Profits 1, human dignity 0.
August 27, 2002 9:11 PM   Subscribe

Profits 1, human dignity 0. Work at the Jim Beam bourbon plant? Need to go to the bathroom? Too bad. Six unexcused pees and you're fired, says management.
posted by PrinceValium (81 comments total)
 
I thought that last bottle of Beam was too yellow...

Seriously, though, is there a worker friendly bourbon that I should be buying?
posted by shagoth at 9:26 PM on August 27, 2002


I bet my former supervisors at my old job are kicking themselves for not thinking of this idea.

Good Lord.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:28 PM on August 27, 2002


In its appeal, Jim Beam said its break policy ''effectively balances the medical needs of employees with the company's need to maintain a productive workforce.''

All I know when I have to pee I'm not thinking about being a productive employee.

I never realized how good I have it at my office. Total freedom to go to the bathroom any time I want!
posted by birdherder at 9:38 PM on August 27, 2002


I'm self employed, and I waste far too much time in the bathroom. I am going to apply this idea to myself.

Seriously though, this is pretty repulsive. One of those things that make you scratch your head and ask "What *were* they thinking?" I'd cheer for any employee who just went ahead and peed on the floor - though I certainly would hope they not financially enslaved to that particular job.
posted by John Smallberries at 9:44 PM on August 27, 2002


I really don't find this unreasonable at all. Considering that they get three oportunities a day to relieve themselves and that they work on an assembly line (one 5 minute break by one person slows down the entire line), the policy seems reasonable. I worked in a similar factory for 3 months and never had to excuse myself from the line to use the bathroom.

If no medical problem is present, these workers are just plain lazy. Taking bathroom breaks 5 minutes after starting the shift? Come one. How can you even control your life when you can't even understand controlling bodily functions and taking preemptive bathroom visits on scheduled breaks?

I'm guessing that the workers who have to use the facilities more than every two hours are the same ones who routinely drain twelve packs before work.
posted by ttrendel at 9:45 PM on August 27, 2002


That is the important part- they have an opportunity to use the bathroom every 2 hours. Considering a first-shift eight-hour day:

7:00- pre-work visit
9:00- 1st brake visit
11:00-11:30- lunch break. a half-hour of nothing but potential pissing
2:30- 2nd break
4:30- off work, pee yourself crazy

That's not sufficient? Who has to go more than every two hours?
posted by ttrendel at 9:51 PM on August 27, 2002


Sigh... I just realized that I've spent more than fifteen minutes analyzing the urination schedules of Jim Beam workers... read any good books lately?
posted by ttrendel at 9:54 PM on August 27, 2002


oh yeah...the last two times ate 1:30 and 3:30....
posted by ttrendel at 9:56 PM on August 27, 2002


or are...fuck it
posted by ttrendel at 9:57 PM on August 27, 2002


This is appalling. Women are expected to report on when they're menstruating to the human resources department? I hope they get their asses sued off. If employees are caught taking smoke breaks and claiming them as toilet breaks, dismiss them if you like for wasting company time but putting women through that once a month is something else. Surely that must be some form of sexual harassment?
posted by Jubey at 9:58 PM on August 27, 2002


The offensive part of this isn't that there they aren't allowed an adequate total amount of potty time - it is that they are scheduled without regard to what they need. They are being treated at best like little children who need to raise their hand and ask the teacher if they can go wee-wee; at worst this treats them like automatons. It is degrading and unnecessary. A policy which punishes a worker who spends too much aggregate time on bathroom breaks would likely be as effective, and no where near as obnoxious.
posted by John Smallberries at 9:59 PM on August 27, 2002


For the life of me I can't figure out how people need to pee more than 3 times over an eight hour period. Nevertheless, this scares me:

...Company officials have told some workers that they should ''practice'' going to the bathroom every two hours at home on the weekends to put themselves on a schedule.

