“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” ― Upton Sinclair, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked
by Paul Haeder / April 10th, 2021
Lies, Memory Hole, Circling the Managers’ Rotting Core
Scenario: Interesting how in the first three minutes of a mandatory one-on-one interview with my supervisor — no agenda, no inkling really what it would be about — she yells at me and says, “You look at me when I am talking to you. Look at me right now.”
I’m across from her in the kitchen where she decides to dress me down in, me, with a fucking face mask on, per the nonprofit’s CoV2 orders and signage, while she spews her spittle at me. Ten feet away. While she is unmasked.
Now, just what would you do, kind reader, with a manager starting off a meeting that way?
Mind you, I am taking notes, as I always do wherever I go. “Don’t look down while I’m talking to you.” She repeats this rage again.
I, of course, answer with, “I am taking notes for what appears to be a serious meeting. I’m looking down because I am taking notes.”
She is on her personal phone with the cretin boss of bosses, in his Salem office. Literally, I am 10 feet away, and four staff are just outside the swinging kitchen doors listening in. I mention that concern, and she says, “They can’t hear me.”
The woman degrades and spirals into rage, raging further and further when I am asked for input. I respond, give some pushback, criticizing her current and past demeanor, and she rages again. “This meeting isn’t about what you think I have done. This meeting concerns you and your behavior.”
I do eventually stand up, pack my bag, and head out toward the door, but not before she gets her final yell in: “Don’t you dare leave. If you do, that’s it. That’s it, don’t you leave.”
I respond with, “That’s it? What does that mean? Are you firing me?”
Her paddle pudding head retorts, “Yes, this either can be a first warning if you come back in here, or a final warning if you leave. Come back here now.” She is red-faced, yelling, and the four staff have been listening to this the entire time.
The boss of the boss calls me after I email him to immediately call and explain what just happened, and he says, “Well, we will have another meeting tomorrow after you both cool down. You both take the rest of the day off.”
He states it will be a Zoom call, as I already complained to him about why it wasn’t Zoomed before all the yelling from my supervisor. Then, he puts me on suspension, unpaid, after writing three sets of grievances.
Right to Fire You No Matter How Abusive Management is
It is legal in the U.S. for an employer to cut you loose at any moment, even if you’re doing a fantastic job.
They don’t need a reason. You can be fired for backing the wrong political candidate or the wrong baseball team.
As long as your employment isn’t covered by a collective bargaining agreement, an individual employment contract or regulations that supersede Employment at Will, you could be toast at any moment, no matter how long you’ve held your job. — “Ten Ways Employment At-Will Are Bad”
Ahh, that is it, no, the at-will, right-to-work flimflam of American capitalism. I have been in a union twice, once as a union organizer. The other time was as a community college teacher in Washington State. I even worked with adjunct faculty as an adjunct faculty organizer. Other terms for adjunct faculty include: just-in-time-professor; 11th-hour-teacher; freeway flyer; gypsy scholars; professor on food stamps.
This part-time status, where I worked at four institutions, teaching 9 classes in a one semester load, is part of the precarious nature of work. Now, more than 80 percent of classes at colleges and universities is taught by so-called adjuncts. With the planned-pandemic, colleges are cutting real professors and the other lucky tenured track folk to make room for the new normal of no more or limited face to face time. Colleges and universities are pushing for a deeper cuts to non-essential liberal arts offerings, even many of the sciences, for those more business friendly curricula. To do this, they are hiring on people who are the lowest of the lowest scabs get onto a platform like Zoom and Blackboard to teach not one, not five, not 10 classes at a time, but in some cases, many thousands of “students” (customers) in many states and many countries. MOOC’s — massive open online classes.
Working in social services — all nonprofits who poverty pimp with income streams from governmental agencies — I have run into the most corrupt and corrupting people since, a, social services is supposed to be about supporting people, putting people (clients) first, and, b, meant to incorporate a sophisticated overlay of trauma informed practices, clear communication, transparency, and, c, it’s work with people who would have otherwise been thrown on the great trash heap of America’s capitalist throw-away society pile. We are talking about me working with homeless veterans, homeless just-released-felons, almost-homeless foster youth, and adults with developmental, intellectual and psychiatric disabilities. And those with TBI and PTSD from violence, both physical and structural.
