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9/14/12

Hired

Installment 2 of the Godzilla Tool CNC Machine Operator Series

I had not looking for a job in a CNC machine shop.

I have a B.A. in English and I could've been looking for work as a copywriter, a journalist, in public relations, or as a freelance writer. However, since none of these lives are why I went to college and the job market is poor to begin with, I am trying my hand in light industry (LI.)

I got my first real start in LI when I worked as seasonal package handler during the 2011 holiday peak season for FedEx Ground. Next came Magnaflow, a manufacturer of catalytic converters and mufflers, in January 2012, but I was soon injured and laid off. February and March 2012 were long frustrating months of job hunting.

I learned about the machine operator job at Godzilla Tool (fictional name to protect myself and the innocent) through Craigslist. In the job posting, job seekers were advised to report to Godzilla's local building on Tuesday or Thursday between 10am and 2pm. I went on Thursday.

 
Not the place I work. photo: www.wilsonprecisiontool.com

When I arrived at Godzilla in one of my city's industrial parks, there were two large, rectangle-shaped tables set out on a lawn next to the building. Both were full with mostly young men of color hunched over completing their applications. Additionally, there was a small line of more men (no women) at the front door waiting to be handed applications and even more applicants milling in the vicinity filling out their paperwork on their laps, their car hoods, or on books.

After completing my application, I rang the buzzer at the front door and was invited into a small air-conditioned lounge with two leather sofas and a corny and annoyingly-bright painting of a full jazz club in the 1920's. In addition to my completed application, I had brought my resume, which listed my experience at FedEx Ground and Magnaflow.

After a few minutes, a perky, blonde secretary greeted me and another job applicant, quickly scanned our paperwork, and green-lit us. After saying

She said, "have a good afternoon," and disappeared through a door out of the lounge.

A few weeks later, while I was working as Traffic Director at, posh La Costa Resort and Spa, my phone rang and the caller ID read "Private Caller." Uncharacteristically of me, I answered, and it was Sonny from Godzilla.

photo: http://mileywrites.wordpress.com

A few hours later, I was in the same air-conditioned lounge where I'd been before. The full-house jazz club painting was still there, so antithetical, in tone, to the plight of looking for work as a declassé during a recession in the first world. Sonny, a middle-aged Caucasian with a medium-sized pot belly, completely-white hair, and a mustache like the crazy Westboro Baptist minister, appeared.  He greeted me warmly and then led me through the door into the offices.

My interview was in a small, soul-killingly-dull (off-white walls with zero decoration), tornado's-just-been-through type of office. Upon arrival here, Sonny disappeared. There were three shabby chairs. Two men interviewed me. Paul, another Caucasian in middle age with a pot belly that made him look like a pregnant woman in the seventh month who works out a lot, pockmarks on his face, dark, pretty eyeballs, and a military flat-top. He was in blue jeans, a sports sweater, and hiking boots. My other interviewer was Chad, a younger Caucasian a baby face and the blue eyes to go with it. He also had a flat-top, and from what I could gather, an un-stellar IQ.

I did very well. I told them all about what a crazy, frenetic house of dark humor it means to be a Holiday seasonal package handler for FedEx Ground, but that I did well. I also explained that I excelled as a package handler because I listen to directions and have an eye for detail and keeping things in order. When talking about Magnaflow, I said that my shift leader was, so pleased with my work ethic, that I was one of the very few new workers given a choice between first and second shift goinf forward, had I continued to work there. I also talked about who, pretty soon, I became the primary delegate for Quality Control on my assembly line because I gave all the passing mufflers and catalytic converters the hawkeye treatment. 

"Well!" Paul and Chad exclaimed.

And by the way, during said interview I really wish I had gone in with a recording device (something I recommend). I might have saved myself the trouble of working for a couple of years and gone to Europe and Eurasia with the money I might have won in a civil rights suit against Godzilla.

