A New Spin on Slavery

After watching “Ten Dollars an Hour” in class last week, I was without a doubt disturbed. I was complaining to my family and friends about it for two days straight. I understand that this is happening all the time, throughout the world, every day. But, it was never put into perspective for me the way it was during our discussion in class. It’s like a never ending cycle of slavery that continues today in 2013. Slavery supposedly ended many years ago, but the principles still exist, and what I mean when I say this is that labor and worker characteristics still apply. Ben Guest did an outstanding job directing this documentary, and I’m admired by his strength and courage to release such a powerful piece. Leasse Williams, which is who the documentary is about, works as a cook in a fraternity school in Mississippi for fifty hours a week, at ten dollars an hour. She jumps off the screen as this bubbly, friendly person, but I wonder if that’s really how she feels deep down inside.

“Ten Dollars an Hour” made the connection to slavery then and now. The idea of customer service has been based in slavery. In the documentary, Leasse is described by her ‘superiors’ as a person who is a hard worker, loves to please, and someone who is always happy. We know that slave owners described their slaves as hard workers who love to please, and who are always happy. No offense, but the fact that they are located in Mississippi doesn’t make it any better for Leasse. It has been said that some areas there have never let go of their slave mentality. But, moving right along, Steve, the accountant says that he believes that if the kids are happy, then Leasse is genuinely happy. Slave owners would also say this about their slaves, the idea of slaves being happy in their owner is happy. Steve goes on to say that Leasse is very agreeable and loyal. Now that is exactly what a slave owner wants, a slave to be a ‘yes man’, no back talk or conflict wanted. Slave owners love those who are loyal and there whenever they need them. In Leasse’s case, that’s weekends, and even while she’s attending a funeral. *blank stare*

In my perspective, Steve, who is the accountant, is also the slave owner. Now, Janis is the house mother. She hires the cooks, looks over them in the kitchen to ensure that they are preparing the food correctly, buying ingredients, and so on and so forth. Janice plays the role of the mistress, so to speak. She doesn’t really do much at all but plays second to the slave owner, and helps spend the money. Here we have Leasse who is just trying to make enough money to support her family. She doesn’t complain much, not at all really, but you can tell that she’s tired. It takes a lot out of a person to cook three meals a day for twenty or thirty boys, then go home and cook for your own family. The sad part about is that no one sees Leasse’s struggle. They all think she’s just a happy camper, but at ten dollars an hour, how can she really be happy with that?

My point is that whether we like it or not, slavery still exists today. There are just different twists and turns on it now. The principles still exist. It pretty much works the same, the title of “slavery” just isn’t attached to it anymore. “Ten Dollars an Hour” really made me understand that. In all actuality, there’s nothing we can do to escape it. I feel like it will always exist because of the economic social status of African Americans. Regardless, black people will continue to be the minority, and will continue to treated as such. White people always want to be respected by blacks but never want to respect us. Even in the video, we saw the white boy that Leasse absolutely adored. She went on to say that she even LOVED him, and the first thing that came out of his mouth was, “She respects me.” He didn’t say anything about loving her. It’s a shame. It really disturbs me because I can tell that Leasse has a big heart, but at the end of the day, I can’t change the fact that she is being taken advantage of.

Pay Inequality and The Image of a woman

Women are discriminated against simply for being a woman. Women have been oppressed for many years and I am not so sure if they ever will stop being discriminated against because they are not considered to be a dominate figure in the United States. Minority women are not the only group that is being discriminated against. White women are also victims of discrimination. It does not have anything to do with color it has everything to do with gender. No matter what race a woman is  she will still experience discrimination.

Aside from being treated differently by society, women are being paid differently than men as well which is completely unfair. Even if a woman has completed the same amount of education and has the same amount of experience as a man she will more than likely not get the job or if she does get the position she has to get paid lower than a man would. No matter how qualified a woman man she will never be considered the same as a man. The major reason that women are paid lower is because women will have babies at some point and that means they have to go on maternity leave to take care of the baby. Even though men can go on leave when they have a baby but it is more common for women to go on maternity leave than a man. Women are looked at to be caregivers and are expected to take sick days for their children.

Even though women know that they are being paid considerably lower wages they still have to continue to act and carry themselves as a woman of the south would. Women have to continue to be passive because that is what is expected of them. If they spoke up about something that they believed in they would be considered as a nag or a “bitch” which is what society hates. Women have to compete against other men and women when it is time to get a job. That means they have go an extra mile to be considered better than the man. They will need more experience or more education in order for an employer to consider them.

