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Freely Choosing To Lose Your Freedoms, or 'I Got Bills To Pay!' 1

US staff lose jobs over smoke ban

Four workers in the United States have lost their jobs after refusing to take a test to see if they were smokers.

They were employees of Michigan-based healthcare firm Weyco, which introduced a policy banning its staff from smoking - even away from the workplace.
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Weyco gave its staff a stark ultimatum at the end of last year - either stop smoking completely on 1 January or leave their jobs.

The four workers who refused to take the test left their jobs voluntarily, although a lawyer for Weyco confirmed the company was preparing to dismiss them.

The firm says that, as its business is to help other firms save money and improve employee health through its benefit plans, it is only natural it should take a lead on the issue.
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But opponents say it is a violation of workers' rights to indulge whatever habits they choose to when they are off-duty, particularly as smoking is legal and does not impair people's ability to do their jobs.

According to Reuters news agency, Mr Weyers wants to turn his attention next to overweight workers.

"We have to work on eating habits and getting people to exercise. But if you're obese, you're (legally) protected," he said.

The BBC's Jannat Jalil in Washington says that if the firm survives any future legal challenges, it could set a precedent for other companies to follow suit.

"Certainly it raises an interesting boundary issue," job placement specialist John Challenger told Reuters. "Rising healthcare costs and society's aversion to smoking versus privacy and freedom rights of an individual."

Talk about slippery slopes...("If you want to keep your job you can't marry that person — our DNA tests show your fiance has a latent medical condition that has a 75% chance of becoming malignant, and hence too costly for our insurance carrier." "Our psychology tests indicate you have a sullen disposition. Of course that's bad for morale. Sorry, but we've got to let you go." "You kid's grade average has dropped...we don't like your television viewing habits...you voted for a republicrat...")

No matter how "democratic" your country may pretend to be, nor how many "liberties" one is "allowed" in their country, if you spend the majority of your waking life working for The Man you lose those liberties when you walk through his door.

In the language of Chomsky, the power structure of the private economy is a very tyrannical structure, and corporations are basically unaccountable private tyrannies controlled from above.

So what recourse does one have if they don't like the intrusive infringements of their tyrannical overlords? They can quit — which, though perhaps a truly desired action, is hardly a prospect most people willingly choose to face given a lack of alternatives.

What's the point in claiming that one has a great deal of liberty in their democratic society when those liberties are stripped by the social institutions that provide a living? I suppose one can claim they have freely chosen to trade their liberty for a paycheck rather than choose homelessness. (After all, no one's forcing you to pee in a cup if you want a job. No one's saying that you can't quit if you want some degree of privacy and prefer that your employers don't read your emails.) But hey, at least humanity has made some progress: wage slaves are treated a hell of a lot better than slaves of the past!

Welcome to the modern definition of freedom, a definition that dwindles the grand potential of our existence to a crabbed, meagre drudge nicely encapsulated by the German expression Arbeit Macht Frei. By this definition I suppose Roman galley-slaves were also free: after all, they could choose to row or die.

While we're discussing freedom it's probably good to remind Murkans that, in the Orwellian spirit of the times, freedom has a wacky new definition. To quote the great political philosopher Rudolph Giuliani: 'Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.' Just remember this next time you do something you shouldn't, like smoke or think bad thoughts — like, say, quitting your job.

'A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors and schoolteachers....'
   —Aldous Huxley