Since when did it become acceptable to treat working adults like little children? Instead of consulting a urologist, whoever made this genius decision should have consulted a management textbook and looked under the chapter heading "Things not to do if you don't want to piss off your entire workforce." (no pun intended)
posted by contessa at 9:59 PM on August 27, 2002


Ack... the errors.. strike the "there" and paste "no" and "where" together... See how hard it is to be coherent when you have to go tinkle?
posted by John Smallberries at 10:00 PM on August 27, 2002


Well, Merle Haggard drinks George Dickel anyway.
posted by plexi at 10:01 PM on August 27, 2002


I hope that the entire management team get enlarged prostrates and then get demoted to the assembly line.
posted by TskTsk at 10:11 PM on August 27, 2002


I would consider it a luxury to be able to use the bathroom every 2 hrs.. I'm betting a lot of these workers were using the break to smoke. It also says they used to rotate off the line for "unofficial" breaks before, they just want what they used to have. Can't blame them, but 2 hrs. in between bathroom breaks is nothing!
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 10:12 PM on August 27, 2002


I think this is completely ridiculous. Most people I know swill down 2 pots of coffee a day at work. As long as you are quick about it I see no problem with going to the john whenever you have to go. It's a bodily function - are they going to fire people for farting next? Stop the insanity!
posted by spungfoo at 10:15 PM on August 27, 2002


Class warfare isn't enough. It seems that one must salt the fields, rape the women and dehumanize the enslaved losers.

I'm not kidding or trolling - I'm bitter and enraged.

I'm heartened to see that Barbara Ehrenreich has reintroduced the term "class warfare" to liberal discourse. This article shows that the warriors of the ruling classes obey no rules. Anything goes.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 10:26 PM on August 27, 2002


I would hate to see what the detractors of this policy see as 'hard work.' It is so inhumane!!!
Welcome to the world of factory production. Remember that those iMac cases and Nikes are made by factory workers.
You people are the ones who complained that they had blisters on their fingers from 'whipping the niggers'.
posted by ttrendel at 10:46 PM on August 27, 2002


See this is exactly why i drink Jack Daniel's instead, wait, what were we talking about?

Nevermind.
posted by quin at 11:01 PM on August 27, 2002


There are plenty of reasons why a person might need to go to the restroom frequently. Not all medical problems are diagnosed, and there can be days where a person might be irritated from a cold medicine, suffering from mild dehydration, a slight infection, etc. Somehow I doubt that a worker who is fidgeting, constantly looking at the clock and trying not to have an accident is going to be particularly efficient on the line.

I would hate to see what the detractors of this policy see as 'hard work.' It is so inhumane!!!

A person does not have to suffer needlessly in order to be a hard worker.
posted by bargle at 11:10 PM on August 27, 2002


For the life of me I can't figure out how people need to pee more than 3 times over an eight hour period.

Have a few babies, you might think differently. It's not necessarily a medical problem, per se, but it's not very pleasant, either.

And that's not even recognising that there are other reasons why women might need to use a lavatory -- which isn't anyone else's business.

That said, I was going to say that I wouldn't take a job that limited my ability to run to the restroom when I wanted to, but I have. I recall a few times mid-trial when I had to wait until the judge felt it a good idea to call a recess, because I surely wasn't going to ask for one so that I could go to the bathroom. And there were meetings that went on and on for hours during which I or someone else would have to say "Well, I need a break." And nowadays, I can't always drop all of my kids to run at just the moment that I might want to, either.

But being bitter and outraged because a company wants to keep its workers on an assembly line with as few breaks as possible? It's a method of production which essentially demands that every job station is filled the entire time the line is running, and anyone who takes a job on a line becomes well aware of that awfully quickly. If you can come up with a good way of keeping the line going while allowing people to come and go from it as they please, by all means, speak up!
posted by Dreama at 11:13 PM on August 27, 2002


If you can come up with a good way of keeping the line going while allowing people to come and go from it as they please, by all means, speak up!

Have a few floaters who can take over a position for a few minutes.
posted by slipperywhenwet at 11:42 PM on August 27, 2002


A person does not have to suffer needlessly in order to be a hard worker.

Amen to that. Considering that factory workers are most likely on their feet all day, have little autonomy, work at repetetive tasks, and probably fear the threat of machines replacing them, what's the big deal with letting them answer the call of nature?

It seems like maybe a handful of people pushed the bounds of a liberal policy and ruined it for everybody. The "solution" seems overly draconian, though.

You people are the ones who complained that they had blisters on their fingers from 'whipping the niggers'.

No. (...how tasteless...) I bet that's what these people's bosses are saying, though.
posted by contessa at 11:44 PM on August 27, 2002


I don't even want to consider what kind of form they'd have to fill out to request an "unscheduled defecation break" . . .

Jim Beam's managers? Piss on 'em.
posted by wdpeck at 12:14 AM on August 28, 2002


My husband works in a factory (he's a steel press operator), if they need a break to urinate, someone else covers for them.

For the spots where it would be detrimental to have no one right there, they have floaters who take over for those on breaks. Even unscheduled breaks.
posted by SuzySmith at 12:30 AM on August 28, 2002


Have a few floaters who can take over a position for a few minutes.