Well, maybe I'm exaggerating, but Paul did ask me point-blank if I was married and at another point of the interview, Chad asked what my hobbies were. I mentioned running and he interrupted me by "joking:" "as in running from the police?" as he set his arms at right angles and swung his shoulders in a type of mimicry (Now do you see how I gathered that this guy is not the plumpest orange in the orchard?) HA! HA! It's so funny to laugh at how men of color are stereotyped as criminals running from the law. And, one's marital status is an appropriate query in selecting an employee? Sure!

 
Infamy. Photo:  www.scpr.org/blogs/

Alas, I was not recording the interview and had to settle with the fine feeling of having had interviewed well and intuiting that I would be called again instead, of trying to sue Godzilla for that trip to Europe, where I would've promptly seduced a Moscovite dame, and lived happily ever after, studying literature in the land of Chekhov, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoi; and for civil rights!

As expected, Sonny called me early the following week and told me to report to work on a Thursday at 11 a.m., for training. That day I dressed, ready for work, in a black long-sleeve, blue Dickies, a lumbar brace, goggles, and steel-toe boots, and I filled my Thermos bag with food, only to learn that Sonny's idea of "training" was touring the fucking facility. When, after thirty minutes of pretending to be interested, sometimes fascinated, of shaking lots of hands, exchanging perfunctory "nice to meet yous," Sonny told me, and two fellow trainees, Mister-E, a young white boy, and Renato, an old Mexican, that we'd be starting in two weeks, we all looked at each other like we would be happy to stick Medieval era swords into his eyes. Renato vowed to not return, and kept his word.

Two weeks, on the dot, afterward, I showed up for work at 10 p.m. and, for a minute, thought I may have been hoaxed, because it took me a half-hour to find the entrance to the shop after searching for it in the glass-wall front of the building instead of the grimy, oil-stained parking spots, fluorescent-lit rear of the building.

I was on full-time on the graveyard shift, after previoulsy being told I'd be part-time on the first shift.

It was the beginning of April 2012 and I started at $9.50 per hour. 


9/5/12

The Juarez Feminicide


The Feminicide of Ciudad Juarez: Remarks Offered to Community College Writing Students


At 9pm, a resident of Juarez leaves her home in a shantytown, in order to report for work in an American-owned sweatshop that manufactures DVD players. The employee is a 17 year-old female, let's call her Ana. Her place of work is on the other side of the city, so she must take three buses to get to the industrial park. At some point of her commute, while she is alone and vulnerable, a new car, with dark windows, full of young men, abducts her. The abduction is not random. Ana has been identified, chosen, and spied on, sometimes for weeks before she's finally picked up.

She's taken to a party in a home in an upscale neighborhood. The guests at this home include the upper crust of Juarez society. Drug lords, high ranking police and military personnel, upper-echelon politicians and business-people -- and the young adult children of all these rich powerful people, known as "Juniors." All of these personalities mingle in a topsy-turvy world beyond the law and morality, with plenty of drugs and alcohol to amuse them.

Before the night is over, Ana is drugged and gang-raped. Often times, her body is mutilated, for example, her breasts are disfigured. After she is finally strangled, she is deposited into the trunk of a car and driven to the boondocks, where she is dumped by the road or inside of a ditch. And apparently, all of this has been done in the name of amusement and entertainment.

Where and in what type of world is this possible?

The feminicide of Ciudad Juarez is the ongoing abduction, rape, torture, and murder of poor, young (some in their teens) women since 1994 that some figures estimate at 5000 to date and which crimes continue to go unpunished and unsolved. 

To understand Juarez, one must understand globalization and the U.S. War on Drugs.

What is globalization? Globalization, also known as neoliberalism, is a late stage in capitalism. It is when capitalism stops being a national force and starts being a global force. The aim of globalization is to increase the fortunes of the richest people on earth, to concentrate wealth into larger and larger sums into fewer and fewer hands.

Capitalism only has one value, which is profit, and knows only one word, "more." In capitalism, what is bought and sold is irrelevant as long as it turns a profit. Whether it's weapons, human organs, or humans themselves (in the form of exploitative labor or slavery), it's up for sale.

