Saturday, February 16, 2008

It All Comes Down To Tuna

We've been told for years that the reason businesses needed to offshore many of our manufacturing jobs is because the cost of American labor had gotten too high. Things such as taxes, health benefits and other costs that kept the worker able to complete their mundane tasks and live comfortably were hurting the bottom line. But I see it differently.
The company I work for provides food service for corporate settings. We provide breakfast and lunches, and dinners in factory and executive locations. This gives me a unique perspective to see the differences between the two extremes.
A good example of this is tuna. The line worker in the factory gets canned tuna, usually made into tuna salad. The bread usually comes in frozen and is never fresh. The worker also pays for this food from their own pocket. The worker has twenty minutes to eat their food, unable to leave the grounds, because the company feels if they return late from their lunch break, productivity will be compromised.
The executive flying on the corporate jet, however, is fed sushimi grade tuna. While the worker in the factory would be fortunate to get flank or skirt steak on rare occasions, the executive can have nothing less than steak cut fresh from tenderloin. And the executives meals are provided for by the company itself.
Once a quarter, if the worker has not missed any days of work, the company will throw an "attendance celebration", where they get to dine on a five ounce strip loin steak, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and off brand fruit juices. The executive has weekly meeting where only the finest pastries, juices, and fresh fruit are served. While the factory worker has to make do with regular-old-coffee, the executives can have nothing less than Starbuck's coffee.
The executives have their own dining area, where they are waited on by good looking young women (as opposed to the worked, who gets food slopped on a plate by an old cafeteria worker), and have their choice of refreshments (including beer, wine, and liquor) to wash down their meals.
The job of a CEO is to make their company as profitable as possible, which in turn will make the price of the stock rise along with profitability . You would think that meant manufacturing products that people would buy, but as of late, it has meant cutting costs to make the company more attractive to prospective investors. Trade agreements such as NAFTA allow these companies to offshore manufacturing jobs with impunity. The downside to this is that the service jobs created don't pay as well as the manufacturing jobs they are replacing, and as a result, the economy has slowly been sliding downhill because people no longer have the money to buy the items made in this country that have traditionally driven the US economy, such as new cars or houses.
And now, the subprime crisis has led to a global $77 trillion in stock market loss, and the country is headed towards a recession. And it's all because some bigwig is too good for canned tuna.


Graeme said...

Your analysis is better than anything I've heard on tv or the radio.

Under this system, the worker is a commodity. The executive doesn't see a difference between the machine or the human that operates it. We aren't free in any respectable definition of the word.

Kathy said...

Great post, Lew. It's infuriating that these companies always seek to improve their profits by taking things away from the lowly workers. The "Two Americas" Edwards talked exists because of these CEOs and executives and the politicians who enabled them.

DBK said...

Bingo. We live in the ownership society, and we are the ones who are owned.