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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. 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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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:

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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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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 naturearguing 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 didn’t 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:

Original post:

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.

Originally posted here:

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 naturearguing 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 didn’t 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).

Related

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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.[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”.[23]

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][24] 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.[25][26] 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”.[27][28] 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”.[29]

Some abolitionists in the United States regarded the analogy as spurious.[30] They believed that wage workers were “neither wronged nor oppressed”.[31] 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.[32] The abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass initially declared “now I am my own master”, upon taking a paying job.[33] 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”.[34][35] 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”.[36]

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”.[32] 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.[37] 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:[38][39]

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”.[45][46] 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.[47]

Defenses of wage labor and chattel slavery in the literature have linked the subjection of man to man with the subjection of man to naturearguing 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.[48] 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 didn’t 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.[49] 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.[50]

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.[51]

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,[52][53] educational institutions, unjust laws, nationalist and corporate propaganda, pressures and incentives to internalize values serviceable to the power structure, state violence, fear of unemployment[54] 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:[55]

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”.[56]

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)”,[57] often paraphrased as “all paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind”.[58] 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”.[59] Somewhat similar criticisms have also been expressed by some proponents of liberalism, like Silvio Gesell and Thomas Paine;[60] 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.[62] 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.[63][64]

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.[65]

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”.[66] Both the Milgram and Stanford experiments have been found useful in the psychological study of wage-based workplace relations.[67]

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.[68]

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.[69]

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”.[70]

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”.[71] 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”.[72]

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.[44][73]

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.[74]

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.[75]

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”.[76]

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.[77]

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.[78] 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.[78]

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).[79][80]

In the early 20th century, “scientific methods of strikebreaking”[81] were devised employing a variety of tactics that emphasized how strikes undermined “harmony” and “Americanism”.[82]

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”.[83] 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.[84]

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.[85]

In this regard, Chomsky has used Bakunin’s theories about an “instinct for freedom”,[86] 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,[87] to explain the incompatibility of oppression with certain aspects of human nature.[88][89]

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,[90] they attribute much of the industrial revolution’s pollution to the “hierarchical” and “competitive” economic relations accompanying it.[91]

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”.[92] 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.[93] 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.[94]

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.[95]

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.[96]

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.[97]

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.[98]

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.[99]

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”.[100]

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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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

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 pejorative 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.[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”.[23]

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][24] 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.[25][26] 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”.[27][28] 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”.[29]

Some abolitionists in the United States regarded the analogy as spurious.[30] They believed that wage workers were “neither wronged nor oppressed”.[31] 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.[32] The abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass initially declared “now I am my own master”, upon taking a paying job.[33] 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”.[34][35] 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”.[36]

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”.[32] 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.[37] 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:[38][39]

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”.[45][46] 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.[47]

Defenses of wage labor and chattel slavery in the literature have linked the subjection of man to man with the subjection of man to naturearguing 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.[48] 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 didn’t 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.[49] 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.[50]

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.[51]

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,[52][53] educational institutions, unjust laws, nationalist and corporate propaganda, pressures and incentives to internalize values serviceable to the power structure, state violence, fear of unemployment[54] 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:[55]

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”.[56]

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)”,[57] often paraphrased as “all paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind”.[58] 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”.[59] Somewhat similar criticisms have also been expressed by some proponents of liberalism, like Silvio Gesell and Thomas Paine;[60] 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.[62] 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.[63][64]

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.[65]

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”.[66] Both the Milgram and Stanford experiments have been found useful in the psychological study of wage-based workplace relations.[67]

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.[68]

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.[69]

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”.[70]

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”.[71] 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”.[72]

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.[44][73]

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.[74]

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.[75]

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”.[76]

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.[77]

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.[78] 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.[78]

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).[79][80]

In the early 20th century, “scientific methods of strikebreaking”[81] were devised employing a variety of tactics that emphasized how strikes undermined “harmony” and “Americanism”.[82]

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”.[83] 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.[84]

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.[85]

