Bitter one percenter stiffs waitstaff

Filed in National by on January 8, 2013

Some suggested interpretations of this message include:

“You may have already suspected that I was an asshole, but I have left you some documentation just in case.”

“I’m incredibly angry and not entirely sure who to blame so I lash out at everyone around me.”

“I’m mad about having to pay to keep the country running, and I’ve decided the most effective way to make my displeasure with this governmental policy known to the people responsible is to take it out my impotent rage on waitresses.”

This is a direct pickup from Boing Boing
When Bitter Republicans Tip (or more precisely, when they don’t)

About the Author ()

Jason330 is a deep cover double agent working for the GOP. Don't tell anybody.

Comments (71)

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  1. heragain says:

    In the old story, this was “kick the dog.”

    Waitstaff should refuse to serve anyone who isn’t wearing an Obama button.

  2. Tom McKenney says:

    If you can’t afford to tip don’t eat there. Just an excuse for some cheap gready bastard to avoid tipping.

    Waitstaff should be paid a living wage like in Europe but that’s another discussion

  3. Roland D. LeBay says:

    Has anyone actually confirmed that this is legitimate? It seems to fit the “conservatives are chiseling assholes” meme a little too well.

  4. jason330 says:

    Well, conservatives are chiseling assholes.

  5. Republican David says:

    I am sure there is one out of the millions in CA. I doubt it is a trend, let alone worth blogging about. The fact that minimum wage is still stuck at $2.33 an hour for wait staff is something worth discussing. Supposedly, if tips do not equal minimum, it is made up. Who does the reporting to make that determination?

  6. socialistic ben says:

    ” Supposedly, if tips do not equal minimum, it is made up.”

    As someone who worked for tips for many many years and dealt with many many many cheap ass-hats…. i can assure you, that is not true.
    It is nice to see you want to have a “discussion” about the slave-wage we sprinkle on our food handlers. Im sure that discussion doesnt involve giving them a raise, since that would be an anti-business hand-out and all.

  7. Dave says:

    My nephew is a bartender in Sussex County. Although it is slow during the winter, during the season (including what they call the shoulder season here), he makes extremely good money. I haven’t asked him if he would rather have a higher hourly (living) wage or the current arrangement with the tips he receives. I will ask, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that he prefers the current arrangement where he brings home quite a bit of money on good days.

  8. V says:

    That good for your nephew Dave. Also good for a friend of mine that works in a high end Philadelphia restaurant where the checks are so big he gets nice fat tips (of coures he only works there in the summer to supplement his day job – a teacher).

    Not so good for my friend who would work her ass off at the Red Lobster in Dover and get a $1 tip because she wouldn’t give them 30 cheddar biscuits.

    One anecdote doesn’t make the system ok.

  9. Dave says:

    Very true about anecdotes in general which is why we need to examine the economic model for the system to determine where you would make changes for the benefit of everyone. For example, if you increase the cost of labor, does that increase prices and serve to decrease demand, thereby decreasing jobs? Or can you mitigate increased prices by increasing value in some way? And of course, the system is really a system of systems (what we call SOS), in that it works differently (as our anecdotes demonstrated) for different types of businesses and regions.

    I tend to treat things as problems to be solved without passion or prejudice, so I am prone to be clinical. It doesn’t mean I lack empathy, it’s just that I tend to focus my energies on cause and effect. For example, I would want to know why your friend works at Red Lobster. The answer might be that there is no other opportunities. Then I would pursue that line and determine whether it is a skill issue that needs to be solved or lack of regional opportunity and so on until I can find the right combination of high value solutions. Of course, before I got that far someone would get all up in my grill for being a heartless bastard for asking why your friend works at Red Lobster but one of the keys to solutions is the answer to that question.

  10. socialistic ben says:

    your line of thinking undervalues the jobs at (for example) Red Lobster. I want people preparing my food to be healthy, well compensated, and happy with their job. My life, or at least my evening, could very well depend on someone NOT sneezing into my bisque because they arent paid enough, or allowed to take time off.

  11. pandora says:

    I’m confused, Dave. It sounds like you’re saying the fix to this is to close down the Red Lobsters, Olive Gardens, TGIFs, etc. I’m okay with that ;-) but it’s hardly realistic.

    Or… are you saying that a waiter at Red Lobster has only themselves to blame? There are only so many high end restaurants.

    I waitress-ed a lot, and tips varied depending on my location. BTW, this:

    Supposedly, if tips do not equal minimum, it is made up.

    Never have I seen, or heard, of this happening.

  12. jason330 says:

    I second closing down Red Lobster.

  13. cassandra_m says:

    I third closing down Red Lobster.

