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December 14, 2005

No Jobs, No Choice

Those are two of the four sections of Naomi Klein’s book No Logo,
which documents the increasing consolidation of corporate power in the
United States and the world in general.  I just had an experience
today that ties these two sections together in a bizarrely unfortunate
way.

This afternoon, I returned with Jose (see my December 1st entry) to Carrabba’s, the Italian
restaurant to which he’d applied to be a dishwasher only to be denied a
position at the last minute.  The position opened up again this
week (I called the manager anonymously and asked if they were looking
for dishwashers, to which he responded affirmatively), so we went back
to fill out the necessary paperwork for Jose to begin work. 

After discussing Jose’s availability, which is limited on certain days
due to his dishwashing job at another restaurant, the manager asked
where Jose is currently employed.  When Jose showed him the card
for the Outback Steakhouse he works for, the manager (with only a hint
of remorse) stated that he wouldn’t be able to hire Jose because his
restaurant is owned by the same company that owns Outback, meaning any
work Jose put in at Carrabba’s would be counted as overtime since Jose
is seeking to work more than 40 hours per week between the two
restaurants.  The story seemed too random to be contrived, but
just in case, Paul and I double checked when I got home tonight–and
sure enough, Carrabba’s Italian Restaurant is owned by OSI (Outback
Steakhouse Incorporated).  OSI has also acquired Fleming’s Prime
Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Roy’s Restaurant, and Bonefish Grill over
the past decade, which, surpisingly enough, is a relatively small
corporate kingdom; PepsiCo owns dozens of brand names, including KFC,
Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Gatorade, Lay’s Potato Chips, Aguafina, and, of
course, all Pepsi products.  Disney’s Magic Kingdom likewise
extends a lot farther than the pink castle in Disney World, and so does
Coca-Cola’s and AOL-Time Warner’s. 

Jose’s predicament is a
completely new aspect of No Jobs, No Choice than I had ever considered
before.  Not only are corporations offering jobs with unlivable
wages (thus Jose’s search for a second job to enable him to work more
than 40 hours per week) but because they own so many different
businesses and subsidiaries, corporations are also limiting the ability
of employees to work the amount of hours they need to work in order to
survive–so there might be more jobs, but less opportunity to take
those jobs because they’re all essentially the same job!

Another curious occurrence that befell me while I was at Carrabba’s was
this:  when I asked to borrow a pen from the host, he responded,
“Sure, but it’s going to be a Bank of America pen,” to which I replied,
with obvious perplexity, “okay.”   To my utter dismay, he
proceeded to ask me which company I banked with and whether or not I
was happy with its services.  When I said that Wachovia was
perfectly fine for my needs (refraining from adding that, if anything,
I would switch to a credit union rather than another corporate bank),
he asked if Wachovia offered direct deposit, free checking, unlimited
transactions, and a host of other benefits that, presumably, Bank of
America would offer me. 

I was completely dumbfounded by this blatant solicitation taking place
inside an unrelated establishment, and consequently left wondering,
“Could Bank of America, too, be a part of the Outback-Carrabba
conspiracy?”  So far I haven’t been able to find any evidence
supporting a connection between OSI and Bank of America.  I’m not
willing to consider that the host was just a happy customer of Bank of
America who wanted to spread the good news about its services (Have you
ever left a corporate bank feeling so jolly good about it that you
wanted to tell the whole world to switch companies?), so I’m quite
perplexed by the interaction.  If you have any guesses to hazard,
I’d be interested to know.

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