Every nonprofit I worked for fought talk of unionizing. Nonprofits have scolded workers for sharing their hourly incomes (sic). Nonprofits have put into policy no talking bad about the management edicts. These disaster capitalism folk and their boards and CFOs and CEOs and especially their HR heads, they in the end only want good PR spin, emotionally and physically wrecked workers who are compliant, grateful for a $15 an hour job, and almost complete control of the workers’ ability to face off/down power and maleficence and corruptible managers.
Despite the insistence of businesses and their lackeys that “right to work” legislation will help create jobs during the “great recession,” and despite their twisting and turning of statistical data to corroborate this story, the fact is that the “right to work” snake-oil doesn’t create jobs. What it does is puts more ammunition in the hands of employers to use against workers who dare stand up to their workplace hegemony, and helps ensure that employers go unchallenged as they slash the wages and benefits of their employees.
The solution is not, as the capitalists say, to combat the rights of workers to organize their workplaces. The solution is precisely the opposite: to allow workers not only to organize their workplaces, but the whole of society, under a system that works for the advancement of all workers. Otherwise, any “rights” workers have will be tempered and restricted for the benefit of business.
Double and Triple Speak
As I mentioned above, I was yelled at and threatened on a Monday, and then I sent in not one, not two, but three very detailed grievances against two managers (the one in person and the one on the phone).
The nature of and specificity included in these complaints were obviously impeachable offenses for that supervisor and her supervisor. I did refer to my younger sister (a decade younger) who has since age 22, after Northern Arizona University (BSW, 1985) matriculation as a social worker, been in many dozens of iterations as a social worker, social services manager, and case manager and case manager manager. We are talking about at-risk teens; migrant farmers; abused women; shelters; rape crisis centers; and generally, statewide social services management.
Her work has been exclusively in Arizona, another retrograde at-will, right-to-be-fired-for-anything state. She hands down told me that as a manager of 27 social workers and others, if she had talked to one of her staff that way, she would be immediately fired.
My detailed and long grievances, of course, got me sacked. It took less than four full days to investigate literally dozens of instances where this supervisor had since day one breached my confidentiality, other workers’ protected information, clients’ personal and medical information. From day one, the 68 year old woman used me as a sounding board, coming to me daily many times in the day with her exasperation and condemnations and criticisms of this or that person, much of which was more than just inappropriate gossip.
I was harassed because of my three college degrees, harassed for my efficiency as a social services practitioner, harassed because of my gender (male), harassed because of my age (63-64), harassed because I am a writer, harassed because I am anti-Trump/Biden.
It gets worse, and alas, I still have to fight the termination, the idiocy of a CEO who actually put in writing two huge lies (errors) in her sped-up termination letter.
There is an OSHA complaint filed, for unmasked people in an unventilated room when I have had to abide by those mask mandates since day one. It is not a matter of me disagreeing with almost everything tied to corona cold virus 2.0, and a matter of me being more informed than boss A, or boss B, or boss C (CEO) about masks. I put up with the bloody mask like I put up with my fucking helmet for my motorcycle.
You know the old saw — Do as I say and do as I do! Not here, amigo.
Broken Bodies, Traumatized Brain, GAD, PTSD as the Real Pandemic
Look, when I am working with people with major histories of physical problems at birth, and the reality of being on the spectrum, having mental retardation, having cerebral palsy, Fetal Alcohol Effective Disorders, Downs Syndrome, Fragile X and any number of other issues tied to bad pregnancies, drug addicted first hours on planet earth, strokes in vitro, and the luck of genetic anomalies, I treat them as persons first, but with a truck load of knowledge on what some of those developmental and intellectual disabilities might be doing to influence my clients’ lives and my clients’ families’ lives.
But the fact is, those people in the professions around poverty pimping for the Nonprofit Industrial Complex are lowly paid, and most come from lives of trauma, physical conditions, mental dire straits, and more.
Yes, the USS (United States of Snakes) society in general is in the GAD — general anxiety disorder. Trauma is a loss of a child in a miscarriage, a death of a loved one, divorce, homelessness, poverty, incarceration, military combat. It is blunt force trauma to the head, to the body, to the soul. I get it that my fellow worker is suffering, big time.
This predatory, fleecing, disaster-ready, dirty capitalism — where all value is on making a buck, making it anyway you can, in many cases — it eats at the souls of people. Social workers and social services people come from whence they speak and how they work — many are also products of some set of significant emotional events in their own lives.
