The Systematic Exploitation of Student Worker

            As the demand of workers increases, the problem of
exploitation of labor is also rising in contemporary society. Numerous people
in the world are being forced to work illegally and become victims of labor
exploitation such as not receiving fair wages, thereby the word exploitation is
been a crucial topic to be looked into depth. Thus, this paper shows that
exploitation is underway even after the beginning of the Modern world system. The
dictionary meaning of labor exploitation means that an owner does not pay
workers as much as labor value, but rather, he or she owns a surplus value
which is illegal to do. In addition, exploitation of labor is sometimes
accompanied by threats and acts of violence against workers. An example of how
a company exploits an employee is that it should not take any other
internationally agreed labor rights such as working long hours, not getting the
legitimate wage for which they work, secure employment, freedom from sexual
harassment and discrimination and being able to speak out about problems they
are facing in particular working environment. Still, many people do not receive
fair compensation, are exploited, treated unfairly or are not protected by law,
therefore are facing the issue of labor exploitation. Among them, there is a
need to pay attention to the phenomenon of student labor exploitation which
occupies a large part of today’s society.

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            As college expenses increase and students go further into
debt, many students decide to work as a student labor whether on campus or off
campus. A college offers students variety of work positions such as
lab-assistant, resident advisor, office assistant, and cashier etc. so students
choose positions that they want to do according to the conditions and
requirements that need to be fulfilled. Also, there are many students who are
looking for off-campus work positions which is not only limited to on-campus
jobs. The experience of student workers might be cumbersome to them because
they have to handle both academic progress and work. Therefore, society has an
obligation to ensure that students are paid fairly as they have worked and are
protected under the entitled laws. However, many students in the world are exploited
implicitly and explicitly, the consequences of that are diminishing their
quality of life. Over the past few years, Apple has gotten in trouble several
times for exploiting students in Chinese factories. These students were just
interns who were looking to gain work experience, yet their only duty within
Apple was to manufacture iPhones. NYU student Deijan Zeng went undercover to
work at one of these factories for six months, and experienced excessive labor
exploitation. He has had extremely long work days and got only minimum pay at
the factory, and he was one of around 70,000 students that were working there. According
to news article written by Gethin Chamberlain, the writer stated “Fewer than
one in three supplier factories obeying the rules on working hours. The audits
also show that 30% broke rules on wages and benefits, while 24% were in breach
of strict rules on involuntary labor”. Under this result, the society seems
already overwhelmed by exploitation which needs to be improved and reformed. This
begs the question: Why did Apple cause this phenomenon for past several years?

Not only Apple, but many other
companies as well have caused exploitation due to social capitalism. According
to Karl Max and others, they implied “Exploitation is at the core of economic
relations under capitalism because the owners pay the workers less than the
value of what the workers produce and the owners keep the surplus, which may
include expenses the capitalists incur but also includes profit”. Capitalism
indicates an historical era in which the commodity production takes significant
part of society and in fact, human labor-power is commoditized. As a commodity,
labor-power also has value and they received a wage as compensation. Since
surplus-labor is used in the form of commodity production, surplus-labor takes
the form of surplus-value. Capitalism is highly developed commodity production
so the exploitation of surplus-labor likewise represents an extremely complex

The experience of
off-campus student worker represents serious socioeconomic situations shown
above. If so, what is the reality of the working environment of on-campus
students?  The terms of on-campus student
worker indicates a student that is enrolled at the University they are employed
at and is being paid from funds that come directly from their department’s
budget. In particular, at UCSD, there are many departments that employ students
such as Housing Dining and Hospitality, Concessions, and Academic Departments
etc. Therefore, students are able to get a job on campus to get financial
support for paying tuitions, housings, and foods etc. But unfortunately, the
exploitation of labor has discovered as well as on-campus through the interview
of a student who holds a job on campus. The interviewee named Courtney who
works as HDH Student employee (market to-go prep) mentioned that she does work
an extra hours when she has a night shift in order to prep for the next
morning. However, she does not get paid for the extra hours she worked but
instead, she is allowed to make food that she wants to eat from the kitchen and
get some extra bucks that she can use them as dining dollars on campus. In
fact, her job entails more than just prepping meat and making sandwiches; it
involves emotional labor. She has to suppress expressing any negative feelings
but has to present positive expressions while she is working. Because emotional
labor is difficult to quantify, someone can be unfairly paid for the amount of
emotional labor. Courtney is stressed about financial and academic obligations,
yet her job requires her to act, look, and in essence, feel a certain way
despite her true emotion. According to Arlie Hochschild, he would define this
as emotional labor. It is “the management of feeling to create a publicly
observable facial and bodily display”. These are typically applied to customer
service positions or any other jobs that require people to present themselves
appropriately despite how they truly feel about their job.

At understanding of the
basics of Marx’s theory of exploitation also ensures the growth of wage
inequality in today’s society. Marx uses the term surplus-value to refer to the
value that the capitalist pockets without compensation. Thus surplus-value is
the outcome of the exploitation of workers. Also, he refers that “no
class-divided society including slave-based or feudal societies can exist
without exploiting the labor of those who live by the sweat of their brow”. What
he meant by that is the social classes which are in possession of the means of
production or in a position to freely dispose of the ruling class cannot
survive without exploiting the workers’ labor power. Then, what standard should
be applied in terms of the division of income between labor, managers, and
capital? According to one of the class readings titled “Executive Compensation,
Fat Cats, and Best Athletes”, the author presented that “the deterioration
in countervailing social institutions, such as labor (Western and Rosenfeld
2011) but also business associations (Mizruchi 2013), becomes an important
antecedent to the diffusion of elevated comparisons in social networks
influencing normative notions of worth”.
 In addition the
writer indicated, “The simple insight offered by the
finding that changes in pay norms diffuse through social networks is that
reasonable local rules relying on social comparisons to set pay may not lead to
social and economic macro outcomes that were anticipated or are desirable or
stable over time”. The primary reason for the rapid growth in US
inequality is because the income of the top 1% has increased since the late
1970s. A key implication is that local diffusion through executive network
structures explains the changes in macro patterns of income distribution found
in the inequality data.

To sum up, various forms of exploitation has been occurred
due to the concept of the capitalism which caused the inequality of America. However,
it is vital to creating a more fulfilling and beneficial work experience for
students in order to compensate them for the amount of work they perform. While
this compensation does not have to be a wage increase, benefits focused around
the physical and mental health of student workers should be considered.    

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