Like for instance, what are their supervisors doing? No doubt they're too busy recording infractions to cover for someone. This is why we have unions!
posted by shinythings at 1:27 AM on August 28, 2002


Seriously, though, is there a worker friendly bourbon that I should be buying?

Shagoth: Though it's not technically bourbon, at least Jack Daniels cultivate the image of a bunch of dopey guys laying about doing nothing, pissing (irresistible, sorry) the days away waiting for the whiskey to mature.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:44 AM on August 28, 2002


Where are the ACLU and/or OSHA? A simple "Dear Jim..." letter from either one would get this policy changed toot-sweet.
posted by boomchicka at 4:17 AM on August 28, 2002


Stadium Pals for everyone. Do they get discounts on Jim Beam, I wonder?
posted by internook at 4:28 AM on August 28, 2002


There was a similar case to this a few years ago at the JVC television factory in my home town (West of Scotland, UK).

They were taken to Industrial Tribunal by a female employee because she had requested a bathroom break and her supervisor would not allow her to leave the production line.

She asked a second time and was again refused, and the situation got so desperate that she actually wound up wetting herself where she stood, in a room full of people.

As far as I can remember, JVC were fined and ordered to both pay compensation and change their policy.

As far as setting a two hour minimum time between breaks, this might seem reasonable, but you can't always tell when an employee has a medical condition, and requiring them to reveal this, even as a temporary measure is edging towards unreasonable.

For example, if an employee suffers from Chrohn's disease, what are you going to do? Let him shit his pants where he stands?

That's not even getting into the whole "report to HR when you're on the blob" thing. What are they then going to do, tell you that you should have stopped by a certain date and penalise you for having a wonky reproductive system?

It's just outrageous.

It'll go so far, then someone will sue them for either sex or disability discrimination, and JB will lose big.
posted by pixeldiva at 5:06 AM on August 28, 2002


I couldn't work here. I go to the bathroom at least 10 times a day during my working hours.
posted by corpse at 5:14 AM on August 28, 2002


Where are the ACLU and/or OSHA? A simple "Dear Jim..." letter from either one would get this policy changed toot-sweet.

Actually, I doubt it. The ACLU is a private organization with no authority other than the threat to sue, and I'm hard pressed to find a legal cause of action here. OSHA does not regulate bathroom breaks, and any OSHA citation would surely be challenged.

I have no doubt that many employees were blatantly taking advantage of the former policy that allowed them to take unscheduled breaks (and those of you who doubt that aren't really familiar with manufacturing environments). On the other hand, I think the company's policy swings too far to the other side. There has to be a better middle ground that allows individuals with actual bathroom needs to use the bathroom. (Oh, and that business about notifying management when mensturating has to go. In fact, an argument could be made that that part of the policy is discriminatory).
posted by pardonyou? at 6:13 AM on August 28, 2002


ttrendel, may I ask what you do for a living nowadays? Do you work on an assembly line? Do you have to pee on schedule and ask for permission when you just have to go for some reason?

That's the actual point here. Not whether employees are lazy or whether they can discipline themselves to only pee on schedule, but the indignity of being told when to pee, of having to ask to go pee, like children being potty trained (or animals being house-broken!).

I'd be willing to bet there were some board meetings that went like, "What are we going to do about these unscheduled pee breaks? We need to have workers on the line every second. One pee break costs us $147 in lost productivity! It's a scandal! I wonder if we could invest in a catheter system? It sure would be nice if we could replace workers with machinery, machinery doesn't have to pee." The tragic thing is that they would be using irony, they'd be completely serious.
posted by RylandDotNet at 6:24 AM on August 28, 2002


wouldn't be using irony. Damn it.
posted by RylandDotNet at 6:25 AM on August 28, 2002


Kelley also said some women employees were told they should report to the company's human resources department when their menstrual cycles begin, since that might require additional trips to the restroom.

Sounds to me like a thinly-veiled attempt at identifying which women are becoming pregnant and canning them when they go to the can too much as a result. A nice way to save on HR costs...
posted by dr_dank at 6:43 AM on August 28, 2002


Another thing to consider is this: I've recently been trying to shape up my awful lifestyle according to the advice of all the health nazis. Thus, 64 ounces of water per day - minimum.

And that, my friends (at least for me) translates to a burning need to pee every single hour of the day. I'd get fired in 2 days or less under this regime.

