Partisan №4

I Am a Worker!

I work in a hotel. Not in the housekeeping department, where the work is strenuous, tenuous and carries a high risk of injury. Not in the kitchen, where the craft of creating delicious food in large quantities is treated as “unskilled” and waged accordingly. Not in the restaurant where a person’s income depends on the kindness of a customer’s tip (a good portion of which is taken off the top by the company!) and understaffing has reached crisis levels. I work at the front desk, where I’m guaranteed 40 hours a week, where I’m more likely to be promoted to management, where I’m paid a higher wage than most of my co-workers and where my main functions are to make guests think there’s magic happening where there isn’t and to do some basic bookkeeping.

The company tries to use these and other differences (racial, linguistic, gender) to make me and others in my job think we are somehow different than the other workers —that we are more like management than we are like housekeepers, that our interests are with the boss and not with workers in other departments. They try to make the rest of the workers think the same thing, that solidarity between our departments is impossible because we see ourselves as bosses-in-waiting and will never side against the company.

In many hotels, this works. It is not uncommon for a hotel to be unionized in every department except the front desk. People in my job too often have the wool pulled over their eyes by a promise that they can escape the life of a worker and become a boss themselves.

It is in some ways similar to the relationship between workers in the imperialist countries and those in the colonized world. In the same way the imperialist system tries to win my loyalty by super-exploiting workers in the “developing world” and using the super-profits to subsidize my wage, the hotel exploits housekeepers far more viciously than the front desk and uses the extra profits (we’re talking about a few dollars an hour here) to pay me more than if we were all exploited to the same degree.

Behind all this bribery and illusion, though, are some harsh realities. I have no control over my schedule the way a manager would. My life is dominated by the clock. My workload is increasing and out of my control and understaffing has become a serious issue. The company is forever trying to find new ways to make us create more magic (they call it “customer service”) with fewer resources and less time, and the value we produce for the company far exceeds the wage we get in return. We’re subject to disciplinary action and termination for the most minor (or invented) infractions; and as the saying goes, “when the boss has a headache, we’re in shit. When we have a headache, we’re in shit.”

Exploitation is increasing across the board and I know the company will continue to suck whatever they can out of us. With each passing day, the reforms and concessions they grant to me —to all of us— are being eroded and will someday be a memory. It is in my interest for all of us to win a pay raise, for example by cutting into the company’s hefty profits, and to end this system of exploitation forever.

Because of all this, I am in league with the housekeepers, cooks and waiters. I am offered no future in the capitalist system. I am a worker!

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