March 21 was, among other things, “National Agriculture Day.” It seems there’s a day for everything, so some days (probably many days) serve double, triple or even greater duty. But in honor of this one, join me on a quick observational rambling.
Here’s a line from President Trump’s own proclamation declaring the day;
“American agriculture is the largest positive contributor to our Nation’s net trade balance, generating 10 percent of our exports and millions of American jobs”
If you’ve ever noticed a bumper sticker with the “No Farms No Food” statement, you probably spend some of your time in ‘the country,’ as I do. And if you do, you may have noticed a related campaign; “No Bees No Food,” as without natural pollinators many critical crops are doomed.
Perhaps if those looking to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency thought about the EPA in terms of their morning cup of coffee, they’d be less aggressive on the subject, but I am not a scientist and this is not a science article. Nor is it overtly political.
Instead, let’s ruminate just for a quick bit on the subject of “worker bees.”
Here are a couple of definitions from urbandictionary.com for ‘worker bee.’
“Job title for people who do all of the hard work but get none of the credit.”
“an employee of a company that plays a supporting or subordinate role. Can be applied to both white collar and blue collar jobs.”
I’ll add another:
We’re surrounded by grunts. They prepare the cappuccinos, serve the meals, ring up the groceries, load the freight, unload the freight, stock the shelves … without them, nothing gets done.
So let’s be honest. In many ways, ‘grunts’ or ‘worker bees’ are among the most important pieces of the workforce.
If management took a holiday, but left the keys with a worker bee – the coffee would probably still get served. I may be cynical at times, but not so much so as to deny that.
And while we’re in a fit of honesty, let’s admit it – worker bees are under paid.
In the interest of shareholder value, corporate profits, golden parachutes, executive severance, choose your poison, the grunts on the front line are generally paid as little as legally (or sadly, illegally) possible.
In New York, that’s a state mandated wage close to $3 higher than the Federal minimum of $7.25. If you think no one is paid that little, think again. A friend in North Carolina can attest – that’s the starting wage for entry-level work of almost any kind. He’s a small-engine technician.
“Fourteen states have a minimum wage equivalent to the federal minimum: Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The federal hourly minimum wage was last raised in 2009, to $7.25 per hour,” notes the Christian Science Monitor.
While business owners big and small bemoan the impact of raising that wage, few try to fly a mile in the wings of their worker bees (sorry).
Will raising the wage, reduce the number of jobs? – while that discussion should run toward automation and technology – someone will still be taking your order at Starbucks. And while Amazon may experiment with self-checkout, I suspect there will always be work for cashiers.
More than a decade ago I wrote a piece on the living wage movement.
That “living wage,” tied to what it actually costs to live in a given community, was between $15 and $16 per hour for a family of three, with a single earner in Ulster County, NY.
So here we are in 2017 and we all know that cost has gone up – have wages kept pace? Of course not.
Here’s a link to detailed living wage calculation (by state and county) you can use to gauge how far below (or above) a living wage you’re paying your worker bees.
I recall once reading an article about how cheap consumer goods were keeping the “working man” in check.
As long as fancy cell phones and big screen televisions are “affordable,” the labor force won’t rise up and demand higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions. Wal-Mart plays a major role. Sadly, that may be more true today than ever.
Woa … I feel myself getting political. Not my intention here.
I just wanted to draw a little attention to the plight of the worker bee – the grunt, as inspired by my mental riff on National Agriculture Day.
They say you can judge a CEO not by how they treat their fellow officers, but by how he or she treats the clerk, typist or janitor – the worker bees.
Saying good morning, and knowing their name is a start. Paying these human cogs in the economic machine a living wage should be the end goal.