Workers need more rights on the job, not a CBS TV show.

Yesterday, after the Super Bowl, CBS previewed a new program "Undercover Boss." The premise of the program, for those who did not get to see it, is that corporate executives will go "undercover" as regular employees of their company, enabling them to see what the average frontline employee experiences day to day on the job. Our friends at America Rights at Work encouraged us to watch. Intriguing? Well, the first boss to step into this territory is Larry O'Donnell, COO of Waste Management. He went to a recycling center, on a garbage truck, to a landfill and to a weigh station, where he encountered workers doing their jobs, despite the stress of illness, extra work loads, inadequate pay and lack of respect. He met folks who do what they have to do to put bread on the tables and pay the rent!

There were two things that bothered me a lot! First, a female driver went to the bathroom in a can so she doesn't get in trouble for taking too long on her route. The other was an employee who had to clock in at exactly 30 minutes for her lunch period , or she would be docked two minutes for every minute she clocked in late (what!). Of course, at the end of this program, Mr. COO was so grateful for his experience in the field and what he learned. He attempted to address some of the more immediate concerns (like peeing in a can) right away. But can the average American worker wait for their corporate honcho to have an epiphany like this? Even if CBS did a show every week, that would only be 52 shows, leaving millions of folks waiting for their boss to get a chance to see what "real workers" do every day. What workers really need is for their CEOs and COOs to embrace rules of fundamental fairness that will even the playing field. ARAW has launched their site, to provide an opportunity for workers whose boss hasn't been profiled on TV to talk about what they hate and love about their jobs. ARAW and IWJ agree that there needs to be fundamental, systematic changes that give workers more rights on the job, and protects the rights they have now, including the right to organize a union. What do you think?

Renaye Manley
National Organizer
Interfaith Worker Justice
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