Monday, May 26, 2008

resentment and entitlement

From Alex Davis in the C-J, a story of one family's struggle with "bitterness and frustration" in the uncertainty surrounding GE's future in Louisville.

For parts of five decades, the sprawling plant has offered a paycheck to members of the Murphy family, just as it has for thousands of others in the metro area. The company's pension system alone offers benefits to more than 20,000 local retirees and their spouses.

But the future of that legacy was put in doubt this week when GE's plans to get rid of its appliance business emerged.

And while the outcome is far from certain, it's generating frustration and a sense of betrayal among some members of the Murphy family.

"I've put a lot of time into this place," said Mike Murphy, who was hired in 1993 with help from his father, Larry. "It's all I've ever known how to do."...

The article is interesting because it shows an internal conflict between thankfulness and a sense of entitlement-- garnished with a large dose of helplessness. Here, Mike says, in essence, that GE owes him for what he's done. And in a sense, each party in a labor market agreement does owe something to the other (above and beyond the exchange of labor services for compensation), but how far does that go?

Working as a janitor, Mike Murphy earns $14.97 an hour -- a so-called "competitive wage" that he accepted after being laid off several times....But he always came back because the money was too good to pass up. At times when he was laid off, he was lucky to make $5 an hour as a machinist, compared with $18 or $19 at Appliance Park....

Mike could look at GE as a blessing-- since he's earning far more there than his market wage. Of course, why he's making an artificially high wage while working at GE is an interesting question. And it becomes obvious why GE might want to get away from Louisville if such wages are part of the "bargain".

Inside the plant, Jerry Murphy said, workers are scared about their future and frustrated by a lack of information. But he'll stick it out as long as he can. There aren't many other options.

"GE's made a life for us all," he said.

There aren't many GOOD options for Mike. And again, here's the tension between respect for and resentment of GE.

I wonder if there is something here politically, as well. Is it the case that Democrats tend toward an entitlement mentality-- whether one is describing jobs or welfare or health care?


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