In this regard, Chomsky has used Bakunin’s theories about an “instinct for freedom”,[86] 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,[87] to explain the incompatibility of oppression with certain aspects of human nature.[88][89]

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,[90] they attribute much of the industrial revolution’s pollution to the “hierarchical” and “competitive” economic relations accompanying it.[91]

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”.[92] 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.[93] 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.[94]

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.[95]

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.[96]

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.[97]

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.[98]

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.[99]

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”.[100]

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

Read this article:

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 …

After Slavery | US Slave Emancipation and its Aftermath

In the latest in a series of interviews, Bruce Baker of the After Slavery Project interviewed historian Michael W. Fitzgerald of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota about the evolution of his scholarship on Reconstruction, and about his forthcoming study of post-emancipation Alabama. Fitzgerald is a prolific author, with two highly-acclaimed monographs, a number of important articles and a recent survey in print, and a third major monograph on the way. He took part in the AS-sponsored Wiles Symposium and contributed an essay to the edited volume After Slavery: Race, Labor and Citizenship in the Reconstruction South (Florida, 2013).

BB: Lets talk a little about your background and your earlier work and then move on to discuss the book you are finishing up on Reconstruction in Alabama. First of all, where are you from originally?

MF: I was raised in Canoga Park, California, which is a suburb in the west end of the San Fernando Valley. My Dad is from Chicago, and my mom is from Florida. I was a kid in the 1960s and early 1970s. I did my BA and PhD at UCLA.

BB: Who did you work with there?

MF: Alex Saxton was my chair, and was a model of political engagement combined with tolerance. Armstead Robinson was there for a couple of years while I was coming in and was very helpful in terms of focusing my research on Reconstruction, as was Margaret Washington. But my dad was a history teacher, so we did the whole Gettysburg tour, and we had history books around the house. And with a mother from the South and a dad from the North, the race relations stuff of the sixties was being very much talked about in our home, even in Los Angeles. So Im part of that generation for whom watching the racial chaos of the sixties and the seventies play out had a strong impact.

BB: Thats interesting. One of the things that I saw as I was reading up and thinking about this is that while you were working on your PhD you were working on the Marcus Garvey Papers. To what extent you see that experience feeding into your later scholarship and interests?

MF: Well, very much so. I actually teach African American history here, but it had never occurred to me that I was an African Americanist rather than a Civil War era historian. Certainly the notion that black nationalism is a force in American life has been muted by the political agenda of Reconstruction scholarship, which tends towards celebration of the integrationist impulse of the Radical Republican movement. That issue has been more interesting for me than for a lot of Reconstruction scholars because I do see the community sentiment as one of the things that is driving black politics in the Reconstruction era. While I was writing my dissertation, I spent a couple of years as a graduate student doing that, and those sets of issues were on my mind as I was writing the manuscript.

BB: How close was your first book, about the Union League in the Deep South, to what your dissertation was?

MF: It is my dissertation, almost unedited. Essentially what Im looking at is the first black political mobilization and seeing it largely as a labor phenomenon, as driven by African American disaffection with gang labor, overseers, women and kids in the workforce, the kind of centralized plantation system derived from slavery. Its incredibly unpopular among the freedmen. And the political mobilization of Reconstruction becomes a force tearing the old structure of the plantation apart and pushing in the direction of sharecropping. The argument is essentially that the labor mobilization, the explosive mobilization in 1867, 1868 into the Union Leagues is one of the reasons why decentralized farming takes hold. White planters start to decide they have to rent land to freedmen because the freedmen are just not working in a way that they can make a profit on. And the reason this is interesting is that in graduate school my major political activity was organizing tenant union locals for Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, the West L.A. tenant movement. My buddies were all activists in that movement. And it was funny because UCLA in the late seventies, early eighties was this pronounced social history, left place, and I was kind of on the moderate end of that because I actually believed in electoral politics. The tenant union activities resonated with what I was finding in Alabama in terms of how outside organizers could start things rolling. In terms of the emotional energy of the book, thats kind of what inspired me, that I was playing off the ideas with what I was finding doing tenant politics in the late seventies, early eighties.