    Supposedly, if tips do not equal minimum, it is made up.

    This is true in NY, but don’t know of other states with this requirement.

    But places like Red Lobster are able to manage artificially low prices by relying on labor that is underpaid. As well as food that isn’t especially good.

  14. socialistic ben says:

    Actually, i hear that in The Confederacy, if your tips EXCEED minimum wage, it is common practice to work extra time for free so it all balances out. This time may also be spent praying to White Baby Jesus.

  15. V says:

    Good to know that my friend who waitressed for a living is to blame for the shitty chain she works for not paying her enough to live on when she works as many hours as me in my office job. I’ll tell her that. Resolving “skill issues” or “lack of regional opporutnities” is fine “without passion or prejudice”, but we know real life in the real world isn’t like that. People have kids, and elderly parents, rent payments and crappy job markets to deal with in the real world.

    I also highly doubt that if we paid servers money they could buy food for themselves with, that people would go to restaurants less. The institutionalized cost might even be less than if you’d tipped, I’m sure cheapos would go out to eat even more.

    She left that job btw.

  16. Dave says:

    “places like Red Lobster are able to manage artificially low prices by relying on labor that is underpaid. As well as food that isn’t especially good.”

    True, but only because people go there, either because they can’t afford better or because they like bargains. I try to keep my principles in mind when I spend my money. So no Wal Mart. No Papa John’s. Other people (like my Mom, will go anywhere to save a buck – she was a depression era child) are no so discriminating.

  17. Dave says:

    @pandora,

    I wasn’t say either one per se. SB has a good point that we want healthy/happy people handling our food and I will note that we the people have great power as consumers. One reason I would rather go to a higher end place is for that reason (although I’m sure they know how to spit in food at high end places as well).

    Also, I never assign blame, because that’s finding fault. I assign responsibility. If waitstaff does not like the status quo, they do have some responsibility to change their condition. If they are working at Red Lobster because of the lack of opportunity or skills to pursue their dream job, then we as nation and society need to ensure that the economy is providing opportunity and that we have in place the resources necessary to provid a hand up to those who wish to pursue a better future. There are some for whom a place like RL meets their needs (i.e. retirees, part time, etc.). However, for the others, it should only be a way station not a life sentence.

  18. cassandra_m says:

    If waitstaff does not like the status quo, they do have some responsibility to change their condition.

    And employers have no responsibility to pay their workers in some fair manner? The fact that some people want cheap food isn’t exactly a decent reason to undervalue the labor that gets you that food. The food is cheap precisely because the labor is undervalued.

  19. socialistic ben says:

    dave, sometimes every bit of disclaimer and clarification isnt enough :)
    the grunts have no say in how a company functions. Unless the waitress is able to organize a union and get everyone who works for her company (not just the chain, but all the other chains owned by the Private Equity Group, as most chain eateries are… see YUM Corp.) she can’t do squat.
    She (I am using she here as the pronoun because he/she is too much to type…. not because i think all wait staff should be, or is women…. hm… that disclaimer was probably more work than typing he/she…. not to say that it shouldn’t be she/he) is a disposable interchangeable part to the people who run the company. Consumers have more power than we think. Papa John put his tail right between his legs after his idiotic comments caused people to stop buying his cheese covered paper.

  20. V says:

    “If they are working at Red Lobster because of the lack of opportunity or skills to pursue their dream job, then we as nation and society need to ensure that the economy is providing opportunity and that we have in place the resources necessary to provid a hand up to those who wish to pursue a better future.”

    I 100% agree witht his Dave, but the sole reason why my friend was at that shitty job at the time is because those opportunities and resources do not exist.

  21. Glop shop chains like Red Lobster, Appleby’s, Olive Garden and the like exploit cheap labor as part of their business model. So, of course, do Walmart and other big-box employers.

    Not only do the workers get screwed, but so do the taxpayers. The average Walmart associate costs state and local government about $10K annually. The deck is stacked against them when it comes to getting affordable health care b/c the hours are manipulated to ensure that the companies don’t have to pay for it.

    Walmart’s own employee benefits (there’s an oxymoron for you) manuals include the contact information for local social services offices and detail how to apply for Medicaid.

    I think legislators should end this ‘deadbeat capitalism’ by giving companies like Walmart, Darden, etc. a choice: Either pay the state the $10 K/worker annually so that the state can provide the bennies that the companies will not, or do it themselves.

    Cost-shifting to the taxpayers may be part of a business model, but it should be an illegal business model. It’s time that those elected to represent both the workers and the taxpayers fight back.

  22. heragain says:

    Completely agree, El Som. Those externalized costs, like the similarly externalized costs of pollution, and of over-development, just shift the burden to society, rather than solving the problem.

