capitalist class and the non-ownership/laborer class within a compulsory monetary market: “No more crafty and effective devise for defrauding the southern laborers could be adopted than the one that substitutes orders upon shopkeepers for currency in payment of wages. It has the merit of a show of honesty, while it puts the laborer completely at the mercy of the land-owner and the shopkeeper”.[35]

Self-employment became less common as the artisan tradition slowly disappeared in the later part of the 19th century.[5] In 1869, The New York Times described the system of wage labor as “a system of slavery as absolute if not as degrading as that which lately prevailed at the South”.[31] E. P. Thompson notes that for British workers at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, the “gap in status between a ‘servant,’ a hired wage-laborer subject to the orders and discipline of the master, and an artisan, who might ‘come and go’ as he pleased, was wide enough for men to shed blood rather than allow themselves to be pushed from one side to the other. And, in the value system of the community, those who resisted degradation were in the right”.[17] A “Member of the Builders’ Union” in the 1830s argued that the trade unions “will not only strike for less work, and more wages, but will ultimately abolish wages, become their own masters and work for each other; labor and capital will no longer be separate but will be indissolubly joined together in the hands of workmen and work-women”.[18] This perspective inspired the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of 1834 which had the “two-fold purpose of syndicalist unions the protection of the workers under the existing system and the formation of the nuclei of the future society” when the unions “take over the whole industry of the country”.[19] “Research has shown”, summarises William Lazonick, “that the ‘free-born Englishman’ of the eighteenth century even those who, by force of circumstance, had to submit to agricultural wage labour tenaciously resisted entry into the capitalist workshop”.[20]

The use of the term “wage slave” by labor organizations may originate from the labor protests of the Lowell Mill Girls in 1836.[36] The imagery of wage slavery was widely used by labor organizations during the mid-19th century to object to the lack of workers’ self-management. However, it was gradually replaced by the more neutral term “wage work” towards the end of the 19th century as labor organizations shifted their focus to raising wages.[5]

Karl Marx described capitalist society as infringing on individual autonomy because it is based on a materialistic and commodified concept of the body and its liberty (i.e. as something that is sold, rented, or alienated in a class society). According to Friedrich Engels:[37][38]

The slave is sold once and for all; the proletarian must sell himself daily and hourly. The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master’s interest. The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence.

Critics of wage work have drawn several similarities between wage work and slavery:

According to American anarcho-syndicalist philosopher Noam Chomsky, the similarities between chattel and wage slavery were noticed by the workers themselves. He noted that the 19th-century Lowell Mill Girls, who without any reported knowledge of European Marxism or anarchism condemned the “degradation and subordination” of the newly emerging industrial system and the “new spirit of the age: gain wealth, forgetting all but self”, maintaining that “those who work in the mills should own them”.[44][45] They expressed their concerns in a protest song during their 1836 strike:

Oh! isn’t it a pity, such a pretty girl as IShould be sent to the factory to pine away and die?Oh! I cannot be a slave, I will not be a slave,For I’m so fond of liberty,That I cannot be a slave.[46]

Defenses of wage labor and chattel slavery in the literature have linked the subjection of man to man with the subjection of man to nature arguing that hierarchy and a social system’s particular relations of production represent human nature and are no more coercive than the reality of life itself. According to this narrative, any well-intentioned attempt to fundamentally change the status quo is naively utopian and will result in more oppressive conditions.[47] Bosses in both of these long-lasting systems argued that their system created a lot of wealth and prosperity. In some sense, both did create jobs and their investment entailed risk. For example, slave owners risked losing money by buying chattel slaves who later became ill or died; while bosses risked losing money by hiring workers (wage slaves) to make products that did not sell well on the market. Marginally, both chattel and wage slaves may become bosses; sometimes by working hard. It may be the “rags to riches” story which occasionally occurs in capitalism, or the “slave to master” story that occurred in places like colonial Brazil, where slaves could buy their own freedom and become business owners, self-employed, or slave owners themselves.[48] Social mobility, or the hard work and risk that it may entail, are thus not considered to be a redeeming factor by critics of the concept of wage slavery.[49]

Anthropologist David Graeber has noted that historically the first wage labor contracts we know about whether in ancient Greece or Rome, or in the Malay or Swahili city states in the Indian Ocean were in fact contracts for the rental of chattel slaves (usually the owner would receive a share of the money and the slave another, with which to maintain his or her living expenses). According to Graeber, such arrangements were quite common in New World slavery as well, whether in the United States or Brazil. C. L. R. James argued that most of the techniques of human organization employed on factory workers during the Industrial Revolution were first developed on slave plantations.[50]

The usage of the term “wage slavery” shifted to “wage work” at the end of the 19th century as groups like the Knights of Labor and American Federation of Labor shifted to a more reformist, trade union ideology instead of worker’s self-management. Much of the decline was caused by the rapid increase in manufacturing after the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent dominance of wage labor as a result. Another factor was immigration and demographic changes that led to ethnic tension between the workers.[5]

As Hallgrimsdottir and Benoit point out:

[I]ncreased centralization of production… declining wages… [an] expanding… labor pool… intensifying competition, and… [t]he loss of competence and independence experienced by skilled labor” meant that “a critique that referred to all [wage] work as slavery and avoided demands for wage concessions in favor of supporting the creation of the producerist republic (by diverting strike funds towards funding… co-operatives, for example) was far less compelling than one that identified the specific conditions of slavery as low wages.[5]

Some anti-capitalist thinkers claim that the elite maintain wage slavery and a divided working class through their influence over the media and entertainment industry,[51][52] educational institutions, unjust laws, nationalist and corporate propaganda, pressures and incentives to internalize values serviceable to the power structure, state violence, fear of unemployment,[53] and a historical legacy of exploitation and profit accumulation/transfer under prior systems, which shaped the development of economic theory. Adam Smith noted that employers often conspire together to keep wages low and have the upper hand in conflicts between workers and employers:[54]

The interest of the dealers… in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public… [They] have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public… We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate… It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms.

The concept of wage slavery could conceivably be traced back to pre-capitalist figures like Gerrard Winstanley from the radical Christian Diggers movement in England, who wrote in his 1649 pamphlet, The New Law of Righteousness, that there “shall be no buying or selling, no fairs nor markets, but the whole earth shall be a common treasury for every man” and “there shall be none Lord over others, but every one shall be a Lord of himself”.[55]

Aristotle stated that “the citizens must not live a mechanic or a mercantile life (for such a life is ignoble and inimical to virtue), nor yet must those who are to be citizens in the best state be tillers of the soil (for leisure is needed both for the development of virtue and for active participation in politics)”,[56] often paraphrased as “all paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind”.[57] Cicero wrote in 44 BC that “vulgar are the means of livelihood of all hired workmen whom we pay for mere manual labour, not for artistic skill; for in their case the very wage they receive is a pledge of their slavery”.[11] Somewhat similar criticisms have also been expressed by some proponents of liberalism, like Silvio Gesell and Thomas Paine;[58] Henry George, who inspired the economic philosophy known as Georgism;[9] and the Distributist school of thought within the Catholic Church.

To Karl Marx and anarchist thinkers like Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, wage slavery was a class condition in place due to the existence of private property and the state. This class situation rested primarily on:

And secondarily on:

Fascist economic policies were more hostile to independent trade unions than modern economies in Europe or the United States.[60] Fascism was more widely accepted in the 1920s and 1930s, and foreign corporate investment (notably from the United States) in Italy and Germany increased after the fascists took power.[61][62]

Fascism has been perceived by some notable critics, like Buenaventura Durruti, to be a last resort weapon of the privileged to ensure the maintenance of wage slavery:

No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges.[63]

According to Noam Chomsky, analysis of the psychological implications of wage slavery goes back to the Enlightenment era. In his 1791 book The Limits of State Action, classical liberal thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt explained how “whatever does not spring from a man’s free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness” and so when the laborer works under external control, “we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is”.[64] Because they explore human authority and obedience, both the Milgram and Stanford experiments have been found useful in the psychological study of wage-based workplace relations.[65]

According to research[citation needed], modern work provides people with a sense of personal and social identity that is tied to:

Thus job loss entails the loss of this identity.[66]

Erich Fromm argued that if a person perceives himself as being what he owns, then when that person loses (or even thinks of losing) what he “owns” (e.g. the good looks or sharp mind that allow him to sell his labor for high wages) a fear of loss may create anxiety and authoritarian tendencies because that person’s sense of identity is threatened. In contrast, when a person’s sense of self is based on what he experiences in a state of being (creativity, love, sadness, taste, sight and the like) with a less materialistic regard for what he once had and lost, or may lose, then less authoritarian tendencies prevail. In his view, the state of being flourishes under a worker-managed workplace and economy, whereas self-ownership entails a materialistic notion of self, created to rationalize the lack of worker control that would allow for a state of being.[67]

Investigative journalist Robert Kuttner analyzed the work of public-health scholars Jeffrey Johnson and Ellen Hall about modern conditions of work and concludes that “to be in a life situation where one experiences relentless demands by others, over which one has relatively little control, is to be at risk of poor health, physically as well as mentally”. Under wage labor, “a relatively small elite demands and gets empowerment, self-actualization, autonomy, and other work satisfaction that partially compensate for long hours” while “epidemiological data confirm that lower-paid, lower-status workers are more likely to experience the most clinically damaging forms of stress, in part because they have less control over their work”.[68]

Wage slavery and the educational system that precedes it “implies power held by the leader. Without power the leader is inept. The possession of power inevitably leads to corruption… in spite of… good intentions… [Leadership means] power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self-respect which comes from expressed manhood, is taken from the men, and consolidated in the leader. The sum of their initiative, their responsibility, their self-respect becomes his… [and the] order and system he maintains is based upon the suppression of the men, from being independent thinkers into being ‘the men’… In a word, he is compelled to become an autocrat and a foe to democracy”. For the “leader”, such marginalisation can be beneficial, for a leader “sees no need for any high level of intelligence in the rank and file, except to applaud his actions. Indeed such intelligence from his point of view, by breeding criticism and opposition, is an obstacle and causes confusion”.[69] Wage slavery “implies erosion of the human personality… [because] some men submit to the will of others, arousing in these instincts which predispose them to cruelty and indifference in the face of the suffering of their fellows”.[70]

In 19th-century discussions of labor relations, it was normally assumed that the threat of starvation forced those without property to work for wages. Proponents of the view that modern forms of employment constitute wage slavery, even when workers appear to have a range of available alternatives, have attributed its perpetuation to a variety of social factors that maintain the hegemony of the employer class.[43][71]

In an account of the Lowell Mill Girls, Harriet Hanson Robinson wrote that generously high wages were offered to overcome the degrading nature of the work:

At the time the Lowell cotton mills were started the caste of the factory girl was the lowest among the employments of women…. She was represented as subjected to influences that must destroy her purity and selfrespect. In the eyes of her overseer she was but a brute, a slave, to be beaten, pinched and pushed about. It was to overcome this prejudice that such high wages had been offered to women that they might be induced to become millgirls, in spite of the opprobrium that still clung to this degrading occupation.[72]

In his book Disciplined Minds, Jeff Schmidt points out that professionals are trusted to run organizations in the interests of their employers. Because employers cannot be on hand to manage every decision, professionals are trained to “ensure that each and every detail of their work favors the right interestsor skewers the disfavored ones” in the absence of overt control:

The resulting professional is an obedient thinker, an intellectual property whom employers can trust to experiment, theorize, innovate and create safely within the confines of an assigned ideology.[73]

Parecon (participatory economics) theory posits a social class “between labor and capital” of higher paid professionals such as “doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers and others” who monopolize empowering labor and constitute a class above wage laborers who do mostly “obedient, rote work”.[74]

The terms “employee” or “worker” have often been replaced by “associate”. This plays up the allegedly voluntary nature of the interaction while playing down the subordinate status of the wage laborer as well as the worker-boss class distinction emphasized by labor movements. Billboards as well as television, Internet and newspaper advertisements consistently show low-wage workers with smiles on their faces, appearing happy.[75]

Job interviews and other data on requirements for lower skilled workers in developed countries particularly in the growing service sector indicate that the more workers depend on low wages and the less skilled or desirable their job is, the more employers screen for workers without better employment options and expect them to feign unremunerative motivation.[76] Such screening and feigning may not only contribute to the positive self-image of the employer as someone granting desirable employment, but also signal wage-dependence by indicating the employee’s willingness to feign, which in turn may discourage the dissatisfaction normally associated with job-switching or union activity.[76]

At the same time, employers in the service industry have justified unstable, part-time employment and low wages by playing down the importance of service jobs for the lives of the wage laborers (e.g. just temporary before finding something better, student summer jobs and the like).[77][78]

In the early 20th century, “scientific methods of strikebreaking”[79] were devised employing a variety of tactics that emphasized how strikes undermined “harmony” and “Americanism”.[80]

Some social activists objecting to the market system or price system of wage working historically have considered syndicalism, worker cooperatives, workers’ self-management and workers’ control as possible alternatives to the current wage system.[4][5][6][19]

The American philosopher John Dewey believed that until “industrial feudalism” is replaced by “industrial democracy”, politics will be “the shadow cast on society by big business”.[81] Thomas Ferguson has postulated in his investment theory of party competition that the undemocratic nature of economic institutions under capitalism causes elections to become occasions when blocs of investors coalesce and compete to control the state.[82]

Noam Chomsky has argued that political theory tends to blur the ‘elite’ function of government:

Modern political theory stresses Madison’s belief that “in a just and a free government the rights both of property and of persons ought to be effectually guarded.” But in this case too it is useful to look at the doctrine more carefully. There are no rights of property, only rights to property that is, rights of persons with property,…

[In] representative democracy, as in, say, the United States or Great Britain [] there is a monopoly of power centralized in the state, and secondly and critically [] the representative democracy is limited to the political sphere and in no serious way encroaches on the economic sphere [] That is, as long as individuals are compelled to rent themselves on the market to those who are willing to hire them, as long as their role in production is simply that of ancillary tools, then there are striking elements of coercion and oppression that make talk of democracy very limited, if even meaningful.[83]

In this regard, Chomsky has used Bakunin’s theories about an “instinct for freedom”,[84] the militant history of labor movements, Kropotkin’s mutual aid evolutionary principle of survival and Marc Hauser’s theories supporting an innate and universal moral faculty,[85] to explain the incompatibility of oppression with certain aspects of human nature.[86][87]

Loyola University philosophy professor John Clark and libertarian socialist philosopher Murray Bookchin have criticized the system of wage labor for encouraging environmental destruction, arguing that a self-managed industrial society would better manage the environment. Like other anarchists,[88] they attribute much of the Industrial Revolution’s pollution to the “hierarchical” and “competitive” economic relations accompanying it.[89]

Some criticize wage slavery on strictly contractual grounds, e.g. David Ellerman and Carole Pateman, arguing that the employment contract is a legal fiction in that it treats human beings juridically as mere tools or inputs by abdicating responsibility and self-determination, which the critics argue are inalienable. As Ellerman points out, “[t]he employee is legally transformed from being a co-responsible partner to being only an input supplier sharing no legal responsibility for either the input liabilities [costs] or the produced outputs [revenue, profits] of the employer’s business”.[90] Such contracts are inherently invalid “since the person remain[s] a de facto fully capacitated adult person with only the contractual role of a non-person” as it is impossible to physically transfer self-determination.[91] As Pateman argues:

The contractarian argument is unassailable all the time it is accepted that abilities can ‘acquire’ an external relation to an individual, and can be treated as if they were property. To treat abilities in this manner is also implicitly to accept that the ‘exchange’ between employer and worker is like any other exchange of material property … The answer to the question of how property in the person can be contracted out is that no such procedure is possible. Labour power, capacities or services, cannot be separated from the person of the worker like pieces of property.[92]

In a modern liberal capitalist society, the employment contract is enforced while the enslavement contract is not; the former being considered valid because of its consensual/non-coercive nature and the latter being considered inherently invalid, consensual or not. The noted economist Paul Samuelson described this discrepancy:

Since slavery was abolished, human earning power is forbidden by law to be capitalized. A man is not even free to sell himself; he must rent himself at a wage.[93]

Some advocates of right-libertarianism, among them philosopher Robert Nozick, address this inconsistency in modern societies arguing that a consistently libertarian society would allow and regard as valid consensual/non-coercive enslavement contracts, rejecting the notion of inalienable rights:

The comparable question about an individual is whether a free system will allow him to sell himself into slavery. I believe that it would.[94]

Others like Murray Rothbard allow for the possibility of debt slavery, asserting that a lifetime labour contract can be broken so long as the slave pays appropriate damages:

[I]f A has agreed to work for life for B in exchange for 10,000 grams of gold, he will have to return the proportionate amount of property if he terminates the arrangement and ceases to work.[95]

In the philosophy of mainstream, neoclassical economics, wage labor is seen as the voluntary sale of one’s own time and efforts, just like a carpenter would sell a chair, or a farmer would sell wheat. It is considered neither an antagonistic nor abusive relationship and carries no particular moral implications.[96]

Austrian economics argues that a person is not “free” unless they can sell their labor because otherwise that person has no self-ownership and will be owned by a “third party” of individuals.[97]

Post-Keynesian economics perceives wage slavery as resulting from inequality of bargaining power between labor and capital, which exists when the economy does not “allow labor to organize and form a strong countervailing force”.[98]

The two main forms of socialist economics perceive wage slavery differently:

Excerpt from:

Wage slavery – Wikipedia

8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

Literal slavery is a horrible practice that still persists into the modern age. But, I want to talk about another form of human exploitationemployment slavery, which can also ruin a persons life. Generally, I consider this a self-inflicted slavery because its ultimately a persons choice to work under such conditionsbut I also understand that brainwashing can occur, creating the illusion that theres no way out.

Slavery (in general) exists because of the inclination among people to obtain the benefits of human resources, while providing little (or nothing) in return. Human work is the most intelligent, efficient way to create a system of wealth and power. For the morally bankrupt, such benefits are sought for free.

Employment, in the best case scenario, is a business deal of mutual benefit. But in other instances, the company is expending such minimal resources that they are taking advantage of you. In the worst case scenario, through a combination of slave-driving principles and psychological techniques to break you down, such a job can morph into something very similar to actual slavery.

If you dont know any better, its easy to fall into slavery conditions. Here are signs that your sense of freedom in life is totally gone:

Because of the way employers conveniently ignore yearly inflation, todays minimal wage is not enough to maintain any semblance of a normal lifestyle. Minimal wage makes some sense in small businesses just starting out. But, In America, $8.25 an hour, or less, from a large, billion-dollar corporation is inexcusable. In this case, your annual wages cost a second of the companys hourly profits. In other words, your hard work is a very bad deal for you, and a killer opportunity for the suits upstairs.

Youre lucky you even have a job! is a psychological taunt that bad employers use to try and keep their wage-slaves from believing they can do any better. Such statements are made to maintain a sense of control. Understand, voluntary slavery is not a rare phenomenon. It happens when a person is brainwashed into the belief that they have nowhere else they can go.

If your manager uses psychological put-downs like this to denigrate your professional abilitiesunderstand that its being done for a reason.

The idea of getting a raise and a promotion may be dangled in-front of you, but youve seen no evidence to suggest that it really happens. In fact, only a very small percentage of your co-workers ever obtain this goal, and they tend to be the cronies of upper-management. If this is the case, then what exactly is your reason for working at this company?

Inconvenient hours are inevitable in jobs, but some companies will abuse the system. This ranges from illegally denying overtime pay, to scheduling month-long bouts of cloping (working until closing hours late at night, then opening hours the next morning) that leaves the employee physically and emotionally drained.

An employee in this system may feel the intense pressure by the bosses to conform to abusive hours, under the threat of being denied promotions or even getting fired for seeking better treatment.

Americas two-week annual vacation time is one of the weakest in the Western world, and American workers tend to not even use it. This is because many employers will hint that vacationers are likely to end up on the shit-list of not getting promoted. They may even hint that unruly vacation-seekers will be the first to get laid-off or fired at the earliest opportunity.

A system of slavery does not allow free-time for individuals to maintain their own lives outside of their work. This could cause dissent and break the system of total control. An unspoken methodology among abusive managers is to destroy the lifestyles of employees so, instead of tending to family or hobbies, they work at full capacity.

Feeling motivated based on high-standards and being scared to go below those standards is one thing, but being genuinely scared of the people youre working for is another.

Slave-masters maintain systems of fear, to break down their subjects and perhapsin timebuild them back up. For the best example of thisplease see Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

Psychological and verbal abuse is usually what occurs. An abusive employer understands exactly what strings to pull to generate feelings of shame or guilt, and theyll use the professional context to destroy a subjects sense of self-worth, perhaps by implying worthlessness at the vocation theyve devoted their life to.

In other instances, the abuse is very overt and could include yelling, tantrums and even physical assaults. But the outcome is the same: the employee living in a constant state of paranoia, fear, and subservience.

Read carefully the ten warning-signs youre in a cult by the Cult Education Institute. Some of these that could be very applicable to a workplace include: absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability, no tolerance for questions or critical inquiry, the leader (boss) is always right, and former followers (employees) are vilified as evil for leaving.

If the job feels less about, you know, getting the job doneand is more about the influence, charisma and infallibility of the bossthen get the heck out of there. This means the person in charge is getting a side-benefit to running or managing the workplace: power and dominance.

The number one sign youre a slave and not an employee is that youre working an unpaid internship, and its not for college credit. You may be promised great benefits and valuable connections, at what amounts to harsh workplace conditions, long hours, and zero pay.

A huge mistake I see young professionals make, and it really irks me, is naivety about peoples intentions. I went to film school for my bachelors, and many students I knew lusted after top internships at film studios or with big names in the entertainment industry. Such internships are often offered regardless of college credit.

When a person is blindsided by their desire to make it and get in with big names, they are likely to make bad decisionsand unscrupulous employers will prey on this desire.

Internships are great IF its part of a students actual curriculum. It means hands-on work and real experience versus useless classrooms. But, the questionable non-credit internships I warn about also exist to lure young people into systems of slavery. Its gotten so bad these types of arrangements are quickly becoming illegal in California.

The reality of such internships is that the slave-drivers only desire one thing: unpaid work. There is NO promise that you will move up or land any type of a paid job. When your internship finishes, they will discard you and find the next victim.

The biggest reason to avoid internships is the mentality behind the deal. Imagine a law firm or a film studio that is a multi-billion dollar operation. How hard would it be to throw their new recruit at LEAST minimum wage? The fact such a company would, despite their huge profits, still desire unpaid labor is indicative of a slave-driving mentality that funnels wealth to the top at the expense of the people on the bottom making it possible.

As a professional, it would be best for you to avoid doing any type of business with any individual or company that possesses a philosophy like this.

Employment-slavery situations are common. Very common. But ultimately, the biggest factor in determining how bad it is, is a single question: are you happy?

If you are happy at $8.25 an hour with no benefits, because you like the people you work with, you like the nature of the work, and you feel its moving you somewhere you want to bethen its not slavery. Youre making an investment thatll either pay off, or it wontbut at least you enjoy what youre doing.

However, if you are miserable in your current conditions, its quite possible that the uneasy feeling in your gut is your intuition telling you that someone is taking advantage of you.

Employment is supposed to be a business contract, and an exchange of services. Never a system of control. Sometimes, just the willingness to walk away is your strongest defense against a terrible job situation.

For more about avoiding systems of employment-slavery, please see my short books: Freedom: How to Make Money From Your Dreams and Ambitions, and How to Quit Your Job: Escape Soul Crushing Work, Create the Life You Want, and Live Happy.

(For more books, also check out the Developed Life bookstore, http://www.developedlife.com/bookstore).

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8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early …

“Graceful, engaging work.” — History Wire – Where the Past Comes Alive

“Scraping By is an impressive, eloquently written study that provides a seminal history of Baltimore’s working class, and makes a fine addition to the already outstanding list of titles in the Studies in Early American Economy and Society series.” — Maryland Historical Magazine

“Scraping By is about breaking new ground: the often nasty, unhealthy labor essential to Baltimore’s growth as a boomtown from the 1790s to 1830s. Rockman breaks new ground himself in studying ‘low-end laborers’: slaves, free blacks, European immigrants, and the native-born who struggled to cobble together a few days’ ill-paid toil… Highly recommended.” — Choice

“A creative treatment of an intriguing and important topic… The effort to make slavery history a part of labor history, and vice versa, is commendable, effective, and overdue.” — Peter H. Wood, Duke University

“Scraping By offers an entirely new way of understanding the early republic. Through a combination of prodigious research, keen insight, and graceful, lively prose, Seth Rockman brings to life the labor and laborers who built early America from the cobblestones up. Here are workers free and enslaved, male and female, black and white, immigrant and native born, all struggling to attain the basic wherewithal of survival in a boomtown of their own making. This is no local story but a fresh paradigm, nothing less than the future of American social history.” — Jane Kamensky, Brandeis University

“The economy of the Early Republic has long served as a kind of Rorschach test for American historians, with some perceiving a world of unprecedented opportunity and upward mobility and others a class-ridden society riven by inequality, exploitation, and conflict. In this exhaustively researched and vividly rendered book, Seth Rockman reminds us that these competing visions represent two sides of the same coin, that the ability of some Americans to prosper hinged on their ability to mobilize and exploit the labor of others, including enslaved and free people of color, women, indentured servants, immigrants, and others excluded from the full promise of American freedom. Scraping By is essential reading for anyone interested in American economic history.” — James T. Campbell, Stanford University

“Seth Rockman has written a powerful book… Scraping By is an ambitious, impressive, and fully realized piece of work that will engage and educate scholars, teachers, citizens, and activists. The book will take its place on the shelf beside the classics of early American labor history, written by Ira Berlin, William B. Morris, Gary B. Nash, Billy G. Smith, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and Alfred F. Young.” — Marcus Rediker, William and Mary Quarterly

“Seth Rockman has written a book to be reckoned with… This is a terrific book, at times abrasive, which deserves a wide audience. That would include undergraduates, for whom Rockman’s vivid writing and clear argument should resonate, especially within an economic climate that is forcing millions more to scrape by.” — John Bezs-Selfa, American Historical Review

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Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early …

The New American Slavery: Invited To The U.S., Foreign …

The H-2 visa program invites foreign workers to do some of the most menial labor in America. Then it leaves them at the mercy of their employers. Thousands of these workers have been abused deprived of their fair pay, imprisoned, starved, beaten, raped, and threatened with deportation if they dare complain. And the government says it can do little to help. A BuzzFeed News investigation.

Reporting From

Mamou, Louisiana

Posted on July 24, 2015, at 10:47 a.m. ET

MAMOU, Louisiana Travis Manuel and his twin brother, Trey, were shopping at Walmart near this rural town when they met two Mexican women who struck them as sweet. Using a few words of Spanish he had picked up from his Navy days, Travis asked the two women out on a double date.

Around midnight the following Saturday, when they finished their shift at a seafood processing plant, Marisela Valdez and Isy Gonzalez waited for their dates at the remote compound where they lived and worked.

As soon as they got in the Manuel brothers car, the women began saying something about patrn angry, Travis recalled. While he was trying to puzzle out what they meant, his brother, who was driving, interrupted: Dude, Trey said. Theres someone following us.

Trey began to take sudden turns on the country roads threading through the rice paddies that dot the area, trying to lose the pickup truck behind them. Finally, they saw a police car.

I said, were gonna flag down this cop for help, Travis recalled. But the cop pulled us over, lights on, and told us not to get out of the vehicle, Trey added, noting that the pickup pulled up and the driver began conferring with the police.

An officer asked Trey and his brother for ID. From the backseat, their dates began to cry.

Travis tried to reassure them. They werent doing anything wrong, he said, and they were in the United States. I was like, Theres no way they are going to take you away.

He was wrong.

The man in the truck was the womens boss, Craig West, a prominent farmer in the heart of Cajun country. As Sgt. Robert McGee later wrote in a police report, West said that Valdez and Gonzalez were two of his girls, and he asked the cops to haul the women in and scare the girls.

The police brought the women, who were both in their twenties, to the station house. McGee told them they couldnt leave Wests farm without permission, warning that they could wind up dead. To drive home the point, an officer later testified, McGee stood over Valdez and Gonzalez and pantomimed cutting his throat. He also brandished a Taser at them and said they could be deported if they ever left Wests property without his permission.

A little after 2 in the morning, they released the women to West for the 15-minute drive through the steamy night to his compound a place where, the women and the Mexican government say, workers were stripped of their passports and assigned to sleep in a filthy, foul-smelling trailer infested with insects and mice. Valdez and Gonzalez also claimed that they and other women were imprisoned, forced to work for little pay, and frequently harassed by West, who demanded to see their breasts and insisted that having sex with him was their only way out of poverty.

These women were not undocumented immigrants working off the books. They were in the United States legally, as part of a government program that allows employers to import foreign labor for jobs they say Americans wont take but that also allows those companies to control almost every aspect of their employees’ lives.

Each year, more than 100,000 people from countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, and South Africa come to America on what is known as an H-2 visa to perform all kinds of menial labor across a wide spectrum of industries: cleaning rooms at luxury resorts and national parks, picking fruit, cutting lawns and manicuring golf courses, setting up carnival rides, trimming and planting trees, herding sheep, or, in the case of Valdez, Gonzalez, and about 20 other Mexican women in 2011, peeling crawfish at L.T. West Inc.

A BuzzFeed News investigation based on government databases and investigative files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, thousands of court documents, as well as more than 80 interviews with workers and employers shows that the program condemns thousands of employees each year to exploitation and mistreatment, often in plain view of government officials charged with protecting them. All across America, H-2 guest workers complain that they have been cheated out of their wages, threatened with guns, beaten, raped, starved, and imprisoned. Some have even died on the job. Yet employers rarely face any significant consequences.

Many of those employers have since been approved to bring in more guest workers. Some have even been rewarded with lucrative government contracts. Almost none have ever been charged with a crime.

In interview after interview, current and former guest workers often on the verge of tears used the same word to describe their experiences: slavery.

We live where we work, and we cant leave, said Olivia Guzman Garfias, who has been coming to Louisiana as a guest worker from her small town in Mexico since 1997. We are tied to the company. Our visas are in the companys name. If the pay and working conditions arent as we wish, who can we complain to? We are like modern-day slaves.

In a statement, the Department of Labor, which is charged with protecting workers and vetting employers seeking visas, said that the H-2 programs are part of a wider immigration system that is widely acknowledged to be broken, contributing to an uneven playing field where employers who exploit vulnerable workers undermine those who do the right thing.

The number of H-2 visas issued has grown by more than 50% over the past five years. Unlike the better-known H-1B visa program, which brings skilled workers such as computer programmers into Americas high-tech industries, the H-2 program is for the economys bottom rung, designed to make it easier for employers to fill temporary, unskilled positions. Proponents argue that it gives foreigners a chance to work here legally, send home much-needed dollars, and return to their families when the job is over.

