Piss Poor

Jul 23, 2003

The Carolina Summer Reading Program, which was national news last year for its controversial pick of the book Approaching the Qur’an this year has the compelling book Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. I’m reading it now, and finding it to be a good reminder of the times when I was down and out – albeit briefly, sure, but I can certainly relate to the stress of restaurant work (I quit as a waiter at a Cleveland Heights Italian bistro after a mere 4 days) and the hunger of poverty (for a few months, my Shaker Square bachelor apartment cupboards had only Saltine crackers, peanut butter and jam).

I was struck by a footnote on p. 37 of the paperback edition: Ehrenreich cites the book Void Where Prohibited: Rest Breaks and the Right to Urinate on Company Time and mentions that many restaurant and factory workers cannot stop for a potty break (as we call it in our home, where we’re desperately trying to potty train Anna).

This made me remember my father’s accomplishment in Idaho: a state law that requires that farm owners provide clean toilet facilities for workers. Here’s the text of the law, via Lexis-Nexis:

Idaho State Code 44-1903. Furnishing of toilet facilities

On any farm operation, the farm operator, or when workers are furnished by a farm labor contractor, the farm labor contractor, shall provide and maintain at least one (1) toilet facility in a clean and sanitary condition for every forty (40) workers, or fraction thereof, within a reasonable distance of where the workers are working. For farm operations employing fewer than forty (40) workers, at least one (1) toilet facility shall be provided.

HISTORY: I.C., 44-1903, as added by 1981, ch. 256, 1, p. 547.

Anton Zuiker

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