BB: In some ways that sounds similar to the scholarship from that period and a little bit before on the Populists. Things like Lawrence Goodwyns work and Robert McMaths on how does a movement work, how does organization happen.

MF: And I was reading those books. As an undergraduate I actually read the long version of Goodwyns book when it first came out. I was very into it.

BB: How did you choose Alabama and Mississippi for your dissertation?

MF: Theres a charming story. Im in my first year as a graduate student, and I read about this movement in Armstead Robinsons seminar. And I said, Union Leagues, thats really interesting. So I go over to the old card catalogue in the university research library and look up Union League, and theres almost nothing there. And I say, Gee, how frustrating. And then I thought about it and said, Hey, wait a minute, this is interpretively significant. Theres nothing here. And it turns out almost nothings been written. Well, the last full-scale history of Alabama in Reconstruction is Fleming in 1905. There really hasnt been a full revisionist state study, though certainly elements have been done. And so once I got into it, I realized that there was some writing room. Thats one thing. And the other thing is I was thinking a two-state study because you dont want to have it be utterly unique to the politics of one state rather than the other. Alabama has the best evidence, and I spent more time on Alabama than I did on Mississippi.

BB: Is that part of why you got interested in Alabama and stuck with Alabama for the Urban Emancipation book?

MF: Yeah. You know, Im not at a big research university. Im at a liberal arts college, which means that time to pick up a whole new field and do it comes tougher to me. So if you want to do good scholarship, the inclination is to stick with things you know and expand on them. And thats what Ive done. In fact, Armstead Robinson told me in the old days, Alabama, nobodys done it. Go do it. And he was right. So the Reconstruction in Alabama book I am writing now is the culmination of my career, and it draws on all the work Ive done.

BB: Before talking about Urban Emancipation, I wanted to take a digression into a couple of the articles that you did. You did an article in Agricultural History about the motivations for the Ku Klux Klan. Also the article in the recent After Slavery collection builds on that and expands that. Both of those emphasize the connection between Ku Klux Klan activity and the material circumstances brought about by emancipation. In some ways, the argument that the Ku Klux Klan was responding to petty property theft by African Americans is something that Walter Fleming would have agreed with. The question that leads me to is, what kinds of things can we take from the very old generation of scholarship, like Fleming and so forth, to use as a basis for current studies? (Obviously not the assumptions about racial hierarchy) But more than some other scholars of our generation, I think your work often goes back and says, Well, wait a minute, there is a good idea here. Lets see what we can do with it.

MF: Youre probably referring to the Fleming essay also that I have in that new book about the Dunning School. The problem with redeeming Fleming is that hes a Klan enthusiast. He really thinks that in order to get what whites need, racial violence was essential. And he rather applauds it. Once he wrote his Reconstruction book, he actually collaborates with Klan-style groups to promulgate the memory of the wonderful KKK. The founders of the KKK wrote a memoir, and Fleming wrote the introduction to that memoir accusing them of backsliding, that they arent enthusiastic enough about the wondrous violence they used. So its hard to get happy around Walter Lynwood Fleming. But hes there. Hes intelligent, and the other thing is that he has letters that former Klansmen wrote him that he sticks in the footnotes. He provides us all these wonderful primary sources for Ryland Randolph and other really unpleasant people. So the fact is that theres all kind of evidence from racists that this white supremacist guy has access to that we dont. The other thing is that his animating view is that class the tension between Black Belt planters and whites up in the hillsreally is a big thing in white Democratic politics. Hes not wrong about that. There are elements of what he does that you can take, but you need to say what he is all about, very clearly. The part of those two Klan essays that people could object to is that I do think that whats going on is that as the shift goes on from gang labor, overseers, and the rest, to decentralized tenant farming, like sharecropping, that you go from a situation where the planters are feeding the hands and feeding their families, as part of the wage, to a situation where the hands are providing their own provisions over the crop year by borrowing money from the planter or the local merchants. So they are in a situation where they are providing for themselves. And when you have a bad crop, there is a tendency for them to steal somebodys hog and remember, this is the era of open ranging, where people dont fence in their hogs, but they actually send them off into the woods. And now freedmen have dogs and guns. So if you take the planters correspondence seriously, they wail about it all the time: The freedmen are stealing our hogs.