In March, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce defended the guest worker program before a Senate committee, noting that such “temporary workers are needed in lesser-skilled occupations that are both seasonal and year round,” and that aspects of the program are “critical” to “American workers, the local community, and companies that provide goods and services to these seasonal businesses.

Tens of thousands of companies, ranging from family businesses to huge corporations, have participated in the program since it took its modern form in 1986. Employers pledge to pay their workers a set rate, which can range from the federal minimum wage to a higher prevailing wage that varies from state to state and job to job. As for the employees, they can only work for the company that sponsored their visa. They are legally barred from seeking other employment and must leave the country when the job ends.

For some people, such as the hundreds of soccer coaches who youth sports camps bring in every year from the United Kingdom and elsewhere, an H-2 visa offers an opportunity to make some money while spending time in another country. Many companies treat their H-2 employees well, and many guest workers interviewed for this article said they are grateful for the program.

But public records and interviews reveal how easy it is for companies that sponsor H-2 visas to abuse their employees.

Many companies pay their guest workers less than the law mandates. Others pay them for fewer hours than they actually work, or force them to work extremely long hours without overtime. Some, on the other hand, offer them far less work than promised, at times leaving workers without enough money to buy food. Employers also whittle away at wages by imposing an array of prohibited fees starting with bribes to get the jobs in the first place, which can leave workers so deep in debt that they are effectively indentured servants.

Guest workers often toil in conditions that are unsafe, inhumane, or simply exhausting, wielding dangerous machinery beneath a scorching sun or standing for hours on end in sweltering factories. And at the end of their shift, many workers retire to grim, squalid quarters that might be little more than a grimy mattress on the floor of a crowded, vermin-infested trailer. For such housing, some employers charge workers extortionate rent.

Though it is against the law, employers often exert additional control over guest workers by confiscating their passports, without which many foreign workers, fearful of being deported, feel unsafe leaving the worksite. Some employers extend their influence over workers to extremes, screening their mail, preventing them from receiving visitors, banning radios and newspapers, or even coercing them to attend religious services they dont believe in. Some foremen sexually harass female workers, who live in constant fear of losing their jobs and being deported.

The world has become accustomed in recent years to hearing of guest worker abuse in countries such as Qatar or Thailand. But this is happening in the United States. And the problem is not just a few unscrupulous employers. The very structure of the visa program enables widespread abuse and exploitation.

The way H-2 visas shackle workers to a single employer leaves them almost no leverage to demand better treatment. The rules also make it easy to banish a worker to her home country at the bosss whim. And guest workers tend to be so poor and, often, so indebted from the recruitment fees they paid to get the job in the first place that they feel they have no choice but to endure even the worst abuses.

Court documents and interviews revealed numerous cases where workers who tried to speak out said they received threats to their lives. Many others claimed they were blacklisted by employers, losing the opportunity to get jobs that, however miserable, give them more money than they could earn in their own countries.

The government has been warned repeatedly over almost two decades that the guest worker program is deeply troubled, with more than a dozen official reports excoriating it for everything from widespread visa fraud to rampant worker abuse, and even calling for its elimination. Since 2005, Labor Department investigation records show, at least 800 employers have subjected more than 23,000 H-2 guest workers to violations of the federal laws designed to protect them from exploitation, including more than 16,000 instances of H-2 workers being paid less than the promised wage.

Those numbers almost certainly understate the problem, as the federal government doesnt check up on the vast majority of companies that bring guest workers into this country. The Labor Department noted in its statement that it has limited resources, with only about 1,000 investigators to enforce protections for all 135 million workers in the U.S. Still, it said, it recovered more than $2.6 million in back wages owed to roughly 4,500 H-2 workers in the 2014 fiscal year. In that year, the agency said, it found violations in 82% of the H-2 visa cases it investigated.

Kalen Fraser, a former investigator for the Labor Departments Wage and Hour Division who specialized in H-2 visa cases, said that while some companies stumble over complex rules, a substantial portion maliciously violate worker protection laws. Theres a big power imbalance there, and the worst guys get away with everything.

Route 95 between Chataignier and Mamou, Louisiana, winds through endless acres of rice paddies that teem with crawfish after the grain is reaped. The country is dead flat, and stretching to the horizon theres little but lush fields of green, dotted with glassy brown pools beneath a heavy sky. Near a bend in the two-lane highway sits the L.T. West crawfish plant.

It was there that Valdez, Gonzalez, and the other women, tired and stiff from a crowded, 1,500-mile ride up from Mexico, stepped out into the dark, wet heat on the night of April 9, 2011.

Valdez said it was need that had brought her there need and principle. I wanted to work and make money and do it in a legal way, she said in a recent interview, so I didnt have to cross the border illegally or undocumented.

She had left behind her 5-year-old son and her 8-year-old daughter, along with her mother, who was taking care of the children, and her dream at least for a time of finishing her college degree. She was 26. It was her first time away from home.

She landed in one of Americas most distinctive and insular regions. Acadiana stretches from the bayous near the Gulf of Mexico up through Lafayette and into the Cajun Prairie north of Interstate 10. It is a place where Spanish moss drips so thick off trees they can hardly be discerned, French is still many peoples first language, zydeco music blares from the radio, and social life for generations has centered around great feasts of boiled crab, shrimp, and crawfish.

Valdez and Gonzalez claim they were assigned, along with three other of the youngest women, to an isolated trailer that lacked safe drinking water. Valdez was terrified of the dark, of the sounds of animals in the brush, of snakes. The women talked that first night about their goals and what their families would do with the money they earned.

I felt very strange, she said. Being with all these people I didnt know, having to leave behind my life, my family, my things, in a country I had never been in before. I felt very sad. I felt sad, but the truth is the need we had at that moment was so great that we had to do it, we had to be there.

Valdez lay awake, she said, thinking about where I was, how did I get there, why I was in this position. A few hours later, the women were rousted and sent to peel crawfish.

After hatching and maturing in the shallow ponds that spool over the landscape, the crustaceans rusty brown and squirming are plucked from baited traps. The mudbugs are stuffed in mesh sacks, heaved into the back of pickup trucks, then cooked in steel baths until they are bright red.

Then the women go to work. Still steaming, the crawfish are dumped by the basketful onto long metal tables. The workers crowd in, standing shoulder to shoulder or perching on stools. Hour after hour, they pull the heads off and extract the tail meat.

The hot crawfish would hurt your fingers, Valdez said. But the worst thing was the smell. It stung your nostrils, she said. The smell stuck to everything. We carried it home with us.

In its application for H-2 visas, filed in November 2010, L.T. West committed to pay the workers $9.10 an hour, plus overtime. The company also promised the Labor Department it would issue detailed pay statements.

The women soon learned, however, that they would sometimes be paid for each pound of crawfish tails they peeled. Federal law allows guest workers to be paid a piece rate, but only if the employer makes up any difference between that and the promised hourly wage.

L.T. West did not backfill their wages, according to the womens complaint. Some weeks, they said, their piece-rate wages amounted to the equivalent of less than $4 an hour. Sometimes they were given only about 15 hours of work per week.

Craig West denies that he shorted the women. But notes from a Labor Department investigation show that he did not keep proper pay records, making it impossible to verify that assertion.

The women also said West forbade them from leaving his plant and ordered one of his employees to confiscate their passports and visas their only proof, in a region that takes border enforcement seriously, that they were in the U.S. legally. On numerous occasions, they said, West threatened to call police or immigration authorities.

A few days after the disastrous double date, two of the women claimed, West pointed a gun at Valdez, the red beam of his laser scope directly on her face, and told her never to leave the work camp.

West, a solidly built man with a honey drawl, vehemently denied that he mistreated his workers, taking particular umbrage at the allegation involving the gun. He is a hunting instructor and runs the church skeet shoot, he said in an interview outside his home in June, and would never recklessly point a weapon at anyone.

The real story, West said, is that Valdez, Gonzalez, and some of the other women in their trailer were wild, partying and arranging to have cases of beer dropped off at his property. In a sworn deposition, one L.T. West employee said the women went out often and sometimes came back after having been drinking. Another said that West did not get angry if they went out without his permission.

West also denied trying to use the Mamou police to intimidate the women. He called them, he said, because some of the workers had expressed fears that a rapist would sneak onto the property.

Police officers, however, tell a different story. Two testified that when West arrived at the station that night, he was in a state of fury. In a sworn deposition in 2012, Mamou Police Sgt. Lucas Lavergne described Wests behavior this way: He said like looking toward the girls, he said, Mucho fuck you. Mucho kill you.

What happened that night, Travis said, was nuts and wrong. Reflecting on Wests and the polices attitude toward the women, he said, It seemed like we had messed with his property, like we had stolen a horse or did damage to his property.

His brother Trey added, Shortest date ever.

By scouring legal and administrative documents, BuzzFeed News identified more than 800 workers over the last 10 years who complained to authorities that they had their passports confiscated, were held against their will, were physically attacked, or were threatened with harm for trying to leave their housing or job sites. The number who experienced these abuses but did not speak out may be much higher.

In January 2013, a group of Mexican forestry workers said that they had been held at gunpoint in the mountains north of Sacramento and forced to work 13 hours a day and handle chemicals that made them vomit and peeled their skin, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in federal court last year by a Department of Homeland Security investigator.

Their employer, a small forestry contractor out of Idaho called Pure Forest, had also illegally charged the workers about $2,000 apiece for their visas, paid for out of deductions from their paychecks, the workers said. After additional fees were levied for food, they said, they were sometimes left with less than $100 for two weeks of grueling work. In one case, a worker said he was charged $100 for a pair of used shoes held together with nails.

Two of Pure Forests foremen reportedly carried firearms and threatened to shoot workers in the head and leave them in the woods if they did not work harder, the DHS special agent, Eugene Kizenko, wrote. He added that multiple workers heard these threats.

Five workers who escaped sued Pure Forest in federal court last year. They filed the suit, which is ongoing, using pseudonyms; the complaint states that the workers fear retaliation due to threats of bodily injury or death made by defendants.

Pure Forest denied the allegations in court papers and in an interview. Completely false, Owen Wadsworth said by phone. His father, Jeff, owns the company, and Owen was also named in the workers suit. We’ve had nothing but good working relationships with all our employees, he said. The H-2 program seems more set up to put the company, the owner or the employer, in a bad situation, he added, and whatever allegations or negative that come up, it’s treated almost like it’s true, and they’ll assume that you’re the bad guy.

A particularly effective force to keep workers in line is debt.

Interviews and court records reviewed by BuzzFeed News turned up hundreds of workers who claimed they were forced to pay for their visas. Thats illegal; companies are responsible for making sure their labor brokers don’t charge bribes. But diplomats from the U.S. and Mexico say such bribes are rampant. In cables released by WikiLeaks, U.S. consular officials in Mexico, Jamaica, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic describe reports of recruiters demanding fees for visas and also committing fraud in order to get visas approved.

Jacob Joseph Kadakkarappally was eager to come from India to the U.S. to work as a welder at the Pascagoula, Mississippi, shipyard of Signal International in late 2006. But he didn’t have the approximately $14,500 recruiters demanded for the visa and other fees, so first he pawned the gold bangles his wife wore every day on her wrist. Then he hocked a gold chain that, he later testified, is considered to be holy, a symbol of wedding.

Other Signal workers from India, who had been misled into thinking they would get green cards, went deeply into debt or sold property to pay fees. Once the workers arrived in the U.S., Signal housed them in a labor camp, up to 24 men to a trailer, for which Signal charged them each $1,050 a month.

After Kadakkarappally and others began asking for better working and housing conditions, security guards raided his trailer early one morning and managers told him he was fired.

I almost lost my breath, Kadakkarappally testified. He pleaded with managers, he said, recounting his huge debts and telling them that I would not be able to support my family. A fellow worker slit his wrist in a failed suicide attempt.

Kadakkarappally and four other welders eventually sued Signal, and in February a federal jury in New Orleans awarded them $14 million. This month, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced that Signal had agreed to a $20 million settlement that resolves those claims and those of 200 additional Indian welders in 11 related lawsuits. Signal, which filed for bankruptcy to carry out the settlement, also agreed to apologize to its guest workers. Signal did not respond to requests for comment.

Such a victory is extremely rare. Very few H-2 workers have the resources or support to file a lawsuit. Many workers become prisoners of their debt. The best way to pay it off is with a job in the U.S. and the only job H-2 workers can legally get is the one with the company that sponsors their visas.

In so many cases, these workers end up being abused, said Jennifer Gordon, a law professor at Fordham University and a former MacArthur Fellow who has conducted research into the discrimination against and mistreatment of immigrant workers. In routine ways, all the time, the workers pay fees, they are threatened, their families are threatened. And the employer knows that if you get workers through that program, theyre not going to complain.

That stark power imbalance can be downright dangerous, contributing to on-the-job injuries and even deaths.

Leonardo Espinabarro Telles entered the country on an H-2 visa in April 2011, to work for Crystal Rock Amusements as it moved from Pennsylvania to Vermont and back, staging that most American of pastimes: county fairs. The Mexico native had been on the job about three months, living in a crowded converted horse trailer without a working bathroom, when the crew of 17 guest workers arrived in northern Vermont for the Lamoille County Field Days.

A little before 3 in the afternoon on Tuesday, July 19, Espinabarro went to retrieve electrical connectors from a trailer housing the hulking Caterpillar generator that powered the carnival rides.

Inside, two feet separated the trailer wall from the generators massive spinning fan blades. The protective guard over the blades had either broken or been removed. At ankle level, pulleys and fan belts were also exposed.

Espinabarro was alone, so no one witnessed what happened, but co-workers heard cries for help. One man rushed to the trailer to see Espinabarro standing upright, then watched him collapse and fall out of the trailer. His clothing had gotten tangled in the machinery, and the fan blades had ripped through his body. From neck to waist, his back was carved open, his organs spilling out. He was dead by the time he reached the hospital.

Inspectors from the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Crystal Rock management knew the fan blades were unguarded at the time of the accident but had not told the workers. No one had posted proper warning signs. Nor had they delivered safety training in any language.

Vermont OSHA levied $114,550 in fines. The case is still open, because Crystal Rock has not paid.

Asked whether he had ever trained his guest workers how to be safe around heavy equipment, Crystal Rocks owner, Arthur Gillette, told an inspector: How can you train these guys?” adding, “Do you train someone to eat a hot dog?

Gillette, whose company has been certified for at least 358 visas since 2002, added that Mexican workers were mechanically inclined and would figure things out and that if the investigator had ever been to the country she would understand that. He explained: The streets of Mexico, cars were stolen and disassembled with just the frames left on the street.

The Labor Department conducted its own investigation following the accident, finding that Gillette routinely underpaid workers and owed more than $60,000 in back wages. This month, the Maine state fire marshal criminally charged Gillette with falsifying physical evidence after an accident on a roller coaster injured three children at a carnival in Waterville in June.

Gillette, reached by phone, said the criminal charges in Maine were unjust and denied tampering with evidence.

He said both the Labor Department and Vermont OSHA investigations of Crystal Rock, which is now out of business, were unfair. Ive worked dozens of carnivals and dealt with hundreds of foreign employees, he added. The vast majority of the guys that worked for me said I am more than fair. That I owe them nothing. That we are square.

Guest workers in other industries have died after being run over in grisly accidents, or collapsing for unknown reasons. Theyve had limbs amputated and suffered other catastrophic injuries.

On-the-job injuries happen to all kinds of employees, of course, but employers virtually unchecked sway over H-2 workers as well as some employers attitudes about foreigners can foster a cavalier attitude toward workplace dangers. It can also keep workers from pointing out safety violations or even reporting injuries.

In a 2012 report from the Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California, Berkeley, researchers surveyed 150 forestry workers in Oregon, about a third of them on H-2 visas, and found that more than 40% had been injured on the job in the previous 12 months. Fifteen of the workers had suffered broken bones, and another 18 had dislocated one or more bones. And yet workers kept quiet about many of their injuries including more than a quarter of the broken bones and nearly half of the dislocated ones.

The report concluded: They were afraid they would be fired, and they were afraid of otherwise getting in trouble.

Topolobampo occupies a peninsula at the mouth of a bay off the Sea of Cortez in violence-ravaged Sinaloa, the home state of the infamous drug lord Joaqun El Chapo Guzmn. The sparkling sea along the malecn belies a deep listlessness, more stifling than the tropical heat, that has settled over the town. The seafood plant along the waterfront closed down years ago. Mangy dogs range along barely maintained streets, while a few tiny restaurants with cement floors have almost nothing on the menu. Decent jobs outside of the drug trade are hard to find.

As much as a third of the population of 6,500 travels to the swamps and prairies of Louisiana every year to catch and process seafood, according to local recruiters. Those who make the trek are colloquially known as Louisianeros. The rewards of their work are easy to see: solidly built houses, clean tile floors, modern appliances, and framed degrees from private schools. Less visible are the costs: children who grow up in someone elses family, because their own parents are working on the other side.

Fernanda Padilla was just 3 when her mother, Guadalupe, started coming to Louisiana for 10 months a year to process shellfish. I couldnt understand, said Padilla. I used to tell her, I dont care. Ill eat rice and beans every day, but be here with me.

But at 17, Padilla dropped out of school and decided to follow in her mothers footsteps to make money. She secured an H-2 visa and arrived at her new job at Bayou Shrimp in April 2009. She was pregnant, but her pay stubs show she worked more than 60 hours some weeks. Forty days after her daughter was born, Padilla was back at work at the plant, leaving her baby with a friend.

Padilla, who has since had a second child, worked in the Louisiana shrimp industry for five seasons before losing her job last year. She said she used to worry that, like her own mother, she was abandoning her children in order to provide for them.

Five years working there seemed like no time had passed at all, and my daughter had already grown up and I didnt even realize it, Padilla said, adding that she is now cobbling together a living with odd jobs.

North of the border, H-2 visas are also important to the economy.

Louisiana is the nations second-largest seafood-producing state, and its crawfish industry used to rely on local labor. But competition from cheap Asian imports, along with the demand by huge retailers such as Wal-Mart for ever lower prices, have squeezed profit margins and put downward pressure on wages below the point, producers say, where people in America will take the jobs on a seasonal basis. In the 1990s, processors including Craig West hoped that machines could be built to take over the repetitive task of extracting the tail meat from the crustaceans. But eventually crawfish farmers discovered that the best and cheapest option is a Mexican on an H-2 visa.

The visa comes in two types: H-2A for agricultural workers and H-2B for nonagricultural unskilled workers, with varying rules and provisions. While many workers say that regulators dont do enough to protect them, their employers generally have the opposite complaint. They say they are burdened by endless bureaucratic hurdles and inspectors who ding them for tiny infractions of incomprehensible rules.

Ben LeGrange, the general manager of Atchafalaya Crawfish Processing, in Henderson, Louisiana, said most crawfish processors treat their workers well, and isolated incidents shouldnt taint the whole industry. He said he tries to treat guest workers as an extension of someone in my family and that without them the whole company, which also employs six American workers, would be in jeopardy.

Excerpt from:

The New American Slavery: Invited To The U.S., Foreign …

Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early …

“Graceful, engaging work.” — History Wire – Where the Past Comes Alive

“Scraping By is an impressive, eloquently written study that provides a seminal history of Baltimore’s working class, and makes a fine addition to the already outstanding list of titles in the Studies in Early American Economy and Society series.” — Maryland Historical Magazine

“Scraping By is about breaking new ground: the often nasty, unhealthy labor essential to Baltimore’s growth as a boomtown from the 1790s to 1830s. Rockman breaks new ground himself in studying ‘low-end laborers’: slaves, free blacks, European immigrants, and the native-born who struggled to cobble together a few days’ ill-paid toil… Highly recommended.” — Choice

“A creative treatment of an intriguing and important topic… The effort to make slavery history a part of labor history, and vice versa, is commendable, effective, and overdue.” — Peter H. Wood, Duke University

“Scraping By offers an entirely new way of understanding the early republic. Through a combination of prodigious research, keen insight, and graceful, lively prose, Seth Rockman brings to life the labor and laborers who built early America from the cobblestones up. Here are workers free and enslaved, male and female, black and white, immigrant and native born, all struggling to attain the basic wherewithal of survival in a boomtown of their own making. This is no local story but a fresh paradigm, nothing less than the future of American social history.” — Jane Kamensky, Brandeis University

“The economy of the Early Republic has long served as a kind of Rorschach test for American historians, with some perceiving a world of unprecedented opportunity and upward mobility and others a class-ridden society riven by inequality, exploitation, and conflict. In this exhaustively researched and vividly rendered book, Seth Rockman reminds us that these competing visions represent two sides of the same coin, that the ability of some Americans to prosper hinged on their ability to mobilize and exploit the labor of others, including enslaved and free people of color, women, indentured servants, immigrants, and others excluded from the full promise of American freedom. Scraping By is essential reading for anyone interested in American economic history.” — James T. Campbell, Stanford University

“Seth Rockman has written a powerful book… Scraping By is an ambitious, impressive, and fully realized piece of work that will engage and educate scholars, teachers, citizens, and activists. The book will take its place on the shelf beside the classics of early American labor history, written by Ira Berlin, William B. Morris, Gary B. Nash, Billy G. Smith, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and Alfred F. Young.” — Marcus Rediker, William and Mary Quarterly

“Seth Rockman has written a book to be reckoned with… This is a terrific book, at times abrasive, which deserves a wide audience. That would include undergraduates, for whom Rockman’s vivid writing and clear argument should resonate, especially within an economic climate that is forcing millions more to scrape by.” — John Bezs-Selfa, American Historical Review

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Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early …

Wage slavery – Wikipedia

Wage slavery is a term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor by focusing on similarities between owning and renting a person. It is usually used to refer to a situation where a person’s livelihood depends on wages or a salary, especially when the dependence is total and immediate.[1][2]

The term “wage slavery” has been used to criticize exploitation of labour and social stratification, with the former seen primarily as unequal bargaining power between labor and capital (particularly when workers are paid comparatively low wages, e.g. in sweatshops)[3] and the latter as a lack of workers’ self-management, fulfilling job choices and leisure in an economy.[4][5][6] The criticism of social stratification covers a wider range of employment choices bound by the pressures of a hierarchical society to perform otherwise unfulfilling work that deprives humans of their “species character”[7] not only under threat of starvation or poverty, but also of social stigma and status diminution.[8][9][10]

Similarities between wage labor and slavery were noted as early as Cicero in Ancient Rome, such as in De Officiis.[11] With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, thinkers such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Karl Marx elaborated the comparison between wage labor and slavery,[12][13] while Luddites emphasized the dehumanization brought about by machines. Before the American Civil War, Southern defenders of African American slavery invoked the concept of wage slavery to favorably compare the condition of their slaves to workers in the North.[14][15] The United States abolished slavery after the Civil War, but labor union activists found the metaphor useful. According to Lawrence Glickman, in the Gilded Age “[r]eferences abounded in the labor press, and it is hard to find a speech by a labor leader without the phrase”.[16]

The introduction of wage labor in 18th-century Britain was met with resistance, giving rise to the principles of syndicalism.[17][18][19][20] Historically, some labor organizations and individual social activists have espoused workers’ self-management or worker cooperatives as possible alternatives to wage labor.[5][19]

The view that working for wages is akin to slavery dates back to the ancient world.[22] In ancient Rome, Cicero wrote that “whoever gives his labor for money sells himself and puts himself in the rank of slaves”.[11]

In 1763, the French journalist Simon Linguet published an influential description of wage slavery:[13]

The slave was precious to his master because of the money he had cost him… They were worth at least as much as they could be sold for in the market… It is the impossibility of living by any other means that compels our farm labourers to till the soil whose fruits they will not eat and our masons to construct buildings in which they will not live… It is want that compels them to go down on their knees to the rich man in order to get from him permission to enrich him… what effective gain [has] the suppression of slavery brought [him?] He is free, you say. Ah! That is his misfortune… These men… [have] the most terrible, the most imperious of masters, that is, need…. They must therefore find someone to hire them, or die of hunger. Is that to be free?

The view that wage work has substantial similarities with chattel slavery was actively put forward in the late 18th and 19th centuries by defenders of chattel slavery (most notably in the Southern states of the United States) and by opponents of capitalism (who were also critics of chattel slavery).[9][23] Some defenders of slavery, mainly from the Southern slave states, argued that Northern workers were “free but in name the slaves of endless toil” and that their slaves were better off.[24][25] This contention has been partly corroborated by some modern studies that indicate slaves’ material conditions in the 19th century were “better than what was typically available to free urban laborers at the time”.[26][27] In this period, Henry David Thoreau wrote that “[i]t is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself”.[28]

Some abolitionists in the United States regarded the analogy as spurious.[29] They believed that wage workers were “neither wronged nor oppressed”.[30] Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans argued that the condition of wage workers was different from slavery as laborers were likely to have the opportunity to work for themselves in the future, achieving self-employment.[31] The abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass initially declared “now I am my own master”, upon taking a paying job.[32] However, later in life he concluded to the contrary, saying “experience demonstrates that there may be a slavery of wages only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other”.[33][34] Douglass went on to speak about these conditions as arising from the unequal bargaining power between the ownership/capitalist class and the non-ownership/laborer class within a compulsory monetary market: “No more crafty and effective devise for defrauding the southern laborers could be adopted than the one that substitutes orders upon shopkeepers for currency in payment of wages. It has the merit of a show of honesty, while it puts the laborer completely at the mercy of the land-owner and the shopkeeper”.[35]

Self-employment became less common as the artisan tradition slowly disappeared in the later part of the 19th century.[5] In 1869, The New York Times described the system of wage labor as “a system of slavery as absolute if not as degrading as that which lately prevailed at the South”.[31] E. P. Thompson notes that for British workers at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, the “gap in status between a ‘servant,’ a hired wage-laborer subject to the orders and discipline of the master, and an artisan, who might ‘come and go’ as he pleased, was wide enough for men to shed blood rather than allow themselves to be pushed from one side to the other. And, in the value system of the community, those who resisted degradation were in the right”.[17] A “Member of the Builders’ Union” in the 1830s argued that the trade unions “will not only strike for less work, and more wages, but will ultimately abolish wages, become their own masters and work for each other; labor and capital will no longer be separate but will be indissolubly joined together in the hands of workmen and work-women”.[18] This perspective inspired the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of 1834 which had the “two-fold purpose of syndicalist unions the protection of the workers under the existing system and the formation of the nuclei of the future society” when the unions “take over the whole industry of the country”.[19] “Research has shown”, summarises William Lazonick, “that the ‘free-born Englishman’ of the eighteenth century even those who, by force of circumstance, had to submit to agricultural wage labour tenaciously resisted entry into the capitalist workshop”.[20]

The use of the term “wage slave” by labor organizations may originate from the labor protests of the Lowell Mill Girls in 1836.[36] The imagery of wage slavery was widely used by labor organizations during the mid-19th century to object to the lack of workers’ self-management. However, it was gradually replaced by the more neutral term “wage work” towards the end of the 19th century as labor organizations shifted their focus to raising wages.[5]

Karl Marx described capitalist society as infringing on individual autonomy because it is based on a materialistic and commodified concept of the body and its liberty (i.e. as something that is sold, rented, or alienated in a class society). According to Friedrich Engels:[37][38]

The slave is sold once and for all; the proletarian must sell himself daily and hourly. The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master’s interest. The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence.

Critics of wage work have drawn several similarities between wage work and slavery:

According to American anarcho-syndicalist philosopher Noam Chomsky, the similarities between chattel and wage slavery were noticed by the workers themselves. He noted that the 19th-century Lowell Mill Girls, who without any reported knowledge of European Marxism or anarchism condemned the “degradation and subordination” of the newly emerging industrial system and the “new spirit of the age: gain wealth, forgetting all but self”, maintaining that “those who work in the mills should own them”.[44][45] They expressed their concerns in a protest song during their 1836 strike:

Oh! isn’t it a pity, such a pretty girl as IShould be sent to the factory to pine away and die?Oh! I cannot be a slave, I will not be a slave,For I’m so fond of liberty,That I cannot be a slave.[46]

Defenses of wage labor and chattel slavery in the literature have linked the subjection of man to man with the subjection of man to nature arguing that hierarchy and a social system’s particular relations of production represent human nature and are no more coercive than the reality of life itself. According to this narrative, any well-intentioned attempt to fundamentally change the status quo is naively utopian and will result in more oppressive conditions.[47] Bosses in both of these long-lasting systems argued that their system created a lot of wealth and prosperity. In some sense, both did create jobs and their investment entailed risk. For example, slave owners risked losing money by buying chattel slaves who later became ill or died; while bosses risked losing money by hiring workers (wage slaves) to make products that did not sell well on the market. Marginally, both chattel and wage slaves may become bosses; sometimes by working hard. It may be the “rags to riches” story which occasionally occurs in capitalism, or the “slave to master” story that occurred in places like colonial Brazil, where slaves could buy their own freedom and become business owners, self-employed, or slave owners themselves.[48] Social mobility, or the hard work and risk that it may entail, are thus not considered to be a redeeming factor by critics of the concept of wage slavery.[49]

Anthropologist David Graeber has noted that historically the first wage labor contracts we know about whether in ancient Greece or Rome, or in the Malay or Swahili city states in the Indian Ocean were in fact contracts for the rental of chattel slaves (usually the owner would receive a share of the money and the slave another, with which to maintain his or her living expenses). According to Graeber, such arrangements were quite common in New World slavery as well, whether in the United States or Brazil. C. L. R. James argued that most of the techniques of human organization employed on factory workers during the Industrial Revolution were first developed on slave plantations.[50]

The usage of the term “wage slavery” shifted to “wage work” at the end of the 19th century as groups like the Knights of Labor and American Federation of Labor shifted to a more reformist, trade union ideology instead of worker’s self-management. Much of the decline was caused by the rapid increase in manufacturing after the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent dominance of wage labor as a result. Another factor was immigration and demographic changes that led to ethnic tension between the workers.[5]

As Hallgrimsdottir and Benoit point out:

[I]ncreased centralization of production… declining wages… [an] expanding… labor pool… intensifying competition, and… [t]he loss of competence and independence experienced by skilled labor” meant that “a critique that referred to all [wage] work as slavery and avoided demands for wage concessions in favor of supporting the creation of the producerist republic (by diverting strike funds towards funding… co-operatives, for example) was far less compelling than one that identified the specific conditions of slavery as low wages.[5]

Some anti-capitalist thinkers claim that the elite maintain wage slavery and a divided working class through their influence over the media and entertainment industry,[51][52] educational institutions, unjust laws, nationalist and corporate propaganda, pressures and incentives to internalize values serviceable to the power structure, state violence, fear of unemployment,[53] and a historical legacy of exploitation and profit accumulation/transfer under prior systems, which shaped the development of economic theory. Adam Smith noted that employers often conspire together to keep wages low and have the upper hand in conflicts between workers and employers:[54]

The interest of the dealers… in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public… [They] have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public… We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate… It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms.

