Americans typically believe that labor exploitation is a thing of the past, an unspeakable act only connected to sweat shop owners who abuse foreigners for low wages and dangerous working conditions. In the US, we would like to think that we are beyond this type of malfeasance and that workers are treated with respect and protected by the law. Unfortunately, our country ignores the fact that thousands of people are being exploited in the labor force.
Although the law may protect our labor force from harsh working conditions and guarantee them at least minimum wage, there is often no protection for workers who do not belong to a labor union and many states, such as Indiana, allow very few protections for anyone working in the labor force.
Indiana is considered an employment at-will state, meaning that employers and employees alike may terminate their employment at any time, under any condition. The only stipulation would be if an employer commits discrimination by firing an employee due to age, race, sex, religion, national origin or disability.
There is a fine line that employers can cross in order to get rid of workers. Often employers can force an employee to quit by creating unrealistic or unclear job expectations and descriptions. Employees sometimes feel that the hoops they must maneuver in order to perform their job correctly may appear to be large enough at first. Later, when an employee “rocks the boat” or requests special accommodations, the hoop becomes so narrow that no one can get through without significant damage.
Residents of Indiana and many other employment at-will states, work their fingers to bone, give in when they know they shouldn’t and simply just accept the requirements of their job because they have no other choice. Jobs are hard to come by in today’s economy and employers are well aware of this fact. Knowing that most workers will take-it-or-leave it in today’s unpredictable job market, employers are cutting wages, reducing their labor force and firing at extreme rates.
Karl Marx theorized that the rich owned not only the business and the commodity, but the labor of the worker as well. In fact, labor is the driving commodity of society. Without workers, there would be no commodity exchange. The distance between rich and poor is growing at a rate that Karl Marx would assume would bring ultimate revolution. But today, we are not seeing a revolution in Marx’s terms. We instead are experiencing a political struggle that attempts to encompass the needs of the labor force, but in fact only perpetuates the needs of bourgeois large business owners and allows for the exploitation of a drowning labor force that can’t afford to speak its mind.
While huge corporations like Wal-Mart are deepening the gap between rich and poor by increasing their health insurance premiums, workers are feeling more exploited and undervalued. There must be a way to change the nauseous wave of capitalism that has spun violently out of control, forcing most to live on a wage not affordable for basic subsistence.
Workers can’t always revolt, and most aren’t likely to do so without the assistance of a labor union. But workers should know that they hold some power in their hands if they just join forces large enough to be heard. Voting in both local and national elections is one way to change the systems that exploit the labor force. People should be voting for the candidate that most positively affects the economics of their most precious commodity, human labor. The fantasy that a bourgeoisie candidate will save us from labor exploitation is unrealistic. The rich cannot, and should not speak for the poor. Don’t make the mistake of letting them do so. Workers need to register to vote and actually get out there and do something to change their lives. While it may not feel like much, together the masses can change their situation.
The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.—-Karl Marx