Friday, April 18, 2008

Green-Collar Workers

What on green earth is a green-collar job? No, no, no, don’t tell me it is someone whose job is related or designated to environmental work, because we have had those kinds of jobs for a very long time already and they were never called green-collar. We have never thought of a park ranger or a maintenance worker mending National Park fences filling a green-collar job. Or have we? I have never heard of them been spoken about in that terms.

It seems that during this year’s Presidential primaries we have heard the term green-collar worker et nausea. Suddenly Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama and to a lesser extent Mr. McCain are bragging they can create millions of green-collar jobs. And not only can they create these job, which is in the first place very doubtful since politicians rarely create any private sector jobs, but they even claim these jobs cannot be taken off-shore to Asia. What a lot of bull.

Suddenly a worker climbing up a ladder of a wind turbine is a green-collar worker. Nonsense. People working on turbines have never been called that. Or what about a scientist working on renewable energy? Is he/she a green-collar worker? No way. When people started drilling for oil more than a century ago it was also renewable energy and no one ever call them green-collar workers. Today’s renewable energy workers are trying to eliminate the jobs of yesterday’s renewable energy workers. Oilmen were always blue-collar workers. More likely black-collar workers because of the dirty environment they worked in. (But black-collar workers are something totally different. Later about that.) And are we going to make the differentiation now between farmers growing corn and cane for bio-fuel and call them green-collar workers and other cash-crop farmers are just going to stay plain farmers. Or maybe we should call them earth-workers or maybe dirt-lovers.

I admit everything is relative and our lexicon is in constant flux as it pleases those that seek change or say anything to get elected, or who want to push their specific favorite cause of the day. Don’t make a mistake. I am not against less pollution or against living greener. But I don’t see any reason why we should create another box to categorize people’s jobs. Don’t we have enough colored boxes already?

By the way, I guess I was ignorant, but I never knew there were so many different colored-collared workers. Searching the Internet I discovered, apart from green and the usual white and blue-collar workers, you also get:
- Black-collar workers (those that work on the black market),
- Pink-collar workers (mainly women working in the service industry and clerical work in the industrial sectors),
- Grey-collar workers (those working-class professions like technicians that do not involve significant manual labor),
- Open-collar workers (persons working from home, especially via the Internet) and
- Scarlet-collar workers (mainly women, but also men in the sex-industry.)

I didn’t find any real yellow-collar workers, but I did find brown-collar workers, although there don’t seem to be a clear definition of these characters. The term has different meanings in different countries. Brown-collar workers can be people in the waste management industry, workers from Latino descend or anyone with a brown skin. In Australia they call working dogs also brown-collar workers, and in Canada it is implied to be a workforce consisting of foreign professionals, from a visible minority and doing low wage jobs. In many cases the term is related to discrimination in the work place.

I also found red-collar workers (to some a very new term that refers to those persons who want to be cared for cradle-to-grave without breaking much of a sweat, figuratively or otherwise, in the workplace, and to others red-collar is the same as scarlet collar – sex workers.)

Wow! I am all techni-colored now. My head is spinning. I feel I walked through a color-wheel. I am sure if I have more time for research or innovative enough I can find or coin more collared workers, i.e. the Stiff-neck collar worker or the golf-shirt-collar worker, or the collarless-professional-sportsman-collar worker, or the everyday-different-emotional-actor-collar worker. I mean no one said you can only assign colors to collars. It’s our language and we can word-play with it anyway which way we choose. Can’t we?


Anonymous said...

Great comments.

I am writing a book on this very subject and have been researching and studying it for a few years. Good to see someone else is on the same page.

Is it alright to quote one of your comments?

Tyree Byndom

BluegrassBaobab said...

Go ahead. Good luck with the book.