The concept of wage slavery could conceivably be traced back to pre-capitalist figures like Gerrard Winstanley from the radical Christian Diggers movement in England, who wrote in his 1649 pamphlet, The New Law of Righteousness, that there “shall be no buying or selling, no fairs nor markets, but the whole earth shall be a common treasury for every man” and “there shall be none Lord over others, but every one shall be a Lord of himself”.[55]

Aristotle stated that “the citizens must not live a mechanic or a mercantile life (for such a life is ignoble and inimical to virtue), nor yet must those who are to be citizens in the best state be tillers of the soil (for leisure is needed both for the development of virtue and for active participation in politics)”,[56] often paraphrased as “all paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind”.[57] Cicero wrote in 44 BC that “vulgar are the means of livelihood of all hired workmen whom we pay for mere manual labour, not for artistic skill; for in their case the very wage they receive is a pledge of their slavery”.[11] Somewhat similar criticisms have also been expressed by some proponents of liberalism, like Silvio Gesell and Thomas Paine;[58] Henry George, who inspired the economic philosophy known as Georgism;[9] and the Distributist school of thought within the Catholic Church.

To Karl Marx and anarchist thinkers like Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, wage slavery was a class condition in place due to the existence of private property and the state. This class situation rested primarily on:

And secondarily on:

Fascism was more hostile against independent trade unions than modern economies in Europe or the United States.[60] Fascist economic policies were widely accepted in the 1920s and 1930s and foreign (especially the United States) corporate investment in Italy and Germany increased after the fascist take over.[61][62]

Fascism has been perceived by some notable critics, like Buenaventura Durruti, to be a last resort weapon of the privileged to ensure the maintenance of wage slavery:

No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges.[63]

According to Noam Chomsky, analysis of the psychological implications of wage slavery goes back to the Enlightenment era. In his 1791 book The Limits of State Action, classical liberal thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt explained how “whatever does not spring from a man’s free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness” and so when the laborer works under external control, “we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is”.[64] Both the Milgram and Stanford experiments have been found useful in the psychological study of wage-based workplace relations.[65]

According to research, modern work provides people with a sense of personal and social identity that is tied to:

Thus job loss entails the loss of this identity.[66]

Erich Fromm argued that if a person perceives himself as being what he owns, then when that person loses (or even thinks of losing) what he “owns” (e.g. the good looks or sharp mind that allow him to sell his labor for high wages) a fear of loss may create anxiety and authoritarian tendencies because that person’s sense of identity is threatened. In contrast, when a person’s sense of self is based on what he experiences in a state of being (creativity, love, sadness, taste, sight and the like) with a less materialistic regard for what he once had and lost, or may lose, then less authoritarian tendencies prevail. In his view, the state of being flourishes under a worker-managed workplace and economy, whereas self-ownership entails a materialistic notion of self, created to rationalize the lack of worker control that would allow for a state of being.[67]

Investigative journalist Robert Kuttner analyzed the work of public-health scholars Jeffrey Johnson and Ellen Hall about modern conditions of work and concludes that “to be in a life situation where one experiences relentless demands by others, over which one has relatively little control, is to be at risk of poor health, physically as well as mentally”. Under wage labor, “a relatively small elite demands and gets empowerment, self-actualization, autonomy, and other work satisfaction that partially compensate for long hours” while “epidemiological data confirm that lower-paid, lower-status workers are more likely to experience the most clinically damaging forms of stress, in part because they have less control over their work”.[68]

Wage slavery and the educational system that precedes it “implies power held by the leader. Without power the leader is inept. The possession of power inevitably leads to corruption… in spite of… good intentions… [Leadership means] power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self-respect which comes from expressed manhood, is taken from the men, and consolidated in the leader. The sum of their initiative, their responsibility, their self-respect becomes his… [and the] order and system he maintains is based upon the suppression of the men, from being independent thinkers into being ‘the men’… In a word, he is compelled to become an autocrat and a foe to democracy”. For the “leader”, such marginalisation can be beneficial, for a leader “sees no need for any high level of intelligence in the rank and file, except to applaud his actions. Indeed such intelligence from his point of view, by breeding criticism and opposition, is an obstacle and causes confusion”.[69] Wage slavery “implies erosion of the human personality… [because] some men submit to the will of others, arousing in these instincts which predispose them to cruelty and indifference in the face of the suffering of their fellows”.[70]

In 19th-century discussions of labor relations, it was normally assumed that the threat of starvation forced those without property to work for wages. Proponents of the view that modern forms of employment constitute wage slavery, even when workers appear to have a range of available alternatives, have attributed its perpetuation to a variety of social factors that maintain the hegemony of the employer class.[43][71]

In an account of the Lowell Mill Girls, Harriet Hanson Robinson wrote that generously high wages were offered to overcome the degrading nature of the work:

At the time the Lowell cotton mills were started the caste of the factory girl was the lowest among the employments of women…. She was represented as subjected to influences that must destroy her purity and selfrespect. In the eyes of her overseer she was but a brute, a slave, to be beaten, pinched and pushed about. It was to overcome this prejudice that such high wages had been offered to women that they might be induced to become millgirls, in spite of the opprobrium that still clung to this degrading occupation.[72]

In his book Disciplined Minds, Jeff Schmidt points out that professionals are trusted to run organizations in the interests of their employers. Because employers cannot be on hand to manage every decision, professionals are trained to “ensure that each and every detail of their work favors the right interestsor skewers the disfavored ones” in the absence of overt control:

The resulting professional is an obedient thinker, an intellectual property whom employers can trust to experiment, theorize, innovate and create safely within the confines of an assigned ideology.[73]

Parecon (participatory economics) theory posits a social class “between labor and capital” of higher paid professionals such as “doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers and others” who monopolize empowering labor and constitute a class above wage laborers who do mostly “obedient, rote work”.[74]

The terms “employee” or “worker” have often been replaced by “associate”. This plays up the allegedly voluntary nature of the interaction while playing down the subordinate status of the wage laborer as well as the worker-boss class distinction emphasized by labor movements. Billboards as well as television, Internet and newspaper advertisements consistently show low-wage workers with smiles on their faces, appearing happy.[75]

Job interviews and other data on requirements for lower skilled workers in developed countries particularly in the growing service sector indicate that the more workers depend on low wages and the less skilled or desirable their job is, the more employers screen for workers without better employment options and expect them to feign unremunerative motivation.[76] Such screening and feigning may not only contribute to the positive self-image of the employer as someone granting desirable employment, but also signal wage-dependence by indicating the employee’s willingness to feign, which in turn may discourage the dissatisfaction normally associated with job-switching or union activity.[76]

At the same time, employers in the service industry have justified unstable, part-time employment and low wages by playing down the importance of service jobs for the lives of the wage laborers (e.g. just temporary before finding something better, student summer jobs and the like).[77][78]

In the early 20th century, “scientific methods of strikebreaking”[79] were devised employing a variety of tactics that emphasized how strikes undermined “harmony” and “Americanism”.[80]

Some social activists objecting to the market system or price system of wage working historically have considered syndicalism, worker cooperatives, workers’ self-management and workers’ control as possible alternatives to the current wage system.[4][5][6][19]

The American philosopher John Dewey believed that until “industrial feudalism” is replaced by “industrial democracy”, politics will be “the shadow cast on society by big business”.[81] Thomas Ferguson has postulated in his investment theory of party competition that the undemocratic nature of economic institutions under capitalism causes elections to become occasions when blocs of investors coalesce and compete to control the state.[82]

Noam Chomsky has argued that political theory tends to blur the ‘elite’ function of government:

Modern political theory stresses Madison’s belief that “in a just and a free government the rights both of property and of persons ought to be effectually guarded.” But in this case too it is useful to look at the doctrine more carefully. There are no rights of property, only rights to property that is, rights of persons with property,…

[In] representative democracy, as in, say, the United States or Great Britain [] there is a monopoly of power centralized in the state, and secondly and critically [] the representative democracy is limited to the political sphere and in no serious way encroaches on the economic sphere [] That is, as long as individuals are compelled to rent themselves on the market to those who are willing to hire them, as long as their role in production is simply that of ancillary tools, then there are striking elements of coercion and oppression that make talk of democracy very limited, if even meaningful.[83]

In this regard, Chomsky has used Bakunin’s theories about an “instinct for freedom”,[84] the militant history of labor movements, Kropotkin’s mutual aid evolutionary principle of survival and Marc Hauser’s theories supporting an innate and universal moral faculty,[85] to explain the incompatibility of oppression with certain aspects of human nature.[86][87]

Loyola University philosophy professor John Clark and libertarian socialist philosopher Murray Bookchin have criticized the system of wage labor for encouraging environmental destruction, arguing that a self-managed industrial society would better manage the environment. Like other anarchists,[88] they attribute much of the Industrial Revolution’s pollution to the “hierarchical” and “competitive” economic relations accompanying it.[89]

Some criticize wage slavery on strictly contractual grounds, e.g. David Ellerman and Carole Pateman, arguing that the employment contract is a legal fiction in that it treats human beings juridically as mere tools or inputs by abdicating responsibility and self-determination, which the critics argue are inalienable. As Ellerman points out, “[t]he employee is legally transformed from being a co-responsible partner to being only an input supplier sharing no legal responsibility for either the input liabilities [costs] or the produced outputs [revenue, profits] of the employer’s business”.[90] Such contracts are inherently invalid “since the person remain[s] a de facto fully capacitated adult person with only the contractual role of a non-person” as it is impossible to physically transfer self-determination.[91] As Pateman argues:

The contractarian argument is unassailable all the time it is accepted that abilities can ‘acquire’ an external relation to an individual, and can be treated as if they were property. To treat abilities in this manner is also implicitly to accept that the ‘exchange’ between employer and worker is like any other exchange of material property … The answer to the question of how property in the person can be contracted out is that no such procedure is possible. Labour power, capacities or services, cannot be separated from the person of the worker like pieces of property.[92]

In a modern liberal capitalist society, the employment contract is enforced while the enslavement contract is not; the former being considered valid because of its consensual/non-coercive nature and the latter being considered inherently invalid, consensual or not. The noted economist Paul Samuelson described this discrepancy:

Since slavery was abolished, human earning power is forbidden by law to be capitalized. A man is not even free to sell himself; he must rent himself at a wage.[93]

Some advocates of right-libertarianism, among them philosopher Robert Nozick, address this inconsistency in modern societies arguing that a consistently libertarian society would allow and regard as valid consensual/non-coercive enslavement contracts, rejecting the notion of inalienable rights:

The comparable question about an individual is whether a free system will allow him to sell himself into slavery. I believe that it would.[94]

Others like Murray Rothbard allow for the possibility of debt slavery, asserting that a lifetime labour contract can be broken so long as the slave pays appropriate damages:

[I]f A has agreed to work for life for B in exchange for 10,000 grams of gold, he will have to return the proportionate amount of property if he terminates the arrangement and ceases to work.[95]

In the philosophy of mainstream, neoclassical economics, wage labor is seen as the voluntary sale of one’s own time and efforts, just like a carpenter would sell a chair, or a farmer would sell wheat. It is considered neither an antagonistic nor abusive relationship and carries no particular moral implications.[96]

Austrian economics argues that a person is not “free” unless they can sell their labor because otherwise that person has no self-ownership and will be owned by a “third party” of individuals.[97]

Post-Keynesian economics perceives wage slavery as resulting from inequality of bargaining power between labor and capital, which exists when the economy does not “allow labor to organize and form a strong countervailing force”.[98]

The two main forms of socialist economics perceive wage slavery differently:

Visit link:

Wage slavery – Wikipedia

8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

Literal slavery is a horrible practice that still persists into the modern age. But, I want to talk about another form of human exploitationemployment slavery, which can also ruin a persons life. Generally, I consider this a self-inflicted slavery because its ultimately a persons choice to work under such conditionsbut I also understand that brainwashing can occur, creating the illusion that theres no way out.

Slavery (in general) exists because of the inclination among people to obtain the benefits of human resources, while providing little (or nothing) in return. Human work is the most intelligent, efficient way to create a system of wealth and power. For the morally bankrupt, such benefits are sought for free.

Employment, in the best case scenario, is a business deal of mutual benefit. But in other instances, the company is expending such minimal resources that they are taking advantage of you. In the worst case scenario, through a combination of slave-driving principles and psychological techniques to break you down, such a job can morph into something very similar to actual slavery.

If you dont know any better, its easy to fall into slavery conditions. Here are signs that your sense of freedom in life is totally gone:

Because of the way employers conveniently ignore yearly inflation, todays minimal wage is not enough to maintain any semblance of a normal lifestyle. Minimal wage makes some sense in small businesses just starting out. But, In America, $8.25 an hour, or less, from a large, billion-dollar corporation is inexcusable. In this case, your annual wages cost a second of the companys hourly profits. In other words, your hard work is a very bad deal for you, and a killer opportunity for the suits upstairs.

Youre lucky you even have a job! is a psychological taunt that bad employers use to try and keep their wage-slaves from believing they can do any better. Such statements are made to maintain a sense of control. Understand, voluntary slavery is not a rare phenomenon. It happens when a person is brainwashed into the belief that they have nowhere else they can go.

If your manager uses psychological put-downs like this to denigrate your professional abilitiesunderstand that its being done for a reason.

The idea of getting a raise and a promotion may be dangled in-front of you, but youve seen no evidence to suggest that it really happens. In fact, only a very small percentage of your co-workers ever obtain this goal, and they tend to be the cronies of upper-management. If this is the case, then what exactly is your reason for working at this company?

Inconvenient hours are inevitable in jobs, but some companies will abuse the system. This ranges from illegally denying overtime pay, to scheduling month-long bouts of cloping (working until closing hours late at night, then opening hours the next morning) that leaves the employee physically and emotionally drained.

An employee in this system may feel the intense pressure by the bosses to conform to abusive hours, under the threat of being denied promotions or even getting fired for seeking better treatment.

Americas two-week annual vacation time is one of the weakest in the Western world, and American workers tend to not even use it. This is because many employers will hint that vacationers are likely to end up on the shit-list of not getting promoted. They may even hint that unruly vacation-seekers will be the first to get laid-off or fired at the earliest opportunity.

A system of slavery does not allow free-time for individuals to maintain their own lives outside of their work. This could cause dissent and break the system of total control. An unspoken methodology among abusive managers is to destroy the lifestyles of employees so, instead of tending to family or hobbies, they work at full capacity.

Feeling motivated based on high-standards and being scared to go below those standards is one thing, but being genuinely scared of the people youre working for is another.

Slave-masters maintain systems of fear, to break down their subjects and perhapsin timebuild them back up. For the best example of thisplease see Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

Psychological and verbal abuse is usually what occurs. An abusive employer understands exactly what strings to pull to generate feelings of shame or guilt, and theyll use the professional context to destroy a subjects sense of self-worth, perhaps by implying worthlessness at the vocation theyve devoted their life to.

In other instances, the abuse is very overt and could include yelling, tantrums and even physical assaults. But the outcome is the same: the employee living in a constant state of paranoia, fear, and subservience.

Read carefully the ten warning-signs youre in a cult by the Cult Education Institute. Some of these that could be very applicable to a workplace include: absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability, no tolerance for questions or critical inquiry, the leader (boss) is always right, and former followers (employees) are vilified as evil for leaving.

If the job feels less about, you know, getting the job doneand is more about the influence, charisma and infallibility of the bossthen get the heck out of there. This means the person in charge is getting a side-benefit to running or managing the workplace: power and dominance.

The number one sign youre a slave and not an employee is that youre working an unpaid internship, and its not for college credit. You may be promised great benefits and valuable connections, at what amounts to harsh workplace conditions, long hours, and zero pay.

A huge mistake I see young professionals make, and it really irks me, is naivety about peoples intentions. I went to film school for my bachelors, and many students I knew lusted after top internships at film studios or with big names in the entertainment industry. Such internships are often offered regardless of college credit.

When a person is blindsided by their desire to make it and get in with big names, they are likely to make bad decisionsand unscrupulous employers will prey on this desire.

Internships are great IF its part of a students actual curriculum. It means hands-on work and real experience versus useless classrooms. But, the questionable non-credit internships I warn about also exist to lure young people into systems of slavery. Its gotten so bad these types of arrangements are quickly becoming illegal in California.

The reality of such internships is that the slave-drivers only desire one thing: unpaid work. There is NO promise that you will move up or land any type of a paid job. When your internship finishes, they will discard you and find the next victim.

The biggest reason to avoid internships is the mentality behind the deal. Imagine a law firm or a film studio that is a multi-billion dollar operation. How hard would it be to throw their new recruit at LEAST minimum wage? The fact such a company would, despite their huge profits, still desire unpaid labor is indicative of a slave-driving mentality that funnels wealth to the top at the expense of the people on the bottom making it possible.

As a professional, it would be best for you to avoid doing any type of business with any individual or company that possesses a philosophy like this.

Employment-slavery situations are common. Very common. But ultimately, the biggest factor in determining how bad it is, is a single question: are you happy?

If you are happy at $8.25 an hour with no benefits, because you like the people you work with, you like the nature of the work, and you feel its moving you somewhere you want to bethen its not slavery. Youre making an investment thatll either pay off, or it wontbut at least you enjoy what youre doing.

However, if you are miserable in your current conditions, its quite possible that the uneasy feeling in your gut is your intuition telling you that someone is taking advantage of you.

Employment is supposed to be a business contract, and an exchange of services. Never a system of control. Sometimes, just the willingness to walk away is your strongest defense against a terrible job situation.

For more about avoiding systems of employment-slavery, please see my short books: Freedom: How to Make Money From Your Dreams and Ambitions, and How to Quit Your Job: Escape Soul Crushing Work, Create the Life You Want, and Live Happy.

(For more books, also check out the Developed Life bookstore, http://www.developedlife.com/bookstore).

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8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

The New American Slavery: Invited To The U.S., Foreign …

MAMOU, Louisiana Travis Manuel and his twin brother, Trey, were shopping at Walmart near this rural town when they met two Mexican women who struck them as sweet. Using a few words of Spanish he had picked up from his Navy days, Travis asked the two women out on a double date.

Around midnight the following Saturday, when they finished their shift at a seafood processing plant, Marisela Valdez and Isy Gonzalez waited for their dates at the remote compound where they lived and worked.

As soon as they got in the Manuel brothers car, the women began saying something about patrn angry, Travis recalled. While he was trying to puzzle out what they meant, his brother, who was driving, interrupted: Dude, Trey said. Theres someone following us.

Trey began to take sudden turns on the country roads threading through the rice paddies that dot the area, trying to lose the pickup truck behind them. Finally, they saw a police car.

I said, were gonna flag down this cop for help, Travis recalled. But the cop pulled us over, lights on, and told us not to get out of the vehicle, Trey added, noting that the pickup pulled up and the driver began conferring with the police.

An officer asked Trey and his brother for ID. From the backseat, their dates began to cry.

Travis tried to reassure them. They werent doing anything wrong, he said, and they were in the United States. I was like, Theres no way they are going to take you away.

He was wrong.

The man in the truck was the womens boss, Craig West, a prominent farmer in the heart of Cajun country. As Sgt. Robert McGee later wrote in a police report, West said that Valdez and Gonzalez were two of his girls, and he asked the cops to haul the women in and scare the girls.

The police brought the women, who were both in their twenties, to the station house. McGee told them they couldnt leave Wests farm without permission, warning that they could wind up dead. To drive home the point, an officer later testified, McGee stood over Valdez and Gonzalez and pantomimed cutting his throat. He also brandished a Taser at them and said they could be deported if they ever left Wests property without his permission.

A little after 2 in the morning, they released the women to West for the 15-minute drive through the steamy night to his compound a place where, the women and the Mexican government say, workers were stripped of their passports and assigned to sleep in a filthy, foul-smelling trailer infested with insects and mice. Valdez and Gonzalez also claimed that they and other women were imprisoned, forced to work for little pay, and frequently harassed by West, who demanded to see their breasts and insisted that having sex with him was their only way out of poverty.

These women were not undocumented immigrants working off the books. They were in the United States legally, as part of a government program that allows employers to import foreign labor for jobs they say Americans wont take but that also allows those companies to control almost every aspect of their employees’ lives.

Each year, more than 100,000 people from countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, and South Africa come to America on what is known as an H-2 visa to perform all kinds of menial labor across a wide spectrum of industries: cleaning rooms at luxury resorts and national parks, picking fruit, cutting lawns and manicuring golf courses, setting up carnival rides, trimming and planting trees, herding sheep, or, in the case of Valdez, Gonzalez, and about 20 other Mexican women in 2011, peeling crawfish at L.T. West Inc.

A BuzzFeed News investigation based on government databases and investigative files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, thousands of court documents, as well as more than 80 interviews with workers and employers shows that the program condemns thousands of employees each year to exploitation and mistreatment, often in plain view of government officials charged with protecting them. All across America, H-2 guest workers complain that they have been cheated out of their wages, threatened with guns, beaten, raped, starved, and imprisoned. Some have even died on the job. Yet employers rarely face any significant consequences.

Many of those employers have since been approved to bring in more guest workers. Some have even been rewarded with lucrative government contracts. Almost none have ever been charged with a crime.

In interview after interview, current and former guest workers often on the verge of tears used the same word to describe their experiences: slavery.

We live where we work, and we cant leave, said Olivia Guzman Garfias, who has been coming to Louisiana as a guest worker from her small town in Mexico since 1997. We are tied to the company. Our visas are in the companys name. If the pay and working conditions arent as we wish, who can we complain to? We are like modern-day slaves.

In a statement, the Department of Labor, which is charged with protecting workers and vetting employers seeking visas, said that the H-2 programs are part of a wider immigration system that is widely acknowledged to be broken, contributing to an uneven playing field where employers who exploit vulnerable workers undermine those who do the right thing.

The number of H-2 visas issued has grown by more than 50% over the past five years. Unlike the better-known H-1B visa program, which brings skilled workers such as computer programmers into Americas high-tech industries, the H-2 program is for the economys bottom rung, designed to make it easier for employers to fill temporary, unskilled positions. Proponents argue that it gives foreigners a chance to work here legally, send home much-needed dollars, and return to their families when the job is over.

In March, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce defended the guest worker program before a Senate committee, noting that such “temporary workers are needed in lesser-skilled occupations that are both seasonal and year round,” and that aspects of the program are “critical” to “American workers, the local community, and companies that provide goods and services to these seasonal businesses.

Tens of thousands of companies, ranging from family businesses to huge corporations, have participated in the program since it took its modern form in 1986. Employers pledge to pay their workers a set rate, which can range from the federal minimum wage to a higher prevailing wage that varies from state to state and job to job. As for the employees, they can only work for the company that sponsored their visa. They are legally barred from seeking other employment and must leave the country when the job ends.

For some people, such as the hundreds of soccer coaches who youth sports camps bring in every year from the United Kingdom and elsewhere, an H-2 visa offers an opportunity to make some money while spending time in another country. Many companies treat their H-2 employees well, and many guest workers interviewed for this article said they are grateful for the program.

But public records and interviews reveal how easy it is for companies that sponsor H-2 visas to abuse their employees.

Many companies pay their guest workers less than the law mandates. Others pay them for fewer hours than they actually work, or force them to work extremely long hours without overtime. Some, on the other hand, offer them far less work than promised, at times leaving workers without enough money to buy food. Employers also whittle away at wages by imposing an array of prohibited fees starting with bribes to get the jobs in the first place, which can leave workers so deep in debt that they are effectively indentured servants.

Guest workers often toil in conditions that are unsafe, inhumane, or simply exhausting, wielding dangerous machinery beneath a scorching sun or standing for hours on end in sweltering factories. And at the end of their shift, many workers retire to grim, squalid quarters that might be little more than a grimy mattress on the floor of a crowded, vermin-infested trailer. For such housing, some employers charge workers extortionate rent.

Though it is against the law, employers often exert additional control over guest workers by confiscating their passports, without which many foreign workers, fearful of being deported, feel unsafe leaving the worksite. Some employers extend their influence over workers to extremes, screening their mail, preventing them from receiving visitors, banning radios and newspapers, or even coercing them to attend religious services they dont believe in. Some foremen sexually harass female workers, who live in constant fear of losing their jobs and being deported.

The world has become accustomed in recent years to hearing of guest worker abuse in countries such as Qatar or Thailand. But this is happening in the United States. And the problem is not just a few unscrupulous employers. The very structure of the visa program enables widespread abuse and exploitation.

The way H-2 visas shackle workers to a single employer leaves them almost no leverage to demand better treatment. The rules also make it easy to banish a worker to her home country at the bosss whim. And guest workers tend to be so poor and, often, so indebted from the recruitment fees they paid to get the job in the first place that they feel they have no choice but to endure even the worst abuses.

Court documents and interviews revealed numerous cases where workers who tried to speak out said they received threats to their lives. Many others claimed they were blacklisted by employers, losing the opportunity to get jobs that, however miserable, give them more money than they could earn in their own countries.

The government has been warned repeatedly over almost two decades that the guest worker program is deeply troubled, with more than a dozen official reports excoriating it for everything from widespread visa fraud to rampant worker abuse, and even calling for its elimination. Since 2005, Labor Department investigation records show, at least 800 employers have subjected more than 23,000 H-2 guest workers to violations of the federal laws designed to protect them from exploitation, including more than 16,000 instances of H-2 workers being paid less than the promised wage.

Those numbers almost certainly understate the problem, as the federal government doesnt check up on the vast majority of companies that bring guest workers into this country. The Labor Department noted in its statement that it has limited resources, with only about 1,000 investigators to enforce protections for all 135 million workers in the U.S. Still, it said, it recovered more than $2.6 million in back wages owed to roughly 4,500 H-2 workers in the 2014 fiscal year. In that year, the agency said, it found violations in 82% of the H-2 visa cases it investigated.

Kalen Fraser, a former investigator for the Labor Departments Wage and Hour Division who specialized in H-2 visa cases, said that while some companies stumble over complex rules, a substantial portion maliciously violate worker protection laws. Theres a big power imbalance there, and the worst guys get away with everything.

Route 95 between Chataignier and Mamou, Louisiana, winds through endless acres of rice paddies that teem with crawfish after the grain is reaped. The country is dead flat, and stretching to the horizon theres little but lush fields of green, dotted with glassy brown pools beneath a heavy sky. Near a bend in the two-lane highway sits the L.T. West crawfish plant.

It was there that Valdez, Gonzalez, and the other women, tired and stiff from a crowded, 1,500-mile ride up from Mexico, stepped out into the dark, wet heat on the night of April 9, 2011.

Valdez said it was need that had brought her there need and principle. I wanted to work and make money and do it in a legal way, she said in a recent interview, so I didnt have to cross the border illegally or undocumented.

She had left behind her 5-year-old son and her 8-year-old daughter, along with her mother, who was taking care of the children, and her dream at least for a time of finishing her college degree. She was 26. It was her first time away from home.

She landed in one of Americas most distinctive and insular regions. Acadiana stretches from the bayous near the Gulf of Mexico up through Lafayette and into the Cajun Prairie north of Interstate 10. It is a place where Spanish moss drips so thick off trees they can hardly be discerned, French is still many peoples first language, zydeco music blares from the radio, and social life for generations has centered around great feasts of boiled crab, shrimp, and crawfish.

Valdez and Gonzalez claim they were assigned, along with three other of the youngest women, to an isolated trailer that lacked safe drinking water. Valdez was terrified of the dark, of the sounds of animals in the brush, of snakes. The women talked that first night about their goals and what their families would do with the money they earned.

I felt very strange, she said. Being with all these people I didnt know, having to leave behind my life, my family, my things, in a country I had never been in before. I felt very sad. I felt sad, but the truth is the need we had at that moment was so great that we had to do it, we had to be there.

Valdez lay awake, she said, thinking about where I was, how did I get there, why I was in this position. A few hours later, the women were rousted and sent to peel crawfish.

After hatching and maturing in the shallow ponds that spool over the landscape, the crustaceans rusty brown and squirming are plucked from baited traps. The mudbugs are stuffed in mesh sacks, heaved into the back of pickup trucks, then cooked in steel baths until they are bright red.

Then the women go to work. Still steaming, the crawfish are dumped by the basketful onto long metal tables. The workers crowd in, standing shoulder to shoulder or perching on stools. Hour after hour, they pull the heads off and extract the tail meat.

The hot crawfish would hurt your fingers, Valdez said. But the worst thing was the smell. It stung your nostrils, she said. The smell stuck to everything. We carried it home with us.

In its application for H-2 visas, filed in November 2010, L.T. West committed to pay the workers $9.10 an hour, plus overtime. The company also promised the Labor Department it would issue detailed pay statements.

The women soon learned, however, that they would sometimes be paid for each pound of crawfish tails they peeled. Federal law allows guest workers to be paid a piece rate, but only if the employer makes up any difference between that and the promised hourly wage.

L.T. West did not backfill their wages, according to the womens complaint. Some weeks, they said, their piece-rate wages amounted to the equivalent of less than $4 an hour. Sometimes they were given only about 15 hours of work per week.

Craig West denies that he shorted the women. But notes from a Labor Department investigation show that he did not keep proper pay records, making it impossible to verify that assertion.

The women also said West forbade them from leaving his plant and ordered one of his employees to confiscate their passports and visas their only proof, in a region that takes border enforcement seriously, that they were in the U.S. legally. On numerous occasions, they said, West threatened to call police or immigration authorities.

A few days after the disastrous double date, two of the women claimed, West pointed a gun at Valdez, the red beam of his laser scope directly on her face, and told her never to leave the work camp.

West, a solidly built man with a honey drawl, vehemently denied that he mistreated his workers, taking particular umbrage at the allegation involving the gun. He is a hunting instructor and runs the church skeet shoot, he said in an interview outside his home in June, and would never recklessly point a weapon at anyone.

The real story, West said, is that Valdez, Gonzalez, and some of the other women in their trailer were wild, partying and arranging to have cases of beer dropped off at his property. In a sworn deposition, one L.T. West employee said the women went out often and sometimes came back after having been drinking. Another said that West did not get angry if they went out without his permission.

West also denied trying to use the Mamou police to intimidate the women. He called them, he said, because some of the workers had expressed fears that a rapist would sneak onto the property.

Police officers, however, tell a different story. Two testified that when West arrived at the station that night, he was in a state of fury. In a sworn deposition in 2012, Mamou Police Sgt. Lucas Lavergne described Wests behavior this way: He said like looking toward the girls, he said, Mucho fuck you. Mucho kill you.

