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Mr. and Mrs. Labor-Management: Struggling to Make Their Marriage Work

Tuesday, 11 March 2014 14:03 By Nisha Banerjee, SpeakOut | Op-Ed
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My name is Labor and I married Mr. Management in the second half of the nineteenth century. I couldn't handle a domestic partnership any longer. We had been living under the same roof for centuries to a point where the relationship became intolerably abusive and was no longer based on good faith. After years of me being the one to work around the clock, my grievances being unheard at the dinner table, and being pushed out of my home after Management wrongfully terminated our relationship so that a less senior, less demanding partner could bump and replace me, I decided it was time to make our relationship contractual. In no way am I saying that domestic partnerships do not work or are not in many cases incredibly successful. However, in our particular situation, I was tired of not being given the respect I deserved, nor being seen as equal in the relationship and home we shared and built together.

Thus, it became obvious that the logical thing for Management and me to do was to ratify our relationship by getting married. It's true that prenuptial agreements have the tendency to kill the romance, but Management and I had reached a place where the only key to listening to one another's proposals and keeping our heartfelt promises alive in our increasingly one-sided relationship was a collective bargaining agreement - AKA the CBA. The CBA is something myself and my fellow Laborers advocated for in our collective marriages with Management. It's a document we had to organize around in order to ensure the hard work we put into our relationships wouldn't just be subcontracted out to what Management considers replacement partners who don't ask that there be just cause if they are unfairly treated, nor any of the benefits or securities that come along with being in a long-term relationship.

It wasn't until all of us Miss Laborers in solidarity with one another either signed and show cards to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) or elected to have a CBA in order for our marriages to survive, were we finally granted with a legally recognized union with each other.

Management always claimed to be a partner who was good at listening. However, the one time in twenty-five years when I or other Miss Laborers picked the kids up 10 minutes late from school after having cleaned the entire house, cooking for our dinner guests, and mowing the lawn, it was decided by Management that we should be kicked out of the house without any progressive discipline, for not adequately fulfilling our duties. But since we, ahem... I pushed to make our marriage contractual, I'm no longer coerced to live on the street without first being able to explain why the kids had to wait 10 extra minutes in the schoolyard. The CBA ensures that I have an opportunity to explain why the banana bread was overly baked, why it was difficult to iron every wrinkle out of Management's raw silk shirt, or why I didn't get a chance to sing a lullaby while putting the baby to sleep without being unjustly terminated from my role in our relationship. It also just gives me a break! Heck, all Management had to do was give me a kiss, take me out to dinner once in a while, some recognition, or even overtime pay and I'd be more than willing to clock in, ahem, wake up early to make Management the fresh banana pancakes that he loves.

I'm not saying that a contractual relationship necessarily makes our relationship stronger, more romantic, less adversarial or even fair. It just makes it fairer; and definitely less arbitrary and capricious.

In fact, even now it feels like Management always holds the last word, even when all the other Laborers on my block and I call strike, take our blankets and belongings and camp out on the street until our Mister Managements' finally tell us they'll listen and provide us due process, after days of having no one to cook them dinner or look after the kids. Sometimes of course, Management is so upset that we demand fair representation that we find ourselves locked out of our homes altogether.

At times when we feel like nothing is making us whole in the relationship, the great thing about the CBA is that it can force Mr. Management with me to enroll in couples' therapy. It really helps to have a neutral mediator listen to both of us and calm us down when we can't seem to agree on anything. And when our fights get really heated and we can't bear bargaining with one another, we often even resort to an arbitrator who makes a decision that is in the best interest of our marriage. Nevertheless, any type of therapy as well all know, doesn't come cheap. Still, the therapeutic processes afforded by the CBA are well worth every penny to salvage our relationship and cease and desist from any wrongful dismissal of our grievances. After all, at the end of the day, myself and Management, live under the same roof and sleep in the same bed. It doesn't do either of us any good when Mr. Management is the only one screaming at me to lay off when I'm just trying to snuggle up close to him. Once in a while, just every now and again, I like being able to call the shots and being the one to show the door to Management and tell him to just take a break and lay off ... sometimes, even without the option of a recall.

This article is a Truthout original.

Nisha Banerjee

Nisha Banerjee, MSW, is a social worker, activist and a program representative for New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). Her work has been published previously in the Toronto Star and NJ Star Ledger.


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