In an attempt to better document the sharp, rusty sliver of the American undrground press that worked its way through the protective coating of my heart 20-some years ago, I’ve given myself the task of interviewing all of the zine folks that I knew and loved back in the day. Today’s interview is with Jeff “Keffo” Kelly, the man behind the shit-stirring, take-no-prisoners, mother of all job-zines, TempSlave!.
MARK: Your name has come up in a few interviews that I’ve done in this series. Most recently, Robert Helms, the publisher of Guinea Pig Zero, was telling us about your activities in the Pennsylvania IWW prior to the launch of the TempSlave. As I wasn’t aware of that part of your history, perhaps we could start there. When did you become politically active, and what attracted you to the IWW?
KEFFO: Before joining the IWW, I was active on other political issues. My young adulthood was spent during the Reagan/Bush years, so there was always something to either work for, or protest against. I was active politically on two very different levels. On one hand, while I attended Kutztown University, I was, for a time, the main political writer for the school paper and an active participant in the Model United Nations club. Plus, I took a turn as President of the local Commonwealth Association of Students, which was a student lobbying group. On the other hand, I was very involved in street protests, especially in regard to the Contra wars in Central America. But, I worked with different people and groups on a gamut of issues, including homelessness, abortion rights, gay rights and environmentalism. At times, it was like I lived in Washington, D.C. because I was there so much, protesting.
MARK: What years would that have been? I ask because I was living in D.C. from ‘86 to ‘88, and I was also a regular on the protest circuit… nuclear disarmament (I was for it), South African apartheid (I was against it), in addition to everything you just mentioned. Perhaps our paths crossed without knowing.
KEFFO: It would have been the early to mid ‘80s. Then, in the early ‘90s, I was back at it again, when I was with the IWW. And, when I wasn’t protesting, I spent time in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood, at places like the Red Sea. Do you remember it?
MARK: I know it well. Great Ethiopian food… Speaking of the Iran-Contra affair, I just heard a great quote coming out of the far-right CPAC conference yesterday. Oliver North said, “We need a congressional majority that will insist on the rule of law in Washington.” (He also equated gay marriage to slavery.)
KEFFO: Oliver North? I thought the Cro-Magnons had died out. “Rule of law,” like he’d know anything about that… Maybe breaking the rule of law… When he had to testify about his role in the arms trading scam, he dressed up in his Marine uniform, like he was still active duty military. In fact, he was only then serving in a civilian capacity. Many Marines are still pissed at him for doing this.
MARK: So, how you’d come to get involved in the IWW?
KEFFO: I began an intensive study into the history of the American labor movement in 1989-1990, and happened across a book by Joyce Kornbluth. I think it was called Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology. It had loads of graphic art and stories produced by IWW members. What I loved about the IWW was that they created a way to interact with working people on a non-academic level. For instance, I’ve always loved comic books, and the Wobblies were excellent at reaching out to workers through the use of art, comics, music and stuff like that. I was hooked. I contacted them and asked if I could be a “honorary” member, not knowing that they still actually existed.
MARK: Again, this is a really small world we live in. The IWW world headquarters, through much of the ‘90s, was just a few blocks from where I’m sitting at the moment, in downtown Ypsilanti. Given when you first made contact, I doubt that’s where your letter went, but it’s an interesting coincidence nonetheless. Regardless, I hope, wherever you wrote to them, they were nice to you when you reached out.
KEFFO: I’m not sure where I found them, but they were nice. They issued me one of their famous red card dues book with my own member number. I showed it to another politically active friend and he decided to join as well. We then began a strange and crazy journey that resulted in us signing up close to 50 people in our area. I met Bob Helms because we would go to Philly and talk with workers at Wooden Shoe Bookstore, or at the local anarchist space, in hopes of having them join… Many of them did.
MARK: You must have done a pretty good job… When the IWW world headquarters left Ypsi in 1999, it moved to Philly, where it remained until 2005. It would be difficult to prove, but I suppose it’s possible that the reason we lost the the IWW headquarters in Ypsi is because of a seed you planted as a young radical organizer in Philly.