What happened that night, Travis said, was nuts and wrong. Reflecting on Wests and the polices attitude toward the women, he said, It seemed like we had messed with his property, like we had stolen a horse or did damage to his property.

His brother Trey added, Shortest date ever.

By scouring legal and administrative documents, BuzzFeed News identified more than 800 workers over the last 10 years who complained to authorities that they had their passports confiscated, were held against their will, were physically attacked, or were threatened with harm for trying to leave their housing or job sites. The number who experienced these abuses but did not speak out may be much higher.

In January 2013, a group of Mexican forestry workers said that they had been held at gunpoint in the mountains north of Sacramento and forced to work 13 hours a day and handle chemicals that made them vomit and peeled their skin, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in federal court last year by a Department of Homeland Security investigator.

Their employer, a small forestry contractor out of Idaho called Pure Forest, had also illegally charged the workers about $2,000 apiece for their visas, paid for out of deductions from their paychecks, the workers said. After additional fees were levied for food, they said, they were sometimes left with less than $100 for two weeks of grueling work. In one case, a worker said he was charged $100 for a pair of used shoes held together with nails.

Two of Pure Forests foremen reportedly carried firearms and threatened to shoot workers in the head and leave them in the woods if they did not work harder, the DHS special agent, Eugene Kizenko, wrote. He added that multiple workers heard these threats.

Five workers who escaped sued Pure Forest in federal court last year. They filed the suit, which is ongoing, using pseudonyms; the complaint states that the workers fear retaliation due to threats of bodily injury or death made by defendants.

Pure Forest denied the allegations in court papers and in an interview. Completely false, Owen Wadsworth said by phone. His father, Jeff, owns the company, and Owen was also named in the workers suit. We’ve had nothing but good working relationships with all our employees, he said. The H-2 program seems more set up to put the company, the owner or the employer, in a bad situation, he added, and whatever allegations or negative that come up, it’s treated almost like it’s true, and they’ll assume that you’re the bad guy.

A particularly effective force to keep workers in line is debt.

Interviews and court records reviewed by BuzzFeed News turned up hundreds of workers who claimed they were forced to pay for their visas. Thats illegal; companies are responsible for making sure their labor brokers don’t charge bribes. But diplomats from the U.S. and Mexico say such bribes are rampant. In cables released by WikiLeaks, U.S. consular officials in Mexico, Jamaica, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic describe reports of recruiters demanding fees for visas and also committing fraud in order to get visas approved.

Jacob Joseph Kadakkarappally was eager to come from India to the U.S. to work as a welder at the Pascagoula, Mississippi, shipyard of Signal International in late 2006. But he didn’t have the approximately $14,500 recruiters demanded for the visa and other fees, so first he pawned the gold bangles his wife wore every day on her wrist. Then he hocked a gold chain that, he later testified, is considered to be holy, a symbol of wedding.

Other Signal workers from India, who had been misled into thinking they would get green cards, went deeply into debt or sold property to pay fees. Once the workers arrived in the U.S., Signal housed them in a labor camp, up to 24 men to a trailer, for which Signal charged them each $1,050 a month.

After Kadakkarappally and others began asking for better working and housing conditions, security guards raided his trailer early one morning and managers told him he was fired.

I almost lost my breath, Kadakkarappally testified. He pleaded with managers, he said, recounting his huge debts and telling them that I would not be able to support my family. A fellow worker slit his wrist in a failed suicide attempt.

Kadakkarappally and four other welders eventually sued Signal, and in February a federal jury in New Orleans awarded them $14 million. This month, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced that Signal had agreed to a $20 million settlement that resolves those claims and those of 200 additional Indian welders in 11 related lawsuits. Signal, which filed for bankruptcy to carry out the settlement, also agreed to apologize to its guest workers. Signal did not respond to requests for comment.

Such a victory is extremely rare. Very few H-2 workers have the resources or support to file a lawsuit. Many workers become prisoners of their debt. The best way to pay it off is with a job in the U.S. and the only job H-2 workers can legally get is the one with the company that sponsors their visas.

In so many cases, these workers end up being abused, said Jennifer Gordon, a law professor at Fordham University and a former MacArthur Fellow who has conducted research into the discrimination against and mistreatment of immigrant workers. In routine ways, all the time, the workers pay fees, they are threatened, their families are threatened. And the employer knows that if you get workers through that program, theyre not going to complain.

That stark power imbalance can be downright dangerous, contributing to on-the-job injuries and even deaths.

Leonardo Espinabarro Telles entered the country on an H-2 visa in April 2011, to work for Crystal Rock Amusements as it moved from Pennsylvania to Vermont and back, staging that most American of pastimes: county fairs. The Mexico native had been on the job about three months, living in a crowded converted horse trailer without a working bathroom, when the crew of 17 guest workers arrived in northern Vermont for the Lamoille County Field Days.

A little before 3 in the afternoon on Tuesday, July 19, Espinabarro went to retrieve electrical connectors from a trailer housing the hulking Caterpillar generator that powered the carnival rides.

Inside, two feet separated the trailer wall from the generators massive spinning fan blades. The protective guard over the blades had either broken or been removed. At ankle level, pulleys and fan belts were also exposed.

Espinabarro was alone, so no one witnessed what happened, but co-workers heard cries for help. One man rushed to the trailer to see Espinabarro standing upright, then watched him collapse and fall out of the trailer. His clothing had gotten tangled in the machinery, and the fan blades had ripped through his body. From neck to waist, his back was carved open, his organs spilling out. He was dead by the time he reached the hospital.

Inspectors from the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Crystal Rock management knew the fan blades were unguarded at the time of the accident but had not told the workers. No one had posted proper warning signs. Nor had they delivered safety training in any language.

Vermont OSHA levied $114,550 in fines. The case is still open, because Crystal Rock has not paid.

Asked whether he had ever trained his guest workers how to be safe around heavy equipment, Crystal Rocks owner, Arthur Gillette, told an inspector: How can you train these guys?” adding, “Do you train someone to eat a hot dog?

Gillette, whose company has been certified for at least 358 visas since 2002, added that Mexican workers were mechanically inclined and would figure things out and that if the investigator had ever been to the country she would understand that. He explained: The streets of Mexico, cars were stolen and disassembled with just the frames left on the street.

The Labor Department conducted its own investigation following the accident, finding that Gillette routinely underpaid workers and owed more than $60,000 in back wages. This month, the Maine state fire marshal criminally charged Gillette with falsifying physical evidence after an accident on a roller coaster injured three children at a carnival in Waterville in June.

Gillette, reached by phone, said the criminal charges in Maine were unjust and denied tampering with evidence.

He said both the Labor Department and Vermont OSHA investigations of Crystal Rock, which is now out of business, were unfair. Ive worked dozens of carnivals and dealt with hundreds of foreign employees, he added. The vast majority of the guys that worked for me said I am more than fair. That I owe them nothing. That we are square.

Guest workers in other industries have died after being run over in grisly accidents, or collapsing for unknown reasons. Theyve had limbs amputated and suffered other catastrophic injuries.

On-the-job injuries happen to all kinds of employees, of course, but employers virtually unchecked sway over H-2 workers as well as some employers attitudes about foreigners can foster a cavalier attitude toward workplace dangers. It can also keep workers from pointing out safety violations or even reporting injuries.

In a 2012 report from the Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California, Berkeley, researchers surveyed 150 forestry workers in Oregon, about a third of them on H-2 visas, and found that more than 40% had been injured on the job in the previous 12 months. Fifteen of the workers had suffered broken bones, and another 18 had dislocated one or more bones. And yet workers kept quiet about many of their injuries including more than a quarter of the broken bones and nearly half of the dislocated ones.

The report concluded: They were afraid they would be fired, and they were afraid of otherwise getting in trouble.

Topolobampo occupies a peninsula at the mouth of a bay off the Sea of Cortez in violence-ravaged Sinaloa, the home state of the infamous drug lord Joaqun El Chapo Guzmn. The sparkling sea along the malecn belies a deep listlessness, more stifling than the tropical heat, that has settled over the town. The seafood plant along the waterfront closed down years ago. Mangy dogs range along barely maintained streets, while a few tiny restaurants with cement floors have almost nothing on the menu. Decent jobs outside of the drug trade are hard to find.

As much as a third of the population of 6,500 travels to the swamps and prairies of Louisiana every year to catch and process seafood, according to local recruiters. Those who make the trek are colloquially known as Louisianeros. The rewards of their work are easy to see: solidly built houses, clean tile floors, modern appliances, and framed degrees from private schools. Less visible are the costs: children who grow up in someone elses family, because their own parents are working on the other side.

Fernanda Padilla was just 3 when her mother, Guadalupe, started coming to Louisiana for 10 months a year to process shellfish. I couldnt understand, said Padilla. I used to tell her, I dont care. Ill eat rice and beans every day, but be here with me.

But at 17, Padilla dropped out of school and decided to follow in her mothers footsteps to make money. She secured an H-2 visa and arrived at her new job at Bayou Shrimp in April 2009. She was pregnant, but her pay stubs show she worked more than 60 hours some weeks. Forty days after her daughter was born, Padilla was back at work at the plant, leaving her baby with a friend.

Padilla, who has since had a second child, worked in the Louisiana shrimp industry for five seasons before losing her job last year. She said she used to worry that, like her own mother, she was abandoning her children in order to provide for them.

Five years working there seemed like no time had passed at all, and my daughter had already grown up and I didnt even realize it, Padilla said, adding that she is now cobbling together a living with odd jobs.

North of the border, H-2 visas are also important to the economy.

Louisiana is the nations second-largest seafood-producing state, and its crawfish industry used to rely on local labor. But competition from cheap Asian imports, along with the demand by huge retailers such as Wal-Mart for ever lower prices, have squeezed profit margins and put downward pressure on wages below the point, producers say, where people in America will take the jobs on a seasonal basis. In the 1990s, processors including Craig West hoped that machines could be built to take over the repetitive task of extracting the tail meat from the crustaceans. But eventually crawfish farmers discovered that the best and cheapest option is a Mexican on an H-2 visa.

The visa comes in two types: H-2A for agricultural workers and H-2B for nonagricultural unskilled workers, with varying rules and provisions. While many workers say that regulators dont do enough to protect them, their employers generally have the opposite complaint. They say they are burdened by endless bureaucratic hurdles and inspectors who ding them for tiny infractions of incomprehensible rules.

Ben LeGrange, the general manager of Atchafalaya Crawfish Processing, in Henderson, Louisiana, said most crawfish processors treat their workers well, and isolated incidents shouldnt taint the whole industry. He said he tries to treat guest workers as an extension of someone in my family and that without them the whole company, which also employs six American workers, would be in jeopardy.

Standing on his expansive lawn beside a riding mower, West, who co-owns the crawfish producer L.T. West with his brother, said he treats his workers well. My wife got holy water for them, he said, adding that when they were not working he and his wife, Cathy, drove workers to Walmart or church, and sometimes invited them to relax in the shade of a tree that protects his house from the sun.

But seven of his workers, including Valdez and Gonzalez, claim West took a different kind of interest in some of them.

Some of their allegations include that he took to bursting into their trailer unexpectedly, even when they were dressing, and called them his property and his Mexican ladies, according to their complaint. Some of the women recall him saying things such as mucho booby and mexicanas mucho booby, gesturing for them to lift up their shirts. He instructed one of his other workers to tell the women in Spanish that the only way they could get out of poverty was to accept his propositions, which included requests that they come to his house when his wife was away. In the suit, the women did not allege he actually had sex with them.

West, with his wife looking on, flatly denied the allegations, saying the women had made them up.

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The New American Slavery: Invited To The U.S., Foreign …

8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

Literal slavery is a horrible practice that still persists into the modern age. But, I want to talk about another form of human exploitationemployment slavery, which can also ruin a persons life. Generally, I consider this a self-inflicted slavery because its ultimately a persons choice to work under such conditionsbut I also understand that brainwashing can occur, creating the illusion that theres no way out.

Slavery (in general) exists because of the inclination among people to obtain the benefits of human resources, while providing little (or nothing) in return. Human work is the most intelligent, efficient way to create a system of wealth and power. For the morally bankrupt, such benefits are sought for free.

Employment, in the best case scenario, is a business deal of mutual benefit. But in other instances, the company is expending such minimal resources that they are taking advantage of you. In the worst case scenario, through a combination of slave-driving principles and psychological techniques to break you down, such a job can morph into something very similar to actual slavery.

If you dont know any better, its easy to fall into slavery conditions. Here are signs that your sense of freedom in life is totally gone:

Because of the way employers conveniently ignore yearly inflation, todays minimal wage is not enough to maintain any semblance of a normal lifestyle. Minimal wage makes some sense in small businesses just starting out. But, In America, $8.25 an hour, or less, from a large, billion-dollar corporation is inexcusable. In this case, your annual wages cost a second of the companys hourly profits. In other words, your hard work is a very bad deal for you, and a killer opportunity for the suits upstairs.

Youre lucky you even have a job! is a psychological taunt that bad employers use to try and keep their wage-slaves from believing they can do any better. Such statements are made to maintain a sense of control. Understand, voluntary slavery is not a rare phenomenon. It happens when a person is brainwashed into the belief that they have nowhere else they can go.

If your manager uses psychological put-downs like this to denigrate your professional abilitiesunderstand that its being done for a reason.

The idea of getting a raise and a promotion may be dangled in-front of you, but youve seen no evidence to suggest that it really happens. In fact, only a very small percentage of your co-workers ever obtain this goal, and they tend to be the cronies of upper-management. If this is the case, then what exactly is your reason for working at this company?

Inconvenient hours are inevitable in jobs, but some companies will abuse the system. This ranges from illegally denying overtime pay, to scheduling month-long bouts of cloping (working until closing hours late at night, then opening hours the next morning) that leaves the employee physically and emotionally drained.

An employee in this system may feel the intense pressure by the bosses to conform to abusive hours, under the threat of being denied promotions or even getting fired for seeking better treatment.

Americas two-week annual vacation time is one of the weakest in the Western world, and American workers tend to not even use it. This is because many employers will hint that vacationers are likely to end up on the shit-list of not getting promoted. They may even hint that unruly vacation-seekers will be the first to get laid-off or fired at the earliest opportunity.

A system of slavery does not allow free-time for individuals to maintain their own lives outside of their work. This could cause dissent and break the system of total control. An unspoken methodology among abusive managers is to destroy the lifestyles of employees so, instead of tending to family or hobbies, they work at full capacity.

Feeling motivated based on high-standards and being scared to go below those standards is one thing, but being genuinely scared of the people youre working for is another.

Slave-masters maintain systems of fear, to break down their subjects and perhapsin timebuild them back up. For the best example of thisplease see Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

Psychological and verbal abuse is usually what occurs. An abusive employer understands exactly what strings to pull to generate feelings of shame or guilt, and theyll use the professional context to destroy a subjects sense of self-worth, perhaps by implying worthlessness at the vocation theyve devoted their life to.

In other instances, the abuse is very overt and could include yelling, tantrums and even physical assaults. But the outcome is the same: the employee living in a constant state of paranoia, fear, and subservience.

Read carefully the ten warning-signs youre in a cult by the Cult Education Institute. Some of these that could be very applicable to a workplace include: absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability, no tolerance for questions or critical inquiry, the leader (boss) is always right, and former followers (employees) are vilified as evil for leaving.

If the job feels less about, you know, getting the job doneand is more about the influence, charisma and infallibility of the bossthen get the heck out of there. This means the person in charge is getting a side-benefit to running or managing the workplace: power and dominance.

The number one sign youre a slave and not an employee is that youre working an unpaid internship, and its not for college credit. You may be promised great benefits and valuable connections, at what amounts to harsh workplace conditions, long hours, and zero pay.

A huge mistake I see young professionals make, and it really irks me, is naivety about peoples intentions. I went to film school for my bachelors, and many students I knew lusted after top internships at film studios or with big names in the entertainment industry. Such internships are often offered regardless of college credit.

When a person is blindsided by their desire to make it and get in with big names, they are likely to make bad decisionsand unscrupulous employers will prey on this desire.

Internships are great IF its part of a students actual curriculum. It means hands-on work and real experience versus useless classrooms. But, the questionable non-credit internships I warn about also exist to lure young people into systems of slavery. Its gotten so bad these types of arrangements are quickly becoming illegal in California.

The reality of such internships is that the slave-drivers only desire one thing: unpaid work. There is NO promise that you will move up or land any type of a paid job. When your internship finishes, they will discard you and find the next victim.

The biggest reason to avoid internships is the mentality behind the deal. Imagine a law firm or a film studio that is a multi-billion dollar operation. How hard would it be to throw their new recruit at LEAST minimum wage? The fact such a company would, despite their huge profits, still desire unpaid labor is indicative of a slave-driving mentality that funnels wealth to the top at the expense of the people on the bottom making it possible.

As a professional, it would be best for you to avoid doing any type of business with any individual or company that possesses a philosophy like this.

Employment-slavery situations are common. Very common. But ultimately, the biggest factor in determining how bad it is, is a single question: are you happy?

If you are happy at $8.25 an hour with no benefits, because you like the people you work with, you like the nature of the work, and you feel its moving you somewhere you want to bethen its not slavery. Youre making an investment thatll either pay off, or it wontbut at least you enjoy what youre doing.

However, if you are miserable in your current conditions, its quite possible that the uneasy feeling in your gut is your intuition telling you that someone is taking advantage of you.

Employment is supposed to be a business contract, and an exchange of services. Never a system of control. Sometimes, just the willingness to walk away is your strongest defense against a terrible job situation.

For more about avoiding systems of employment-slavery, please see my short books: Freedom: How to Make Money From Your Dreams and Ambitions, and How to Quit Your Job: Escape Soul Crushing Work, Create the Life You Want, and Live Happy.

(For more books, also check out the Developed Life bookstore, http://www.developedlife.com/bookstore).

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8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

The New American Slavery: Invited To The U.S., Foreign …

MAMOU, Louisiana Travis Manuel and his twin brother, Trey, were shopping at Walmart near this rural town when they met two Mexican women who struck them as sweet. Using a few words of Spanish he had picked up from his Navy days, Travis asked the two women out on a double date.

Around midnight the following Saturday, when they finished their shift at a seafood processing plant, Marisela Valdez and Isy Gonzalez waited for their dates at the remote compound where they lived and worked.

As soon as they got in the Manuel brothers car, the women began saying something about patrn angry, Travis recalled. While he was trying to puzzle out what they meant, his brother, who was driving, interrupted: Dude, Trey said. Theres someone following us.

Trey began to take sudden turns on the country roads threading through the rice paddies that dot the area, trying to lose the pickup truck behind them. Finally, they saw a police car.

I said, were gonna flag down this cop for help, Travis recalled. But the cop pulled us over, lights on, and told us not to get out of the vehicle, Trey added, noting that the pickup pulled up and the driver began conferring with the police.

An officer asked Trey and his brother for ID. From the backseat, their dates began to cry.

Travis tried to reassure them. They werent doing anything wrong, he said, and they were in the United States. I was like, Theres no way they are going to take you away.

He was wrong.

The man in the truck was the womens boss, Craig West, a prominent farmer in the heart of Cajun country. As Sgt. Robert McGee later wrote in a police report, West said that Valdez and Gonzalez were two of his girls, and he asked the cops to haul the women in and scare the girls.

The police brought the women, who were both in their twenties, to the station house. McGee told them they couldnt leave Wests farm without permission, warning that they could wind up dead. To drive home the point, an officer later testified, McGee stood over Valdez and Gonzalez and pantomimed cutting his throat. He also brandished a Taser at them and said they could be deported if they ever left Wests property without his permission.

A little after 2 in the morning, they released the women to West for the 15-minute drive through the steamy night to his compound a place where, the women and the Mexican government say, workers were stripped of their passports and assigned to sleep in a filthy, foul-smelling trailer infested with insects and mice. Valdez and Gonzalez also claimed that they and other women were imprisoned, forced to work for little pay, and frequently harassed by West, who demanded to see their breasts and insisted that having sex with him was their only way out of poverty.

These women were not undocumented immigrants working off the books. They were in the United States legally, as part of a government program that allows employers to import foreign labor for jobs they say Americans wont take but that also allows those companies to control almost every aspect of their employees’ lives.

Each year, more than 100,000 people from countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, and South Africa come to America on what is known as an H-2 visa to perform all kinds of menial labor across a wide spectrum of industries: cleaning rooms at luxury resorts and national parks, picking fruit, cutting lawns and manicuring golf courses, setting up carnival rides, trimming and planting trees, herding sheep, or, in the case of Valdez, Gonzalez, and about 20 other Mexican women in 2011, peeling crawfish at L.T. West Inc.

A BuzzFeed News investigation based on government databases and investigative files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, thousands of court documents, as well as more than 80 interviews with workers and employers shows that the program condemns thousands of employees each year to exploitation and mistreatment, often in plain view of government officials charged with protecting them. All across America, H-2 guest workers complain that they have been cheated out of their wages, threatened with guns, beaten, raped, starved, and imprisoned. Some have even died on the job. Yet employers rarely face any significant consequences.

Many of those employers have since been approved to bring in more guest workers. Some have even been rewarded with lucrative government contracts. Almost none have ever been charged with a crime.

In interview after interview, current and former guest workers often on the verge of tears used the same word to describe their experiences: slavery.

We live where we work, and we cant leave, said Olivia Guzman Garfias, who has been coming to Louisiana as a guest worker from her small town in Mexico since 1997. We are tied to the company. Our visas are in the companys name. If the pay and working conditions arent as we wish, who can we complain to? We are like modern-day slaves.

In a statement, the Department of Labor, which is charged with protecting workers and vetting employers seeking visas, said that the H-2 programs are part of a wider immigration system that is widely acknowledged to be broken, contributing to an uneven playing field where employers who exploit vulnerable workers undermine those who do the right thing.

The number of H-2 visas issued has grown by more than 50% over the past five years. Unlike the better-known H-1B visa program, which brings skilled workers such as computer programmers into Americas high-tech industries, the H-2 program is for the economys bottom rung, designed to make it easier for employers to fill temporary, unskilled positions. Proponents argue that it gives foreigners a chance to work here legally, send home much-needed dollars, and return to their families when the job is over.

In March, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce defended the guest worker program before a Senate committee, noting that such “temporary workers are needed in lesser-skilled occupations that are both seasonal and year round,” and that aspects of the program are “critical” to “American workers, the local community, and companies that provide goods and services to these seasonal businesses.

Tens of thousands of companies, ranging from family businesses to huge corporations, have participated in the program since it took its modern form in 1986. Employers pledge to pay their workers a set rate, which can range from the federal minimum wage to a higher prevailing wage that varies from state to state and job to job. As for the employees, they can only work for the company that sponsored their visa. They are legally barred from seeking other employment and must leave the country when the job ends.

For some people, such as the hundreds of soccer coaches who youth sports camps bring in every year from the United Kingdom and elsewhere, an H-2 visa offers an opportunity to make some money while spending time in another country. Many companies treat their H-2 employees well, and many guest workers interviewed for this article said they are grateful for the program.

But public records and interviews reveal how easy it is for companies that sponsor H-2 visas to abuse their employees.

Many companies pay their guest workers less than the law mandates. Others pay them for fewer hours than they actually work, or force them to work extremely long hours without overtime. Some, on the other hand, offer them far less work than promised, at times leaving workers without enough money to buy food. Employers also whittle away at wages by imposing an array of prohibited fees starting with bribes to get the jobs in the first place, which can leave workers so deep in debt that they are effectively indentured servants.

Guest workers often toil in conditions that are unsafe, inhumane, or simply exhausting, wielding dangerous machinery beneath a scorching sun or standing for hours on end in sweltering factories. And at the end of their shift, many workers retire to grim, squalid quarters that might be little more than a grimy mattress on the floor of a crowded, vermin-infested trailer. For such housing, some employers charge workers extortionate rent.

Though it is against the law, employers often exert additional control over guest workers by confiscating their passports, without which many foreign workers, fearful of being deported, feel unsafe leaving the worksite. Some employers extend their influence over workers to extremes, screening their mail, preventing them from receiving visitors, banning radios and newspapers, or even coercing them to attend religious services they dont believe in. Some foremen sexually harass female workers, who live in constant fear of losing their jobs and being deported.

The world has become accustomed in recent years to hearing of guest worker abuse in countries such as Qatar or Thailand. But this is happening in the United States. And the problem is not just a few unscrupulous employers. The very structure of the visa program enables widespread abuse and exploitation.

The way H-2 visas shackle workers to a single employer leaves them almost no leverage to demand better treatment. The rules also make it easy to banish a worker to her home country at the bosss whim. And guest workers tend to be so poor and, often, so indebted from the recruitment fees they paid to get the job in the first place that they feel they have no choice but to endure even the worst abuses.

Court documents and interviews revealed numerous cases where workers who tried to speak out said they received threats to their lives. Many others claimed they were blacklisted by employers, losing the opportunity to get jobs that, however miserable, give them more money than they could earn in their own countries.

The government has been warned repeatedly over almost two decades that the guest worker program is deeply troubled, with more than a dozen official reports excoriating it for everything from widespread visa fraud to rampant worker abuse, and even calling for its elimination. Since 2005, Labor Department investigation records show, at least 800 employers have subjected more than 23,000 H-2 guest workers to violations of the federal laws designed to protect them from exploitation, including more than 16,000 instances of H-2 workers being paid less than the promised wage.

Those numbers almost certainly understate the problem, as the federal government doesnt check up on the vast majority of companies that bring guest workers into this country. The Labor Department noted in its statement that it has limited resources, with only about 1,000 investigators to enforce protections for all 135 million workers in the U.S. Still, it said, it recovered more than $2.6 million in back wages owed to roughly 4,500 H-2 workers in the 2014 fiscal year. In that year, the agency said, it found violations in 82% of the H-2 visa cases it investigated.

Kalen Fraser, a former investigator for the Labor Departments Wage and Hour Division who specialized in H-2 visa cases, said that while some companies stumble over complex rules, a substantial portion maliciously violate worker protection laws. Theres a big power imbalance there, and the worst guys get away with everything.

Route 95 between Chataignier and Mamou, Louisiana, winds through endless acres of rice paddies that teem with crawfish after the grain is reaped. The country is dead flat, and stretching to the horizon theres little but lush fields of green, dotted with glassy brown pools beneath a heavy sky. Near a bend in the two-lane highway sits the L.T. West crawfish plant.

It was there that Valdez, Gonzalez, and the other women, tired and stiff from a crowded, 1,500-mile ride up from Mexico, stepped out into the dark, wet heat on the night of April 9, 2011.

Valdez said it was need that had brought her there need and principle. I wanted to work and make money and do it in a legal way, she said in a recent interview, so I didnt have to cross the border illegally or undocumented.

She had left behind her 5-year-old son and her 8-year-old daughter, along with her mother, who was taking care of the children, and her dream at least for a time of finishing her college degree. She was 26. It was her first time away from home.

She landed in one of Americas most distinctive and insular regions. Acadiana stretches from the bayous near the Gulf of Mexico up through Lafayette and into the Cajun Prairie north of Interstate 10. It is a place where Spanish moss drips so thick off trees they can hardly be discerned, French is still many peoples first language, zydeco music blares from the radio, and social life for generations has centered around great feasts of boiled crab, shrimp, and crawfish.

Valdez and Gonzalez claim they were assigned, along with three other of the youngest women, to an isolated trailer that lacked safe drinking water. Valdez was terrified of the dark, of the sounds of animals in the brush, of snakes. The women talked that first night about their goals and what their families would do with the money they earned.

I felt very strange, she said. Being with all these people I didnt know, having to leave behind my life, my family, my things, in a country I had never been in before. I felt very sad. I felt sad, but the truth is the need we had at that moment was so great that we had to do it, we had to be there.

Valdez lay awake, she said, thinking about where I was, how did I get there, why I was in this position. A few hours later, the women were rousted and sent to peel crawfish.

After hatching and maturing in the shallow ponds that spool over the landscape, the crustaceans rusty brown and squirming are plucked from baited traps. The mudbugs are stuffed in mesh sacks, heaved into the back of pickup trucks, then cooked in steel baths until they are bright red.

Then the women go to work. Still steaming, the crawfish are dumped by the basketful onto long metal tables. The workers crowd in, standing shoulder to shoulder or perching on stools. Hour after hour, they pull the heads off and extract the tail meat.

The hot crawfish would hurt your fingers, Valdez said. But the worst thing was the smell. It stung your nostrils, she said. The smell stuck to everything. We carried it home with us.

In its application for H-2 visas, filed in November 2010, L.T. West committed to pay the workers $9.10 an hour, plus overtime. The company also promised the Labor Department it would issue detailed pay statements.

The women soon learned, however, that they would sometimes be paid for each pound of crawfish tails they peeled. Federal law allows guest workers to be paid a piece rate, but only if the employer makes up any difference between that and the promised hourly wage.

L.T. West did not backfill their wages, according to the womens complaint. Some weeks, they said, their piece-rate wages amounted to the equivalent of less than $4 an hour. Sometimes they were given only about 15 hours of work per week.

Craig West denies that he shorted the women. But notes from a Labor Department investigation show that he did not keep proper pay records, making it impossible to verify that assertion.

The women also said West forbade them from leaving his plant and ordered one of his employees to confiscate their passports and visas their only proof, in a region that takes border enforcement seriously, that they were in the U.S. legally. On numerous occasions, they said, West threatened to call police or immigration authorities.

A few days after the disastrous double date, two of the women claimed, West pointed a gun at Valdez, the red beam of his laser scope directly on her face, and told her never to leave the work camp.

West, a solidly built man with a honey drawl, vehemently denied that he mistreated his workers, taking particular umbrage at the allegation involving the gun. He is a hunting instructor and runs the church skeet shoot, he said in an interview outside his home in June, and would never recklessly point a weapon at anyone.

The real story, West said, is that Valdez, Gonzalez, and some of the other women in their trailer were wild, partying and arranging to have cases of beer dropped off at his property. In a sworn deposition, one L.T. West employee said the women went out often and sometimes came back after having been drinking. Another said that West did not get angry if they went out without his permission.

West also denied trying to use the Mamou police to intimidate the women. He called them, he said, because some of the workers had expressed fears that a rapist would sneak onto the property.

Police officers, however, tell a different story. Two testified that when West arrived at the station that night, he was in a state of fury. In a sworn deposition in 2012, Mamou Police Sgt. Lucas Lavergne described Wests behavior this way: He said like looking toward the girls, he said, Mucho fuck you. Mucho kill you.

What happened that night, Travis said, was nuts and wrong. Reflecting on Wests and the polices attitude toward the women, he said, It seemed like we had messed with his property, like we had stolen a horse or did damage to his property.

His brother Trey added, Shortest date ever.