It's too bad that Jim Beam has been my liquor of choice for almost 10 years now. Guess I'm switching to Jack Daniels.
posted by Irontom at 6:52 AM on August 28, 2002


I was a substitute teacher last year, and one of the worst things about the jobs was not being able to pee whenever you needed . There is nothing more distracting than having to go to the bathroom (for any reason) and having to wait for a couple of hours. Also, if I was required to tell HR about my menstral cycle or any medical conditions I'd be furious! Besides that there are many temporary conditions that require frequent bathroom breaks. Taking an antihistimine, eating something that disagrees with you, extra coffeee in the morning.....
posted by kayjay at 6:55 AM on August 28, 2002


It's a bottling plant, isn't it? I say the employees should just take advantage of all the empty containers that roll right by them and let's see how quick Jim Bean decides it might be better to just let them use a toilet.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:02 AM on August 28, 2002


It's a privilege to pee.
posted by dhacker at 7:38 AM on August 28, 2002


I think a bit of civil disobedience is in order. An assembly line of workers standing in pools of their own urine has to be some kind of OSHA violation.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:18 AM on August 28, 2002


I can't speak to their employment practices, but here's a whole list of other bourbons to look into.
posted by nickmark at 8:25 AM on August 28, 2002


(Oh, and that business about notifying management when menstruating has to go. In fact, an argument could be made that that part of the policy is discriminatory).

Yeah, that's sort of where I imagined the ACLU coming in.

And I'm certainly no expert in labor law, but I'd think any regulation of bodily functions would somehow have to fall under OSHA's jurisdiction.
posted by boomchicka at 8:34 AM on August 28, 2002


I'm not sure I understand why notifying HR about menstruating is discriminatory. In fact, it sounds like they were at least trying to be somewhat reasonable about a situation in which some portion of the workforce would find the bathroom break restrictions unworkable. Or is even talking about that to someone still such an unthinkable thing to do?
posted by JollyWanker at 9:08 AM on August 28, 2002


Because it's a matter that affects only one gender. And no, talking about it's not unthinkable, but being forced to talk about it if you don't want to definitely is.
posted by boomchicka at 9:30 AM on August 28, 2002


I drink at least 64oz of H2O every day, and I'll tell you, I have to pee at least 6 times during the workday, sometimes more. My supervisor already got on me for taking too many bathroom breaks, and when I said that I was drinking water, she told me not to drink so much.

Hmmm. Let's see. Pheonix in mid-summer. 120 degrees. Don't drink water because I don't like you pissing so much. Prong you, supe. I told her I'd go when I had to, and if she didn't like it, she could fire me. She backed off.

But it's like the statement in the article. My company doesn't care what kind of a job I do, as long as I sit at my desk and don't take more than X breaks per day. No wonder America is turning into a second-world country.
posted by hurkle at 9:49 AM on August 28, 2002


I think the "protective undergarments" the article says some workers are wearing should be paid for by the company. As should any prices incurred by bladder infections.
posted by arielmeadow at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2002


prices = expenses.
posted by arielmeadow at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2002


boomchicka: Because it's a matter that affects only one gender. And no, talking about it's not unthinkable, but being forced to talk about it if you don't want to definitely is.

But the article doesn't say all women were "being forced to talk about it"; it said "Kelley also said some women employees were told they should report to the company's human resources department when their menstrual cycles begin, since that might require additional trips to the restroom. .

Where's the discrimination? If anything, it sounds as though the company is trying to accomodate women who had to make more frequent trips to the rest room during their period. Or, don't say anything and just go when everybody else goes. Why is treating some differently in order to accomodate their biology "discriminating" (unless I am putting meaning into your words that isn't intended, but your tone certainly suggested this was a negative, not a positive)? What would you suggest a woman do who became pregnant - call in sick for six weeks?
posted by JollyWanker at 10:05 AM on August 28, 2002


so. has it been confirmed whether or not these are genuine toilet breaks or smoke breaks?

it seems to me that the actions of the few (illicit smokers) are damaging the needs of the many (rightful urinators).

but the whole thing is ridiculous. you can't regulate a person's bodily functions. period.

and yes, i do see the humour of the words - rightful urinators. sounds like an 80s mullet rock band.
posted by triv at 10:20 AM on August 28, 2002


triv, you could prohibit smoking on company grounds, that would take care of that problem. Seems that it's easier to enforce a demeaning rule for everyone than to treat people like individuals and assess each person's situation.
posted by PrinceValium at 10:25 AM on August 28, 2002


oops. that should have read - "sounds like an 80s mullet rock band."

thanks.
posted by triv at 10:27 AM on August 28, 2002


wow. i really can't get the hang of this hyper link stuff.

