Insubordinates of the world, unite!

Happy Labor Day!

If you’re not a completely hopeless suck-up, then chances are that somewhere, sometime during your working life, some manager has pointed their angry, shaking finger at you and turned all red in the face and blurted out, “This is not a democracy!”

I’ve heard this a lot over time. Slinging lattes, bussing tables at TGI Friday’s, wheeling TB patients to the pulmonary lab while they coughed stuff in my face. “This is not a democracy!”

I guess I feel kind of bad for driving so many of my superiors to that dark, authoritarian place that they never really wanted to go to. I guess. But the weird thing, the sad and screwed up thing, is that I still can’t figure out when and where all the democracy we were promised actually is supposed to take place.

You’ve got to work, right? That’s eight, nine, 10 hours at a time when democracy is just off the table. That’s a big fat democracy-free zone in the middle of your day.

You’ve got sleep. Not a lot of democracy happening during those six to eight hours, especially if you dream about work. So, maybe democracy only applies in those other few hours in between.

How’s that working out for you? Are you fully enjoying the blessings of our democracy while you’re hauling your work aprons over to the laundromat? While you’re watching that rerun of Behind the Music: Pantera? While you’re out getting plastered with your co-workers and talking smack about your lame-o boss? Is democracy just something we get to do during free time? Like sports fishing?

Some of us enjoy more democratic workplaces, many of us less. But the way I read it, the First Amendment doesn’t exclude anybody, even suckers stocking shelves at Wal-Mart.

And to me that’s what the labor movement and Labor Day are all about: Trying to bring a little more democracy into that space where we need it most, where we spend most of our waking and productive hours. A little more democracy in the workplace can save your life, or at least save your dignity.

Oh, man, I gotta go. My boss is looking for me.