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FTC=Fuck the Client

March 31, 2014

FTC=Fuck the Client

FTC officially means “failure to comply” when used by HRA or its contracted service providers. Lynn Lewis, director of Picture the Homeless, says that its true meaning is “Fuck the Client.” The attached document is the determination of my work accommodations as determined by a doctor hired by HRA at the Morissania Campus of Bronx-Lebanon Hospital. Last Tuesday, I was sent to my new WEP (Work Experience Program/legalized slavery), something Community Voices Heard is trying to make illegal. The supervisor sent me away. She said that the trip, to Riverdale (within walking distance, even by my standards, to Yonkers, which I did when I arrived at Magnum Comics before they opened), which took over an hour, was unreasonable, and that the file clerk job that they had for me to do was not within the stated accommodations. Their five-foot high side loading file cabinets would require plenty of standing, walking, lifting, pushing, and bending.

The instructor at the Back to Work program at FEGS will not let me in the classroom with black jeans. At present, unless I wear my suit, which has already had to be taken to a tailor for repairs (it is the same suit in my senior photograph taken in the fall of 1993), I cannot go to the classroom. All of my dress paints in storage are either damaged or are size 44, which is currently much too large. I also have a size 50 suit in storage, which my parents insisted on buying for me when I was in college, convinced, without the slightest bit of evidence, that I was gaining weight. She told me to contact my case manager there to get a clothing referral. I have gone searching for clothes on a clothing referral, from John Sheehan, social worker at All Souls Unitarian Church, when my case manager at FEGS would not respond to my phone calls.

On Tuesday, my first stop was Riverside Church, which was specifically written on the referral, but they had no pants in my size. The director, whom I shall call the lovely lady of light, since “light” is an English translation of her name, told me to come back on Thursday, which is when they have business attire. Attached to the referral was a sheet of other locations, several of which were also available on Tuesdays. I walked to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Again, they had nothing in my size. My third destination was Ephesus Seventh-Day Adventist Church, but I didn’t make it before the 1 PM cutoff, since I had to go by foot, and I was amazed by the exhibit of Xu Bing’s sculpture, Phoenix, which I will discuss in an upcoming blog, including photographs I took.

Finally, I went to Joseph House of the Catholic Worker, which was even smaller than the others, and had no dress pants at all.

On Thursday, I was still not admitted back into class despite having two stamps and two signatures on my clothing referral, so I returned to Riverside. The lovely lady of light was flaunting her assets–legs bare up to her mid-thigh. I hope she had worn a long overcoat to work, because it’s been pretty cold. It didn’t look terribly professional, but it certainly exuded confidence, especially when your clientele are people many would consider riffraff. Anyway, the only thing she gave me to try were some black corduroy pants that were size 42/30. I really had to tighten my belt, and the cuffs came to the tops of my socks, when they’re supposed to touch your shoes. She agreed with me that tha pants were too short, and I left empty-handed.

As I was walking from the train to the church, my case manager’s supervisor called and let me know that I had not yet been FTC’d, and she would get me a referral to Suit Up, so I suppose that means they’ll provide me with a suit to wear to class rather than wear the one I parents gave me in 1993. This is all about principle, after all. HRA is paying me 52¢ an hour to be at the back to work program 20 hours a week. At that rate, I’d have to put in 58 hours to pay for a $30 pair of pants. The biggest insult came when she said that not only were they trying to get me a WEP assignment, but because I have a master’s degree, they want to give me one that will actually be beneficial to me. THEN WHY THE HELL DID THEY SEND ME TO BE A FILE CLERK???? They’ve seen from my resume that I have had ten years, off and on, of office experience. In what way is unpaid labor as a file clerk supposed to advance my career? When I was in graduate school, Dr. Cynthia Chris lamented that when the media culture department sent people on internships at film, video, and television production companies, the men typically got to use the equipment, while the women were taught how to file. She, needless to say, found this extremely objectionable, and quite probably, it was illegal, since there is no real educational value in teaching someone at university how to file.

Hopefully, soon, WEP will be made illegal. Wednesday night, I spoke to a group of NYU law students, using a modified version of my 11/24/14 blog posting. When I referred to WEP as legalized slavery, which Sam Miller, communication and policy director at Picture the Homeless says is one of the nicer things he has heard WEP called, one of the law students thought I was opening a dangerous can of worms by comparing it to slavery, but the more I explained it, and the fact that it is required in order to stay in a shelter if one has no other income, he started to see that assessment as correct.

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2 Comments
  1. John Krinsky permalink

    Scott, I recently spoke at a CVH briefing on their WEP campaign, and recalled that in the 1997 case, Brukhman v. Giuliani, Legal Aid and Welfare Law Center lawyers had tried to argue that certain hours of WEP constituted a “taking” under the 5th and 14th amendments, citing a property right in one’s labor. The Giuliani administration countered, saying that there was not property right in labor, and cited the Supreme Court case from 1905, called Butler v. Perry. In it, Butler (or was it Perry?) refused to be part of an impressed labor gang to work on roads, on the basis that the Florida law that required people to work or to pay their way out of it, was the kind of forced labor that the 13th and 14th amendments prohibited. The Supreme Court (this was 1905, after all, and a case from northern Florida…though one could easily picture a similar ruling with this batch of Supremes) ruled that there was no unlimited property right in labor, though they did, actually, leave open the window for a limited one. At any rate,the context was one in which, in the relatively newly Jim Crow South, poor farmers were impressed into labor in lieu of taxes, since the majority of farmers were already up to their necks in debt. I found it curious–though in retrospect, not too surprising–that the Giuliani administration would lean on a case that had challenged forced labor with both the 13th and 14th amendment to defend its WEP program. So who was making the comparison to slavery then?!

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