KEFFO: Bob and other Philly people were already pretty well advanced politically. They joined for the sake of solidarity, but they then took it to a better level. Alexis Buss, especially, was a hard worker, as was Bob.
MARK: What did you think when you’d heard that Bob was following you into zinedom?
KEFFO: I thought about calling the Philly police to have him arrested… No, really I don’t recall thinking anything about it other than that Bob, being the intense person that he is, would produce a good zine.
MARK: What are your politics like today? Would you still characterize yourself as a radical?
KEFFO: I’d describe myself as a “disgruntled middle aged man.” I still have radical beliefs, but I’m not active like I once was. At this time in my life I put more effort into mentoring younger people when I can, offering advice that I hope can help them. Or, more often than not, correcting older people when they spout stupid political beliefs.
I think that there needs to be more personal responsibility in America. People need to educate themselves so they can separate fact from fiction. The belief held by many people that resources are limitless… or that consuming equals happiness… or the whole general aura of self-centered behavior… is leading to a broken social contract between people. Generally speaking, I guess you could say that I feel a sense of disappointment with my fellow Americans. I also think that our country should have moved on by now in regard to social policies. All the useless wars, debates over health care, lack of support for public schools, etc… It’s just maddening to me that these fights still have to be fought.
I do still take to the streets on occasion. Most recently, I was involved in the protests against our Governor here in Wisconsin, Scott Walker. I live very close to the state capitol building, so it was easy for me to witness what went on there. I had a bit of fun with it. Remember when Charlie Sheen said he had tiger blood? I carried a sign that said, “Scott Walker has kitten blood.” Some clueless people asked me if he was, in addition to everything else, an animal abuser. But, one rather large guy came up to me, looked at my sign, and said, “Yeah, you got it right… Walker is a big pussy.”
I really don’t know what direction this country is going to go in. There’s so much more of a disparity between rich and poor… And the refusal by the rich to accept the repercussions of climate change puts some fear in me. At this point in my life, though, I’m on the sliding board to mortality, and I don’t feel there’s much I can do that’s truly meaningful.
KEFFO: That’s a sci-fi kind of question, Mark. How about the young Keffo hangin’ with the old Mark, or vice versa? Or how about all four us together? Or, better yet, what if we throw in the young and old versions of our wives, and the eight of us meet up in Ypsi? That’s cool as shit to imagine…
You know the old saying, “You’re crazy if you aren’t a socialist when you’re young, and crazy if you aren’t a conservative when you’re older”? I suppose there’s some truth to it. As for what the younger Jeff would make of me, I guess he’d think that, despite being an opinionated dickhead at times, I might be OK for my age. Older Jeff, after all, didn’t turn into a right wing conservative… He just changed direction a bit, focusing more on his job, his relationship with his wife, and exploring nature. Younger Jeff, I’d like to think, would respect that.
MARK: Specifically, I’m curious as to what he’d make of your, “I don’t feel there is much I can do that’s truly meaningful,” comment. Do you think he’d buy that?
KEFFO: No, young Jeff wouldn’t buy that. Young Jeff would say, “Get up off your ass and struggle for a better world.” Young Jeff always used to bitch about older people who did nothing. But old Jeff would respond by saying, “Look, sonny, youth is fleeting, so enjoy your superior attitude. One day other responsibilities will present themselves. Now let’s have a drink.”
MARK: What do you think of kids today? Are they fighting hard enough?
KEFFO: Damn kids, I want to hit ‘em with my cane. It’s a different world today. Everything’s ruled by social media. The lives of the young are ruled by their phones and their Facebook accounts. There’s nothing more maddening to me than to be out in public and have to endure overhearing their completely banal phone conversations. I jokingly refer to them as the “toothache” people because they’re always holding their phones up to their cheeks, like they’re in pain. It’s like they have to be connected at all times. To what? In my opinion, to nothingness. I think they’re less socialized to interact with other people on a face-to-face level. When they get nervous or bored, they instinctively grab for their phones, hoping to look important.
