Corporate problems with contingent (temp) workers
kbevans at panix.com
Thu Feb 1 13:00:55 MST 1996
Certainly capitalists are always trying to maximize profit. My point
was that when they have so alienated labor that they must attempt to directly
reduce alienation through "team" approaches. etc., they are on the verge of
admitting they were wrong.
As for seniority, I'm not sure that I understand where "scarcity"
fits in to the argument, but I took your comment to mean that seniority
combats the tendency for managements to constantly replace more
established workers with cheaper, newer workers. Of course seniority is
actually a system of favoritism. It is rationally based on the idea that
more experienced workers create more value, and the idea that more senior
workers are "backbones of society" and thus should be supported in keeping
with their greater social responsibilities. However, seniority is also a
system to create a hegemony within the firm. It promotes myths of
scarcity and of meritocracy. It further divorces the level of a worker's
income from the level of the value he creates through the logic it
operates on. Instead of judging pay according to the value of output, or
giving income to those with greater social responsibilities, it puts in
place an arbitrary "ladder" up which a worker is expected to climb.
Although a worker's pay may go up, and be more in line with his actual
contribution, the reason that he gets his raise has little to do with that
fact. Seniority, because it is logically faulty, also plays a part in
"empire building" as workers who are not useful economically (management
pencil pushers) seek to insulate themselves from market logic. Top heavy
and highly "planned" organizations are rife with this, and it should be a
worry for central planners. Bureaucracies are easy to create where thee
is a high level of alienation between workers' level of economic input and
their level of remuneration.
A good example of this function in a centrally planned organization
is the Department of Defense. Here the "market logic" is simple, cause the
most death and domination of the potential enemy. Also, thanks to
imperialist foreign policy, there is actually market data available. Yet
because of an ingrained seniority system (rank) and an alienation between
"market value" and pay (the boys loading the shells, aiming the guns, and
pulling the triggers are not paid on a per casualty/capture basis, nor is
anyone even paid in accordance with battlefield usefulness), pay is skewed,
bureaucracy is encouraged, empire building is the rule, and half the place is
as useless as tits on a boar hog, even in terms of their own stated purpose.
The AFL-CIO (according to a previous post) and other unions and union
organization suffered the same function although their role is clearly
more in keeping with human liberation. They simply were allowed to forget
for whom they were working and why.
While the DoD may be an extreme example, it does perform a "devil's
advocate" role in demonstrating the possible pitfalls when central planning
and seniority are combined.
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