"80s mullet rock band"

there i said it at last!

and yes, princevalium, a blanket ban on smoking would more or less solve that side of things. and when it comes down to it, they are failing to address individuals. jut treat 'em all like kindergarten. it reminds me like my firm too.

grrr.
posted by triv at 10:30 AM on August 28, 2002


I should add that I can't imagine who would want to be a supervisor in that place, let alone a shift worker. The amount of emotional cruelty involved on a daily basis seems staggering. Reminds me of the Abraham Lincoln saying, "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master."
posted by PrinceValium at 10:41 AM on August 28, 2002


Irontom - while I doubt it could hurt (except for the annoying constant need to pee you mention), it has never been validated by any real source that drinking that much water in a day is necessary nor health beneficial. Maybe you have a condition I don't know about, but for the average person, you should drink enough water to quench your thirst. Period.

Oh, and this news story is awful. The menstruation thing is the worst part. Reminds me of gym class, where they would keep tabs on you if you "had cramps" and make sure you'd participate the next day, because you'd be over them. I know kids are trying to get out of stuff, and that they don't hold as many rights as adults, but the fact that a high school teacher was keeping tabs on our periods was embarassing.
posted by agregoli at 10:48 AM on August 28, 2002


"Maybe you have a condition I don't know about, but for the average person, you should drink enough water to quench your thirst. Period"

I drink at least 70 ounces of water a day. If I drink less than that, I'm miserable. I get headaches, the swelling in my legs increase (I have circulatory issues due to being disabled), etc.

My husband (the above mentioned factory worker) drinks more water than I do. If he doesn't, he becomes extremely crabby.
posted by SuzySmith at 11:46 AM on August 28, 2002


I'm trying to image the elaborate conversation I would need to have:

"Well, it's cold today, so I have to pee more. And I'm drinking more hot beverages too, because I'm cold, and they're diuretic. And lets see, I haven't got my period yet, but I will soon, so there's more pressure on my bladder now. And I think I have a fibroid, but I'm not sure. Wanna see the ultra sound? We think it might be pressing on my bladder, but we're not sure yet...."

None of your business, or anyone else's.

Smoking problem? Ban smoking, not peeing.
posted by Red58 at 11:58 AM on August 28, 2002


SuzySmith - I used to know a Suzy Smith who went to my high school!

Anyway, like I said, you have a condition that makes that much water necessary. And I didn't advocate an exact amount - if your husband needs a certain amount to "not be crabby" then he should go for it. But there is no scientific proof that drinking a certain amount of water beyond quenching thirst is beneficial to the body. For you? Sure. For everyone? No.
posted by agregoli at 12:14 PM on August 28, 2002


Has anyone suggested catheters? I would love a catheter at work, but I don't think my supervisor would like it (especially because my design would have it drain onto her computer, but that's besides the point).

That said, I drink tons of water and coffee at work, and try to urinize as much as possible. It's great fun, when compared to sitting at my desk all day.
posted by adampsyche at 12:22 PM on August 28, 2002


Oops, it was mentioned.
posted by adampsyche at 12:23 PM on August 28, 2002


I'm willing to support this policy just as soon as it is extended to cover all employees of the company, up to and including the CEO as well as whoever came up with the policy in the first place. If it's a reasonable and fair demand for the workers, then it's reasonable and fair for management. If they protest that the assembly line workers can't be spared away from their jobs without hurting productivity, but management can - then it's an acknowledgment that the workers are producing more value than management and should be paid more than management.

Just my opinion...
posted by tdismukes at 12:48 PM on August 28, 2002


I scroll down, intending to reply to ttrendal's wonderful defence of neo-Taylorism, and find that tdismukes said it already. If there's going to be a rule for the assembly line, let it apply to the management. I'd like to see the puddles around the boardroom when a long meeting's convened after a three-Martini (or, in the case of Beam, three-Manhattan) lunch. Thomas Frank would have a field day with this, because what's been described isn't an assembly line, it's a chain gang.
posted by riviera at 1:29 PM on August 28, 2002


That's not sufficient? Who has to go more than every two hours? -- ttrendel

Well...I'm pregnant...and I do. Every pregnancy book on the planet says to pee when you feel the need or you could end up with a serious problem...one that could threaten the life of your baby.