By scouring legal and administrative documents, BuzzFeed News identified more than 800 workers over the last 10 years who complained to authorities that they had their passports confiscated, were held against their will, were physically attacked, or were threatened with harm for trying to leave their housing or job sites. The number who experienced these abuses but did not speak out may be much higher.

In January 2013, a group of Mexican forestry workers said that they had been held at gunpoint in the mountains north of Sacramento and forced to work 13 hours a day and handle chemicals that made them vomit and peeled their skin, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in federal court last year by a Department of Homeland Security investigator.

Their employer, a small forestry contractor out of Idaho called Pure Forest, had also illegally charged the workers about $2,000 apiece for their visas, paid for out of deductions from their paychecks, the workers said. After additional fees were levied for food, they said, they were sometimes left with less than $100 for two weeks of grueling work. In one case, a worker said he was charged $100 for a pair of used shoes held together with nails.

Two of Pure Forests foremen reportedly carried firearms and threatened to shoot workers in the head and leave them in the woods if they did not work harder, the DHS special agent, Eugene Kizenko, wrote. He added that multiple workers heard these threats.

Five workers who escaped sued Pure Forest in federal court last year. They filed the suit, which is ongoing, using pseudonyms; the complaint states that the workers fear retaliation due to threats of bodily injury or death made by defendants.

Pure Forest denied the allegations in court papers and in an interview. Completely false, Owen Wadsworth said by phone. His father, Jeff, owns the company, and Owen was also named in the workers suit. We’ve had nothing but good working relationships with all our employees, he said. The H-2 program seems more set up to put the company, the owner or the employer, in a bad situation, he added, and whatever allegations or negative that come up, it’s treated almost like it’s true, and they’ll assume that you’re the bad guy.

A particularly effective force to keep workers in line is debt.

Interviews and court records reviewed by BuzzFeed News turned up hundreds of workers who claimed they were forced to pay for their visas. Thats illegal; companies are responsible for making sure their labor brokers don’t charge bribes. But diplomats from the U.S. and Mexico say such bribes are rampant. In cables released by WikiLeaks, U.S. consular officials in Mexico, Jamaica, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic describe reports of recruiters demanding fees for visas and also committing fraud in order to get visas approved.

Jacob Joseph Kadakkarappally was eager to come from India to the U.S. to work as a welder at the Pascagoula, Mississippi, shipyard of Signal International in late 2006. But he didn’t have the approximately $14,500 recruiters demanded for the visa and other fees, so first he pawned the gold bangles his wife wore every day on her wrist. Then he hocked a gold chain that, he later testified, is considered to be holy, a symbol of wedding.

Other Signal workers from India, who had been misled into thinking they would get green cards, went deeply into debt or sold property to pay fees. Once the workers arrived in the U.S., Signal housed them in a labor camp, up to 24 men to a trailer, for which Signal charged them each $1,050 a month.

After Kadakkarappally and others began asking for better working and housing conditions, security guards raided his trailer early one morning and managers told him he was fired.

I almost lost my breath, Kadakkarappally testified. He pleaded with managers, he said, recounting his huge debts and telling them that I would not be able to support my family. A fellow worker slit his wrist in a failed suicide attempt.

Kadakkarappally and four other welders eventually sued Signal, and in February a federal jury in New Orleans awarded them $14 million. This month, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced that Signal had agreed to a $20 million settlement that resolves those claims and those of 200 additional Indian welders in 11 related lawsuits. Signal, which filed for bankruptcy to carry out the settlement, also agreed to apologize to its guest workers. Signal did not respond to requests for comment.

Such a victory is extremely rare. Very few H-2 workers have the resources or support to file a lawsuit. Many workers become prisoners of their debt. The best way to pay it off is with a job in the U.S. and the only job H-2 workers can legally get is the one with the company that sponsors their visas.

In so many cases, these workers end up being abused, said Jennifer Gordon, a law professor at Fordham University and a former MacArthur Fellow who has conducted research into the discrimination against and mistreatment of immigrant workers. In routine ways, all the time, the workers pay fees, they are threatened, their families are threatened. And the employer knows that if you get workers through that program, theyre not going to complain.

That stark power imbalance can be downright dangerous, contributing to on-the-job injuries and even deaths.

Leonardo Espinabarro Telles entered the country on an H-2 visa in April 2011, to work for Crystal Rock Amusements as it moved from Pennsylvania to Vermont and back, staging that most American of pastimes: county fairs. The Mexico native had been on the job about three months, living in a crowded converted horse trailer without a working bathroom, when the crew of 17 guest workers arrived in northern Vermont for the Lamoille County Field Days.

A little before 3 in the afternoon on Tuesday, July 19, Espinabarro went to retrieve electrical connectors from a trailer housing the hulking Caterpillar generator that powered the carnival rides.

Inside, two feet separated the trailer wall from the generators massive spinning fan blades. The protective guard over the blades had either broken or been removed. At ankle level, pulleys and fan belts were also exposed.

Espinabarro was alone, so no one witnessed what happened, but co-workers heard cries for help. One man rushed to the trailer to see Espinabarro standing upright, then watched him collapse and fall out of the trailer. His clothing had gotten tangled in the machinery, and the fan blades had ripped through his body. From neck to waist, his back was carved open, his organs spilling out. He was dead by the time he reached the hospital.

Inspectors from the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Crystal Rock management knew the fan blades were unguarded at the time of the accident but had not told the workers. No one had posted proper warning signs. Nor had they delivered safety training in any language.

Vermont OSHA levied $114,550 in fines. The case is still open, because Crystal Rock has not paid.

Asked whether he had ever trained his guest workers how to be safe around heavy equipment, Crystal Rocks owner, Arthur Gillette, told an inspector: How can you train these guys?” adding, “Do you train someone to eat a hot dog?

Gillette, whose company has been certified for at least 358 visas since 2002, added that Mexican workers were mechanically inclined and would figure things out and that if the investigator had ever been to the country she would understand that. He explained: The streets of Mexico, cars were stolen and disassembled with just the frames left on the street.

The Labor Department conducted its own investigation following the accident, finding that Gillette routinely underpaid workers and owed more than $60,000 in back wages. This month, the Maine state fire marshal criminally charged Gillette with falsifying physical evidence after an accident on a roller coaster injured three children at a carnival in Waterville in June.

Gillette, reached by phone, said the criminal charges in Maine were unjust and denied tampering with evidence.

He said both the Labor Department and Vermont OSHA investigations of Crystal Rock, which is now out of business, were unfair. Ive worked dozens of carnivals and dealt with hundreds of foreign employees, he added. The vast majority of the guys that worked for me said I am more than fair. That I owe them nothing. That we are square.

Guest workers in other industries have died after being run over in grisly accidents, or collapsing for unknown reasons. Theyve had limbs amputated and suffered other catastrophic injuries.

On-the-job injuries happen to all kinds of employees, of course, but employers virtually unchecked sway over H-2 workers as well as some employers attitudes about foreigners can foster a cavalier attitude toward workplace dangers. It can also keep workers from pointing out safety violations or even reporting injuries.

In a 2012 report from the Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California, Berkeley, researchers surveyed 150 forestry workers in Oregon, about a third of them on H-2 visas, and found that more than 40% had been injured on the job in the previous 12 months. Fifteen of the workers had suffered broken bones, and another 18 had dislocated one or more bones. And yet workers kept quiet about many of their injuries including more than a quarter of the broken bones and nearly half of the dislocated ones.

The report concluded: They were afraid they would be fired, and they were afraid of otherwise getting in trouble.

Topolobampo occupies a peninsula at the mouth of a bay off the Sea of Cortez in violence-ravaged Sinaloa, the home state of the infamous drug lord Joaqun El Chapo Guzmn. The sparkling sea along the malecn belies a deep listlessness, more stifling than the tropical heat, that has settled over the town. The seafood plant along the waterfront closed down years ago. Mangy dogs range along barely maintained streets, while a few tiny restaurants with cement floors have almost nothing on the menu. Decent jobs outside of the drug trade are hard to find.

As much as a third of the population of 6,500 travels to the swamps and prairies of Louisiana every year to catch and process seafood, according to local recruiters. Those who make the trek are colloquially known as Louisianeros. The rewards of their work are easy to see: solidly built houses, clean tile floors, modern appliances, and framed degrees from private schools. Less visible are the costs: children who grow up in someone elses family, because their own parents are working on the other side.

Fernanda Padilla was just 3 when her mother, Guadalupe, started coming to Louisiana for 10 months a year to process shellfish. I couldnt understand, said Padilla. I used to tell her, I dont care. Ill eat rice and beans every day, but be here with me.

But at 17, Padilla dropped out of school and decided to follow in her mothers footsteps to make money. She secured an H-2 visa and arrived at her new job at Bayou Shrimp in April 2009. She was pregnant, but her pay stubs show she worked more than 60 hours some weeks. Forty days after her daughter was born, Padilla was back at work at the plant, leaving her baby with a friend.

Padilla, who has since had a second child, worked in the Louisiana shrimp industry for five seasons before losing her job last year. She said she used to worry that, like her own mother, she was abandoning her children in order to provide for them.

Five years working there seemed like no time had passed at all, and my daughter had already grown up and I didnt even realize it, Padilla said, adding that she is now cobbling together a living with odd jobs.

North of the border, H-2 visas are also important to the economy.

Louisiana is the nations second-largest seafood-producing state, and its crawfish industry used to rely on local labor. But competition from cheap Asian imports, along with the demand by huge retailers such as Wal-Mart for ever lower prices, have squeezed profit margins and put downward pressure on wages below the point, producers say, where people in America will take the jobs on a seasonal basis. In the 1990s, processors including Craig West hoped that machines could be built to take over the repetitive task of extracting the tail meat from the crustaceans. But eventually crawfish farmers discovered that the best and cheapest option is a Mexican on an H-2 visa.

The visa comes in two types: H-2A for agricultural workers and H-2B for nonagricultural unskilled workers, with varying rules and provisions. While many workers say that regulators dont do enough to protect them, their employers generally have the opposite complaint. They say they are burdened by endless bureaucratic hurdles and inspectors who ding them for tiny infractions of incomprehensible rules.

Ben LeGrange, the general manager of Atchafalaya Crawfish Processing, in Henderson, Louisiana, said most crawfish processors treat their workers well, and isolated incidents shouldnt taint the whole industry. He said he tries to treat guest workers as an extension of someone in my family and that without them the whole company, which also employs six American workers, would be in jeopardy.

Standing on his expansive lawn beside a riding mower, West, who co-owns the crawfish producer L.T. West with his brother, said he treats his workers well. My wife got holy water for them, he said, adding that when they were not working he and his wife, Cathy, drove workers to Walmart or church, and sometimes invited them to relax in the shade of a tree that protects his house from the sun.

But seven of his workers, including Valdez and Gonzalez, claim West took a different kind of interest in some of them.

Some of their allegations include that he took to bursting into their trailer unexpectedly, even when they were dressing, and called them his property and his Mexican ladies, according to their complaint. Some of the women recall him saying things such as mucho booby and mexicanas mucho booby, gesturing for them to lift up their shirts. He instructed one of his other workers to tell the women in Spanish that the only way they could get out of poverty was to accept his propositions, which included requests that they come to his house when his wife was away. In the suit, the women did not allege he actually had sex with them.

West, with his wife looking on, flatly denied the allegations, saying the women had made them up.

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The New American Slavery: Invited To The U.S., Foreign …

Wage slavery – Wikipedia

Wage slavery is a term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor by focusing on similarities between owning and renting a person. It is usually used to refer to a situation where a person’s livelihood depends on wages or a salary, especially when the dependence is total and immediate.[1][2]

The term “wage slavery” has been used to criticize exploitation of labour and social stratification, with the former seen primarily as unequal bargaining power between labor and capital (particularly when workers are paid comparatively low wages, e.g. in sweatshops)[3] and the latter as a lack of workers’ self-management, fulfilling job choices and leisure in an economy.[4][5][6] The criticism of social stratification covers a wider range of employment choices bound by the pressures of a hierarchical society to perform otherwise unfulfilling work that deprives humans of their “species character”[7] not only under threat of starvation or poverty, but also of social stigma and status diminution.[8][9][10]

Similarities between wage labor and slavery were noted as early as Cicero in Ancient Rome, such as in De Officiis.[11] With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, thinkers such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Karl Marx elaborated the comparison between wage labor and slavery,[12][13] while Luddites emphasized the dehumanization brought about by machines. Before the American Civil War, Southern defenders of African American slavery invoked the concept of wage slavery to favorably compare the condition of their slaves to workers in the North.[14][15] The United States abolished slavery after the Civil War, but labor union activists found the metaphor useful. According to Lawrence Glickman, in the Gilded Age “[r]eferences abounded in the labor press, and it is hard to find a speech by a labor leader without the phrase”.[16]

The introduction of wage labor in 18th-century Britain was met with resistance, giving rise to the principles of syndicalism.[17][18][19][20] Historically, some labor organizations and individual social activists have espoused workers’ self-management or worker cooperatives as possible alternatives to wage labor.[5][19]

The view that working for wages is akin to slavery dates back to the ancient world.[22] In ancient Rome, Cicero wrote that “whoever gives his labor for money sells himself and puts himself in the rank of slaves”.[11]

In 1763, the French journalist Simon Linguet published an influential description of wage slavery:[13]

The slave was precious to his master because of the money he had cost him… They were worth at least as much as they could be sold for in the market… It is the impossibility of living by any other means that compels our farm labourers to till the soil whose fruits they will not eat and our masons to construct buildings in which they will not live… It is want that compels them to go down on their knees to the rich man in order to get from him permission to enrich him… what effective gain [has] the suppression of slavery brought [him?] He is free, you say. Ah! That is his misfortune… These men… [have] the most terrible, the most imperious of masters, that is, need…. They must therefore find someone to hire them, or die of hunger. Is that to be free?

The view that wage work has substantial similarities with chattel slavery was actively put forward in the late 18th and 19th centuries by defenders of chattel slavery (most notably in the Southern states of the United States) and by opponents of capitalism (who were also critics of chattel slavery).[9][23] Some defenders of slavery, mainly from the Southern slave states, argued that Northern workers were “free but in name the slaves of endless toil” and that their slaves were better off.[24][25] This contention has been partly corroborated by some modern studies that indicate slaves’ material conditions in the 19th century were “better than what was typically available to free urban laborers at the time”.[26][27] In this period, Henry David Thoreau wrote that “[i]t is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself”.[28]

Some abolitionists in the United States regarded the analogy as spurious.[29] They believed that wage workers were “neither wronged nor oppressed”.[30] Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans argued that the condition of wage workers was different from slavery as laborers were likely to have the opportunity to work for themselves in the future, achieving self-employment.[31] The abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass initially declared “now I am my own master”, upon taking a paying job.[32] However, later in life he concluded to the contrary, saying “experience demonstrates that there may be a slavery of wages only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other”.[33][34] Douglass went on to speak about these conditions as arising from the unequal bargaining power between the ownership/capitalist class and the non-ownership/laborer class within a compulsory monetary market: “No more crafty and effective devise for defrauding the southern laborers could be adopted than the one that substitutes orders upon shopkeepers for currency in payment of wages. It has the merit of a show of honesty, while it puts the laborer completely at the mercy of the land-owner and the shopkeeper”.[35]

Self-employment became less common as the artisan tradition slowly disappeared in the later part of the 19th century.[5] In 1869, The New York Times described the system of wage labor as “a system of slavery as absolute if not as degrading as that which lately prevailed at the South”.[31] E. P. Thompson notes that for British workers at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, the “gap in status between a ‘servant,’ a hired wage-laborer subject to the orders and discipline of the master, and an artisan, who might ‘come and go’ as he pleased, was wide enough for men to shed blood rather than allow themselves to be pushed from one side to the other. And, in the value system of the community, those who resisted degradation were in the right”.[17] A “Member of the Builders’ Union” in the 1830s argued that the trade unions “will not only strike for less work, and more wages, but will ultimately abolish wages, become their own masters and work for each other; labor and capital will no longer be separate but will be indissolubly joined together in the hands of workmen and work-women”.[18] This perspective inspired the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of 1834 which had the “two-fold purpose of syndicalist unions the protection of the workers under the existing system and the formation of the nuclei of the future society” when the unions “take over the whole industry of the country”.[19] “Research has shown”, summarises William Lazonick, “that the ‘free-born Englishman’ of the eighteenth century even those who, by force of circumstance, had to submit to agricultural wage labour tenaciously resisted entry into the capitalist workshop”.[20]

The use of the term “wage slave” by labor organizations may originate from the labor protests of the Lowell Mill Girls in 1836.[36] The imagery of wage slavery was widely used by labor organizations during the mid-19th century to object to the lack of workers’ self-management. However, it was gradually replaced by the more neutral term “wage work” towards the end of the 19th century as labor organizations shifted their focus to raising wages.[5]

Karl Marx described capitalist society as infringing on individual autonomy because it is based on a materialistic and commodified concept of the body and its liberty (i.e. as something that is sold, rented, or alienated in a class society). According to Friedrich Engels:[37][38]

The slave is sold once and for all; the proletarian must sell himself daily and hourly. The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master’s interest. The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence.

Critics of wage work have drawn several similarities between wage work and slavery:

According to American anarcho-syndicalist philosopher Noam Chomsky, the similarities between chattel and wage slavery were noticed by the workers themselves. He noted that the 19th-century Lowell Mill Girls, who without any reported knowledge of European Marxism or anarchism condemned the “degradation and subordination” of the newly emerging industrial system and the “new spirit of the age: gain wealth, forgetting all but self”, maintaining that “those who work in the mills should own them”.[44][45] They expressed their concerns in a protest song during their 1836 strike:

Oh! isn’t it a pity, such a pretty girl as IShould be sent to the factory to pine away and die?Oh! I cannot be a slave, I will not be a slave,For I’m so fond of liberty,That I cannot be a slave.[46]

Defenses of wage labor and chattel slavery in the literature have linked the subjection of man to man with the subjection of man to nature arguing that hierarchy and a social system’s particular relations of production represent human nature and are no more coercive than the reality of life itself. According to this narrative, any well-intentioned attempt to fundamentally change the status quo is naively utopian and will result in more oppressive conditions.[47] Bosses in both of these long-lasting systems argued that their system created a lot of wealth and prosperity. In some sense, both did create jobs and their investment entailed risk. For example, slave owners risked losing money by buying chattel slaves who later became ill or died; while bosses risked losing money by hiring workers (wage slaves) to make products that did not sell well on the market. Marginally, both chattel and wage slaves may become bosses; sometimes by working hard. It may be the “rags to riches” story which occasionally occurs in capitalism, or the “slave to master” story that occurred in places like colonial Brazil, where slaves could buy their own freedom and become business owners, self-employed, or slave owners themselves.[48] Social mobility, or the hard work and risk that it may entail, are thus not considered to be a redeeming factor by critics of the concept of wage slavery.[49]

Anthropologist David Graeber has noted that historically the first wage labor contracts we know about whether in ancient Greece or Rome, or in the Malay or Swahili city states in the Indian Ocean were in fact contracts for the rental of chattel slaves (usually the owner would receive a share of the money and the slave another, with which to maintain his or her living expenses). According to Graeber, such arrangements were quite common in New World slavery as well, whether in the United States or Brazil. C. L. R. James argued that most of the techniques of human organization employed on factory workers during the Industrial Revolution were first developed on slave plantations.[50]

The usage of the term “wage slavery” shifted to “wage work” at the end of the 19th century as groups like the Knights of Labor and American Federation of Labor shifted to a more reformist, trade union ideology instead of worker’s self-management. Much of the decline was caused by the rapid increase in manufacturing after the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent dominance of wage labor as a result. Another factor was immigration and demographic changes that led to ethnic tension between the workers.[5]

As Hallgrimsdottir and Benoit point out:

[I]ncreased centralization of production… declining wages… [an] expanding… labor pool… intensifying competition, and… [t]he loss of competence and independence experienced by skilled labor” meant that “a critique that referred to all [wage] work as slavery and avoided demands for wage concessions in favor of supporting the creation of the producerist republic (by diverting strike funds towards funding… co-operatives, for example) was far less compelling than one that identified the specific conditions of slavery as low wages.[5]

Some anti-capitalist thinkers claim that the elite maintain wage slavery and a divided working class through their influence over the media and entertainment industry,[51][52] educational institutions, unjust laws, nationalist and corporate propaganda, pressures and incentives to internalize values serviceable to the power structure, state violence, fear of unemployment,[53] and a historical legacy of exploitation and profit accumulation/transfer under prior systems, which shaped the development of economic theory. Adam Smith noted that employers often conspire together to keep wages low and have the upper hand in conflicts between workers and employers:[54]

The interest of the dealers… in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public… [They] have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public… We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate… It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms.

The concept of wage slavery could conceivably be traced back to pre-capitalist figures like Gerrard Winstanley from the radical Christian Diggers movement in England, who wrote in his 1649 pamphlet, The New Law of Righteousness, that there “shall be no buying or selling, no fairs nor markets, but the whole earth shall be a common treasury for every man” and “there shall be none Lord over others, but every one shall be a Lord of himself”.[55]

Aristotle stated that “the citizens must not live a mechanic or a mercantile life (for such a life is ignoble and inimical to virtue), nor yet must those who are to be citizens in the best state be tillers of the soil (for leisure is needed both for the development of virtue and for active participation in politics)”,[56] often paraphrased as “all paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind”.[57] Cicero wrote in 44 BC that “vulgar are the means of livelihood of all hired workmen whom we pay for mere manual labour, not for artistic skill; for in their case the very wage they receive is a pledge of their slavery”.[11] Somewhat similar criticisms have also been expressed by some proponents of liberalism, like Silvio Gesell and Thomas Paine;[58] Henry George, who inspired the economic philosophy known as Georgism;[9] and the Distributist school of thought within the Catholic Church.

To Karl Marx and anarchist thinkers like Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, wage slavery was a class condition in place due to the existence of private property and the state. This class situation rested primarily on:

And secondarily on:

Fascism was more hostile against independent trade unions than modern economies in Europe or the United States.[60] Fascist economic policies were widely accepted in the 1920s and 1930s and foreign (especially the United States) corporate investment in Italy and Germany increased after the fascist take over.[61][62]

Fascism has been perceived by some notable critics, like Buenaventura Durruti, to be a last resort weapon of the privileged to ensure the maintenance of wage slavery:

No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges.[63]

According to Noam Chomsky, analysis of the psychological implications of wage slavery goes back to the Enlightenment era. In his 1791 book The Limits of State Action, classical liberal thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt explained how “whatever does not spring from a man’s free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness” and so when the laborer works under external control, “we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is”.[64] Both the Milgram and Stanford experiments have been found useful in the psychological study of wage-based workplace relations.[65]

According to research, modern work provides people with a sense of personal and social identity that is tied to:

Thus job loss entails the loss of this identity.[66]

Erich Fromm argued that if a person perceives himself as being what he owns, then when that person loses (or even thinks of losing) what he “owns” (e.g. the good looks or sharp mind that allow him to sell his labor for high wages) a fear of loss may create anxiety and authoritarian tendencies because that person’s sense of identity is threatened. In contrast, when a person’s sense of self is based on what he experiences in a state of being (creativity, love, sadness, taste, sight and the like) with a less materialistic regard for what he once had and lost, or may lose, then less authoritarian tendencies prevail. In his view, the state of being flourishes under a worker-managed workplace and economy, whereas self-ownership entails a materialistic notion of self, created to rationalize the lack of worker control that would allow for a state of being.[67]

Investigative journalist Robert Kuttner analyzed the work of public-health scholars Jeffrey Johnson and Ellen Hall about modern conditions of work and concludes that “to be in a life situation where one experiences relentless demands by others, over which one has relatively little control, is to be at risk of poor health, physically as well as mentally”. Under wage labor, “a relatively small elite demands and gets empowerment, self-actualization, autonomy, and other work satisfaction that partially compensate for long hours” while “epidemiological data confirm that lower-paid, lower-status workers are more likely to experience the most clinically damaging forms of stress, in part because they have less control over their work”.[68]

Wage slavery and the educational system that precedes it “implies power held by the leader. Without power the leader is inept. The possession of power inevitably leads to corruption… in spite of… good intentions… [Leadership means] power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self-respect which comes from expressed manhood, is taken from the men, and consolidated in the leader. The sum of their initiative, their responsibility, their self-respect becomes his… [and the] order and system he maintains is based upon the suppression of the men, from being independent thinkers into being ‘the men’… In a word, he is compelled to become an autocrat and a foe to democracy”. For the “leader”, such marginalisation can be beneficial, for a leader “sees no need for any high level of intelligence in the rank and file, except to applaud his actions. Indeed such intelligence from his point of view, by breeding criticism and opposition, is an obstacle and causes confusion”.[69] Wage slavery “implies erosion of the human personality… [because] some men submit to the will of others, arousing in these instincts which predispose them to cruelty and indifference in the face of the suffering of their fellows”.[70]

In 19th-century discussions of labor relations, it was normally assumed that the threat of starvation forced those without property to work for wages. Proponents of the view that modern forms of employment constitute wage slavery, even when workers appear to have a range of available alternatives, have attributed its perpetuation to a variety of social factors that maintain the hegemony of the employer class.[43][71]

In an account of the Lowell Mill Girls, Harriet Hanson Robinson wrote that generously high wages were offered to overcome the degrading nature of the work:

At the time the Lowell cotton mills were started the caste of the factory girl was the lowest among the employments of women…. She was represented as subjected to influences that must destroy her purity and selfrespect. In the eyes of her overseer she was but a brute, a slave, to be beaten, pinched and pushed about. It was to overcome this prejudice that such high wages had been offered to women that they might be induced to become millgirls, in spite of the opprobrium that still clung to this degrading occupation.[72]

In his book Disciplined Minds, Jeff Schmidt points out that professionals are trusted to run organizations in the interests of their employers. Because employers cannot be on hand to manage every decision, professionals are trained to “ensure that each and every detail of their work favors the right interestsor skewers the disfavored ones” in the absence of overt control:

The resulting professional is an obedient thinker, an intellectual property whom employers can trust to experiment, theorize, innovate and create safely within the confines of an assigned ideology.[73]

Parecon (participatory economics) theory posits a social class “between labor and capital” of higher paid professionals such as “doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers and others” who monopolize empowering labor and constitute a class above wage laborers who do mostly “obedient, rote work”.[74]

The terms “employee” or “worker” have often been replaced by “associate”. This plays up the allegedly voluntary nature of the interaction while playing down the subordinate status of the wage laborer as well as the worker-boss class distinction emphasized by labor movements. Billboards as well as television, Internet and newspaper advertisements consistently show low-wage workers with smiles on their faces, appearing happy.[75]

Job interviews and other data on requirements for lower skilled workers in developed countries particularly in the growing service sector indicate that the more workers depend on low wages and the less skilled or desirable their job is, the more employers screen for workers without better employment options and expect them to feign unremunerative motivation.[76] Such screening and feigning may not only contribute to the positive self-image of the employer as someone granting desirable employment, but also signal wage-dependence by indicating the employee’s willingness to feign, which in turn may discourage the dissatisfaction normally associated with job-switching or union activity.[76]

At the same time, employers in the service industry have justified unstable, part-time employment and low wages by playing down the importance of service jobs for the lives of the wage laborers (e.g. just temporary before finding something better, student summer jobs and the like).[77][78]

In the early 20th century, “scientific methods of strikebreaking”[79] were devised employing a variety of tactics that emphasized how strikes undermined “harmony” and “Americanism”.[80]

Some social activists objecting to the market system or price system of wage working historically have considered syndicalism, worker cooperatives, workers’ self-management and workers’ control as possible alternatives to the current wage system.[4][5][6][19]

The American philosopher John Dewey believed that until “industrial feudalism” is replaced by “industrial democracy”, politics will be “the shadow cast on society by big business”.[81] Thomas Ferguson has postulated in his investment theory of party competition that the undemocratic nature of economic institutions under capitalism causes elections to become occasions when blocs of investors coalesce and compete to control the state.[82]

Noam Chomsky has argued that political theory tends to blur the ‘elite’ function of government:

Modern political theory stresses Madison’s belief that “in a just and a free government the rights both of property and of persons ought to be effectually guarded.” But in this case too it is useful to look at the doctrine more carefully. There are no rights of property, only rights to property that is, rights of persons with property,…

[In] representative democracy, as in, say, the United States or Great Britain [] there is a monopoly of power centralized in the state, and secondly and critically [] the representative democracy is limited to the political sphere and in no serious way encroaches on the economic sphere [] That is, as long as individuals are compelled to rent themselves on the market to those who are willing to hire them, as long as their role in production is simply that of ancillary tools, then there are striking elements of coercion and oppression that make talk of democracy very limited, if even meaningful.[83]

In this regard, Chomsky has used Bakunin’s theories about an “instinct for freedom”,[84] the militant history of labor movements, Kropotkin’s mutual aid evolutionary principle of survival and Marc Hauser’s theories supporting an innate and universal moral faculty,[85] to explain the incompatibility of oppression with certain aspects of human nature.[86][87]

Loyola University philosophy professor John Clark and libertarian socialist philosopher Murray Bookchin have criticized the system of wage labor for encouraging environmental destruction, arguing that a self-managed industrial society would better manage the environment. Like other anarchists,[88] they attribute much of the Industrial Revolution’s pollution to the “hierarchical” and “competitive” economic relations accompanying it.[89]

Some criticize wage slavery on strictly contractual grounds, e.g. David Ellerman and Carole Pateman, arguing that the employment contract is a legal fiction in that it treats human beings juridically as mere tools or inputs by abdicating responsibility and self-determination, which the critics argue are inalienable. As Ellerman points out, “[t]he employee is legally transformed from being a co-responsible partner to being only an input supplier sharing no legal responsibility for either the input liabilities [costs] or the produced outputs [revenue, profits] of the employer’s business”.[90] Such contracts are inherently invalid “since the person remain[s] a de facto fully capacitated adult person with only the contractual role of a non-person” as it is impossible to physically transfer self-determination.[91] As Pateman argues:

The contractarian argument is unassailable all the time it is accepted that abilities can ‘acquire’ an external relation to an individual, and can be treated as if they were property. To treat abilities in this manner is also implicitly to accept that the ‘exchange’ between employer and worker is like any other exchange of material property … The answer to the question of how property in the person can be contracted out is that no such procedure is possible. Labour power, capacities or services, cannot be separated from the person of the worker like pieces of property.[92]

In a modern liberal capitalist society, the employment contract is enforced while the enslavement contract is not; the former being considered valid because of its consensual/non-coercive nature and the latter being considered inherently invalid, consensual or not. The noted economist Paul Samuelson described this discrepancy:

Since slavery was abolished, human earning power is forbidden by law to be capitalized. A man is not even free to sell himself; he must rent himself at a wage.[93]

Some advocates of right-libertarianism, among them philosopher Robert Nozick, address this inconsistency in modern societies arguing that a consistently libertarian society would allow and regard as valid consensual/non-coercive enslavement contracts, rejecting the notion of inalienable rights:

The comparable question about an individual is whether a free system will allow him to sell himself into slavery. I believe that it would.[94]

Others like Murray Rothbard allow for the possibility of debt slavery, asserting that a lifetime labour contract can be broken so long as the slave pays appropriate damages:

[I]f A has agreed to work for life for B in exchange for 10,000 grams of gold, he will have to return the proportionate amount of property if he terminates the arrangement and ceases to work.[95]

In the philosophy of mainstream, neoclassical economics, wage labor is seen as the voluntary sale of one’s own time and efforts, just like a carpenter would sell a chair, or a farmer would sell wheat. It is considered neither an antagonistic nor abusive relationship and carries no particular moral implications.[96]

Austrian economics argues that a person is not “free” unless they can sell their labor because otherwise that person has no self-ownership and will be owned by a “third party” of individuals.[97]

Post-Keynesian economics perceives wage slavery as resulting from inequality of bargaining power between labor and capital, which exists when the economy does not “allow labor to organize and form a strong countervailing force”.[98]

The two main forms of socialist economics perceive wage slavery differently:

Read more here:

Wage slavery – Wikipedia

8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

Literal slavery is a horrible practice that still persists into the modern age. But, I want to talk about another form of human exploitationemployment slavery, which can also ruin a persons life. Generally, I consider this a self-inflicted slavery because its ultimately a persons choice to work under such conditionsbut I also understand that brainwashing can occur, creating the illusion that theres no way out.

