The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Perhaps the name Richard Hayes doesn’t ring a bell with you.  No doubt in the next few days that will change.  Mr. Hayes is a Sanitary Engineer (garbage collector) who apparently works on the route that includes Mitt Romney’s house in San Diego.

AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) has produced a new attack ad featuring this gentlemen.  The copy reads:

“My name is Richard Hayes, and I pick up Mitt Romney’s trash.  We’re kind of like the invisible people, you know. He doesn’t realize, you know, that the service we provide, you know, if it wasn’t for us, you know, it would be a big health issue, us not picking up trash.”

“Picking up 15, 16 tons by hand, you know that takes a toll on your body.  When I’m 55, 60 years old, I know my body’s going to be break down. Mitt Romney doesn’t care about that.”

I’m not quite sure what the thinking was that AFSCME employed in creating this ad using one of their members.  I know that the going rate for salaries for people in Mr. Hayes’ profession range nationally between about $35,000 – $55,000 per year, depending on the area.  So Mr. Hayes would be required under Federal Law to file an income tax return and presumably pay some amount of Federal Tax to the Treasury.  Thus, he is one of the 53%  – not the 47% that Mr. Romney described as “committed to voting for the President,” – although I think that might well be his intent.

Perhaps we’ll find a little more about their thinking later as there are apparently two additional ads which are forthcoming – I presume with the same theme.  And what is that theme?  Mitt Romney is an insensitive, uncaring SOB who is out to rape the poor of the last dime of their entitlement dollars.

In truth, I wouldn’t want Mr. Hayes’ job if it paid three times the amount he earns performing his duties.  And I probably don’t have the physique to be able to discharge his responsibilities in a satisfactory manner.  I believe he makes a valid point about the potential health threat if he and his fellows were to walk off the job.  In fact, it was exactly for reasons of public safety that Sanitary Engineers in several major cities were ordered to cease and desist from the strikes on which they embarked during the last several decades.  On this point he is absolutely correct.

Furthermore, I believe his statement about having a broken body when he is older is also probably true, unfortunately.  We have seen the relatively short professional life spans of NFL players due to on-the-job related injuries, including brain traumas.  At least pro football players receive significant compensation for risking their bodies and their futures – a risk that I’m sure they evaluated before they made the decision to play the game.

Perhaps it is ironic but today, when I first saw this ad, it happened to be one of the semi-weekly garbage collection days in my neighborhood.  What is more ironic is that I actually had something at the curb to be picked up.  I had managed to accumulate one half of a medium-sized garbage can and had it out and waiting for the crew.  That was the first time I had placed any refuse outside in five pick ups.

I work diligently to buy things with minimum packaging and to recycle and compost as much as I possibly can – for environmental reasons.  The fact that this makes life easier for Mr. Hayes’ fellow Sanitary Engineers here in Las Vegas is a definite plus.  To me they are not invisible – as I always remember them with some homemade preserves during the Holidays and frequently offer them a cold beverage in the summer heat.

But let’s return to the point of the commercial – that Mr. Romney must be a hard-hearted and uncaring person because he doesn’t have an intimate relationship with those who provide scavenger service at his various residences.

Is there any reasonable person out there who believes that Madonna, Warren Buffett, Lady Gaga, Tiger Woods, Lee Saunders (the President of AFSCME who just won election over a reform candidate who pledged to reduce the salaries of the union’s top honchos), or Presidents Clinton or Obama are on a first name basis with those who provide the same service to them?  Let’s get real people.  I doubt that any of those I have named even knows when their garbage is collected.

However, despite the main thrust of the ad at disparaging Mr. Romney, there is an important lesson to be learned from it.  That is with regard to Mr. Hayes and all the others whom he believes have been “dismissed” by Mr. Romney.

If you’ve been a reader for several months you may remember that at one point in my life I had my own executive search and temporary help business.  The search business dealt with mid to upper management white collar individuals and the primary focus of the temp business was on support staff for people who held mid-level corporate positions.

Although I would be hard pressed to document it, I am guessing that during my twenty-six years in that business, I interviewed no less than ten thousand people, both for our clients and for my own staff.  After the first thousand or so, if I say so myself, I became pretty good at interviewing.

Now, if I as an interviewer were to review Mr. Hayes’ statement (transcribed exactly as it appeared on Yahoo News) as his introduction to our firm, I would give him the courtesy of a cursory interview, because I believe that we ought always to be courteous, but I would never have considered him for any positions which we had available.  I would probably have recommended that he would have better opportunities if he were to apply to a firm specializing in people who had greater numbers of job openings for which he might qualify – a firm such as Manpower or other day labor temporary help agencies.