Through the internet, I think, they believe they’re actually doing something. But, all you have to do is look around the world, at what’s happening on the street-level in Greece, Egypt, the Ukraine, to see what real political activity looks like. I will, however, give American kids a few props. They’re better informed, and they can share information more easily than their predecessors. And the ones that I’ve met seem to have a rather jaundiced view of the political process, which, to me, is a start. It shows that the wheels are turning. However, what are they going to do with all the information that they have? How will it be processed into real action? That remains to be seen.
MARK: It’s a criticism you hear about the Daily Show. Their viewers, according to several studies, are among the most knowledgeable when it comes to current events, but what do they do with that knowledge? Some have argued that Jon Stewart and company are actually diffusing the anger by introducing satire, making rebellion less likely.
KEFFO: Yeah… Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. After all, despite the best efforts of our generation, not much has been accomplished. Technology is their addiction, but, really, who, or what, do they have to turn to? The liberal left in this country stands for nothing. Their only goal is to elect a corporate Democrat, just so a Republican doesn’t win. Whether we like to hear it or not, Obama is nothing but a center right politico friendly to Wall Street. Republicans come up with insane conservative ideas and then the Dumbocrats come up with a lesser version. When we talk about rebellion, do we want an armed rebellion? That kind of politics comes with a brutal cost. Really, the only way young people, or anyone for that matter, to do anything constructive is to link up the various causes into one strong movement to pressure the politicos into action. Right now I just don’t see it happening. Like I said, it‘s a different world… a world dominated by technology and consumerism. Remember, the powers that be, our exploiters, are working 24/7 to maintain their grip on power. We as a people can’t be weekend warriors about social change.
MARK: What advice would you have for someone starting a shit-stirring job-zine today?
KEFFO: Hard to answer that. It would have to be personal, so that it has the right energy. You need to speak with a voice of experience, not as an outsider. Finally, protect your identity as much as possible.
MARK: Do you wish you’d protected your identity more?
KEFFO: No, it worked out well in my case. I didn’t want boss types giving me grief, or knowing much about me, but I had to eventually let people know who I was on a personal level, especially other zine writers. I think it was worse here in Madison. There’s loads of uptight people here who I would rather not have met.
MARK: Do you remember the moment you decided to start the zine?
KEFFO: Well, while I was with the IWW, our local branch had a newsletter that I pretty much produced myself. It was formatted in a zine style. Around 1992, or ‘93, I had a falling out with people in our branch over tactics used during a strike that we were involved in. I wound up quitting the IWW over this dispute. This kind of stuff happens all the time in political groups. It wasn’t just about the group. It was about me and my own aspirations. I had ideas that couldn’t be expressed in a group setting. Enter zinedom.
While this was going on, I was temping and doing freelance writing on the side. And the knowledge I’d gained by producing the branch newsletter led me to begin producing TS!
MARK: Do you remember that first issue?
KEFFO: It was a mess. The font I used was cursive. I sent it to Factsheet Five to see if anyone would be interested, and, to my shock, it caught on. Within months, I was fielding calls from news organizations all across the country. It was completely insane. It began taking over my life.
MARK: How much, if anything did you know about zine culture before setting out? Were there, for instance, other “job zines” that you were reading?
KEFFO: I liked a San Francisco-based publication called Processed World. That was my main influence when starting Temp Slave. The person behind was a guy named Chris Carlsson. Processed World was a collection of San Fran office workers and techies who wrote about the mind numbing office culture of American business. They weren’t political in the sense of joining a group to advance a cause… rather, they were situationist, believing in using many different tactics, jettisoning the tired old lefty jargon, etc. It was hilarious stuff… I remember that they called office cubicles “fattening pens.”
I actually wound up writing a story for them. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Processed World folks.
