Maybe a decade ago, the government offices downtown phased out a lot of its clerical positions, many of which had at one point been unionized jobs paying $15+ per hour, if they were not salaried. When they gradually laid all those people off, they introduced a new clerical position, the “Student Assistant,” which paid around $10-$12 per hour and allowed the state to make the position competitive-looking while structuralizing part-time, non-union labor that excluded almost every resident in the city. A few years ago, a lot of the departments these clerical “Student Assistants” worked in started privatizing. When Lucas held this position, his job was basically to write, rewrite, and digitize forms across government agencies, especially in Technology, Management, and Budget. Writing FOIA forms, creating more bureaucracy, digitizing bureaucracy, but also (at least) working to make paperwork more accessible. But his department, his government job, where we worked in the same building the Governor worked, was actually a contracted project. For Hewlett-Packard. The government contracted Hewlett-Packard to replace its interior bureaucracy-writing department. (And, as it goes, they dissolved their contract and everyone in the department was laid off without warning in the middle of the day.)
Now they are trying to transition those lower-paid, part-time “Student” positions into unpaid internships. Unpaid internships which amount to…paperwork. And maybe a fifteen years ago, would have been salaried and unionized.
It is so easy to say “look at how fucked the millennials are!” That would not be wrong. This is one of the best examples I can come up with to demonstrate how people like Snyder are fucking everyone over and creating, like, an uneconomy for young people which is some bananas labor exploitation.
But how come we never look at these stories and say “wow once residents of this city who worked for the city for decades had salaried, ‘secure’ jobs doing work for the city until the government wrote a new labor model which explicitly denied these local jobs to anyone except for students, most of whom do not even live in this city, many of whom are not even from this state, and now the people who have lived in this city for decades don’t have jobs anymore, and students are mad about getting paid only three dollars over minimum wage”? (Often those people are mad that the city is full of poor people who approach them on the street or sit next to them on the bus, lol.)
I don’t want to read as labor reverent or (god) promoting a kind of broad-based working class movement, because those aren’t necessarily how my politics work, nor do I think they’re that useful. And I won’t pretend like the babies of the New Left (in the UAW, for example) were heroes, or right, or not implicated in this. Walter Reuther was a precious babe and he was really smart and really important but he also invented a business unionism which wasn’t supposed to even sustain itself after the fifties, but which is just as much to blame for Reagan’s war on labor and neocolonial globalization as anything else.
But I am pretty consistently confused about why I hear so many “Millennials” (like, not anyone on tumblr, but in general) invoking labor arguments without really speaking to any of these labor histories? I just don’t understand it. I don’t understand how we look at shitty student jobs and not ask questions about who worked those jobs before we started doing them part-time. While I think unions are “to blame” sometimes, I’m not quite sure why I’m not seeing people my age write think pieces about deregulation, the destruction of the union, and the marriage between US unionism and imperialism that got us here in the first place.
I’m not sure why we can’t look at “Boomers”—ie, people of a certain age—and see that they don’t have jobs either. I can’t for the fuck of me understand why people keep passing around things that say GREEDY PEOPLE IN THE ERA OF REAGAN without recognizing that most people globally under Reagan were suffering, and some of them were right here, you know? YOU KNOW, THE STATE THAT HAS MOSTLY BEEN KNOWN AS A POST-INDUSTRIAL APOCALYPTIC WASTELAND FOR MANY DECADES?? THAT DID NOT HAVE ANY PERIOD OF NOT-RECESSION BETWEEN THE RECESSION IN THE EIGHTIES AND THE RECESSION OF THIS CENTURY? ACTUAL STATE OF PERMARECESSION????That older people really got fucked by this economy, too? Like, most people in my community are of “Boomer” age and are way worse off than I am? And many of them don’t have college educations and so, after being pushed out of “our” economy in order to make space for us to take shitty low-paying clerical jobs, are unable to ever get any kind of work again? And, like, they are older than us and have more health needs, and families to take care of? Not everybody’s parents are rich, that’s what the Reagan era means.
I just…don’t…understand? Is it easy for us to blame and crucify our poor, sick, homeless elders? How come no one seems to notice that blaming people of that generation is a pretty neoliberal project itself? How come people are cool with illuminating the shittiness of the decade that deregulated labor—ie, the generation where Reagan put many of our parents under the poverty level??—but like, totally on board with Bill Clinton, you know, the guy that turned Reagan’s imperialistic project into one of the most globally devastating things you could even imagine, the guy who did MORE TO DISMANTLE WELFARE THAN ANYBODY ELSE EVER BASICALLY?? How come Bill Clinton is not a Robber Baron, but, like, the 50-year-old lady down the street is?? Literally how come you are whining to me about how it’s not fair that I get food stamps (household less than $10,000 and my mother, a baby boomer, makes about that herself), but you can no longer get food stamps without working by declaring yourself a full-time student, which is bad sure but, HOW COME YOU ARE MAD ABOUT THAT BUT STILL LIKE BILL CLINTON.
I have no idea what I was on about, sorry, what? Basically, I am frustrated by the constant insistence that my generation is surprised to be poor because somehow all of our parents were rich, I am sick of “move back in with your rich parents” as a rhetorical device because it’s bullshit, I’m sick of young people using neoliberal strategies they learned in neoliberal universities to try to restructure our neoliberal economy for their benefit and nobody else’s, I’m sick of young people kind of employing a labor analysis but having no understanding of anything that happened in the US or anywhere else for the past thirty years, I am also sick of how sometimes “Boomers fucked us” rhetoric borders on “why ever would I support my ailing family, I WENT TO COLLEGE” rhetoric and on top of that isn’t even augmented by at least some critique of how few public social aid programs are available to our elders because of THE DISMANTLING OF WELFARE. I’m sick of some other stuff also probably.
I guess I’m sick of people my age who have two parents and a family home, lolol.