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February 21, 2018



If you are still looking for similar stories I would recommend "The American Way of Eating", by Tracie McMillan. She goes undercover picking crops in California, then stocking shelves at a WalMart in Detroit and then kitchen/till duties at an Applebee's in New York. Would love to find a UK version of such reporting on food industry labour.


meanwhile your daily dose of Brexit joy:


one quarter may be a blip, but two quarters of increases in productivity and increases in wages is beginning to look like a trend.

Looking forward to economists explaining to me how reducing the supply of labour post EU referendum has not contributed to wages going up because increasing the supply of labour didn't depress wages at all. Ever.

And its amazing how many things are laid at the door of Thatcher. 28 years after she left office. Personally I blame Disraeli.

Jacques René Giguère

There is also "Nickeled and dimed" by Barabara Ehrenreich. And there was a similar book by a french journalist a few years ago.
The sense of tourism from the journalist is real. I remember working in some insane job in the overheated stuffed basement of an hospital when I was a student. The difference in morale between the soon to be parloed students and the lifers quiet desparation was staggering.

Tony M

AS footnote, but I recommend Gary Taubes Good Calories, Bad Calories. (UK title: The Diet Delusion - I think.)

The book examines the weak science behind most dietary advice, but it also has some general observations. One is that the working classes, despite physically active labor, tend to be fatter. The reason? Carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, bread, etc., are cheaper


This is a perceptive point: "The stress of work compels you to want a “momentary morale boost” such as a cigarette, chocolate or junk food."

George Orwell wrote about exactly this issue. In theory you can live healthily and well on very little (these diets typically involve oats, fruit and a lot of root vegetables!) but those who advocate such a diet, or even demonstrate it for a week or two, entirely miss the psychological needs that food must also satisfy.


I wonder, because I'm unlikely to get to read it, does Hired explore the consequences to the given individuals of just saying no to these conditions; and alternatively claiming JSA (job seekers allowance) via UC (universal credit)? I ask because Universal Credit is Conditional – claimants are contracted – in effect, they are contracted to accept whatever conditions of work are on offer. Just this week the DWP are back in our Supreme court on their second attempt to deny 'benefit' claimants recourse to the Human Rights Act. Hmm, I was once sceptical of a citizens’ income, but a State happy to have all notion of social contracts removered from those without capital means is a State which is setting itself up to do just that I suspect, like it or not...

Patrick Kirk

Thats a great review. I think I'll buy the book.

A lot of the issues it described should be reduced by Brexit. Labour shortages caused by lower immigration will force companies to raise productivity and to improve conditions. I voted Remain but its very telling that wages are rising in the areas where immigration is falling like agriculture.


Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey.


"this reminds us of Marx's biggest error - the belief that class consciousness would increase over time."

I'd argue that our betters have spent immense time and effort (and sacrificed whatever reservoir of thrust they started with) into engineering precisely this outcome. There seems little in bourgeois liberal social policy/mores designed to do anything other than divide, striate or atomise.


Just like the situation of the homeless or rough sleepers, the working conditions of the lowest income underclass (whether native or migrant) is an important aspect of personnel management: it is there as an object lesson to the lower, middle and upper-middle classes as to what they would deserve if they ever were make trouble and thus get fired or blacklisted for supporting dangerous extremists like the trade unions or Momentum or anything incompatible with english values.
People who don't want to end up as agency bulk headcount or homeless are thus reminded to put up with anything their manager and their employer tell them.


«One, sad to say, is immigration: especially at Amazon, James is surrounded by Romanians.»

This point really really really...

Apparently it took reading this book for our blogger to discover as late as 2018 that the immigrant underclass and the native workers competing with them have appalling working conditions.
Perhaps not everybody has read yet "This is London" by B Judah, where the working and living conditions of the migrant and native underclass are very clearly described.


«A lot of the issues it described should be reduced by Brexit. Labour shortages caused by lower immigration»

This is the usual delusion that "take back control" of immigration will mean lower immigration.
But non-EU immigration is already significantly larger than EU immigration, and in due time immigration will probably grow, as D Davis has mentioned a few time.

The level of immigration depends mostly on domestic politics: whether whoever benefits from more immigrants and lower underclass wages has influence over the government.
Consider non-EU immigration: T may apparently has tried for a decade to reduce it, with no effect. Too many powerful interests, including for example tory-leaning third-world origin citizens pulling in their relatives, especially the older ones, ensure that it can't be cut.
And after Brexit to be more "competitive" outside the protection of EU tariffs english industry will demand a large supply of low wage workers:

“One of the biggest names in European private equity said that Brexit will be good for his business, but will mean a 30% wage reduction for UK workers. ... He added that EU immigration will be replaced with workers from the Indian subcontinent and Africa, willing to accept "substantially" lower pay.”

«very telling that wages are rising in the areas where immigration is falling like agriculture.»

It is *temporarily* falling. The government cannot already start to massively increase the non-EU immigration levels. Let's say that will happen after the 2022 elections, that the Conservative will fight again as the English Nationalist Party, on a jingoist tone.


Lack of class cohesion? Sounds as if those Romanian Amazon workers had a thoroughly cohesive workplace until that English guy muscled in.

There was a "my working life" story in the Guardian about a guy who was working eleven-hour night shifts for Amazon, which left him healthy in bank balance and body (unlike James - possibly he was eating more healthily because he was living with his parents), but permanently dog-tired and lacking interest in anything much. It sounded hellish. The punchline was that he'd considered leaving, but he knew that if he made himself 'intentionally unemployed' he'd be disallowed from claiming any benefits for six months, and he didn't want to risk not being able to find a better job. Six months! When they talk about a benefits system that encourages people into work...

Eminent emigrant

Was there ever really such a thing as class solidarity? I believe that TV, cars (and now internet) have done more to undermine the sense of community than any politician. And maybe urbanisation.

Geographical collocation was the defining factor of community for centuries. The problem with communities based on choice, affinity or special interests is that they are inherently more brittle.


«TV, cars (and now internet) have done more to undermine the sense of community than any politician»

Community and "class solidarity" are rather different things.

And in England for example there is strong class solidarity among affluent upper-middle class property owners in the south (consider widespread NIMBY activism) and among upper class property and business owners (consider widespread activism in funding the far-right press and the Conservative party).

Class solidarity arises from the recognition of common interests, and among workers it is weak; in part because of decades of political suppression because of lack of representation (known as New Labour).
Plus skilful "divide, striate or atomise" as "Scratch" wrote above, mostly based on this: most workers still have a few rights, a few perks, and they are being lost only slowly (a deliberate "salami slicing" pace), so older works don't care, because they expect to retire before their vested benefits disappear, and the better off younger workers care less, because they expect to keep their for longer than worse off ones.


There's been some publicity lately for indentured servitude. I wonder if the ultras have considered the Indian indenture system?


«considered the Indian indenture system?»

I think that many Conservatives are familiar with Dubai etc. because of the large number of expats there, and the model probably is going to be the arab "khalafa" system, which is excellent for keeping servants obedient and cheap.



@begob. Seriously?

The Remain side of the referendum promoted the ability to get millions of people here on low wages? Leave wanted restrictions in immigration to make way for UK workers to develop skills and get better wages.

Davis X. Machina

Those Romanians are the last humans to do that job for Amazon. The moment, post-Brexit, they're sent packing, the robots come in...

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