Posts Tagged ‘employment’

“We value you . . .”

So, I was told what my raise would be for 2018. $.28 per hour. I was also told “we don’t want you to leave (insert company here)” and “we really value you.”

In 2017, above company was paying me $14 per hour. Well, actually, for about half the year I was making less than that because of the cut the staffing agency was taking, but, whatevs. We’ll call it $14. To be fair, they also give benefits like a 401(k), if I can afford to contribute, health insurance with a deductible that’s only 20% of my income, and all the overtime you can work without losing your mind, assuming you haven’t lost it during regular hours. Not every company is that generous.

I got called in for my end-of-year evaluation to find out what my pay bump will be for this coming year. At this point I’m trained in almost everything I can be in this department, and up until I burned out, I was putting up excellent numbers.* I’m fairly certain that I wasn’t one of the ones exacerbating the calls that started with “This is the fourth time I’ve had to call you people!” My merit increase for 2018 is 3.5%, prorated. My supervisor wanted me to know that the company approved the 3% and she really fought for that extra 0.5%. Cool, that’s like, what, a nickle an hour? I’m gonna run right out and buy . . . nothing. Because nothing costs a nickle anymore. So, you know, thanks.

There are three points to consider here. Let’s start with the last one that I considered. The average inflation rate in 2017 was 2.1%. That means that 2.1% of my 3.5% prorated “merit” increase is in fact a cost of living increase. The actual number should probably be higher, given the cost of housing in Portland, but we’re going with national averages, here. What this tells me is that my merit, all of the overtime I put in, all of the uptraining I not only attended but actually learned, all of the showing up on time is worth 1.4% of my income to encourage me to keep doing it. I’m feeling the love, here. Really.

Point two, 3.5% of $14 is actually $.49 per hour. I started doing the actual job in January of 2017 for less than my coworkers in the same training class because of the staffing agency I came through. I wasn’t “officially” hired until June. Once again, the company is having words trump reality. I was doing the job all year, but I’m going to get nickled and dimed out of my pay increase because I wasn’t “officially” doing the job (that I was actually doing) for half that time. Well, pennied and dimed. Two dimes and a penny per hour, that is. My revenue for 2017 was low five figures. Theirs were upper nine or lower 10 figures, if I remember the self-congratulatory e-mail correctly. I can totally see why they need those two dimes and a penny more than I do. Makes sense.

The last point, the first one that occurred to me when I heard about my whopping $.28 raise, is that I can now afford a medium Dunkin Donuts iced coffee per day. Not a mocha, mind you, but more than a plain hot coffee. ($.28 X 8 hours= $2.24- 18% taxes= $1.84 take-home per day). Or, I can totally splurge at the end of the year and ($.28 X 2087 hours annually  = $584.36- 18% taxes= $479.18 ), well, let’s be honest. I’ll have already spent it by making a tiny dent in my debt or possibly on avocados. After all, we know that the reason Millenials are living in their parents houses in record numbers is avocados. So I’m worth a cup of coffee, but not rent money. I’m feeling very valued.

My supervisor and I also talked about what my next steps would be. She suggested that I work on officially moving the next step up in my department since it “should come with a pay bump.” Of what? $.50? Woo hoo. She was shocked when I asked when I might hear back from the other department that I’d applied for. That I’d already told her in no uncertain terms I was aiming for. Aside from the fact that it’s potentially a far, far better fit for my personality, I happen to know it pays more than half again as much as I’m currently making. She doesn’t want the company to lose me, but when I literally say “I want to be able to pay rent,” she doesn’t seem to be able to back me on figuring out how the company can help me do that. **

One third of my anticipated income for the year ($14.28 X 2087= $29,802.36 – 18% taxes / 3) is $8,145.98. According to common wisdom found everywhere, that’s what I can afford to spend on my housing without straining my budget elsewhere. That’s $678.83 a month and really needs to include heat since I do live in Maine. Around here I can rent a room for that amount, not an apartment. Given that my last rented room situation was . . . memorable, I’m not up to trying that again just now. I’ve been tracking my expenses for the last 18 months or so, and even after giving up my chickens, I’d have to do some rethinking in my budget if I were going to make progress on my debt while also paying rent. Actually, I’d have to do some rethinking of my budget just to pay the rent, even before I think about debt. As far as another injury like a broken leg? That’s just not an option. I couldn’t afford it.

