Subject to Change Without Notice: Mock Schedules and Flexible Employment in the United States

Source: Brian W. Halpin, Social Problems, First published online: 9 July 2015
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From the abstract:
This article draws on a case study of a high-end food-service firm, where most workers are undocumented Mexican immigrants. This firm has institutionalized employment relations characterized by flexibility, precariousness, and contingency. I specify its unique market context, showing how vulnerable and precarious employees are essential to the firm’s ability to control business uncertainties. Pulling from Alvin Gouldner (1954) I develop the concept of the mock calendar as a micro-level strategy of management that obscures the conditions of precarious employment at this firm. The mock calendar communicates time and scheduling. It is “mock” because it is illusory: it changes and shifts according to managers’ daily manipulations. However, given the high-end and uncertain market niche this company operates in, managers are forced to provide workers with symbolic and meager material concessions. I conclude by suggesting that scheduling manipulation is an under-theorized arena of workplace control. Given recent literature that documents the widespread problems of wage theft, overtime violations, and lack of paid breaks for many service workers, understanding the micro processes that maintain and reproduce forms of twenty-first-century precarity is extremely relevant.