There was a time where my sister was applying for an HR position for a trucking company. She was extremely happy because she got the job. After awhile once she got the hang of the job and she discovered that she was getting paid considerably lower wages than the male workers. She was not too happy when she found this out. She confronted her supervisor about her concern and she was told that they were being paid more because of their experience. She continued to fight her way to higher wages. A few months later she discovered that her job was downsizing and she was let go of her job. There was not much she could do but just deal with the outcome. Only women were let go which is totally unfair.



Recently in my Sociology of Gender class we watched a documentary entitled “Babyland.” It was an ABC 20/20 documentary highlighting the problems of infant mortality here in the Mid-south, but more particularly how bad it is here in Memphis. In Shelby County, the mortality rate of infants is the same as in some third world countries, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Before I watched this video I thought I had a pretty good idea of how bad the situation was here in Memphis, but I was wrong. The amount of premature babies being born everyday is staggering, I think it said the number was around one every 45 minutes. If a baby is born premature it has a significantly less chance of survival than that of a baby carried to term. In the video it stated that the biggest problem is that the mothers are not taking the necessary steps to ensure their baby’s survival. A lot of this irresponsibility is of no fault of the mother’s though, I am sure if given the chance, and the means to do it, she would take care of herself while pregnant, but the fact is the majority of these mothers are impoverished living in the lower class parts of town. They are also black.

One of the people the video spotlighted was a young black girl. At the time the video was shot she was far along in her pregnancy but she recounted how uncertain she was in the beginning of the pregnancy. It took a more or less rich white woman to come in and “save” the teenage black girl because she did not know what she needed to do nor had access to the proper facilities on her own. The white woman had become like a mentor for this black girl and had made sure she received the proper care to ensure the survival of her baby. This situation is not the case the majority of the time. Many of the mothers do not have the financial means to pay for medical services and others still do not have the means to get themselves to a clinic even if they could afford the services. There are some even still whom do not fall under any of the above categories and can not get treatment because the clinics made available to them are closed, often after only being open for a short time during the day, due to lack of funding. How are we supposed to ask mothers to take the necessary precautions to be sure their babies survive if we as a city are not providing the services needed by these lower class mothers? The doctor from the clinic made a good point, she said that “nothing will change until the people in charge begin to acknowledge the problem and start funding places like this.” When asked by the reporter why they were not acknowledging how serious the problem was she said “Children don’t vote, babies can’t vote, poor people don’t vote.” This is true. Basically what she is saying is that we as a community are not recognizing this need and are not making this problem a priority. Like I said above, I did not know how bad it actually was until watching this video. People need to be educated on this so we can raise awareness, increase funding to these clinics, and ultimately bring an end to the infant mortality rate here in the Bluff City.

High Infant Mortality Program Babyland Tennessee

The above is a link to the 20/20 promo on YouTube. I was unble to find the entire video online.

The Global South Messed Us Up!

In class, we have been talking about the Global south and the impact it has had on the United States South.  It has been made clear that when it comes to labor, the United States south has modeled its practices after those large industries in the Global South.  With that being said, I began to question whether or not the affect the Global South has had on the United States South labor force has been a positive or negative one.

Before answering this question, I think it is first important to distinguish the Global South from the United States South. The Global South extends beyond the confines of the United States, and extends to include places like Asia and Latin American countries; whereas, the United States south only includes southern states in The United States of America.  The Global South, in a sense,  set the stage for how to treat their industrial workers. For factory jobs, we have learned that the Global South offered poor working conditions and they rarely cared about the well-being of their workers.  To prevent the formation of things like unions, the Global South created racial tension amongst their employees. This ensured that people would not join together and protest against the company in order to bring about some change.  This exact method is how the United States South constructed and ran their factories and warehouses.

This method, later adopted by the United States South, is how industries ran and maintained order. This method is still around to this day. Of course, this method was created to maintain a type of social control in the workplace; however, it fosters an unequal opportunity of the employees. Because of this competition between races that was created at the boom of the industrial revolution, again, people who are members of minority groups are still disadvantaged.  So, not only were African Americans targeted and mistreated, but also women were viewed as the weaker gender. Factory owners then and now believe that women are less likely to speak up against poor working conditions because if they were to lose their job, then taking care of a family would indeed be out of the question.

After meditating on all of this information, I came to one conclusion. By following the Global South in their effort to create an ideal workforce for industrial businesses, the United States South set themselves up for failure. If the United States South came up with its own idea of how to run their industries, I believe that they would have come up with more reasonable working conditions.  I may be being a tad bit too optimistic considering the history of the United States of America, but I strongly believe creating their own mechanisms of social control in the worker place, these early factory owners could have created working conditions that were ideal for the American south worker instead of the Global south worker. If these things would have happened at the beginning of this industrial boom I believe the United States south labor jobs would be so much better.