    I can’t even imagine who would need to be elected to change that, though. It works for the rich.

  23. Dave says:

    @Cassandra,

    “And employers have no responsibility to pay their workers in some fair manner?”

    Good question. Off the top of my head, I’m not sure what I think about that. One thought occurs to me is that if labor were involuntary, my answer would a resounding yes they are responsible for paying workers in fair manner. But if labor is voluntary (I don’t mean the need to work, rather the place of work), then I’m not so sure. I wonder if there categories of labor which are constrained about where they work and therefore their labor is less than voluntary? Nothing comes to mind, but if there were such a group, and there is a need in our society for that work, then perhaps there should be some control over compensation for labor. Maybe a category where the work is the only game in town or something.

    I haven’t really come to definitive answer for myself on that topic. When I personalize it, I remember being disatisfied with my compensation and made a change but then I had the skills to do so. Excuse my out loud thinking, but I notice I am only considering an economic model and with no humanity thrown in. I suppose that’s where fairness needs to be considered. Do companies have an ethical responsibility to pay fair wages? I think they should,some do, but why don’t they all? Companies are in business to make money, so profit is a critical consideration and labor is cost which decreases profit so where does the line get drawn between too much or too little profit? Certainly there is an obligation for a level playing field, but how far does fairness extend? Where do we draw the line? In order to be very fair, why would we not just take the total profit and divided somewhat equally? But then, if we do that for the profit why would that not apply to losses? And of course there is the question of how to define “fair.”

    In summary, I would prefer to spend effort empowering workers. I don’t mean unionization (although in some environments that may be appropriate). I mean empowerment so they have choices and so that their labor becomes high value, creating competition. Vocational and higher education cost far too much in our nation. When families are indebted for years for just a bachelors, not to mention a masters it creates a chasm that many with lower incomes just cannot cross. That’s not the only method of empowerment but it’s one of the keys.

    I would also like to see more effort on helping people start their own business so that RL has competition. I do not eat at chains (except for Olive Garden cause I love the endless salad and soup!, but then I live at the beach and we don’t have an Olive Garden).

  24. Dave says:

    @V “the sole reason why my friend was at that shitty job at the time is because those opportunities and resources do not exist.”

    And that is the responsibility of the nation in its constitutional requirement to promote the general welfare. Education, training, small business development, etc. I would like to see free education for all, up to and including either vocational/technical school or a bachelors degree (although I am more inclined to favor vocation/technical school education).

  25. pandora says:

    Dave, in your world no one would be a garbage man/McDonald’s worker/sales clerk because they’d all be empowered.

    Are you saying these workers/jobs aren’t needed? Because your vision sounds like a fantasy.

    I’m with El Som. It’s time for “deadbeat capitalism” to stop taking money out of taxpayers pockets to create their profits. See? That should resonate with Republicans.

  26. heragain says:

    I recently had a waitress at Denny’s. She wasn’t the best waitress I’d ever had. HOWever, she needed to work, and it had taken a long time for her to get this job… after her job at the auto plan evaporated.

    There are a lot of people I wouldn’t hire to walk a dog. However, they still need to eat. What’s our plan? Making them CEO of General Motors probably isn’t feasible, although it would be ‘empowered’ as all hell.

  27. John Manifold says:

    Mike Walsh at a Democratic rally at the DAP in October 2002:

    “I had breakfast at Denny’s this morning. My waitress was Jan Rzewnicki.”

    Had to pick Biden off the floor.

  28. meatball says:

    I haven’t been in a Red Lobster in years (like 15 years), but I recall at the time I thought it was pretty expensive for what it was.

    It seems every time I drive past one of these chains (Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel, Applebes, or whatever) locally or in other states, they are jam packed with a line out the door. I would think that flipping a four top 3 or 4 times a shift with $15 dollar entrees, drinks, and maybe an app or two would yield pretty good tips. I mean who goes into a higher end mom and pop and shovels down a $32 entree and a bottle of wine in an hour? So maybe the difference is folks don’t feel like they have to tip 20-25% at RL type places.

    Also, don’t all restaurants pay the same basic waitstaff wage?

    Also, also, one of my favorite restaurants is a chain. I consider Bonefish Grill a viable choice when traveling, heck I even considered trying to open one locally. I know, OSI.

  29. Roland D. LeBay says:

    meatball-
    I would think that flipping a four top 3 or 4 times a shift with $15 dollar entrees, drinks, and maybe an app or two would yield pretty good tips.

    I would think that would depend on a) the duration of the shift, b) your definition of “pretty good” and c) the location of the restaurant (southerners, old-money rich folks and hard-core Christians are notorious skinflints).

