We're All Blue Collar Now
by The Cranky Media Guy
My Dad fixed appliances for a living. He was the living
definition of "blue collar". He wore a Westinghouse
shirt with a literal blue collar for most of his working
life. If the company could have figured out a way to do
without him and his fellow repairmen, they would have canned all of
them in a heartbeat. He was a small cog in a very large wheel
and he knew it. He didn't like it, but he understood it.
He knew exactly where he stood on the totem pole of work: at the
bottom. He was not alone, of course. All the guys he
worked with were in the same boat, representing a sort of Blue
Collar Brotherhood, if you will.
Maybe you went to college and took business courses so that you
wouldn't end up like my Dad. Maybe you have a nice little
cubicle, maybe even an actual office, of your very own.
You shuffle papers and issue memos. No grease monkey repairman
shit for you. No sir, you're not blue
collar! I've got news for you. In today's economy, we're
all blue collar!
Ever spend any time in Washington, D.C.? If you ever get
the chance, ride the D.C. Metro some weekday morning around 8:30
AM. Pay attention as you ride. All around you you'll see
people in business attire heading to work. Nice, clean-cut
American white-collar workers, every last one of them. And a
more miserable bunch of humans you'd be hard-pressed to find
anywhere. No, none of them get their hands dirty fixing some
crappy beat-up washing machine like my old man did, but on a daily
basis, they exchange little pieces of their soul for dead
They shuffle off to their jobs at Labor, or Defense or
Agriculture or one of the thousands of businesses that supply those
bureaucracy-fabricating plants, knowing on some level of their
subconscious that their job has absolutely nothing to do with them
as a person. They are just the ass in the seat at the moment. Like a
light bulb, the day they burn out, another one will be screwed in in
At least the government workers are essentially guaranteed
employment until the last day they muster up the energy to drag
their wrinkled ass home on the train. Workers in private
industry have no such guarantee. AOL buys Warner
Brothers. Warner Brothers buys EMI Records. If the
office staff at EMI isn't using company time to mass-Xerox their
resumes right about now, they're pretty friggin' stupid. The
smart money says the S.S. Downsizing is heading toward Port
EMI. I mean, how big does the handwriting on the wall have to
be? Hey, EMI People, start stealing the staplers and Wite-Out now
before you get told to clear out your desk by 5 PM.
It's the same in the field for which the Cranky Media Guy is
best-known: radio. Radio personalities used to be thought of as
professionals ...Artists, even. But now that everything is owned by
huge corporations, air "talent" is seen as an unnecessary
burden -- an expense the company would like to get rid of. Once upon
a time, you were hired because you were a unique, creative
personality and would do things nobody else would do; now you're
hired because you sound exactly like everyone else and
because you wouldn't dream of doing anything "different"
that might scare management. But no matter how much you kiss
management ass, and no matter how hard you try to avoid rocking the
boat, the second they can replace you with a computer, you're gone,
I've never had the "privilege" of having a job where
management brought in a motivational speaker to address the
troops. From what I've read about those sordid little affairs,
they give you a lot of crap about how the company is like a
family. Um, you know any families that get sold to other
families and then cut a bunch of relatives loose? Me neither,
so let's be honest and admit that that ubiquitous "family"
metaphor is a bunch of shit. Anyone who thinks that wearing a
Wal-Mart "Hello, my name is..." tag makes them a member of
a "family" is somewhat on the dim side. (Have you
ever noticed the relationship between how much a given company
stresses that "family" crap in their advertising and how
lousy the jobs there actually are? I'm thinking McDonalds and
Wal-Mart here. If those are "families", I picturing them
living in a trailer park and eating a lot of government
cheese.) If modern business could be said to resemble
any family, it would be the Sopranos, with a mother (upper
management) who smiles in your face and tells you how much she loves
you while she's secretly planning to have you whacked (downsized).
But, no, none of this applies to you. You're the
hot, young, up-and-coming junior loan officer at your bank branch.
Your desk is third from the door. You have a little statue
your daughter gave you sitting on it. It features an adorable
tyke of indeterminable gender in drooping pants with his/her arms
outstretched above the inscription, "I wuv you THIS
much!" Nah, you're not going anywhere.
Oops, what's this in the business section of the paper?
"Third National acquired by InterBank," reads the
headline. Buried in the eighth paragraph of the story is,
"InterBank officials said that dozens of Third National
branches would be closed in what they termed a 'necessary
restructuring'. Wall Street analysts applauded the merger and
InterBank stock rose 3 and one-eighth within an hour of the
My Dad went to work every day knowing that, because he was blue
collar, he was expendable. He had one of those "diaper"
bosses ...you know, full of shit and always on your ass. They used
the mushroom style of management: Keep you in the dark, throw shit
on you, and if you get too big, they cut your head off.
Starting to sound familiar, huh?
You see, thanks to the New Economy, we're all blue
collar. Welcome to the Brotherhood, Brother!