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22 April 2013

Whoops! Mr Moto, I'm a Coffee Pot!

This week on NPR's Morning Edition brings us a series on coffee, which promises to be very interesting to those of us who enjoy stories or trivial (meaning, less than life-changing) facts.

I recall while at Vassar attending an intimately small group discussion with the editor of the Bergen County, NJ, paper, who ranked on her résumè, as having been part of the effort to create the "coffee break."  She worked for the South American Coffee Board (this might not be the official name) and before Juan Valdez or in conjunction with the introduction of this coffee-tasting arbiter, her team approached unions and persuaded them to demand a 10-minute coffee break in their workers' contracts.  Well, once the unionized employees had this perk, the others wanted it, too.  Voila, coffee breaks abound and employers wanted to make sure their employees were using the coffee break to drink coffee!

This is a ploy that was quite successful for many benefits -- the unions get it first and then, everyone in the company demands to have it.  Most people are not students of history and thus, do not know that unions spearheaded most of our cherished notions of decent working conditions, like the 8-hour workday ("Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, eight hours for what we may")  or the idea of the "weekend."  Of course, union leaders and members have done their part to alienate the general public and have allowed employers to find ways around their strategies. Again, back at Vassar, the unionized maintenance workers refused to do so many small tasks, it simply exasperated students and non-union workers, like not having to dust above body height.  All rules started out being reasonable and for a good reason, but there's always that "slippery slope" of one exception, so the maintenance workers stood their ground on cleaning most library shelves.  (So, we library workers, students and salaried librarians alike, were self-compelled to do it -- against policy but in favor of respiratory health.)

Getting off track, again, but that's what discussion is all about, and what you'll find at Books on First.  Let me leave you with a tune in your heart, although I like my coffee dark and hot, I like this song a lot:  Take a listen (and look) to The Inkspots "Java Jive."

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