    Red Lobster and the other chains you mentioned attract the Wal-Mart crowd. These people generally know nothing about good food, tip poorly and run the shit out of the waitstaff.

    My brother, uncle and I eat at Sullivan’s once or twice a year. It’s a chain, but the food is good, although a bit over-priced (choice meat at prime prices). We rarely spend more than an hour’s time at the table. Everything there is ala carte, 2 of us have at least 2 alcoholic drinks @ $8+ each and my bro has a $10 bottle of uppity water or 2. Our bill is typically approx $300, and we don’t run the wait staff. We’ll leave a 20-25% tip on that $300 bill, depending on the quality of service.

    Imagine you’re a waiter. Would you rather work @ Sullivan’s or Red Lobster/Olive Garden (insert other shitty chain here)?

  30. meatball says:

    Would you rather work @ Sullivan’s or Red Lobster/Olive Garden (insert other shitty chain here)?

    Well, you are just bringing food to people sitting at tables, right?Imagine you’re a waiter. How much is that worth to society?

  31. puck says:

    ” Education, training, small business development, etc. I would like to see free education for all, up to and including either vocational/technical school or a bachelors degree”

    Dave is on the right track, but not for the reasons he thinks. Education and training sure, but at the same time we also need to make sure service work has dignity and, more importantly, supportive wages. Don’t kid yourself that America doesn’t have a servant class; it’s just that instead of working in your house they work in fast food/chain restaurants, or retail. Some people are always going to work at that level, and that work needs to be respected and rewarded.

    Vocational education is great but we need to make businesses more responsible for training their own workers in their business. I’m in favor of formal apprentice programs with teeth and incentives for the businesses to make sure the workers get real skills and are retained in the industry they are trained in.

    Businesses would love to have a sub-minimum “training wage” but not if they have to deliver any actual training.

  32. Dave says:

    “I’m in favor of formal apprentice programs with teeth and incentives for the businesses to make sure the workers get real skills and are retained in the industry they are trained in.”

    I think that formal apprentice programs are indeed part of the mix. Industry, who has the need for skilled workers, should be more involved in education process, including standards, instruction, and apprenticeship that is endorsed and supported by the public schools system.

  33. Dave says:

    @Pandora “Dave, in your world no one would be a garbage man/McDonald’s worker/sales clerk because they’d all be empowered.”

    Nope, not at all. I worked at McDonalds when I was a teenager. It gave me valuable experience in how to work within a pretty rigid system. I know someone who pickups garbage. The early morning hours allows him to get off work by 1PM and then he plays golf. The guy golfs 3-4 days a week!

    Garbageman (persons…although I’ve never seen a woman do it) is a high value job, which you soon realize when there is no pickup due to labor strife or some disaster. And as I said before, some people are just looking for part time work to fill time and have some pocket change.

    But, everyone has a “will to meaning” (Vicktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning). Their goal, indeed society’s goal should be to empower everyone to realize their will to meaning. For some that is working at McDonalds for others it is becoming an astronaut.

    All work has dignity but what we have to recognize is that not all work has the same value to society as it does to the individual. Therein lies the conflict. What is valuable to me probably isnt’ worth a hill of beans to you and perhaps vice versa. What if you don’t value the work I do the same as I value it? How do we resolve that conflict?

  34. puck says:

    Work has no dignity if:

    You can’t pay your basic bills with your wages
    You have to compete against illegal workers in your industry
    Your hours are scanty and erratic
    You have no real access to labor organizing
    You have no health benefits
    You are kept permanently part-time or temp for artificial regulatory reasons

  35. pandora says:

    I know someone who pickups garbage. The early morning hours allows him to get off work by 1PM and then he plays golf. The guy golfs 3-4 days a week!

    I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. You do know that this isn’t close to the norm, right? It’s actually kinda insulting. It’s like saying, I know a person who ended up selling sex on the streets. She/He worked nights so they got to sleep in every day and then go play golf.

  36. puck says:

    Uh-oh. Not sure what you were going for Pandora – is that the way you meant to put it?

  37. pandora says:

    What I meant is that Dave’s example is ludicrous (like mine). His example is not reflective of 99.9% of garbage men. I supplied a nonsense example. Should have worded it better.

    If we let Dave’s example stand, then we are accepting that people are in these crappy jobs because they want to be. If they didn’t want to be then they would simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get a better job. This statement doesn’t take into account that education is expensive, that moving to another area is expensive, that sometimes life hands you an illness or sick child, etc.

