When I first moved to this country in 2002 what shocked me more than the violent primate in the White House were shops that were open round the clock. Pharmacies—maybe understandable--but supermarkets? Did Americans wake up routinely at 2:00 am and say, “I’ll just pop over to my nearest florescent-heavy supermarket and get myself some Grout Aide Markers?” (Don’t ask me what they are. They are advertised, so they exist). It turns out supermarkets and other shops are open for 24 hours because we have a “flexible” work force. People do not buy Grout Aide Markers, but milk, vegetables and diapers at 2:00 am, because they might be coming back home from work at that time.
And now as a perfect fit for the “flexible” work force corporations are offering—round the clock Day Care. Rather Day and Night Care.
As an advocate for full access to convenient child-care for working parents, surely I ought to be happy with this new trend of round the clock child-care?
I am not. I am very unhappy.
Round the clock child-care is not about making lives easier for parents.
It is about making sure that workers work longer and become even more “flexible”: the boss’s cheery way of saying that you are without collective rights, regular wages or benefits. I imagine upper management write their between-golf-games-memos as: “the 40-hour work week really is so restrictive. Instead we give our ‘associates’ the flexibility of coming in at 4:00 am to stock shelves so that they can go off to their second job by noon”.
One of the pesky excuses the worker could always cite for wanting to go home was having children. Behold the 24/7 nursery.
According to the latest report of the International Labor Organization, American workers are already “working much longer hours (roughly 300 hours a year more) than their counterparts in many Western European countries” (ILO, 2011). The number of people who have “flexible” jobs doubled in the 1990s as the Bush and Clinton administrations backed various anti-worker legislations.
It is no surprise then, that all the round the clock nurseries are private enterprises, some attached to actual workplaces. Workers in these “privileged” workplaces can have round the clock child care often along with on-site gyms, private health-care centers and according to one advert, “all the M & M’s employees can eat”.
Once upon a time such institutions, where the worker’s life, outside of work, was still controlled by the same factory, were called ‘company towns’. And both worker and boss knew well the muzzle of the union-buster’s gun that propped up the peace of such towns. Today, ‘round the clock child-care and an on-site treadmill is supposed to contribute to the worker’s “work-life balance”.
"Flexible schedules are not a right—they’re a privilege," says Kelly Parr, work/life coordinator for First National Bank of Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska. The bank was voted by a corporate women’s magazine as the best place to work for mothers.
In other words, the less you see of your children, or your life, the better balance and coordination you will achieve as the ideal worker under capitalism.
Here is how one such 24/7 child-care center in New York lists its staff:
Round the clock nursery:
The Chief Executive Officer, the Chief Financial Officer, 2 Education Directors, an Assistant Director, Human Resource Director, 8 Master Teachers, 8 Assistant Teachers…
Teachers, presumably the least important part of this operation, are mentioned after five managerial positions.
I wonder what language is used when speaking to the children: “today little Juanita we will leverage the diaper and value add to the potty”?