The Herald Bulletin
---- — Most Americans probably think immediately of Asia or perhaps South America when they hear of the exploitation of workers.
Those regions of the globe have indeed provided many troubling examples in recent years of people working in terrible and dangerous conditions for little pay.
But the truth is that labor exploitation goes on in the United States, as well, despite our many laws — minimum wage standards, the right to unionize, etc. — designed to rein in the ability of business ownership and management to take advantage of employees.
Many businesses deal fairly with workers, for sure, offering good wages and benefits. But there will always be those who succumb to greed or develop business models based on cheap labor and dangerous conditions.
Many would argue, and with plenty of evidence, that capital still controls the workplace and that workers truly have little power to right perceived wrongs. The problem for many laborers is that they don’t have access to the system or knowledge of how it can work to their advantage.
That’s why it’s important for workers to have the courage to step forward with complaints when they believe they’ve been exploited.
Two former carhops at Gene’s Root Beer Stand recently filed a complaint with Anderson police. They accused Gene’s owner Andrew Moorman of taking tip money from them and also of making carhops cover the money from fictitious sales. The carhops also organized a demonstration last week where they and their supporters carried signs decrying the perceived wrongs.
Moorman, through his attorney, has denied wrongdoing and suggested that the women are seeking retribution after not being hired back to work this summer.
It will be up to the Madison County prosecutor’s office to determine whether to file charges. If charges are brought, the courts will ultimately decide whether Moorman broke the law.
Gene’s Root Beer is a favorite of many local diners, and the immediate reaction of many is to side with the restaurant. Indeed, some current Gene’s carhops defend Moorman and note that they love working at the Scatterfield Road restaurant and feel they’ve been treated fairly.
While laborers, just like management, can be deceitful and try to leverage the system to their advantage, it’s good to see that local authorities are taking the claims of the former carhops seriously and following through with an investigation. Police should never disregard complaints based on the community standing or reputation of the accused.
Right now, in the public eye, the Gene’s Root Beer grievance is a he-said/she-said situation. But the former carhops say they have evidence to support their claims. It’s time to let the justice system work to determine whether this is a case of labor exploitation or a spurious complaint against a business owner.
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