    Dave’s example of the happy garbage man and ideas of empowerment leave out all the real human problems people live with. Dave’s happy garbage man doesn’t apply to most garbage men (except one), just like my example doesn’t apply to people who find themselves turning tricks on the street. If we use these examples then we aren’t addressing the problem, we’re excusing it.

  38. Dave says:

    “Dave’s happy garbage man doesn’t apply to most garbage men (except one)”

    Yes, and my example was just intended say that in the entire set of people who are in crappy (your word not mine) jobs that some have achieved satisfaction with what they do.

    AND that was just a marginal note on the meme that empowering people who are discontent is the method by which people find their meaning in life, regardless of what it is they choose to do.

    Lastly, I asked, that even though we would agree that all work has value, how then are we to assign a value to the work given that what has value to you, may not have as much value to someone else. I grant that it is a philosophical question that has some underpinnings in some principles, but it remains a question that we as a society have to answer.

    I think that we are approaching things from different perspectives though. You seem to use the approach – they are hungry, feed them. I approach it from the perspective of – well, yes we can feed them but shouldn’t we find out why they are hungry (and please no snarky responses about their bellies being empty, you understand what I am saying).

    I don’t dispute that they don’t make enough money, but rather than creating an artificial value for their work, I would rather examine the causes of the work not having sufficient value and why they are doing that work that doesn’t have sufficient value.

    I would even buy into the feeding them because they are hungry meme if we wouldn’t keep just stopping at that point and remaining satisfied with the status quo untilt the next crisis.

  39. puck says:

    I would rather examine the causes of the work not having sufficient value

    Because deliberate policies in our society have stripped away all the things that defend that value. See list in my comment above for a beginning. People who work certain types of jobs (as currently conceived) are not fully able to participate in society, and that is not an accident.

  40. pandora says:

    Artificial value? See, I keep coming back to thinking you believe certain jobs (garbage man/waiter/sales clerk, etc.) have no value in society – that all these jobs should be filled with retirees and/or teenagers. That isn’t remotely possible.

  41. V says:

    I have the same problem with this as Pandoa. SOMEONE has to work at walmart, and empty garbage cans, and wait tables. Someone has to do that. We can’t all be engineers. This is a real problem, and philosophical discussions about the value of those professions don’t address the fact that they need to be done and those people can’t always feed their families on 40+ of honest hard work per week. My grandmother worked at a bank her whole life and it was enough to help support the family. Service jobs don’t do that anymore.

    And this is why all of my (non-existant future) children will at some point in their teens hold food service or retail jobs. I waited tables for years and it’s not easy. In my experience (circling back to the original post), without fail, when people I am with treat waitstaff poorly it turns out they’ve never done it themselves. I’d be interested in what sort of non-value industries Dave has worked that have shaped his outlook on assigning certain values to certain professions.

  42. Dave says:

    And I keep telling you that I do not believe that. But believe what you wish.

    Artificial value is a value assigned to something that has no direct relationship to how society may value it, by whatever means, including cost of production, worth to person receiving the benefit, etc. Garbagemen have high value because the service they perform is worth a great deal to me and everyone else and has a direct effect upon the health of the community. You deemed it a crappy job. Not me.

    Puck got to the crux of it though and I’d like to ask him if he has an example of a deliberate policy in our society that had the effect of decreasing the value?

    Second, (for Puck). I recognize that those are unsatisfactory conditions of some work but I would suggest that it doesn’t mean the work has no dignity. We, as a society, may be treating it without dignity. If so, how do we as a society, then dignify that work; to create the value that we think it deserves? In my view it is the Wal Mart syndrome. People don’t like Wal Mart because it destroys mom and pop business but the same people go to Wal Mart because the prices are low. In short, shouldn’t we be putting our money where our mouth is?

  43. Dave says:

    Newspaper delivery boy, stock boy, Frozen food order filler, McDonalds, Red Barn, busboy, waiter, military service, federal giovernment project manager, federal government program manager, consultant.

    I ran the gamut. And all the work I did had value to me and to those I provided services to. I have never been paid what I am worth but I recognize that I wasn’t the one assigning the value. And yes we all can’t be engineers. Someone does have to work at Wal Mart.

    So the question remains, how do we as a society change the perception of value for those jobs which need to done which has undervalued? Partly it may be policies, as puck alluded to (which I’d like to hear more about) but isn’t it also what we as a society have accepted? How do we change that?

  44. pandora says:

    LOL! Not speaking to me anymore?

    And a garbage man is a crappy job. Have you seen what people toss in their garbage cans? I’ve watched garbage men pick up dirty diapers, used condoms, rotten, reeking food. That’s pretty crappy and a big part of their job.

    In a society that actually assigned value to work, garbage men would be making over six figures.

