Ah, there’s nothing like the post-Christmas food coma day to talk about the dichotomy of our society here in the United States. Everybody’s off of work, nursing their hangovers or returning the crappy presents that their Aunt Matilda got them. Well, except the people in retail who have to put up with all your over-privileged complaints. Or the people who clean your houses and offices. Or the people who pick your food. Or the people who deliver your packages. You know, all the people who get paid crap and keep the economic engine that we all depend on functioning normally. Be nice to them. Their job sucks way worse than yours does.
It is amazing how different downtown Chicago is on the day after Christmas (and I’d assume the day after Thanksgiving). It’s like a ghost town. Well, most of it is. Chicago is a fairly heavily segregated city. Even in downtown, where there are no hard and fast racial borders, it is noticeable. Today, especially so. Millennium Station, which on a normal day I would guess serves 60-70% Black people is almost 100% Black today, except for the line at Starbucks. And speaking of Starbucks, there are Starbucks stores that are closed today! I didn’t think that was possible, but if you work in a skyscraper with its own economic ecosystem and that ecosystem includes a Starbucks, chances are it and most of the other stores and shops and restaurants are closed.
The finer restaurants will be open today and the early staff of mostly Hispanics are patiently waiting for their almost assuredly White manager, who is late, to arrive for the day to open up for them. I’d imagine that if they were late, the consequences would be dire. They will cook our food and serve it to us privileged as we all enjoy a welcome and deserved respite from the toils of everyday life, completely oblivious to those surrounding us that every bit deserves the respite we enjoy, but do not have the social standing to demand one. So tip them well.
Privilege isn’t anything to feel guilty about. In fact, you should enjoy it! But you should also recognize it. A little introspection can go a long way and if you believe you got to where you are by sheer force of will, you are either deceiving yourself or you’re a complete dick. The latter can likely not be corrected, when you’re a dick you’re a dick all the way from your first cigarette to your last dying day, but self-deception can be fought against and it is worth fighting to become a more socially conscious individual.
Sure, Amazon pays their warehouse workers fairly poorly and treats them like common criminals by forcing them to be searched for stolen items after clocking out from their shift, but I ordered an item Monday morning and chose the super-slow-get-$1-credit-towards-ebooks method of shipping and the item shipped Monday night and has already arrived at my doorstep by 1 PM Tuesday afternoon. Logistics, you’re doing it right.
Of course, UPS also deserves a shout-out for their amazing delivery service. And they pay their union employees fairly well. If only Amazon would take a page from UPS.
And yes, my hatred of stepping foot inside a store trumps my disdain for certain companies that treat their employees poorly. I’m not perfect.
Federal long-term unemployment benefits expired at the end of 2013 and Congress has yet to approve a bill extending those benefits. Democrats just want to get it done while Republicans claim to want to get it done but they are insisting on cutting things that benefit poor people which is like saying “Here’s $5 for unemployment benefits and I’ll just take that $5 that I gave you for food in return. Now go and be not poor!”
A lot of Republicans are simply dead set on denying any extension of the unemployment benefits. Their pushcart of thought seems to go like this: People on long-term unemployment are lazy and are just collecting unemployment because they can. Taking away the long-term unemployment benefits will force them to get off their lazy asses and find a job and then they can empower themselves to be not poor.
There are a few things wrong with this, the most important of all being that people who are on unemployment are required to look for jobs are a prerequisite to continuing to get unemployment. So they are looking for jobs. The jobs just don’t exist. Recently, a new Washington D.C. Wal-Mart posted openings for 600 jobs. How many applications did they get? 23,000! I’m sure those 22,400 people who no longer have unemployment will be even extra motivated to find the jobs that don’t exist.
Then there’s the myriad other problems that the long-term unemployed face like companies refusing to hire them because they’ve been unemployed so long and the mental health problems that go with being unemployed in a culture where you are defined by your job. Not to mention Congress hasn’t done anything to actually help these people when there is a long list of things that could be done immediately. Take massive, much needed, infrastructure spending for example.
But no, the only answer that Republicans can come up with to lift people out of hardship is to create more hardship for them. Yeah, that’ll work. So now, the unemployed are back to only receiving 26 weeks of unemployment benefits in an economy that takes them on average 35 weeks. What could possibly go wrong?
This past Monday, in honor of Labor Day, I did what every other Real American was doing. Not work. It’s a Labor Day tradition. Unlike most American, I decided to memorialize the current sorry state of Labor in America by watching a couple of horror movies. Both movies were less scary and contained less blood than working at McDonald’s.
The first one was “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil”. This has been on my suggested viewing Netflix list for a long time but I never really gave it much thought since it didn’t seem up my alley. Boy, was I wrong. This is one of those movies that has an idea so great you’re surprised no one has ever thought of it before. The horror is comedic and the blood is over the top. If you’re expecting a serious horror movie, look elsewhere, but if a horror movie with lots of laughs sounds about your style, I highly recommend it.
The second one was “Dead Snow”. This one’s foreign so those of you who don’t like subtitles should look elsewhere. If you do look elsewhere, though, you’ll miss the Nazi zombies. And the Nazi zombie entrails. And the dude hanging off the cliff by Nazi zombie entrails. And many other cunningly creative blood and guts play. This one quickly turns into a gore fest and doesn’t let up. Fun for the entire family. If your family’s idea of fun is smashing in Nazi zombie heads. What’s wrong with your family?
I have never understood how companies could get away with hiring unpaid interns. It’s a system that should have gone out the door with child labor and the lack of fire codes. It continues to this day, though. But maybe not for long! Unpaid internships may soon be coming to an end.
The very first case filed in court against the producers of the movie “Black Swan” was just decided by a judge who ruled that the unpaid interns should have at least received minimum wage. No one really thought it would get this far, but the first verdict is in. Many more could potentially follow. There are currently at least fifteen similar suits in the court system right now.
I wish them luck. It’ll be what’s become an all too rare victory for labor.