The Machine Age

Steve met Ruth at the factory gates when the bell went, as they did five days a week.

"They've got another new machine in," he said.

"Really?" Ruth pulled her lip-stick and a mirror out of her bag and began doing up her face as she walked.

"Yep. Fastens rivets, this one. Seems they bring a new machine in every week. Mr Harris is talking about one of these things to scan order forms now. Put another department out of work, I dare say." He sighed. "Sometimes I wonder how much longer I'm going to have a living. I worked so hard for this job, you know? Since I was fifteen. It takes skill, working on an assembly line, that's what some people don't seem to realise. Well, I don't mind putting the work in, but after all the years I've worked for this company, all the years we've all worked for Mr bloody Harris, they could at least show us some respect. I mean, that's what it's about, isn't it? Respect. 'Cause for all his talk about working environments where everyone feels valued, the minute he can find a machine which can do our jobs, out we go. Do they ever wonder how we're gonna support ourselves? There's a girl I know, Mary. She's just lost her job. Just had a baby. How's she gonna pay the rent? How's she gonna look after her kid? And when he grows up, how's he gonna look after himself and his family? 'Cause there aren't any jobs. They're just aren't any jobs. It doesn't matter how hard you work, how clever you are, how much money you spent on degrees and the like, unless you can do what a machine can't—or you know the right people—there just aren't any jobs." He sighed again. "I don't feel valued in my working environment… Say, you don't seem to care very much."
Ruth lowered her lip-stick. "Don't you see? If there are machines to do all the work that needs doing, to keep society going and such, then the only thing standing between us and wealth, plenty and lives of leisure is… Mr Harris."