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We have security theater, congressional hearings theater, protest theater, theater theater, and now shutdown theater. How would you feel if you had a contract with your employer – family run business, say – that specifies compensation for your services. One day your employer shows up and says, “I had a fight with my wife last night, we can’t agree about a house she says we have to build. She says I can’t run payroll until we get this business with the house resolved.”

You say, “What?? We’ve got a contract here. I don’t give a goddamn what you and your wife are fighting about.”

“Sorry,” says the employer, “you can go home now, I’ll tell you when you can come back to work.”

“I have to pay my rent! What am I going to tell my landlord?”

“Tell him you’ll take out the garbage, do odd jobs. Maybe she’ll give you a break on the rent.”

“Like hell she will! She’ll replace me with someone who pays!”

“I really wish I could help you. My wife says she won’t back down.”

“Your wife and your house don’t have anything to do with the work I do for you. Pay me what you owe, or I quit.”

“You can’t quit. You have to submit a letter of resignation, and have it approved.”

“Where does it say that?”

“In your contract.”

“But you broke the contract!”

“I would call it a temporary interruption in pay. The contract is still in force.”

“So you want me to work without pay.”

“Until my wife and I work things out.”

“When is that?”

“We don’t know.”

“Give me a rough idea.”

“Could be a couple of weeks, could be a couple of months, could be years.”

“Yeah, I heard you: temporary interruption. Why should I work for you, under those circumstances?”

“Because you’re a proud member of the force.”

“Force? What force? You make me sound like a Marine.”

“We try to instill loyalty to the organization. Pride and loyalty.”

“You do that by not paying people?”

“Kind of shitty, isn’t it?”

“Look, you and your wife are just engaged in negotiating tactics. You’ve convinced yourselves that not paying your workers is okay.”

“Well now that the battle is joined, neither one of us can back down. If one of us loses, the balance of power shifts in our business, and in our family.”

“But it’s unethical to break a contract that’s not related to the conflict.”

“If you want ethics, you shouldn’t work for this company.”

“But you just told me about loyalty and pride.”

“Those are just words. What really counts is sticking it to your enemy. And getting the house you want.”

“You want to engage in a lockout so you can prevent your wife from building her dream house?”

“It’s not a lockout. You can come to work if you want.”

“You know you did the same crap less than a year ago. How long before people start to quit? Lots of people.”

“We’ll find new people.”

“That’s what you mean by loyalty.”

“How so?”

“You want us to work for free, but we’re all replaceable.”

“That’s right. Now, I have a credit union down the block that can loan you money for your rent. Would you like to borrow some money until I start to pay you again?”

“What are you going to charge me?”

“Eighteen percent.”

“Eighteen percent? That’s more than a payday loan!”

“Take it, my friend. You have nowhere else to go.”

“You can shove your loan up your ass. I hope you and your wife enjoy your house.”

“Well we can’t enjoy it if you keep bothering me.”

“I understand. I’ll keep out of sight so you can run your business.”

“Thank you, friend. Best wishes with your job search.”

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