MARK: Did that happen prior to starting Temp Slave? And do you remember what was your article in Processed World was about?
KEFFO: Yeah, it was about four or five months before I started Temp Slave. And, as for what it was about, I’m going to take a guess here. I think it was about working as a social worker. I supervised group homes for developmentally handicapped people. It wasn’t a great story, but they were kind enough to print it.
MARK: When you set out to start Temp Slave, did you have an agenda? Did you, for instance, see it as a potential organizing tool?
KEFFO: No, after my experiences with the IWW, and understanding how difficult it is to organize, I looked at the zine as basically a “fuck you” to corporate America. They were going to stick me and other people with slave labor jobs so I had nothing to lose. Plus, it was a zine project in the truest sense. I printed everything that came my way. I said everything and anything I wanted without having to answer to anyone.
MARK: Do you miss having that outlet now?
KEFFO: Not really. What I miss is the sense of connection I had with other zinesters. It gave me the opportunity to interact and meet with many different kinds of people. I met folks like Jim Goad, Dishwasher Pete, Bob Helms, Moe Bowstern, Al Hoff, Jen Angel and countless others. I even met Russ Forster in Chicago, although he probably doesn’t remember me. I met you and Linette in Ypsi, and I frequently travelled to the west coast, where met another cast of characters, like Seth Friedman, and V. Vale of the ReSearch book series. It was fun and exciting… It’s something that I’ll always remember.
MARK: How did you pay to print that first issue, or did you find a way to do it for free?
KEFFO: I did it for free. I worked as a temp in a mailroom and had access to a huge industrial sized copier. I waited for my boss to go on break and then made copies. I suppose that’s a somewhat typical zine story. Funny how so many of us scammed free copies.
KEFFO: Far too many to remember. Sometimes I would work for only a day and not go back.
MARK: How long had you been temping before launching Temp Slave?
KEFFO: I think I was temping at a job for close to a year, and then I got canned and started working on the zine.
MARK: Was the nickname Keffo one that was given to you as a kid?
KEFFO: I gave it to myself. I love comic books, art and graphic design. The name was a nod to artists who use only one name or people who want to keep their true identity under wraps. Of course Keffo is a combination of Jeff and Kelly. The “o” was added as a kind of exclamation point… something to give it flair.
MARK: What were you like as a kid, before you got into politics and the like?
KEFFO: I grew up in the small town of Coplay, Pensylvania. My parents owned a ranch home in a development of ranch homes built in the mid 1950s and given the whimsical name “Echo Manor.” People were mostly working class types, many former war vets lived in my neighborhood, and each family had at least two or three kids. Plus, my mother grew up in a family of nine, so I had almost 40 cousins who lived within a five mile radius of our town. I never had to have “play dates” arranged like so many of my friends kids do now. My parents form of parenting was – “Go outside, come back for dinner, go back out, and then come home when the street lights come on.”
As a young kid I was very much into sports, playing football, baseball and basketball. Also, bikes were a big part of my life. I learned how to ride at a very early age. But, I was also a destructive juvenile delinquent type. My friends were the same. We weren’t ghetto tough, but still bad kids. I got into fighting, stealing and vandalism. At one point it was so bad that the local police pulled up to my house, took me away, and questioned me at the cop shop about criminal activities in our town. There was talk of sending me to a juve detention center. They did a check on me only to find that I was an honors student at my Catholic school, though… I blame Catholicism for my undoing. I was so constrained and terrified by the nuns that, once out of school, I was out of control. Luckily, I turned myself around. I convinced my parents to send me to public school and that mellowed me out. By the time I hit high school, I was just your average teenager… I was completely bored by school. I didn’t get good grades and didn’t try. I had a car, and I drove all over the place. (I still love to drive long distances.) Early on, I knew deep down that there was no way in hell I was going to stay in my little town. I already had an outward view of the world and the places I wanted to go.
