Many people in our society today don’t associate dignity with blue-collar jobs. Most don’t aspire to be plumbers or construction workers. But, after analyzing the pieces we read for class, my views have changed. I believe there is a good amount of dignity that comes along with people working blue collar jobs. In the setting of The Case for Working With Your Hands, the author describes how working in a motorcycle shop was more rewarding than working a traditional white-collar job. The role of hierarchy played an important in many of these pieces, especially in Rivethead.
Management at General Motors prevented employees from feeling a sense of dignity by dehumanizing them and treating them with no respect. Similarly, in The Birth of The Office, management took many actions to prevent employees from feeling a sense of pride and self-worth, including making them do the same action over and over again which was much less fulfilling than doing the entire task. In this case, management did so to increase productivity and efficiency, not necessarily to take satisfaction out of their employees’ jobs.
However, there were employees that overcame these obstacles. In Norma Rae, the employees formed a union and fought for their rights against management. In The Case for Working With Your Hands, the author shared his story about how he found much pride and dignity in working a blue-collar job. The author discusses the fact that more and more high schools are no longer offering shop class and how they are preparing students for college rather than the workplace. The fact is, not everyone is best suited for college, and there is nothing wrong with that.
The school systems are teaching kids to view blue-collar jobs as lesser than white-collar obs. The author shares about how he got a degree in physics, but couldn’t find a job. He decided to open up a motorcycle shop because he previously worked as an electrician, and found it deeply satisfying. He describes feeling pride in his work because he was working in the service of others and could see the results of his work. In Rivethead the role of hierarchy is to stifle a sense of dignity in the workplace. Ben Hamper and his peers are treated with no respect.
The only thing General Motors cares about is whether they reach their quota at the end of the day; they have no egard for the individuals doing the work. People would slice off their fingers and the main concern would be that they wouldn’t be able to keep up with their work. An example of how General Motors dehumanizes their employees is when they hire a mascot, Howie Makam, to boost quality and moral. Many of the workers view this as management treating them like they’re children and incapable of producing quality goods without a giant tiger “boosting their productivity”.
Also, there was no job security with General Motors. Ben Hamper is a loyal employee and was laid off and rehired many times. Management doesn’t care if the employees had been working for them for many years, they aren’t afraid to leave them jobless regardless of their loyalty. This emphasizes how replaceable each employee is and how little management cares about their employee. This stifles employee’s sense of dignity because they don’t feel like they are a necessary part of General Motors.
Ben and his fellow employees are not treated as crucial parts of GM, which gives them no reason to have pride in their jobs. It is clear that there is no degree of respect between the workers and management at General Motors. In The Birth of the Office, management takes many actions to prevent employees from feeling a sense of pride. Taylorism focuses on efficiency and getting rid of anything unnecessary. Instead of one person doing all the different steps to create a final product, the person does one part of task over and over again.
This is far less rewarding for the employees and much less intellectually stimulating. Taylor views management’s duty to be “to enforce the adoption of standards and to enforce the cooperation”, which exhibits the strict nature of Taylorism. They ensure that all workers are doing heir jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible by having hired experts time their motions with a stopwatch. Then management assigns each segment a rate and each employee is expected to perform at that rate.
Management makes the workers feel like robots in their machine by keeping them on very tight schedules and not allowing them to interact with each other. They refer to the employees as “cogs in a machine” because they initially took pride in their work, but now they are reduced to doing a small part of it. In the film Norma Rae, the employees overcome these obstacles and still preserve a sense of dignity when they orm a union. Norma Rae is inspired by Rueben Warshowsky who speaks about how they are earning much less than they should be.
Norma Rae holds up a sign that says “UNION”, and the workers band together and hold an election unionize the factory. In the end, they win the election and successfully create a union in order for them to have fair pay and better working conditions. This shows how despite the less than ideal circumstances, Norma Rae and the employees preserved their dignity and fought back against management. Another example of this is in Rivethead, when Ben preserves his dignity in an nconventional way, by writing about it.
Ben Hamper becomes well known for his articles about General Motors that criticized management. When Ben is called in to his boss’s office about these articles, management realizes there was nothing they can do about it. In my eyes, Ben keeps his dignity by this rebellious act, and the fact that there is nothing General Motors can do about it. Based on these pieces, it is clear that there is a good amount of dignity associated blue-collared work. In The Case of Working with Your Hands, the author praises blue-collar work and describes it as “craftsmanship”.
He shares his own experience with opening a motorcycle repair shop and how he takes pride in his work. In Rivethead, the role of hierarchy is to stifle a sense of dignity, which is shown by General Motors having absolutely no regard for their employees and treating them as less than human. In The Birth of the Office, managment prevents their employees from feeling pride by taking away the satisfaction in their work. The actions they take to do this include; having them do a task repeatedly, taking away human interaction, and timing them to make sure they are working at an efficient rate.
They do this to get the most out of their employees, but as a result it takes away the sense of pride that they receive. Lastly, in Norma Rae, Norma defeats the odds and overcomes the obstacles and preserves her sense of dignity by winning an election to unionize the factory that she works at. Overall, in two cases, The Case for Working With Your Hands and Norma Rae, blue-collar workers exhibit a sense of dignity in their work. In contrast, in Rivethead and The Birth of the Office, the employees don’t take pride in their work because of the way management treats them.