The goals of globalization are accomplished through changes in international trade law and wars. These new laws are popularly known as "free trade agreements" and include the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Trade agreements fulfill the goal of globalization to make the rich even richer in a simple way. Throughout history, imperial nations have colonized their neighboring nations, stunting their social, political, and economic development. Colonization creates desperate life conditions and extreme poverty. In the meantime, the newfound wealth of the first world, along with first world movements for social justice, creates middle-classes.

This sets the stage for globalization. A poor country, like Mexico, is desperate for jobs. The super-rich in the United States, say, "Well, let's work out a trade agreement. In our agreement, you will agree (among other things) to repress labor unions and relax laws on working conditions. In exchange, we will spend a hundred million dollars to build a manufacturing plant in Juarez and give your people jobs."

This kind of trade agreement strengthens the super-rich  because by moving their jobs to the third world, they no longer have to pay Americans a living wage and don't have to pay for benefits, like health insurance. Thanks to the free trade agreement, all they have to provide for Mexican workers, is a dollar, or two, per hour. The third world workers are thus exploited until the rich find even cheaper labor markets and they move again.

This is what has happened in Juarez since 1994. Hundreds of American sweatshops known as maquiladoras have opened, hiring thousands of Mexicans. Young female workers like Ana are preferred by these sweat shops because they have lower wage expectations and are faster workers.

While the jobs have put some money into the hands of poor Mexicans, NAFTA has sharply increased income inequality in both the U.S. and Mexico. In both countries, the rich have become more powerful and predatory and the poor, weaker and more vulnerable.

While globalization has plunged more Mexicans into even deeper despair, the U.S. War on Drugs has created a culture of extreme violence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S. War on Drugs is the American policy towards the use of drugs in the United States. Basically, it consists of three actions. One is to put drug users in prison, two is to create new police forces (like the ATF and the DEA) to deal with drug traffickers through violence, and three is to give foreign governments like that of Colombia and Mexico, billions and billions of dollars so that they can buy American arms, helicopters, and other military technology, in order to deal with the problem of drug use and trafficking through violence.

The U.S. war on drugs is a colossal failure because today in the United States drugs are less expensive and more available on the streets than ever. This war on drugs has succeeded in putting record numbers of poor people of color in prison to serve hard time, in addition to small-time traffickers and dealers. Furthermore, the war on drugs has created two very expensive police forces (DEA and ATF) and made weapons and war technology manufacturers extremely rich with U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Insofar as Juarez, the subject of my talk, the war on drugs has helped to make of the border city "the murder capital of the world." In a place where drug-related violence has become normative, the brutal murder of a young woman takes on an air of casualness.

Diana Washington Valdez, the author of Killing Fields: The Harvest of Women, about the feminicide, has been quoted by National Public Radio as saying:

"The best information we have is that these men are committing crimes simply for the sport of it," she tells Burnett. "We know of people who've told stories about escaping from certain parties, orgies, which some of these people were present — they were recognizable people from Juarez society, from Mexican society." In particular, she names two men with ties to the Juarez drug cartel.

"The authorities know who the killers are, and nothing's being done about it," Valdez says. "We have two issues here: people who are getting away with murder, and... authorities who have become accomplices, and so this has become crimes of the state."


In globalization, everything, including human life is a commodity. Ana was first a commodity of U.S. business interests because she became cheap labor. Not a human being deserving of education, healthcare, and a future, but a temporary tool for profit. Then her life, and those like her, was horrifically taken as if it and her, had no value beyond the sexual and sadistic gratification of a class of men intoxicated with power and impunity. At that party, the powerful, criminals and non-criminals, mingled together, for a night, the charades of their public lives momentarily suspended. The U.S. War on Drugs, which has made of Juarez, a black hole of violence and corruption, has helped to create a culture where psychopaths can work in complete impunity.

It goes without saying that to honor the dead women of Juarez, one can start by resisting globalization and protesting the U.S. War on Drugs.

Sources:

Bowden, Charles. Juárez: The Laboratory of our Future, preface by Noam Chomsky; afterword by Eduardo Galeano (1998)

Bowden, Charles. Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder, and Family (2002)

Valdez, Diana Washington. Killing Fields: Harvest of Women. 2006