KEFFO: As a kid I had a lot of them. I couldn’t walk across my small town without running the gauntlet of potential conflict. But, the last fight I had was probably in the early ’90s. I was staying with my ex-girlfriend in her parents’ lake cabin in Northern Wisconsin. I went out to the local bar by myself and got into a conversation with a local over Native American rights. Turns out he was a racist type. I tried to extricate myself from the situation, but he wouldn’t let it go. Finally, I went outside to escape him, but he followed me. He started pushing me down the street, eventually pushing me into a wall. I kept asking him to leave me alone. Eventually, I turned to face him and hit him square in the nose with a right hand cross that completely knocked him over. Blood was spurting from his nose. I picked him up and said, “How’s your nose, tough guy?” He was so stunned he couldn’t respond. Someone in the bar called the cops, and I could hear the sirens in the distance, so I ran to my car and got the hell out of there.
Looking back, I’m ashamed of this incident. That kind of behavior by adults is completely wrong. At the time, though, I felt that I had no choice but to protect myself. But, I should have known better than to talk politics in a Northern Wisconsin bar. It’s best just to keep to yourself.
MARK: Are you still writing?
KEFFO: Not really, I get ideas sometimes, but I no longer have the discipline you need to start a project. When I’m obsessive about something I’m totally obsessive about it. That served me well with the IWW and the zine. But, once I get tired of something, I’ve been able to forget it and easily transition to something else. In my case, I painted, did photography, and made videos. To be truthful, I reached a point in my life where I realized that writing would never pay the bills for me… Alas, I was not going to be a rock star.
MARK: Of all that you accomplished with Temp Slave, what are you proudest of?
KEFFO: I’m proud that I gave people a forum to write and cartoon. Temp Slave is in labor libraries all over the country. So, from a historical standpoint, the zine and the book will live on into the future. That’s a big deal to me because I really didn’t have great expectations at the time. The name “Temp Slave” has almost become a catchphrase for working in the industry. I’m happy for myself too, because looking back, it does give me a sense of accomplishment.
MARK: In 1997, a Best of TempSlave! book came out. How’d that come about?
KEFFO: G.K. Darby approached me about doing it. He was a student at the University of Wisconsin at the time, and wanted to start his own publishing business. I was skeptical at first because of his youth, but we met many times, and I grew to like and respect him. He had the energy, funds and know how to make the project go forward. And he’s published many books since then. He’s still in the business, down in New Orleans.
MARK: Was it difficult deciding what you’d include and what you wouldn’t? I’m curious, for instance, if anyone was pissed when you chose not to include their work? Were friends lost in the process?
KEFFO: I did have an issue with one of my main cartoonists. I chose the cover art of someone else and he didn’t like it. After that, I was dead to him.
MARK: How was the book received?
KEFFO: Hmmm, it was either loved or hated. There were some problems with it. For one, I didn’t organize it as well as I should have. Plus, there were some annoying typos in it that detracted from the overall read. Some of the reviewers seemed to enjoy pointing that out. But, I think many people enjoyed the stories for what they were. It could have been better, but, every so often I pick it up and I still like it. That’s what matters most to me.
MARK: What’s the best letter you ever received from a reader?
KEFFO: There were too many to remember. To be truthful I actually enjoyed the hate mail most of all. There were always accusations, name calling, etc… I used to roar with laughter over some of that stuff… The zine thing wasn’t just rainbows and unicorns. There were people out there who hated you if they thought you were getting too big for your britches.
MARK: If you had to do it all over again, is there anything that you’d do differently? Were there, for instance, opportunities that you think you missed?
KEFFO: Temp Slave was both good and bad. At the time it became popular I was starting to make some inroads in the writing business. I was going through the freelance submission process and, every so often, making money off articles. In fact, at one point I was in the negotiations with SPIN magazine to do stories for them, which would have meant much larger fees. For one reason or another, though, the process fell apart. After that, Temp Slave began to take up my time.
