Monday, March 17, 2014

The American Worker

The above photo is a common sight after any major storm. Although in this case Santee Cooper is state owned, something of which I am no fan, the distribution is a member owned Cooperative – the workers are with private contractors. In the rural south nonprofit cooperatives are a common phenomena.

Now that is out of the way let's talk about the photo itself. I might not know the men in that photo, but I personally know many like them. These men and women sometimes left school early, and with determination they managed to get that GED . Some went to a technical college while others simply started at the very bottom. No matter their start they work side by side in mountainous regions or low country swamps.

When there is a major outage these men and women find sleep wherever it can be found. They might be found taking an hour nap in one of the trucks while still wearing their soggy clothing. These are the men and women who make sure your house is cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

You won't find this labor force filled with illegal immigrants. When you see one of them in a mud filled ditch with a pick and shovel, you will find someone who grew up in the region. Their flesh might be a variety of shades, but they are all Americans and South Carolinians.

The point is you don't have to look south of the border to find people who will do the hard jobs. There are a lot of Americans who will gladly do the dirty jobs. Today we have a school system and too many parents that tell their children they are too good for this type of work. Those same people will look down on those who get dirty for their paychecks.

What these people too often forget is there are many Americans who love getting their hands dirty. There are those who till the soil because they love the work, and not because they will find riches behind the plow.

College is a great thing. Every society needs teachers, scientists, and engineers. Good doctors are in high demand. The problem comes when some of these people are in college simply because they want to earn good wages or have a job where they don't get dirty. This is a huge part of our problems today. We need the best and brightest in college. We want people in college who have earned their way with hard work.

Todays colleges are filled with people who are there simply because they don't want to work. Sometimes the best and brightest are turned away because of state mandated quotas. Sometimes they are forced away because classes are filled with people who would be better suited in a technical or vocational school.

Because government now freely loans money for college the institutions have increased costs to attend. This happens anytime government becomes involved. In some cases student loans are needed, but those instances are rare. Many people have spent a decade working their way through college. Sometimes along the way they discover a love for their current job, or an opportunity comes their way, and they change majors. College is something that should be savored and well thought through.

I have a friend who was working her way though college, as well as receiving a small allotment from the state lottery. She had been working toward an accounting degree when suddenly came the opportunity to buy the business where she worked. Because she had not rushed through college by amassing debt, she was able to change her major to business. She now owns an auto repair shop. Along the way she had to learn through experience pretty much every part on the automobile.

This could happen because her education hadn't been structured by some school councilor that had only the best interest of the institution in mined. Too many people entering college have no idea what they want to do the rest of their lives. It is rare that a child of 18 can know what kind of work they want to do for the next 40 years. Technical college worked out well for me. I enjoyed my work for the next 30 years following graduation, but I know now that work too often didn't fulfill my creative side.

We have the small business owner who many times never graduated from college. They might have attended a few classes needed to operate their business, but a degree was never in the picture. The life of a small business owner is not a bed of roses. You might find him or her one day mopping the floor or unstopping the toilet. You might find them having to break up a fight in their establishment because if he or she sat back and waited for the police the damage would be too great to customers and property.

The world takes many different jobs to continue spinning. No job is too large or too small. When the day comes and you feel you are above doing menial tasks, the future will come knocking. For 30 years I earned above average wages. Today I would feel rich with that income. I have been on jobs that minimum wage would have been a pay raise. I didn't do those jobs for the money, I did them because that's what I wanted. At the end of a long day many self employed people will have worked for wages well below minimum wage.

All jobs and occupations aren't created equal, but the passion with which they are done should be. If you see someone working for a low wage, let that person be content with doing something they love. Don't look down on service workers because you earn your living in a steel tower. If you want to help those around you, vote for those who are best for the economy – those who will not stifle small business with obscene regulations.

Oh yes, the next time you see a line worker sweating in the hot sun or shivering in the freezing cold after a storm, buy them an appropriate drink.

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