To see both sides of an argument. Some would call me wishy washy or a waffler, and they might be right. But I can’t help it if I see validity in both sides of an issue. It’s the way my brain is wired. Now, I’m not writing this to invite a debate. I’m writing this to air my opinion. Other opinions are welcome, but I won’t debate them. This is not the forum for that. Today is Labor Day here in the United States (and Canada, which I put in parenthesis because I don’t know how it’s celebrated up North). It’s a day where we celebrate hot dogs, barbecues, week long sales at retailers, and the kids going back to school! (Yay!) It marks the end of summer all over the land! Labor Day weekend is the last chance everyone has to go out an enjoy themselves before Fall kicks in. Seize that bull by the horns and ride it until it drops!
Wait, that’s not right.
Labor Day is supposed to be a time to reflect on how lucky we have it today as opposed to before the Labor Union. Back when, not too terribly long ago, working for “The Man” wasn’t all peaches and cream. When there were no safety rules and regulations (OSHA was just a dream), and people died on the job regularly. Forget workman’s compensation. If you were injured, you either went back to work or you lost your job. Period. Whenever you healed, they might hire you back if you were a good worker, but chances are, an injury meant you lost your livelihood and you’d have to find something else to do to support your family. It doesn’t matter if it was the company’s fault you were injured or not. The only thing the companies cared about then, and the only thing they care about now, is making a profit. That’s all they’ll ever care about. And anyone who tells you different is selling you something. Because companies live and die by the bottom line. If there’s no profit, there’s no company. End of story.
So, back in the days before there were labor unions (whose existence we in the United States are supposed to be commemorating today), there were kids working as young as the age of five, and very few people cared. They didn’t go to school. They didn’t get to run and play baseball with their friends. There were no soccer teams, no ballet lessons. No. The kids were tossed into the workforce because most families were barely scraping by. Married women were not allowed to work, so the kids had to — until social obligations forced the girls out of the workplace. And there was no such thing as a forty hour work week. I can hear the conversation now… You want to work only forty hours a week? Hit the road, you bum. I’ve got people lined up around the block that will work until they drop and thank me for the chance. Single women who worked in the mills lived in barracks (called boardinghouses), and by the rules of the company. No dating, no drinking, no smoking, be in by a certain time, dress modestly, no cussing… and the young women paid for the privilege of living there. Can you, dear reader, even imagine a company owner trying that bullshit today? That shit won’t fly today. Why? Because people stood up and said, “This isn’t right, and it’s got to change.”
And I agree. Children shouldn’t be working, and there should be a limit on how many hours people are forced to work by a single company. Companies should not have any control of their employees outside of the workplace (I’m even going so far as saying they should not fire people for what they post on Facebook unless it reflects on the company itself, but that’s a different post). And there should be a minimum wage that’s across the board that’s enough for entry level workers to earn a livable income. But here’s the thing. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot with the minimum wage thing. The minimum wage should have gone up with the rest of the costs of living, but it didn’t. People who’ve relied on minimum wage have been treading water and barely breathing for decades. I know, was one of them for a long time. My answer to that? Work more than one job — sometimes up to ninety hours in one week. I worked holidays (not Labor Day weekend because it usually falls on my birthday — last weekend in August — and a person’s got to have a line), mostly Christian holidays because I’m not Christian. They’re not my holidays so no skin off of my nose, right? And people will shop, even on their holidays. Did I get double time or time and a half? Sometimes. Not often, because I worked at different companies. Did it help when I did? Not really because the more money one earns, the more money the government takes out of your paycheck. It all kind of breaks even at some point.
But what I didn’t do was scream about how unfair it all is. Why? Because life isn’t fair, I learned that early in life so I didn’t expect it in adulthood… but that’s a different rant. And honestly, I’m just glad that I could chose to work ninety hours in one week and I wasn’t forced to work ninety hours in one week. I’m glad that people back in the day fought for eight hour working days and a safe working environment. I was equally glad that when I was temporarily unable to work because of an injury I had a job waiting for me when I got bask. All because people laid down their lives to make that happen. And I’m happy to live off the fruit of their labors. But I think that some people are taking that fruit and grabbing for more. And I think some of the things they ask for are petty. I really do. Sometimes, I just don’t think that people see how good they have it because (to me), they don’t understand how bad it was compared to how it is now.
And let me tell y’all something. Even back in the day when I was working my butt off, I worked for companies that kept their workers under 40 hours a week to keep from paying benefits. And they weren’t paying anyone “part time” wages to ease the costs either. It was minimum wage. This was decades ago… it is not a new thing. As I said before, it is all about the bottom line. So stop blaming Obamacare. /minirant
Anyway, I digress. I understand that people want to raise the minimum wage to a level that’s able to support them. I get that. I’ve been there. But I don’t think that going from $7 an hour (in some states) to nearly twice that is going to help the economy. It needs to go up incrementally, as it should have been doing all along. Because once companies start having to crank out all of that money to the entry level employees, then the skilled employees are going to demand raises too. People don’t want to be paid nearly as much as the entry level employees. Are you kidding? They are skilled, they are experienced. They put time into their work. They deserve more! Plus, schadenfreude prevents them from being glad the peons are making a livable wage. And, the bottom line will be affected. Prices everywhere will skyrocket. That livable wage, will be worth less than the paper it’s printed on. And that, dear readers, is my uneducated opinion. Take it with a grain of salt.
The words of this song were more true than people knew…