About the time that the book came out, I was approached by someone at a Hollywood production company who wanted access to the Temp Slave name and some of the content. They sent me the offer through the mail. Visions of riches and fame danced in my head. I picked up a rather large manilla envelope at my post office box and then met up with my future wife Kathleen at a local diner. I greedily tore it open to discover the offer was a pitiful nothing amount. We both shook our heads and roared with laughter. I mean, really, how much is your life work worth? I tossed it in the garbage and that was the end of it.
There was, however, one last gasp. Kathleen has relatives in the entertainment industry, in both acting and on the legal side. I was hooked up with an agent for awhile, but again nothing came of it. There was just a lot of “blah blah blah” Hollywood speak. So, at that point, my participation in Temp Slave came to an end.
So, having said all this, I have no regrets about anything I did with the zine. I do wish I’d had a better spell-check program, though, dammit. But, seriously, I took it as far it could go and it was successful enough for me.
KEFFO: I really haven’t been in contact with contributors other than Dishwasher Pete. We haven’t seen each other in a long time, but we email frequently. He’s always making fun of Wisconsin. He always stirred shit with me, but in a humorous way. I’m proud of him. He carried on writing through the years and he’s been successful. He has a young son and the two of them travel all over Europe together. I can tell he’s raising a good kid.
When I look at the three main work related zines – Dishwasher, Guinea Pig Zero (GPZ) and Temp Slave, I can make some comparisons. Temp Slave was confrontational, a kick in the ass. GPZ was an intelligent zine that reflected the research abilities of Bob Helms. If Bob wanted, he could have been an outstanding academic. Pete, though, took a different track. He was able to reach people on a very personal level. He would deny that he was political, but he was… in a non threatening way that was effective.
MARK: Combined, it was a pretty effective assault. I’m curious if you ever considered joining forces with Pete and Bob in some way.
KEFFO: Omigod! Are you kidding me? It would have been a bloodbath. I love Pete and Bob, but our personalities would clash if we worked together. I could tell you instances when they visited me where I wanted to bash their heads in, and vice versa. We were like evil, competitive brothers.
MARK: Who would have come out on top in an all out fight for supremacy?
KEFFO: On the literary side, Pete would be the hands down winner. In a street brawl, I believe that Bob Helms, fueled by many cups of coffee, would beat us to a bloody pulp.
MARK: What was the best thing you ever printed?
KEFFO: Issue 7, because it combined good writing and cartooning. Plus, another zine I published called “East to Cali.” Not many people saw that one. It was a one-and-done zine about my first trip to California. There were color photos in it, and stories about doing mushrooms in Death Valley, hanging out in San Francisco, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Northern California. Plus, there were many sections dealing with all the crazy wingnut types I met out there.
MARK: I wasn’t aware that you’d published anything other than Temp Slave. Was East to Cali the only such venture, or where there others?
KEFFO: There was another one titled “Welcome to the World of Insurance: An Introduction to Corporate Hell.” I worked as a temp in the mailroom of a major insurance company. If the company ever found out about this publication they would have had me assassinated. I mean that literally.
It was mainly a huge rant on the industry, and filled with graphic cartoons. But, most importantly, I had access to the list of possessions owned and insured by very rich people, including famous politicians and actors. I actually wound up printing some of this information in the zine. In hindsight, this was a very stupid thing to do. Had the wrong people seen it, I would have been in huge trouble. I also had a list of names of the company’s employees nationwide, so, when someone ordered the zine, I’d look up their name to see if they were with the company. It was my way of protecting myself. I think I sold maybe fifty copies of it, and then took it out of print.
MARK: When you published the last issue of Temp Slave, did you know at the time that it would be your last?
KEFFO: Yes, I knew. I had done all I could with it. The last two issues kind of dragged. The stories all seemed the same. I wasn’t even temping by then, so my personal investment had lessened. Instead of writing, I had become an editor – something that I totally suck at. The “best of” book had come out, and I came up with the last issue pretty much just to support the book.
