Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sippican Cottage Deeply Regrets The Use Of Forced Labor In His Factory, Especially His Own

BERLIN - Swedish furniture giant Ikea expressed regret Friday that it benefited from the use of forced prison labor by some of its suppliers in communist East Germany more than two decades ago. The company released an independent report showing that East German prisoners, among them many political dissidents, were involved in the manufacture of goods that were supplied to Ikea 25 to 30 years ago. The report concluded that Ikea managers were aware of the possibility that prisoners would be used in the manufacture of its products and took some measures to prevent this, but they were insufficient. "We deeply regret that this could happen," said Jeanette Skjelmose, an Ikea manager.

Sippican Cottage today released a statement expressing remorse for the use of forced labor in his factory, and promised to do better in the future.

"I deeply regret forcing the sole employee of Sippican Cottage to work up to sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, for no paycheck, for the last eight years," said Mr. Cottage, the sole employee of Sippican Cottage, "and I have no idea what I was thinking not taking a vacation since 1998, either; I should be ashamed of myself."

Mr. Cottage said the near-slave conditions he kept himself in seemed necessary at the time, but he realizes in hindsight he should have just given a state senator an envelope full of twenties and gotten a block grant or something, and been at the pub at noon on Friday like everyone else. He admits he was just being unreasonable. "I kept trying to pay my property tax bill in full, instead of giving an easement to the conservation committee for the four acres of swamp in the back to get an abatement, and it just sort of spiraled from there. Pretty soon I was forcing the only employee I've got to work for four hours on Christmas Day to make enough to pay the excise tax on my rattletrap truck before the interest started piling up like last year. Jeez, I'm a bastard."

Mr. Cottage describes a slippery slope confronted by many businessmen: when does the desire for profit trump simple human decency? For Mr. Cottage, the answer was simple. "You'd think I'd have learned after my wife had the first kid, but somehow or another your mind gets fuzzy from listening to the dull bandsaw blade screeching in a case-hardened piece of wood all day, and you sorta drift off to the dark side a little at a time. Like an idiot you think that once a kid's big enough, you won't need four hundred dollars a week for Enfamil and diapers, and maybe you can let the only employee sleep until after sunrise on Saturday once in a while. But no; then the little bastards start eating real food, like, twice a day or something, and it's right back to Solzhinitzyn-grade time management in the shop."

Further digging reveals Mr. Cottage's seemingly contrite attitude towards his former transgressions masks an even darker secret. Not only did he make his only employee work in near darkness in a nasty windowless basement for almost five years straight without a break, it turns out that the employee was disabled as well, a fact that Mr. Cottage hid from both the authorities that could have helped, and from his family as well.

"OK, you got me. My only employee is north of fifty now, has had a bad back since the 1970s, Meniere's Syndrome, bad eyesight, tinnitus that sounds like four guys with Tourette's throwing junk cars down a mineshaft, a terrible inflammation of his plantar fascia that's morphing into arthritis, a bad knee from a car accident thirty years ago, and even though he's allergic to bee stings, I made him go up on the roof and reshingle it last summer. But in my defense, none of that stuff seemed like much, compared to all the really disabled people I see getting help for their ailments. Until you've looked into the eyes of someone that's prone to panic attacks, or that's had someone look at them funny at work once, or needs a miniature service horse to shop at Whole Foods, you don't know how lucky you are. I told him, er, me, to suck it up and get back to the table saw."

Although he's promised to do better, Mr. Cottage says he -- and his Schedule C --can't help thinking he's leaving money on the table if he starts taking his foot off the face of the fellow in the shop.

"I mean, I know guys that are forced to limp during an entire round of golf in case an insurance adjuster is surveilling them at the course. I really didn't think I'd have the kind of mental toughness to persevere under that kind of tyranny. Imagine trying to remember which foot to limp with all the time! So I admit it; I just took the easy way out, and just yelled at the help to work harder. Luckily the saws drown out the yelling so my wife doesn't hear me upstairs. I don't want her thinking I'm crazy or anything."

15 comments:

lorraine said...

You are so cruel. How can you look yourself in the mirror in the morning? On the other hand, it would seem you have additional slave labor in the abode above your head. Get that heir and maybe the spare and plant your foot on their necks. Maybe you could let your #1 slave take a break. At least you produce beautiful stuff and do pen lovely literature.

Will there be a finish to your story of the handyman and the housekeeper? I have hopes of it being a novella or something. It had such promise and I have been waiting to click on a buy now button for (dare I say?)years.

It dawned on me in the course of writing this that "the heir and the spare" (great name for a rock band) probably net the corporation as much money producing music videos as you could get labor out of them. So perhaps I was a bit hasty in suggestion the expansion of your slave labor run enterprise.*

*In no way should this satire be taken to condone or approve of slave labor in any fashion or form.

Glynn said...

Aging - bad back, bad eyesight, tinnitus, incipient arthritis, bad knee - but can he play the guitar?

Thud said...

Slacker.

vanderleun said...

If only you lived in a "Right to Not Work" house instead of a Maynard G Krebs state.

Leslie said...

Ah, sweet Liberty. Straighten up and pass the Motrin.

BJM said...

Riiiight, you've got it good having a proper workhouse, unlike me, slaving away in a cardboard box in the middle of the road.

leelu said...

...keep flogging him until his morale improves!!

Sam L. said...

The PAIN! The AGONY! How do you stand it?

And the confession. Hoo Boy!

Russell said...

I'm still not sure the article about IKEA isn't from The Onion.

Anonymous said...

Sipp,
I am now on your mailing list and will buy something soon.
I feel your pain. I have about 15 ruptured or bulging disks and metastatic CA but I am interviewing for a job in three weeks to get off the dole.
Don't know if they will hire me but we'll see.
I don't think that the current mad house will last too much longer but it is hard to see all the rewards going to the unworthy.
I periodically read "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" to remind myself that it has "ever been thus."
Take care and keep plugging in Rumford. Seemed like a nice area when I passed through.

SteveS said...

"Mr. Cottage describes a slippery slope..."

Uh, not to be pedantic, but shouldn't that be a Sippiry slope?

vanderleun said...

No.

Bilejones said...

You've got no idea how good you've got it.

I aspire to be treated this well

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo

Anonymous said...

I offered erstwhile Atlas once to pay for a mere song and nothing more but was resoundingly refused-
OK, make it $100. How long is that in sawdust hours? There's ample evidence that there's even ready access to an accompianist who's more than talented enough to assist if need be...
D, who knows why the caged bird sings
JIC, this version's already been done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrahEV39kus

Anonymous said...

I make the big money stuffing envelopes, hosting tupperware parties and selling amway,betting at the race track, roofing is just a hobby of mine . so do not expect tears from me.