Tag Archives: sandwich

The Sandwich of Corporate Exploitation

Google-search-sandwich

If ever you needed a vivid example of corporate exploitation of the most vulnerable, this is it. So-called free-marketeers will sneer at any suggestion of corporate over-reach — they will chant that it’s just the free market at work. But, the rules of this market,
as are many others, are written and enforced by the patricians and well-stacked against the plebs.

From NYT:

If you are a chief executive of a large company, you very likely have a noncompete clause in your contract, preventing you from jumping ship to a competitor until some period has elapsed. Likewise if you are a top engineer or product designer, holding your company’s most valuable intellectual property between your ears.

And you also probably have a noncompete agreement if you assemble sandwiches at Jimmy John’s sub sandwich chain for a living.

But what’s most startling about that information, first reported by The Huffington Post, is that it really isn’t all that uncommon. As my colleague Steven Greenhouse reported this year, employers are now insisting that workers in a surprising variety of relatively low- and moderate-paid jobs sign noncompete agreements.

Indeed, while HuffPo has no evidence that Jimmy John’s, a 2,000-location sandwich chain, ever tried to enforce the agreement to prevent some $8-an-hour sandwich maker or delivery driver from taking a job at the Blimpie down the road, there are other cases where low-paid or entry-level workers have had an employer try to restrict their employability elsewhere. The Times article tells of a camp counselor and a hair stylist who faced such restrictions.

American businesses are paying out a historically low proportion of their income in the form of wages and salaries. But the Jimmy John’s employment agreement is one small piece of evidence that workers, especially those without advanced skills, are also facing various practices and procedures that leave them worse off, even apart from what their official hourly pay might be. Collectively they tilt the playing field toward the owners of businesses and away from the workers who staff them.

You see it in disputes like the one heading to the Supreme Court over whether workers at an Amazon warehouse in Nevada must be paid for the time they wait to be screened at the end of the workday to ensure they have no stolen goods on them.

It’s evident in continuing lawsuits against Federal Express claiming that its “independent contractors” who deliver packages are in fact employees who are entitled to benefits and reimbursements of costs they incur.

And it is shown in the way many retailers assign hourly workers inconvenient schedules that can change at the last minute, giving them little ability to plan their lives (my colleague Jodi Kantor wrote memorably about the human effects of those policies on a Starbucks coffee worker in August, and Starbucks rapidly said it would end many of them).

These stories all expose the subtle ways that employers extract more value from their entry-level workers, at the cost of their quality of life (or, in the case of the noncompete agreements, freedom to leave for a more lucrative offer).

What’s striking about some of these labor practices is the absence of reciprocity. When a top executive agrees to a noncompete clause in a contract, it is typically the product of a negotiation in which there is some symmetry: The executive isn’t allowed to quit for a competitor, but he or she is guaranteed to be paid for the length of the contract even if fired.

Read the entire story here.

Image courtesy of Google Search.

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People Who Become Nouns

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

The world of science is replete with nouns derived from people. There is the Amp (named after André-Marie Ampère); the Volt (after Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta), the Watt (after the Scottish engineer James Watt). And the list goes on. We have the Kelvin, Ohm, Coulomb, Celsius, Hertz, Joule, Sievert. We also have more commonly used nouns in circulation that derive from people. The mackintosh, cardigan and sandwich are perhaps the most frequently used.

From Slate:

Before there were silhouettes, there was a French fellow named Silhouette. And before there were Jacuzzi parties there were seven inventive brothers by that name. It’s easy to forget that some of the most common words in the English language came from living, breathing people. Explore these real-life namesakes courtesy of Slate’s partnership with LIFE.com.

Jules Leotard: Tight Fit

French acrobat Jules Leotard didn’t just invent the art of the trapeze, he also lent his name to the skin-tight, one-piece outfit that allowed him to keep his limbs free while performing.

It would be fascinating to see if today’s popular culture might lend surnames with equal staying power to our language.

Slate has some more fascinating examples, here.

Image of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, 1783, by Thomas Gainsborough. Courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons.

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