I just got done with an interview. I know I’m not going to get the job. I wrote down that my expected starting salary was $9.00. The company actually too issue with that. They told me flat out that I was asking for far too much.
Mind you, state minimum wage here is $8.50 an hour & this was the second time that it has happened. The first time was at a temp agency for a job that I know started at $13 an hour. Of course, starting me out at over the absolute minimum would cut too deeply into the pockets of the temp agency. They needed to make the full $4.50 an hour for every hour that I worked as their cost for hiring me for the company.
This is a concept that my parents are struggling to understand. They don’t know what I am doing wrong. When they both worked minimum wage jobs & could afford a house, a cheap car, & two children. Clearly people my age must be doing something wrong if they can’t afford a house & two kids on a minimum wage salary.
There is a massive disconnect between what my parents believe this country is still like & what it has become over the generations.
Their son has two degrees & three endorsements & certifications. He graduated college with a 4.0 & did the same through graduate school. Clearly I’m a smart man, well educated, & clearly I am doing something wrong. With my background & education, people would have been lining up to hire me…when they were kids. They only wished they had that education so they could get one of the better jobs.
And it’s my generation, my lazy generation that cooked our own food & did our own laundry in elementary school when mom & dad were at work, that won’t get off our asses & find a good job. Not to mention those generations that followed X.
The problem here is an assumption that America has not fallen behind, it hasn’t gotten any worse. The assumption here is that the US has just as much wealth & opportunity as it offered mom & dad, but their children are too lazy to take it.
Now mind you, I’m Generation X, mom & dad were at work & this is interesting, because both parents had to work to keep the standard of living that their parent’s had. Mom & Dad both lived in a home where only their father’s worked. My grandmothers were housekeepers by occupation, their jobs were to raise my parents.
When my parents became adults, they didn’t seem to notice that they weren’t exactly as well off as grandma & grandpa & they were both working to claw their way above the middle-class line. It meant that my grandma was there to raise them, but they couldn’t stay home to raise us. The economy didn’t offer them that same opportunity.
Fast-foward to Generation X & I’ve never really worked for minimum wage before. When I was in high school, minimum wage was $5.15 an hour, but all the bull shit high school jobs I worked started around $7 an hour. The local supermarket started at $6.50 with a $0.50 raise after three months. The cafe I managed my senior year started at $6.25 for the associates & hired a seventeen-year-old manager for $7.15 an hour. Two whole dollars above the minimum wage for a kid that didn’t even have a high school diploma yet.
Now my last job actually paid less than minimum wage. My last job was for the government & paid $7.50. I haven’t made that little since, well, since my first high school job. But to be fair, it was funded by a grant & when I started the application process it was paying $11 an hour & by the time I was actually hired it was $7.50 & this was the last year of the grant & the last year of my position.
What was I doing? I was doing Ebola. I was planing strategies & running tests & live action drills to prepare my county for a massive biological outbreak, not unlike Ebola & the position was cut by the Republican Party. The same party that wants to lower minimum wage.
I didn’t really have any experience in the whole epidemic thing, I think they hired me because I knew who Don Francis was & I could explain what happened during the Spanish Flu & how people tried to counter & respond to it. Essentially they hired me because I had a history degree & knew how to apply the past to the present. Partly, also, because I had a Graduate’s degree in Education & could break down a complex thought so anyone could understand it.
Still, less than minimum wage.
There is a fight going on in Illinois for the Governor’s seat & one of the candidates want’s to eliminate minimum wage. He doesn’t believe that there should be a set low point that companies can pay their employees. He believes that companies should be legally allowed to pay sweatshop wages.
This is something my parents understand, having worked minimum wage jobs before.
Today, asking less than a dollar above minimum wage at some jobs is asking far too much. They will openly tell you that asking for a penny above minimum wage is asking far too much. They aren’t going to hire you, you had the audacity to insult them, during the interview, by believing that you are worth more than the bare minimum, even if it’s less than a dollar more.
And the battle in my state is for the right for companies to pay people even less than that.
We are facing a choice here in Illinois. We are fighting a battle. How much exploitation of people are we willing to tolerate? If you are on the right, you are advocating a dime above the return of slavery & if you are on the left you are trying to force companies to pay their employees enough to afford a small apartment & food.
Which do you believe? Which side are you going to take? People or profits?