Thursday, August 02, 2012

That Wasn't Easy

After a tough week for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy offered him some advice: Go to a Staples in every city you visit.

Romney, who polls lower than Obama in the likeability factor, needs to talk about his accomplishments with the American voters more candidly, McCarthy said at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor Wednesday.

And McCarthy said Romney can start doing that by reminding voters of the company he built. - Politico

Do you really think that's a good idea, Other Kevin McCarthy?

As customers, most of us know the big bright boxy stores, the ever-eager "associates," and the omnipresent Easy Button. But last fall I got an insider's look at the kind of jobs Mitt Romney created.

For various reasons (largely detailed here) our family budget was running a deficit last fall. Unlike the Republican Congress, Koni and I decided to both cut spending and enhance revenue. One of us needed another job, and we agreed I was best suited.

It's not the first time I've had a second job, though the other one was a lot better. Despite our reputation as overpaid and lazy, I know a fair number of my fellow government employees in the same boat, working a second job to make ends meet. So take that and deduct it from your "voluntary" insurance payment, Terry.

I live four blocks from my workplace, but unbelievably I found a job between the house and the office. The neighborhood Staples was hiring tech staff - in StaplesSpeak, "EasyTech" staff. It turned out to be less techie and more sales and shelf stocking, but work's work.

But work's not always a living.

Some of the staff were students, of course, this being Iowa City. But for more of them, it was their main job. I was pulling in all of $8.25 an hour, less than half what I earned at the day gig. Not great for 15-20 hours a week of moonlighting. And try feeding and housing just yourself, let alone a family, on 40 hours a week of that.

These are the jobs Mitt Romney wants to brag about.

One reason for the low wage scale was quickly apparent. The second training video I watched, right after the Don't Steal Stuff video, was the Don't Join A Union video. Didn't push the issue with the other "associates," didn't bother to mention to the managers that at the day job I was chair of the bargaining unit and getting ready for contract negotiations.

With big bucks like that, I watched a revolving door of turnover. In the four months I was at Staples, eight people quit including, as I found out when I got called in, two in one night. One refugee was excited that her new job paid all of $11 an hour.

The bills got caught up and I left right after Christmas. If I had been making something even remotely close to what I earned at the main job, I might have stuck around for a shift or two on the weekend. But at $8.25 an hour, my free time and family time was more valuable. I was lucky enough to have the choice.

The people I worked with, managers and colleagues, were good to me personally and worked around my schedule at the main job. I got some good stories out of working my first and only retail Black Friday. I still shop there. I suppose that in the context of big box retail, Staples was about average.

But it's that context that's the problem.

Staples is the shining example Mitt Romney holds up to illustrate his business "skill." But his real skill is at outsourcing and downsizing and transferring wealth upward, like his tax plan that raises taxes for the bottom 95% while cutting them for the top 5%.

What trickles down to the rest of us, Mitt?

Eight and a quarter an hour, that's what.


Big Grove Walker said...

The rest of the story about this class of jobs is that employers have beaten wages down, and can do so partly because the turnover costs less than paying a living wage, and there is a social safety net that will help with retirement via Social Security and Medicare.

While the Paul Ryan budget would gut Social Security and Medicare, I don't hear Republicans calling for an increase in minimum wage to replace the lost benefits.

If Republicans are successful in advancing their agenda, the cost of labor will see additional downward pressure, and perhaps achievement of the goal of some to eliminate the minimum wage altogether.

Nice post John.

Sick of Spin said...

If there's a high turnover of employees when it comes to stocking shelves, then the $8+ per hr. wage is justified. No reasonable business owner is going to go through the process of marketing/hiring/orientating/training a new employee at $10/hr for that job, when the odds are that employee is going to quit 4 weeks later. For those that stick it out, they climb the ladder, the get the raise after 90 days and the raise at six months. Deeth didn't tell you about those people. His story while first hand, was still cherry picked. Minimum wage is entry level, a temporary gig. It's foolish and dishonest to describe it as anything else. here's what's NOT being told: the number of heads of household that earn JUST minimum wage, all you pro-minimum wage hike people leave that number out of the conversation. Why? Because it exposes the flaw in your argument.