Sunday, July 12, 2015

Workers' rights in the United States

The United States is rather infamous for the lack of workers' rights. There are many states (perhaps most famously Texas) where an employer can fire any employee at any moment for any reason without any kind of notice, and there's absolutely nothing the employee can do about it (with, perhaps, the exception that if the firing was done eg. because of racist discrimination, but even then, how do you prove it?)

One could make the argument "well, it's the employer's property and there is no moral code that would dictate that the employer must keep people employed; forcing people against their will to employ other people is totalitarianism."

The problem is, the total freedom of being able to fire whoever you want for whatever reason you want without any repercussions can be, and is, heavily abused in amazingly egregious ways. This allows employers to basically extort and discriminate against their employees.

For example, a boss could tell his employees "vote for this presidential candidate, or you'll get fired." (Yes, actual case. I didn't make that one up.)

Or how about firing employees if they become members of a trade union? (Also actual cases.)

Or something that's really, really common: "Make these 20 additional hours this week for absolutely free, or you'll get fired."

And that is one of the great injustices in the United States. It's really, really common for big corporations to basically extort free labor from their employees with the threat of layoffs. And we are not talking just about an hour or two of additional work per week. We are talking about really egregious amounts, like 20 or even 30 additional hours per week in some cases. That's in addition to the standard 40-hour week, mind you. These employees often get no additional pay or other benefits from these extra hours.

This is very common in most industries, but it's especially egregious in the software development industry. There are many quite known and egregious corporations, such as Electronic Arts, who are infamous for doing this exact thing: They will extort their game developers for 20 and even 30 extra work hours per week with absolutely no compensation or benefits. What's worse, when the project is finished, they will often fire them anyway. (Yes, there are documented cases of both.) EA is quite infamous for this, and is generally called one of the most evil companies in existence, but they are not the only one.

Who is fighting for the rights of these workers? Especially in the gaming industry, with all this fake whiny "controversies" being so popular right now, who is paying attention to the actual injustices in the industry? Who is fighting for the rights of these developers? Why isn't awareness raised about this issue?

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