Yet another disgruntled whiner, or vanguard of a revitalized working-class movement? Readers respond to Claudia O'Keefe's "Brave New Jobs."

Salon Staff
April 30, 2004 11:30PM (UTC)

[Read the story.]

Thanks for publishing this courageous profile of one of the "wonderful" jobs touted to the American people. I'm in a similar position to Ms. O'Keefe -- thanks to 9/11 and a sour economy, I went from a middle management job in my chosen field to being a receptionist. It's difficult to imagine that I used to have pride in my work and that I had a sense of self-worth -- both now vanished. I suppose it could be worse, I could have to dress as a taco every day.


-- Christine Roberts

The shameless ego and unchallenged sense of entitlement these pampered elitists ooze is remarkable. Apparently the rich really are different from you and me (yes, we Epsilons read Fitzgerald, too). O'Keefe should get a medal for her restraint. Fortunately for the rest of us, there is one suitable, and gratifying, corrective we can enact: tax the bastards into the ground. It's the only way they'll learn.

-- Tom McCarthy


Thanks to Claudia O'Keefe for her illuminating article "Brave New Jobs," for showing how the worker's life has been degraded in Bush's America.

While echoing many chords from Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed," this article goes a step further in showing the odious, execrable behavior of the "privileged."

That cancer on our materialist society that bleeds its soul and purpose like so many parasites, and hastens its demise.


Would that these rich, spoiled pustules sprouting from the Bushie landscape had one-tenth the integrity and honor of workers, like Claudia O'Keefe and her peers. But, such integrity means one actually earns what he has, as opposed to expropriating it from the labor of others.

The vermin rich that used the workers for entertainment at O'Keefe's resort deserve one final reward: to be reincarnated in a place like Bangladesh, there to live out a meager and miserable existence in payment for what they did in this life.


-- Phil Stahl

What a whiner! If she did not like the job she did not have to do it. No employer will force you to take their money. Her experiences at the "Washington Resort" that illustrate for her the changes in society, and the widening gulf between rich and poor, sound exactly like my experiences at the Hyatt Hilton Head in the late '80s and early '90s. Nothing has changed in America except that being self-important has become a disease, where jobs that pay the bills aren't good enough for the likes of Georgia O'Keefe. An employer using strategies to maximize their profits? Horrors! Guests expecting to be waited on by a waitress? Scandalous!

Get over yourself, Ms. O'Keefe.


-- Neil Lewis

Claudia O'Keefe's story of her awful job waitressing at a posh resort was rather pointless. We've all heard, and many of us have experienced, horror stories such as hers; however, she fails to NAME NAMES! How can the readers use the information she gave if we don't know whom to boycott?

-- W. Newcomb


After my freshman year of college, I needed extra money for the next term. As a classic scholarship kid, I returned to rural Kentucky for the summer to work the fuel desk at a truck stop on I-65. I ran the register, dished out the slop from what the management called the "buffet," cleaned the showers, and wiped piss off the walls of the bathroom when drunks missed the urinal. Oh, and I pulled 18-hour shifts on a regular basis, which I'm sure broke a law somewhere. But I didn't have a problem with the job. Truckers are -- as a whole -- pleasant people, I was a poor kid in a small town, and, if I expected to stay at my private research university, I was willing to work my way through it. Working at the truck stop was just one of the many menial jobs I've had to take just to finish my education.

My real problems started when I got back to my private research university, when I noticed, like Claudia O'Keefe, that rich people do not deserve the privileges they have. Many of the students at this school could afford to go there, and they had no problem with treating the maintenance staff, waiters and waitresses, and anyone else they came across like dirt. Where I grew up, I didn't have a concept of rich people beyond television and books. In my fantasies, I thought that rich people ate with the right fork and said "please" and "thank you." In reality, the truckers used polite language. And, when they made a mess, they cleaned it up.

My truck-stop summer turned me into a devoted Democrat. I think the wealthy have to work for the privileges they have, and I don't think that's such a radical concept. Conservative politicians and pundits with big bank accounts are forever griping that they have to support immigrants and welfare moms. However, given the incredible tax breaks and general cosseting received by big business, I've felt that I'm supporting this expanding leisure class, which is fast regaining the power it had when Thorstein Veblen published about conspicuous consumption in 1899.

-- Caroline Roberts


I find it difficult to sympathize with the author. Her arrogance leaks through the entire piece, and I believe it sadly indicative of the exact sort of snobbish mind-set she blames her former patrons for having. I've worked an equal number of blue-collar and white-collar jobs, and of the two, the labor jobs were by far the most difficult. I recall a moment when, while working as a manager for a dot-com, a fellow manager laughed at a prospective employee's cover letter because he put "multitasking" down as a skill, basing it on his experience managing the kitchen for a fast-food restaurant.

