on the assembly line

Assembly line – “we wanted to get the music (the music of the slave, commodified into  pop) out of the cotton fields and onto the assembly line where it belonged” g.p.o. on coining the term” industrial music”

– My 2 experiences working on an assembly line were a slaughterhouse in Omaha (now most jobs are held by the “illegal” or “legal” mexicans) and a Motorola factory in Florida – it’s interesting to contrast the 2

 I worked on the evening shift at the slaughterhouse, then staffed by “spectral people, grey as ashes” – who talked little as they handled the flesh in its process to the end for shipment.  On the concrete floor beneath us there was always a coating of bloody goo.  When an inspector entered through the 2nd story door, visible to us under the management office, wearing his pristine white lab coat and a white hard hat, he was immediately ushered into the office – I never saw him descend to the level of hell where the actual work was being done.

I worked at the front of the line: this required taking cuts of meat from the guy behind me who power hosed the carcass (him,  the constant butt of jokes about his being a homosexual from people further down I could not see) and I immediately placed them on the conveyer belt.  The machine set the pace, so I had to keep up no matter what, for the next person in line, and so on.  If I happened to drop a piece of meat on the floor into the red goo, I did not have any option other than to pick it up and send it on down the line.  There were two white barrel containers at the front of the machine, top of a steel table: one marked “edible” and one marked “inedible” from the sides of the edible container there were blue veins.   Women had the easiest job, so to speak, at the end of the line, doing the saran wrapping of the pieces.

 When I worked on the Motorola assembly line, The person at the front of the line had the most difficult job: soldering tiny circuits on a circuit board.   Usually people were switched around.  There were large digital screens overhead indicating how many pagers had processed from the time the horn blew, which began the work, until the horn blew again, which stopped the process.  The noise was deafening.  The line next to us had a large black woman who would continually yell “Go! Go!” in an effort to make the rest of the people on the line increase speed of their tasks: this was because if you did more you got a bonus, also she was gunning for a management position.  I soon saw there was a caste system in the plant: at the top were Caucasians, who managed to make it off the line into some kind of supervisory position unless they were complete dolts, next were Black women who stood and observed the lines, under them were light skinned Cubans males, then Black males, then darker skinned Cubans and Cuban women, and at the bottom of the social rung, Indians from Pakistan, all of whom were male. 

Needless to say, there was a lot of ball-busting going on all around, from which I was usually thankfully exempt; unlike other blue-collar jobs I’ve had where most of the co-workers were white. 

It’s soul destroying work – it’s insane work -why did i work there? to survive when i couldn’t find anything else: when I hear on the news about assembly line workers making too much cash, I remember my experiences – I say pay the assembly line workers more and the lawyers less.

“and i said don’t go doggy, he stopped for a minute, and then he ran under the car”



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