Michael Morse: “Re: Black-Ties Have the Best Toasts, but Workers Eat Asbestos”
The hardest job I ever had was a line cook. 110 degree air, steaks on the grill, fries in the frialator, toast ready for the club sandwich, waitresses waiting, orders coming in, orders going out, sauté ready, steamer buzzing, this one well done, that one rare, fries are ready, I need that club, 86 corned beef, I need a Reuben! Too late, order up! Order in! Hour after hour. It took every ounce of energy to make it through the shift. I was good, one of the best. I barely made minimum wage. People won’t pay $20.00 for a burger, that’s life; I don’t need an economics degree to figure that out.
Construction wasn’t much better. One November morning I lost the argument with the foreman and climbed the ladder to the roof of a four-story condo that was under construction. He had a deadline to meet or the company would be fined. The sun was on the horizon, no time to melt the thin layer of frozen dew that glazed the surface. I got to the peak, slipped, and then started sliding to the edge, nothing but icy plywood to grab on to. A foot from the edge, a roofing nail that wasn’t fully embedded lodged into the skin just below my knee, slowing my momentum and stopping me just before I went over, fifty feet onto a pile of rocks. I still have the scar; it reminds me of how fortunate I am. I made ten bucks an hour, no benefits.
Private employment is no picnic, I am well aware of that fact. I think the “market” needs to reassess itself and get its priorities straight.
Public employees have a huge advantage over the private sector. The people who decide who gets what are not spending their own money. It makes it easy to pay well and offer decent benefits. Public outcry dies down when the economy improves and the private sector starts doing better. Everybody wants to keep their money in their own pockets; that is human nature. Private sector employees, especially those employed by small companies are at the mercy of the marketplace. What is right is not necessarily what is done. There is always somebody waiting to do the job for less regardless of the risk. If they are not willing to do it themselves, they will find some desperate soul to do it for them. Competition has replaced common courtesy and common sense. We are all in this together. Paying people what they are worth rather than what you can get away with is a dying sentiment in the private sector.
Competition in the workplace keeps prices low and goods affordable. It is one of the basic principles of capitalism. My concerns are that we have gone as low as we can, our health and safety are being compromised, those with the power are exploiting those without, and those without are willingly being led to their own demise with a badge of righteous indignation proudly worn while suffering from the illusion that they are their own men in control of their destinies. They are like cattle being herded to the slaughterhouse, unknowing, thinking they are safe, the illusion of freedom and a fair market blinding them to the reality that they have become powerless pawns whose minds and backs serve those holding their purse. They want to take the public sector with them.
I would prefer to see everybody paid a decent wage commensurate with their ability and value to the economy. Unions, far from perfect, are better than the alternative. The money is there; we need to figure out how best to make it work.