Its not a major motive for the Klan. The major motive for the Klan is electoral violence and putting black people generally in their place. But if were talking about a third-tier motive, and one that is easily defended in the public sphere, they talk about theft all the time. If there is an issue of a freedman appropriating their livestock, the planters they can live with it, if cotton pays, but what about the neighbors who were not planters? If freedmen are stealing anything, its going to be from both groups, but only one group gets the benefit from the labor of freedmen. Im not sure if I used the term in the article, but I think its like an ethnic cleansing from the point of view of non-planter whites who really want to drive the freedmen out of their neighborhood for a number of reasons. I think thats what is going on.

BB: Kind of like later whitecapping violence where poor white tenants are driving all the African Americans out of the neighborhood so they can get better wages and better terms.

MF: The other thing is a lot of poor whites are moving from the piedmont and the hills down to the Tennessee Valley or other areas, so they dont like freedmen as rivals as tenants either. And thats another mechanism thats driving this along. What I would also say is that there is a difference between the two articles. When I did the first research, which was in the Agricultural History piece in the late nineties, the research method was to take my list of four hundred or so indicted Klansmen and try to find them in the reels of microfilm and whatever indexes existed. It was a laborious process. It was driven by just, Oh, that name sounds familiar, let me double check on my list. So theres sort of a haphazard quality to it, and I just did 1870. I did the agricultural census, and I did the population census. I found, lo and behold, of everybody I could find that was indicted as a Klansman, they are almost all destitute. So the median wealth for accused Klansmen in 1870 that I found in that first case was zero. They just have no money. And theyre all in their early twenties, and theyre all, so far as I can tell, poor. So I figured, okay, first article, poor whites attacking labor rivals, attacking people for these kinds of class reasons. By the time I wrote the second article, the piece for our anthology, we have Ancestry.com and other things where you can find them more readily. So I took the research back to 1860, too. Theyre still poor in 1870. I found more names, and theyre still quite poor, but if you go back to the families in 1860 before the Civil War, they werent so poor. A lot of them are from slave-holding families. About half of the ones I could find are from slave-holding families, some of them prosperous slaveholders. In 1870, theyre poor. In 1860, theyre not, which kind of gives you a sense of their potential motivation. They come from families who have been impoverished by the war. The two articles are in tension simply because the research available to me changed. But I think that the newer version is interesting, too.

BB: One of the things you were talking about just then about poor whites moving down from the hills into the Tennessee Valley and the Black Belt, in some ways that parallels the movement of African Americans from the countryside into the city of Mobile. So that might be a good transition for you to talk about your Mobile book. How was it different studying a city from the very rural environments of your first book?

MF: My first book has a chapter on whats going on in the cities, and a good deal of that chapter deals with Mobile. The thing that struck me was this chaotic factional situation in Mobile where two different factions of the Republican party, largely black and native white, are at each others throats to the point that you had actual fistfights, real fights between two Republican factions. And I was wondering, What in Gods name is going on in Mobile? So as I began to ponder the next project, I got intrigued with trying to figure out what the Mobile explanation was. What I found was that there were two factions, both of them interracially led. Theres kind of a moderate, native white southerner-dominated faction of which all the leaders are light-skinned according to the ones I could find in the census theyre all lightskinned, literate, and a good number of them are Afro-Creoles. So you have this group that is sort of into legal means. You have another group, led by carpetbaggers, and kind of stereotypical carpetbaggers, where the leadership is all dark-skinned, and most of them are former slaves and not as literate as the other group. This Radical group is much more inclined toward mass action: streetcar occupations to integrate streetcars, strikes on the docks. And these two groups are struggling for leadership all through the era to the point that they actually defeat an incumbent Radical Republican congressman, an African American congressman, because they ran a moderate light-skinned Creole against him and divided the Republican vote. This dispute ties into broader social trends. What I did was I analyzed this urban black factionalism, and tied it to the process of emancipation. Huge numbers of freedmen are moving into the suburbs of Mobile, and these immiserated recent migrants from the countryside become the basis for all this direct action on the docks and in streetcar occupations and in other forms of popular direct action tactics. I wish the book had gotten more attention because I think its a model for whats going on in southern cities. You can analyze Republican factionalism in terms of whats going on in the black community in the urban areas where factionalism is most intense, because there are patronage positions for activists to fight over.

