Truck system

From Academic Kids

A truck system is an exploitative form of employment — or, more specifically, unfree labour — under which workers are: paid in a form of limited direct credit or tokens, which may only be used at a company store, owned by their employers, or; paid in unexchangeable goods and/or services. These systems have usually only been enforceable in small and geographically/culturally-isolated communities, such as mining towns.

Truck systems and company stores are sometimes identified with debt bondage, although truck systems exploit workers through consumption, rather than advances on wages. Often, the only alternative to this form of payment is destitution for the workers and their families. It should be noted, however, that in some limited historical circumstances, such as settler colonies, truck wages may be used simply because of a poor or unreliable supply of cash. (In such unusual cases, payment may be in large quantities of both tradeable and/or desirable goods, and is not in any way exploitative.)

In the developed world, most truck systems died out in the early 20th century, as workers and unions became better organised. In some countries, truck systems have been formally outlawed under a Truck Act.

One kind of truck system was immortalised in the chorus of the song "Sixteen Tons", written by Merle Travis in 1946:

"You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don't you call me, 'cause I can't go;
I owe my soul to the company store."

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