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Bathroom breaks banned on factories?

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Wheylous posted on Wed, Jan 2 2013 10:47 PM

I am critiquing the Raikoth anti-libertarian FAQ and I stumbled on this section:

I note in the same vein stories from the days before labor regulations when employers would ban workers from using the restroom on jobs with nine hour shifts, often ending in the workers wetting themselves. This seems like the sort of thing that provides so much humiliation to the workers, and so little benefit to the bosses, that a free market would eliminate it in a split second. But we know that it was a common policy in the 1910s and 1920s, and that factories with such policies never wanted for employees. The same is true of factories that literally locked their workers inside to prevent them from secretly using the restroom or going out for a smoking break, leading to disasters like theTriangle Shirtwaist Fire when hundreds of workers died when the building they were locked inside burnt down. And yet even after this fire, the practice of locking workers inside buildings only stopped when the government finally passed regulation against it.

We've covered the TSF thing before, so I am not looking for arguments against that specifically (though I would appreciate any you might have). I am more interested in the bathroom break thing. Why would employers do this? Did it really take away that much from employment time? What are some citations on this. How widespread was the issue? Was this a long-term problem or was it restricted to a few situations?

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cab21 replied on Thu, Jan 3 2013 1:38 PM

http://thestir.cafemom.com/pregnancy/147891/pregnant_woman_gets_fired_for

this woman got fired for too many bathroom breaks.

 

http://www.impactlab.net/2006/08/23/china-business-bans-restroom-breaks/

this company has workers pay to go to the bathroom

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:md2wX-OwQ94J:www.law.upenn.edu/journals/jbl/articles/volume2/issue3/Schleifer2U.Pa.J.Lab.%26Emp.L.603%282000%29.pdf+factory+banning+restroom+breaks&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShuBDkQKCwLVD_Ub9JRZv2oylIVbF9uRmpVzi7_FBzmc49cPferIPQy1zA8RxsGF1CJQP-OTL7Ur7FU--l3ZVhWeVLfNeAdpaQ87UQlE-Tgx3RW6Lg04lKCbbLpu2dspZZETqut&sig=AHIEtbSW3feyGcEaO94OkOpx3J5lAsp2Qw

here is a review of a book about some history of restroom breaks at work .

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The article about the pregnant woman is full of entitlement mentality. In a way, how often you need to use the restroom is like being strong, tall, or some other aspect which can affect how well you do on the job. Using the restroom much more often than another employee in general means that you're working less, so why shouldn't an employer be able to choose people or pay based on this frequency? It may be that most people are so triggered by this that they would refuse to work anywhere that did this, so employers would have to refrain from it if they wanted anyone working for them.

It's also interesting how this ties in to how much women are paid on average versus men, as an example of something that can decrease a woman's productivity but not a man's (though if you take into account all the conditions that can cause one to have to pee more often, it might be that their frequencies for the sexes cause the productivity effect to even out).

If there's no cost to taking restroom breaks, an employee might go more often than necessary, perhaps just to take a rest from working. There's also the aspect of a person being able to trade off discomfort for reduced restroom frequency. People do this all the time at home, for example when they're doing something they are immersed in and don't want to have interrupted.

 

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Marko replied on Thu, Jan 3 2013 9:31 PM

In 1995, for instance, female employees at a Nabisco plant in Oxnard, Calif., maker of A-1 steak sauce and the world’s supplier of Grey Poupon mustard, complained in a lawsuit that line supervisors had consistently prevented them from going to the bathroom.


So regulations didn't solve this problem. The government came in in the 1920s, and you still have something very similar in 1995?

Also 1995 California isn't free market. You have minimum wage and subsidies.

Simply we don't have enough context to be able to tell anything terribly wise about this.

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So they forbid urination breaks while working. In Russia, people working in such conditions would just piss on the floor somewhere, or somewhere nearby, and the low level supervisor would probably do the same.

When is the last time you saw somebody spit on the floor in the USA inside a building? OF course, only in bad conditions, but Europe is full of places so dirty that nobody even bothers to wash their cups, because they are cleaner than what's around anyway.

I think people have a different mentality in the USA. Partly because people are conditioned that way, to put up with it, in school, and feel social pressure if they don't hold it in until "allowed" by authority. Same in Russian schools actually, but in Russia people get into the real world sooner and realize how rubbishy conditions are and just go ahead and do it.

Speaking of which, I am no longer interested in drinking Nabisco or A-1 (not that I ever bought it more than a couple times before). The people have what, infections and are covered in urine while they make it?

And yes, California etc are not free markets, neither are European places. They could put into a contract with the workers to provide devices in which to urinate in, used in the military, for about 200-400 USD for men-women, which are either provided by the company to workers each year or paid for by workers if they agree to work there, but it has to be in the contract, otherwise this is not a free market solution. "We forbid you to piss!" = "We forbid rain to occur on Tuesdays"

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The point, however, is that given that at the time people were banned from doing this, government could have stepped in and "improved" a market outcome.

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Blargg:
Maybe people accept this in the workplace because it was forced on them in school. Reading one of the hits, it's amazing how controlled and watched students are.
At the end of each triad, they turn in unused bathroom passes for ten extra-credit points per pass.  Some students will insist. Do not argue. Keep a clipboard handy and have the student record name, date, and time. Tell them you keep track because if someone goes too frequently or their period comes more than once a month, their parents must be notified so they can see a doctor.

