Wages vs Productivity

Chart from Mother Jones

This image comes from the latest issue of Mother Jones, in the cover story All Work and No Pay: The Great Speedup. After reading the article, I realized that I’ve been exploited by the “speedup” mentality, even in the non-profit sector.

In the non-profit world’s eagerness to emulate the business sector and “take lessons” from successful corporations, increasing violations of their workers’ rights are a given. At one human rights non-profit, I was hired as an “Administrative Assistant”, but quickly learned that I was expected to be the Operations Manager, Facilities Manager, Administrative Director, IT Specialist, Executive Assistant, and Servant to the various JDs and PhDs employed there. I was berated and called names when I couldn’t be all these things at once, and you should have seen the fireworks the day I suggested my workload was unreasonable.

At a second non-profit, this one assisting low-income women, within 6 months of my start date about 75% of the staff was fired or quit. Management had implemented the practice of firing anyone whose will they couldn’t break, then, instead of hiring someone to fill the position, dumping the entire workload on the lowest ranking employees and berating them if they couldn’t do twice the work in the same amount of time and for the same pay. As you can imagine, morale was dismal.

This Mother Jones article is a great reminder: it’s not just me! (or you!) Here are some interesting tidbits from the article:

Americans now put in an average of 122 more hours per year than Brits, and 378 hours (nearly 10 weeks!) more than Germans.

The differential isn’t solely accounted for by longer hours, of course—worldwide, almost everyone except us has, at least on paper, a right to weekends off, paid vacation time (PDF), and paid maternity leave. (The only other countries that don’t mandate paid time off for new moms are Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Samoa, and Swaziland.

For 90 percent of American workers, incomes have stagnated or fallen for the past three decades, while they’ve ballooned at the top, and exploded at the very tippy-top: By 2008, the wealthiest 0.1 percent were making 6.4 times as much as they did in 1980 (adjusted for inflation). And just to further fuel your outrage, that 22 percent increase in profits? Most of it accrued to a single industry: finance.

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