Slavery (in general) exists because of the inclination among people to obtain the benefits of human resources, while providing little (or nothing) in return. Human work is the most intelligent, efficient way to create a system of wealth and power. For the morally bankrupt, such benefits are sought for free.

Employment, in the best case scenario, is a business deal of mutual benefit. But in other instances, the company is expending such minimal resources that they are taking advantage of you. In the worst case scenario, through a combination of slave-driving principles and psychological techniques to break you down, such a job can morph into something very similar to actual slavery.

If you dont know any better, its easy to fall into slavery conditions. Here are signs that your sense of freedom in life is totally gone:

Because of the way employers conveniently ignore yearly inflation, todays minimal wage is not enough to maintain any semblance of a normal lifestyle. Minimal wage makes some sense in small businesses just starting out. But, In America, $8.25 an hour, or less, from a large, billion-dollar corporation is inexcusable. In this case, your annual wages cost a second of the companys hourly profits. In other words, your hard work is a very bad deal for you, and a killer opportunity for the suits upstairs.

Youre lucky you even have a job! is a psychological taunt that bad employers use to try and keep their wage-slaves from believing they can do any better. Such statements are made to maintain a sense of control. Understand, voluntary slavery is not a rare phenomenon. It happens when a person is brainwashed into the belief that they have nowhere else they can go.

If your manager uses psychological put-downs like this to denigrate your professional abilitiesunderstand that its being done for a reason.

The idea of getting a raise and a promotion may be dangled in-front of you, but youve seen no evidence to suggest that it really happens. In fact, only a very small percentage of your co-workers ever obtain this goal, and they tend to be the cronies of upper-management. If this is the case, then what exactly is your reason for working at this company?

Inconvenient hours are inevitable in jobs, but some companies will abuse the system. This ranges from illegally denying overtime pay, to scheduling month-long bouts of cloping (working until closing hours late at night, then opening hours the next morning) that leaves the employee physically and emotionally drained.

An employee in this system may feel the intense pressure by the bosses to conform to abusive hours, under the threat of being denied promotions or even getting fired for seeking better treatment.

Americas two-week annual vacation time is one of the weakest in the Western world, and American workers tend to not even use it. This is because many employers will hint that vacationers are likely to end up on the shit-list of not getting promoted. They may even hint that unruly vacation-seekers will be the first to get laid-off or fired at the earliest opportunity.

A system of slavery does not allow free-time for individuals to maintain their own lives outside of their work. This could cause dissent and break the system of total control. An unspoken methodology among abusive managers is to destroy the lifestyles of employees so, instead of tending to family or hobbies, they work at full capacity.

Feeling motivated based on high-standards and being scared to go below those standards is one thing, but being genuinely scared of the people youre working for is another.

Slave-masters maintain systems of fear, to break down their subjects and perhapsin timebuild them back up. For the best example of thisplease see Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

Psychological and verbal abuse is usually what occurs. An abusive employer understands exactly what strings to pull to generate feelings of shame or guilt, and theyll use the professional context to destroy a subjects sense of self-worth, perhaps by implying worthlessness at the vocation theyve devoted their life to.

In other instances, the abuse is very overt and could include yelling, tantrums and even physical assaults. But the outcome is the same: the employee living in a constant state of paranoia, fear, and subservience.

Read carefully the ten warning-signs youre in a cult by the Cult Education Institute. Some of these that could be very applicable to a workplace include: absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability, no tolerance for questions or critical inquiry, the leader (boss) is always right, and former followers (employees) are vilified as evil for leaving.

If the job feels less about, you know, getting the job doneand is more about the influence, charisma and infallibility of the bossthen get the heck out of there. This means the person in charge is getting a side-benefit to running or managing the workplace: power and dominance.

The number one sign youre a slave and not an employee is that youre working an unpaid internship, and its not for college credit. You may be promised great benefits and valuable connections, at what amounts to harsh workplace conditions, long hours, and zero pay.

A huge mistake I see young professionals make, and it really irks me, is naivety about peoples intentions. I went to film school for my bachelors, and many students I knew lusted after top internships at film studios or with big names in the entertainment industry. Such internships are often offered regardless of college credit.

When a person is blindsided by their desire to make it and get in with big names, they are likely to make bad decisionsand unscrupulous employers will prey on this desire.

Internships are great IF its part of a students actual curriculum. It means hands-on work and real experience versus useless classrooms. But, the questionable non-credit internships I warn about also exist to lure young people into systems of slavery. Its gotten so bad these types of arrangements are quickly becoming illegal in California.

The reality of such internships is that the slave-drivers only desire one thing: unpaid work. There is NO promise that you will move up or land any type of a paid job. When your internship finishes, they will discard you and find the next victim.

The biggest reason to avoid internships is the mentality behind the deal. Imagine a law firm or a film studio that is a multi-billion dollar operation. How hard would it be to throw their new recruit at LEAST minimum wage? The fact such a company would, despite their huge profits, still desire unpaid labor is indicative of a slave-driving mentality that funnels wealth to the top at the expense of the people on the bottom making it possible.

As a professional, it would be best for you to avoid doing any type of business with any individual or company that possesses a philosophy like this.

Employment-slavery situations are common. Very common. But ultimately, the biggest factor in determining how bad it is, is a single question: are you happy?

If you are happy at $8.25 an hour with no benefits, because you like the people you work with, you like the nature of the work, and you feel its moving you somewhere you want to bethen its not slavery. Youre making an investment thatll either pay off, or it wontbut at least you enjoy what youre doing.

However, if you are miserable in your current conditions, its quite possible that the uneasy feeling in your gut is your intuition telling you that someone is taking advantage of you.

Employment is supposed to be a business contract, and an exchange of services. Never a system of control. Sometimes, just the willingness to walk away is your strongest defense against a terrible job situation.

For more about avoiding systems of employment-slavery, please see my short books: Freedom: How to Make Money From Your Dreams and Ambitions, and How to Quit Your Job: Escape Soul Crushing Work, Create the Life You Want, and Live Happy.

(For more books, also check out the Developed Life bookstore, http://www.developedlife.com/bookstore).

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8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

Literal slavery is a horrible practice that still persists into the modern age. But, I want to talk about another form of human exploitationemployment slavery, which can also ruin a persons life. Generally, I consider this a self-inflicted slavery because its ultimately a persons choice to work under such conditionsbut I also understand that brainwashing can occur, creating the illusion that theres no way out.

Slavery (in general) exists because of the inclination among people to obtain the benefits of human resources, while providing little (or nothing) in return. Human work is the most intelligent, efficient way to create a system of wealth and power. For the morally bankrupt, such benefits are sought for free.

Employment, in the best case scenario, is a business deal of mutual benefit. But in other instances, the company is expending such minimal resources that they are taking advantage of you. In the worst case scenario, through a combination of slave-driving principles and psychological techniques to break you down, such a job can morph into something very similar to actual slavery.

If you dont know any better, its easy to fall into slavery conditions. Here are signs that your sense of freedom in life is totally gone:

Because of the way employers conveniently ignore yearly inflation, todays minimal wage is not enough to maintain any semblance of a normal lifestyle. Minimal wage makes some sense in small businesses just starting out. But, In America, $8.25 an hour, or less, from a large, billion-dollar corporation is inexcusable. In this case, your annual wages cost a second of the companys hourly profits. In other words, your hard work is a very bad deal for you, and a killer opportunity for the suits upstairs.

Youre lucky you even have a job! is a psychological taunt that bad employers use to try and keep their wage-slaves from believing they can do any better. Such statements are made to maintain a sense of control. Understand, voluntary slavery is not a rare phenomenon. It happens when a person is brainwashed into the belief that they have nowhere else they can go.

If your manager uses psychological put-downs like this to denigrate your professional abilitiesunderstand that its being done for a reason.

The idea of getting a raise and a promotion may be dangled in-front of you, but youve seen no evidence to suggest that it really happens. In fact, only a very small percentage of your co-workers ever obtain this goal, and they tend to be the cronies of upper-management. If this is the case, then what exactly is your reason for working at this company?

Inconvenient hours are inevitable in jobs, but some companies will abuse the system. This ranges from illegally denying overtime pay, to scheduling month-long bouts of cloping (working until closing hours late at night, then opening hours the next morning) that leaves the employee physically and emotionally drained.

An employee in this system may feel the intense pressure by the bosses to conform to abusive hours, under the threat of being denied promotions or even getting fired for seeking better treatment.

Americas two-week annual vacation time is one of the weakest in the Western world, and American workers tend to not even use it. This is because many employers will hint that vacationers are likely to end up on the shit-list of not getting promoted. They may even hint that unruly vacation-seekers will be the first to get laid-off or fired at the earliest opportunity.

A system of slavery does not allow free-time for individuals to maintain their own lives outside of their work. This could cause dissent and break the system of total control. An unspoken methodology among abusive managers is to destroy the lifestyles of employees so, instead of tending to family or hobbies, they work at full capacity.

Feeling motivated based on high-standards and being scared to go below those standards is one thing, but being genuinely scared of the people youre working for is another.

Slave-masters maintain systems of fear, to break down their subjects and perhapsin timebuild them back up. For the best example of thisplease see Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

Psychological and verbal abuse is usually what occurs. An abusive employer understands exactly what strings to pull to generate feelings of shame or guilt, and theyll use the professional context to destroy a subjects sense of self-worth, perhaps by implying worthlessness at the vocation theyve devoted their life to.

In other instances, the abuse is very overt and could include yelling, tantrums and even physical assaults. But the outcome is the same: the employee living in a constant state of paranoia, fear, and subservience.

Read carefully the ten warning-signs youre in a cult by the Cult Education Institute. Some of these that could be very applicable to a workplace include: absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability, no tolerance for questions or critical inquiry, the leader (boss) is always right, and former followers (employees) are vilified as evil for leaving.

If the job feels less about, you know, getting the job doneand is more about the influence, charisma and infallibility of the bossthen get the heck out of there. This means the person in charge is getting a side-benefit to running or managing the workplace: power and dominance.

The number one sign youre a slave and not an employee is that youre working an unpaid internship, and its not for college credit. You may be promised great benefits and valuable connections, at what amounts to harsh workplace conditions, long hours, and zero pay.

A huge mistake I see young professionals make, and it really irks me, is naivety about peoples intentions. I went to film school for my bachelors, and many students I knew lusted after top internships at film studios or with big names in the entertainment industry. Such internships are often offered regardless of college credit.

When a person is blindsided by their desire to make it and get in with big names, they are likely to make bad decisionsand unscrupulous employers will prey on this desire.

Internships are great IF its part of a students actual curriculum. It means hands-on work and real experience versus useless classrooms. But, the questionable non-credit internships I warn about also exist to lure young people into systems of slavery. Its gotten so bad these types of arrangements are quickly becoming illegal in California.

The reality of such internships is that the slave-drivers only desire one thing: unpaid work. There is NO promise that you will move up or land any type of a paid job. When your internship finishes, they will discard you and find the next victim.

The biggest reason to avoid internships is the mentality behind the deal. Imagine a law firm or a film studio that is a multi-billion dollar operation. How hard would it be to throw their new recruit at LEAST minimum wage? The fact such a company would, despite their huge profits, still desire unpaid labor is indicative of a slave-driving mentality that funnels wealth to the top at the expense of the people on the bottom making it possible.

As a professional, it would be best for you to avoid doing any type of business with any individual or company that possesses a philosophy like this.

Employment-slavery situations are common. Very common. But ultimately, the biggest factor in determining how bad it is, is a single question: are you happy?

If you are happy at $8.25 an hour with no benefits, because you like the people you work with, you like the nature of the work, and you feel its moving you somewhere you want to bethen its not slavery. Youre making an investment thatll either pay off, or it wontbut at least you enjoy what youre doing.

However, if you are miserable in your current conditions, its quite possible that the uneasy feeling in your gut is your intuition telling you that someone is taking advantage of you.

Employment is supposed to be a business contract, and an exchange of services. Never a system of control. Sometimes, just the willingness to walk away is your strongest defense against a terrible job situation.

For more about avoiding systems of employment-slavery, please see my short books: Freedom: How to Make Money From Your Dreams and Ambitions, and How to Quit Your Job: Escape Soul Crushing Work, Create the Life You Want, and Live Happy.

(For more books, also check out the Developed Life bookstore, http://www.developedlife.com/bookstore).

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8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

Wage slavery – Wikipedia

Wage slavery is a term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor by focusing on similarities between owning and renting a person. It is usually used to refer to a situation where a person’s livelihood depends on wages or a salary, especially when the dependence is total and immediate.[1][2]

The term “wage slavery” has been used to criticize exploitation of labour and social stratification, with the former seen primarily as unequal bargaining power between labor and capital (particularly when workers are paid comparatively low wages, e.g. in sweatshops)[3] and the latter as a lack of workers’ self-management, fulfilling job choices and leisure in an economy.[4][5][6] The criticism of social stratification covers a wider range of employment choices bound by the pressures of a hierarchical society to perform otherwise unfulfilling work that deprives humans of their “species character”[7] not only under threat of starvation or poverty, but also of social stigma and status diminution.[8][9][10]

Similarities between wage labor and slavery were noted as early as Cicero in Ancient Rome, such as in De Officiis.[11] With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, thinkers such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Karl Marx elaborated the comparison between wage labor and slavery,[12][13] while Luddites emphasized the dehumanization brought about by machines. Before the American Civil War, Southern defenders of African American slavery invoked the concept of wage slavery to favorably compare the condition of their slaves to workers in the North.[14][15] The United States abolished slavery after the Civil War, but labor union activists found the metaphor useful. According to Lawrence Glickman, in the Gilded Age “[r]eferences abounded in the labor press, and it is hard to find a speech by a labor leader without the phrase”.[16]

The introduction of wage labor in 18th-century Britain was met with resistance, giving rise to the principles of syndicalism.[17][18][19][20] Historically, some labor organizations and individual social activists have espoused workers’ self-management or worker cooperatives as possible alternatives to wage labor.[5][19]

The view that working for wages is akin to slavery dates back to the ancient world.[22] In ancient Rome, Cicero wrote that “whoever gives his labor for money sells himself and puts himself in the rank of slaves”.[11]

In 1763, the French journalist Simon Linguet published an influential description of wage slavery:[13]

The slave was precious to his master because of the money he had cost him… They were worth at least as much as they could be sold for in the market… It is the impossibility of living by any other means that compels our farm labourers to till the soil whose fruits they will not eat and our masons to construct buildings in which they will not live… It is want that compels them to go down on their knees to the rich man in order to get from him permission to enrich him… what effective gain [has] the suppression of slavery brought [him?] He is free, you say. Ah! That is his misfortune… These men… [have] the most terrible, the most imperious of masters, that is, need…. They must therefore find someone to hire them, or die of hunger. Is that to be free?

The view that wage work has substantial similarities with chattel slavery was actively put forward in the late 18th and 19th centuries by defenders of chattel slavery (most notably in the Southern states of the United States) and by opponents of capitalism (who were also critics of chattel slavery).[9][23] Some defenders of slavery, mainly from the Southern slave states, argued that Northern workers were “free but in name the slaves of endless toil” and that their slaves were better off.[24][25] This contention has been partly corroborated by some modern studies that indicate slaves’ material conditions in the 19th century were “better than what was typically available to free urban laborers at the time”.[26][27] In this period, Henry David Thoreau wrote that “[i]t is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself”.[28]

Some abolitionists in the United States regarded the analogy as spurious.[29] They believed that wage workers were “neither wronged nor oppressed”.[30] Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans argued that the condition of wage workers was different from slavery as laborers were likely to have the opportunity to work for themselves in the future, achieving self-employment.[31] The abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass initially declared “now I am my own master”, upon taking a paying job.[32] However, later in life he concluded to the contrary, saying “experience demonstrates that there may be a slavery of wages only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other”.[33][34] Douglass went on to speak about these conditions as arising from the unequal bargaining power between the ownership/capitalist class and the non-ownership/laborer class within a compulsory monetary market: “No more crafty and effective devise for defrauding the southern laborers could be adopted than the one that substitutes orders upon shopkeepers for currency in payment of wages. It has the merit of a show of honesty, while it puts the laborer completely at the mercy of the land-owner and the shopkeeper”.[35]

Self-employment became less common as the artisan tradition slowly disappeared in the later part of the 19th century.[5] In 1869, The New York Times described the system of wage labor as “a system of slavery as absolute if not as degrading as that which lately prevailed at the South”.[31] E. P. Thompson notes that for British workers at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, the “gap in status between a ‘servant,’ a hired wage-laborer subject to the orders and discipline of the master, and an artisan, who might ‘come and go’ as he pleased, was wide enough for men to shed blood rather than allow themselves to be pushed from one side to the other. And, in the value system of the community, those who resisted degradation were in the right”.[17] A “Member of the Builders’ Union” in the 1830s argued that the trade unions “will not only strike for less work, and more wages, but will ultimately abolish wages, become their own masters and work for each other; labor and capital will no longer be separate but will be indissolubly joined together in the hands of workmen and work-women”.[18] This perspective inspired the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of 1834 which had the “two-fold purpose of syndicalist unions the protection of the workers under the existing system and the formation of the nuclei of the future society” when the unions “take over the whole industry of the country”.[19] “Research has shown”, summarises William Lazonick, “that the ‘free-born Englishman’ of the eighteenth century even those who, by force of circumstance, had to submit to agricultural wage labour tenaciously resisted entry into the capitalist workshop”.[20]

The use of the term “wage slave” by labor organizations may originate from the labor protests of the Lowell Mill Girls in 1836.[36] The imagery of wage slavery was widely used by labor organizations during the mid-19th century to object to the lack of workers’ self-management. However, it was gradually replaced by the more neutral term “wage work” towards the end of the 19th century as labor organizations shifted their focus to raising wages.[5]

Karl Marx described capitalist society as infringing on individual autonomy because it is based on a materialistic and commodified concept of the body and its liberty (i.e. as something that is sold, rented, or alienated in a class society). According to Friedrich Engels:[37][38]

The slave is sold once and for all; the proletarian must sell himself daily and hourly. The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master’s interest. The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence.

Critics of wage work have drawn several similarities between wage work and slavery:

According to American anarcho-syndicalist philosopher Noam Chomsky, the similarities between chattel and wage slavery were noticed by the workers themselves. He noted that the 19th-century Lowell Mill Girls, who without any reported knowledge of European Marxism or anarchism condemned the “degradation and subordination” of the newly emerging industrial system and the “new spirit of the age: gain wealth, forgetting all but self”, maintaining that “those who work in the mills should own them”.[44][45] They expressed their concerns in a protest song during their 1836 strike:

Oh! isn’t it a pity, such a pretty girl as IShould be sent to the factory to pine away and die?Oh! I cannot be a slave, I will not be a slave,For I’m so fond of liberty,That I cannot be a slave.[46]

Defenses of wage labor and chattel slavery in the literature have linked the subjection of man to man with the subjection of man to nature arguing that hierarchy and a social system’s particular relations of production represent human nature and are no more coercive than the reality of life itself. According to this narrative, any well-intentioned attempt to fundamentally change the status quo is naively utopian and will result in more oppressive conditions.[47] Bosses in both of these long-lasting systems argued that their system created a lot of wealth and prosperity. In some sense, both did create jobs and their investment entailed risk. For example, slave owners risked losing money by buying chattel slaves who later became ill or died; while bosses risked losing money by hiring workers (wage slaves) to make products that did not sell well on the market. Marginally, both chattel and wage slaves may become bosses; sometimes by working hard. It may be the “rags to riches” story which occasionally occurs in capitalism, or the “slave to master” story that occurred in places like colonial Brazil, where slaves could buy their own freedom and become business owners, self-employed, or slave owners themselves.[48] Social mobility, or the hard work and risk that it may entail, are thus not considered to be a redeeming factor by critics of the concept of wage slavery.[49]

Anthropologist David Graeber has noted that historically the first wage labor contracts we know about whether in ancient Greece or Rome, or in the Malay or Swahili city states in the Indian Ocean were in fact contracts for the rental of chattel slaves (usually the owner would receive a share of the money and the slave another, with which to maintain his or her living expenses). According to Graeber, such arrangements were quite common in New World slavery as well, whether in the United States or Brazil. C. L. R. James argued that most of the techniques of human organization employed on factory workers during the Industrial Revolution were first developed on slave plantations.[50]

The usage of the term “wage slavery” shifted to “wage work” at the end of the 19th century as groups like the Knights of Labor and American Federation of Labor shifted to a more reformist, trade union ideology instead of worker’s self-management. Much of the decline was caused by the rapid increase in manufacturing after the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent dominance of wage labor as a result. Another factor was immigration and demographic changes that led to ethnic tension between the workers.[5]

As Hallgrimsdottir and Benoit point out:

[I]ncreased centralization of production… declining wages… [an] expanding… labor pool… intensifying competition, and… [t]he loss of competence and independence experienced by skilled labor” meant that “a critique that referred to all [wage] work as slavery and avoided demands for wage concessions in favor of supporting the creation of the producerist republic (by diverting strike funds towards funding… co-operatives, for example) was far less compelling than one that identified the specific conditions of slavery as low wages.[5]

Some anti-capitalist thinkers claim that the elite maintain wage slavery and a divided working class through their influence over the media and entertainment industry,[51][52] educational institutions, unjust laws, nationalist and corporate propaganda, pressures and incentives to internalize values serviceable to the power structure, state violence, fear of unemployment,[53] and a historical legacy of exploitation and profit accumulation/transfer under prior systems, which shaped the development of economic theory. Adam Smith noted that employers often conspire together to keep wages low and have the upper hand in conflicts between workers and employers:[54]

The interest of the dealers… in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public… [They] have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public… We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate… It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms.

The concept of wage slavery could conceivably be traced back to pre-capitalist figures like Gerrard Winstanley from the radical Christian Diggers movement in England, who wrote in his 1649 pamphlet, The New Law of Righteousness, that there “shall be no buying or selling, no fairs nor markets, but the whole earth shall be a common treasury for every man” and “there shall be none Lord over others, but every one shall be a Lord of himself”.[55]

Aristotle stated that “the citizens must not live a mechanic or a mercantile life (for such a life is ignoble and inimical to virtue), nor yet must those who are to be citizens in the best state be tillers of the soil (for leisure is needed both for the development of virtue and for active participation in politics)”,[56] often paraphrased as “all paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind”.[57] Cicero wrote in 44 BC that “vulgar are the means of livelihood of all hired workmen whom we pay for mere manual labour, not for artistic skill; for in their case the very wage they receive is a pledge of their slavery”.[11] Somewhat similar criticisms have also been expressed by some proponents of liberalism, like Silvio Gesell and Thomas Paine;[58] Henry George, who inspired the economic philosophy known as Georgism;[9] and the Distributist school of thought within the Catholic Church.

To Karl Marx and anarchist thinkers like Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, wage slavery was a class condition in place due to the existence of private property and the state. This class situation rested primarily on:

And secondarily on:

Fascism was more hostile against independent trade unions than modern economies in Europe or the United States.[60] Fascist economic policies were widely accepted in the 1920s and 1930s and foreign (especially the United States) corporate investment in Italy and Germany increased after the fascist take over.[61][62]

Fascism has been perceived by some notable critics, like Buenaventura Durruti, to be a last resort weapon of the privileged to ensure the maintenance of wage slavery:

No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges.[63]

According to Noam Chomsky, analysis of the psychological implications of wage slavery goes back to the Enlightenment era. In his 1791 book The Limits of State Action, classical liberal thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt explained how “whatever does not spring from a man’s free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness” and so when the laborer works under external control, “we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is”.[64] Both the Milgram and Stanford experiments have been found useful in the psychological study of wage-based workplace relations.[65]

According to research, modern work provides people with a sense of personal and social identity that is tied to:

Thus job loss entails the loss of this identity.[66]

Erich Fromm argued that if a person perceives himself as being what he owns, then when that person loses (or even thinks of losing) what he “owns” (e.g. the good looks or sharp mind that allow him to sell his labor for high wages) a fear of loss may create anxiety and authoritarian tendencies because that person’s sense of identity is threatened. In contrast, when a person’s sense of self is based on what he experiences in a state of being (creativity, love, sadness, taste, sight and the like) with a less materialistic regard for what he once had and lost, or may lose, then less authoritarian tendencies prevail. In his view, the state of being flourishes under a worker-managed workplace and economy, whereas self-ownership entails a materialistic notion of self, created to rationalize the lack of worker control that would allow for a state of being.[67]

Investigative journalist Robert Kuttner analyzed the work of public-health scholars Jeffrey Johnson and Ellen Hall about modern conditions of work and concludes that “to be in a life situation where one experiences relentless demands by others, over which one has relatively little control, is to be at risk of poor health, physically as well as mentally”. Under wage labor, “a relatively small elite demands and gets empowerment, self-actualization, autonomy, and other work satisfaction that partially compensate for long hours” while “epidemiological data confirm that lower-paid, lower-status workers are more likely to experience the most clinically damaging forms of stress, in part because they have less control over their work”.[68]

Wage slavery and the educational system that precedes it “implies power held by the leader. Without power the leader is inept. The possession of power inevitably leads to corruption… in spite of… good intentions… [Leadership means] power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self-respect which comes from expressed manhood, is taken from the men, and consolidated in the leader. The sum of their initiative, their responsibility, their self-respect becomes his… [and the] order and system he maintains is based upon the suppression of the men, from being independent thinkers into being ‘the men’… In a word, he is compelled to become an autocrat and a foe to democracy”. For the “leader”, such marginalisation can be beneficial, for a leader “sees no need for any high level of intelligence in the rank and file, except to applaud his actions. Indeed such intelligence from his point of view, by breeding criticism and opposition, is an obstacle and causes confusion”.[69] Wage slavery “implies erosion of the human personality… [because] some men submit to the will of others, arousing in these instincts which predispose them to cruelty and indifference in the face of the suffering of their fellows”.[70]

In 19th-century discussions of labor relations, it was normally assumed that the threat of starvation forced those without property to work for wages. Proponents of the view that modern forms of employment constitute wage slavery, even when workers appear to have a range of available alternatives, have attributed its perpetuation to a variety of social factors that maintain the hegemony of the employer class.[43][71]

In an account of the Lowell Mill Girls, Harriet Hanson Robinson wrote that generously high wages were offered to overcome the degrading nature of the work:

At the time the Lowell cotton mills were started the caste of the factory girl was the lowest among the employments of women…. She was represented as subjected to influences that must destroy her purity and selfrespect. In the eyes of her overseer she was but a brute, a slave, to be beaten, pinched and pushed about. It was to overcome this prejudice that such high wages had been offered to women that they might be induced to become millgirls, in spite of the opprobrium that still clung to this degrading occupation.[72]

In his book Disciplined Minds, Jeff Schmidt points out that professionals are trusted to run organizations in the interests of their employers. Because employers cannot be on hand to manage every decision, professionals are trained to “ensure that each and every detail of their work favors the right interestsor skewers the disfavored ones” in the absence of overt control:

The resulting professional is an obedient thinker, an intellectual property whom employers can trust to experiment, theorize, innovate and create safely within the confines of an assigned ideology.[73]

Parecon (participatory economics) theory posits a social class “between labor and capital” of higher paid professionals such as “doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers and others” who monopolize empowering labor and constitute a class above wage laborers who do mostly “obedient, rote work”.[74]

The terms “employee” or “worker” have often been replaced by “associate”. This plays up the allegedly voluntary nature of the interaction while playing down the subordinate status of the wage laborer as well as the worker-boss class distinction emphasized by labor movements. Billboards as well as television, Internet and newspaper advertisements consistently show low-wage workers with smiles on their faces, appearing happy.[75]

Job interviews and other data on requirements for lower skilled workers in developed countries particularly in the growing service sector indicate that the more workers depend on low wages and the less skilled or desirable their job is, the more employers screen for workers without better employment options and expect them to feign unremunerative motivation.[76] Such screening and feigning may not only contribute to the positive self-image of the employer as someone granting desirable employment, but also signal wage-dependence by indicating the employee’s willingness to feign, which in turn may discourage the dissatisfaction normally associated with job-switching or union activity.[76]

At the same time, employers in the service industry have justified unstable, part-time employment and low wages by playing down the importance of service jobs for the lives of the wage laborers (e.g. just temporary before finding something better, student summer jobs and the like).[77][78]

In the early 20th century, “scientific methods of strikebreaking”[79] were devised employing a variety of tactics that emphasized how strikes undermined “harmony” and “Americanism”.[80]

Some social activists objecting to the market system or price system of wage working historically have considered syndicalism, worker cooperatives, workers’ self-management and workers’ control as possible alternatives to the current wage system.[4][5][6][19]

The American philosopher John Dewey believed that until “industrial feudalism” is replaced by “industrial democracy”, politics will be “the shadow cast on society by big business”.[81] Thomas Ferguson has postulated in his investment theory of party competition that the undemocratic nature of economic institutions under capitalism causes elections to become occasions when blocs of investors coalesce and compete to control the state.[82]

Noam Chomsky has argued that political theory tends to blur the ‘elite’ function of government:

Modern political theory stresses Madison’s belief that “in a just and a free government the rights both of property and of persons ought to be effectually guarded.” But in this case too it is useful to look at the doctrine more carefully. There are no rights of property, only rights to property that is, rights of persons with property,…