MARK: Did you ever have occasion to speak with anyone at any of the big temp agencies about Temp Slave? If so, I’d be curious to know their perspective.
KEFFO: No, I never had that opportunity. I got the feeling that the agencies knew about me. One time I applied for a temp job here in Madison, and the person behind the desk looked at my name, and her eyes got really big. She set her glasses down on the desk and made a lame excuse not to even let me fill out an application.
KEFFO: I remember a lot of it. The night before we went out to dinner at an Ethiopian place, where I completely stuffed myself full of food and drink. I then returned to the luxurious Motel 6 and passed out. Then, the next day, you took me to a bar in Ypsi and fed me many bloody marys to fortify me for the reading. I remember you lived in a cool old house and had many action figure toys on display in their original package which are now probably worth thousands of dollars. Unless, of course, your kids have destroyed them. The reading itself was a blur… There was probably about 10 people in attendance. Some of them may have walked in by mistake, some may have been forced by gunpoint to attend… I mean this sincerely, I do remember liking you and Linette right from the start. I thought you both had a fun sense of humor and that put me at ease. I don’t know about you, but meeting other zinesters for the first time, there was always some trepidation. Sometimes it could be painfully awkward.
[editor's note: As I stopped collecting action figures upon entering high school, I have no idea what Jeff is referring to. The only thing I can think of is the fact that I bought about half a dozen little Flintstones dolls at a dollar store once, after the live action film came out and flopped, and I used to tell people that I was going to retire on the money I'd make when I eventually sold them... I ended up giving them away, I think.]
MARK: So, what do you do now?
KEFFO: I work in the probiotics industry. I’d rather not mention the name of the company. However, I can say that this company has been in existence for a couple of centuries. It was a dominant player in the chemical industry, but is now moving into nutrition and health. I can’t say that I’m thrilled working for these people, however, I had no choice, as they acquired my former company in a buyout. They’re basically just another major corporation that spews out corporation speak. They’re serious about themselves because they’re players in the international business community… Whatever!
I’ve had various jobs within the plant I work in. Over the last few years, I was chosen to receive specialized training in the operation and maintenance of new production equipment. So, once trained, I then became the trainer. This is still an ongoing process.
If you don’t know, the probiotics industry is becoming huge. It’s going into all kinds of food products, supposedly because it engenders good intestinal health. I’m very close to it. I see how it’s made and what goes into it. The main question is: Does the stuff actually work? The jury is still out. But, keep eating your yogurt and all that other healthy stuff. By dining so, you’re keeping Keffo in a job, which is a good thing… otherwise he might be on the street, making a nuisance of himself.
In a nutshell, I make a nice living and have a comfortable lifestyle as a result of my job. Do I define myself by my job? Hell no, it’s secondary to my other interests and outside life.
MARK: Do you ever have occasion to work with temps? And, if so, are you nice to them?
KEFFO: Funny you should ask. My former company was big on hiring temps. Usually they were forced to work for years before they were even considered for employment. But, when the new owners took over they made it clear that they didn’t use temps. So, all the temps were offered full-time positions. In this case the company did the right thing – their belief being that full time employees rather than temps are more vested in the company.
The temps I met sometimes reminded me of myself. Some of them just had poor attitudes, which I could totally appreciate. I never gave any of them any grief. Some stayed and others were gone before I could get to know them.
MARK: What was it, do you think, that drove your anger about the temp industry?
KEFFO: It was the exploitation aspect of it.. the agencies taking a cut of your labor… the company not being responsible for health benefits and pensions… the second class treatment many temps endure in the workplace. It’s ridiculous – most American companies are rich enough to pay a decent wage with benefits. Sure, it’s OK by me if people want to temp, if they know it’s going to be a short term thing, but, eventually the piper needs to be paid. In the future, what happens to people in their old age if they don’t have a pension or a 401k? The agencies are nothing but smiley faced pimps.
[note: If you like what you've read and want more about the American underground press and the people behind it, be sure to check the other interviews in the History of Zines series.]