Every few months or so they tell me at work that they value me. Whenever they remember to tell me much of anything. I suppose that comes with being a low maintenance employee. But every two weeks my paycheck tells me exactly how much they value me. Which is really not very much at all. As for the merit increase? It’s ($.28 X $14 =) 2%. Which is less than inflation for 2017. It’s good to know exactly how hard they’ll work to keep a low maintenance, trainable employee around, isn’t it?

*After writing this, I was given a new supervisor. In our first meeting he told me we really didn’t have anything to talk about. My numbers were great and I was doing everything they wanted. Apparently even after I burned out, I’m doing just fine.

**Publication held until I got the job without her help. You never know what your employer is reading online. I didn’t get the job.

Advertisements

Rent Workers vs Rent Capital

I’ve been on a documentary binge again. It’s so nice to have my brain working well enough to do that! So I’ve been sitting here slicing blueberries for the dryer- it’s as tedious as it sounds and requires a very sharp knife- and watching tv. I’ve ended up with several documentaries today with subtitles, which is challenging while you’re cutting things up, and this one was no different. However, this one also inspired me to set aside the blog post I started this morning so I could go in another direction.

As a wage worker, I am, in essence, renting myself to a company for a set amount of money. The pay might be per hour or per week, but it’s not tied directly to how the company is doing or, strictly speaking, how well I’m doing my job. If I do my  job badly enough, or if the company does badly enough, I might lose my job, but it’s not a very tight correlation. The first thing I realized is that I’m renting myself out way too cheap, and I need to figure out how to fix that.

The second thing I remembered is that it’s always a bad idea to buy a second-hand rental car. Why? Because people tend to be rougher on rental cars than on their own cars. Why not? They don’t have to deal with any long-term consequences. As a rental body, my employer has every reason to feel the same way about me. Sure they doll up the situation by talking about perks and benefits, but when it really comes down to it, I am there to get as much out of as possible and if it leaves me with structural damage? Eh, easy enough to rent a fresh one.

The reason we put up with it, as they point out, is because the consequences of walking away are even worse. As the richest country in the world, why do we have a massive amount of our population- they quote 20%- living in poverty? Because that is the whip the companies wield to make us put up with pointless jobs that don’t pay what our time is worth. Take what they deign to give us or risk living on the streets. No wonder the lobbyists- I mean government- fought so hard against Obama Care. Anything that strengthens the social safety net even a little will weaken their ability to abuse us.

So what’s the solution? Instead of renting ourselves to investors (business owners/management), we rent the investors. They give us x amount of capital with, I assume, y amount of return either in fixed percent or in percent of profits- but they don’t get any votes. The people that are doing the work make the decisions. All of a sudden, shifting crates around a warehouse on a forklift isn’t a pointless job because your income and employment is tied quite directly to what’s in those crates and how quickly and safely they get to their destination. And if the warehouse is being used inefficiently, you are the person who will see it- and who will be expected to speak up about it. A couple of the side effects they’ve seen are also more efficiency and fewer managers. Imagine- fewer managers.

There are even larger impacts that turning our workplaces from dictatorial institutions to democratic ones could have. From a political perspective, if we gain some sort of control over where we spend 40 or more hours of our week, we might believe we can have control over things like our government on small and large scales. From an environmental perspective, we can ditch the idea of perpetual growth because we need to produce enough for all of the workers to live well in their community, not enough for the owner to buy a second yacht for the Bahamas. From a happiness perspective, as the company becomes more efficient, we don’t need to invent busy work to justify our incomes- we can shorten work days and lengthen vacations. We might even end up with enough time and money to start a small business of our own.

Goodness. No wonder the worker rental prices are so low. When people have the time and energy to do more than drag themselves from one work day to the next, who knows what else they might come up with! They might start demanding unrigged elections and clean water! No, best to keep things the way they are. After all, we wouldn’t want to go changing the things that work so very well for only the very rich.