This would not have been a dismissal of Mr. Hayes as a human being.  Rather, it would be a realization that the gentleman had either received or chosen to accept only a very limited and probably not very good education.  His speech told me that without needing to review his application.  I know because I have taken my time to interview many Mr. Hayes’ – and if I doubted that assessment I would only have had to look at their applications to confirm my conclusions.  I guarantee that basic words which we use every day would have been misspelled and that the handwriting would have been difficult to read.  I’ve seen it hundreds of times.

Does that make Mr. Hayes an “unimportant” human being?  I don’t believe that any of us has the right to make that sort of assertion about anyone.  But it does make him a poorly educated one – a man with few employable skills.  That is most likely the reason that he is doing the work he is doing – not because Mitt Romney “looks down on him” or has “dismissed” him.

There is a lesson we should all take from Mr. Hayes and all the other Mr. and Ms. Hayes’ in America.

Fundamental to our problems in America is that the quality of education for which we were once renowned has fallen – and it’s fallen dramatically.

We are willing to give movie stars and professional athletes millions of dollars a year to entertain us, paying them directly through the money we spend on tickets.  But we are not willing to recognize those gifted teachers who are educating the next generation by offering them incentive raises based on the quality of the work they provide.  That is because we apparently, as a nation, consider entertainment far more vital than education.  Could this be one of the reasons that so many American jobs have moved overseas to be done by workers who were better educated than our own?

I think that Mr. Romney is too much of a gentleman to “retaliate” with a similarly negative ad to the ones that AFSCME has produced.  But I can’t help but wonder what someone riding the garbage truck that services the White House would have to say to him, should he encounter President Obama.  That is, if the President weren’t attending to important matters of state on the golf course.

Comments on: "RICHARD HAYES SPEAKS (AND WE SHOULD LISTEN)" (4)

  1. Here, here! A wonderful assessment of an infantile story told by idiots. Do they actually think we’ll assume that President Obama’s trashmen get an assist from the President and his wife in loading their truck? This advertisement is beyond stupid and like most things Obama – a total waste of money.

  2. Nice post. I have been so confused by the emphasis on this trash collector. Sorry but I don’t know mine either. But you are so correct about the education system in society. And part of me wonders if it is because we don’t directly pay our teachers. It comes out of property taxes and other taxes, but not really attached to the student in any way. I am fortunate enough to be able to afford to send both of my children to private school (long story about how my oldest was initially in public school) but part of my writing a check means that I am very aware of the investment I get from the school. IF my kid is not doing well, I am notified fairly quickly. And unlike parents of my patient’s in public school, their first solution is not to medicate my child. (Sometimes medication is valid, but in many instances it should not be the first choice)

    I understand that teachers are now under so much bureaucratic red tape, I am surprised there is much education at all. But you are correct, this garbage collector illustrates what is wrong in this society, the education system. Maybe we need to attach dollars to each child. I don’t know that a voucher system is the best system, but make the schools compete for the child. Do we need more $50 million stadiums when we are graduating kids who can barely spell their names? There is a fundamental flaw in the system and Mr Hayes does illustrate it well

  3. Melissa, your response took me by surprise – that is your statement about medicating the school child. My mother would have gone apocalyptic if that were ever tried (but I fortunately also had the advantage of a private school background). I can’t imagine why that is even allowed.

    This may seem to be less than an egalitarian statement but if we are honest, there are some of us who do far better educationally than others. That might be because of our innate abilities, the schools we attend, the home environment in which we are raised, and probably a combination of all of these. I think this explains, at least in part, why there are people like Mr. Hayes performing the service he provides.

    But I am not demeaning him in making that statement – merely making an observation about the facts. My own grandfather worked at the turn of the last century in NYC as a “common laborer.” He took a pick and broke up the concrete in the streets to make way for improvements in drainage. Today that work is largely done with heavy equipment and if my grandfather were alive he might well be unemployed.

    I’ve noticed improvements on scavenger trucks over the past several years where many are now equipped with automatic lifts that hoist the garbage cans pneumatically which should relieve Mr. Hayes of some of his lifting with its adverse physical impacts. But how long will it be before the process is fully automated – leaving Mr. Hayes unemployed and with few job options?

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