My husband was raised by a traditional family. Not traditional like mine where there was a franticly planned wedding to coincide with a couple of missed periods. But a real live honest to goodness traditional family. Like TV level traditional. Think Cleaver level traditional. He grew up in eastern Kentucky, and his dad did have a job that related to the mines and/or coal or some other scraps of earth. But the job was in an office and not in a mine.
My husband wasn’t born until years after his parents were married. His dad worked upwards of 80 hours a week and his mom stayed home. His dad worked for the same company for decades and provided a decent life for his family. Decent enough that my husband was one of those kids who got a car when he turned 16. He saw his dad work hard and provide for his family. His dad didn’t have a formal education, he earned his position based on his skills.
Now it’s my husband’s turn to be a husband and he feels like a failure. He wants to be able to provide for his family and can’t. He makes what most consider to be good money, but we can’t make ends meet. He feels ashamed because of this. His father was able to do it on a lower hourly wage and he can’t.
So he decided to listen to everyone else and go back to school. He has a degree now and nothing to show for it…except a student loan that we can’t pay off. He keeps following the rules in this system and just keeps failing. He hates himself for it. I know that he thinks that our failing is his fault.
But it’s not. He’s part of an already unfair system that is working against him. He gets angry with me about my living wage crusade because he says that if a “burger flipper” makes $10-15 an hour then his wage won’t mean shit. But he still doesn’t realize that because those workers are being paid so little he can still be paid double that and not make ends meet.
For the thousandth time:
DEVALUING MY WAGE ALSO DEVALUES YOUR WAGE, EVEN IF IT’S HIGHER!
Like I said, his dad was able to find a position within a company that he liked and was good at and stay there. My husband won’t be able to. They will want him to move up even if he enjoys his current position, even if he does it well. He isn’t looking forward to that.
And the really bad news is that even after all of his father’s loyalty to the company he worked for, it didn’t matter.
You see, his father had a heart attack a few years ago. He had rarely missed a day of work in his life…except for the time when he had his first heart attack. He was loyal to his company to a fault. He believed that this would mean that he could retire and reap the benefits of a pension and all that neat stuff you get when you retire from a company you have been loyal to for that long.
Only that’s not what happened. My father in law was “let go” from his company while he was taking a few vacation days…to have a double bypass.
The company he had devoted his life to simply left him a voicemail while he was laying on a table with his chest cracked open.
That was what his loyalty had earned him.
And now he feels more ashamed than my husband because he was fired instead of retiring.
Neither of them should feel ashamed. They work hard, they do the best they can and better. They didn’t fail. They aren’t failing.
But that’s how they feel.
Every time my husband has to count pennies or flat say no when one of his kids asks for something as simple as a new shirt he feels ashamed.
Every time we can’t have a cheap pizza for dinner because we can’t afford it, he feels ashamed.
He works 60 or more hours a week and we still can’t get by so he feels ashamed.
But, again, we make more than minimum wage. We don’t have any right to complain. Right?
He makes double minimum wage after all.
Except that his job puts him in harm’s way constantly. Every time he goes into a house he has no idea what to expect. Every time he climbs a ladder or a pole to get to a line that’s just under a power line. Every time he has a confrontation with someone who is convinced that he can be threatened into giving them something for free. He risks his life every day and still can’t make ends meet.
But hey, he makes about what a cop would so that’s fair right? Only it’s not. No one who puts themselves in harm’s way should have to suffer for it. Be they cops, firefighter, soldier, or even a lowly phone installer. No one should have to scrape by for that.
I worry about him constantly. He meets people in their own homes. Not that bad right? Except that you never know who the person is or what they are really like. He has seen drug deals happen right in front of him. He has been in homes of people so mentally unstable that it was frightening. He doesn’t even tell me about the homes he has to go into anymore because he doesn’t want me to worry. He has friends who work in the same profession, for other companies, who have been robbed at gunpoint.
He once told me a story of one of the guys he worked with being trapped inside his van with a group of people rocking it trying to turn it over. He couldn’t drive away because some of them were holding children hoping he would hit them and they could make money off of it.
Another friend of his was trapped in a house with someone who was mentally unstable and violent.
It isn’t right that these guys, or anyone else like them, is doing this job for so little pay.
And that’s nothing really. We just had a friend who was given a raise and promotion in the Army…he now still makes less than my husband.
Can you believe that shit? A man who is willing to lay down his life for his country makes less than a phone installer!
But hey, they get to say they make double min wage right? So they shouldn’t feel ashamed. They should be happy and just work harder. Right?
- Minimum Wage Was Once Enough To Keep a Family of 3 Out of Poverty (theatlanticcities.com)
- Orlando residents protest minimum wage (wesh.com)
- Minimum Wage Workers Picket For Better Pay (chicago.cbslocal.com)