In which I complain for a long time about not being able to find a job I want (i.e. that doesn’t suck in pay or hours or location). Also, the right still believes in (the thoroughly debunked) trickle-down theory and it utterly baffles my mind.
The decent little part-time office job continues to just not exist anywhere at all ever.
The ethnic restaurant in Midtown Global Market didn’t hire me. I know the exact point in the interview in which the owner decided against me, but I don’t know why he decided that way. Anybody who can shower without drowning can work in a restaurant, so they hire on personality fit more than skill. I must have said something he didn’t like, but I’m not sure how answering “Do you have kids?” with “No, we have an avocado plant. It’s exactly the same thing as raising a child” ruined his interest in me as a team member. It was funny and self-deprecating. Maybe everybody else he employs has toddlers; who knows.
Hardly matters. It was a part-time, low-paying job that would have promised plenty of hard work for low reward. (I’ve worked for charismatic entrepreneur-run very small businesses before, and typically, employees are supposed to be totally gung ho about growing the entrepreneur’s businesses without much more in return than token thanks — usually in the form of an annual holiday party and a few cheap gifts. You enthusiastically protect and increase their net worth; they give you a fifty dollar Christmas bonus… and lay you off four months later when the economy gets tough because you’re just an employee. The loyalty of businesses toward their employees is dead, and has been for most of my working years.)
I don’t really want to work a minimum wage food service job in the first place, really, but since there’s no such thing as a part-time office gig anymore I thought at least it would be nice to work somewhere that looked cool and where I could dress comfortably. Those sorts of intangibles can make taking a low wage a lot easier.
So the job search continues. I’ll apply for anything I can get to in less than an hour, at this point, because I’d like to get employed and settled into the new job before blizzard season arrives. To this end I have an interview at a BP tomorrow, so as soon as I hung up the phone with the guy who scheduled the meeting I checked glassceiling.com:
Aw shit. They pay minimum wage. Great. Now I don’t want to go to the interview, even though the following are true:
- I need to find a job before I run out of pin money
- I’ve been a convenience store clerk in the past and enjoyed it
- I’m not too proud to be a convenience store clerk, even at my age
- The guy on the phone sounded like he’d be pleasant to work for
And yet, weirdly enough, in spite of all that, I find I have no desire to go bust my ass for a multi-national corporation for nine bucks an hour. (Minnesota raised its minimum wage in July.) Nine bucks an hour at full time is a yearly income of $18,720 before taxes and social security and insurance.
Or $15,646.94 take-home, after Federal taxes. Even less after sales and state tax. Nobody could possibly find this to be adequate compensation for full-time work.
Especially when, for eighteen grand a year, the typical gas station convenience store clerk is supposed to, typically, spend 40 hours each week on her feet cleaning, stocking, lifting up to fifty pounds, and accepting and internalizing bullshit company standards about service and enthusiasm and the company’s culture. She’s supposed to love her employer, she’s supposed to go the extra mile at any and every opportunity, she’s supposed to take pride in her work.
She’s supposed to do this even though her employer blatantly and institutionally does not give a flying fuck about her, refusing her every benefit that could possibly earn her loyalty, from decent scheduling to maternity leave to a reasonable expectation of job security.
Meanwhile, even though she has a full-time job, she can’t afford housing, food, or clothing, let alone vacation travel. She can’t afford routine dental care or glasses. She has little or no control over her work schedule, so her life is never her own and getting a second job is unreasonably difficult. (You try scheduling anything for next month when your schedule is only posted two weeks in advance.) She gets scheduled to work every major and minor holiday. She may be routinely expected to work unscheduled overtime to ‘help out’ an employer who is understaffed due to turnover, the very same employer who can’t be arsed to provide a job decent enough to reduce turnover so she doesn’t have to.
For eighteen fucking thousand dollars a year.
Oh, wait, that was my last job I just described. I’ve never actually worked for BP. They paid a dollar over minimum wage, so that’s actually twenty grand a year before taxes.
The 2015 poverty level, by the way, is $11,770, which is the level at which you’re homeless and starving and aren’t going to stay employed anyway because people who can’t shower can’t keep their jobs.
Why would anyone want to do that? Why would a kid right out of college, with sixty grand in student loan debts, ever take such a job? Why would a middle aged and experienced worker ever take such a job?
In a sane world, they wouldn’t. And it’s not because they’re lazy or because they’re too proud, it’s because this sort of job is entry level and shitty. Like working at McDonald’s below the management level, it’s a job that’s “supposed” to be for kids.