“Low Pay Is Not Ok”

After watching the documentary “Ten Dollars an Hour,” I felt overwhelmingly disgusted by our world today. No one should have to work so hard for so little money! I am a server who makes $2.13 an hour, plus tips; most people either aren’t educated about this or they just don’t care. I definitely understood the customer service aspects of work that we discussed in class. We always have to act like “happy slaves” who are respectable and love to please. I could not imagine if I had to live off of the money I make $2.13 an hour plus tips for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, many American’s are in situations where they are living off of these types of wages. What disappointed me most about the film was the fact that the “House Mom” (who only gave her family “recipes” and ordered the food) got paid $30,000 a year PLUS she has free living space, no bills, has INSURANCE AND BENEFITS, and gets reimbursement for gas for her truck. WHAT??? And don’t forget, the House Mom is also in charge of hiring and firing. If she thought you had a bad attitude, you were gone! While the House Mom is “busy” doing her “work,” Leasse is literally slaving away for long hours in the kitchen. Then House Mom sits around and eats what Leasse cooks! Leasse’s annual income was only $18,000 a year.  I was absolutely appalled. After working for years, Leasse didn’t even get offered insurance or benefits, which the House Mom already had. In order to give the 4 full time kitchen staff members annual health insurance, it would cost $4,000 a year ($2,400 for Leasse). The House Corporation for the fraternity takes in $700,000 a year. Why would they not give their employees the benefits they deserve? It would not hurt them at all! This documentary opened my eyes to the fact that this is happening more than most of us know.

The short clip we watched in class about Nancy, the woman working at McDonald’s, was also an eye-opener. The “help-line” told her to apply for federal programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. After seeing the video, I signed the petition at LowPayIsNotOk.org. Their website states that McDonald’s makes $5.5 billion in profits and that more than half of fast-food employees’ families are on public assistance and cost taxpayers $7 billion year! Corporations like this do not care about their employees; they are only worried about what profit they will make! They are constantly moving to where they can find the cheapest labor so that they can receive the largest profit. Most workers are unable to demand benefits, raises, and better working conditions because they cannot afford to be let go. I have read many comments under articles about the McDonald’s helpline video and most people who disagree with fast-food workers getting paid more use the excuse that they “are lazy and need to work hard to get somewhere.” In my opinion, if they are barely surviving from their wages and have to use federal aid programs, how are they supposed to move ahead in life and find a better job or become more qualified by getting more education? Education costs money that these people do not have! I can see how many of them feel stuck and hopeless. If corporations like McDonald’s and the House Corporation for the Sigma Nu Fraternity would give their employees a chance, they could possibly make a huge difference in the world as well has have better lives for their families. AND not to mention the $7 billion dollars we are paying for them to be on government aid would significantly drop. The only downside is that the corporations wouldn’t be making as much money as they are now. Boo hoo.

$7.25 an hour

As a teenager, I worked for Subway. The Subway was located in Olive Branch, Mississippi. Mississippi is still one of the top racist states in the United States. Minimum wage was $7.25 during my time working for Subway. Race, labor, gender, and region had a lot of affect on my experience while working there. I was the only male to be hired during my time there. That was shocking to me because the owners were both (white) males and they hired only black women. All of the hourly workers were people of color and the only supervisor of the store was white. She was an older white woman too. She carried herself as if she grew up in the era when racism was at its peak in Mississippi. She never did any of the hard labor such as mopping, washing dishes, fixing the food, or food preparation. I understand that some of those things weren’t part of her job title but she never tried to assist neither when we were busy. During the busiest parts of the day, she would literally watch all of the hourly workers work and purposely take an hour break. From my understanding,  while working a part time job, a break does not exist. The hourly workers kept the store in great condition. Me and my past co-workers went far and beyond to the store running smoothly. We never received any credit. Our supervisor would get the credit and never glorify our success in the store.

At the time, minimum wage was $7.25. I was working for a couple of owners who control if that pay rate changed or not. I worked for Subway for an entire year and never saw a pay raise. My co-workers always said, ” John and Troy love giving raises”. I always made production and was on time for work everyday. I was the top performer in the store numerous times. I even worked seven days a week and covered for my co-workers whenever they were unavailable to work. I never received a raise. I think I never received a raise because I never gained a strong relationship between the two owners. One day one the owners asked me, “why aren’t you smiling”? I didn’t have a response because it had been a long day and we were very busy.  That situation was similar to Lisa and Janis, from $1o an hour, and how she had to be customer friendly to get a raise.

