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Obedience on the Job

(Photo: Jon Mountjoy)

On America’s first subway, Boston’s Green line, the middle doors stopped opening. When I asked the driver to open the doors, he said that he couldn’t: now all boarding and deboarding at the above-ground stops is through the narrow front door by the fare box. Ah, the MBTA: making up for the 23 percent fare hikes on July 1 with improved service!

Me: “The new policy slows the ride for everyone. Now passengers cannot board and pay their fares until all the deboarding passengers have left.”

Driver, shrugging: “It’s the new policy. I just do what my boss tells me to do. I don’t question.”

Me: “We could use some questioning.”

Driver: “Questioning isn’t part of my job. I just wait for my pay day.”

If the train drivers, who have the closest knowledge of the problem, aren’t questioning the policy, what chance do the passengers have?

Here’s an alternative, condensed from What’s the Economy For, Anyway?  by David K. Batker and John de Graaf (page 106):

Manager of a Dutch division of an American company, a week after arriving from America, calls assistant at home on a Friday evening: “Please call the other workers in the division and start getting ready for the shipment on Monday.”

Assistant: “Excuse me, sir, but I don’t work on weekends, and I don’t expect to be called at home about work when I’m not working.”

In America, home of at-will employment law, we spend many of our waking hours in service to an authoritarian environment. How will we learn to defend our rights and the common good, a.k.a. democracy?