We’re a nation of low-paying kids’ jobs. Middle class jobs for college educated non-specialists are becoming fewer and farther between. And industry, bizarrely, is blaming its thousands of unfilled jobs on the workers, saying they’re unskilled or lazy, rather than on the fact that its jobs are shitty and don’t pay a living wage.
Because wanting a living wage, wanting to get some benefit from dedicating yourself to a company, is the same as being unskilled or lazy?
And yet you’ll notice that when you go to BP, or The Home Depot or Target or the grocery store, that a lot of these shitty, low-paying, entry-level jobs with long hours are filled by middle aged people. Because they’re not too proud to work shitty jobs. They’re not on SNAP because they’re lazy, they’re on SNAP because industry doesn’t fucking pay employees appropriately for their work. Period.
I’ve been looking for a part-time office gig for five years now and I’ve had exactly one, and even that I got by accident. Nobody can afford part-time office help to come in and do the filing (or the social networking, because there’s not as much filing these days). The rare part-time office job is temporary and handled by agencies, who skim three bucks off the top for their overhead and make a $12 per hour gig into a $9 one.
(I’m registered with at least four agencies and get a lot of emails. The pay rates are shocking. They want people to go work three twelve-hour days an hour’s drive away to inventory a warehouse, but the pay is minimum wage. They want temp skilled office work for a lawyer’s office, but the pay is two bucks an hour over minimum wage. If you’re required to possess a skill and wear a suit to work, you should be earning enough money to be able to afford to buy yourself lunch, shouldn’t you? I mean, is that somehow an unreasonable expectation?)
No. And yet every time a state increases minimum wage, there are Chicken Little articles about how restaurants are struggling because they can’t afford to pay crap wages and stay in business! We can’t make these honorable, entrepreneurial Americans pay more than they can afford!
Crickets from Walmart, BP, The Home Depot, McDonald’s. It’s always a few small restaurants and some version of “The sky is falling!” in these articles, even though it’s obvious this legislation is not about small restaurants, it’s about massive corporations who prey on the working class through wage theft… not because they have to, but merely because they can.
“The left claims they’re for American workers, and they’ve got lame ideas, things like minimum wage,” Walker said during an interview with Fox News. “We need to talk about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.”
But people do have skills. I have the skills and the qualifications. So does my cousin Paul, who spent several years out of work. So do millions of Americans. It’s not that the workforce is wholly underqualified, it’s that the jobs suck so much and pay so little and are so demeaning that you avoid them if you possibly can, because you’re not a kid looking for a summer job, you’re an adult with a family to provide for.
Not to mention that if you’re an older, skilled worker post-layoff, accepting a minimum wage Amazon warehouse job ruins your unemployment eligibility and your résumé. You literally can’t afford to take such a job.
A friend of mine told me today she’d heard that warehouse jobs were going unfilled because, according to industry, ‘Millennials lack a decent work ethic.’ But I think the truth is that kids don’t work those jobs anymore. People like me work those jobs, and we’re not applying for them because they suck. The conditions are crap, the security is crap, the hours are crap, the endless corporate rhetoric is embarrassing, and to add insult to injury, the pay is crap.
It’s not that people are too lazy or too proud to work these jobs, it’s that the jobs aren’t jobs anymore. A job is a contract between an individual and a company in which the individual earns money for work. The majority of current jobs, though, are relationships in which the individual agrees to act as slave labor, giving up time, comfort, pride, and the ability to support herself, in order to make rich people richer. The contract between the worker and the company is broken.
At THD, there was an emergency fund for employees. Heart attack and under-insured? The fund will help you out. House burned to the ground? The fund will help you out. Super awesome idea, really humane. The kicker, though: the fund itself was filled by employees, not the company. People making ten bucks an hour — myself included — donating a few bucks per paycheck to help each other out in times of need, not the billions-of-dollars-per-year corporation they were working for. Because the contract between the worker and the company is broken.
Companies exist to make money. Employees are replaceable machine cogs. That’s the bottom line.
Do I want to work in food service for minimum wage? No. Do I want to work at a gas station for minimum wage? No. I don’t want to work anywhere for minimum wage, and I especially don’t want to do it AND suffer random scheduling and sore feet while having to spew bullshit from training videos (that nobody could possibly ever truly mean) to actual human being customers.
But I will, because as far as I can tell unless I’m willing to saddle myself with a full-time career-oriented job and a car, there’s no other option. And I’ll rage against it every single day, because the inhumanity and greed of it all disgusts me.
Seriously, all I want is a decent little part-time job. Decent hours, decent pay, decent commute. When did this become too much to ask?