"That job requires more multitasking than yours," I sneered, proudly humiliating her in front of a room of people.

Ultimately, it's the author's last line about how even "winners" have to work crap jobs that makes me wonder if she learned anything at all from her experience. I suspect not. What she, and every last person in America, should realize is, most of the time, it's not intelligence, creativity or competence that earns you a good job, but sheer, slobbering, mindless luck. Whether it's being born into a family with money, being in the right place at the right time when a new industry develops, or just knowing the right person to give you a tip on a job before it's advertised, senseless, slack-jawed luck controls our fates more than anything else.

Winners? How about this: Even the very, very lucky have to work crap jobs in today's economy.


-- T.G. Fleming

As people tumble down the economic ladder from middle class to poor, the personal safety of the rich diminishes. Some rich people enjoy lording their wealth and power over others, thinking themselves superior. But I would like to remind them that the French didn't invent the guillotine for nothing. Better remember to keep us happy, richies!

-- Ian Asbury

Claudia O'Keefe's experience catering to powerful upper-class scumbags illustrates why we need to fire Bush the Younger and his cronies. The United States is losing its middle class, and the country is turning into Brazil. But what else could we expect from today's Republican Party? The right-wing nutboys are purging the moderates, and soon no one will be left in the party but corporate thieves and fundamentalist bigots.


-- John Mize

The article presents some interesting points, but I think some explanation should be given regarding a 10-to-16-hour day with no or only one 10-minute break. Forget about union contracts, those kind of working conditions break federal laws if I'm not mistaken. And without naming the corporation responsible for this kind of appalling working condition, I'm not sure what the point of the article was. An exposé is only an exposé if the guilty are exposed. Absent such exposure, apart from being a whine regarding the unfairness of it all, it seems pointless indeed.

-- Ardis Wade

"There's winners and losers and don't get caught on the wrong side of that line."-- Bruce Springsteen

I sense a certain amount of resignation about the realities of the new economy in O'Keefe's tone. And, while I haven't had an "Epsilon" job in quite some time (knock wood), I believe that there is a way to combat soulless, greedy, process-driven organizations that treat people like equipment instead of human resources. Simply use your wallet to let them know what you think.

By almost a factor of three, the consumer dwarfs every other component of our country's GDP. Every day, big companies take advantage of the consumers' inability to act coherently to create societal change. If consumers let big business know, via their spending habits, that treating their own employees well is just as important as creating an inexpensive, functional product, big business would get the message.

Too idealistic? Perhaps, so. However, I think we, the consumer, have the power to assign the "winners and losers" among the big businesses.

-- Patrick Ryan

Claudia O'Keefe's "Brave New Jobs" article on the ill treatment of hourly employees by rich club members and the corporation running things was to be an insightful commentary on the cultural gap between rich and poor, that helps explain the rise of class consciousness and exposes the Bush administration's hollow attacks against "class warfare" when such issues are raised. However, this is accomplished in a way O'Keefe surely did not intend.

Rather than show any real learning from her experience about what needs to change to eliminate this situation, O'Keefe only learns that a "winner" like her (and supposedly we Salon readers) should be concerned that they too may be grouped with the losers who, apparently, deserve such poor treatment for some unknown transgression. Perhaps reading Huxley would elevate their status.

It's clear that O'Keefe's response to a snide Huxley reference from a member "I'm actually an Alpha in disguise" was not ironic in the least. I can only hope she has recovered from the ignominy of exposure to the Betas, et al., and resumed her rightful place in our brave old world.

-- Thomas Faust

Claudia O'Keefe misses the point of her own article. It's not just downwardly mobile, middle-class workers who don't deserve to be treated like that. It's everyone. Her experience speaks to a vast and disturbing cultural change in American society. As the gap between rich and poor grows ever wider, America is becoming not just an aristocracy but a mean-spirited one. Back when the top tax bracket paid 70 percent, we did at least espouse egalitarian values. Now we have only the untrammeled "freedom" of the market, with its dehumanizing effects on the rich and murderous effects on the poor.

-- Rebecca Zorach

If there is a job that does not involve even a small amount of abuse, either from the public, one's co-workers, or management, I have yet to find it, regardless of how wealthy one's clientele. As Huey Lewis put it, "I'm taking what I'm given 'cause I'm working for a living."

But the writer's experience was demeaning enough that I couldn't believe she stayed as long as she did. Obviously, she couldn't let it "slide off her back" like her older co-worker, despite having been a waitress before. It made me wonder if her real purpose was to collect enough horror stories in order to get an article published.

Just once, I wish Salon would print a story about a disgruntled employee who actually managed to effect some change in his or her job. Or had some thoughtful ideas on progress, rather than just venting.

-- Elizabeth Bristol

Her story reminds one of why we cut off Marie Antoinette's head. Or at least why the help sometimes pees in the soup.

-- Jerry Orlando

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