August 6, 2015

Throwback Thursday (v2)

Friends and family have been having a thoughtful if occasionally biting discussion on Facebook about New York's move to a $15 hourly wage for fast food workers ($15FF) by 2018 for New York City and by 2021 for folks here in "Upstate" NY.

Among the reasons (we've expressed several reasons, truth be told) some of us are opposed to this specific plan, which impacts only one industry and comes about solely because of manipulation by our Sonofa Gov, Andrew Cuomo, is that it strips the incentive to work harder, or to produce a higher quality product, because the increase makes it almost impossible for someone to be rewarded with a higher wage.

The whole incentive thing - rewarding people who perform well -- has been something I've striven for throughout my career, dating back to my very first 'real job', which I started 37 years ago this month (maybe even this week), in August of 1978.

I've told this story before, about my return from college after only two years, tail between my legs, back living at home with my teacher parents, and hating every minute of everything, including my Dad's way of 'inspiring me' to look for a job.  That process, as annoying as it was for a short period of time, led me to actually find a job, working in the headquarters of a multi-state industrial laundry. As a microfilmer. You know: pulling staples, straightening corners, and running documents through a camera thingy to save them for posterity. I also volunteered to learn how to use the Pitney Bowes mailing equipment. Big doings, right?  My starting salary was $140/week, for I think a 37.5 hour schedule.

Clearly it was not my dream job, but it was a paycheck. I was able to pay rent to my parents (another part of the 'learning from your failures' lesson), and I could save money with a goal of getting together the security deposit and first month's rent for my own apartment someday.

I found out shortly after I started working there that August was the time that annual salary increases were handed out.  Shoot, I thought -- looks like it's going to take longer to get that apartment.  When I was called to the office of the Finance VP, it was with more than a little trepidation that I headed off to the executive suite.

The VP, Randy, was a nice guy, but someone I had very little interaction with.  When he told me that, while I had only been there a couple of weeks, he had heard good things about me and that I was going to get a raise, I was surprised. When he told me that he couldn't remember a similar situation of someone being there such a short period of time and getting a raise, I was stunned. I got bumped up to $145 per week, the thanks of the VP, and his encouragement to keep up the good work.  Within a few months, I was handling more responsibility, and had saved enough to move into my own apartment, which had been my goal all along. Mission accomplished, as they say.

A few days ago, I read that the company had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; although I only worked there for about three and a half years, I have fond memories of  many folks I worked with, some of the crazy things that happened there, and of everything I learned, much of which still serves me today. And, of course, one lesson I've never forgotten is that it's possible to work hard, learn more, do more, and get rewarded for it.

At least, it's possible to do that, if wages aren't artificially manipulated by elected officials.