Sunday, April 27, 2008

Why Waiters Don't Start Unions

I have been reading Down and Out in Paris and London, by George Orwell, and while not his most famous work, by a long shot, it is still amazing. This afternoon, reflecting on class, Presidential elections and the inequality that is rampant down here in Brazil, and becomes more and more common in the richest country in the world (our beloved US and A), I thought I would share a tiny bit of this phenomenal book with you, my cherished reader.

"The moral is, never be sorry for a waiter. Sometimes when you sit in a restaurant, still stuffing yourself half an hour after closing time, you feel that the tired waiter at your side must surely be despising you. But he is not. He is not thinking as he looks at you, 'What an overfed lout'; he is thinking, 'One day, when I have saved enough money, I shall be able to imitate that man.' He is ministering to a kind of pleasure he thoroughly understands and admires. And that is why waiters are seldom Socialists, have no effective trade unions, and will work twelve hours a day--they work fifteen hours, seven days a week, in many cafes. They are snobs, and they find the servile nature of their work congenial."

I worked at the Central Park Boathouse restaurant for a month, and it was one of the worst jobs of my life. Orwell is completely right. I have never felt more servile, and was treated with arrogance by the biggest slaves of all in the restaurant business, the waiters. Of course, compared to the goon of an owner of that hell-hole, they were angels.


Anonymous said...

I just watched Time Wise on SG, and it all connects. From Orwell to New Orleans, divide and control has been and continues to be the name of the game.

putzy lepew said...

Daddydan - interesting stuff and for the most part I agree. Waiters by and large are people moving on to something else. Where I would deviate from the premise is in the gender of the waiting species.

My mom was a waitress (still is, 40 years strong) and raised me while my dad forgot about his duties to his family and we slipped into poverty, better known as the feminization of poverty.

Most of the "women" my mom worked with were in the same boat, teetering on poverty, but one can earn a decent wage as a waitress. I tried to get her to start a union on a few particular places, but it is nearly impossible mainly for the reason you speak of and that is the expendable work force of those who do not make a career out of it.

I would argue for those that make a career out of it they could use a union as much as any factory worker in America.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree, PL. I am not blaming, at all, waiters, but instead a system that uses up and throws away workers. As a host at the Boathouse, I saw a small glimpse into the world that is a restaurant, and it is a brutal one. One moment you are making great tips (if a waiter in a "good" restaurant), and the next, they let you go.

But every waiter there just talked about the commercial he was in or movie he was auditioning for.