Excellent point.  When you think about it, it's actually pretty amazing how many things that are considered abhorrent and against "basic human rights" when they happen to adults, aren't even given a second thought (and are considered completely acceptable) when they are forced on children.

 

Blargg:

The article about the pregnant woman is full of entitlement mentality. In a way, how often you need to use the restroom is like being strong, tall, or some other aspect which can affect how well you do on the job. Using the restroom much more often than another employee in general means that you're working less, so why shouldn't an employer be able to choose people or pay based on this frequency? It may be that most people are so triggered by this that they would refuse to work anywhere that did this, so employers would have to refrain from it if they wanted anyone working for them.

It's also interesting how this ties in to how much women are paid on average versus men, as an example of something that can decrease a woman's productivity but not a man's (though if you take into account all the conditions that can cause one to have to pee more often, it might be that their frequencies for the sexes cause the productivity effect to even out).

If there's no cost to taking restroom breaks, an employee might go more often than necessary, perhaps just to take a rest from working. There's also the aspect of a person being able to trade off discomfort for reduced restroom frequency. People do this all the time at home, for example when they're doing something they are immersed in and don't want to have interrupted.

More great points.

 

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I don't think "you do it too" is a good line of argumentation for libertarians to take. Just because the state mistreats children in school, it doesn't mean that we should accept this as standard practice.

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Wheylous:
I don't think "you do it too" is a good line of argumentation for libertarians to take. Just because the state mistreats children in school, it doesn't mean that we should accept this as standard practice.

Was that at me?  I don't know what you mean.

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Blargg replied on Fri, Jan 4 2013 11:21 AM

I think it was a misreading of your implied message. I took your point to be that there's a major discrepancy in the area of what's considered basic decency, revealed by swapping the adult/child in a situation with the other of the two.

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Yeah pretty much.

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Primetime:
Excellent point.  When you think about it, it's actually pretty amazing how many things that are considered abhorrent and against "basic human rights" when they happen to adults, aren't even given a second thought (and are considered completely acceptable) when they are forced on children.

Bingo.  I think about the same thing with spanking and other forms of physical violence initiated on children.  When a kid "acts up" in a public place, say, he won't stop crying in Walmart because he wasn't allowed to get the Spider-Man lunchbox, and his dad hits him and tells him to shut up...it's perfectly fine.  But if an adult committed the exact same act against another adult (even if it were the same two people...and the offspring just happened to be 18 years or older), you've got cops being called, and assault charges.

From this article:

Some questions really don't have two sides. "Is it okay to do something to your child that would land you in jail if you did it to a stranger on the street?" is one of those. You can phrase it other ways too -- like "Is it okay to hurt a child because it serves your immediate goal when science shows it can lead to long-term harm?" But there is still just one answer.

And yet, we keep seeing it presented as a disagreement.

In my opinion this is actually one of the most aggregious offenses committed that is still not only legal, but considered perfectly acceptible.  The aggression is bad enough on its own...but then you have to throw in the size, authority, and emotional differential...it's downright evil. This is one area Molyneux is actually useful, as there aren't many aggregating and publicizing this information and viewpoint:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONNRfflggBg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjxXuDYdBzY

 

Wheylous:
The point, however, is that given that at the time people were banned from doing this, government could have stepped in and "improved" a market outcome.

Just like the government could "improve" the market outcome of children working by enforcing laws against child labor, eh?

 

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What I meant was that just because government enforces bathroom break schedules in school it doesn't mean that they're desirable. Plus, did this enforcement exist in the 1910s?

JJ - I know the arguments about child labor. This, however, appears to be quite different.

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Who the hell said anything about either one of those things being desirable?  I'm not quite sure where you're getting that. 

The way both me and Blargg read it was that it's interesting the discrepancy between what is considered acceptable practice, based solely on the person's age...particularly when one would think children deserve (and would get) more "protection" against violence...especially violence perpetrated on them by adults (who by the way tend to be at least twice their size and three times their age.)

This observation came as a result of Blargg simply proposing an explanation as to why such a practice as bathroom restrictions on employees would be accepted..."because [the same practice] was forced on them in school".

As for the child labor example, I was merely calling attention to the flaw in your argument that having a law against something necessarily means the potential for "improvement" of a (alleged) "market failure".

 

Wheylous:
This, however, appears to be quite different.

How is that, exactly?

 

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Working conditions don't get better because of moral indignation either from employers, employees or third parties.

Working conditions do get better because labor resources become relatively scarcer with respect to other forms of capital.

When the availability of peoples that could be captured and enslaved was high and the work they were able to perform was valuable enough to pay for the costs of their capture and bondage, there were slaves.

When technological advance changed these circumstances, slaves were gone. For the former enslavers, the benefits of slave work didn't pay for it's costs anymore. 

And the same goes for indentured labor and sweatshop jobs and so on.

Political crusades for "rights" and general moral indignation are generally ex post facto realizations that come from the fact that certain peoples got rid of certain forms of labor before other peoples and they decided to consider that repugnant.

In a post-apocalyptical scenario where modern survivors saw themselves in a ruined world with low capital structure, slavery would probably reemerge, regardless of how repugnant it may sound now.

"Blood alone moves the wheels of history" - Dwight Schrute
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Also, this shows that people would prefer restricted bathroom breaks over lower pay/no job. Everything has a price. In a way, any government ban on these restrictions is like minimum wage, in that those people who find them acceptable are prevented from making more money with the restrictions. And if these restrictions were plain unacceptable to the workers, nobody would work under those conditions and employers would be unable to impose them.

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