Due to the region that I worked in, I understood why most of those things occurred. In my opinion, It was similar to labor houses. The two white male bosses were the masters, the supervisor was the mistress of them both, and we were the workers. I’m not trying to depict them as being racist but this may have been the way they were raised. Also, I worked under these conditions for $7.25 an hour. I never looked at their system of employment and how they ran their store as an issue until this semester. It has been an eye opener.

Full Time Worker, Part Time Pay

In today’s society, there is a struggle for people to survive earning minimum wage. The employee could possibly be making $10 an hour, but in reality that is not sufficient for someone with a family to provide for. Their family will struggle because the sole provider of their household does not earn a living wage. A living wage is a heavily discussed topic, but it is so hard to grasp what actually can be an acceptable amount. Working full time and still being needing government assistance is pathetic. It also is hard and stressful on the employee. The constant pressure of worrying which bill can withstand getting paid a certain month should not be on a full time employees mind. Money is not the most important thing in the world, but it is necessary. With a shortage of money, there will  be things lacking that you need, but unfortunately will not be able to purchase. It is a shame that the labor worked does not equal nor match the time and effort or the ultimate end result, which is the pay. I am slowly realizing that history is repeating itself. As a nation we are suffering because our fellow citizens are suffering. In the mid to late 1900s, companies had factories and the workforce of the factories was flourishing. People filled the factories everyday for work, but that was short lived because of the working conditions and low pay. The workers began to get fed up with the long hours and the low pay, which led to strikes. The companies soon moved from the Midwest to the South, but the workers were broke and now out of work. This was labeled as the deindustrialization era. In my opinion, this is what America is facing now. People are fed up, but everyone is afraid to stand up for what they deserve because they ultimately can not afford not to work. Corporations make it hard to put a living wage into effect because of their laws, rights, and rules. Working hard, full time and not being able to live comfortably and support your family is unfair, especially with this being the land of the free. Struggling financially is a depressing weight to carry, it gets heavier because this is a long term deal for most. Although there are many people not earning a living wage in the South, this is an issue all over the United States. Education is super important these days. The higher your education level, the better chance you have at earning more money. Setting a specific amount for a living wage is just a factor in this ongoing struggle. People are not receiving benefits either. Not only do they not have enough for food, clothes, and bills, they can not go to the doctor for yearly check-ups. Also, seeing that race, gender, and class still affects people and job priority. In the documentary 10 Dollars an Hour, the house mother (Janis)  received over $30,000 a year. She was a white woman, and the cook (Lisa) received $18,000. She is a black woman. Every situation is not racist, but when things are unfair, race, class, and gender are factored into the equation.   Personally, I take many things for granted. Learning how others live and witnessing what they go through on a daily basis is sad. It is eye opening to be appreciative and aware that a change needs to occur…soon.

My grandfather’s story

As a child, I grew up having the opportunity to hear my grandfather’s stories. I must say that at that age, I could not fully grasp the significance of what my grandfather was sharing. However, it was not until years later, after he died, that I started to understand what he was telling me.

My grandfather was originally from Batesville Mississippi in a time where racism, inequalities, and injustice were the norm. He was the oldest of six children. I can recall and hearing stories about how his parents were hard workers, and always tried to do their best for their children. His parents were sharecroppers. I can remember him telling me that the white man who owned the land was often harsh and unfair. He described how his parents got sick of the white land owner accusing his family of not paying their money, which prompted them to pack up their family and move to Memphis.

My grandfather described how moving to Memphis allowed his parents to become homeowners, which was a very big deal given their past living conditions in Mississippi. He described his parents’ feelings, as well as his feelings of being free and more importantly having their own.

In addition, my grandfather often talked about his military days. He was in the PFC Army, and fought in World War II. My grandfather had to work side-by-side White Men, even though whites treated his race wrong. He described this as a very complicated task, but he did what he had to do. He talked about how he came home and married my grandmother, bought his first house, and had his six children.

He mentioned frequently, dealing with white men harassing him. My grandfather described feeling so much hatred and heartache. He emphasized how he wanted things to be different for his children and grandchildren. He claimed that is why he was so hard on his children. He wanted them to be independent people. He did not want them to depend on no one, especially not the white man. My grandfather wanted fairness and equality for everyone. He instilled to his children that they would experience racism through out thei lives. He emphasized education and good jobs.

I believe my grandfather told me those various stories as learning tools. He wanted to show that becoming independence is a great factor to have. He showed that despite his feelings or attitudes, he did not let those affect his job or mission. More importantly, my grandfather allowed his experience shape his parenting skills. He described how living in the south helped him become the person he was. I believe his stories helped me understand how his past helped shape my family today. Overall, my grandfather was a great man, who did not let his struggles tear him down. His past has allowed me to understand the south and understand my family’s attitude.


