Workplace Crusaders: Should You Speak Up or Save Your Skin?

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"So why didn't I intervene?  Certainly not because I was held back by the kind of moral paralysis that can mask as journalistic objectivity. On the contrary, something new -- somethings loathsome and servile -- had infected me, along with the kitchen odors that I could still sniff on my bra when I finally undressed at night.  In real life I am moderately brave, but plenty of brave people shed their courage in POW camps, and maybe something similar goes on in the infinitely more congenial milieu of the low-wage American workplace.  Maybe, in a month or two more at Jerry's, I might have regained my crusading spirit.  Then again, in a month or two I might have turned into a different person altogether -- say, the kind of person who would have turned George in" (Ehrenreich, 41)

I know, from experience, that when something happens at work (or at school, even) and someone else gets in trouble, even if you don't think that person did it, normally you stay quiet.  For me, it's because I don't want to get in trouble myself.  And in reality, unless I had photographic proof that someone else did it, I most likely wouldn't speak up in a large setting to protest it.  Sure, I'd think "well, I should do something", but thinking that you should and actually doing something is far different.  Barbara didn't speak up because she was afraid of losing her job - as did everyone else.  In a situation like that where everyone needs the money from their paychecks, you can't afford to speak up for one little thing that another employee might have done.  Employers know that they can get some other teenager to fill your position, and so they obviously wouldn't care about firing you.

2 Comments

Stephanie Wytovich said:

Allison, I agree with you to the fullest of extents. I know, from first hand experience, that the restaurant business is largely unfair. I’ve had several instances like these where something has happened to me, and no one speaks up because they are afraid of losing their job. Mind you, I can agree with them because I personally know them and their position, but come on! I had a woman steal all of my tips off my tables, and everyone saw it, yet said nothing. Mind you, being the outspoken person that I am, I took care of it, but still. People are afraid to stand up for themselves because of fear of losing their jobs, and at some points, will stoop down to levels that are immoral.
The other thing that angers me is the fact that the employers think you’re irreplaceable. Once again, from my own perspective, I have been working in the same place for almost 3 years, and I’ll admit it. I think that I’m a very good waitress. What angers me, is that if I take a 5 second break after waiting on a 12 top, I’m getting crucified for taking a breather. I mean ARE YOU SERIOUS? I would like to see you take a new-be and have them wait that table to perfection, but no you continue to criticize me and run me out! The only justice that the other waitresses and I get out of this is that people are quitting and moving onto better things, they realize our importance because no one wants to apply, and they understand finally that they are a bunch of jackasses. Mind you they don’t do anything about it, but at least they know. I mean I cannot wait till I don’t have to work there anymore and can throw my towel in their face and say, PEACE!

Ally Hall said:

Stephanie, I loved your comment, seriously.

I work as a cashier at Target and they definitely think we're indispensable, especially since they're always hiring new people. But yet, they still continue to treat everyone like crap by making us all do ridiculous things and keeping us late and going long amounts of time without a break. Not to mention the constant pressure of basically having to force customers to sign up for the damn Target credit card. That they're on our backs for more than anything else. It's just like, stop bugging us so much about the little superfluous details and let us do our jobs. I would think after a year of doing the same job, I would know how to ring up groceries.

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