BB: Steve Wests recent article about black politics in Greenville, South Carolina, a year or two ago is a little bit like that. Hes actually talking there about the late 1880s, and elections there over whether the city is going to be wet or dry.

MF: There was a book on blacks in Charlotte, I think, back fifteen or twenty years ago, that found very strong differences over the prohibition issue between the respectable middle-class folks, which I think is part of the West article, if I remember correctly, and political activists who are Republican party people who are more in touch with this broader constituency that is not thrilled with this. I think that actually kind of works here. Theres also an interesting thing in that book about this subculture of black activists who are dependent on federal jobs and how their lives work as political activists and how they support themselves as political activists. My sense is that no one has done it. The problem is that a one-city study doesnt get as much attention as it deserves in terms of the wider interpretation, which is something youre going to discover when your magnum opus on Greenville comes out.

BB: Right, whenever that is! Although youre working on the big book on Alabama, and well come back to that in a moment, you did write a much broader scope book a few years ago called Splendid Failure: Postwar Reconstruction in America. Could you talk a bit about the experience of why you chose to write that, how it obviously the elephant in the room is Eric Foners Reconstruction how the view of Reconstruction that you present in your book varies from the view that has become standard from Foners synthesis?

MF: Im quite an admirer of Foners. I think that his book is still the gold standard, and everyone has to situate themselves relative to the excellence of that work. In particular, his emphasis in the late 1860s on the interconnection between whats going on on the plantation and popular politics is very consistent with my Union League stuff. So Im a thorough admirer. But Ive spent, now, twenty-five years teaching in the classroom, and Ive tried to assign Foners short history, and its so good and so sophisticated that I had trouble getting my excellent, smart undergraduates to engage with it. I had an undergraduate who went on to library school, from Atlanta no less, who told me she skipped reading the book for my Civil War class! I was trying to figure out what portions of the Reconstruction struggle could be communicated effectively to an undergraduate audience. Another reason for writing the book is that some scholarship has come out since Foner. Factionalism in the black community is something Im very interested in. And the railroad issue is interesting to me. I was trying to integrate African American agency into the decisions on railroad programs that turn out so badly. They arent really responsible, but I do think we should pay attention to at least how theyre thinking about these issues. Ive always been an admirer of Mark Summerss book on railroads. So class within the black community, faction within the black community, and the economic development issues that dont get a tremendous amount of emphasis in Foners book I think are important. The other thing was the press approached me and asked if I wanted to do this. It occurred to me vaguely that if I wanted to write a Reconstruction history of Alabama, I needed a better grounding in national politics. It forced me to do the background reading in other states and Washington, D.C. Im conceptualizing what Im doing in Alabama as what state studies might look like going forward. I felt like I wanted to contextualize it in the national context because, to tell you the truth, to go back to Fleming, Fleming thinks his Alabama study is the South writ small. I would follow that aspect of his work. Alabama is, to some extent, the model Deep South state, and it is so central to the national consciousness of how the civil rights movement played out that I think that its a nice place. Because there havent been a lot of state revisionist studies, or post-Foner full scale histories of states. What that means is that Flemings book remains the standard place to look for the narrative for Alabama, and thats ridiculous in the twenty-first century.

BB: If we think about the revisionist period, there are a lot of other state studies. So if we think about the Dunning School, and he sends his various students off to do their state studies, then we did get, in the revisionist period, other state studies of particular states. So, Simkins and Woody start things off with South Carolina. Its not as revisionist as some of that later ones. And then you get other studies like Jerrell Shoffner for Florida, and so forth. And in all these various states, but why do you think, in the context of Reconstruction historiography, Alabama historiography, why didnt somebody write a book about Reconstruction in Alabama?

