Sure.  Blame it on the nonexistent work ethic of young people.  What a convenient excuse.

Some unnamed soul wrote a column for the Our View section of the December 16, 2007, issue of the Morrison County Record, in which a meeting between the Morrison County Healthy Communities Collaborative (HCC) and area manufacturers is described.  Those involved in the meeting were working on a grant for career counselors for area schools.

During the meeting, talk apparently turned to grousing about the crappy work ethic of today’s young people, about how they don’t show up to work on time, or at all.  According to the article, “The manufacturers believe more young people than in the past come to work with a sense of entitlement and without a clear understanding of what is required of them to be a successful employee.”  The article takes sides with the manufacturers, scolding young employees by saying that they should feel lucky to have jobs and blaming their parents for their lack of work ethic.  It also blames the demise of the family farm, as if the family farm is the only place anyone can learn ambition and a decent work ethic.

Frankly, I think the employees are coming to work with a clear understanding of what is required and they don’t want to play the game.  While the employees may be displaying a sense of entitlement, they’re not the only ones.  The manufacturers are just as guilty of feeling entitled.

Let’s look at a manufacturing job from the standpoint of an employee for a moment.  Most employees at manufacturing facilities can expect:

1)  Low pay (a non-living wage),

2)  Part-time work with no benefits, or . . .

3)  Full-time work with required overtime,

4)  Stultifying, repetitive work that is not good for a human body over the long haul, and . . .

5)  The ever-present knowledge that the company can lay them off anytime it feels like it.

Further, some manufacturers enforce draconian workplace rules that show no consideration for employees as human beings. There is no loyalty displayed by manufacturers for their employees.  If the bottom line demands it, employees are the expendable cog in the machinery of capitalism.

Manufacturers don’t want human beings.  They want drones who will shut up and do as they are told.  Is it any wonder that young people don’t feel like wasting their work ethic or their lives on such conditions?  To put it bluntly, they don’t wanna be ‘yo bitches’ anymore.

There’s another problem in this entire scenario – the HCC and other community initiatives like it.  Every time some organization gets a burr up its saddle to improve the community, it runs right to the business owners and other community leaders and asks what they want.  Never, and I mean never, do these initiatives talk to workers to see what problems they are facing, what issues (in the business or in the community) they’d like to see resolved.  The HCC and similar initiatives are guilty of patronizing the average worker and citizen, of trying to do what they think is “best” for the masses without engaging the masses they’re attempting to help.  Putting an announcement in the paper for a community meeting isn’t going to cut it.  The HCC needs to get out of its comfy office chair and get its hands dirty – find ways to meet with the average citizen where he or she wants to be met.

When we manage to get some of these issues straightened out, then we can talk about work ethic.

Removing barnacles from the shipwreck,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

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