Surviving on 10 an Hour

Watching the documentary about the cook working for $10.00 an hour really opened my eyes to how hard it is for some Americans. Several people, that do in fact work hard, work for less than 10.00 an hour. With minimum wage currently at 7.25 an hour, it is safe to assume that several people work for that. While in college, I have worked some jobs here and there for minimum wage, and I had the mindset that it would be like working for little to no money. But once the pay checks started coming in, I was wrong. I thought this isn’t so bad, I could survive off this. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about with people saying the “living wage” was around $11 and something. I kept thinking I could easily survive off of $8.00 an hour if I had too.

The fact of the matter was until seeing this documentary, I was blind. Granted I still do believe that I could survive off of minimum wage if I had to, but survive is all I could do. For some reason, blame it on my youth I guess, I had completely forgot about retirement. It wasn’t until I seen someone older working day after day for minimum wage while not receiving retirement benefits that it hit me. Sure I could survive on minimum wage, but when I hit retirement age, and got old enough I couldn’t work anymore, I would be in the crapper.

It is kind of sad that America, the land of opportunity, doesn’t have a better system in place than this. The South, particularly, is known for selling its labor for cheap. When in the end, we are all humans; it would seem to me that we would take better care of each other than we currently do. We care more about having a little extra money in our pocket than we do if our neighbor can barely afford to eat. The companies will do everything in their power to keep labor costs at a minimum. If labor in the U.S. gets too expensive, they will simply move overseas to another country where than an exploit its workers for cheap labor. This cause labor wages to stay low in the U.S.  For example, if a group of workers go on strike for higher paying wages, the companies will simply go out and hire minorities for an even lower wage. Then once the previous workers start going hungry, they will bring them back for sometimes an even lower wage than they were getting paid when they went on strike, this is very common in the south, where there are high populations of minorities willing to work for cheap.

The “simple” solution to this would be to raise minimum wage. However, this could potentially devastate the south. The southern economy operates on selling its cheap labor. If minimum wage was raised, this could eliminate one of the incentives to companies staying in the south. It could and probably would have negative effects on America in general as even more companies would move overseas. Labor is already cheaper overseas, if America raised its minimum wage, it would only push more companies to move their factories overseas. It is going to take both the American corporations and American people to come together to agree to stay operating in the U.S. while also paying its employees a fair wage. Until this happens, things will only get worse.

Ten dollars an hour, Sigma Nu

Ten dollars an hour, Sigma Nu

This clip was about a lady name Lisa who worked for ten dollars an hour. She worked 6-6:30 three days out of the week and 9-2:30 two days a week. There was plenty of discrimination going on within this Sigma Nu house. The house mom ran the entire show. She planned the menu, ordered the food, and oversaw the workers. Lisa and the other cook worked five days a week, cooked and prepared three meals a day all from scratch. Lisa was actually hurting from the pay raise when the house mother cut another worker from the schedule. The house worker receives benefits and insurance when she does not do any work yet her workers receive none of that. Lisa was a hard worker and loved to please the Sigma Nu boys. These ties back into the south due to slavery. The slaves were always hard-working, happy, and loyal to their slave owner because he never asked the slaves how they felt. He did not care.

Same as with the University of Memphis workers not even making ten dollars an hour and even though they are custodial workers, they still are going above and beyond the role of custodian. These custodian workers clean buildings by themselves and are either old or young. I always see the same old women working in the UC cleaning trays, mopping, sweeping, and taking out the trash as if their age doesn’t qualify them to cashier or serve guests. I feel as though they can do it as well. This is really bothering me because I used to work for  McDonald’s and they claim to be an equal opportunity employer when in reality, they would not hire an older person for the simple fact that they did not want them to come in running the show. In other words, they did not want the older person stealing the respect from them and their role of manager or GM within the McDonald’s corporation. I remember my GM (whom is no longer employed through McDonald’s) told an older woman that she was overqualified in her face and when she left he told his swing shift manager he did not need her telling him what to do.

He sent her to another location and there she was hired. It’s sad that our own people want to keep us oppressed and enslaved under them. I am now hearing that McDonald’s will start paying people $15 an hour.  If that is to happen I will reapply with them. Every time I visit to order my meals I see the same people who have been there years on end and have yet to move to 8.00 an hour. I just spoke to my old co-worker yesterday and she was there in the ninth grade now she has graduated from high school and still is not making 8.00 an hour. She is having to work McDonald’s and Target at the same time because she is trying to go to college and has no help. It’s a shame that people can work a job for quite some time and still see no difference in change.