When I wasn't pregnant, and I was menstruating...I did...because I chose not to get toxic shock syndrome.

Men with prostrate issues may need to go more than that.

People with bladder infections, or kidney infections, or a host of other issues that *you* are probably not qualified to judge, may need to use the facilities.

See...that whole staying healthy and alive thing...I'm big on it. As another poster stated, and I'm paraphrasing here...this bullshit is why blue collar workers need unions.
posted by dejah420 at 1:59 PM on August 28, 2002


If it wasn't for bad management, there'd be no unions....
posted by TCMITS at 2:00 PM on August 28, 2002


I'm a woman, no discernible disease yet I pee about every 60 to 90 minutes. I hope, ttrendel, that this accumulation of evidence makes the point that every 2 hours *is* an imposition on a significant portion of the population.
posted by qrs136 at 4:16 PM on August 28, 2002


...Seriously, though, is there a worker friendly bourbon that I should be buying?

We drink Maker's Mark, and it's delicious, and as far as I know they let their employees pee.

This is my first post, but I thought I would add that I have recently switched departments, and am now working as a receptionist. I am only allowed to get up from my desk when someone will 'watch the phones for me' and it's difficult to get someone to do that. I always end up holding it, and it pisses me off (no pun intended). I think this is the plight of most receptionists, and since I've only been working as one for a few weeks, I'd appreciate feedback. Perhaps I should sue!
posted by katy_ at 5:20 PM on August 28, 2002


Prostate, not prostrate.
posted by emf at 5:22 PM on August 28, 2002


so. has it been confirmed whether or not these are genuine toilet breaks or smoke breaks?

The odds of a company in Kentucky not allowing smoking on the job are even more remote than one regulating its employees urination schedule. Any politician trying to get a second hand smoke law passed in the heart of tobacco country will be toast.
posted by swell at 6:53 PM on August 28, 2002


katy_ -- that is the plight of the receptionist. Someone has to be there to receive, if not you, someone else. But I've never worked anywhere that there wasn't an automatic backup designated so that the receptionist would never have to wait for any inordinate amount of time for a seat-filler. That said, not everyone else in support positions wants to sit in for the receptionist, but if that's part of their job, then its up to management to enforce (and facilitate) it. When one of the secretaries in our office wouldn't relive the receptionist, she was eventually relieved of her job entirely.

The odds of a company in Kentucky not allowing smoking on the job are even more remote than one regulating its employees urination schedule.

It makes far more sense to allow people to use the restroom, reliving a biological imperative on as "as needed, within reason" basis than to allow them to engage in a destructive addiction on company grounds. If anyone in a company has any brains and has to choose between the two in order to avoid productivity issues, clearly it's the cigarettes that need to go. No one has to smoke, tobacco belt or no.

This morning, a local radio station was talking about this story and asked people who had similar restrictions in their jobs to call in. PennDOT workers called in and said that on a lot of jobs, they had no portapotties, so if they had to urinate, they casually stood really close to the back of the truck and prayed that no passing motorist saw something that they shouldn't. (Thus explaining the real reason why women are so underrepresented on road crews, I'd think.)

USAirways reservation/customer service agents indicated that they are allowed 22 minutes "off phone" during their shifts, not counting their scheduled lunch break. This time is to be used for bathroom breaks, trips to the vending machines and reading work-related memos and documents as necessary.

An attorney called in and said what I did yesterday: in court, it isn't always advantageous or even possible to ask for a recess for a potty break, and that affects the litigants, court reporter, clerk, bailiffs and jurors across the board. A teacher said that she taught the first six periods of the day, so she had a 4.5 hour wait between possible restroom trips in the morning. And then there was my favorite call -- from a baseball umpire. In his words, "There's no halftime in baseball, and the seventh inning stretch isn't very stretchy."

So it's not just assembly line workers. Maybe we can reel in the class warfare rhetoric just a tad, n'est ce pas?
posted by Dreama at 7:14 PM on August 28, 2002


RylandDotNet:

This is my work history thus far:

90-94- high school student. also worked night shifts at a marsh supermarket

94-98- US Army. 2 years as an automated logistics specialist. After 2 years, reclassed as an infantryman in the 101st airborne. Completed airborne, air assault, and RIP schools. Served one year in South Korea- 2 months on the DMZ, 10 months at the Seoul Air Base, Segukdong (sic?).

98- current- Computer science and philosophy student at Indiana University. Jobs worked concurrently- Line worker at a Toyota plant, Stereopgraph operator, 12 hour night shifts at a local company producing adhesive paper (12 hours is 12 hours, no breaks no lunch), maintenance man, painter, webmaster for local rental company.

