According to Ehrenreich in "Serving in Florida", who is to blame for the situation of those who work at low-paying jobs in resteraunts?
Are there heroes and villians, or does the work-place itself change people who are part of it?
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Though much of the blame for both the servers working conditions as well as those in other jobs that Ehrenreich takes seems to lie with the corporate masters, there are a number of other factors that come into play that make the idea of picking the heroes and villians problematic.
The employees seem to be stuck in self-destructive and ill-advised behaviors. They are renting hotel rooms on a per-night basis, something that makes little economic sense and also leads to dangerous situations and a sense of impermanence.
The workers Barbara meets do not seem to be interested or capable of planning for the future or trying to improve their situations, they are simply trying to survive from day to day which tends to increase these risky or poorly-planned behaviors.
The high-turnover in the restuarants also leads to unfriendly environments as the workers do not want to get attached to anyone as they know they will not last. Some of them seem to try hard to overcome that, so Barbara describes some of their efforts at remaining human in a way that could be considered heroic.
Barbara blames the proprietors of the restaurants for taking prospective employees through degrading interviews that they eventually decline the job. This situation forces them to seek opportunities with less degrading treatment during the interview process. By seeking these “better opportunities” another problem comes up; the prospective employee comes to terms with the very low pay associated with these “better opportunities”. In this case, she blames the owners for the meager pay. The restaurant managers are also blamed for imposing extra expenses on their employees for workplace requirements such as uniforms.
She blames landlords and apartment agencies for imposing a two month’s down payment in rent which becomes impossible for most restaurant workers to afford. Barbara blames fellow workers especially in a highly competitive environment, because they offer no assistance to colleagues. At some point she blames herself for not speaking up when a colleague is falsely accused of theft, out of fear for her own job. She accuses difficult customers who do not exercise patience after placing their orders.
There are heroes and villains and some are as a result of the workplace. For instance the two employees, Gail and Joan at Hearthside restaurant are generous waitresses with major life responsibilities and can be viewed as heroines. The managers who have crossed over from casual labor to management become rigid in their thinking because of their job responsibilities. In this case, they can be viewed as villains because they force employees to be busy even when there is nothing to do.
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