About America’s minimum wage, if you ask me, it is absolutely shameful how little some employers are willing to pay me, as an employee, for buying one hour out of my life. Personally, I actually put a lot of value on one hour of my life, or on 40 hours of my life, or on 40 years of my life! However, it is obvious that employers who pay minimum wages do not place much value on an hour of my life, or any one else’s!
So, I ask myself in disbelief, is the value of one hour of my life, really worth only the amount of America’s minimum wage?
My first job was a job at relative ‘hard labor’ at times, and doing a “man’s job”; the year was 1944, and I was 14 years old. A relative had recommended me. At the time, I was attending school and I worked daily during the summer school vacation and week-ends during the school year for about four years at that same job.
Really, I am unaware of whether or not there was a minimum wage at the time I took my first job, or a minimum age to work, for that matter. My boss agreed to pay me twenty-five cents an hour (no social Security or benefits) and at age fourteen, I had no other real alternatives; I considered myself fortunate to have a regular, dependable income. Until now, age fourteen, I had never had loose change to carry in my pocket.
Most days that I worked on my first job, I worked much more than eight hour days, usually about ten hours or more, but I was paid regular hourly pay for every hour worked (no overtime rates). One day, because of circumstances, my boss asked me to work for an extended time beyond the work day and I agreed; we worked for Twenty-six hours and I was paid for twenty-six hours that day. It caused me to wonder how I could get paid for working twenty-six hours in a twenty-four hour day.
After my first few weeks, my boss raised my pay to thirty-five cents an hour without my asking for a raise. It pleased me that he was satisfied with my work; I have always taken pride in my work, whatever it was.
My pay remained thirty-five cents an hour for the next four years, until I graduated from school and took a job at labor in an industrial plant for one dollar and twenty-five cents an hour.
Of course, my first job was during wartime (WWII), and America and my family were just emerging from the Great Depression. At age fourteen, I was just lucky to have a job.
As an employee, I liked my boss. The boss treated me well, he treated me fair, and he taught me everything he knew about ‘our’ business; I could do anything he could do and, I took pride in ‘our’ business.
Many years later, after my boss and I were both long retired, he told a mutual friend that he would like to see me once again, sometime. And so, one day I went to visit him. We exchanged pleasantries and then he looked me straight in the eye and he told me in all sincerity, “You are the best employee I ever had.” At that time he became more than my boss, to me; there are not many employers of that caliber.
That statement by my first employer meant more to me than the certificate I received after spending a lifetime as a public school teacher; Carl’s words were more sincere than my official certificate of retirement as a school teacher, though I consider myself an excellent teacher, from the student’s perspective. Some of my employers were not appreciative at all, of my work as a teacher. In reality, I did admire many of my employers, as a school teacher, it is just that I had more than my share of unappreciative employers.
Of the various employers that I had as a ‘professional’ teacher and as a laborer, none of them ever really matched my admiration for Carl, my first employer.
A lot has been said over the years about teacher’s salaries. In my life as a school teacher, I never really knew whether or not I was receiving the minimum hourly wage.
Contract teachers are not paid by the hour, they are paid by the year; and, the school year is ten months long and teachers are on call, by their contract, twenty-four hours a day during that 10 month period. At the beginning of every school year, I was reminded of that by my employer. Research shows that a teacher puts in an average of sixty hours of work per week.
For a while, I actually kept track of hours that I spent working on my job as a teacher and I realized that sixty hours a week was a conservative minimum number for me. My hours worked as a teacher added up to more than the hours I would have worked in a year if I worked a 40 hour week all year long.
Why is it that the People who talk about the “American Dream” are always employers, and they are never employees?
Today, I am long retired; and looking back, I discovered that I was an employee for my entire life.
Even though at times, I had the responsibility of hiring other employees, I was myself still an employee. And as an employee, I have tried often to remember if I ever had the “American Dream”; I don’t think I ever did. And, if I would have had an American Dream, I’m not sure what it would have been.
Mendel the monk was once hoeing his peas, and he was asked, “If you knew that tomorrow you were going to die, what would you be doing today.”
“I would be continuing to hoe my peas,” Mendel replied.
Mendel was not employed to hoe peas; instead, his peas were what Mendel was known for and Mendel’s peas were obviously Mendel’s “American Dream” (though he wasn’t an American).
But I just can’t help but wonder what it would cost to buy an hour of Mendel’s time with his peas; would he accept a minimum wage?
Personally, I have always enjoyed life, every moment of it; and I have tried never to waste a minute of it. My life has never been a dream; my life has always been precious reality time.
Probably, I never wanted to waste any time dreaming because I just love life; an hour of life is very precious to me.
An hour of my life is worth more than America’s minimum wage. But it was bought for twenty-five cents an hour, at one time.
NOTE: “Economic Policy Institute’s report found that if the minimum wage were boosted from its current level of $7.25 per
hour to $10.10, as proposed by the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2014, more than 1.7 million Americans would no longer have to rely on public assistance programs. This would produce $7.6 billion per year or more in savings for the federal government, according to the study”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/16/minimum-wage-public-assis_n_5992458.html
This means that people working for the minimum wage today, are subsidizing Corporate America that is statistically enjoying all time record high profits.