So, my experience is pretty varied. Taking a break, for whatever purpose, more frequently than every two hours is definitely seen as negative by management.

Perhaps my disdain for this is seen more from the aspect of someone who has spent time in the military. Imagine what punishment would be heaped on a soldier if they paused road marches every hour for pee-breaks. They volunteered for the jobs just as the people at Jim Beam did. Do you think that they force the fine people at Jim Beam to sleep in foxholes? No. They do in the Army. Why? Because it's voluntary. So is employment at Jim Beam. If they can't handle the job, then perhaps they should quit. You keep acting as if this is the only place they could possibly work. If they don't like the policy, they can quit. Period.

They limit breaks because excessive breaks are ineffiecient. For an exampe, let's take welders. Say we hire a welder who has a strong aversion to heat. Is he efficient? No. Would you a hire a welder who couldn't bear any excessive heat? No. Then why would you hire an assembly line worker who can't keep bodily functions in check enough to benefit his teammates?

I'm sorry that some of you have to pee every 15 minutes. That just means that you are not ideal factory line workers. I don't have ovaries or a vagina. That means that I am not an ideal female. Every job or position takes skills and abilities.
posted by ttrendel at 11:08 PM on August 28, 2002


Do you think that they force the fine people at Jim Beam to sleep in foxholes? No. They do in the Army. Why? Because it's voluntary. So is employment at Jim Beam. If they can't handle the job, then perhaps they should quit. You keep acting as if this is the only place they could possibly work.

I don't know the economic situation where they are or what skill level jobs on the Jim Beam factory floor are, but it may very well be the only place they could possibly work. There may be nothing else there, even for unskilled labor, although that seems unlikely. I seriously doubt it's a high-skill job - I've never heard of skilled laborers and professionals being treated that way. Comparing unskilled labor to welding is silly; comparing it to the army is ludicrous.

Yes, taking an extra pee break may slow down the production line, but what are we talking, a few hundred bucks, maybe a few thousand? But management is always perfectly willing to sacrifice someone else's dignity to squeeze every penny out of an operation.
posted by RylandDotNet at 12:39 AM on August 29, 2002


Comparing unskilled labor to welding is silly; comparing it to the army is ludicrous.

Believe me, it takes a very skilled laborer to dig a hole, sit in it, and pull a trigger.

what are we talking, a few hundred bucks, maybe a few thousand? But management is always perfectly willing to sacrifice someone else's dignity to squeeze every penny out of an operation.

Welcome to America, buddy.
posted by ttrendel at 12:55 AM on August 29, 2002


I think that the voluntary nature is the most important. Most companies go out of their way to express their expectations. If they don't, the money they spent training a person goes down the drain. This usually includes, at the very least, company expectations.

Taking an extra pee break may slow down the production line, but what are we talking, a few hundred bucks, maybe a few thousand?

By this logic, if you were shopping for DVD players and came upon two units that were exactly the same, you would buy the unit that was more expensive by $30. Correct? Doubtful. The more efficient factory has more to gain. Be sure that you buy the more expensive unit next time. The small-bladerred need your support!!!
posted by ttrendel at 1:09 AM on August 29, 2002


If you have a bladder infection, get treated. Waiting 2 hrs. to pee for a healthy female is not too long to wait to go. I'm sure pregnant women are excused with a note from the doctor or employee health. If you are not pregnant and have too go that often, you should check with your doctor/urologist for possible overactive bladder or other undiagnosed problem. For men waiting too long to pee does NOT cause an enlarged prostate, it could extend the bladder. Let's face it, the majority of the people can make this work. I don't know where everyone on here works, but every place I have ever worked (prior to my current profession) I never had more than 2 breaks plus a lunch break. Still think the fact that these workers can't come and go as they please (and used to do) has them up in a roar more than anything.
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 1:32 AM on August 29, 2002


Believe me, it takes a very skilled laborer to dig a hole, sit in it, and pull a trigger.

It takes conditioning, which amounts to the same thing. Digging a hole and sitting in it and pulling a trigger aren't normal, rational acts by everyday standards. I've never done it, I'm thinking the majority of the populous hasn't. But once you're conditioned to do it, it's normal - case in point, you. You get, what, 13 weeks of pretty intense basic training in the Army? As opposed to a few hours of training and maybe an orientation video when you work for a factory. And in the Army, you are trained to fight in combat, and taking too many pee breaks in a battle could get you and your buddies killed. Taking too many pee breaks in a factory is highly unlikely to get your coworkers killed; it just slows production down a little bit.

if you were shopping for DVD players and came upon two units that were exactly the same, you would buy the unit that was more expensive by $30. Correct? Doubtful.