MF: I have no idea. Maybe Atlanta is a cooler place to do research than Montgomery. I dont know. Ive always thought Montgomery is an interesting place. It has a lot of history. Another reason for this absence is that scholars know a state study is probably not going to galvanize the whole field, whereas detailed studies on some novel angle that is of interest to people oftentimes make a bigger splash. But let me tell you what I think is going to be my contribution with the Reconstruction in Alabama book. Beyond just the synthesis of everything else Ive done, my sense of the great accomplishment of Foners book is to take the scholarship on, and use the fresh primary source materials in the Freedom papers project, at the University of Maryland to excellent advantage. He integrates whats happening socially on the plantations with the great political struggle of military Reconstruction when blacks get the right to vote. So for the late 1860s, its a wonderful synthesis of political and social history, and its exactly the sort of thing I was trained to do at UCLA in the late nineteen seventies and early eighties. This is the brilliance of Foners work, and in the fact that its so utterly plausible. But only the last hundred pages of Foners book deal with the period after the Greeley election, after 1872. His interpretationits still greatbut in terms of the labor connection to Reconstruction politics, it kind of runs out of steam in the early seventies. And you see less of it. He talks about the depressions impact, certainly. I think you might make an argument that whats going on in Alabama in the 1870s is kind of like whats going on in South Carolina, with fairly strong divisions among the white opposition. The place I would look for this is Permans book on factional politics during Reconstruction. Heres what I would say. Foners argument in his Reconstruction book is that the Klan is led by planters. The upper class, the political elite has decided that Reconstruction is intolerable, and that violence is the only way they can beat people at the polls and put black people back in their subordinate position. I think hes right. The Klan has, early on, a lot of elite participation, and at a time when plantation agriculture is collapsing, 1867, there is a lot of fury among planters. And theres a lot of violence coming from planters and overseers in 1865 and 1866 as they try and deal with people on the basis of freedom. So Foners argument is that the Klan is upper-class led. But with sharecropping, a couple of years in, the plantation system improves.

Once the freedmen go to work as sharecroppers and the price of cotton recovers, planters are not so desperate anymore. And in 1870 when the Democrats temporarily regain the governors office in Alabama, I think you start getting a conservative push-back of planters who are tired of the violence and whose major issue is becoming labor shortage. Once cotton reaches twenty cents a pound, tenants are really desired. Big planters really dont like it when you push their tenants out. And by 1871, 1872, the Greeley campaign, this dissident conservative tradition reemerges, especially in the old Whig counties of the black belt. Part of this is that the Klan is driving so many freedmen into their neighborhoods that the areas that are not violent have this relative surplus of labor. I did something sort of interesting, statistically. The way to do a quantitative sample of wealth among black people is to use this 1 percent sample of the census that the demographic history program at the University of Minnesota has. What I found is the freedmen in 1870 are poorer in the richest areas of the Black Belt than just about anywhere else. So workers are being driven from areas where blacks are more prosperous to the areas where theres so much labor that theres a surplus. These are the richest areas of Alabama, and freedmen are keeping less of their money. Somebody must be making money off them. You read the planters letters, and they say, Oh, weve got 60 percent, 100 percent interest rates down at the store. Things are going really nicely. I think whats going on is that in the early seventies there is a real attempt among a lot of planters to try and coexist with the black majorities that they think will be permanently governing their counties. I think thats whats going on. Whats interesting is that I think that Foner, because he tends to see the planters as the villains, hes missing the stuff that Perman is talking about, about these former Whigs who are moving towards some kind of coexistence, or are trying to win through less violent methods. It makes sense to integrate the labor and the political history. It just doesnt play out the same way in the seventies that it does in the sixties. Then in the fall of 1873, the economy collapses, everything tanks, and the planters suddenly instead of having a labor shortage are trying to desperately drive people away from their plantations. And theres this big wave of theft fears again. So what happens is you get this white-line, White League as the political situation changes. And some planters still arent that thrilled. You find in South Carolina that the planters oppose racial extremists in the areas where blacks are 80 percent, 90 percent of the population. I think its exactly whats happening in Alabama. So what I think my book is doing is taking the Foner labor emphasis and extending it to the seventies with somewhat different results. Theres this conservative subculture who hadnt been thrilled with secession, who hadnt been thrilled with the war going on and on, and had basically been persuaded that states-rights Democrats crazy people had wrecked their lives and they were going to do it again. The argument is that there is a subculture of whites whose racial views dont move them towards the more extreme forms of violenceuntil the economy tanks in 1874.

