Today I saw a video clip of the union-backed Wal-Mart protests. As I watched the news segment I saw a woman holding a sign that said “I make $8.60 an hour.” Given the nature of the protests against Wal-Mart I would figure that woman’s sign was not necessarily displayed to show gratitude for the money she earns.
A little over six years ago I took a job that paid me $8.50 an hour, because I needed work. I had put myself in the place that I needed work, which is different than the position some find themselves in today, but nonetheless I took a job at a place that was willing to employ me and I did the best I could to prove to my new employer that he had made the right decision. I worked hard, and continued to work harder, in the effort to show my value for a couple of reasons; as a way of giving thanks to the man who offered me the opportunity to earn the wages he put before me, and as a display that I was ultimately worth more than the initial wage agreed upon at the time of my hiring.
Today I am a member of the management team at that same company. I am compensated with a salary well above that initial starting wage I received years ago, but my ethic has never changed. Every day when I go to work I strive to prove I am more valuable than the pay I receive, and because I have maintained this standard I have seen my pay raised more than probably any other individual within our company over the past few years. Yet I feel no guilt or shame; instead, I feel pride, gratitude, and a responsibility to be a better member of the team that has accepted me and provided me with the wonderful opportunity to use my skills to the betterment of all around me.
An $8.60 per hour job is not really supposed to be a career. A job at that level is supposed to be a building block; a place where a person can learn work ethics, perhaps find a skill, or get by during difficult times. In my opinion, generally speaking, a person who attempts to make a career of an entry level position in any industry is not expecting enough of his or herself, and needs to aspire for greater achievements.
One of the complaints registered by some of the Wal-Mart protests had to do with stores opening on Thanksgiving Day. While I can sympathize with the sentiment, I cannot in good faith agree with the complaints. For years I worked on nearly every holiday, depending on the industry of my chosen work. Tow truck drivers drive year round, and many restaurants and bars are open during times most people are home relaxing.
Retail is expanding its horizons by opening on Thanksgiving Day, but times are tough all around these days. These places of business are making an effort to serve the interests of two fronts; investors and customers. By offering customers more shopping hours and lower prices, retailers hope to liquidate more of their inventory and add to overall profits, which serve investors who expect a return on their risk. And while this scenario requires hours of work from some that may not necessarily enjoy getting off the couch while the turkey is still digesting, to many individuals it provides an opportunity for more income, a fantastic price on an item otherwise not easily attainable, or a check that says thank you for risking your capital in our business.
Of course we can argue the merits of wanting “things” and whether or not the things sold by these big box retailers are worth the price paid in many ways by many individuals, but in my opinion that is a deeper discussion about the moral decay of society that has led to lines being blurred between needs and wants.
Back in 1982 times were also tough, and an upstart rock band called Huey Lewis and The News wrote a song about what it means to be that person, struggling to make ends meet while not having to borrow from family and friends, yet understanding that it’s always important to be grateful to have the income we have. The song is a mainstay on radio still today, and the message still rings true; whether you’re a bus boy, bartender, grease monkey, or an ex-junkie who has worked hard, been responsible and shown gratitude for an honest day's pay for the work I put in...
I’m taking what they’re giving, ‘cause I’m Workin’ for a Livin’.