Broken people get into this umbrella of professions. Some get certified as peer support counselors, that is, people who were once on drugs, on booze, in mental dire straits, incarcerated, destroyed partially by rape or war.
“It takes a damaged person to help a damaged person.” This credo is emblazoned in the social services arenas. It is not a truism, but it is truly how these poverty pimps operate.
Given that a CEO who might be the spouse of a big bucks MD, who has some business degree, that person, even in his or her late thirties, does not only patronize his or her workforce, but treat them as children. I’ve written about the infantilization of Americans.
That has infected how an out-of-control boss just a week ago yelled at me, threatened me, and had the stupidity to think I’d stay in that unventilated room to take more of it. Her idiot boss, again, had the audacity to not intervene and call off the meeting early. I called it off by leaving.
Now, the term, Poverty Pimp, was coined by Black Panthers, who saw middle and upper middle class whites come into neighborhoods to have their feel-good moments and build their Women’s Club resumes by setting up nonprofits to take care of the poor (read, BIPOC, addicted, homeless, lowly educated, poorly represented, stuck in hoods dripping with environmental racism at their cores).
The idea is people on boards get all sorts of political perks, and the administrators and upper management get some juicy salaries running these poverty pimping programs in the Nonprofit Industrial Complex.
We know why there is poverty, environmental racism, economic inequity, poor health and education outcomes for BIPOC folk. The real pimping is the pimping inside and around the Complex. Not the Matrix, but the Military-Media-Medical-Pharma-Ag-Mining-Oil-AI-Finance-Insurance-Real Estate-Prison-Education-Lawyer-Lobby-Surveillance-Banking-Stock Trading Complex. End this Complex, and most things in USS are solved.
What befalls a poor neighborhood is systemic/economic violence and a complete septicemia of the lower classes, those of us in the 80 Percent.
Here, from a religious writer —
Last week was the first time I have ever been called a “poverty pimp” in front God and everyone—in public. It certainly got my attention!
As Director of International Child Care Ministries, I straddle two worlds—the America I call home and the 30 countries where our sponsored children live. I travel back and forth between these two worlds several times a year and experience the stark contrast between my world and theirs.
Here in the U.S., part of my responsibility is to advocate for the children at conferences, churches, and other venues. Last week at an event I had my display set up, 20 kids’ faces looking out from their brochures, silently imploring conference attendees to choose them and become their sponsors.
My accuser was an eloquent professor of African American Studies. He is offended at groups like mine who apparently profit off Africa’s poverty and perpetuate an image of black helplessness. He is concerned that African American children who view pathetic images of hungry kids on TV internalize a sense of racial inferiority. And that’s not the half of it.
He also proposed that the American Church invests energy and resources in the missionary enterprise around the world, but seems to care nothing about the problems that plague our inner cities back here at home. Why, asked the professor, can’t the Church in the U.S. direct some of its compassion to the neighbor next door? Why do we care so much about black children who live across the ocean when we are so callous toward the ones who live across the tracks?
“Every time I come to a Christian conference like this, I have to walk past three tables of poverty pimps to get into the auditorium; it makes me sick!” Ouch! — Linda Adams
So, while I work with these various human beings stuck in the vice of capitalism and under the ineptitude of government agencies, and the systemic infliction of economic, cultural, physical, intellectual and spiritual trauma on their kids and their kids’ kids, since I am a lowly paid worker, hourly, with the one goal of keeping some employer-based health care, it is really one-on-one work I do, and I get that sense of satisfaction of doing good for one person at a time. My boss’s boss’s boss is most probably rich by his/her/their workers’ standards, for sure, and like rich people this person looks down on his/her/their workers, even looking down on the bosses of the bosses.
The Very Nature of Work Inside a Dog-eat-Dog Capitalistic Cage
The lack of collective bargaining and concerted intentional organizing inside and outside of the workplace is the devil’s bargain the Fortune 1000 companies and folk like Bezos have dreamed of, and worked to concoct.
Talk of unionizing, or sharing work outside the confines of the actual nonprofit pimping outfit will get you narced on, and the HR wannabe thugs sicced on you.
“Can we do some job sharing, swapping hours, outside the confines of the management teams, away from the watchful eyes of the manager overlords?” People are so afraid of losing the $15 an hour “white collar job” and their health insurance, that they would do anything to keep both.