[In] representative democracy, as in, say, the United States or Great Britain [] there is a monopoly of power centralized in the state, and secondly and critically [] the representative democracy is limited to the political sphere and in no serious way encroaches on the economic sphere [] That is, as long as individuals are compelled to rent themselves on the market to those who are willing to hire them, as long as their role in production is simply that of ancillary tools, then there are striking elements of coercion and oppression that make talk of democracy very limited, if even meaningful.[83]

In this regard, Chomsky has used Bakunin’s theories about an “instinct for freedom”,[84] the militant history of labor movements, Kropotkin’s mutual aid evolutionary principle of survival and Marc Hauser’s theories supporting an innate and universal moral faculty,[85] to explain the incompatibility of oppression with certain aspects of human nature.[86][87]

Loyola University philosophy professor John Clark and libertarian socialist philosopher Murray Bookchin have criticized the system of wage labor for encouraging environmental destruction, arguing that a self-managed industrial society would better manage the environment. Like other anarchists,[88] they attribute much of the Industrial Revolution’s pollution to the “hierarchical” and “competitive” economic relations accompanying it.[89]

Some criticize wage slavery on strictly contractual grounds, e.g. David Ellerman and Carole Pateman, arguing that the employment contract is a legal fiction in that it treats human beings juridically as mere tools or inputs by abdicating responsibility and self-determination, which the critics argue are inalienable. As Ellerman points out, “[t]he employee is legally transformed from being a co-responsible partner to being only an input supplier sharing no legal responsibility for either the input liabilities [costs] or the produced outputs [revenue, profits] of the employer’s business”.[90] Such contracts are inherently invalid “since the person remain[s] a de facto fully capacitated adult person with only the contractual role of a non-person” as it is impossible to physically transfer self-determination.[91] As Pateman argues:

The contractarian argument is unassailable all the time it is accepted that abilities can ‘acquire’ an external relation to an individual, and can be treated as if they were property. To treat abilities in this manner is also implicitly to accept that the ‘exchange’ between employer and worker is like any other exchange of material property … The answer to the question of how property in the person can be contracted out is that no such procedure is possible. Labour power, capacities or services, cannot be separated from the person of the worker like pieces of property.[92]

In a modern liberal capitalist society, the employment contract is enforced while the enslavement contract is not; the former being considered valid because of its consensual/non-coercive nature and the latter being considered inherently invalid, consensual or not. The noted economist Paul Samuelson described this discrepancy:

Since slavery was abolished, human earning power is forbidden by law to be capitalized. A man is not even free to sell himself; he must rent himself at a wage.[93]

Some advocates of right-libertarianism, among them philosopher Robert Nozick, address this inconsistency in modern societies arguing that a consistently libertarian society would allow and regard as valid consensual/non-coercive enslavement contracts, rejecting the notion of inalienable rights:

The comparable question about an individual is whether a free system will allow him to sell himself into slavery. I believe that it would.[94]

Others like Murray Rothbard allow for the possibility of debt slavery, asserting that a lifetime labour contract can be broken so long as the slave pays appropriate damages:

[I]f A has agreed to work for life for B in exchange for 10,000 grams of gold, he will have to return the proportionate amount of property if he terminates the arrangement and ceases to work.[95]

In the philosophy of mainstream, neoclassical economics, wage labor is seen as the voluntary sale of one’s own time and efforts, just like a carpenter would sell a chair, or a farmer would sell wheat. It is considered neither an antagonistic nor abusive relationship and carries no particular moral implications.[96]

Austrian economics argues that a person is not “free” unless they can sell their labor because otherwise that person has no self-ownership and will be owned by a “third party” of individuals.[97]

Post-Keynesian economics perceives wage slavery as resulting from inequality of bargaining power between labor and capital, which exists when the economy does not “allow labor to organize and form a strong countervailing force”.[98]

The two main forms of socialist economics perceive wage slavery differently:

Excerpt from:

Wage slavery – Wikipedia

Wage slavery – Wikipedia

Wage slavery is a term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor by focusing on similarities between owning and renting a person. It is usually used to refer to a situation where a person’s livelihood depends on wages or a salary, especially when the dependence is total and immediate.[1][2]

The term “wage slavery” has been used to criticize exploitation of labour and social stratification, with the former seen primarily as unequal bargaining power between labor and capital (particularly when workers are paid comparatively low wages, e.g. in sweatshops)[3] and the latter as a lack of workers’ self-management, fulfilling job choices and leisure in an economy.[4][5][6] The criticism of social stratification covers a wider range of employment choices bound by the pressures of a hierarchical society to perform otherwise unfulfilling work that deprives humans of their “species character”[7] not only under threat of starvation or poverty, but also of social stigma and status diminution.[8][9][10]

Similarities between wage labor and slavery were noted as early as Cicero in Ancient Rome, such as in De Officiis.[11] With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, thinkers such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Karl Marx elaborated the comparison between wage labor and slavery,[12][13] while Luddites emphasized the dehumanization brought about by machines. Before the American Civil War, Southern defenders of African American slavery invoked the concept of wage slavery to favorably compare the condition of their slaves to workers in the North.[14][15] The United States abolished slavery after the Civil War, but labor union activists found the metaphor useful. According to Lawrence Glickman, in the Gilded Age “[r]eferences abounded in the labor press, and it is hard to find a speech by a labor leader without the phrase”.[16]

The introduction of wage labor in 18th-century Britain was met with resistance, giving rise to the principles of syndicalism.[17][18][19][20] Historically, some labor organizations and individual social activists have espoused workers’ self-management or worker cooperatives as possible alternatives to wage labor.[5][19]

The view that working for wages is akin to slavery dates back to the ancient world.[22] In ancient Rome, Cicero wrote that “whoever gives his labor for money sells himself and puts himself in the rank of slaves”.[11]

In 1763, the French journalist Simon Linguet published an influential description of wage slavery:[13]

The slave was precious to his master because of the money he had cost him… They were worth at least as much as they could be sold for in the market… It is the impossibility of living by any other means that compels our farm labourers to till the soil whose fruits they will not eat and our masons to construct buildings in which they will not live… It is want that compels them to go down on their knees to the rich man in order to get from him permission to enrich him… what effective gain [has] the suppression of slavery brought [him?] He is free, you say. Ah! That is his misfortune… These men… [have] the most terrible, the most imperious of masters, that is, need…. They must therefore find someone to hire them, or die of hunger. Is that to be free?

The view that wage work has substantial similarities with chattel slavery was actively put forward in the late 18th and 19th centuries by defenders of chattel slavery (most notably in the Southern states of the United States) and by opponents of capitalism (who were also critics of chattel slavery).[9][23] Some defenders of slavery, mainly from the Southern slave states, argued that Northern workers were “free but in name the slaves of endless toil” and that their slaves were better off.[24][25] This contention has been partly corroborated by some modern studies that indicate slaves’ material conditions in the 19th century were “better than what was typically available to free urban laborers at the time”.[26][27] In this period, Henry David Thoreau wrote that “[i]t is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself”.[28]

Some abolitionists in the United States regarded the analogy as spurious.[29] They believed that wage workers were “neither wronged nor oppressed”.[30] Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans argued that the condition of wage workers was different from slavery as laborers were likely to have the opportunity to work for themselves in the future, achieving self-employment.[31] The abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass initially declared “now I am my own master”, upon taking a paying job.[32] However, later in life he concluded to the contrary, saying “experience demonstrates that there may be a slavery of wages only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other”.[33][34] Douglass went on to speak about these conditions as arising from the unequal bargaining power between the ownership/capitalist class and the non-ownership/laborer class within a compulsory monetary market: “No more crafty and effective devise for defrauding the southern laborers could be adopted than the one that substitutes orders upon shopkeepers for currency in payment of wages. It has the merit of a show of honesty, while it puts the laborer completely at the mercy of the land-owner and the shopkeeper”.[35]

Self-employment became less common as the artisan tradition slowly disappeared in the later part of the 19th century.[5] In 1869, The New York Times described the system of wage labor as “a system of slavery as absolute if not as degrading as that which lately prevailed at the South”.[31] E. P. Thompson notes that for British workers at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, the “gap in status between a ‘servant,’ a hired wage-laborer subject to the orders and discipline of the master, and an artisan, who might ‘come and go’ as he pleased, was wide enough for men to shed blood rather than allow themselves to be pushed from one side to the other. And, in the value system of the community, those who resisted degradation were in the right”.[17] A “Member of the Builders’ Union” in the 1830s argued that the trade unions “will not only strike for less work, and more wages, but will ultimately abolish wages, become their own masters and work for each other; labor and capital will no longer be separate but will be indissolubly joined together in the hands of workmen and work-women”.[18] This perspective inspired the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of 1834 which had the “two-fold purpose of syndicalist unions the protection of the workers under the existing system and the formation of the nuclei of the future society” when the unions “take over the whole industry of the country”.[19] “Research has shown”, summarises William Lazonick, “that the ‘free-born Englishman’ of the eighteenth century even those who, by force of circumstance, had to submit to agricultural wage labour tenaciously resisted entry into the capitalist workshop”.[20]

The use of the term “wage slave” by labor organizations may originate from the labor protests of the Lowell Mill Girls in 1836.[36] The imagery of wage slavery was widely used by labor organizations during the mid-19th century to object to the lack of workers’ self-management. However, it was gradually replaced by the more neutral term “wage work” towards the end of the 19th century as labor organizations shifted their focus to raising wages.[5]

Karl Marx described capitalist society as infringing on individual autonomy because it is based on a materialistic and commodified concept of the body and its liberty (i.e. as something that is sold, rented, or alienated in a class society). According to Friedrich Engels:[37][38]

The slave is sold once and for all; the proletarian must sell himself daily and hourly. The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master’s interest. The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence.

Critics of wage work have drawn several similarities between wage work and slavery:

According to American anarcho-syndicalist philosopher Noam Chomsky, the similarities between chattel and wage slavery were noticed by the workers themselves. He noted that the 19th-century Lowell Mill Girls, who without any reported knowledge of European Marxism or anarchism condemned the “degradation and subordination” of the newly emerging industrial system and the “new spirit of the age: gain wealth, forgetting all but self”, maintaining that “those who work in the mills should own them”.[44][45] They expressed their concerns in a protest song during their 1836 strike:

Oh! isn’t it a pity, such a pretty girl as IShould be sent to the factory to pine away and die?Oh! I cannot be a slave, I will not be a slave,For I’m so fond of liberty,That I cannot be a slave.[46]

Defenses of wage labor and chattel slavery in the literature have linked the subjection of man to man with the subjection of man to nature arguing that hierarchy and a social system’s particular relations of production represent human nature and are no more coercive than the reality of life itself. According to this narrative, any well-intentioned attempt to fundamentally change the status quo is naively utopian and will result in more oppressive conditions.[47] Bosses in both of these long-lasting systems argued that their system created a lot of wealth and prosperity. In some sense, both did create jobs and their investment entailed risk. For example, slave owners risked losing money by buying chattel slaves who later became ill or died; while bosses risked losing money by hiring workers (wage slaves) to make products that did not sell well on the market. Marginally, both chattel and wage slaves may become bosses; sometimes by working hard. It may be the “rags to riches” story which occasionally occurs in capitalism, or the “slave to master” story that occurred in places like colonial Brazil, where slaves could buy their own freedom and become business owners, self-employed, or slave owners themselves.[48] Social mobility, or the hard work and risk that it may entail, are thus not considered to be a redeeming factor by critics of the concept of wage slavery.[49]

Anthropologist David Graeber has noted that historically the first wage labor contracts we know about whether in ancient Greece or Rome, or in the Malay or Swahili city states in the Indian Ocean were in fact contracts for the rental of chattel slaves (usually the owner would receive a share of the money and the slave another, with which to maintain his or her living expenses). According to Graeber, such arrangements were quite common in New World slavery as well, whether in the United States or Brazil. C. L. R. James argued that most of the techniques of human organization employed on factory workers during the Industrial Revolution were first developed on slave plantations.[50]

The usage of the term “wage slavery” shifted to “wage work” at the end of the 19th century as groups like the Knights of Labor and American Federation of Labor shifted to a more reformist, trade union ideology instead of worker’s self-management. Much of the decline was caused by the rapid increase in manufacturing after the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent dominance of wage labor as a result. Another factor was immigration and demographic changes that led to ethnic tension between the workers.[5]

As Hallgrimsdottir and Benoit point out:

[I]ncreased centralization of production… declining wages… [an] expanding… labor pool… intensifying competition, and… [t]he loss of competence and independence experienced by skilled labor” meant that “a critique that referred to all [wage] work as slavery and avoided demands for wage concessions in favor of supporting the creation of the producerist republic (by diverting strike funds towards funding… co-operatives, for example) was far less compelling than one that identified the specific conditions of slavery as low wages.[5]

Some anti-capitalist thinkers claim that the elite maintain wage slavery and a divided working class through their influence over the media and entertainment industry,[51][52] educational institutions, unjust laws, nationalist and corporate propaganda, pressures and incentives to internalize values serviceable to the power structure, state violence, fear of unemployment,[53] and a historical legacy of exploitation and profit accumulation/transfer under prior systems, which shaped the development of economic theory. Adam Smith noted that employers often conspire together to keep wages low and have the upper hand in conflicts between workers and employers:[54]

The interest of the dealers… in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public… [They] have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public… We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate… It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms.

The concept of wage slavery could conceivably be traced back to pre-capitalist figures like Gerrard Winstanley from the radical Christian Diggers movement in England, who wrote in his 1649 pamphlet, The New Law of Righteousness, that there “shall be no buying or selling, no fairs nor markets, but the whole earth shall be a common treasury for every man” and “there shall be none Lord over others, but every one shall be a Lord of himself”.[55]

Aristotle stated that “the citizens must not live a mechanic or a mercantile life (for such a life is ignoble and inimical to virtue), nor yet must those who are to be citizens in the best state be tillers of the soil (for leisure is needed both for the development of virtue and for active participation in politics)”,[56] often paraphrased as “all paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind”.[57] Cicero wrote in 44 BC that “vulgar are the means of livelihood of all hired workmen whom we pay for mere manual labour, not for artistic skill; for in their case the very wage they receive is a pledge of their slavery”.[11] Somewhat similar criticisms have also been expressed by some proponents of liberalism, like Silvio Gesell and Thomas Paine;[58] Henry George, who inspired the economic philosophy known as Georgism;[9] and the Distributist school of thought within the Catholic Church.

To Karl Marx and anarchist thinkers like Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, wage slavery was a class condition in place due to the existence of private property and the state. This class situation rested primarily on:

And secondarily on:

Fascism was more hostile against independent trade unions than modern economies in Europe or the United States.[60] Fascist economic policies were widely accepted in the 1920s and 1930s and foreign (especially the United States) corporate investment in Italy and Germany increased after the fascist take over.[61][62]

Fascism has been perceived by some notable critics, like Buenaventura Durruti, to be a last resort weapon of the privileged to ensure the maintenance of wage slavery:

No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges.[63]

According to Noam Chomsky, analysis of the psychological implications of wage slavery goes back to the Enlightenment era. In his 1791 book The Limits of State Action, classical liberal thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt explained how “whatever does not spring from a man’s free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness” and so when the laborer works under external control, “we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is”.[64] Both the Milgram and Stanford experiments have been found useful in the psychological study of wage-based workplace relations.[65]

According to research, modern work provides people with a sense of personal and social identity that is tied to:

Thus job loss entails the loss of this identity.[66]

Erich Fromm argued that if a person perceives himself as being what he owns, then when that person loses (or even thinks of losing) what he “owns” (e.g. the good looks or sharp mind that allow him to sell his labor for high wages) a fear of loss may create anxiety and authoritarian tendencies because that person’s sense of identity is threatened. In contrast, when a person’s sense of self is based on what he experiences in a state of being (creativity, love, sadness, taste, sight and the like) with a less materialistic regard for what he once had and lost, or may lose, then less authoritarian tendencies prevail. In his view, the state of being flourishes under a worker-managed workplace and economy, whereas self-ownership entails a materialistic notion of self, created to rationalize the lack of worker control that would allow for a state of being.[67]

Investigative journalist Robert Kuttner analyzed the work of public-health scholars Jeffrey Johnson and Ellen Hall about modern conditions of work and concludes that “to be in a life situation where one experiences relentless demands by others, over which one has relatively little control, is to be at risk of poor health, physically as well as mentally”. Under wage labor, “a relatively small elite demands and gets empowerment, self-actualization, autonomy, and other work satisfaction that partially compensate for long hours” while “epidemiological data confirm that lower-paid, lower-status workers are more likely to experience the most clinically damaging forms of stress, in part because they have less control over their work”.[68]

Wage slavery and the educational system that precedes it “implies power held by the leader. Without power the leader is inept. The possession of power inevitably leads to corruption… in spite of… good intentions… [Leadership means] power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self-respect which comes from expressed manhood, is taken from the men, and consolidated in the leader. The sum of their initiative, their responsibility, their self-respect becomes his… [and the] order and system he maintains is based upon the suppression of the men, from being independent thinkers into being ‘the men’… In a word, he is compelled to become an autocrat and a foe to democracy”. For the “leader”, such marginalisation can be beneficial, for a leader “sees no need for any high level of intelligence in the rank and file, except to applaud his actions. Indeed such intelligence from his point of view, by breeding criticism and opposition, is an obstacle and causes confusion”.[69] Wage slavery “implies erosion of the human personality… [because] some men submit to the will of others, arousing in these instincts which predispose them to cruelty and indifference in the face of the suffering of their fellows”.[70]

In 19th-century discussions of labor relations, it was normally assumed that the threat of starvation forced those without property to work for wages. Proponents of the view that modern forms of employment constitute wage slavery, even when workers appear to have a range of available alternatives, have attributed its perpetuation to a variety of social factors that maintain the hegemony of the employer class.[43][71]

In an account of the Lowell Mill Girls, Harriet Hanson Robinson wrote that generously high wages were offered to overcome the degrading nature of the work:

At the time the Lowell cotton mills were started the caste of the factory girl was the lowest among the employments of women…. She was represented as subjected to influences that must destroy her purity and selfrespect. In the eyes of her overseer she was but a brute, a slave, to be beaten, pinched and pushed about. It was to overcome this prejudice that such high wages had been offered to women that they might be induced to become millgirls, in spite of the opprobrium that still clung to this degrading occupation.[72]

In his book Disciplined Minds, Jeff Schmidt points out that professionals are trusted to run organizations in the interests of their employers. Because employers cannot be on hand to manage every decision, professionals are trained to “ensure that each and every detail of their work favors the right interestsor skewers the disfavored ones” in the absence of overt control:

The resulting professional is an obedient thinker, an intellectual property whom employers can trust to experiment, theorize, innovate and create safely within the confines of an assigned ideology.[73]

Parecon (participatory economics) theory posits a social class “between labor and capital” of higher paid professionals such as “doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers and others” who monopolize empowering labor and constitute a class above wage laborers who do mostly “obedient, rote work”.[74]

The terms “employee” or “worker” have often been replaced by “associate”. This plays up the allegedly voluntary nature of the interaction while playing down the subordinate status of the wage laborer as well as the worker-boss class distinction emphasized by labor movements. Billboards as well as television, Internet and newspaper advertisements consistently show low-wage workers with smiles on their faces, appearing happy.[75]

Job interviews and other data on requirements for lower skilled workers in developed countries particularly in the growing service sector indicate that the more workers depend on low wages and the less skilled or desirable their job is, the more employers screen for workers without better employment options and expect them to feign unremunerative motivation.[76] Such screening and feigning may not only contribute to the positive self-image of the employer as someone granting desirable employment, but also signal wage-dependence by indicating the employee’s willingness to feign, which in turn may discourage the dissatisfaction normally associated with job-switching or union activity.[76]

At the same time, employers in the service industry have justified unstable, part-time employment and low wages by playing down the importance of service jobs for the lives of the wage laborers (e.g. just temporary before finding something better, student summer jobs and the like).[77][78]

In the early 20th century, “scientific methods of strikebreaking”[79] were devised employing a variety of tactics that emphasized how strikes undermined “harmony” and “Americanism”.[80]

Some social activists objecting to the market system or price system of wage working historically have considered syndicalism, worker cooperatives, workers’ self-management and workers’ control as possible alternatives to the current wage system.[4][5][6][19]

The American philosopher John Dewey believed that until “industrial feudalism” is replaced by “industrial democracy”, politics will be “the shadow cast on society by big business”.[81] Thomas Ferguson has postulated in his investment theory of party competition that the undemocratic nature of economic institutions under capitalism causes elections to become occasions when blocs of investors coalesce and compete to control the state.[82]

Noam Chomsky has argued that political theory tends to blur the ‘elite’ function of government:

Modern political theory stresses Madison’s belief that “in a just and a free government the rights both of property and of persons ought to be effectually guarded.” But in this case too it is useful to look at the doctrine more carefully. There are no rights of property, only rights to property that is, rights of persons with property,…

[In] representative democracy, as in, say, the United States or Great Britain [] there is a monopoly of power centralized in the state, and secondly and critically [] the representative democracy is limited to the political sphere and in no serious way encroaches on the economic sphere [] That is, as long as individuals are compelled to rent themselves on the market to those who are willing to hire them, as long as their role in production is simply that of ancillary tools, then there are striking elements of coercion and oppression that make talk of democracy very limited, if even meaningful.[83]

In this regard, Chomsky has used Bakunin’s theories about an “instinct for freedom”,[84] the militant history of labor movements, Kropotkin’s mutual aid evolutionary principle of survival and Marc Hauser’s theories supporting an innate and universal moral faculty,[85] to explain the incompatibility of oppression with certain aspects of human nature.[86][87]

Loyola University philosophy professor John Clark and libertarian socialist philosopher Murray Bookchin have criticized the system of wage labor for encouraging environmental destruction, arguing that a self-managed industrial society would better manage the environment. Like other anarchists,[88] they attribute much of the Industrial Revolution’s pollution to the “hierarchical” and “competitive” economic relations accompanying it.[89]

Some criticize wage slavery on strictly contractual grounds, e.g. David Ellerman and Carole Pateman, arguing that the employment contract is a legal fiction in that it treats human beings juridically as mere tools or inputs by abdicating responsibility and self-determination, which the critics argue are inalienable. As Ellerman points out, “[t]he employee is legally transformed from being a co-responsible partner to being only an input supplier sharing no legal responsibility for either the input liabilities [costs] or the produced outputs [revenue, profits] of the employer’s business”.[90] Such contracts are inherently invalid “since the person remain[s] a de facto fully capacitated adult person with only the contractual role of a non-person” as it is impossible to physically transfer self-determination.[91] As Pateman argues:

The contractarian argument is unassailable all the time it is accepted that abilities can ‘acquire’ an external relation to an individual, and can be treated as if they were property. To treat abilities in this manner is also implicitly to accept that the ‘exchange’ between employer and worker is like any other exchange of material property … The answer to the question of how property in the person can be contracted out is that no such procedure is possible. Labour power, capacities or services, cannot be separated from the person of the worker like pieces of property.[92]

In a modern liberal capitalist society, the employment contract is enforced while the enslavement contract is not; the former being considered valid because of its consensual/non-coercive nature and the latter being considered inherently invalid, consensual or not. The noted economist Paul Samuelson described this discrepancy:

Since slavery was abolished, human earning power is forbidden by law to be capitalized. A man is not even free to sell himself; he must rent himself at a wage.[93]

Some advocates of right-libertarianism, among them philosopher Robert Nozick, address this inconsistency in modern societies arguing that a consistently libertarian society would allow and regard as valid consensual/non-coercive enslavement contracts, rejecting the notion of inalienable rights:

The comparable question about an individual is whether a free system will allow him to sell himself into slavery. I believe that it would.[94]

Others like Murray Rothbard allow for the possibility of debt slavery, asserting that a lifetime labour contract can be broken so long as the slave pays appropriate damages:

[I]f A has agreed to work for life for B in exchange for 10,000 grams of gold, he will have to return the proportionate amount of property if he terminates the arrangement and ceases to work.[95]

In the philosophy of mainstream, neoclassical economics, wage labor is seen as the voluntary sale of one’s own time and efforts, just like a carpenter would sell a chair, or a farmer would sell wheat. It is considered neither an antagonistic nor abusive relationship and carries no particular moral implications.[96]

Austrian economics argues that a person is not “free” unless they can sell their labor because otherwise that person has no self-ownership and will be owned by a “third party” of individuals.[97]

Post-Keynesian economics perceives wage slavery as resulting from inequality of bargaining power between labor and capital, which exists when the economy does not “allow labor to organize and form a strong countervailing force”.[98]

The two main forms of socialist economics perceive wage slavery differently:

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Wage slavery – Wikipedia

8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

Literal slavery is a horrible practice that still persists into the modern age. But, I want to talk about another form of human exploitationemployment slavery, which can also ruin a persons life. Generally, I consider this a self-inflicted slavery because its ultimately a persons choice to work under such conditionsbut I also understand that brainwashing can occur, creating the illusion that theres no way out.

Slavery (in general) exists because of the inclination among people to obtain the benefits of human resources, while providing little (or nothing) in return. Human work is the most intelligent, efficient way to create a system of wealth and power. For the morally bankrupt, such benefits are sought for free.

Employment, in the best case scenario, is a business deal of mutual benefit. But in other instances, the company is expending such minimal resources that they are taking advantage of you. In the worst case scenario, through a combination of slave-driving principles and psychological techniques to break you down, such a job can morph into something very similar to actual slavery.

If you dont know any better, its easy to fall into slavery conditions. Here are signs that your sense of freedom in life is totally gone:

Because of the way employers conveniently ignore yearly inflation, todays minimal wage is not enough to maintain any semblance of a normal lifestyle. Minimal wage makes some sense in small businesses just starting out. But, In America, $8.25 an hour, or less, from a large, billion-dollar corporation is inexcusable. In this case, your annual wages cost a second of the companys hourly profits. In other words, your hard work is a very bad deal for you, and a killer opportunity for the suits upstairs.

Youre lucky you even have a job! is a psychological taunt that bad employers use to try and keep their wage-slaves from believing they can do any better. Such statements are made to maintain a sense of control. Understand, voluntary slavery is not a rare phenomenon. It happens when a person is brainwashed into the belief that they have nowhere else they can go.

If your manager uses psychological put-downs like this to denigrate your professional abilitiesunderstand that its being done for a reason.

The idea of getting a raise and a promotion may be dangled in-front of you, but youve seen no evidence to suggest that it really happens. In fact, only a very small percentage of your co-workers ever obtain this goal, and they tend to be the cronies of upper-management. If this is the case, then what exactly is your reason for working at this company?

Inconvenient hours are inevitable in jobs, but some companies will abuse the system. This ranges from illegally denying overtime pay, to scheduling month-long bouts of cloping (working until closing hours late at night, then opening hours the next morning) that leaves the employee physically and emotionally drained.

An employee in this system may feel the intense pressure by the bosses to conform to abusive hours, under the threat of being denied promotions or even getting fired for seeking better treatment.

Americas two-week annual vacation time is one of the weakest in the Western world, and American workers tend to not even use it. This is because many employers will hint that vacationers are likely to end up on the shit-list of not getting promoted. They may even hint that unruly vacation-seekers will be the first to get laid-off or fired at the earliest opportunity.

A system of slavery does not allow free-time for individuals to maintain their own lives outside of their work. This could cause dissent and break the system of total control. An unspoken methodology among abusive managers is to destroy the lifestyles of employees so, instead of tending to family or hobbies, they work at full capacity.

Feeling motivated based on high-standards and being scared to go below those standards is one thing, but being genuinely scared of the people youre working for is another.

Slave-masters maintain systems of fear, to break down their subjects and perhapsin timebuild them back up. For the best example of thisplease see Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

Psychological and verbal abuse is usually what occurs. An abusive employer understands exactly what strings to pull to generate feelings of shame or guilt, and theyll use the professional context to destroy a subjects sense of self-worth, perhaps by implying worthlessness at the vocation theyve devoted their life to.

In other instances, the abuse is very overt and could include yelling, tantrums and even physical assaults. But the outcome is the same: the employee living in a constant state of paranoia, fear, and subservience.

Read carefully the ten warning-signs youre in a cult by the Cult Education Institute. Some of these that could be very applicable to a workplace include: absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability, no tolerance for questions or critical inquiry, the leader (boss) is always right, and former followers (employees) are vilified as evil for leaving.

If the job feels less about, you know, getting the job doneand is more about the influence, charisma and infallibility of the bossthen get the heck out of there. This means the person in charge is getting a side-benefit to running or managing the workplace: power and dominance.

The number one sign youre a slave and not an employee is that youre working an unpaid internship, and its not for college credit. You may be promised great benefits and valuable connections, at what amounts to harsh workplace conditions, long hours, and zero pay.

A huge mistake I see young professionals make, and it really irks me, is naivety about peoples intentions. I went to film school for my bachelors, and many students I knew lusted after top internships at film studios or with big names in the entertainment industry. Such internships are often offered regardless of college credit.

When a person is blindsided by their desire to make it and get in with big names, they are likely to make bad decisionsand unscrupulous employers will prey on this desire.

Internships are great IF its part of a students actual curriculum. It means hands-on work and real experience versus useless classrooms. But, the questionable non-credit internships I warn about also exist to lure young people into systems of slavery. Its gotten so bad these types of arrangements are quickly becoming illegal in California.

The reality of such internships is that the slave-drivers only desire one thing: unpaid work. There is NO promise that you will move up or land any type of a paid job. When your internship finishes, they will discard you and find the next victim.

The biggest reason to avoid internships is the mentality behind the deal. Imagine a law firm or a film studio that is a multi-billion dollar operation. How hard would it be to throw their new recruit at LEAST minimum wage? The fact such a company would, despite their huge profits, still desire unpaid labor is indicative of a slave-driving mentality that funnels wealth to the top at the expense of the people on the bottom making it possible.

As a professional, it would be best for you to avoid doing any type of business with any individual or company that possesses a philosophy like this.

Employment-slavery situations are common. Very common. But ultimately, the biggest factor in determining how bad it is, is a single question: are you happy?

If you are happy at $8.25 an hour with no benefits, because you like the people you work with, you like the nature of the work, and you feel its moving you somewhere you want to bethen its not slavery. Youre making an investment thatll either pay off, or it wontbut at least you enjoy what youre doing.

However, if you are miserable in your current conditions, its quite possible that the uneasy feeling in your gut is your intuition telling you that someone is taking advantage of you.

Employment is supposed to be a business contract, and an exchange of services. Never a system of control. Sometimes, just the willingness to walk away is your strongest defense against a terrible job situation.

