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The New New Gilded Age

September 30, 2013, 1:23 pm

Ah, company towns raise their heads again:

“We had to sleep on the floor in overcrowded apartments,” said Allen, while paying their boss rent that sometimes exceeded the low wages and limited hours he provided them. “After getting a paycheck of zero dollars and zero cents” due to rent being deducted, said Allen, “we would still be getting texts from his wife saying that we still have balance of x amount” in remaining rent unpaid. When workers began organizing, he said, “we were threatened in writing from our boss.”

Company towns, like Pullman, Chicago, at least (sometimes) had a progressive (if paternalistic) sense of improving the workers’ lives. Today’s story isn’t quite the full company town experience, but it shares the essential problem: giving entirely too much leverage over workers to the company, with the firm serving as both employer and landlord. The result – as it is here – was a captive and exploited workforce.

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