That also means they would lie — lie to themselves about how they might think they are valued. Lies about being allowed into and to share the master’s house. Lies against the very people who push back.
In one illiterate termination letter, the person, me, is pink slipped.
And the former staff members I will never interface with even in a small rural coastal county? They are happy they are still in good stead, happy to say goodbye to the rabble-rouser (me) or whatever shit language they might use to attack me, a kick-ass practitioner who has been wise enough to forward all those work emails from people attesting to that accolade to my private email.
But You Must Have Done Something to Provoke Them?
It’s inevitable that this sort of refrain or retort comes with it an incredible amount of patronizing and suspended belief. Supposedly progressive people have asked that question, Come on, you must of done something? It’s a pretty simple response — “It is possible that 90 percent of the people in an agency, or state, or town, or nonprofit can believe in wrong things 90 percent of the time.”
Rachel Carson, you must have provoked. MLK Jr., you must have provoked. Caesar Chavez, you must have provoked. I don’t have to fill in the blank for your own set of people who did the right things, and in doing so, went up against sacred cows and broken paradigms. They must have provoked their own assassinations, Rev. Oscar Romero or Berta Cáceres.
As is the case of this Disneyfied country, where people want to be around rich, powerful, connected and supposedly creative overlords. They want to rise up from their simple, poor or middleclass roots and get that brass ring. The prize. So they will succumb to anything, almost. Put up with abuse.
Not to equate great men and women fighting for justice, to poor schleps (see photo below) who want to gain Holly-Dirt fame and wealth.
But this is the culture, whether it is the Starvation Army, or United Way or Goodwill Industries or Google or Wells Fargo. People in America are mean as cuss, but do a fine soft shoe showing the bullshit of their exteriors. It’s what’s inside themselves that counts. Do as I say, but don’t do as I do! They know how to PR spin their “workplace” vision and mission which has been scripted from some of the most mamby pamby of thinkers, but in the end, they treat human beings — the workers — with no dignity, no fairness and a knee-jerk circling of their managerial wagons. Of course, all CEOs do not deserve their high pay. Fact. All college presidents and their battalions of dean-lets and hucksters in VP and MBA roles do not deserve their high pay, laurels and power. Fact. And, this sordid story to the tenth power below represents USA, really, and capital, money, and not just in the United Snakes of States.
But one day, if we survive, and if we put up with these psychopaths, and we shall too have our day in the shade, our laurels, our big homes and our 401-k’s. Stock options and kids getting into Ivy League Un-Schools.
Kelly Hayes, Truthout, interviewing, Sarah Jaffe, a Type Media Center reporting fellow and an independent journalist covering the politics of power.
KH: I think a lot of our conversations about neoliberalism in the media fall short, because we don’t really help people get their heads around what it is. People usually talk about privatization, but that sort of singular focus can make it seem like neoliberals are just people who think private services are better, or just want money in the private sector because they believe in the free market, but as you and I have talked about before, neoliberalism isn’t about the free market. It’s about having a well defended market.
KH: A market that’s rules and functions can’t be tampered with by the people whose exploitation the system relies on. It’s a system that protects markets from people, and even governments, who might otherwise rally against their exploitation or abuse. It’s a counteroffensive, in many ways, against the prior gains of unions and workers who rebelled under capitalism. After losing a lot of ground, bosses and politicians needed to rewrite the terrain, to better control workers, and one of the ways they have done that is by gutting public education.
SJ: And, I think one of the things that’s really important to talk about, because you know, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff’s book that people have, you know, that has gotten deservedly a lot of hype. But also, I just want to note that capitalism has always been about surveillance also, right, that like the techniques of surveilling workers, again, whether they are enslaved, or theoretically free workers, are intrinsic to this system of capitalism, always have been. And just now we’ve got better technology for it. So you can have a surveillance camera in an Amazon truck where the worker doesn’t even technically work for Amazon, but Amazon has the right to spy on them. Or, you know, the gadgets that you use, if you’re working in one of these warehouses where you literally have a thing that’s just like strapped to your arm. So the sort of bio politics of all of this stuff is really interesting. And this is where we get to, you know, the Amazon peeing in bottles stuff, Amazon workers peeing in bottles stuff. — “Work Isn’t Fulfilling Because Capitalism is a Death March,” Truthout