Thursday, November 05, 2009

Just be glad you have a job.

Since this recession began, I've heard a number of people comment about someone else's employment situation: "He should just be glad he has a job." Well, yes, there is some wisdom in that statement, especially considering that a small city nearby, the unemployment rate is 17%, although it has gone down below 8% in the rest of this state.

I've heard about my friend's daughter who has a high profile job that her college degree prepared her for: she earns only a little above minimum wage. She has to look at this job as a stepping stone to a bigger and better position elsewhere.

I've observed what has happened to my son in his young work life. He worked at an entry level position for a company where he had interned. The pay was decent and there were benefits, but they broke promises to him about helping him financially to get classes so that he could take on more responsibility.

Then he got a "management" position at a large Big Box Store (no, not Wal-mart.) The pay was poor, considering that he had to have a specific college degree to get that job, and if you wanted benefits, you had to pay for them, which is hard to do when your pay is way less than it costs to attend college for a year. BTW, the owner of this business is a billionaire. But at least my son had some income, even it hardly covered his expenses.

Next he got some pick up work involving scraping and painting apartments. The pay had no tax subtracted from the gross amounts and the apartment owner had no building permits. There were no provisions for safety of the workers. And, oh yes, these apartments are in one of the most upscale areas of the city where many buildings are owned by this one man. But at least my son had a job. For two months.

My son moved to another part of the US where many people work for minimum wage, although that is higher than it is here. He got a job in a Big Italian Restaurant Chain, which pays whatever the lowest legal wage is, depending on which state they are in. Where he is, they pay $2.13/hour because there are tips. Yes, that is correct, I verified this on that state's website. The people tip 10% if the waiter is lucky. That wage is down more than $1/hour compared to two years ago. In this state, minimum wage in $6.25/ hour or $5.25/ hour, depending on the size of the company. How is it that the same restaurant chain can pay $4/hour less for the same work, just because the building is in another state? Oh, that's right, don't question, just be glad he has a job.

Well, Son was also applying elsewhere, and one place called him back for three additional interviews, but would not tell him what the salary would be. Then he was offered the job. It was a job with a good company and included benefits, but the salary offered was surprisingly low, considering that this is a lower management position. After thinking it over, my son decided he could probably do better as a waiter, so he said no because of salary reasons. Well, surprise! The manager called him back and offered him the position at a salary of 25% higher. Now I am glad that my son has a job.

During this recession I've come to the conclusion that the owners of companies, who may be making less than before, but who aren't starving, use the economic climate to get people to think, "At least I have a job." Wages are kept low and the wealthy owners can keep their accustomed life style.