While it may be entertaining to watch CEOs clean gutters and serve burgers, “Undercover Boss” is hardly empowering for workers. As Kimberly Freeman Brown and Gabriel Thompson argue today in the Huffington Post, the show is actually “undercover” advertising for corporations and corporate power. To make matters worse, the show glosses over labor issues at its featured companies and minimizes workers’ own role in making change in their workplaces.
Freeman Brown and Thompson outline a few of the things really going on at the show’s featured companies:
Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service recently settled a class-action lawsuit brought by its plumbers in California for $2 million over complaints for working without meal breaks and unpaid overtime. A similar lawsuit is now pending in federal court in the Eastern District of New York. 1-800-Flowers is currently fighting a sex-discrimination lawsuit from a female former executive attorney, who said senior management referred to women as “babes,” praised her coffee-fetching skills and subjected her to offensive comments about their sex lives.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. America’s workers as a whole are working harder and earning less. But it doesn’t have to be this way, as the column describes:
We can push for better labor reforms, and ensure new jobs created in the economic recovery are good jobs. We can also press Congress to improve workers’ rights to form unions to give men and women a voice in fixing their jobs, while the administration can favor vendors who respect workers’ rights. Workers in unions can be empowered to negotiate with their employers as equal partners to improve workplaces and job conditions.
CEOs picking up trash for five minutes while the cameras roll? That’s nothing more than good TV. Changing laws so that every worker is treated with dignity and respect? That’s what change really looks like.
Read the full opinion piece here.