For more about avoiding systems of employment-slavery, please see my short books: Freedom: How to Make Money From Your Dreams and Ambitions, and How to Quit Your Job: Escape Soul Crushing Work, Create the Life You Want, and Live Happy.

(For more books, also check out the Developed Life bookstore, http://www.developedlife.com/bookstore).

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Excerpt from:

8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

The New American Slavery: Invited To The U.S., Foreign …

MAMOU, Louisiana Travis Manuel and his twin brother, Trey, were shopping at Walmart near this rural town when they met two Mexican women who struck them as sweet. Using a few words of Spanish he had picked up from his Navy days, Travis asked the two women out on a double date.

Around midnight the following Saturday, when they finished their shift at a seafood processing plant, Marisela Valdez and Isy Gonzalez waited for their dates at the remote compound where they lived and worked.

As soon as they got in the Manuel brothers car, the women began saying something about patrn angry, Travis recalled. While he was trying to puzzle out what they meant, his brother, who was driving, interrupted: Dude, Trey said. Theres someone following us.

Trey began to take sudden turns on the country roads threading through the rice paddies that dot the area, trying to lose the pickup truck behind them. Finally, they saw a police car.

I said, were gonna flag down this cop for help, Travis recalled. But the cop pulled us over, lights on, and told us not to get out of the vehicle, Trey added, noting that the pickup pulled up and the driver began conferring with the police.

An officer asked Trey and his brother for ID. From the backseat, their dates began to cry.

Travis tried to reassure them. They werent doing anything wrong, he said, and they were in the United States. I was like, Theres no way they are going to take you away.

He was wrong.

The man in the truck was the womens boss, Craig West, a prominent farmer in the heart of Cajun country. As Sgt. Robert McGee later wrote in a police report, West said that Valdez and Gonzalez were two of his girls, and he asked the cops to haul the women in and scare the girls.

The police brought the women, who were both in their twenties, to the station house. McGee told them they couldnt leave Wests farm without permission, warning that they could wind up dead. To drive home the point, an officer later testified, McGee stood over Valdez and Gonzalez and pantomimed cutting his throat. He also brandished a Taser at them and said they could be deported if they ever left Wests property without his permission.

A little after 2 in the morning, they released the women to West for the 15-minute drive through the steamy night to his compound a place where, the women and the Mexican government say, workers were stripped of their passports and assigned to sleep in a filthy, foul-smelling trailer infested with insects and mice. Valdez and Gonzalez also claimed that they and other women were imprisoned, forced to work for little pay, and frequently harassed by West, who demanded to see their breasts and insisted that having sex with him was their only way out of poverty.

These women were not undocumented immigrants working off the books. They were in the United States legally, as part of a government program that allows employers to import foreign labor for jobs they say Americans wont take but that also allows those companies to control almost every aspect of their employees’ lives.

Each year, more than 100,000 people from countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, and South Africa come to America on what is known as an H-2 visa to perform all kinds of menial labor across a wide spectrum of industries: cleaning rooms at luxury resorts and national parks, picking fruit, cutting lawns and manicuring golf courses, setting up carnival rides, trimming and planting trees, herding sheep, or, in the case of Valdez, Gonzalez, and about 20 other Mexican women in 2011, peeling crawfish at L.T. West Inc.

A BuzzFeed News investigation based on government databases and investigative files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, thousands of court documents, as well as more than 80 interviews with workers and employers shows that the program condemns thousands of employees each year to exploitation and mistreatment, often in plain view of government officials charged with protecting them. All across America, H-2 guest workers complain that they have been cheated out of their wages, threatened with guns, beaten, raped, starved, and imprisoned. Some have even died on the job. Yet employers rarely face any significant consequences.

Many of those employers have since been approved to bring in more guest workers. Some have even been rewarded with lucrative government contracts. Almost none have ever been charged with a crime.

In interview after interview, current and former guest workers often on the verge of tears used the same word to describe their experiences: slavery.

We live where we work, and we cant leave, said Olivia Guzman Garfias, who has been coming to Louisiana as a guest worker from her small town in Mexico since 1997. We are tied to the company. Our visas are in the companys name. If the pay and working conditions arent as we wish, who can we complain to? We are like modern-day slaves.

In a statement, the Department of Labor, which is charged with protecting workers and vetting employers seeking visas, said that the H-2 programs are part of a wider immigration system that is widely acknowledged to be broken, contributing to an uneven playing field where employers who exploit vulnerable workers undermine those who do the right thing.

The number of H-2 visas issued has grown by more than 50% over the past five years. Unlike the better-known H-1B visa program, which brings skilled workers such as computer programmers into Americas high-tech industries, the H-2 program is for the economys bottom rung, designed to make it easier for employers to fill temporary, unskilled positions. Proponents argue that it gives foreigners a chance to work here legally, send home much-needed dollars, and return to their families when the job is over.

In March, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce defended the guest worker program before a Senate committee, noting that such “temporary workers are needed in lesser-skilled occupations that are both seasonal and year round,” and that aspects of the program are “critical” to “American workers, the local community, and companies that provide goods and services to these seasonal businesses.

Tens of thousands of companies, ranging from family businesses to huge corporations, have participated in the program since it took its modern form in 1986. Employers pledge to pay their workers a set rate, which can range from the federal minimum wage to a higher prevailing wage that varies from state to state and job to job. As for the employees, they can only work for the company that sponsored their visa. They are legally barred from seeking other employment and must leave the country when the job ends.

For some people, such as the hundreds of soccer coaches who youth sports camps bring in every year from the United Kingdom and elsewhere, an H-2 visa offers an opportunity to make some money while spending time in another country. Many companies treat their H-2 employees well, and many guest workers interviewed for this article said they are grateful for the program.

But public records and interviews reveal how easy it is for companies that sponsor H-2 visas to abuse their employees.

Many companies pay their guest workers less than the law mandates. Others pay them for fewer hours than they actually work, or force them to work extremely long hours without overtime. Some, on the other hand, offer them far less work than promised, at times leaving workers without enough money to buy food. Employers also whittle away at wages by imposing an array of prohibited fees starting with bribes to get the jobs in the first place, which can leave workers so deep in debt that they are effectively indentured servants.

Guest workers often toil in conditions that are unsafe, inhumane, or simply exhausting, wielding dangerous machinery beneath a scorching sun or standing for hours on end in sweltering factories. And at the end of their shift, many workers retire to grim, squalid quarters that might be little more than a grimy mattress on the floor of a crowded, vermin-infested trailer. For such housing, some employers charge workers extortionate rent.

Though it is against the law, employers often exert additional control over guest workers by confiscating their passports, without which many foreign workers, fearful of being deported, feel unsafe leaving the worksite. Some employers extend their influence over workers to extremes, screening their mail, preventing them from receiving visitors, banning radios and newspapers, or even coercing them to attend religious services they dont believe in. Some foremen sexually harass female workers, who live in constant fear of losing their jobs and being deported.

The world has become accustomed in recent years to hearing of guest worker abuse in countries such as Qatar or Thailand. But this is happening in the United States. And the problem is not just a few unscrupulous employers. The very structure of the visa program enables widespread abuse and exploitation.

The way H-2 visas shackle workers to a single employer leaves them almost no leverage to demand better treatment. The rules also make it easy to banish a worker to her home country at the bosss whim. And guest workers tend to be so poor and, often, so indebted from the recruitment fees they paid to get the job in the first place that they feel they have no choice but to endure even the worst abuses.

Court documents and interviews revealed numerous cases where workers who tried to speak out said they received threats to their lives. Many others claimed they were blacklisted by employers, losing the opportunity to get jobs that, however miserable, give them more money than they could earn in their own countries.

The government has been warned repeatedly over almost two decades that the guest worker program is deeply troubled, with more than a dozen official reports excoriating it for everything from widespread visa fraud to rampant worker abuse, and even calling for its elimination. Since 2005, Labor Department investigation records show, at least 800 employers have subjected more than 23,000 H-2 guest workers to violations of the federal laws designed to protect them from exploitation, including more than 16,000 instances of H-2 workers being paid less than the promised wage.

Those numbers almost certainly understate the problem, as the federal government doesnt check up on the vast majority of companies that bring guest workers into this country. The Labor Department noted in its statement that it has limited resources, with only about 1,000 investigators to enforce protections for all 135 million workers in the U.S. Still, it said, it recovered more than $2.6 million in back wages owed to roughly 4,500 H-2 workers in the 2014 fiscal year. In that year, the agency said, it found violations in 82% of the H-2 visa cases it investigated.

Kalen Fraser, a former investigator for the Labor Departments Wage and Hour Division who specialized in H-2 visa cases, said that while some companies stumble over complex rules, a substantial portion maliciously violate worker protection laws. Theres a big power imbalance there, and the worst guys get away with everything.

Route 95 between Chataignier and Mamou, Louisiana, winds through endless acres of rice paddies that teem with crawfish after the grain is reaped. The country is dead flat, and stretching to the horizon theres little but lush fields of green, dotted with glassy brown pools beneath a heavy sky. Near a bend in the two-lane highway sits the L.T. West crawfish plant.

It was there that Valdez, Gonzalez, and the other women, tired and stiff from a crowded, 1,500-mile ride up from Mexico, stepped out into the dark, wet heat on the night of April 9, 2011.

Valdez said it was need that had brought her there need and principle. I wanted to work and make money and do it in a legal way, she said in a recent interview, so I didnt have to cross the border illegally or undocumented.

She had left behind her 5-year-old son and her 8-year-old daughter, along with her mother, who was taking care of the children, and her dream at least for a time of finishing her college degree. She was 26. It was her first time away from home.

She landed in one of Americas most distinctive and insular regions. Acadiana stretches from the bayous near the Gulf of Mexico up through Lafayette and into the Cajun Prairie north of Interstate 10. It is a place where Spanish moss drips so thick off trees they can hardly be discerned, French is still many peoples first language, zydeco music blares from the radio, and social life for generations has centered around great feasts of boiled crab, shrimp, and crawfish.

Valdez and Gonzalez claim they were assigned, along with three other of the youngest women, to an isolated trailer that lacked safe drinking water. Valdez was terrified of the dark, of the sounds of animals in the brush, of snakes. The women talked that first night about their goals and what their families would do with the money they earned.

I felt very strange, she said. Being with all these people I didnt know, having to leave behind my life, my family, my things, in a country I had never been in before. I felt very sad. I felt sad, but the truth is the need we had at that moment was so great that we had to do it, we had to be there.

Valdez lay awake, she said, thinking about where I was, how did I get there, why I was in this position. A few hours later, the women were rousted and sent to peel crawfish.

After hatching and maturing in the shallow ponds that spool over the landscape, the crustaceans rusty brown and squirming are plucked from baited traps. The mudbugs are stuffed in mesh sacks, heaved into the back of pickup trucks, then cooked in steel baths until they are bright red.

Then the women go to work. Still steaming, the crawfish are dumped by the basketful onto long metal tables. The workers crowd in, standing shoulder to shoulder or perching on stools. Hour after hour, they pull the heads off and extract the tail meat.

The hot crawfish would hurt your fingers, Valdez said. But the worst thing was the smell. It stung your nostrils, she said. The smell stuck to everything. We carried it home with us.

In its application for H-2 visas, filed in November 2010, L.T. West committed to pay the workers $9.10 an hour, plus overtime. The company also promised the Labor Department it would issue detailed pay statements.

The women soon learned, however, that they would sometimes be paid for each pound of crawfish tails they peeled. Federal law allows guest workers to be paid a piece rate, but only if the employer makes up any difference between that and the promised hourly wage.

L.T. West did not backfill their wages, according to the womens complaint. Some weeks, they said, their piece-rate wages amounted to the equivalent of less than $4 an hour. Sometimes they were given only about 15 hours of work per week.

Craig West denies that he shorted the women. But notes from a Labor Department investigation show that he did not keep proper pay records, making it impossible to verify that assertion.

The women also said West forbade them from leaving his plant and ordered one of his employees to confiscate their passports and visas their only proof, in a region that takes border enforcement seriously, that they were in the U.S. legally. On numerous occasions, they said, West threatened to call police or immigration authorities.

A few days after the disastrous double date, two of the women claimed, West pointed a gun at Valdez, the red beam of his laser scope directly on her face, and told her never to leave the work camp.

West, a solidly built man with a honey drawl, vehemently denied that he mistreated his workers, taking particular umbrage at the allegation involving the gun. He is a hunting instructor and runs the church skeet shoot, he said in an interview outside his home in June, and would never recklessly point a weapon at anyone.

The real story, West said, is that Valdez, Gonzalez, and some of the other women in their trailer were wild, partying and arranging to have cases of beer dropped off at his property. In a sworn deposition, one L.T. West employee said the women went out often and sometimes came back after having been drinking. Another said that West did not get angry if they went out without his permission.

West also denied trying to use the Mamou police to intimidate the women. He called them, he said, because some of the workers had expressed fears that a rapist would sneak onto the property.

Police officers, however, tell a different story. Two testified that when West arrived at the station that night, he was in a state of fury. In a sworn deposition in 2012, Mamou Police Sgt. Lucas Lavergne described Wests behavior this way: He said like looking toward the girls, he said, Mucho fuck you. Mucho kill you.

What happened that night, Travis said, was nuts and wrong. Reflecting on Wests and the polices attitude toward the women, he said, It seemed like we had messed with his property, like we had stolen a horse or did damage to his property.

His brother Trey added, Shortest date ever.

By scouring legal and administrative documents, BuzzFeed News identified more than 800 workers over the last 10 years who complained to authorities that they had their passports confiscated, were held against their will, were physically attacked, or were threatened with harm for trying to leave their housing or job sites. The number who experienced these abuses but did not speak out may be much higher.

In January 2013, a group of Mexican forestry workers said that they had been held at gunpoint in the mountains north of Sacramento and forced to work 13 hours a day and handle chemicals that made them vomit and peeled their skin, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in federal court last year by a Department of Homeland Security investigator.

Their employer, a small forestry contractor out of Idaho called Pure Forest, had also illegally charged the workers about $2,000 apiece for their visas, paid for out of deductions from their paychecks, the workers said. After additional fees were levied for food, they said, they were sometimes left with less than $100 for two weeks of grueling work. In one case, a worker said he was charged $100 for a pair of used shoes held together with nails.

Two of Pure Forests foremen reportedly carried firearms and threatened to shoot workers in the head and leave them in the woods if they did not work harder, the DHS special agent, Eugene Kizenko, wrote. He added that multiple workers heard these threats.

Five workers who escaped sued Pure Forest in federal court last year. They filed the suit, which is ongoing, using pseudonyms; the complaint states that the workers fear retaliation due to threats of bodily injury or death made by defendants.

Pure Forest denied the allegations in court papers and in an interview. Completely false, Owen Wadsworth said by phone. His father, Jeff, owns the company, and Owen was also named in the workers suit. We’ve had nothing but good working relationships with all our employees, he said. The H-2 program seems more set up to put the company, the owner or the employer, in a bad situation, he added, and whatever allegations or negative that come up, it’s treated almost like it’s true, and they’ll assume that you’re the bad guy.

A particularly effective force to keep workers in line is debt.

Interviews and court records reviewed by BuzzFeed News turned up hundreds of workers who claimed they were forced to pay for their visas. Thats illegal; companies are responsible for making sure their labor brokers don’t charge bribes. But diplomats from the U.S. and Mexico say such bribes are rampant. In cables released by WikiLeaks, U.S. consular officials in Mexico, Jamaica, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic describe reports of recruiters demanding fees for visas and also committing fraud in order to get visas approved.

Jacob Joseph Kadakkarappally was eager to come from India to the U.S. to work as a welder at the Pascagoula, Mississippi, shipyard of Signal International in late 2006. But he didn’t have the approximately $14,500 recruiters demanded for the visa and other fees, so first he pawned the gold bangles his wife wore every day on her wrist. Then he hocked a gold chain that, he later testified, is considered to be holy, a symbol of wedding.

Other Signal workers from India, who had been misled into thinking they would get green cards, went deeply into debt or sold property to pay fees. Once the workers arrived in the U.S., Signal housed them in a labor camp, up to 24 men to a trailer, for which Signal charged them each $1,050 a month.

After Kadakkarappally and others began asking for better working and housing conditions, security guards raided his trailer early one morning and managers told him he was fired.

I almost lost my breath, Kadakkarappally testified. He pleaded with managers, he said, recounting his huge debts and telling them that I would not be able to support my family. A fellow worker slit his wrist in a failed suicide attempt.

Kadakkarappally and four other welders eventually sued Signal, and in February a federal jury in New Orleans awarded them $14 million. This month, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced that Signal had agreed to a $20 million settlement that resolves those claims and those of 200 additional Indian welders in 11 related lawsuits. Signal, which filed for bankruptcy to carry out the settlement, also agreed to apologize to its guest workers. Signal did not respond to requests for comment.

Such a victory is extremely rare. Very few H-2 workers have the resources or support to file a lawsuit. Many workers become prisoners of their debt. The best way to pay it off is with a job in the U.S. and the only job H-2 workers can legally get is the one with the company that sponsors their visas.

In so many cases, these workers end up being abused, said Jennifer Gordon, a law professor at Fordham University and a former MacArthur Fellow who has conducted research into the discrimination against and mistreatment of immigrant workers. In routine ways, all the time, the workers pay fees, they are threatened, their families are threatened. And the employer knows that if you get workers through that program, theyre not going to complain.

That stark power imbalance can be downright dangerous, contributing to on-the-job injuries and even deaths.

Leonardo Espinabarro Telles entered the country on an H-2 visa in April 2011, to work for Crystal Rock Amusements as it moved from Pennsylvania to Vermont and back, staging that most American of pastimes: county fairs. The Mexico native had been on the job about three months, living in a crowded converted horse trailer without a working bathroom, when the crew of 17 guest workers arrived in northern Vermont for the Lamoille County Field Days.

A little before 3 in the afternoon on Tuesday, July 19, Espinabarro went to retrieve electrical connectors from a trailer housing the hulking Caterpillar generator that powered the carnival rides.

Inside, two feet separated the trailer wall from the generators massive spinning fan blades. The protective guard over the blades had either broken or been removed. At ankle level, pulleys and fan belts were also exposed.

Espinabarro was alone, so no one witnessed what happened, but co-workers heard cries for help. One man rushed to the trailer to see Espinabarro standing upright, then watched him collapse and fall out of the trailer. His clothing had gotten tangled in the machinery, and the fan blades had ripped through his body. From neck to waist, his back was carved open, his organs spilling out. He was dead by the time he reached the hospital.

Inspectors from the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Crystal Rock management knew the fan blades were unguarded at the time of the accident but had not told the workers. No one had posted proper warning signs. Nor had they delivered safety training in any language.

Vermont OSHA levied $114,550 in fines. The case is still open, because Crystal Rock has not paid.

Asked whether he had ever trained his guest workers how to be safe around heavy equipment, Crystal Rocks owner, Arthur Gillette, told an inspector: How can you train these guys?” adding, “Do you train someone to eat a hot dog?

Gillette, whose company has been certified for at least 358 visas since 2002, added that Mexican workers were mechanically inclined and would figure things out and that if the investigator had ever been to the country she would understand that. He explained: The streets of Mexico, cars were stolen and disassembled with just the frames left on the street.

The Labor Department conducted its own investigation following the accident, finding that Gillette routinely underpaid workers and owed more than $60,000 in back wages. This month, the Maine state fire marshal criminally charged Gillette with falsifying physical evidence after an accident on a roller coaster injured three children at a carnival in Waterville in June.

Gillette, reached by phone, said the criminal charges in Maine were unjust and denied tampering with evidence.

He said both the Labor Department and Vermont OSHA investigations of Crystal Rock, which is now out of business, were unfair. Ive worked dozens of carnivals and dealt with hundreds of foreign employees, he added. The vast majority of the guys that worked for me said I am more than fair. That I owe them nothing. That we are square.

Guest workers in other industries have died after being run over in grisly accidents, or collapsing for unknown reasons. Theyve had limbs amputated and suffered other catastrophic injuries.

On-the-job injuries happen to all kinds of employees, of course, but employers virtually unchecked sway over H-2 workers as well as some employers attitudes about foreigners can foster a cavalier attitude toward workplace dangers. It can also keep workers from pointing out safety violations or even reporting injuries.

In a 2012 report from the Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California, Berkeley, researchers surveyed 150 forestry workers in Oregon, about a third of them on H-2 visas, and found that more than 40% had been injured on the job in the previous 12 months. Fifteen of the workers had suffered broken bones, and another 18 had dislocated one or more bones. And yet workers kept quiet about many of their injuries including more than a quarter of the broken bones and nearly half of the dislocated ones.

The report concluded: They were afraid they would be fired, and they were afraid of otherwise getting in trouble.

Topolobampo occupies a peninsula at the mouth of a bay off the Sea of Cortez in violence-ravaged Sinaloa, the home state of the infamous drug lord Joaqun El Chapo Guzmn. The sparkling sea along the malecn belies a deep listlessness, more stifling than the tropical heat, that has settled over the town. The seafood plant along the waterfront closed down years ago. Mangy dogs range along barely maintained streets, while a few tiny restaurants with cement floors have almost nothing on the menu. Decent jobs outside of the drug trade are hard to find.

As much as a third of the population of 6,500 travels to the swamps and prairies of Louisiana every year to catch and process seafood, according to local recruiters. Those who make the trek are colloquially known as Louisianeros. The rewards of their work are easy to see: solidly built houses, clean tile floors, modern appliances, and framed degrees from private schools. Less visible are the costs: children who grow up in someone elses family, because their own parents are working on the other side.

Fernanda Padilla was just 3 when her mother, Guadalupe, started coming to Louisiana for 10 months a year to process shellfish. I couldnt understand, said Padilla. I used to tell her, I dont care. Ill eat rice and beans every day, but be here with me.

But at 17, Padilla dropped out of school and decided to follow in her mothers footsteps to make money. She secured an H-2 visa and arrived at her new job at Bayou Shrimp in April 2009. She was pregnant, but her pay stubs show she worked more than 60 hours some weeks. Forty days after her daughter was born, Padilla was back at work at the plant, leaving her baby with a friend.

Padilla, who has since had a second child, worked in the Louisiana shrimp industry for five seasons before losing her job last year. She said she used to worry that, like her own mother, she was abandoning her children in order to provide for them.

Five years working there seemed like no time had passed at all, and my daughter had already grown up and I didnt even realize it, Padilla said, adding that she is now cobbling together a living with odd jobs.

North of the border, H-2 visas are also important to the economy.

Louisiana is the nations second-largest seafood-producing state, and its crawfish industry used to rely on local labor. But competition from cheap Asian imports, along with the demand by huge retailers such as Wal-Mart for ever lower prices, have squeezed profit margins and put downward pressure on wages below the point, producers say, where people in America will take the jobs on a seasonal basis. In the 1990s, processors including Craig West hoped that machines could be built to take over the repetitive task of extracting the tail meat from the crustaceans. But eventually crawfish farmers discovered that the best and cheapest option is a Mexican on an H-2 visa.

The visa comes in two types: H-2A for agricultural workers and H-2B for nonagricultural unskilled workers, with varying rules and provisions. While many workers say that regulators dont do enough to protect them, their employers generally have the opposite complaint. They say they are burdened by endless bureaucratic hurdles and inspectors who ding them for tiny infractions of incomprehensible rules.

Ben LeGrange, the general manager of Atchafalaya Crawfish Processing, in Henderson, Louisiana, said most crawfish processors treat their workers well, and isolated incidents shouldnt taint the whole industry. He said he tries to treat guest workers as an extension of someone in my family and that without them the whole company, which also employs six American workers, would be in jeopardy.

Standing on his expansive lawn beside a riding mower, West, who co-owns the crawfish producer L.T. West with his brother, said he treats his workers well. My wife got holy water for them, he said, adding that when they were not working he and his wife, Cathy, drove workers to Walmart or church, and sometimes invited them to relax in the shade of a tree that protects his house from the sun.

But seven of his workers, including Valdez and Gonzalez, claim West took a different kind of interest in some of them.

Some of their allegations include that he took to bursting into their trailer unexpectedly, even when they were dressing, and called them his property and his Mexican ladies, according to their complaint. Some of the women recall him saying things such as mucho booby and mexicanas mucho booby, gesturing for them to lift up their shirts. He instructed one of his other workers to tell the women in Spanish that the only way they could get out of poverty was to accept his propositions, which included requests that they come to his house when his wife was away. In the suit, the women did not allege he actually had sex with them.

West, with his wife looking on, flatly denied the allegations, saying the women had made them up.

Original post:

The New American Slavery: Invited To The U.S., Foreign …

8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

Literal slavery is a horrible practice that still persists into the modern age. But, I want to talk about another form of human exploitationemployment slavery, which can also ruin a persons life. Generally, I consider this a self-inflicted slavery because its ultimately a persons choice to work under such conditionsbut I also understand that brainwashing can occur, creating the illusion that theres no way out.

Slavery (in general) exists because of the inclination among people to obtain the benefits of human resources, while providing little (or nothing) in return. Human work is the most intelligent, efficient way to create a system of wealth and power. For the morally bankrupt, such benefits are sought for free.

Employment, in the best case scenario, is a business deal of mutual benefit. But in other instances, the company is expending such minimal resources that they are taking advantage of you. In the worst case scenario, through a combination of slave-driving principles and psychological techniques to break you down, such a job can morph into something very similar to actual slavery.

If you dont know any better, its easy to fall into slavery conditions. Here are signs that your sense of freedom in life is totally gone:

Because of the way employers conveniently ignore yearly inflation, todays minimal wage is not enough to maintain any semblance of a normal lifestyle. Minimal wage makes some sense in small businesses just starting out. But, In America, $8.25 an hour, or less, from a large, billion-dollar corporation is inexcusable. In this case, your annual wages cost a second of the companys hourly profits. In other words, your hard work is a very bad deal for you, and a killer opportunity for the suits upstairs.

Youre lucky you even have a job! is a psychological taunt that bad employers use to try and keep their wage-slaves from believing they can do any better. Such statements are made to maintain a sense of control. Understand, voluntary slavery is not a rare phenomenon. It happens when a person is brainwashed into the belief that they have nowhere else they can go.

If your manager uses psychological put-downs like this to denigrate your professional abilitiesunderstand that its being done for a reason.

The idea of getting a raise and a promotion may be dangled in-front of you, but youve seen no evidence to suggest that it really happens. In fact, only a very small percentage of your co-workers ever obtain this goal, and they tend to be the cronies of upper-management. If this is the case, then what exactly is your reason for working at this company?

Inconvenient hours are inevitable in jobs, but some companies will abuse the system. This ranges from illegally denying overtime pay, to scheduling month-long bouts of cloping (working until closing hours late at night, then opening hours the next morning) that leaves the employee physically and emotionally drained.

An employee in this system may feel the intense pressure by the bosses to conform to abusive hours, under the threat of being denied promotions or even getting fired for seeking better treatment.

Americas two-week annual vacation time is one of the weakest in the Western world, and American workers tend to not even use it. This is because many employers will hint that vacationers are likely to end up on the shit-list of not getting promoted. They may even hint that unruly vacation-seekers will be the first to get laid-off or fired at the earliest opportunity.

A system of slavery does not allow free-time for individuals to maintain their own lives outside of their work. This could cause dissent and break the system of total control. An unspoken methodology among abusive managers is to destroy the lifestyles of employees so, instead of tending to family or hobbies, they work at full capacity.

Feeling motivated based on high-standards and being scared to go below those standards is one thing, but being genuinely scared of the people youre working for is another.

Slave-masters maintain systems of fear, to break down their subjects and perhapsin timebuild them back up. For the best example of thisplease see Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

Psychological and verbal abuse is usually what occurs. An abusive employer understands exactly what strings to pull to generate feelings of shame or guilt, and theyll use the professional context to destroy a subjects sense of self-worth, perhaps by implying worthlessness at the vocation theyve devoted their life to.

In other instances, the abuse is very overt and could include yelling, tantrums and even physical assaults. But the outcome is the same: the employee living in a constant state of paranoia, fear, and subservience.

Read carefully the ten warning-signs youre in a cult by the Cult Education Institute. Some of these that could be very applicable to a workplace include: absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability, no tolerance for questions or critical inquiry, the leader (boss) is always right, and former followers (employees) are vilified as evil for leaving.

If the job feels less about, you know, getting the job doneand is more about the influence, charisma and infallibility of the bossthen get the heck out of there. This means the person in charge is getting a side-benefit to running or managing the workplace: power and dominance.

The number one sign youre a slave and not an employee is that youre working an unpaid internship, and its not for college credit. You may be promised great benefits and valuable connections, at what amounts to harsh workplace conditions, long hours, and zero pay.

A huge mistake I see young professionals make, and it really irks me, is naivety about peoples intentions. I went to film school for my bachelors, and many students I knew lusted after top internships at film studios or with big names in the entertainment industry. Such internships are often offered regardless of college credit.

When a person is blindsided by their desire to make it and get in with big names, they are likely to make bad decisionsand unscrupulous employers will prey on this desire.

Internships are great IF its part of a students actual curriculum. It means hands-on work and real experience versus useless classrooms. But, the questionable non-credit internships I warn about also exist to lure young people into systems of slavery. Its gotten so bad these types of arrangements are quickly becoming illegal in California.

The reality of such internships is that the slave-drivers only desire one thing: unpaid work. There is NO promise that you will move up or land any type of a paid job. When your internship finishes, they will discard you and find the next victim.

The biggest reason to avoid internships is the mentality behind the deal. Imagine a law firm or a film studio that is a multi-billion dollar operation. How hard would it be to throw their new recruit at LEAST minimum wage? The fact such a company would, despite their huge profits, still desire unpaid labor is indicative of a slave-driving mentality that funnels wealth to the top at the expense of the people on the bottom making it possible.

As a professional, it would be best for you to avoid doing any type of business with any individual or company that possesses a philosophy like this.

Employment-slavery situations are common. Very common. But ultimately, the biggest factor in determining how bad it is, is a single question: are you happy?

If you are happy at $8.25 an hour with no benefits, because you like the people you work with, you like the nature of the work, and you feel its moving you somewhere you want to bethen its not slavery. Youre making an investment thatll either pay off, or it wontbut at least you enjoy what youre doing.

However, if you are miserable in your current conditions, its quite possible that the uneasy feeling in your gut is your intuition telling you that someone is taking advantage of you.

Employment is supposed to be a business contract, and an exchange of services. Never a system of control. Sometimes, just the willingness to walk away is your strongest defense against a terrible job situation.

For more about avoiding systems of employment-slavery, please see my short books: Freedom: How to Make Money From Your Dreams and Ambitions, and How to Quit Your Job: Escape Soul Crushing Work, Create the Life You Want, and Live Happy.

(For more books, also check out the Developed Life bookstore, http://www.developedlife.com/bookstore).

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8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee


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