Welcome to my life.
I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to come up with an extra $400 a month so that we can make ends meet, even though my husband works for over $16 an hour as a communication technology installer.
Why are we in such bad shape?
Almost three years ago my husband decided that moving from Florida to eastern Kentucky would be a great idea. We struggled up there for two years then gave up and moved back to Florida this year. Why would we make an exceedingly stupid move like that? Allow me to explain in excruciating detail.
You see, we have a very deep and shameful secret; we are low wage earners. Especially me.
I’ve been a cashier for 20 years. It’s a job that I am not only good at, but one that I am proud to do. The work is neither hard nor is it important. But I still love doing it. I find customer rushes exhilarating and thoroughly enjoy challenging myself to see how much more efficient I can be with each customer.
I have worked for WalMart multiple times. One of their policies is to judge your performance on your iph, how many items you can scan per hour. You are expected to exceed 500 in an unfair system that is designed to make sure you can fail. The expected iph is based on perfect conditions, scan, bag, pay. It’s a system where the customer has no coupons, WIC, kids, vocal cords, or anything else that will slow the scan, bag, pay, process.
Oh, and your raises and even the hours you will be able to work are based off your performance within this system.
My regular average is between 700-800. On a good day, during the first of the month, with the register in the right location, I can almost double the expected iph.
And I’m not even one of the best!
But I’m not supposed to be proud of any of that because I’m “just a cashier”.
You see, society tells me that I am no longer allowed to take pride in a job well done unless that job meets or exceeds certain expectations. “Just a cashier” doesn’t meet that criteria. So, even though I do my job well, I can’t be proud of it.
In fact, I should be ashamed.
Instead of being proud of having a job, proud of how good I am at that job—no matter how menial it may seem to someone else—and proud to be able to work for my wages, I should be ashamed of my job.
Because my job is so shameful, I shouldn’t expect to earn a living wage at it. Because all I’m doing is “scanning shit and putting it in a bag” I should expect to earn a lower wage than it takes to live on…for far fewer hours as well.
In the most vocal social view I should be so ashamed of myself for putting myself in a position where I have to be a low wage worker that I should just be thankful to be given the privilege of being able to work at all.
So, even though I enjoy my job, I do my job well, and I want to keep doing a job that I enjoy and makes me happy to do, I can’t.
Society says that in order to be able to be proud of my work I have to do something that they view as important enough or valuable enough to be proud of.
That’s why they say to get an education in order to “better yourself”
Unfortunately they don’t tell you what kind of education to get, just to get one. And if you weren’t raised in an environment where getting a higher education was common, you just have to guess and hope for the best.
So I have a useless technical certification in small engine repair—motorcycles, with a Harley-Davidson specialty—I am an accounting credit shy of a useless AS in Paralegal Studies, and the last of my student loan funding will be used to get a second, but equally useless, AS in General Studies, in the hope that accomplishing this will be enough to qualify for another grant or scholarship to get some kind of, hopefully useful, BA or BS that will allow me to get a job where I can make enough to pay off all of my other useless loans.
But I didn’t want that. All I wanted was the ability to do what I enjoy for a living wage.
- Minimum wage vs. living wage (doncastrianpijaczka.wordpress.com)
- What Walmart Could Learn From Henry Ford (readersupportednews.org)
- Pa. House Democrats push for minimum wage increase (fox43.com)