BB: So with your book, what is the end date going to be?

MF: Theres a new constitution in Alabama in 1875. It solidifies a lot of stuff. I know that people talk about the long Reconstruction but my Reconstruction is already long enough because to make the argument Im making, I have to go back before the war and talk about the origins of conservative dissent. So I dont even get to the African American core chapter till Chapter Five because Ive got to do the war, Ive got to do occupation, Ive got to do the impact of whats going on in Presidential Reconstruction. So my book ends in 75 because I figure my lifespan is finite. I need to finish this damn thing.

BB: Certainly the new constitution is a good end-point. In a way, theres a long Reconstruction in some places, and a shorter one in Alabama or in southwest Georgia as Susan ODonovan found. Reconstruction is effectively over for African Americans by 1868. They dont even really get much out of the seventies.

MF: And part of this that is just distressingly current is the amazing number of ways to prevent local black majorities from meaning anything. There are counties where blacks are still a majority, but they just strip those counties of self-governing powers. Theres a board of supervisors, but they have no power. The power is officials appointed by the governor. You set up a committee to vet jurors so African Americans wont serve on juries. Its very impressive. The ways you can make an electoral system do what you want it to if you decide to play games with the ballot box is incredibly instructive in our contemporary situation. Im sort of hoping there are some lessons there.

Bibliography

Fitzgerald, Michael William. The Union League movement in Alabama and Mississippi : politics and agricultural change in the deep South during Reconstruction. Ph.D. diss, UCLA, 1986.

Fitzgerald, Michael W. The Union League Movement in the Deep South: Politics and Agricultural Change During Reconstruction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.

Fitzgerald, Michael W. The Ku Klux Klan: Property Crime and the Plantation System in Reconstruction Alabama. Agricultural History 71 (Spring 1997): 186-206.

Fitzgerald, Michael W. Urban Emancipation: Popular Politics in Reconstruction Mobile, 1860-1890. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

Fitzgerald, Michael W. Splendid Failure: Postwar Reconstruction in the American South. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2007.

Fitzgerald, Michael W. The Steel Frame of Walter Lynwood Fleming. In The Dunning School: Historians, Race, and the Meaning of Reconstruction, edited by John David Smith and J. Vincent Lowery, 157-178. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2013.

Fitzgerald, Michael W. Ex-Slaveholders and the Ku Klux Klan: Exploring the Motivations of Terrorist Violence. In After Slavery: Race, Labor, and Citizenship in the Reconstruction South, edited by Bruce E. Baker and Brian Kelly, 143-158. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2013.

Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: Americas Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Goodwyn, Lawrence. Democratic Promise: The Populist Moment in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.

McMath, Robert C. Populist Vanguard: A History of the Southern Farmers Alliance. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975.

ODonovan, Susan Eva. Becoming Free in the Cotton South. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Perman, Michael. The Road to Redemption: Southern Politics, 1869-1879. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984.

Summers, Mark W. Railroads, Reconstruction, and the Gospel of Prosperity: Aid Under the Radical Republicans, 1865-1877. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984.

West, Steven A. A Hot Municipal Contest: Prohibition and Politics in Greenville, South Carolina after Reconstruction. Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era11 (Oct. 2012): 519-51.

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After Slavery | US Slave Emancipation and its Aftermath

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

Follow this link:

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).

Related

Follow this link:

8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee


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