  45. xyz says:

    Garbage men working in NYC can and do earn over six figures.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/meet-the-hundreds-of-nyc-sanitation-workers-who-earn-over-100000-2010-12

    Even those that don’t work in NYC are typically muncipal workers and can earn full pension after twenty years on the job.

  46. puck says:

    it doesn’t mean the work has no dignity. We, as a society, may be treating it without dignity. If so, how do we as a society, then dignify that work; to create the value that we think it deserves?

    Yes, that is more my meaning. The counter-measures are too numerous to list, and I surely can’t come up with them all. But off the top of my head: Put the illegal employers out of business, enforce existing laws against having bogus independent contractors who are really employees, adjust or get rid of parameters that encourage permanent part-time workforces. And national health care of course.

    Red Barn? The old Red Barn in Marshallton?

  47. puck says:

    A dirty job is not necessarily the same as a crappy job. Garbageman is not a bad job as far as jobs go, especially compared with retail or restaurant. In many urban areas the garbagemen are unionized.

  48. Dave says:

    “In a society that actually assigned value to work, garbage men would be making over six figures.”

    Society assigned the value to the work. My garbage bill is $72 per quarter. That’s $24 per month. $6 dollars per pick up. It is a bargain. If I had to pay twice as much for garbage service, it would still be a bargain. There are many who pay less than I do because they shopped around and negotiated or whatever. I chose not to do that, just like I don’t shop at Wal Mart or eat at RL, or buy Papa John’s. But, while I am a member of society, it takes all of society to make change. The question will be whether society is willing to make those changes and assign the proper monetary value to something like garbage pickup. We perpetuate the status quo when we devalue professions/crappy jobs by our actions.

  49. V says:

    well your (as i understand it) argument that raising pay for these people will assign it artificial value is invalid.

    Lots people assign value to a profession by how much money they make (hence the stereotype that you want your daughter to marry a doctor). If these people made more money they would be considred more valuable as a society. If an adult could feed themselves and possibly their family by waiting tables or working in a service job full time then they wouldn’t be considered “for teens and bored retirees.” Raising the minimum wage and giving servers a living wage wouldn’t fix all universal problems but would be a great start.

    Puck’s also got some great ideas that are on the money.

  50. pandora says:

    Dirty, crappy – are interchangeable in my point. I used crappy because of the amount of crap (human and canine) garbage men pick up.

    And can we please stop pretending that becoming a garbage man is on everyone’s list of dream jobs. It’s not. It’s a physically demanding, dirty/crappy job.

    And that’s the last comment I’m going to make on crappy, because everyone knew what I meant.

  51. pandora says:

    Also… what V said.

  52. puck says:

    Pay often runs against the inherent value of a job. Compare the pay of a teacher vs. a banker or a movie star. The inherent value of the job may be high or low, but the price is set by supply and demand (along with the policy environment).

    Think of the Economics 101 paradox of water. What could be more valuable than water? You can’t live without it, so it should be worth more than gold. Yet it is cheap.

  53. Dave says:

    No, the old Red Barn chicken chain. It went out of business years ago I think.

    “Put the illegal employers out of business, enforce existing laws against having bogus independent contractors who are really employees, adjust or get rid of parameters that encourage permanent part-time workforces. And national health care of course. ”

    I agree with all of that AND although the health care insurance began as a employee benefit, I am not in favor of employer provided health insurance because of the mobility of the workforce today. Also we should have mandatory use of e-Verify. Also, I would not want to see all part time work done away with. I work part time and that would affect me. I don’t need to do it but still there many who find that part time work fits their needs.

    Still, I will point out that Wal Mart has done quite well because society has decided that nothing is better than cheap, especially when it comes to our produce. Anyone think those Florida tomatoes were picked by unionized, medically covered, value waged farm workers? Yet, we still buy them rather than the more expensive tomatoes from the farmers market. Sometimes we seem to be arguing that government should be responsible for change but most of the time government reflects society and if you want change, maybe it’s society that should do the changing.

  54. puck says:

    There are days when riding around on a garbage truck sounds pretty appealing. Master of my domain! If it weren’t for the fact that I have other options and am a little more ambitious and have other responsibilities, I could be perfectly content doing that.

  55. pandora says:

    You, of course, realize that being a garbage man involves more than “riding around on a garbage truck”? I hate it when my garbage bag breaks and I have to clean it up… bet you do, too.