Of course not, but (yet again) your comparison isn't valid, because, although people who run factories would like to think so, human beings aren't machines and they aren't commodities.

I don't know what you think I'm about here, but I'm not an anarchist or a socialist or a hippie or anything. I know that businesses are run for a profit. I know that profit depends on making your operation efficent. I just think that people should be allowed to pee without having to raise their hand and ask for permission, as if they were in prison or something. A little basic human dignity, that's all I'm asking for.
posted by RylandDotNet at 1:48 AM on August 29, 2002


Then why would you hire an assembly line worker who can't keep bodily functions in check enough to benefit his teammates?

Because workers are, y'know, human? The sort of thing that the Army drills out of you (by necessity) in basic training? Two points: whether you know it or not, as Ryland notes, you're applying army standards of discipline to the outside world; and at least on your route marches, the same standards apply for the officers and the privates.

if you were shopping for DVD players and came upon two units that were exactly the same, you would buy the unit that was more expensive by $30.

So, where's the other Jim Beam factory, the one making the identical product without the chain-gang attitude? The one where they've made identical savings by stopping the managing director from expensing his golf trips? The one that hasn't managed to get a shitload of bad publicity (bad, at least, for everyone except a hard bastard like yourself) that's going to make people pause on the bourbon aisle and think 'hmm, that's the one with the pee rules'?
posted by riviera at 2:31 AM on August 29, 2002


You can't honestly believe that any significant percentage of the Jim Beam drinkin' population is going to stop buying it because somebody in Kentucky can't wait two hours to pee, do you? I mean, I don't think this is exactly a Caesar-Chavez-don't-buy-lettuce-don't-buy-grapes type situation here, guys.
posted by JollyWanker at 5:40 AM on August 29, 2002


You can't honestly believe that any significant percentage of the Jim Beam drinkin' population is going to stop buying it because somebody in Kentucky can't wait two hours to pee, do you?

Power of suggestion, mate. Once you've heard the story, it's in your head: you go to the spirits aisle, reach for Jim Beam, think 'pee', and pick up Jack Daniels instead. Don't think of a white bear. See, told you.
posted by riviera at 5:49 AM on August 29, 2002


I may not be a significant percentage of the Jim Beam drinking population, but I called the wife last night and asked her to pour out what was left in the liquor cabinet (I'd have done it myself, but I'm out of town on business this week) and won't buy it again.
posted by Irontom at 6:51 AM on August 29, 2002


RylandDotNet: I've never heard of skilled laborers and professionals being treated that way.

Have you been reading this thread, or just reacting to various sentences that jump out at you as you skim? Are teachers, lawyers, members of the military, construction/road workers, airline reservation agents, bailiffs, court reporters, receptionists and baseball umpires (just to mention examples that were given in this thread, I'm sure that there are others) not skilled laborers and/or professionals? Don't many of them also have to wait on someone else's schedule for breaks, ask for relief before they can leave their workstation, work for extended periods before a break is possible, or perhaps even work in places that don't have any toilet facilities at all?

This is not a condition that's limited to this company or this line or to any particular class of workers. The particulars of this rule are not any more onerous than many others, and were put in place after these same employees abused the goodwill of their employer by leaving the line too frequently and for too long. The company has already been cited by an oversight body for the policy, even though the employees clearly needed to have some type of restriction placed on their wanderings away from their workstations. Chances are high that the policy will have to be altered in some fashion if Jim Beam doesn't want the heavy hand of government to come down on them even harder. This has been a lot of hand-wringing over, well, nothing much.
posted by Dreama at 8:51 AM on August 29, 2002


Are teachers, lawyers, members of the military, construction/road workers, airline reservation agents, bailiffs, court reporters, receptionists and baseball umpires (just to mention examples that were given in this thread, I'm sure that there are others) not skilled laborers and/or professionals?

Of course they are, but of all those groups, how many of them have had supervisors or management make rules concerning when they can take bathroom breaks? I think they all realize that circumstances make it inconvenient or inappropriate for them to go to the bathroom too often, and police themselves. I could be wrong, but I don't think the same circumstances apply on the Jim Beam factory floor.
posted by RylandDotNet at 12:26 PM on August 29, 2002


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