Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Point / Weaker Point: Working In Homestead

The Steel Mill Provides
By Istvan Laszlofi, US Steel Homestead Works Mill Worker, 1922

We came to this new country to make a living and to find our pot of gold. Across the Atlantic, people have mistaken notions of what America is and is not. Working in the mill is not easy, and it is not always pleasant, but I believe it is better. It is not better for us, the workers. We work long twelve-hour days with few breaks and physically demanding tasks. Tuberculosis is common, and accidents, unfortunately, are not infrequent. I have known four co-workers in twelve years who have died in mill accidents. Usually there is another worker fresh off the boat and a train ride across three states to fill the spot. These men don’t realize that only a week earlier the man whose job they took gave his life for that job.

Our hours are long. It seems like there is no rationale for this other than to break our backs and to make us as unthinking and unfeeling as the machines we operate. The company builds us libraries and parks, but what workers have time for these luxuries? The only respite workers know is a few hours of sleep or a few glasses of whiskey.

This leads many to rebel, to try and overturn the system, to try and make things better. While I applaud these men for their efforts, I continue to do my job because I need the money. I came here to make a better life for myself, but I realize that it is too late for me. Now I realize that I am making a better life for my great grandchildren. They will be the ones to benefit from the libraries and culture which is being built on my generation’s back.

My Job Sucks
Stephanie Lash, Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse Cashier, Waterfront 2003

I hate my job. It sucks ass. All day long, ignorant people come in and expect me to be “Miss Fix-It” because I work for $5.15 an hour scanning their home improvement items. “Which air conditioner has the highest EER efficiency rating?” How the fuck should I know? I can tell you where to swipe your card if you want to check out. I can authorize a credit sale, a debit sale, or a cash exchange. I’m not fucking Miss Bob Vila because I don a blue apron which says “Ask me about home improvement.” How the fuck should I know anything about home improvement, when I live in a goddamn apartment? I’ve lived there my whole life. If something breaks, we call the goddamn landlord. Do the fucking same and leave me the fuck alone.

And then my boss, he is a goddamn jagoff as well. He wants me to give up my life to fill these peoples’ needs. He expects me to work weekends and holidays. Yeah, fucking right. This is not my goddamn career, I’m not a home improvement technician, I’m not a Lowe’s stockholder, I don’t give a shit if I work here, the Chick-Fil-A, or at A Plus Convenience, it’s all the same money and the same shitty ass job in a different uniform. If he doesn’t like it, he can bite my ass. Just let me work my thirty-five hours a week and leave me the fuck alone.

I swear to god, I’m going to lose it one of these days. Whether it’s on one of the customers or my manager, I’m really going to go off. And fuck it, why shouldn’t I? What the fuck do I have to lose? I’ll go get a goddamn job at the Uni-Mart down the street if you don’t like what I have to say.

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