Reaching out and touching some people

Jesse Russell of the Workers Independent News service asks (h/t Corey Robin): “Is your lunch break your own or does the boss get to tell you what you can and can’t do during it?”

AT&T has an answer which it puts into practice. The corporate giant believes it has the property rights needed to control the actions of its workers even when those workers are on break:

AT&T technicians in Indiana have filed a lawsuit alleging that the company has put “heavy restrictions” on how they can spend their unpaid lunch breaks [emphasis added]. The complaint says that while employees can spend unpaid lunch breaks eating in company vehicles, they aren’t allowed to read newspapers, nap, use personal computers, or listen to portable music players, such as iPods. The company also restricts how far workers can go from a job site during their unpaid lunch breaks to less than one-half mile. The lawsuit alleges that the restrictions violate the Fair Labor Standards Act and create an atmosphere where workers instead feel obligated to work through their lunch break, but don’t get paid for that work. The objective of the lawsuit is to have AT&T’s unpaid lunch breaks ruled illegal.

This is what labor discipline looks like in a low-employment labor market.

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