In recent years I have come across a great deal of venomous contempt - both online and in print - towards not not only the idea of raising the minimum wage, but in all too many cases, directed at the men and women who work for such wages.
So I have been thinking that this week, as we celebrate Labor Day largely by ignoring the workers of America, and instead focusing on what folks do for leisure activities over the past weekend (try that crap with Memorial Day, or Thanksgiving, and just imagine the public firestorm that would result) and I thought back on various minimum wage jobs which I have held, and the skills required for each of them.
In Pennsylvania, I worked as an inspector in a boot factory. It was my my job to make sure that the leather was firmly in place on the boots before the soles could be glued down. If they weren’t, I went to work with my Pneumatic staple gun. It was hot, smelly work.
In Arkansas, I worked for a fast food joint, where I worked the counter, learned the intricacies of making the American gourmet burger, worked the french fry machine (living hell in the 1970s), cooked on the grill, and washed up.
I worked as Night Manager in a convenience store. I stocked shelves, checked the underground gas tank - even in the ice and snow - worked with customers, kept the store clean, and balanced the register out.
Shoe Store - worked my way into Assistant Manager - pennies above minimum wage. Stocked shelves, cleaned the store, worked with customers, helped unload trucks, and still had to show up in a suit and tie every day.
In the 1990s, I taught studio class at Fayetteville’s Community Access Television; some of you who are reading this may have taken my class. I taught the basics of how to use a TV studio, and to make a program. Later, when I joined the board of directors of the station I was barred from making any money from teaching classes, but I still taught them anyway, for several years.
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. The classes at public access are an excellent educational skill to add to anyone’s resume.
Except for the studio class, I was supporting myself with the jobs I had, and worked with other adults who were not only supporting themselves, but families as well. At times it was damned hard work, and the skills required would no leave some of those who sneer at such work (and workers) in the dust, especially those who quite literally have no concept of the work involved.
There were, of course, other duties which I have forgotten to mention with the jobs above, but the dust of time has fogged my memory on some particulars. Still, I can remember the work, the friends I made at each job, and how small the paychecks were.
LIFE IS A MUSEUM: An Afternoon at Crystal Bridges
A few months ago I took my trusty little camera along on a trip to Crystal Bridges. If you’d like to see some of the art on display:
Quote of the Day
I’ve kept clear of bores all my life long by judiciously pulling out my watch, when the boring stage was reached, and saying, “I am afraid I have to go to my work,” or “I am afraid I must go out,” or something. This gets you a character for being hard at work, and people are impressed, rather than annoyed. - Hannah Whitall Smith