In the documentary, The Harvest-La Cosecha, Angus McLennan reveals the struggling lives of thousands of immigrant children who have turned into farm workers in the US. In the article, I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave, by Mac McClelland reveals the gruesome working conditions and low wages in the online-shipping warehouse.
Just as is the case in The Harvest-La Cosecha documentary, McClelland reveals that the online-shipping business in the US targets vulnerable pool of people to offer cheap labor without asking questions. This paper attempts to explicitly compare and contrast the various working conditions covered across several class readings and documentary. The paper will also suggest possible solution for lessening the negative effects of these practices.
In the Harvest-La Cosecha documentary, there are many underage children working in the expansive farms everyday for more than the standard eight hours as stipulated the US labor laws. The children work for fourteen hours every day and do not have a single day off in a week. Despite the longer working hours under a hostile work environment, the immigrants are paid peanuts and they do not have health insurance or workman compensation benefits which as indicated in the federal labor regulations (McClelland The Harvest scene 1).
The same pathetic conditions are observed by McClelland as a worker in one of the online-shipping warehouses in Ohio. McClelland is surprised by the dehumanizing and demoralizing work conditions they are subjected to. While working at the Amalgamated Product Giant Shipping Worldwide Inc., the “workers shipped products for online retailers under conditions that were surprisingly demoralizing and dehumanizing, even to someone who’s spent a lot of time working in warehouses” (McClelland par. 3).
Slavery as a mode of production has remained a favorite in companies that function in markets that attract immigrant workers and vulnerable people. These companies thrive on discrimination and exploitation of labor supply to satisfy their selfishness. Since they are the masters of labor production tools such as wages, this group continuously disrespects the rights of the laborers.
For instance, the labor strategies in the online shipping warehouses in Ohio are characterized by exploitation and depression of labor to ensure that hybrid slavery with bare minimal remuneration supports massive profit making at the least possible cost of production. McClelland admits that within the giant online shipping warehouses, “working more than eight hours is mandatory. Stretching is also mandatory, since you will either be standing still at a conveyor line for most of your minimum 10-hour shift” (McClelland par. 5).
This trend is similar to the scenes in The Harvest-La Cosecha documentary where the young immigrant workers from Latino and African descent are paid lower salary but are expected to achieve optimal performance in inhuman conditions. These underage employees are expected not to ask any ‘stupid’ questions but follow the orders to the later. Any sign of disobedience attracts immediate dismissal (McClelland The Harvest scene 3).
In a perfect labor market, wages are supposed to be determined by the cost of production and total output. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the Harvest-La Cosecha documentary and the online shipping warehouses in Ohio. Laborers are merely spectators of exploitation as feudalist system controls production mode. For instance, in the article, I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave, McClelland is subjected to a gruesome interview and background check as though he has no rights as a human being.
The computer asks racist and intimidating questions with a preset notion that all the potential employees have a criminal past. Besides, the warehouse has very little policies on employee safety. McClelland notes that “there are transition points in the warehouse floor where the footing is uneven, and people trip and sprain ankles” (McClelland par. 11). Despite full knowledge of this, little has been done by the management to improve the situation.
The same scenario is visible in the documentary. The young vulnerable immigrant workers do not have sick-off, treatment cover for injuries on site, and medical cover for any form of illness. They are expected to show every morning and work.
For instance, one of the supervisors dismisses an immigrant worker who was taken to him ill. Unfortunately, this immigrant worker and others with health problems are dismissed without any form of compensation. Instead, they are declared lazy persons who do not want to benefit from the land of opportunities (McClelland The Harvest scene 5).
Suggestion for improvement
Reflectively, transitional wage differentials offer a valid explanation for the elicit labor differential persistence in the labor markets as part of the supply constraint. Ideally, the workers in the two environments have limited option apart from changing jobs since these current positions are the best alternatives they are able to secure.
There is an urgent need to integrate the above sectors within the US labor regulation frameworks. For instance, the federal government should be proactive in defining the minimum wages level, acceptable working conditions, and employee compensations packages for vulnerable immigrant workers who currently forms 16% of the total labor force. These recommendations will be instrumental in improving the working conditions in the above sectors.
McClelland, Mac. The Harvest: La Cosecha. 2011.
I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave. 2012.