    Besides, riding around on a garbage truck/dump truck is the fantasy of four year olds. ;-)

  56. V says:

    you have a point about walmart doing well, but my argument still stands. If we did have unionized, medically covered, value waged farm workers picking our tomatoes (because we mandated it by law) then the price of tomatoes would go up. Would some people stop buying tomatoes? yes. Would everybody? of course not. I see people buying ALL their groceries at whole foods. Also a lot of people shop for bargains at places like walmart because they make so little money they can’t afford higher quality goods. A lot of these people can’t afford higher quality goods because they work in jobs that don’t provide them a living wage. The whole thing is a circle.

    sometimes the government can put stuff in place that nudges society in the right direction. A person is smart. Society can be mean, ugly, and selfish.

  57. puck says:

    I think we need special programs for migrant picking, but certainly we can make sure we have legal workers fixing our roofs, putting up our drywall, making our beds, watching our children, or mowing our lawns.

    What does it say about the value of a job that we are willing to fill it illegally? If a job is of such little importance that we won’t even fill it if we have to offer legal wages and protections, we can probably do without that job.

  58. Dave says:

    “certainly we can make sure we have legal workers fixing our roofs, putting up our drywall, making our beds, watching our children, or mowing our lawns.”

    Yep. Still, Carlos who did some of my landscaping, has six kids. Regardless of the fact he is not here legally, he did good work. I paid him a fair price. His kids got fed. Was I acting in an ethical manner, knowing that it is people like Carlos that have some contribution to devaluing labor? My answer was both yes and no. On an individual basis, I did act ethically. In a larger sense as a member of society, I did not because I contributed to the devaluation of labor. There are often conflicts in our ethical behavior as a members of society and as individuals trying to take care of families.

    In my view, illegal immigration is a contributor to devaluation of labor and immigration reform is a very high priority for me. It should also be noted that one of the chief opponents of immigration reform is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The reason is obvious.

    Which ties in with my thoughts on valuing labor, which can be skilled or unskilled. It’s easy to understand how skilled labor can be readily valued, by the skill set required. But unskilled labor has no real characteristic other than it’s availability. For unskilled labor to be valuable it has to be recognized as a resource and resources are only valuable when they are scarce. Illegal immigration, consequently, contributes to the resource pool, and voila.

    “sometimes the government can put stuff in place that nudges society in the right direction. A person is smart. Society can be mean, ugly, and selfish.”

    Yes, society can be all that but why does it have to be? Most of us probably make ethical decisions, why would we act in an unethical manner just because we are members of society? Group behavior? Safety in numbers allows us to be selfish? We expect government to “nudge” us. Yet, the government is of, for, and by the people. Why can’t we nudge ourselves?

    I like to think I nudge myself, but it’s probably because I suck at bargaining. So I just pay full price and pretend I’m being ethical. It’s sorta like wearing a dark suit and peeing in your pants. You get a warm feeling, but no one notices.

  59. puck says:

    ” I paid him a fair price. ”

    It might have been a little fairer if the market had no recourse to illegal labor.

  60. cassandra_m says:

    Still, I will point out that Wal Mart has done quite well because society has decided that nothing is better than cheap, especially when it comes to our produce.

    WalMart has done quite well because this society has decided that it is worth more to us to buy things than to make things. Places like WalMart put lots of cheap goods in the hands of people who still want to participate in the consumerist experience. People do not come to grips with the fact that the price of having a house full of cheap stuff are jobs that don’t sustain families and the exodus of manufacturing to other places.

    Any valuation is *always* an artificial valuation. The business of butchering meat used to be a very middle-class and family sustaining job. Now it is largely very low wage and a magnet for undocumented immigrants. There isn’t any fundamental difference in the work — what is different is the need for processors to maintain a price point. And they do that not at the cost of their own profits but at the price of lower wages for serious work.

    The interesting thing about wages is that a serious effort to recapture a good bit of the wage loss that Americans have lived with over the last 30 years actually puts said Americans in a better position to BUY more of the stuff that powers the economy. That means that owners and shareholders have to live with alot less corporate cash on hand.

  61. Dave says:

    “It might have been a little fairer if the market had no recourse to illegal labor.”

    That’s true. I paid him what he quoted. His quote might have been higher if illegal labor had not affected the market.

    “That means that owners and shareholders have to live with alot less corporate cash on hand.”

    Which is one reason why I, given a choice, buy Fair Trade Certified products when I cannot buy Made in America.

    And from Geezer, a story about the impacts of the crack down on illegal labor in Alabama: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-09-24/africans-relocate-to-alabama-to-fill-jobs-after-immigration-law

  62. V says:

    “Yes, society can be all that but why does it have to be? Most of us probably make ethical decisions, why would we act in an unethical manner just because we are members of society? Group behavior? Safety in numbers allows us to be selfish? We expect government to “nudge” us. Yet, the government is of, for, and by the people. Why can’t we nudge ourselves?”

