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The hazards of hard labor: "I went to the doctor about my bleeding throat"

Labor is defined, in Merriam-Webster's dictionary, as work that is especially "difficult or compulsory." A laborer, then, is someone who does this difficult work. 

What makes a particular act of labor difficult varies from job to job. Many tasks are physically taxing. Others are boring - unendurably so. Some work puts laborers at risk of disease. A recent essay in The Paris Review offers a glimpse into a day in the life of a shipping worker whose throat, as a result of her job, began to bleed.

"It seemed so surreal"

"I've been sick for over a year," the essay begins. "I've been working at [my company] for over a year. I went to the doctor about my bleeding throat. He said I'll be fine as long as I don't work at [my company] for 20 years."

The author, who chose to remain anonymous, goes on to detail that she took the position to help pay for college. But going to school seems to be an equally constricting trap. "It usually takes students 8 years to graduate with a 4-year degree," she writes. "You have to work every night to pay for school. Even if you graduate college, you're likely to already have the best job you'll ever get so just stay."

One is moved to note that even bad work need not be so bad. Laborers who get hurt or fall sick as a result of their jobs have options. Namely, through workers' compensation claims, they can obtain the funds and the time off they need to recover. Moreover - though many don't realize it - their employers are forbidden from retaliating if a worker files for workers' compensation.

"I know that I am lucky."

Nevertheless, many people fail to consider just how laborious labor can be. The essay's strength lies in conveying the day-to-day struggles. "On a particularly busy day," the author writes, "my brain gets stuck on one question and I just ask myself that same question every time I load a box. With each box I ask myself the question a different way...Too many packages of steak and bull semen coming in for people who have never thought about where it is coming from."

The everyday work is difficult enough. And labor is often noble - a way to support oneself and one's family. But when difficulty shades into danger, and illness and injury arise, it is important - if equally difficult - to take the steps to set things right.

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Phone: 864-990-0226
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