    This is a lovely idea, but I dont get what you want us to do. None of our proposed solutions fix it because we’re not analyzing it in a way you think is effective. But you just seem to be asking more questions instead of providing thoughtful answers to the questions you pose. Is your solution to people not being paid a living wage that we all just do our best to be good people and the problem will fix itself? This seems incredibly naive. Sure a lot of these questions are large and society based, but eschewing all small solutions because we aren’t asking big enough questions means nothing happens at all. You seem to operate in a completely philosophical world full of hypotheticals and thought games. Must be fun.

  63. cassandra_m says:

    There are days when riding around on a garbage truck sounds pretty appealing.

    The Gene Hackman character (Royal Tenenbaum) in the movie The Royal Tenenbaums made hitching a ride on a garbage truck look like alot of fun.

  64. meatball says:

    My trash service uses a robotic arm that the driver controls from inside the truck. He never even steps out in the heat or the cold. It literally takes 8 seconds and then he’s on to the next customer.

  65. puck says:

    And from Geezer, a story about the impacts of the crack down on illegal labor in Alabama:

    This is a story about bringing in legal Eritrean refugees to replace illegal workers who vanished under the crackdown. Good for Alabama! Good for them for getting their businesses on the right side of the law. Alabama went looking for another population that was desperate and would work for low wages, and by God they found them. But the Eritrean guy making $10.85/hr probably is making more than the guy he replaced, AND he has US legal protections. It’s a beginning.

    I do wish though that they wouldn’t rely on laws to harass the local immigrants. The only law Arizona passed that I do support is the employer sanctions law, which was upheld by the US Supreme Court (not sure if Alabama has that).

  66. Dave says:

    @V “But you just seem to be asking more questions instead of providing thoughtful answers to the questions you pose.”

    I don’t have any answers at the moment, but the way I get to answers is to ask (myself and others) questions. I have an inquiring mind and am wont to ask “why.” It’s the only way I know to get to root causes. A lot of things we do seems to be treating symptoms and effects rather than root causes and it never seems to have any lasting effect or make a great deal of change.

    @meatball, Mine (Blue Hen) does that as well. The only time he has to get out is when my collected cardboard needs to be loaded and it’s all done while on his cell phone, never missing a word.

    @puck, yes it is a beginning, but note that the reason they had to import workers is because they couldn’t find enough Americans who wanted those jobs. Illegal labor may depress wages but there is a demand for the work they do.

  67. Dave says:

    And yeah, I like asking the big questions, which we never get around to asking because once we slap on a small solution, we run off to the next crisis and never get around to answering big questions with the objective of making lasting change. We all feel good but it’s only temporary. Patching a leaky roof is all well and good until the next leak. Before I patch my roof I want to know how long my roof is actually going to last and whether I should replace it instead of patching it.

  68. puck says:

    “the reason they had to import workers is because they couldn’t find enough Americans who wanted those jobs.”

    No – they couldn’t find enough Americans at the wages they were willing to pay. The labor market hasn’t adjusted yet to the new wages. Salaries and working conditions aren’t going to rise overnight.

    There is still flexibility – labor can cross the state line and find illegal employment. That’s why the labor policy needs to be national.

    But a new floor has been established in Alabama for all workers, not just chicken-slicers. No longer can employers assume they will have a limitless supply of workers willing to work in exploitative conditions. They will have to pay wages of a legal market.

    At least Alabama has learned how to find legal workers. When they run out of Eritreans they will have to raise salaries enough to attract Americans.

  69. Dave says:

    Leading back to comprehensive immigration reform as a partial solution to a big question.

  70. Rustydils says:

    The money has to come from somewhere. There is only so much money out there in the economy. It is a fixed figure, not an invinite one. So, if the government absorbs more of the pie, others have to suffer. In this instance it happens to affect wait staff, but in other instances it could affect wages, or hours, or quality of ingedients,ir thousands of other things. One thing is for sure though, when the government takes more, there is less for other things. My dad used to read meters in downtown el paso when he was a teenager. He said there was always a guy asleep in his Cadilac. When my dad asked him why, the man said he could not afford a Cadilac, and a house, so he chose to just own a Cadilac. There is only so much money, the more the government takes, the less for everything else

  71. puck says:

    Thank you for the economics lesson from a four-year old. We’ll keep that in mind.

    “One thing is for sure though, when the government takes more, there is less for other things.”

    Yes, like car elevators inside your house.

    “So, if the government absorbs more of the pie, others have to suffer. ”

    I don’t think our senior citizens or disabled think they are suffering when they receive their Social Security check, or when their medical bill is paid. And I don’t think I am suffering when I pay taxes to support that.

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